House of Commons Hansard #171 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was water.

Topics

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.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, under the provisions of Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation's 2006 annual report.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale B.C.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34, I am here to present a House report from the Canadian branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association dealing with the 56th seminar on parliamentary practice and procedure held in London, United Kingdom, from March 5-16, 2007.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 21st report of the Standing Committee on Status of Women entitled, “Improving the Economic Security of Women: Time to Act”

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both officials languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Your committee has considered the certificate of appointment of Mary Elizabeth Dawson to the position of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner which was referred to it on June 12, 2007 pursuant to Standing Orders 110 and 111. Your committee has examined the qualifications and competence of the nominee and agreed that the nomination of Mary Elizabeth Dawson as Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner of Canada be concurred in.

Public Service Employment ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

moved for leave to introduce Bill S-201, An Act to amend the Public Service Employment Act (elimination of bureaucratic patronage and geographic criteria in appointment processes).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to sponsor a bill from the other place, Bill S-201, An Act to amend the Public Service Employment Act.

First, the bill would “disallow the establishment of geographic criteria to determine an area selection for the purpose of eligibility and appointment processes”.

Second, the bill would “ensure that appointments to or from within the public service are free from bureaucratic patronage”.

The bill is as a result of the current public service guidelines that do not allow most good, qualified Canadians to apply for public service jobs within the national capital region. This bill would open up the criteria so that Canadians could apply for those good public service jobs and contribute to the employment in Canada and to the skills development, and to participate in the full range of public service jobs in the country.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

Defence Construction (1951) LimitedRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, I arrived in the House about a minute too late for tabling of documents and I would like to table in the House of Commons two copies of the annual report on the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act for Defence Construction (1951) Limited for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2007.

Therefore, I would ask for the unanimous consent of the House to table this report.

Defence Construction (1951) LimitedRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Defence Construction (1951) LimitedRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Court Challenges ProgramPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by many Canadians from the Eastern Townships in Quebec about the court challenges program.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to reverse its decision and re-establish the court challenges program in its entirety, including the necessary funding.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to present an income trust broken promise petition from Robert Farrington of Parry Sound, Ontario, the home of Bobby Orr, on behalf of many people who remember the Prime Minister boasting about his apparent commitment to accountability when he said that the greatest fraud was a promise not kept.

The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that he promised never to tax income trusts and then he broke that promise by imposing a 31.5% punitive tax which wiped out $25 billion in retirement savings of hard-working seniors in particular.

The petitioners call upon the Conservative government to first, admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions; second, to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this promise; and finally, to repeal the punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

I would like to thank Mr. Farrington for his dedication.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also would like to present an income trust broken promise petition on behalf of Mr. Leif Stokkeland from Quebec who remembers that the Prime Minister was reflecting on his apparent commitment to accountability when he did quote the Gaelic proverb that the greatest fraud is a promise not kept.

The petitioners who signed this petition want to remind the Prime Minister that he promised not to tax income trusts and he broke that promise. He imposed a 31.5% tax, permanently wiping out about $25 billion of investment value of hard-earned retirement savings of over two million Canadians, and most of them were seniors.

The petitioners call upon the Conservative minority government to, first, admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology as well as incorrect presumptions; second, to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this mother of all broken promises; and finally, to repeal this very punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

Visitor VisasPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the honour to present the following petition from my constituents of Bramalea—Gore—Malton. The petitioners call upon the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to provide for visa bonds for visitors who apply for temporary resident visas to come to Canada as members of the visitors class, to give the immigration counsellors discretion over creating visa bonds, to establish minimum and maximum visa bond amounts as a guideline for immigration officials and to allow the visa bond to apply to either the sponsor or to the visitor.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I present this income trust broken promise petition on behalf of a petitioner who remembers the Prime Minister boasting about his apparent commitment to accountability when he said that the greatest fraud is a promise not kept.

The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that he promised never to tax income trusts, but he recklessly broke that promise by imposing a 31.5% punitive tax which permanently wiped out over $35 billion of hard-earned retirement savings of over two million Canadians, particularly seniors.

The petitioners therefore call upon the Conservative minority government to, first, admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions; second, to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this broken promise; and finally, to repeal the punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As the Conservative member for Selkirk—Interlake introduced a private member's bill yesterday, Bill C-459, identical in its intent and outcome to my previously introduced bill, Bill C-450, I would like to seek consent for the following motion that deals with the 75th anniversary of famine genocide in Ukraine: That notwithstanding any Standing Order or the usual practices of the House, Bill C-450, An Act respecting a national day of remembrance of the Ukrainian Holodomor-Genocide, be deemed to have been read a second time, referred to a committee of the whole, reported without amendment, concurred in at report stage and read a third time and passed.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is there unanimous consent for the member to move the motion?

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am seeking the unanimous consent of the House concerning Bill C-263, which has to do with eliminating the waiting period for employment insurance. I move: “That Bill C-263 be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to a committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage, and deemed read the third time and passed”.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is there unanimous consent for the member to move the motion?

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

There is no unanimous consent.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

I heard the point of order of my colleague from Madawaska—Restigouche.

I think this is so important that I am going to actually ask if you heard someone oppose it or if we actually had unanimous consent.

I am wondering, Mr. Speaker.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I asked if there was unanimous consent and I heard members say no. That is all there is to it.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, was it your right ear?

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I do not remember the Speaker ever being called upon to identify who said no and I am not about to start a new practice in this House.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 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, the following question will be answered today: No. 206.

Question No. 206Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

With regard to the Canadian Heritage Department's decision to place the planned location of the Portrait Gallery at 100 Wellingtion Street under review: (a) what financial details have gone to Treasury Board to support any other potential sites for the Gallery; (b) was the search for an alternate location publicly tendered; (c) what are the details of negotiations with other bidders for the relocation of the Gallery; (d) what are the details of the analysis for any alternate location options considered by the Department; (e) what are the implications for the holdings in the Archives' collection; (f) what is the outcome of any risk assessment that a piece of work may be irreparably damaged due to any travel; (g) if the exhibit is housed in a private venue (i) how much influence will the landlord have on the exhibitions, (ii) who will be responsible for the cost of storage and conservation of the art work; and (h) where will the curators for the art work be located if the Gallery is located outside of Ottawa?

Question No. 206Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Durham Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, in response to (a), financial information prepared by Library and Archives Canada to address the operating budget and capital requirement needed for the Portrait Gallery of Canada has been shared with Treasury Board Secretariat officials on ongoing and regular basis.

In response to (b), to date, no tender process has been announced.

In response to (c), to Library and Archives Canada’s knowledge, there are currently no bidders for the relocation of the gallery.

In response to (d), Library and Archives Canada has provided full functional requirements needed to support any discussions of potential locations for the Portrait Gallery of Canada.

In response to (e), the portrait collection is an important part of Library and Archives Canada’s holdings. The collection will continue to be cared for at the Gatineau Preservation Centre. No decisions have yet been made on where the collection will be exhibited.

In response to (f), museums and archives regularly lend and move their collections. There are well-developed and internationally accepted guidelines and practices for the movement of museum collections and objects. All movement of Library and Archives of Canada’s collections conforms to these high standards.

In response to (g), (i) in any case, a decision on the location of the Portrait Gallery of Canada would not affect the governance of the program, and the collection would remain the property and responsibility of Library and Archives Canada; (ii) the collection is owned by Library and Archives Canada, which remains responsible for its care.

In response to (h), no decision has been made on the location of the Portrait Gallery of Canada. When a decision is made, all other administrative and operational decisions will be made.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from June 13 consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I believe that when the House was last seized with this matter the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster had 15 minutes left.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I intend to use fully those 15 minutes.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

An hon. member

More, more.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I thank my colleague for encouraging me. I would certainly take more time if I were to have the unanimous consent of the House. I could speak all day on this issue.

As members will recall, last night we were talking about the fact that with the Conservatives and transportation policy it seems to be consistently one step forward and two steps back. Essentially what we have had in this Parliament is the government putting forward pieces of legislation that either make very modest improvements to the transportation system and access to it, or actually gut the principles of safety and access to our transportation system.

I cited Bill C-6, where essentially we have the government turning over safety management to the airline companies themselves, some of which will handle that very responsibly and others that clearly will not.

When we come back to the issue of Bill C-11, we are seeing the same type of very lukewarm progress. It is fair to say that Bill C-11 purported to bring forward improvements to access transportation for shippers, to provide some improvements around clarity of airfares, and as well to make some significant progress on the issue of railway noise, which is something that afflicts many communities, mine included.

I spoke about the testimony we heard at the transport committee, particularly from two individuals, Mayor Wayne Wright of the city of New Westminster, and Brian Allen from the Westminster Quay, who is involved in the residents association there, who very clearly said that what we need to do is make substantial improvements so that communities have tools to deal with the issue of railway noise.

The Senate amendments before us water down the progress that was made in committee through NDP amendments and amendments from other parties to actually bolster Bill C-11. Bill C-11 was weak and insipid to begin with. Through the transport committee process, we were able to make some notable improvements. I am very sad to see now that the Senate, the other chamber, is watering down the progress that was made. It is very clear to me that the NDP members in this corner of the House cannot support that watering down of progress that, although laudable, one might say was insufficient.

I would like to deal with these two issues of railway noise and clarity around airline advertising affairs, because those are the two key amendments that the Senate has watered down. In clause 27 there is an obligation of the Canadian Transportation Agency to make regulations requiring that the airlines include in the price all costs of providing the service. That is what the NDP and other parties working together were able to improve in Bill C-11. That was the bill that went to the Senate.

This is no small issue. This is an issue that Canadians who travel are intensely concerned with. I travel very frequently, twice a week, from Burnaby—New Westminster to Ottawa and back. I most often travel in economy class and talk with people about how they view the airlines and air travel in Canada.

Many Canadian consumers are concerned about the fact that when they see an advertised fare there are a lot of hidden charges. Most notably, Air Canada has attached a whole range of charges. Now we have to pay for meals and pillows. When we boarded the plane the other day, one person jokingly said that soon we are going to have to bring our own chairs to sit on in the plane.

What we have seen is a progression of user fees that Air Canada and other airlines have brought in to increase the price of the ticket. Because of all the hidden fees, what we are seeing is a huge discrepancy between what the advertised fare is and what consumers are actually paying. That is why consumer groups have been standing up for clarity on the advertising of airline fees.

Members of the Travellers' Protection Initiative appeared before the transport committee. They were very clear. The initiative, as far as the lead organizations are concerned, is composed of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario, the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies, and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

There is also Option consommateurs, a very well-respected organization in Quebec.

This protection initiative was supported by members of the Canadian Association of Airline Passengers, the Consumers' Association of Canada from Saskatchewan, Transport 2000, the Consumers Council of Canada, the Air Passengers Safety Group, the Manitoba Society of Seniors, the Ontario Society (Coalition) of Senior Citizens' Organizations, and Rural Dignity of Canada.

These are all very reputable groups. They were calling for clarity in airline advertising. That is what the transport committee endeavoured to do, even though I would not say the provisions made it all the way to that complete clarity that we are all seeking. What we had at the Senate level was the airlines then wading in and trying to water down the legislation by saying that it would be difficult for them to be honest, open and above board with the fees they are charging for airline tickets.

We in this corner of the House simply disagree, in the same way that we disagree with the price gouging we are seeing in the oil and gas sector and in the same way that we disagree with the whole range of consumer items where consumers are not protected by the Canadian federal government. We simply disagree that it is impossible to have clarity in advertising for airline fees, that the cost of the entire ticket somehow cannot be put forward. We simply disagree with that, which is why we are disappointed by the Senate bringing back these amendments that waters it down.

What essentially the Senate is saying is this: let us put it off to some uncertain date in the future and maybe some day in Canada consumers will actually know what the complete and total cost of their ticket is going to be when they purchase their airline ticket.

That is very clearly one area from the Senate that we simply cannot support. We want to see consumers protected. We want to see clarity and honesty in the whole issue of airline ticket costs. The Senate amendment is simply unacceptable and the House should reject it.

Another area that the Senate has amended is taking what was a higher bar around the issue of railway noise. We finally have a process, when Bill C-11 is adopted, for local communities such as the Westminster Quay area of New Westminster that are beset by excessive railway noise. We finally have a way by which those communities can fight back against the railways. They have tried dealing with the railways. Some of them have been good and some of them have been pretty rotten.

As a result of that, it continues to be a problem, with excessive railway noise in the early morning hours, excessive shunting and running of diesel engines all in an area where there is a wide variety of condominium and apartments within a few metres of the railway tracks.

Here is what the Senate did in regard to the requirement that the transport committee put into Bill C-11 to require railway companies to cause as little noise and vibration as possible and to set that bar fairly significantly high as far as what the requirements were of railway companies. The Senate simply imposed a standard of reasonableness.

Reasonableness is not a high standard. If the railway companies believe it is reasonable to shunt in the early morning hours because it is simply more profitable for them to do that, it is a defendable concept, but the concept that the transport committee put into the legislation was the concept of as little noise and vibration as possible. There is where there is a very clear disagreement between the two houses.

As little noise and vibration as possible would mean that railway companies would have to justify their shunting in the Westminster Quay area of New Westminster rather than shunting out in the Port Mann area where there are very few homes and where there is not that urban disruption of the environment. The running of diesel engines might be justified for a variety of reasons as being reasonable from the railway's point of view, but it does not mean that the railways are causing as little noise and vibration as possible.

What we have had is a step back. Even though I think it is fair to say that people in communities who are afflicted with this excessive level of railway noise are happy to see any movement forward, the Senate amendments water down an important bar that was set. That is why we will be rejecting this amendment as well. We hope that the Senate will simply agree that higher standards are the most important way to go as far as Canadians are concerned. This is not a small issue.

I am going to cite a community noise study that was done in the area of the member for Vancouver East. Daily average noise exposures at three monitoring sites near the railways in east Vancouver found that the 24 hour equivalent sound level was beyond the acceptable level of 55 decibels by an average of 10 to 15 decibels. In other words, the noise level was beyond the acceptable level in an urban environment. There is no doubt that in the port lands in east Vancouver the railway noise went far beyond those levels, by ten to 15 decibels, which is roughly twice as loud as the actual limit of 55 decibels that has been established by Health Canada and the CMHC.

It is important to note that the noise monitoring found that railway noise continued, to quote from the report, “largely unabated through the nighttime hours, 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.”. That is a problem in east Vancouver and I can tell members that it is a problem in New Westminster as well. We are seeing the shunting and the running of diesel engines right through the night.

At the transport committee, NDP members called for very strict limits as one of a whole series of amendments that we brought forward to improve the legislation. During the evening hours and overnight hours, we suggested that railways be restricted to the type of activities they could do in urban areas. Their shunting would have to take place in more rural or removed areas, away from urban areas, and they would be restricted in the type of high noise level that we are hearing now.

Those are our reasons, what I think are two powerful reasons. There is the issue of making sure that we have clarity, openness and accountability around airline fees and that this is brought in as quickly as possible, not set off for some future agenda. We want to make sure that there is a high level of requirement for the railway companies to make as little noise as possible, that they have to meet that requirement rather than what we have now, which is essentially no process at all. To say that we are subjecting it, as the Senate would have us do, to what is reasonable from a railway point of view, is simply not on.

While I have a few more minutes, I would like to talk a bit more about some of the other amendments to Bill C-11 that were brought forward by the NDP at the transport committee. It is important to raise those issues with respect to what could have been in the bill and what is not.

One of the things in Bill C-11 that both the governing party and the Liberal Party brought forward was that members of the Canadian Transportation Agency must come from the national capital region. In fact, there now is a requirement in the legislation that members of the Canadian Transportation Agency, who have an important role to play as mediators in many aspects of this legislation, have to come from the national capital region. What the NDP submitted as an amendment was that each of the regions of Canada, for example, Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies and British Columbia, be represented because of the difference in geography and the difference in transportation requirements from coast to coast to coast.

We think it is extremely important that the regions be represented. People from Ottawa should not be making decisions about transportation policy or mediation in British Columbia. Simply put, British Columbia has different and often very rigorous transportation requirements. It does not make sense, then, to have these members sit in Ottawa. It is important to note that the amendment was refused and that all of the members of the Canadian Transportation Agency have to live in Ottawa. That is unfortunate.

I spelled out why we are rejecting the Senate amendments and we certainly hope that members from all four corners of the House will join with us, so that we can have essentially a better Bill C-11 that goes back to the Senate once we have rejected their amendments.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, my NDP colleague travels by train, so he knows that we must respect the nearby residents when travelling by train. Can he explain why the Senate removed the part that dealt with the possible effect on people living near train tracks? I think that when travelling by train, we should have respect for the nearby residents. I am sure he is respectful.

I would like him to explain why the Senate removed such a provision from Bill C-11.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question, but it is hard to explain.

It is hard to explain those two clauses. The only explanation I can give is that lobbyists told the senators that it was more important to uphold their companies' interests than to protect the interests of Canadians. We still have something. We still have the bill. Even though it is far from perfect, this bill represents some progress with regard to the rights of people living in certain communities and the right of consumers to know how much an airplane ticket is going to cost them.

The Senate considered all of these elements and said that they were not what mattered. According to the Senate, what matters is the interests of companies. That is why, for a long time now, the NDP has been in favour of abolishing the Senate. It is important for decisions to be made by the people's representatives, by elected individuals, not by appointees.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, let me say that my hon. colleague who sits with me on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities did some good work on this bill, as did the Bloc Québécois, of course.

I would go even further. I would like to read him a quote from the debates of the other place, from issue 101, dated May 30, 2007. On that day, Senator Hugh Segal made the following comments:

I point out with great respect that Senator Munson and Senator Dawson, who played such a constructive role, have undertaken that when this chamber, in due consideration, ships this bill, should it decide to do so, back to the other place, they will consult broadly with their colleagues in that other place so that the bill comes back quickly. They have further undertaken on the record that should the other place dither and not approve it, they will move quickly to act with this engaged, non-partisan administration to pass the bill quickly through this chamber. We are grateful on this side for that level of engagement.

I would like to point out that Senator Munson and Senator Dawson are Liberal senators, and that the other place mentioned refers to this House. The Conservative senators decided to let the Liberal senators do as they wish. If ever “the other place” did not accept the amendments it proposed, then they would simply adopt them themselves. I would like my hon. colleague to explain the senators' behaviour. He is quite right. They heard only witnesses from the industry. They did not hear from any citizens, as we did in the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. They heard only witnesses from the industry and decided to not consider the potential impact on people who live next to railways, and decided to replace “as little noise as possible” with “reasonable noise”. They did this thinking that, if we did not accept it, they would accept it when the bill came back to them. They are testing us. I would like my hon. colleague to comment on the Senate debates of May 30, 2007.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the members I have the pleasure of working with in the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities are well aware, this is about the credibility of the Senate.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities heard representatives from New Westminster, Quebec City and other affected communities across the country. People appeared before the committee to talk about this problem. Then the bill was sent to the Senate, where they were only interested in listening to companies to find out what was going on. Clearly, the senators do not have a valid, balanced perspective because they have heard only one side of the story.

That is why the Senate's amendments lack credibility. The senators did not do their homework to find out how rail noise affects communities. They did not do their homework, and I think that is a shame. In my opinion, the amendments they proposed lack credibility.

This is not the first time we have opposed something that the Senate has sent back. For example, the same thing happened with the softwood lumber agreement. In that case, the agreement was approved in this House, but the Senate approved it in mere hours, without meeting to hear witnesses and hence give ordinary citizens the opportunity to talk about the impact of the bill. That is another case where the Senate, the other place, did not do its homework, and I think that is unfortunate.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for his work on this file.

In the last session of Parliament Canadians have been railroaded several times. We have had back to work legislation that was moved in this House. We have also had the discussion around rail safety.

I would like to ask the member with regard to rail safety, how is it possible, given the record of derailments and problems that we have had across this country and the escalation of those problems in recent months and years, that the railways could actually take away some genuine rights from individual citizens who are living next to the railroads without them having some input?

As a former city councillor I can say that one of the first things I learned is that there is the federal government, there is God, and then there are the railway companies. We could not get any cooperation whatsoever without having to fight tooth and nail against the railways.

I would like to ask the hon. member this. What does he think about the Senate watering down provisions at a time in Canadian history where we have seen an increase in rail accidents across this country?

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Windsor West is absolutely correct. It is totally unacceptable to have the Senate watering down provisions that would have actually helped communities from coast to coast.

The Senate's action begs a larger question. We have seen an increase in railway accidents, an increase in deaths and injuries that have resulted from SMS, self-managed safety. The railway companies basically manage themselves and we heard that in testimony at the transport committee. Companies such as CN, and remember the employees said they cannot use the word “Canadian National“ any more, they have to use the word “CN” since it was acquired by the Americans, simply cutback on basic safety requirements in order to increase their profit levels.

Now we are seeing that the government is moving forward with measures that will do exactly the same thing for the airline industry. It defies description. We have a failed system in the railways. Rather than taking action and the Conservative government saying, “Gee, we've got an escalating accident rate. We have to take action to address railway safety”, instead, the Conservatives said, “We'll do the same thing for the airline industry. We'll just hand over lock, stock and barrel safety management to the airlines because we know some of them will be responsible”.

Of course, the other companies we know, and we have heard testimony to this effect and we have some Conservatives who are acknowledging that now, such as DaxAir in northern Ontario said very clearly, “If the government diminishes those safety standards, we're in a race to the bottom because we'll have to compete against companies that are willing to cut corners on safety to increase their profit margins”.

It is absolutely absurd now that after the failures that we have seen in the railway sector that the Conservatives are now pushing forward to do the same thing with the airlines. It simply defies description.

I think the reaction from the public will be quite another thing. When the public wakes up to the fact that the Conservatives want to do the same thing with the airlines as we have seen done with the railways, there will be a public reaction. It will not be something that the Conservatives are going to like to receive, but they need that wake up call from the Canadian public. What the government is doing is irresponsible.

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10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about the amendments to Bill C-11, which the Senate has sent back to us. The Senate did not choose to make just any amendment to the bill. I would like all my colleagues—particularly the Conservatives and Liberals—to understand how they are destroying the delicate balance between rail operations and the peace and quiet of people living near marshalling yards or rail lines.

Our country is experiencing major economic development. Rail is growing by leaps and bounds, something some companies but especially the government had not predicted. The government is investing a great deal of money in moving freight, which arrives in every port in Canada and is transported across the country. Rail transportation has therefore grown. This is good news for the railways, and we take pride in it.

But when trains get longer and come more frequently, problems are inevitable. Today, because of environmental concerns, noise pollution must be considered. Countries all over the world have adopted health standards related to noise pollution, and it is time the railways complied with these internationally recognized standards.

This bill was introduced in order to bring the industry in line. Why? Because it did not discipline itself. It turned a deaf ear when people formed associations and filed complaints. It even won in court against Transport Canada. For example, the Canadian Transportation Commission lost its case when the court ruled that it could not intervene in these matters.

This bill had two objectives: to give power to the Canadian Transportation Commission and to set out how the Commission could use that power in dealing with pollution, specifically noise pollution.

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10:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

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10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Speaking of noise, I can hardly hear myself talk because of my colleagues opposite.

That was the benefit of this bill. We discussed it in committee and weighed the pros and cons. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities—which you support, Mr. Speaker, as the head of this House—heard both sides, the railways and the citizens' groups.

In Quebec, these are not minor problems. We could talk about marshalling yards such as the Moreau yard in Hochelaga, Joffre in Charny—now in the city of Lévis, in the riding of Lévis—Bellechasse—, Farnham in Brome—Missisquoi, and Pointe-Saint-Charles in Jeanne-Le Ber. We are familiar with all the problems and the legal proceedings in Outremont and the rail transportation problems in Quebec City and Montmagny. All these people affected by the noise came to tell us about their failed discussions with the railway companies, which were not interested in talking to them. They knew very well that no legislation could force them to deal with the noise pollution.

That is why, after discussions among all the parties, the committee was able to table a unanimous report on Bill C-11. Amendments were proposed unanimously and no one opposed the bill as tabled and discussed in committee.

I will read section 95.1 of the bill adopted unanimously by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities when it was studied clause by clause. It is worthwhile reading so that those listening will fully understand.

Section 95.1 reads as follows:

When constructing or operating a railway, a railway company, must cause as little noise and or vibration as possible, taking into account

(a) its obligations under sections 113 and 114, if applicable;

(b) its operational require2ments;

(c) the area where the construction or operation takes place; and

(d) the potential impact on persons residing in properties adjacent to the railway.

We all thought it struck a good balance to take into account both the operational requirements of the company and the potential impact on persons residing in properties adjacent to the railway, and we did so by adding, “as little noise and vibration as possible”. All parties were unanimous on this.

Imagine that Bill C-11 goes back to the Senate. It decides to give in to pressure from the industry. That is clear because I have the list of witnesses who were heard in the Senate committee. Not a single citizens' group was heard during this discussion. The Senate heard from the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Transport Canada, the Forest Products Association of Canada, the Western Grain Elevator Association, the Western Canadian Shippers' Coalition, the Railway Association of Canada, and the Canadian National Railway Company. Not a single group of citizens experiencing problems with noise was heard from.

We did not come up with the words, “as little noise as possible”. These terms were used in Bill C-26 tabled by the Liberals in the last Parliament. We used the terms, “must cause as little noise as possible” and we added the word “vibration” because it has come to that. As I was saying, because of the length of the trains, we have to deal with the noise and vibration caused by railway transportation. But we opted for “as little noise as possible”, which was proposed by the Liberals in the last Parliament.

Today, in the Senate, the Liberal majority decided to change that. It decided to hear from witnesses, but not from citizens groups. It gave in to pressure from lobbyists and decided to table the amendments we are discussing today in this House and which the Bloc Québécois will vote against.

Worse yet, and this is where I have a problem understanding the Conservatives, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities said, when he appeared before the Senate committee:

Today, however, I would like to discuss the many benefits of Bill C-11. The Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities made a number of improvements to Bill C-11 during committee review, following almost two months of meetings last fall with witnesses from across the country. I want to thank members of that committee for their diligent work. We now have a very solid piece of legislation that I hope this committee can deal with expeditiously.

He went on:

The bill will require the railway to cause as little noise and vibrations as possible when constructing or operating a railway, taking into consideration the requirements of railway operations, the interests of affected communities and the potential impact on adjacent residents. As well, the Agency would be given authority to resolve noise complaints if a voluntary settlement cannot be reached between parties. This is a long-awaited remedy that we believe will balance the needs of communities with the need for continued rail operations to move ever increasing trade volumes.

In addition, Senator Dawson, one of the people who orchestrated the amendments for the Liberal majority in the Senate, said himself in the Senate:

—the Department of Transport tells us that it can live with the text as it stands. The department is your partner. The minister could have decided to pay us a visit here in the Senate to tell us that he found the amendment tabled in the House of Commons to be unreasonable—let’s not mince words—and to ask us to change it. Instead, he came here and told us that he could live with the bill in its present form.

That is why I cannot understand the Conservatives' position today. The minister could live with the bill. The definition came from the old Bill C-26 introduced by the Liberals. The Conservatives did not see what the Liberal majority in the Senate was doing or what all the Liberals in both houses were doing, unbeknownst to the entire House of Commons.

That is the big problem for me. Today the Conservative Party is supporting the amendments that were submitted by the Liberal majority in the Senate. I am going to read the text that I read a while ago to my NDP colleague. It is worth it because, after all, there are Conservative senators in the Senate, too. It is interesting to see how their own Conservative senators operate.

I am going to return to the statement by Senator Hugh Segal, who said, “I point out with great respect that Senator Munson and Senator Dawson [these are two Liberal senators], who played such a constructive role, have undertaken that when this chamber, in due consideration, ships this bill, should it decide to do so, back to the other place, they will consult broadly with their colleagues in that other place [here he is speaking of the Liberal MPs in the House of Commons] so that the bill comes back quickly”.

So I understand the Conservative senator, when he says that the Liberals, are proposing amendments, and asks whether they think that will work. The Liberals then confirm to Conservative Senator Segal that, indeed, when it happens, they will turn around and be in favour of the amendments. However, the Conservative senator never says that he consulted the Conservative members and the minister. He does not say it. He does his work nicely.

Of course Senator Segal adds, “They have further undertaken on the record that should the other place dither and not approve it--“that is, if we in the House of Commons decided not to approve it”--they will move quickly to act with this engaged, non-partisan administration--“speaking of the Senate”--to pass the bill quickly through this chamber”.

Throughout the text, Senator Segal says that the Conservatives want to advance the bill, that they are non-partisan and have only heard the railway companies. They are in favour of what is proposed by the Liberals, who say they have reached an agreement with their colleagues in the House of Commons. Thus the bill will come back to this House and everything will be settled. Still, Senator Segal had a moment of lucidity. At least he took the time to ask himself what the Liberals would do if ever the bill were not passed by the House of Commons? This is not a problem: they will pass it as amended by the House of Commons. This is what the text of the Debates of the Senate, Issue 101, of May 30, 2007, tells us.

I do not understand the Conservatives who are voting today in favour of the amendment by the Senate, knowing very well that if they held the line and that if they insisted at any rate on what had been adopted in committee, we would vote against the Senate amendments and the Senate would adopt it because there is already an agreement between the Conservative senators and the Liberals. If we blow hot and cold and are not in favour they will quickly adopt it.

Why not do it as early as possible today? Let us send it back to them and tomorrow they will return it to us. In that way we would have respected the wishes of the public and not just the interests of business.

I will not stop there. The representatives of the City of Quebec and the City of Lévis appeared before the committee. The member for Lévis—Bellechasse, in the Quebec City area, even had his picture taken with all those people and the photo was published in the local weekly newspapers. He was very pleased. The member for Lévis—Bellechasse was not present because he was no longer a member of the committee but when the witnesses appeared before the committee he was in favour. The definition that was contained in Bill C-11 is the definition advocated by the City of Lévis. Yet, this evening or at some other time, the member for Lévis—Bellechasse will vote in favour of the Senate amendments, which are contrary to the position put forward by the City of Lévis.

Conservative colleagues, the public have had enough of this and they want it settled. The balance that we achieved and that was defended by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, is a good balance, and he said it well, because the demands of the public were much greater and a great deal more critical about the railways than what ended up in this bill.

That balance is found in the definition “as little noise and vibration as possible” and the condition relating to the potential impact on persons residing adjacent to the railway. It is simple; it is to balance the power of the railway companies, which for business reasons have no interest in the problems of noise pollution and do not care.

As I said from the start, we can no longer ignore this noise pollution. The pubic are entitled to have their problems dealt with in an intelligent way and to come back to the definition of the word “reasonable,” a definition that was in the previous legislation and about which there was much less than unanimous agreement.

Speaking of the witnesses, the residents of Charny, which is now part of the City of Lévis, formed committees and they studied the court decisions, including the Oakville decision.

They are very much on top of this issue. They have organized fundraisers and were ready to go to court over the noise problem. There really is a problem with noise pollution. They are not doing this for the fun of it and do not spend their time in court because they have nothing else to do. When they decide to institute legal proceedings, it is because all the discussions with the railways have gone no where. Marshalling yards are hell.

There is a company now that converts old locomotives using truck engines that can be turned off at night. The managers of this company have been trying to meet with CN management, but CN does not want to see them. It does not want to meet with them. It would rather keep its old locomotives in the marshalling yards. Railway cars obviously have to be moved around for maintenance and repairs. Engines are left running night and day. That is how it is done in the winter because if a diesel engine is turned off, it cannot be restarted. That is the reality. They do not want to modernize, do not want to listen, and do not want to know anything about new technologies. What interests them are the profits they pay to their shareholders every three months. They do not give a damn about anything else.

For once we would have a bill that would help citizens achieve a balance because that is what the Transportation Agency is supposed to do. If the company and the people filing complaints cannot agree, the Transportation Agency has the power to impose directives. What directives? They would provide some oversight and say that the railways have to cause as little noise and vibration as possible and consider the possible impact on people residing close to the railway, while at the same time continuing to operate and construct railways in the places where they are. There already were some guidelines that enabled them to say that certain things had to be done, while at the same time they had to take into account the fact that they were located near particular neighbourhoods. The legislation already gave them the ability to say that their facilities were in certain locations and they had certain operational needs. The only balancing required was that they had to take into account the impact on people living in adjacent locations and cause as little noise and vibration as possible.

As the Minister said when he appeared before the Senate, it was a good balance. I agree with that. My problem is that the Conservative members—particularly those from Quebec—are still kowtowing to the railway lobby. Probably the members from the West are pressuring the Quebec members. We will not hear from them today: they are not making speeches. They will listen obediently to what the parliamentary secretary tells them when he tries to make them understand that nothing can be done. If it goes back to the Senate, it will take time, because if the Senators do not agree, the Senate can decide to send the bill back here, and we want it to pass quickly.

I will read what Senator Segal said again, since the parliamentary secretary has just arrived. I quote again what he said about his colleagues, Senators Dawson and Munson.

They have further undertaken on the record that should the other place [that is us] dither and not approve it, they will move quickly to act with this engaged, non-partisan administration [the Senate] to pass the bill quickly through this chamber.

I reiterate to my Conservative colleagues that they should not be afraid to stand up for their constituents' interests, once and for all. I say to the members from Quebec—the member for Lévis—Bellechasse, the members for the Quebec City region, and their minister—not to be afraid to stand up for their constituents. Just once, let them rise in this House to stand up for the only defensible tool, the one that was even defended by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities before the Senate committee. He said that it was a good balance. Let them stand up and defend the interests of their constituents. Let them stop being doormats for the members from the West. Let them stand up and stand tall. Let them defend the interests of their fellow citizens by saying no to the Senate and to the amendments before us today. And let the Senate make its decision again. That is what it says in the Senate report, in the statement by Senator Hugh Segal, that they already have an agreement: if we send the bill back and do not accept the amendments, they will pass Bill C-11 as it stood when it was unanimously agreed to in committee.

What I am asking the Conservative members from Quebec to do is to stand up, to defend the interests of their constituents and to do what the Bloc members, who were elected solely to defend the interests of the public and not for their personal careers, are doing. That is what we will see at the end of the day.

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11 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on an excellent speech. He touched on a number of issues that are of critical importance.

What I find interesting, and this will culminate in a question, and what angers me to no end, is this. When we get to this order of government, we tend to get a little further away from the people. Having been a former member of a provincial parliament and on city and regional council, when we talked about things like noise, vibrations and trains affecting residences, that it was politics hitting us where we lived.

It is great that we are dealing with issues of such magnitude in the House. However, we are dealing now specifically with things that affect people. If people want to have their quality of life go through the basement, try having a train by their homes idling and vibrating all night long, for hours on end.

The fact that place would actually give further power or reinstate power to the railway companies angers me. Believe me they are like an order of government unto themselves. When my colleague from Windsor West commented about the order of how the world was created, it is true it was tongue in cheek. Try to find somebody who can be held accountable for a simple thing like trying to get the grass cut around a fence beside the railway line.

Speaking of accountability, that is the other thing that angers me. I want to know who the senator is from Hamilton to whom I can send my constituents. That individual is accountable to my constituents for these decisions. I do not even know if there is somebody designated as a member of the Senate from Hamilton, and I have been in elected office for over 20 years now.

To have the senators send something to the House that negatively affects the quality of life of my constituents is unacceptable. I hope, if for no other reason, that we tell them that they have no business dealing with issues that are rightfully in front of people who are elected, accountable and responsible. For that alone, we should stop this. This is the wrong thing to do.

Is it the hon. member's experience that railways are like a government unto themselves when he has tried to deal with them on behalf of his constituents? How does he feel about this coming from that place and the inability of anyone to hold senators accountable for the decisions that affect the lives of Canadians?

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11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his impassioned remarks about the Senate. Indeed, we have already offered up similar comments but for a very long time we, in the Bloc Québécois, have believed that the Senate should be abolished, especially in light of the things that we are seeing today. My colleague is right to ask why the senators should be disturbing the quality of life of our fellow citizens.

For once, there was unanimity in the House of Commons about what the railways should do to counter noise pollution, a pollution caused by the fact that their business is doing very well. As a matter of fact, we were pleased about this.

The problem is that the growth in their business creates problems of noise pollution, which is unacceptable in 2007. For once, a committee of the House of Commons agreed on that point and was unanimous during clause-by-clause review. The minister made a presentation to the Senate to tell them that it was a balanced bill; and the senators replied that no, it was not balanced. It did not satisfy the railway companies and they decided not to support what the House of Commons had proposed.

What I have a problem with is that the Conservative members allowed themselves to be taken in by the Liberal majority.

The City of Quebec, the City of Lévis, the residents of Pointe-Saint-Charles and other citizens groups came to speak and to tell us that they had had enough and it was time that there was some balance. That is why I find it very difficult to accept the fact that the members from Quebec have decided, once again, to bow before the members from the west and especially before the Liberal majority in the Senate. I said earlier, there is already an agreement. If we do not agree, they will fast-track it and will send it back the way they want.There is already an agreement, but the Conservatives are going along with this. I find it hard to follow but the Conservatives are yet again making a real political error. We just have to watch them do it. It is fun to watch, at least for us.

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11:05 a.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my friend and sat with him on the committee. I thank him and the other members of his party who helped us move this along.

I want to confirm with him that I did have the opportunity, in relation to one of his comments, to tour the constituency of Lévis with the Conservative member for Lévis—Bellechasse, who is working very hard for his people. I had an opportunity to see the Quebec Bridge and some of the rail yards in the area.

From the government side, we have taken great consideration on noise and vibrations and we have added vibrations to the test itself. Under section 95.1, it states:

When constructing or operating a railway, a railway company must cause as little noise and vibration as possible, taking into account...

It seems very clear that there are three different issues, three different tests, on what is reasonable and what is not. First, how would that act to restrict the amount of noise so people could live in that area with comfort?

Second, there is the Constitution Act of 1867 which clearly lays out that the Senate does have some authority in this place and for the Government of Canada. If the opposition would support Bill S-4, it would clearly bring some accountability to the Senate and it would change the way government takes place. That is why the government is moving forward with this initiative, and we would ask members from the other parties to support this so we do not have these discussions about lack of accountability in the future.

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11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would once again urge my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, to do as I did and read the blues of the record of the Senate meeting on May 30. If he does, he will see that if he votes against this amendment today, the senators will still pass the bill the way the House wants it right away. There is already an agreement. I have trouble understanding him because when his minister gave his presentation to the Senate, he had this to say about Bill C-11 as tabled by the House and supported unanimously in committee:

This is a long-awaited remedy that we believe will balance the needs of communities with the need for continued rail operations to move ever increasing trade volumes.

Back then, the minister found that it struck a good balance, and now the member is trying to convince me that it did not, in fact, strike a good balance, and that the Senate's amended version strikes a good balance now.

He mentioned the Quebec bridge, which gives me an opportunity to note that this is just like what happened with the Quebec bridge. That is the Canadian federation for you. That shows how much influence a governing federal party has over a railway company. None. The Quebec bridge will not be painted by 2008. It will never be painted. What was it that the Conservatives said when they were elected? They said that they would get the Quebec bridge painted. They did the same thing the Liberals did. They set aside the Liberals' case against Canadian National to make the railway paint the bridge, then they had to start a new case against Canadian National. In the end, all they did was waste a year.

That's Canada for you. Nobody is in control. You no longer control the railways, and once again, you have shown that the railways control you, the rail lobbyists control you. They control the Conservatives, just like they controlled the Liberals. People in Quebec are really fed up with this.

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11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel on his concern for citizens and his dedication to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

Today I am very disappointed. I have been anxiously awaiting Bill C-11. In Trois-Rivières, just like in Farnham, Quebec, based on what I have been told, this is a major problem for our citizens. What we have here is a balanced and reasonable bill. Respecting the environment is important. We are well aware that we are going to be seeing more and more rail transportation, but it should certainly not ignore what our fellow citizens want.

When we talk about making as little noise as possible, and adding the element of vibrations, it seems to me that this is crucial. Every day in Trois-Rivières there are citizens living with this problem, with trains zipping by their yards. This brings down their property values and is truly unbearable.

Who are we as members of Parliament? We must work for our fellow citizens, for our electors. I am calling on the Conservatives to change their minds and to move forward so that we can resolve this problem, especially since we have heard that their minister would agree with this. I really do not understand their position.

I would like my colleague to talk a little bit about public reactions if we do not resolve this problem with Bill C-11. What can we expect from these citizens back home who will tell us over and over all summer long that we have failed, that we were not able to resolve this problem? Yet, the solution is right here in front of us.

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11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my hon. colleague from Trois-Rivières who, incidentally, is doing an excellent job defending the interests of the citizens of Trois-Rivières. Her work speaks for itself.

The problem is that the railway industry is a growing industry. Business is good. Trains are getting longer and longer. This is precisely why we had to add the word “noise” and the word “vibration”, because it takes time for the train to pass. It is good for business, but that is as far as we have come in our society. It is good for business, good for the railway companies, but now they have to concern themselves with the damage they could be causing to citizens, with pollution from the noise and vibration. This is where things stand.

Now, the Conservative government is backing off. And this is only because—according to what I have been told in the backrooms—it intends to go through this all over again by introducing a new bill. Just think, we are in the process of solving the problem, but since the government does not wish to frustrate the Senate, it will introduce a new bill. That makes no sense. Here is what the government is going to do. It is going to wait for the Canadian Transportation Agency to hear the case. It will find that this is not working. That will take a few years. The government will have stalled for time and the railway companies will have saved some money. That is what they are thinking.

Meanwhile, our citizens are not getting anywhere and will not be happy with the work that has been done. One thing is clear, however; they will see that the Bloc Québécois worked hard on their behalf. The problem is the Conservatives and the Liberals. In that regard, once again, I am having a hard time understanding where the Conservative members from Quebec are on this. Not one of them has anything to say.

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11:15 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the Senate amendment concerning Bill C-11. I do not think I can drum up as much steam as the member for Hamilton Centre did. That was quite the performance. I agree with everything he said. I certainly agree with the concerns my colleague from the Bloc outlined about this amendment.

For me, my riding and the communities that I represent in east Vancouver, this issue goes back to the day that I was elected. In fact, as I am sure the Speaker will remember, even a former member of Parliament for Vancouver East, Margaret Mitchell, a great member of Parliament who represented east Vancouver in the House, she herself dealt with the issue of excessive train noise, vibration and disruption for residents in the Burrardview and Wall Street areas of east Vancouver. This is an issue that goes way back.

Over the 10 years that I have been here I have met with local residents on numerous occasions to respond to their very legitimate concerns. I have attended community meetings. I have met with railway officials in Ottawa and Vancouver to put forward those concerns and demand that there be a response not only from the railway company but also from the government.

I actually rode the tracks. I forget the name of that little vehicle that goes up and down the tracks, but I rode on that to see firsthand what was going on in the marshalling yards that was causing so many problems. We have approached it from a health point of view and have laid complaints with the medical health officer in Vancouver. We have pursued legal options. I have worked with local residents and the saga goes on and on.

As recently as April of 2007 I wrote to the Railway Safety Act Review Advisory Panel pointing out that I regularly receive letters, e-mails, faxes, phone calls and visits from local residents, all of whom vociferously protest against prolonged and excessive train noise. They feel they are under constant siege from the noise by trains and they have not been able to find any recourse. All the complaints are remarkably similar and focus on noise in the early hours of the morning from whistles and horns, idling, shunting, et cetera. That was just in April.

Before that, in July 2006 I wrote to the then minister of transport with the same issues, concerns and complaints. I actually received a reply from the minister at that time. Lo and behold, the minister of transport said, “You may be interested to note that Bill C-11, which will enable the Canadian Transportation Agency to address issues such as noise levels, received first reading in Parliament in May 2006”. We finally have a bill that is going to address these long-standing systemic concerns from local residents.

Prior to that, in June 2005, I wrote to the Canadian Pacific Railway articulating the concerns that I had heard. In 2003 I wrote to the then minister of transport, who basically took no action. In 2002 I wrote to the minister of transport, as I had in 2000. This is just a sampling of letters that I have written.

It is very illuminating to hear the debate on this bill after the various readings it has gone through and hear members, even at this stage of the bill, coming forward with a sense of frustration that this bill still does not adequately respond to the legitimate concerns of local residents. That is coming from across the political spectrum. We have heard members from the Bloc today articulate very well the ongoing nature of these concerns.

In my own community, it has been the outstanding vigilance, neighbourhood spirit and activism at the local level that has kept this issue on the political agenda. It has been the work of local residents such as the member for Vancouver--Hastings in the B.C. legislative assembly, Shane Simpson. When he was a resident activist before he was elected, he was very active with the Burrardview residents association in pressing this issue. There are people like Barbara Fousek, who is now with the Burrardview residents association, who have never given up and have always addressed the concerns of local residents.

To be frank, people have tried to work within the system. They have tried to use processes and avenues they believed were available to them. Whether it has been the City of Vancouver with the whistleblowing, whether it has been the railway company itself, whether it has ben the federal government, people have used all of these avenues to the absolute fullest.

I would like to quote from a few of the e-mails and letters that I have received, for example, from Robert who has focused on a particular engine. People actually identify the number of the engine that is causing the problem while it might be idling in the marshalling yards at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. disrupting people's sleep when they have to go to work the next day.

Bonnie wrote at great length to the transportation committee. She pointed out that this issue in east Vancouver goes back to 1991 with the closure of the rail yard in Vancouver's Coal Harbour. There were operational changes that increased the length and the weight of trains. This has had a significant local impact. She points out that the CPR began the marshalling of trains below Wall Street in the Burrardview neighbourhood. The operational change was made without any public consultation or consideration of the impact that the change would have on local residents. This change has had a drastic effect on neighbourhoods and has increased noise and vibration to industrial levels.

In fact, the residents went so far as to ensure that a study was done of the noise levels. Our party's transport critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, in his speech quoted briefly from that study dated December 2005, entitled, “East Vancouver Portlands Community Noise Study”. As he pointed out, what was found was excessive noise levels that were far beyond anything that could be considered reasonable or standard for people living in a high density residential area.

I have other letters, for example, one from the Pacific Terraces strata council, which states:

Also, the drone of trains idling have often kept me from falling asleep. On occasion, I have incurred ear damage, with severe symptoms lasting for days. Again, I see no reason why trains need to idle for hours in areas where one can only surmise that many people are being denied their natural right to respect, peace and tranquility.

This should not be seen as just an issue of inconvenience, but one of health and mental well being. It is my opinion that the disrespect railway yards seem to show neighbourhoods crosses the line of abuse. I hope this situation can be resolved soon.

In an email, Finn points out:

The Alberta wheat pool is close to our house and we are subjected to, among other things, shunting of trains which occurs at all hours of the night causing extreme noise levels, Freight trains travelling from West to East working so hard and travelling so fast that the vibrations shake our whole house and wake anyone who may be sleeping.

I do not want to use the word “complaints” when referring to these issues, because that would imply that people are just complaining. These are very severe impacts on people's quality of life. The documentation that I have on these issues is endless.

I want to get back to the bill. Before us today is a Senate amendment and I want to retrace the steps of where this amendment came from.

I want to thank the NDP transport critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, for his very strong work in bringing local residents to the committee so that they could be heard and for receiving the issues that people have pressed.

The NDP member brought forward amendments to this bill. We supported the bill in principle. We said that maybe there finally could be some resolution. The member brought forward amendments at the committee that would have, for example, prohibited trains from performing certain activities such as shunting in high density residential areas between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Those amendments were shot down in committee, regrettably, because they did not have the support of other members. In fact, we ended up with a compromise proposal from the government side which said that at least there could be as little noise and vibration as possible.

We went along with that. We wanted to get through as much as we could in order to respond to people's concerns. We agreed finally to that amendment. The NDP amendment, which I think was far superior, was lost.

Where are we now? The bill was approved by the House. It went to the Senate. Now there is a Senate amendment that is watering down the government amendment which watered down the NDP amendment. The 10th report of Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications states:

Finally, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communications amended clause 29 of Bill C-11 to require railway companies to cause “as little noise and vibration as possible”....Canadian railway companies believed that the new standard could present a significant threat to their economic viability as there is no jurisprudence on its interpretation. As such, the railway companies recommended that the standard of “reasonableness” be restored to the provision.

That is exactly what the other place did. It went ahead, put forward its own amendment in the unelected Senate, which is what we are now debating in the House.

That is why we in the NDP feel we have to take a stand, that we have to say that this is unacceptable on two grounds. One is the amendment from the Senate is not reasonable and is actually watering down a provision so much that it will have very little effect which to us is really undermining the value and the intent of what the bill was intended to do in the first place. The bill was to provide real relief to local residents who have been suffering for years. On those grounds alone we feel we cannot support the Senate amendment.

In addition, as has been pointed out by the member for Hamilton Centre and other members of the House, it seems to us completely unacceptable that we are now debating an amendment from the Senate that is based on accommodating what the railway companies consider to be reasonable from a place that has no accountability to those local residents. Here we are with this amendment that is not really going to respond in any fashion to the very legitimate concerns that I have documented exist in my own community and we know exist right across the country. I find it very offensive that we are now having to respond to this amendment.

On those two grounds we are saying today that we want to reject that amendment. We believe that this should go back and that the government should be very clear that this is an unacceptable practice. We have seen it on other occasions when the government has taken issue with the Senate and has said that what the Senate has done is not legitimate and so on, but on this issue the government seems to be quite willing to go along with it.

I wanted to speak in the debate today just to lay out what this has meant for the thousands of people in my community who are still suffering from the impacts of excessive train noise. I want to make one thing clear. They are local residents who are well aware that they live adjacent to a working port. The history of east Vancouver is built on port activity and train activity. We understand that. It is part of our history. It is part of the history of our community. There are many people who work at the port and in the rail yards who live in east Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. We understand the importance of the economic activity of our rail operations and the port generally.

However, there is a significant issue about the interface and the conflict that can arise. What I find problematic is that often those issues are presented as somehow being mutually exclusive, that we have to say that everything the port or the railway company wants for their economic viability we have to go for or somehow we are on the side of the residents.

I believe, and I think many members in this House believe, that our job is to ensure that there is a balance between those things, that they are not mutually exclusive, that we can protect the economic viability of the port of Vancouver and the rail operations. Our job is also to ensure that we address the concerns that residents have in a meaningful way.

Some residents have lived in that neighbourhood for three, four, five decades and some have moved in more recently. Some of the letters I get are from recent residents. I always ask them if they were aware that they were moving into an area next to the port, and they always tell me they were. In principle, that is not the issue.

People are very respectful of those who work in the port and those who work on the rail operations. There is a legitimate case here about the excessive noise. People were not consulted when operational changes were made 15 years ago. I find that railway officials listen to us, but they really feel that they have no mandate and do not have to respond to these concerns. I have had that experience myself, which points out why this legislation is so needed.

Overall, we support Bill C-11. We want to see it go through. The bill has gone through the House, but I am very disappointed and frustrated that it has now come back to us with this Senate amendment that will undo the very premise on which it was advanced by the government. I am sure the House is going to hear the same thing from other members today.

I hope that we can convince enough members of this House to send a strong message back to the Senate saying that this is not acceptable. We have to tell the Senate that we have to do a better job and that we are not prepared to water the bill down and weaken the already weak provisions to protect those local quality of life concerns. That is what we in the NDP hope will happen today. We believe that we have one last shot at this.

I thank the members of the transport committee who worked very diligently on this bill. I especially thank our transportation critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, who has pressed this issue very well and has worked hard to get the best possible arrangement.

Now we have to respond to the other place that has no accountability to those local residents. Let us do the right thing and stand up for their quality of life. Let us make sure that the bill is not undermined and weakened.

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11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her remarks. It is important for the citizens who are listening to understand that the problem exists outside of Quebec. Vancouver is experiencing the same difficulties.

The fact that the industry is presently experiencing significant economic growth also results in other nuisances. We are no longer dealing with noise alone, but also with vibration and the length of trains. That is the message that members from all parties wanted to deliver in committee. I repeat that, at clause by clause consideration of the bill, everyone was on the same page and wanted to find a balanced solution. The message delivered to the Senate by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, when he appeared, was that Bill C-11 was a good bill. We found a balance between railway operations and the disturbance to those living nearby. The Senate merely wished to favour one group over another. The Senate only heard from industry representatives. It did not hear testimony from citizens or citizen groups. I am certain that citizen groups are just as organized in Vancouver as they are in Quebec. These problems have dragged on for decades in Quebec.

I would ask my colleague what she makes of the conduct of Liberal and Conservative members who, in committee, supported Bill C-11, a balanced bill, and who now are yielding to the Senate and the railway industry lobby? They are attempting to backtrack on this bill, to the detriment of the peace and quiet of citizens.

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11:35 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the comments from my colleague from the Bloc. To respond to his question I can only say that I am very disappointed. There was good progress made on Bill C-11. The concerns of residents were heard. People appeared before the committee.

The bill has gone through its full democratic process in the House of three readings and was passed. The bill was a collection of the best that we had to offer from all parties. It was bundled off to the Senate and then it started to fall apart. I think that is why we are here today and that is why we are hearing some very strong pleas from members in the House who are saying this is not right.

Members say that the Senate in examining this bill has taken, and I was going to use the word “partisan”, but it is not partisan in a political sense. It is partisan in a sense that as the member points out, the Senate has chosen to listen to the concerns of the rail companies and not respond to the concerns of local residents to find the appropriate balance.

The Senate has now sent us back a bill that I and other members believe is flawed. We have an opportunity here to accept or reject the amendment. That is still part of our work and part of our duty.

I am extremely disappointed that it appears that today the Conservative members and the Liberal members are going to vote for this Senate amendment. The NDP members and the Bloc members will vote against the amendment. However, there will not be enough votes and the bill will now be approved with the Senate amendment which does set us back.

I can predict with all certainty that we will continue to receive complaints, not only in my community but in other communities across Canada. In a few years the pressure will build and maybe we will see some other kind of legislative process. I don't know what it will be. We had an opportunity here under Bill C-11 and that is what the government told us. We had an opportunity to actually correct a very longstanding problem that needed attention.

We were so close to getting it done. The bill was passed in the House. Now we are dealing with something different that will undermine the bill and undermine the ability of the federal government within its mandate to deal with these concerns because it wanted to appease the concerns of the rail companies.

Perhaps other members have other opinions on that. I really feel that is a huge letdown. If local residents feel sold out, then I would agree with them.

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11:35 a.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, when I moved to British Columbia from Nova Scotia 25 years ago, the very first thing I heard about was the concern about the rail yards because we have rail yards in Surrey.

James Karpoff, who was the member of Parliament for Surrey North from 1988 to 1993, has a pile of speeches, letters and so on where he deals with this very concern. In my neighbourhood in particular, the rail yards are right below where we live. Did we know that when we moved in? Of course we did, but we were told that the railway was working on changes so that we would not feel the vibrations, not hear the noise in the same way, we would not hear shunting at 3 o'clock in the morning, that all those things were changing and that people were working hard on that.

It is now 2007 and I do not know what to tell my neighbours. That is part of my question. We have people who have spent tens of thousands of dollars literally on their homes, patching cracks in the foundations because of the vibrations of the rail yard. It is perhaps half a mile down the hill from us.

We have people who have not been able to afford to double glaze their windows. I know they should because it is energy efficient, but it is also about the money to do it. They are awake walking babies at night. People say the baby will go back to sleep. If the person who is a mom or dad who has just spent two and a half hours to get a baby to sleep, having that baby wake up again is not a small matter.

We have had people on our street under palliative care at home who have great difficulty getting any kind of peace and quiet at all, even with the medications they are on. Then they are awakened again by the shunting noise in the middle of the night. It is unconscionable.

People have come to me as their elected MLA, councillor and elected MP to ask, what could I do to help them? I ask my colleague, what do I now go back and tell the people in my neighbourhood? Who do they ask? Do they find every senator and ask them? What do I tell them that they need to do next? If the amendment passes, what is it that they can do next? It would never have occurred to them to go to an unelected body to have changes made to their quality of life. Perhaps my colleague could help me with what I can say to my neighbours at a community meeting which is actually next week.

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11:40 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I could think of two responses. The first is for the member to tell her residents that the members of the NDP fought tooth and nail to the very end to make sure that the bill went through intact and that we opposed this really terrible Senate amendment and the process that it went through. She should tell her constituents that we will not give up on the issue because we know that there will still be complaints. We will continue to press, as we do on many issues. We are not going to abandon this because we know it is a very real quality of life issue. It is an issue about the environment, noise pollution, and the issue of the interface between residents, residential neighbourhoods and industrial activities. We will not let go of that. We will continue to press that.

The second response that I would give is that I think we should encourage our constituents to flood the Conservative members. They can write to senators, but they are unaccountable. They are not elected. They do not have to respond to anybody, but the Conservative government is accountable for what it does and it made a decision today to support the Senate amendment.

Our job is to hold the government to account and if constituents have concerns they should certainly let us know as local members, but they should hammer the government as to why it was willing to let the bill go through with the Senate amendment knowing full well that it was going to undermine the very purpose for which the bill was brought in, in the first place.

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11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

I will not begin my presentation by saying that I am pleased to rise and speak today because today I do not feel any pleasure, but rather shame, before the amendments that have come to us from the Senate. These amendments defeat the significant amendments that were made to Bill C-11 and passed unanimously in committee.

I am ashamed because the Senate did not do its job properly. It only met with railway companies, which told it all about their dissatisfaction with the bill. The Senate report even quotes their arguments. We read there that the Canadian railway companies claimed that a new standard could have considerable economic consequences in the absence of a standard based on the reasonableness of noise.

So the companies played the economic argument, but we must not lose sight of the purpose of the bill, which was not to try and make railway companies as profitable as possible. That would have been studied by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

Rather the bill was designed to deal with numerous complaints from our citizens who live close to railways. These citizens are penalized by the operations of these companies, which as a rule do not listen to the citizens’ complaints. If you are an MP, you represent all your fellow citizens. MPs contribute by developing bills in our fine parliamentary system in order to improve the living conditions of their fellow citizens.

The members of the Senate said themselves they held five meetings to study this bill, which is so important to us. I sit on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. We held 15 sessions just to meet with witnesses. Of these 15, some 10 were an opportunity to meet with citizens, groups of citizens and representatives of cities who told us about the problems they have been experiencing for a very long time. Representatives of the department and railway companies also shared their comments with us on the bill, and answered our questions.

In addition to the 15 sessions we had with witnesses, we held six sessions specifically to do a clause-by-clause study. After meeting with all the witnesses, each of the parties studied the problem and proposed amendments with a view to improving the bill. The committee was unanimous in passing the amendments adopted at third reading.

I am relatively new as an MP and I was pleased to see that we could draft a useful bill that would improve life for my constituents. I have talked about this bill in my riding to illustrate my work as an MP. I do not know how I am going to explain to my constituents the situation we are in right now, but depending on the result of the vote on this bill, I will have to say a few words about those who are undoing the democratic work that we undertook.

It is important to point out, as my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel said earlier, that members of the Senate are saying that if their amendments are not accepted by the House, they could nonetheless pass the bill quickly.

The fact that the government party seems to want to give in so easily and destroy everything that was done in committee and in drafting the bill, adds to the frustration and shame I feel about the way the Senate operates. The Conservatives seem to be saying that this will all work out.

This eliminates any possibility of making these improvements. The official opposition party seems to want to do the same thing, since it has the majority in the Senate and was lobbied by the railway companies.

We are in an incredible situation where organized pressure groups, companies that have lobbyists, can interfere with a major bill to improve living conditions, by approaching members of the Senate to influence them during specific meetings and make them change their minds.

I find this hard to swallow, especially since, as the Bloc knows, the very existence of the Senate has been criticized. These are people who were not elected and we do not know to whom they are accountable. The way in which we are currently receiving the report shows they are not improving matters or the impression we have of them. In my opinion, they did not conduct a defined study that allows us to achieve the objectives of the bill.

I find this surprising, especially as the purpose of the amendments we proposed to the provision on noise was to respond to all the testimony we had heard. These amendments were not made out of the blue. We conducted a long review, provision by provision, because we had received various proposals from different parties. We reached a consensus, even though we had been asked to show even greater determination on the noise issue. We said, therefore, that the companies have to cause as little noise and vibration as possible. We opted for this formulation rather than prohibiting any unreasonable noise. Who can say what is reasonable or not and on what basis would it be judged? We wanted every possible solution attempted, therefore, in an effort to resolve this problem.

We know that there can be various different ways of resolving the noise problem, especially in marshalling yards. There are the hours of operation, but also the machinery, the engines, and better locomotives that make less noise when they operate.

We also required the railway companies to take into consideration the possible impact on people residing close to the railway. Initially, the bill did not mention these people. It just said that the operational and construction needs of railways had to be met. When we received a number of representations on the impact of the noise on local people, we decided to add something in order to achieve this objective and make the companies ultimately responsible for the impact on the local population and not just for the physical operation of their equipment.

The involvement of the Conservative members from Quebec could be seen most clearly in the riding of Lévis—Bellechasse where there is also a very large marshalling yard. The Conservative member for Lévis—Bellechasse was very pleased to meet with the sector president in his region who came to voice his complaints.

Since the Senate members did not even make the effort to meet with these people, I would like to quote an excerpt from the testimony of Mr. Jean-Pierre Bazinet, president of the Chute-de-la-Chaudière sector in Lévis. If people take the time to re-read the discussions, they will see what the concerns of the City of Lévis were.

As part of its activities, Canadian National operates a switching yard within the boundaries of Charny and Saint-Jean-Chrysostome. Given the elevated noise levels generated by switching operations conducted by Canadian National, numerous complaints have been laid by residents of the three former neighbourhoods that existed prior to the merger in 2000, as well as by residents of the other neighbourhoods that I mentioned earlier.

These residents believe that the noise pollution caused by CN's operations, particularly in the evening and at night, is affecting their health and impedes their peaceful enjoyment of their property. This situation came about in 1998—and that date is important. Previously, the switching yard and the residents lived in harmony. The new situation coincided with the privatization of the company, which streamlined its operations not only in Quebec, but throughout Canada.

In that respect, the problems experienced by the residents of Charny are similar to those encountered in other cities in Canada. The preceding testimonies are compelling.

When CN failed to take action, a large number of affected residents signed a petition that was presented to the council of the former City of Charny in 2000. The municipality also received letters from home owners describing the situation as unacceptable and intolerable.

In 2001, the Public Health Department of the Chaudière-Appalaches Health and Social Services Board conducted an analysis of the situation and produced a report entitled “Assessment of the public health risk associated with environmental noise produced by operations at CN's Joffre switching yard in Charny”. The study concludes, and I quote:

“Based on the available noise measurements, the literature review and the specific context, we find that the environmental noise to which many of the people living in the residential area adjacent to CN's Joffre switching yard are exposed adversely affects their quality of life and potentially their health. Such noise levels are therefore a nuisance to the peace, comfort and well-being of the residents near the Joffre switching yard in Charny.

From a public health standpoint, these noise levels are likely to have an adverse affect on health by disturbing sleep, which in turn has a number of side effects.

These noise levels are in our view incompatible with residential zoning unless special measures are taken to reduce the noise”.

This is part of what Mr. Bazinet, from Lévis, said in his testimony. It was very important and was much appreciated by the Conservative member in that riding. However, he has not been seen at all during the current debate period. I think that he is not happy with his party's position, or he is not proud of what the parliamentary secretary said, about how the proposed amendments were satisfactory and it would still be a good bill.

I call on all the Conservative members, especially those from Quebec, to take a stand for once and vote in favour of this bill, which offers a solution to the noise problem. We heard from at least five or six citizens' groups from Lévis, whom I mentioned, and also from Quebec City. Quebec City and Lévis are major areas and the noise problem is causing many problems for people. There are certainly Liberal members who are also concerned about this problem in their ridings. I think it is important to show that a realistic bill, unanimously agreed upon by the parties in parliamentary committee, can move forward, and to not show the public that despite what we have been discussing for weeks and months in the House, and despite our best efforts, a few senators can decide what is best for the public. Senators do not have to answer to the people afterwards.

I invite everyone who is even remotely aware of the importance of democracy to vote against these amendments. The Senate must recognize that the House of Commons stands firm, that it has examined the bill, and especially, that it has taken into account the public's arguments in order to improve the situation.

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11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague for his excellent speech, which accurately covers the chronology and tells us how we got where we are today. I understand that he is sad, and rightly so.

Can my colleague tell me, as an engineer—because my colleague was an engineer by profession before he was elected as a member—whether there is an important reason to add vibrations to this bill?

I am not an engineer myself, but I thought that vibrations were not the same on all types of soil. For instance, the needs are not the same when the train is travelling over rocky soil as on clay or sand. As well, some types of soil can transmit vibrations when there are numerous cars. We have never been told why that was worse. When numerous railway cars are hitched together, one after the other, they develop a vibration.

I would like it if my colleague could talk to us about the importance of putting the word "vibration" in the bill.

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Noon

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. Although I am an engineer, we cannot go into this too much today. The word "vibration" was added to the question of noise primarily at the request of citizens' groups who complained about vibration in some cases, and not just about noise.

We had ultimately concluded that most of the time there are two interconnected phenomena: when there was noise, there was also vibration, in some cases. Obviously, the vibration will be felt more, the closer the houses are to the railway. However, the type of soil itself also has to be examined for each location, because some qualities of soil transmit more vibration than others.

When you are very close to rock, obviously you feel less vibration. It depends on the subfoundation. Depending on whether the soil is clay or sandy, and depending on the depth of that layer of soil, it can produce more vibrations, according to the distance of course. There again, in terms of the soil, if any attention is paid to this issue in a bill, I think that those calculations will have to be done so that it can be determined, for each location, how far away the houses must be located from the railway, and vice versa, to avoid the vibrations being felt in the homes.

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Noon

Liberal

Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, could the member tell me whether the wording change from “as is deemed minimal” to “reasonable” would significantly impact the ability of residents, or diminish their ability, to reduce significantly, or in an appreciable way, to actually improve their quality of life from now till then in terms of the noise and vibrations?

I ask this question as this issue has been an ongoing one in my community over a long period of time. I and the local councillors have been working very hard with residents who have been very frustrated in trying to work with the proper authorities. They have seen some periods of improvement but there have been many steps backward. They have long awaited what appears to be a real significant opportunity or mechanism that will actually help them to improve the situation that affects them at so many levels.

Therefore, I would ask the member's opinion on whether this wording change, which appears to me to be the case, would diminish their capacity to reduce the severity of this problem.

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Noon

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from the official opposition for her question. Obviously, the aim of the amendment proposed in committee was to acknowledge the position of people living near railways. Indeed, the intent was to require companies to cause as little noise and vibration as possible, taking into account the potential impact on people who live next to railways.

That was lacking in the legislation. People living nearby were not mentioned. It was somewhat abstract. This is precisely why these residents could never win their cases against the railway companies. Indeed, it was a simple question of the operational requirements of the railways. However, this also has an effect on people's health. For instance, the testimony I read earlier clearly outlined all the repercussions on the health of the people who live near the marshalling yards causing problems.

It is therefore important to retain this amendment. We do not have to accept on bended knee the amendments from the Senate that would have us remove this, taking into account only the arguments offered by the railway companies, who, of course, made their views known. After all, the fewer legal obligations they have, the easier it is for them and the more profits they can generate, without having to think about their social responsibilities. We, as parliamentarians, need to consider these responsibilities. That is our role.

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12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the hon. member who sits with me on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, on his excellent work and excellent presentation.

The last question from the Liberal member is typical of the Conservatives and Liberals when it comes to this bill. In the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, we heard from witnesses, both from railway companies and community groups who were experiencing problems. We arrived at a balanced position. The wording proposed by the citizens groups was much more draconian than what we came up with, which is “as little noise as possible”. That was the wording in a bill previously tabled by the Liberals.

Today, a Liberal member is wondering about this change in wording. Yes, it is important. And it is also important to add “neighbouring communities” among the things that should be taken into account by the Canadian Transportation Agency. By eliminating this, we are taking power away from the neighbouring communities. And for that I am upset with the Conservatives: they are caving in to the Liberal majority in the Senate, especially the members from Quebec.

This brings me to my question. What does my colleague think of the behaviour of the members from the Quebec City area? Both Quebec City and Lévis were represented in committee. All the Conservative members represent Quebec City and the Chaudière-Appalaches area, the two sectors where are located the cities who had witnesses before the committee. These witnesses came to tell us that we were not going far enough. Lévis proposed the same definition as the one in Bill C-11. As far as Quebec City is concerned, its definition was much stricter than what we came up with: the balance achieved in Bill C-11.

I take issue with the Liberals today. The hon. member just said that she did not think the wording was so bad, but the entire issue of the problems in the neighbouring communities was dropped.

What does my colleague think of the behaviour of these Conservative and Liberal members?

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12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel. That definitely shows that the Conservative members, who boast about doing good work because they are in government, are at the mercy of a primarily western based Canadian majority. I know that, during our committee discussions, the Quebec Conservative representative seemed to agree with all the arguments put forward by the groups. In particular, those from his own riding of Lévis—Bellechasse came to present their grievances, of which I read a portion earlier on.

That really shows that in important matters, the Quebec contingent, who find themselves in a large Canadian group, readily fall silent to let the so-called big blue machine move on. The Bloc Québécois, however, continues to examine each bill on its merits in order to obtain the best outcome for our citizens. We have retained our freedom of speech, and express ourselves in accordance with our conscience and the will of the people.

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12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, at present we have before us an amended bill that flies in the face of current trends and that truly does not make sense. Throughout the world, there are now more and more trains, travelling faster and faster and governed by more and more regulations imposed by governments with regard to noise, safety and quality of railway traffic.

In this House, we are moving in the opposite direction. We are trying to pass a bill—a modest one at that—and we are being blocked by a lobby of large railway companies. I emphasize that point because, in my riding, a small railway line known as Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, seemed prepared to make changes and to cooperate when I met with it about two weeks ago to discuss this matter. The large companies, not the small ones, wanted these changes.

It is unacceptable for the big companies to demand that they be subject to absolutely no instructions or constraints, although they are subject to those things when they arrive in the United States, and they accept them and deal with it. As you know, in the United States, noise and pollution regulations are much stricter than in Canada. In fact, the Canadian companies have to have locomotives that are completely adapted to meet the requirements of the American standards in order to cross the border. On the other hand, we have old, noisy and polluting locomotives travelling Canada's east-west corridor. It is hard to understand why this lobby is looking at history in its rearview mirror.

Myself, I was very proud to see this bill moving forward. In the riding where I live, the Farnham switching yard, located in the town of Farnham, is getting bigger and bigger. The fact is that this yard has been causing problems, not for two or three years, but for decades. It is an old switching yard, and the people who live right nearby are the ones enduring the growing noise. At one time, rail transportation was very seldom used, and people found it acceptable. Now, however, with business booming and plans for passenger trains to pass through Farnham—and we are working on this—people have to expect that the noise and vibration will be reduced.

And so when I saw that the bill was moving ahead and was going to pass, following the normal procedure, I could not have imagined that an unelected body like the Senate would tell us that we had to do what the train lobby said and backtrack. Frankly, this could not have been expected.

I therefore went out to meet with the public, and there were only two topics raised, one of which was trains. The residents of Farnham and the mayor and city councillors were invited, and I explained the bill to them. I read them sections 95.1 and 95.2, and they were overjoyed. At first, people in the room were saying that the government would never pass a law to limit noise, because there had never been one. As well, in the last Parliament, the Liberal member who was elected in my riding had told them that his government was not really in favour of proposing measures to reduce noise, and he ignored them and did not want to help them.

I, on the contrary, thought that it was entirely reasonable for rules to be made by the government about how the companies must behave, like good citizens, toward the public which they serve. This is not simply a matter of them saying we will make our profits and then leave.

I met with the public and I read them the sections and they were very happy. They were persuaded that at last there would be changes. Imagine, now, how it will be when they learn that the bill has been amended by the Senate, under pressure from lobbyists.

Who is going to explain to them that the bill was not passed as it was proposed by the committee and as it was passed in this House? Will it be the Conservative members, who would in fact love to take my place? Will they be the ones who will come and explain it to the residents of the town of Farnham? I would suggest that they come in a well armoured car, because they might get a bad reception. Will it be the senators? No, because we know that senators never leave home. They are not accountable, in any riding. So they will not be coming to explain it.

I will personally have to explain the situation to them. Imagine the situation I will be in when I go to tell people: “The Liberals did not want it and the Liberal senators proposed some amendments”. To cap it all, I will have to tell them that Bill C-11 was a government bill but the government members voted to destroy it. Frankly, it is the height of ridiculousness. They say that in politics, six months is a long time but they can count on me to remind them of these events in the next election and they will remember it. The people of Farnham will be very happy to vote for a candidate who wants to reduce vibrations.

Earlier, I raised a point about vibrations and, as it happens, in Farnham, that is a very important factor because of the clay soil. If there are vibrations, the sound of the vibration can be heard very far away, as is the case at Farnham.

So, the matter of vibrations was vital. It was not just a matter of noise but also of vibrations. This means that a company must ensure that the trains reduce speed when they are in the marshalling yard, that shock dampers are installed on the rails and that there is a layer under the rails to absorb vibration. This is the case all over the world, except here. We do not understand why.

We know about the technology, but we do not apply it. Thus, at some point, faced with a modest bill, someone came forward and said, “No, that is going to upset my routine and cost me money. Let us leave things as they are”. That is a complete anachronism.

As I have said, the railway industry is now moving towards faster and safer trains, and much longer trains. Moreover, the Americans who send trainloads of merchandise to Canada, and who receive trainloads as well, are becoming more demanding about how those shipments are handled in Canada because they do not want any accidents and they do not want any complaints either.

It is only the lobby here in Canada that is holding us back. If we had American-style lobbying with American standards, everything would be satisfactory for our fellow citizens. We are here to act for our constituents.

I do not understand how we are supposed to say to the municipalities that it was in the bill but it was taken out. I read as follows: “The Agency must consult with interested parties, including municipal governments, before issuing any guidelines.”

That is what I did in my riding. I consulted the various municipalities and they totally agreed and were happy finally to have some rules imposed. The rules were not very hard to comply with, but at least there would be some. Now there will not be any at all and we will be back to square one. What is reasonable and what is unreasonable is not very specific. When this bill arrived, I suggested that there should be a standard for decibels, which represent the loudness of the sound at a certain distance. If we had done that, things would be very clear. But we did not. All we said was that the noise would be reduced, as appeared in the wording. We said as well that the noise adjacent to the railway could be harmful to people.

Now they are going further and withdrawing this proposal. It defies understanding. Why? To please a few railway companies, but not even all of them. It is important to know that not even all the companies wanted this, just a couple. They must have managed to lobby the current government very quickly to get it to change its mind. It used to be in agreement. It changed its mind at the last minute and is dropping the amendments, which would have been really destructive for the future of trains.

I want to tell the House about Farnham in my riding. Other hon. members have spoken about various marshalling yards, but in my riding there will be trains to other places as well: to Bromont, to Magog and maybe to Sherbrooke. We will be able to have trains to these places because the tracks are there, but they are hardly ever used. Some companies are interested in using them for passenger trains, and they will be, if people accept them. People will only accept them, though, if they make less noise. If is perfectly obvious that if there is noise pollution, if there are vibrations and other kinds of incessant pollution, people will not be interested. They are willing to travel by train, but they do not want the trains to upset their lives. There are already people living close to the tracks.

When people go to Japan, France, Italy or the Scandinavian countries, they see how quiet trains can be, even freight trains. They are made up in marshalling yards at low speeds, with much more flexible, less noisy couplings.

We are not asking for something that does not exist. We are just asking for something that exists everywhere but in Canada. Why take a step backward? This is not 1890, when people had to put up with steam trains. Now, we have technology, so why not use it? This was a long-term solution, not something that would last two or three months. It was a tailor-made solution that would have produced an acceptable sound level. Once it became part of rail culture, it would have lasted a very long time. But no, we are going back to the way things were before and changing absolutely nothing about the archaic, accepted technique that dates from a time when train use was dropping dramatically. Today, rail transportation is enjoying a resurgence.

We should have responded to this recovery of the rail sector by embracing new techniques. The government will have Bill C-11 on its conscience for a very long time, especially since Bill C-26 was never adopted.

This time, it could have been adopted, but they will have it on their conscience and bear the responsibility for it.

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12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi on his speech. I am the Bloc Québécois transport critic, and the fact that the member has often questioned me about this issue shows that he is concerned about problems that affect his citizens.

Therein lies my question. In committee, Quebec City and Lévis officials tabled various recommendations accompanied by legal texts that were even stricter than what we managed to agree on unanimously. How can a Conservative member from Quebec not rise in this House to protect the interests of his constituents, and, worse yet, how can he vote for a motion introduced by a majority Liberal Senate?

Can my colleague comment on what Conservative Senator Hugh Segal said, as recorded in the Hansard, No. 101, from May 30, 2007? He said:

I point out with great respect that Senator Munson and Senator Dawson [two Liberal senators], who played such a constructive role, have undertaken that when this chamber, in due consideration, ships this bill, should it decide to do so, back to the other place [that's us, here; the Liberal senators consulted Liberal members of Parliament], they will consult broadly with their colleagues in that other place so that the bill comes back quickly.

Apparently they agreed because the Conservatives sat back and watched the train go by. They said the Senate would only hear from industry. My colleague is right: they did not hear from citizens groups. Furthermore, if the Senate were to send amendments to the House, the Conservatives asked the Senate whether these amendments would be adopted in the House. The Liberal senators said that they spoke to their Liberal colleagues in the House of the Commons and that the amendments would likely be adopted.

However, Conservative Senator Segal was smooth, because he added:

They have further undertaken on the record that should the other place dither and not approve it, [if we in the House of Commons do not approve it, which we should not, in other words, we should vote against this bill, as the Conservatives should], they will move quickly [there is already an agreement in the Senate between the Conservatives and the Liberals] to act with this engaged, non-partisan administration to pass the bill quickly through this chamber.

There is already an agreement. If we vote against the Senate amendments, the Senate will approve this vote by saying they tried to defend the indefensible and did not succeed.

I would like my colleague to say a few words about the behaviour of the Senate and of the Conservative members from the Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches areas that include the two cities, Quebec City and Lévis, who sent officials before the committee to propose written amendments that were much more significant and much harsher than ours. What the representative from Quebec City suggested and hoped for was to include the term “decibels” in the bill, since municipalities have the right to regulate decibels.

Obviously the Conservative members from Quebec did not rise in this House, but later on they will rise to vote against the interests of their constituents. What does my colleague think about that?

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12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for his very relevant speech and question. Indeed, this bill has already required some compromises. It is more lenient than our citizens had hoped. I am referring not only to Quebeckers, but also to Canadians who have marshalling yards in their municipalities. We are using Quebec as an example, because that is where we are from and because we know our constituents and their needs. The same needs are felt everywhere, however.

How is it that compromises have already been made regarding the original text of the bill and that the few things that were added are now being removed, the few things that people agreed to add? Everything is now going to be wiped out, until the bill is of no use to anyone and will do nothing to achieve the intended goal, after years of hard work on Bill C-26, which then became Bill C-11. We worked on that bill for months, nearly a year, only to take the easier route in the end, the route that was imposed on us by the lobbyists and the large companies.

How can any member who truly cares about their constituents vote against this? Can one vote against this bill at the outset and then accept the amendments? I find that unbelievable and I cannot help but wonder, how are the members across the floor going to explain this to our citizens?

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12:30 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak about an important bill, Bill C-11, and the amendments that have been put forth to it.

Two amendments from the Senate are causing considerable problems, and I hope to contribute to derailing those amendments because they go against consumer interest groups.

One Senate amendment relates to airline industry accountability and information that would be provided on an airline ticket purchased by a consumer.

The other Senate amendment waters down the rights of residents who live adjacent to railroad properties and the ability of them to interact with some fairness with the rail operators and have them provide some accountability when it comes to their operations, particularly with respect to noise and vibrations. These problems are persistent across the country.

I want to speak about the railroad operations first. I will provide a couple of examples as to why it is so important that the amendments be defeated and how they are counter to the needs and wishes of people.

I cannot understand the Senate doing this, unless it does feel it is accountable to ordinary Canadians and their ability to enjoy of their residences next to railroads. There has to be a balance in this type of an equation. The balance is often against them by governments and the railway operations. Bill C-11 would have at least rectify some of those injustices they have faced over the years. We have heard in the debate today that there are many examples of this across the country.

I first became involved in one of the original railroad disputes in my political career back in 1997 when I was on city council. The federal government had a program at the time to eliminate rail operations that blocked roads. The government was to build bridges and overpasses.

That program was killed by the previous minister of finance, the member for LaSalle—Émard. It was a good infrastructure project, which has not been brought back. There would have been contributions by the federal government to create this separation of rail and traffic. It was very expensive, but very beneficial for the economy, productivity and also the environment. The program would eliminate idling and would have expedited rail and trucking operations.

Wellington Street in Windsor went down into what some people would call a ditch and a rail operation went over the top of the road. The road underpass was not tall enough to allow transport trucks to pass. Oftentimes many U.S. truckers drove down this roadway and would end up having the top of their truck ripped off. It became known as the Wellington can opener.

When the project finally received some funding of about $22 million, construction was to be undertaken to build around the site. First a bridge would be built to get the rails over top of a new span and then create the actual infrastructure underneath for the future. Adjacent to this area was a derelict rail yard. There had been a station there at one point. It had become a dumping ground of which the railway company never took care. It allowed the weeds and grass grow out of control. It had also become a dumping ground for tires and so forth. The area was never cleaned up and the city was constantly fighting over it. It is important to note that the railway was complicit with the city at that time.

While I was on council, I lost a vote ten to one to allow concrete recycling for the construction to take place on that site. The site was the size of a football field and filled with material and concrete that was ripped up and dumped in the field. The waste was about four stories tall.

Adjacent to that was one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Windsor West. It had modest homes and working class families. The neighbourhood had pools and parks. A number of houses were adjacent to this site. Originally the city had agreed to set up a temporary four storey tall concrete recycling operation across the street and down wind. As a community group, we had to fight to reverse council's decision and get the railroad to agree to stop the dumping at this site. It was a big battle.

It was unfair to the constituents of that area because for years they had fought about that. This is another issue not only in terms of pollution, with diesel engines sitting on the tracks for hours and not moving, but also in terms of the vibrations that affect their homes.

I want to point out another example, a more recent one that happened while I was in the House of Commons. It proves the arrogance and unbelievable neglect in terms of community consultation.

In 2003 the VACIS, a gamma X-ray technology, was introduced in the city of Windsor along the rail corridors. At that time, the Liberal government was in power. It did not even consult with the municipality. In consultation with CP Rail and the Department of Homeland Security, it was unilaterally decided to put this X-ray technology system right next to the football field of a local high school.

Further compounding that, as the trains went through the gamma X-ray technology, they had to slow down from 25 to 7 kilometres an hour. Also, about 200 yards before that was a rail crossing with no separation of grade. Trucks, cars, buses and people going to and from the school and the shopping malls were having to wait longer and longer. It was amazing. The city of Windsor had to file a lawsuit against CP Rail to stop it.

At that time, I asked the Liberal minister, Minister McLellan, about this and it was denied altogether. I had my constituency assistant take photographs of the actual equipment on site as it poured cement and graded the original infrastructure for this project. We had to fight the system. It was amazing that there was no consultation whatsoever, and the consequences are significant.

That is why these amendments fly in the face of the type of things that need to happen to make rail operations more accountable to people. We only have to talk to different people in different ridings to understand that conflicts routinely happen. It is the citizens who generally feel, even though the circumstances are different, powerless and helpless. Finally, when Bill C-11 came forward, we had an opportunity to inject a bit of justice.

It is important to note that the recent history of some of the rail operations has been rather disturbing and troubling. This accountability is very much a significant step forward. It could have had a net benefit across the country.

It is fine that we had a debate in the House of Commons about back to work legislation. We have had a debate in the House about safety regulations. Now that we finally get an improvement, it is being taken away from us by the unelected senate. I find that unacceptable.

In my riding, and in many ridings, people probably do not even realize the amount of hazardous materials involved in rail operations and the different types of substance involved. They can affect the residents nearby.

Other countries have different practices for bringing greater accountability, and a good example is the United States. Railways were shipping chlorine gas through Dade county, Florida, which goes through our corridors as well. The country fought this and successfully had the chlorine gas rerouted to a non-urban area. Then later on, because of that whole debate, it eliminated the chlorine from the destination, which was a pollution control plant that did water treatment, for a more environmentally friendly product.

There are cases where some laws have been changed. Some of the cities across the United States have succeeded in having certain chemicals rerouted because of their concerns with the ecosystem and also the environment.

In fact, the Department of Homeland Security has declared some of these rail containers of chlorine to be weapons of mass destruction because they can literally, within a 15 mile radius, poison everybody in that area if there were an accident or a terrorist attack. That is why there has been this progression in the United States to move it away from urban areas or to look for other types of materials that would not have the type of danger associated with them.

My constituency has had to fight to get access to rail yards for first responders training and so forth. When we talk about very significant issues like that, which are still causing concern for people, and compare it to the minor step forward for which we are looking, a reasonable one, to establish a process so there will be greater accountability for noise and vibration and empowerment for citizens through mediation, why would we take that away? It is unbelievable and unacceptable.

This is something residents across the country really need to get their heads around. I cannot understand why we would allow an unelected body, which does not have to respond to the concerns of individuals, to decide to usurp a change that would have effectively provided residents a voice. I cannot understand why the government is going on along with that.

This is very much an issue that relates to people's personal property and their values. That is supposed to be the party that claims it has the high ground, understands personal wealth and that people should have protection. At the same time, it is taking away a very modest tool for people to fight back to ensure they can protect themselves, their property value and their communities.

On the issue of rail, it is really important that the amendment is put in the proper context. It is coming from an unelected body that will take away the rights we have fought for over a number of years. More important, I believe it will take away greater accountability on the rail system that would lead to less conflict between neighbourhoods and rail operations. There would be a mandate to try to solve those problems before they became larger issues. That would seem a more progressive approach, in my opinion, in dealing with this.

Rail operations have been in communities for many years without changing. They do not go away. The shunting, the noise and their operations continue. Residents and businesses also continue.

I want to touch briefly on the issue of the commercial airline tickets amendment. When we look at the Competition Bureau, the record of the previous administration and now this one with regard to updating the Competition Act, is based upon a 1969 philosophy.

The minister's briefing book, which I was able to obtain through the Freedom of Information Act, identified specifically that 40 years ago things were quite different and it needed to be updated. That was at the time of the Woodstock festival. The Competition Bureau and the Competition Act need a mandate that is more modernized.

Consumers should have more opportunity to see the real information about the price of a ticket. What they will receive should not be hidden by other charges, fees and expectations of service that are never delivered when they purchase their tickets.

I do not understand why there cannot be a set of rules around that which allow consumers to know this, especially given what has happened now with the Internet and other types of technology specific to the tourism industry. People are shopping more and more on the Internet for airline and vacation destinations. They do that with the openness and hope that there will be comparable factors. Why the Senate would buckle under the lobbying efforts and allow the industry to continue to hide charges, fees and so forth is beyond me.

What we want to do is create some openness so people can shop around for the best air carrier, knowing what they will get and selecting the price based upon that. If they want greater or reduced service, or if they want to know if there are any extra fees or charges, they should be available so they can make their selections based upon that.

Why would we want to take that away from consumers, especially in an industry where there have been a lot of complaints in the past about competition? We want the consumer to have the opportunity to make some decisions and have some authority and power.

These two amendments are very interesting in the sense that I believe they come about through lobby efforts. They come at the expense of civil liberties, which allow individuals to have more consumer protection, information and awareness. This is at a time when personal information is being harvested by many companies and organizations to be used against people in marketing and so forth. However, we cannot allow consumers to have the same openness that companies, which allows them to target individuals in their marketing. We are not going to allow that provision.

The second part is with regard to the railway system and that is extremely offensive. Bill C-11 is very important in that we do want to have some improvements but, at the same time, when we take away those two elements from the bill, it becomes much weaker. For that reason I believe we need to defeat the Senate amendments because it is important that consumers and neighbourhoods and communities are protected and, unfortunately, that is being reversed by the Senate amendments.

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12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether my colleague from Windsor West thinks like me, but at present we can see that the Conservatives and the Liberals are in cahoots with one another to try and please the rail industry and the large railway companies. We can feel it and see it.

The Liberal Senate is proposing suitable amendments. We need only read about the appearances by the big railway companies before the Senate committee to understand that the committee was against the definition judiciously negotiated by all parties. It was also especially opposed to anything to do with neighbouring communities being taken into consideration so as to avoid causing them any harm. There is some kind of connivance going on.

I wonder whether they are not trying to correct an error. At least that is what the Liberals and Conservatives must be saying to each other. Indeed a major error was made under former Parliaments with respect to VIA Fast. If VIA Fast had come into being, this would have created a high-speed Quebec-Montreal—Montreal-Windsor rail system, and that would have made it possible to have a dedicated passenger train track and thus relieve traffic in the freight train corridor.

It was the Liberals themselves, who could not agree among themselves, who killed VIA Fast. Nor did the Conservatives want VIA Fast to see the light of day. It looks as though today they realize that they cost the industry an opportunity. No longer having passenger trains on its tracks would have been a major advantage for the freight train industry. It looks as though today the Liberals and the Conservatives want to make up for this by trying to put as little pressure as possible on the industry regarding the harm it will be causing citizens.

In the end everyone is a loser. The whole population loses in relation to the Conservative and Liberal MPs and to the Liberal and Conservative Senate. Citizens and users of rail transportation who do not have a dedicated line in the Quebec-Montreal—Montreal-Windsor corridor are also losers.

And then the citizens who live along these railway lines will have to battle it out with the railway companies and they will not have the means they would have had under Bill C-11. Once again everyone loses out and once again Liberal-Conservative connivance is trying to make up for a mistake. To my mind, the fact that the VIA Fast project never materialized was a mistake. Today they are trying to compensate for that mistake by putting less pressure on the railway companies regarding noise pollution.

I ask my colleague what he thinks of what I have just said.

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12:45 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Quebec City to Windsor corridor is important and it is something that I and many people across southern Ontario and Quebec have supported for years. It is important for our national economy and for our environment. It is a great element in terms of job creation, building infrastructure with our own natural resources and then we could turn around a new element that would provide opportunity, growth and development in a much more sustainable way.

When we go back and look at this file it is interesting to see that the first thing the member for LaSalle—Émard, the former prime minister, did was cancel this. It is ironic because the Liberals in Windsor, where the member for LaSalle—Émard was born, were bragging about the home town prime minister, although the prime minister at that time claimed that he came from several towns, and the first thing he did was to cancelled one of the most important projects for our area. I could not believe it.

I sat on the plane with David Collennette the day after he made the announcement and he talked about the fact that there would be high speed rail, rail separation grades and good infrastructure, not only for the trains but also vehicles, be it trucks or cars and the conflicts there, and an improved rail bed that would be supportive of the passenger rail that would be moving much quicker.

If people were to take the train down to the Windsor and Chatham area right now the train would need to slow down because the bloody thing is about ready to fall off the tracks. It rocks back and forth like an amusement ride. The Quebec City corridor would have been a benefit to building an opportunity to actually doing greater sustainability.

The reason this is could be going on is because of this debacle that I think people recognize was a missed opportunity. When we look at these amendments, we see that they would take away people's civil liberties in terms of their empowerment as consumers having information so they can make the best judgment on how they want to spend their own money. They also would take away the opportunity for individuals to protect their personal property. Why Liberals and Conservatives are against those ideals I do not understand.

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

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12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

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12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

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12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

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12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Accordingly, the vote on Bill C-11 will be deferred until the end of question period later today.

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Thompson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

moved that the bill be concurred in.

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

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12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

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12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Thompson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

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12:50 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to begin third reading debate on Bill C-47. This bill is a little different from most in that its passage is needed to ensure the success of a single momentous event, the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver and Whistler.

The size and scope of this event defies the imagination, with over 5,000 Olympic and 1,700 Paralympic athletes and officials, hundreds of participant countries, 10,000 members of the media and three billion television viewers worldwide. To ensure Canada takes full advantage of this tremendous opportunity to showcase itself to the world, it is imperative that the games be properly supported by government, including financial support.

During committee examination of Bill C-47, John Furlong, the chief executive officer of the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee, Vanoc for short, estimated that approximately $1.87 billion will be needed to ensure the success of the games.

Canada's new government will do its part in this regard by providing $552 million, $290 million of which will be devoted specifically to sport and event venues. However, the government's financial contribution is only one part of the funding puzzle. As with most events of this magnitude, the participation of the private sector is absolutely crucial if the games are to be financially viable.

For this to happen, Vanoc estimates that nearly 40% of the games' funding, $725 million to be precise, must come from partnerships and licensing agreements with the private sector entities.

In order for Vanoc to reach this objective, Canada needs to live up to the commitment it made to the international Olympic committee during the bid phase of the 2010 games to have marketplace framework laws in place to protect the Olympic brand. Bill C-47 fulfills that commitment.

I would like to talk about the partnership context. In 2006 alone, Vanoc reported signing partnership agreements worth $115 million. Under Bill C-47, when a person or company seeks to profit improperly from the 2010 Winter Games, the legal framework will be in place for Vanoc to protect its rights and the rights of its partners and licensees quickly and effectively.

The current Trade-marks Act offers some of that protection, however, there are concerns that the current legislation does not allow emerging threats to be dealt with. This is particularly true for so-called ambush marketing in which companies find ways to falsely associate their business with the games in the public's mind.

Bill C-47 responds by making the will of Parliament very clear on the protections that we want Vanoc to have and the legal remedies that Vanoc should be able to use when necessary.

I would like to now take a few minutes to remind my hon. colleagues of some key measures in Bill C-47. What is in Bill C-47? The Olympic and Paralympics marks act explicitly identifies the Olympic and Paralympic words, symbols land other indicia that they are to be protected.

The bill protects the rights of Vanoc, the Canadian Olympic committee and the Canadian Paralympic committee with regard to these marks. They have recourse to seek the remedies that the bill provides and may consent to assign those rights to their various partners where appropriate.

Bill C-47 goes on to set out two main types of conduct that would be prohibited.

First, no one can use an Olympic or Paralympic mark in connection with a business without the agreement of Vanoc until the end of 2010 and after 2010, without the agreement of the Canadian Olympic or Paralympic committees.

Second, the bill would prohibit so-called ambush marketing behaviour that I mentioned earlier. It would prohibit people and companies from actions that are likely to mislead the public into believing that they or their products or services are linked to the games, Vanoc, or the Canadian Olympic or Paralympic committees.

Beyond that, the bill provides a number of exceptions and sets out the various remedies available in the event it is not respected.

I will now briefly touch upon some of these areas, the first being exceptions. As we have seen, Bill C-47 would give the designated Olympic organizations the authority to protect the Olympic brand from unauthorized and illegitimate use but the government has been very careful not to bring in legislation that is too broad or oppressive.

Bill C-47 would exempt businesses that had and were using trademarks before March 2, 2007 that might possibly be in conflict with some Olympic marks or works. The provisions apply only to businesses that suddenly start using an existing mark for the new purpose of cashing in on the Olympics.

The bill also protects businesses that are using legitimately what would otherwise be a protected term, such as a business address if it happened to be 2010 Olympic Avenue, for example.

As well, the bill allows athletes to use protected words such as “Olympian” and “Paralympian” to promote themselves.

It is important to remember that Bill C-47 applies only in a commercial context. Thus, the bill contains a “for greater certainty” clause, which serves to confirm that it is not intended to curtail freedom of the press or to muzzle those who wish to criticize or parody the games, nor are artistic endeavours on a non-commercial scale prohibited by Bill C-47.

Finally, Bill C-47 is time limited. All the special enforcement measures it confers lapse by December 31, 2010.

One important area in which this legislation differs from the Trade-marks Act is the test Vanoc must meet to obtain an interim injunction against a suspected offender. The court normally applies a three-part test in deciding whether to grant this type of relief. The party seeking the relief must establish that there is a serious issue to be tried, that it will suffer irreparable harm if the offending conduct continues pending trial, and that the balance of convenience is in its favour.

Bill C-47 waives the onus on Vanoc to prove the second part of the legal test and often the most difficult to establish: that of having to prove irreparable harm. This will greatly facilitate Vanoc's ability to quickly enforce its rights and will provide a degree of comfort to businesses contemplating entering into a partnership agreement in anticipation of the games.

However, this is not an unlimited power under the bill. It will last only for the duration of the games. When the Olympic flame goes out in 2010, this aspect of the legislation will soon follow. The reality is that few of these situations will end up in court precisely because of the impact of this legislation.

Bill C-47will give Vanoc the authority it needs to deal with people and businesses that are using marks they do not have the right to use. It gives Vanoc the authority to deal with companies or organizations that try to link themselves to the Olympics without having earned that privilege as others have.

In conclusion, as I mentioned earlier, the Government of Canada is a committed partner in making the 2010 winter games a big success. Some of our contributions are obvious. As I mentioned earlier, we have committed $552 million to the winter games, including $290 million for sport and event venues. Some contributions are less tangible but no less valuable. Bill C-47 certainly falls into that important category.

Bill C-47 is a reasonable, balanced piece of legislation that is in line with what other countries have done and are doing when they host similar kinds of international sporting events. This legislation is necessary to ensure that the winter games will be a success and that the games provide an enduring legacy to Vancouver, British Columbia and Canada as a whole.

The world is waiting to rediscover Canada. Our communities are looking forward to the economic boom and the new facilities. Our children deserve their share of the Olympic dream. We should not disappoint them.

Olympic and Paralympic Marks ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Blair Wilson Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, which includes 6 of the 11 venues for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and Paralympic Games, it gives me great pleasure to rise in support of Bill C-47, an Act respecting the protection of marks related to the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games and protection against certain misleading business associations and making a related amendment to the Trade-marks Act.

I am very proud to speak to the bill today. The Olympic Games are more than just a sporting and cultural event. They will show to the world and to ourselves what Canadians can do. In less than three years, Vancouver, Whistler and the whole Sea to Sky corridor will host the world's largest event.

More than 20,000 employees and volunteers will put on the games. We will welcome more than 6,000 athletes and officials and more than 80 countries, and the competition will be covered by 10,000 members of the media and witnessed by more than three billion people worldwide.

The 2010 games will showcase our province, our culture and our people to the planet. They will create a lasting legacy of facilities for our athletes and immeasurable goodwill around the globe. They are Vancouver and Canada's time to shine.

Vanoc has delivered a business plan that will give us the games on time and on budget, despite being hit with skyrocketing construction costs and facing massive logistical, strategic and diplomatic challenges. Vanoc's accomplishment is a tremendous testament to Canadian know-how and business savvy and will not pass unnoticed abroad.

This sort of project requires a great deal of fiscal management. For Vanoc, this means that it has to be as careful as possible about the Olympic and Paralympic brands. There is no better branding than the Olympic brand and, without appropriate safeguards, many would try to take advantage of the goodwill created by the games.

We need to protect the words and symbols of the Olympic brand with special legislation to ensure that Vanoc has the tools it needs to prevent abuse. The confidence created by strong protection for the Olympic brand will improve Vanoc's ability to negotiate sponsorship agreements with businesses interested in associating themselves with the Olympic brand and provide important funding for the games.

This protection also will create the confidence which will ensure that sponsors are committed to the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic movement for years and years to come.

The Liberal Party support for the Olympics has been longstanding. The Liberal government of the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien was there at the very beginning and we championed the bid from its earliest stages. We supported the games with our words and, unlike the Conservative foot-dragging, Liberal governments have always provided the resources that were required on the federal side to support our athletes and support these games.

Long before I was a candidate for the Liberal Party, I took a leadership role in securing the Olympics for Canada by organizing the 2010 rally on Robson Street. Working directly with Mr. John Furlong and the 2010 bid committee, we organized a grassroots movement rally on the streets of Vancouver that was attended by over 50,000 Vancouverites in support of our bid and, as everyone knows now, we were lucky enough to secure it.

Providing enhanced protection for the Olympics has become a standard part of hosting the Olympic Games. The United States, Australia, Greece and Italy all have strengthened the legal protection for Olympics-related intellectual property rights. The upcoming games in Beijing and London are already the subject of such protection in those host countries.

Although existing intellectual property law in Canada arguably could be used to protect Olympic symbols and marks, the sheer volume of possible violations within the short period of the games creates a need for extra protection.

Ambush marketing, which has been spoken of here in the House, is a major concern for the host of any international sporting event. It is simply too easy to take advantage of the goodwill created by the games and mislead consumers into thinking that a company has a business association with the games when in fact it has nothing of the sort.

Bill C-47 would prohibit persons from using the Olympic and Paralympic marks for anything that could be mistaken for those marks in connection with a business without the permission of Vanoc or, after the games are over, the consent of the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees. It would also prohibit people from promoting or advertising their business in a way that misleads the public into believing that they are officially associated with the games.

With normal trademarks, the courts apply a three-part test in order to allow an interim or interlocutory injunction against a suspected offender. The plaintiff must establish, first, that there is a serious issue to be tried, second, that it will suffer irreparable harm if the offending conduct continues pending a trial, and finally, that the balance of convenience is in its favour.

Bill C-47 waives the onus on Vanoc to prove the most difficult part of the legal test, that of proving irreparable harm. This will allow Vanoc to act quickly and effectively to stop abuse of its brand. John Furlong and his team have emphasized that this speed is essential because the impact of ambush marketing is immediate and the response has to be immediate as well.

I believe that there is widespread support in the House for the aims of this bill. The devil, of course, is in the details. My colleagues and I have examined the bill see if it meets the critical test of basic common sense and fairness. Let me speak to several points on fairness.

The bill grants specific and clear exemptions to allow for freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of commentary. Some news reports have suggested that it would be used to crack down on dissent. These reports are wrong. Bill C-47 specifically exempts news, criticism and parody from the restrictions.

The aim of this bill is limited, of course, to commercial uses. Bill C-47 will not affect the non-profit community at all.

It is also particularly important that the bill not adversely affect our athletes. I welcome an amendment by the committee which ensures that companies sponsoring our Olympic athletes are able to advertise that fact. Being an Olympic athlete is part of who one is and the amendment ensures that these athletes will be able to say who they are, even in the commercial context. Former Olympian Jeff Bean testified before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology that the spirit of the bill does not impede the rights of athletes.

The bill also has a grandfathering provision to prevent existing businesses that use an Olympic or Paralympic mark from being unfairly disrupted. Anyone who adopted and began using such a mark before March 2, 2007, will be able to continue using that mark for the same purpose and will not have to change the name of the business, but if someone wants to open a business today and use that mark, that individual would have to come up with a new name.

The terms safeguarded are well chosen in that they are limited to terms that refer directly to the games. There has been some confusion over whether words like “winter” or “Vancouver” are prohibited, but this is not in fact the case.

Bill C-47 also contains a number of safeguards that will protect the legitimate use of the Olympic or Paralympic mark in a business context. For instance, businesses will be able to use geographic names to describe their market or to explain their services.

The Intellectual Property Institute of Canada has expressed concern that the bill gives sponsors the right to sue independently, arguing that Vanoc or the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee are the ones that grant sponsorship and so they should be the ones to control access to the courts. The institute worries that this will lead to inconsistent applications of the bill. This is an issue that will have to be monitored closely as time goes by.

With these sensible features, Bill C-47 has found widespread support. Vanoc, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee support it. So do the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Own the Podium, Athletes CAN, and others.

It is time for the House to stand up for our athletes and champion and support the tremendous efforts of the Vancouver Olympic Committee to get this bill passed. It will protect the Olympic and Paralympic brands for Vancouver and the revenues that will benefit all hard-working Canadian families.

Let us make these the best winter games the world has ever seen.

Olympic and Paralympic Marks ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, after a serious study of Bill C-47 in committee and after hearing stakeholders including companies, athletes and lawyers, we are here to debate Bill C-47, the Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act, for the last time.

This new legislation meets the International Olympic Committee's requirements and will be the responsibility of VANOC, which from our first meetings in February promised to make judicious and sparing use of the legal remedies at its disposal. No one wants this new legislative tool to hamper anyone who wants to be part of this common effort.

After all our work, I still have some slight reservations about using the criminal courts to punish small businesspeople who inadvertently violate the law. I wish that, during her testimony before the committee, Susan Bincoletto, director general of Industry Canada's marketplace framework policy branch, had been able to tell me how many small businesspeople in other countries had been prosecuted using legislation similar to Bill C-47. Ms. Bincoletto was unable to say, and that concerns me a little.

However, as the CEO of VANOC, John Furlong, explained when he appeared before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, 85% of businesses that want to get involved in the events around the Vancouver and Whistler Olympics do not have malicious intentions.

Ultimately what we must realize is that the vast majority of businesses that believe in the Olympic values are motivated by the desire to do something constructive for athletes, communities and youth in general. We presume that there will be no lawsuits launched. After all, what advantage would there be to sacrificing one's reputation for the passing satisfaction of being fraudulently associated with the Olympic Games? Talk about this with athletes who have lost their medals after a positive drug test: would they not do otherwise if they had it to do over again?

We must also realize that VANOC's reputation is at stake when legal action is taken. Consequently the image of the Olympic movement must not be tarnished by unwarranted legal action. It is all a question of balance.

That is why it is up to VANOC, to the Canadian Olympic committee or the Canadian Paralympic committee, to take legal action, and not up to businesses that may feel they are harmed by the unauthorized use of Olympic marks. These businesses will have to apply in writing to VANOC, which will have 10 days to render a ruling, determine whether or not there was harm and if there is cause for legal action, and inform the business. If, and only if, VANOC does not reply within 10 days, the business may take legal action itself.

Important clarifications and additions were made to the bill in committee and I would now like to point them out.

First, the bill does not apply to an artistic work. The work of creation must be able to be carried out with peace of mind as indicated in clause three of the bill:

For greater certainty, the inclusion of an Olympic or Paralympic mark or a translation of it in any language in an artistic work, within the meaning of the Copyright Act, by the author of that work, is not in itself a use in connection with a business if the work is not reproduced on a commercial scale.

The second important point is that athletes with sponsors other than the official sponsors may maintain their relationships with these businesses that contributed in no small way to their success. Athletes were concerned about this aspect of the original bill. However, VANOC officials reassured them by stating that their intention was not to compromise their personal sponsors. The legislator included in the new version of Bill C-47 an explicit guarantee modelled after that found in the Australian legislation passed for the Sydney Olympic Games.

Long-term relationships between sponsors and athletes make it possible for athletes to develop their talents every day. Sponsoring athletes gives them the means to achieve their goals and also helps to give people positive and inspiring role models. It is important not to discourage sponsors who, without being official Olympic partners, have participated in the development of Olympic athletes.

It is important to remember that athletes who are members of a federation are often economically vulnerable and unfortunately do not all benefit from sufficient financial support. Support from sponsors enables young people to concentrate on what they have to do rather than scrounging around for funding between training sessions or competitions.

The support provided by the sponsor enables athletes to pay for training and travel expenses. What is more, it is quite often both partners of the agreement, and not just the sponsoring company, that benefit from increased visibility.

Members will recall that at the Olympics in Athens, McDonald's, sponsor of Alexandre Despaties, launched an advertising campaign which no doubt greatly contributed to making him a household name. He has since become a favourite and has found his way to the big screen.

A relationship between a sponsor and an athlete can extend over a number of years, and may even continue after the athlete retires from competition. This is important, since we know that for many athletes, the transition into retirement can be difficult to manage. Sylvie Fréchette, Olympic champion synchronized swimmer, was sponsored for a number of years by the National Bank, which even offered her a job after her sports career ended. Just one year ago she once again participated in an activity organized by the National Bank as part of its diversity week, which shows the extent of the relationship still maintained between the institution and the Olympic champion.

However, the National Bank has not sponsored any athletes directly since 1998. Instead, it decided to create a scholarship program to help promising young athletes and to help athletes return to their studies when they are ready to retire from sports. This is another way, and one that is just as praiseworthy, I think, to contribute to the development of organized sports.

Closer to home, RONA, which is one of the official partners of the Vancouver Games, has also established the “growing with our athletes” program, through which the company will provide financial support for five years to 100 Olympians and Paralympians, including Meaghan Benfeito, Roseline Filion and Émilie Heymans, all divers who are Quebec's Olympic hopefuls for the upcoming summer games in Beijing.

Alcan and wheelchair racing champion Chantal Petitclerc are another example of a lasting partnership. Alcan has been Chantal Petitclerc's sponsor since 1998 and has contributed significantly to her success. In exchange, Chantal Petitclerc has paid many visits to the employees of Alcan and represented the company at numerous public events. In 2001, when the company renewed its commitment to the champion until 2005, that is, one year after the Athens Games, Chantal Petitclerc stated:

It's unusual for a company to have such a long-standing association with one athlete. But even more remarkable is a sponsorship agreement signed so far in advance of the Olympics. Athletes must have access to financial assistance for years, not just during the six months prior to the Games, in order to train well enough to be competitive.

Chantal Petitclerc made it abundantly clear: a long-term relationship between an athlete and a sponsor is a precious thing. As such, it is important to reiterate that Bill C-47 does not call into question that kind of relationship, even if it involves a sponsor other than the official partners of the Vancouver-Whistler games, as clarified in this clause, which the committee added:

Nothing in subsection (1) or (2) prevents [among other things,] the use by an individual who has been selected by the COC or the CPC to compete, or has competed, in an Olympic Games or Paralympic Games, or another person with that individual's consent, of the mark “Olympian”, “Olympic”, “Olympien” or “Olympique”, or “Paralympian”, “Paralympic”, “Paralympien” or “Paralympique”, as the case may be, in reference to the individual's participation in, or selection for, those Games.

When building a society, we need citizens to get involved. Of course, volunteers and individuals help our society move forward, but businesses also have an essential role to play. We must encourage them to participate in sporting events because events like these have a positive impact on participation in sports and good lifestyle habits.

We have to create the kinds of conditions that facilitate this. As I have already said in this House, it is not enough to put the ball in an individual's court and expect him or her to find long-term solutions to problems of poor physical fitness and obesity. It is high time we took action right in people's environments, and that means that we have to encourage businesses to get involved. Sponsorship is not the only way for businesses to contribute.

From a broader perspective, in order to remedy the harmful effects of physical unfitness, we have to make sure that the companies that want to adopt good practices and put in place conditions enabling their employees to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives are not discouraged.

I am thinking here about the good practices adopted by many employers to help their employees acquire healthy lifestyles. Employers are now aware of their responsibilities and many of them are proposing concrete solutions.

I am thinking, for example, of Sainte-Justine hospital, which since 2002 has been making gymnasiums available to its employees for the modest fee of $10 a year, offering them very affordable classes and organizing activities for them. According to the head of health and safety at the hospital, these measures have done a lot towards improving the work atmosphere and decreased the stress levels felt by employees.

Likewise, all Mouvement Desjardins divisions now offer sports and physical activity programs for their employees, and those who join athletic clubs or sign up for physical activities can count on their employer’s financial support. These measures have notable positive effects on the staff turnover rate, absenteeism and smoking.

Ubisoft offers a voucher worth up to $500 a year to its employees to help them purchase sports equipment, in addition to providing them with free access to a gymnasium. Employees who are in better shape work better and the action taken by Ubisoft also works to the company’s advantage.

Louis Garneau Sport, a well-known Quebec company headed by the former cycling champion, also stands out for its sense of initiative. A few days before Environment Week, Louis Garneau Sport held an activity to encourage its employees to bike to work, thus contributing to an improvement in their physical fitness and to conservation of the environment.

I will end my list of inspiring examples here since, although work may continue until 10 o’clock tonight, your role, Mr. Speaker, is also to remind me that I only have a few minutes to state my point of view, and I would also like to have the time to talk about the third major aspect of the bill, pertaining to freedom of expression.

As clause 3 of the bill now states, following the passing of a motion moved in committee, and I quote:

For greater certainty, the use of an Olympic or Paralympic mark or a translation of it in any language in the publication or broadcasting of a news report relating to Olympic Games or Paralympic Games, including by means of electronic media, or for the purposes of criticism or parody relating to Olympic Games or Paralympic Games, is not a use in connection with a business.

However, I must point out that when I asked in the standing committee whether special editions of certain magazines that run during the Olympic Games could fall under the new legislation, no one was able to give me a clear answer. On that matter, it seems we have to look at this on a case by case basis and editors will have to remain vigilant, as always.

In closing, I would like to come back to some of the concerns I have already expressed in this House during debate at second reading. I am talking about respecting bilingualism. Last May, I referred to some of the findings in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Official Languages, entitled, Reflecting Canada's Linguistic Duality at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games: A Golden Opportunity.

According to members of the committee, there is still a lot of work to do to make sure we fully and equally take into account both official languages in organizing the 2010 Games. During the June 4 meeting of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, the hon. member for Trois-Rivières referred to the same findings and asked John Furlong, the CEO of VANOC, whether any progress had been made. Mr. Furlong told her that for now, 25% of the employees working on the Games spoke French and that a significant effort was being made to ensure bilingualism. What areas of VANOC do these employees work in? Is there francophone or bilingual staff in every one of the divisions that take part in the Olympic adventure, in the offices, and in the stadiums?

Sometimes time runs out before we can get answers to all our questions. However, we will remain vigilant and lend our support to VANOC and wish it all the best in realizing this colossal project and pulling off the Olympic Games.

Olympic and Paralympic Marks ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise on behalf of the NDP caucus to speak in support of Bill C-47 as amended by the NDP.

We raised some concerns when the bill was initially brought forward. I will come back to that in a moment. Subsequent to that, we had yeoman's work done by our industry critic, the member of Parliament for Windsor West. As a result, some of the issues about the bill have been addressed. The bill has certainly been improved through the intervention of the NDP which offered the most amendments in committee.

Bill C-47 is something that touches people from British Columbia, but also touches people from coast to coast to coast across Canada. We are all impressed with the principles of the Olympic movement. The athletes train for many years through extenuating circumstances and often are impoverished while working to attain that ideal in sport. We have seen from the Olympic movement the principle of athletes driving themselves to perform at their maximum. This is something that all members of this House admire and respect.

In particular, one of the improvements in the Olympic movement in the past few years has been the involvement of Paralympic athletes. Increasingly we see people with disabilities who in a very real sense show their competitive spirit and show to what extent they can push themselves to excel. The Olympic movement has clearly been improved by the inclusion of people with disabilities in the Paralympic movement. That is something which over the last few years has deepened the respect that people around the world and across Canada have for the principles of the Olympic movement.

We believe in the principles of the Olympic movement. We believe in the principles of the Olympic movement as expressed by Paralympians. We believe in the principles of the Olympic movement that we see expressed through athletes pushing themselves to be the best possible. We are extremely proud of the athletes from Canada from coast to coast to coast who have excelled in the winter Olympics and the summer Olympics. We have much to be proud of in Canada, particularly our Olympic athletes who prove through every Olympic Games to what extent they are willing to push themselves to their maximum to excel for their country.

We support those principles, but our role as New Democratic Party members in this House is also to closely scrutinize legislation and to make sure that what is proposed is actually achieved. That has been the role of the NDP historically since the foundation of our party. We have always been the party of sober second thought.

That is why when Bill C-47 came forward we supported the principle, of course, for reasons I will come back to later. We had concerns about Olympic cost overruns, but we wanted to see clear improvements made to the legislation itself.

We believe that the legislation should have exempted electronic media for example. We also believe that a sunset clause had to be very clear about the extent of the number of terms that are used. The Vancouver Olympics, the 2010 marks, are quite extensive. Seventy-five terms are included within that very broad use of copyright terms. We wanted to make sure as well that there is a very clear sunset clause that would take effect at the end of the year 2010.

We also wanted to make sure that aboriginal and not for profit groups would have an opportunity to have no cost licences through the Olympic movement. In that way they would be able to contribute in some way and receive some benefit from the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. We also wanted to make sure there was an appeal process in place.

We brought forward those amendments, more than all other parties put together. We closely scrutinized the legislation. My colleague from Windsor West, very eloquently as always, brought forward those amendments in committee.

We were able to achieve two of the four improvements that we wanted to see in this legislation as a result of the NDP's interventions in the industry committee. Now as we bring this NDP improved legislation into this House, we see that electronic media is exempted from the bill.

We also have achieved the sunset clause, the date of December 31, 2010, to make sure the protections that are offered through Bill C-47 are temporary in nature only.

We are hoping as well, and we certainly directed the Vanoc committee to do this, that the regulations take into consideration the fact that there are many local businesses that have existed for many years in the Lower Mainland and throughout British Columbia. We anticipate that Vanoc, the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee, will respect those historic trademarks and those historic presences through the regulations that will be drafted after the bill is passed into law. We expect that will happen.

We are disappointed that the amendment regarding aboriginal and not for profit groups that was co-authored by the NDP was not accepted by other parties in the House. We certainly believe it would have been an improvement to Bill C-47. We offered it and unfortunately it is not before us today.

We also wanted to see an appeal system to make sure that individuals and small businesses were not caught in the kind of bureaucratic machinery we often see as members of Parliament. We have in Bill C-47 some real improvements brought forward by the NDP.

Let me get back to the principle. This is an important element. We believe there must be some copyright protection because we are concerned about the extent of Olympic cost overruns. The B.C. auditor general spoke to this just a few months ago, in September 2006. I will read into the record the CanWest news service article on the B.C. auditor general's report into Olympic spending.

It is very relevant and pertinent that we seek to ensure that Vanoc has the ability to get the sponsorships that will reduce the taxpayers' burden of the Olympic Games. In the B.C. legislature, Harry Bains, who is the provincial NDP Olympics critic, has been front and centre in ensuring there is that accountability and that we try to reduce what could be a substantial taxpayers' burden if things are not handled with due diligence.

As we all know, the NDP has the best fiscal management record of any party in Canada. I am not the one saying that, it is the federal Ministry of Finance. It did a 20 year study and compared from actual fiscal year end returns how Conservatives managed money, how Liberals managed money, how the Parti Quebecois in Quebec and Social Credit managed money and how NDP provincial governments managed money.

It came up, after 20 years, with the conclusion that the worst fiscal manager was actually the Liberal Party. Most of the time Liberal governments actually finished their year end, regardless of what their projections were, with a deficit.

Conservative administrations, be they provincial or federal, were actually the second worst. Two-thirds of the time Conservative administrations actually showed up in deficits.

The best by far were NDP administrations. Most of the time when surpluses or balanced budgets were projected, they actually came out as balanced budgets or surpluses in the year end fiscal returns.

The NDP has a proud history of being the best financial managers in the country. That is understandable. We are a party composed of ordinary working families and working Canadians who have to manage with fewer resources. As a result of that, they are much better at managing resources than anybody else. A single mother who is trying to raise children, that Canadian woman knows how to manage with very few resources. As a result of being a party of ordinary Canadians, we have achieved what is undoubtedly, according to the federal Ministry of Finance which is certainly not an NDP affiliated organization, the best record of financial accountability.

We are providing the same oversight that we do in this Parliament and in provincial legislatures across the country to the issue of the Olympic Games.

I come back to the CanWest news service article. It is dated September 15, 2006 and states:

The 2010 Olympic Games will cost B.C. taxpayers nearly $1 billion more than the provincial government previously indicated, according to the province's acting auditor general.

In a hard-hitting report released Thursday, Arn van Iersel pegs the true cost of the Olympics at a minimum $2.5 billion, of which $1.5 billion will come from the province.

The B.C. government insists its total commitment to the Games is $600 million. But van Iersel says that figure ignores key Olympics-related costs....

The government, he says, needs to come clean with the public.

“Given the province has the ultimate responsibility for the financial outcome of the Games, we feel there should be regular and complete reporting of the total Games costs to the taxpayers,” the report states. “To date, the province has only reported to taxpayers on the $600 million envelope it established; however, there are many other Games related cost[s] that are not being reported as such by the province.”

The 65-page report also highlights significant problems with the management and marketing of the Olympics, and warns that costs could go even higher. Van Iersel found, for instance, that the province lost $150 million in projected revenue from broadcasting and international sponsorships by failing to adopt a routine “hedging strategy” that would have protected them against fluctuations in the dollar.

He found, too, that the government will have to wait six years longer than expected to launch a marketing campaign, because it didn't realize the International Olympic Committee restricts such campaigns until the previous Olympics are over. B.C. had planned to start its campaign in 2003, but now will have to postpone it until after the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing. Van Iersel said the delay could hurt the province's plan to reap $4 billion in economic spin-offs.

The auditor's report also notes that the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) has transferred construction risks for many of the venues to other partners. But if rising costs make it impossible or those partners to finish the job, “there is a risk the province will have to contribute more funding to VANOC to get the projects completed,” the report says.

The province has set aside $76 million for such unexpected costs, but the auditor general also questions whether that emergency fund will be enough.

NDP critic Harry Bains said the report shows B.C. risking a financial disaster on par with the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

“All you have to do is go back to what happened in Montreal, and then go back to what happened in Athens,” he said. “We don't want to see that kind of stuff happening here, but the way this government is going, the direction this management is going, I think there's a real risk of going in that direction if we don't stop it now.”

A federal report, also released Thursday, confirms the auditor general's warnings about rising construction costs....

“Escalation continues to run rampant in British Columbia as a result of higher material and labour costs, and the lack of competitive bids and skilled trades people, especially in the Lower Mainland,” the report says.

That comes from the Victoria Times Colonist. It underscores our concerns.

We are profoundly supportive of the ideals and the principles of the Olympic movement and Paralympic movement. We are profoundly supportive of our athletes. In fact the NDP throughout its history has called for more support for Canadian athletes, there is no doubt about that. However, we balance that off with real concerns about the cost overruns that are apprehended with these Olympic Games, and both at the provincial legislature in Victoria and here in the federal Parliament we are raising those issues on a regular basis.

We saw Bill C-47 as a bill that would help to address in part those apprehended Olympic cost overruns. We want to make sure that the Vancouver Olympic Committee can do what it needs to do to ensure that there are as few obligations imposed on taxpayers as possible.

We would like to make sure that the B.C. provincial government does its job to ensure that additional funds are not required. However, we are generally concerned, as is B.C.'s auditor general, with the direction the provincial government is taking.

We support in principle Bill C-47 and we constructively brought forward amendments that improve the bill, so that the bill actually does address some of the concerns that people have raised about it perhaps going too far.

There is no doubt that the sunset clause will make a difference. The exemption on electronic media will make a difference, and there is no doubt about that. We have certainly sent a very clear message to the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee that we want to make sure the regulations keep with the spirit of what the NDP offered at the industry committee and what we are saying here in the House.

We want to make sure that these games proceed smoothly and that in the end all Canadians and all British Columbians will be happy and content with how the games actually came about and will feel some sense of pride that we had in the Vancouver-Whistler area in 2010 an Olympic Games that really showed the ideals of the Olympic movement and also the ideals that we all have as Canadians.

Olympic and Paralympic Marks ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am a little disappointed to hear my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster speak about all of the doom and gloom, how terrible things are going to be, and all the budget overruns.

I was encouraged by my colleague across the floor, the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, because he spoke with great optimism, which is exactly what our government is doing. The Winter Olympic Games in 2010 in Vancouver and Whistler are going to be a huge opportunity for Canadians. It is not about doom and gloom. The only doom and gloom we had from the NDP was 10 years in the wilderness in British Columbia when successive NDP administrations drove the provincial treasury into the ground.

It is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-47 which actually protects the trademarks and licensing rights for the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 winter games.

As we know, the 2010 winter games will be an event with enormous impact in British Columbia but also in Canada and around the world. Consider these numbers. There will be 5,000 Olympic athletes and 1,700 Paralympic athletes and their officials. More than 80 countries will participate in the winter Olympics and 40 countries will participate in the Paralympic games. There will be 10,000 media representatives present at those games and over three billion television viewers around the world.

To ensure the success of the winter games the Vancouver organizing committee, which we refer to as Vanoc, needs a solid legal and financial foundation. Bill C-47 will meet our government's commitment to the International Olympic Committee to protect the Olympic and Paralympic brands. It will allow Vanoc to raise the sponsorship money from the private sector necessary to complete the games and to make sure that they finish within budget, are successful and leave a significant legacy for Canada.

Consider the Calgary Winter Olympics of 1988. Even today, almost 20 years later, athletes from around the world still descend upon Calgary to use its Olympic facilities, which are an abiding legacy of those games.

Is this bill important? Of course it is. John Furlong, who is the chief executive officer of Vanoc, has said that the organizers need resources of about $1.87 billion to stage the games. One of the most important sources of funding for those games are corporate sponsorships. In fact, approximately 40% of revenues will come from partnerships and licences.

The value in those partnerships and licences comes from two main factors. First, the sponsors and licensees need to receive great public exposure and marketing advantages from their association with such a positive, high profile public event like the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler. Second, the nature of the 2010 winter games is unique. There is no other event like it in the world. There is no other event in the world that year that is likely to draw as many TV viewers or capture as much of the world's attention and that is value. That is why we get sponsors for the Olympic games.

Under Bill C-47, if an unauthorized person or company tries to profit from the 2010 winter games, Vanoc will have the legal tools to protect its rights and the rights of its partners and licensees effectively and quickly. The current Trade-marks Act provides some protection, but it is not enough. There are concerns that it may not fully address the legitimate needs of the organizers of the Olympics in responding to threats against their marketing rights.

There are also concerns that the current legislation does not allow emerging threats to be dealt with. This is particularly true of so-called ambush marketing, in which companies find ways to falsely associate their business with the winter games in the public's mind. Bill C-47 addresses these concerns by allowing Vanoc to use legal remedies when necessary, yet maintaining a balanced approach to the issue.

I do not have time to comment on each part of this bill, but I do want to take a few minutes to remind my colleagues in the House of some of the bill's key measures.

First, the Olympic and Paralympic marks act explicitly defines the words, symbols and other marks that are to be protected against fraudsters. The bill protects the rights of Vanoc, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee to defend these marks. They can use the remedies under the bill and can consent to assign those rights to their various partners, where appropriate.

What are some of those marks? I have a list of well over 60 here. Canadians will be familiar with the five Olympic rings and also the Olympic torch, or the official symbol of the 2010 Olympic games, the inukshuk. There are many more words and symbols that are synonymous with the Olympic games and these are officially being protected under the bill we have before us today.

The bill goes on to set out two main types of conduct that will be prohibited.

First, no one can use an Olympic or Paralympic mark in connection with a business without the agreement of Vanoc. That lasts until the end of 2010.

Second, the bill prohibits so-called ambush marketing, which I referred to before. It prohibits people or businesses from doing business in a way that is likely to mislead the public into believing that those businesses or those persons and their products and services are linked to the winter games, when in fact they are not and they have not paid for that right.

Beyond that, the bill also provides for a number of exceptions and sets out the various remedies available in the event that these rights are not respected.

One of the reasons we have introduced this bill is to specifically address ambush marketing. Some of our viewers may wonder what that is exactly. It is an attempt by an unauthorized person or business to act in a way that causes the public to believe that they are connected to the 2010 games. As I mentioned before, that will now be prohibited.

Unfortunately, the courts can often take a long time to adjudicate those kinds of disputes. In fact, it is very difficult to convince a court to issue an injunction and to stop the alleged illegal use of a trademark before a trial is finished. Such delays would be a huge problem for the 2010 games in Vancouver-Whistler, since the games would be over by the time the trial is complete. The damage to the games would already have been done and there would be little, if any, chance of recovery of those damages.

That is why Bill C-47 allows Vanoc to put a stop to ambush marketing without having to prove that the games will suffer irreparable harm. That irreparable harm standard is the greatest obstacle to convincing a court to grant an injunction in trademark cases. Our legislation removes that obstacle until the 2010 games are over. When the Olympic flame goes out in 2010, this aspect of the legislation will also be extinguished.

The reality is that very few of these situations will actually end up in court. This bill actually gives Vanoc the authority it needs to deal with these kinds of fraudsters.

Bill C-47 also gives the designated Olympic organizations the authority to protect the Olympic brand from unauthorized and illegitimate use, but we have been careful not to bring in legislation that is too broad or oppressive.

As members know, this bill has gone through many amendments to reflect the concerns of key stakeholders and committee members. For example, Bill C-47 exempts Canadian businesses that were using trademarks before March 2 that could possibly be in conflict with the Olympic marks. They cannot suddenly start using an existing mark for a new purpose to cash in on the Olympics, but they can continue their existing uses. For example, if people have an “Olympic Pizza” in their town, we are not going to shut them down unless they suddenly start using the word Olympic to promote other services and products.

We are not targeting mom and pop shops. We are not targeting Canadians who have been using these marks in the past. We are simply being reasonable.

The bill also provides clarification that this bill is not intended to curtail freedom of press or to muzzle those who are critical of the games. My colleague from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast also made that point. We do have protections in Canada. We as Canadians pride ourselves in the freedoms that we enjoy and defend in our country, and those freedoms will continue to be protected under our bill.

As I mentioned earlier, our new Conservative government is a committed partner in making the 2010 winter games a big success. The big winners will undoubtedly be the people of British Columbia and the rest of Canada, and some of our contributions are quite obvious. We as a government have committed $552 million to make the winter games a reality, including $290 million for sport and event venues.

Some of the contributions we are making are less tangible but not less valuable, and this Bill C-47 to protect the Olympic trademarks certainly falls into that category.

The bill is a balanced piece of legislation that is in line with what other host countries have put in place in the past. It is a necessary piece of legislation to ensure that the winter games are a huge financial success and that we as a country, and the organizers, can leave behind an enduring legacy for generations to come.

The world is waiting to rediscover Canada. Our communities across British Columbia and Canada are looking forward to the economic opportunities and new sporting facilities that the 2010 winter games will deliver. Let us not disappoint them. I encourage all members of the House to ensure quick passage of this very important bill.

Olympic and Paralympic Marks ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments? Resuming debate. Is the House ready for the question?

Olympic and Paralympic Marks ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Olympic and Paralympic Marks ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

Olympic and Paralympic Marks ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Olympic and Paralympic Marks ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Olympic and Paralympic Marks ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act, as reported without amendment from the committee.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There being no motions at report stage the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Health

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act.

In December 2006 we brought the 2005 Quarantine Act into force. It replaces the previous Quarantine Act, which contained outdated authorities. The new Quarantine Act aims to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases through points of entry into Canada, such as airports and marine ports. It is an essential tool for responding to public health emergencies that may be international in scope.

In December 2006 we also introduced Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act, in the House of Commons. Bill C-42 seeks to amend the wording in section 34 of the 2005 Quarantine Act in order to address certain implementation problems, which relate to the advance notification by operators of conveyances coming into Canada, such as aircraft and ships.

As enacted in May 2005, section 34 requires advance notification by conveyance operators to an authority to be designated by the Minister of Health at the nearest entry point into Canada.

There are implementation issues related to the wording of this section. One issue relates to the need to report at the nearest entry point into Canada. In the event of a public health emergency on board, conveyance operators may be unable to determine which of the many points of entry into Canada was actually the nearest to them at the time of reporting.

Another issue relates to the need to designate an authority who is situated at the nearest entry point. The most appropriate authority to designate, such as a customs or a quarantine officer, is not actually located at every entry point, including all airports and all small ports receiving international traffic. Designating an authority who is at these entry points is therefore not workable.

Bill C-42 addresses all these implementation issues by requiring conveyance operators to notify a quarantine officer before they arrived in Canada if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that: (a) a person or a thing on board could cause the spread of a communicable disease, or (b) a person on board has died.

For land conveyances, this would generally be the first customs officer who they see when they cross the border.

When Bill C-42 was developed, a decision was taken to remove advance notification by land conveyance operators, such as buses and trains, and to focus on air and marine conveyances. Advance notification by land conveyance operators is not required under revised international health regulations. As well, advance notification by land conveyances could be prescribed under regulations at a later date, if a later assessment indicated that it was necessary.

Bill C-42 was debated at second reading and referred to the Standing Committee on Health on March 29. The members of that health committee commented on the issue of advance notification and whether it should also apply to land conveyances, such as buses and trains.

We have heard the views of the committee. We are determined to take every measure possible to get advance notification of potential communicable disease risks from all conveyance operators, including those operating on land. Canadians expect no less.

Under Mr. Clement's leadership, the government—

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I remind the hon. parliamentary secretary that we do not refer to members of ministers by their name but by their title or riding. This is a good opportunity for me to break into his speech and he can ponder that while we move on to statements by members.

Monuments to la FrancophonieStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow at the Orleans Cultural Centre, the third in a series of six monuments will be unveiled as part of Monuments de la Francophonie. I would like to salute the creators, including Richelieu International.

MIFO, the Orleans francophone involvement movement, opened the cultural centre in 1985 because it wanted to make French services available. I was there. Over the years, many programs and organizations got their start thanks to the dedication of the centre's members, volunteers and employees and the francophone and francophile communities.

MIFO's mission is to promote French culture and to meet our artistic, cultural and educational needs. This tool creates new torchbearers.

The monument, which is a huge Franco-Ontarian flag, will be raised on a 25 metre flagpole in a place that celebrates our community's vitality.

Manufacturing IndustryStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is a crisis in the manufacturing industry in Canada. During the past 20 years, Canada has lost more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs as companies downsize, move operations abroad, or simply close due to declining profit. In my region of Niagara alone, we have lost 4,400 jobs during the last five years and more are imminent. Canada's manufacturing sector is in dire need of attention.

This loss poses a major threat to the economy and the future of social programs. Manufacturing jobs generate over $20 million in real taxes that help maintain publicly funded health care, education and our country's infrastructure. More important, it pays mortgages, puts food on the table and clothes on backs.

Our country needs to set short term priorities and a long term plan to strengthen our manufacturing sectors. By focusing on fair trade, investment in research and development, the introduction of innovative technologies and continuous skills upgrading of our workforce, we will create a positive climate within Canada to lead the wave of new global manufacturing strategies, but we must act now.

Longueuil's 350th AnniversaryStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, Longueuil is celebrating its 350th anniversary. It was founded by Sieur Charles Le Moyne, who named his new seigneury after a village in his native Normandy.

Throughout 2007, Longueuil's history will be celebrated in style by citizens, organizations and municipal authorities who have come together to offer people a variety of festive events and highly original activities.

Longueuil is now Quebec's fifth largest city. Now that we are just days away from adjourning the work of Parliament and from celebrating Quebec's national holiday, I would like to highlight this event of national historical significance and offer the people of Longueuil my best wishes for a wonderful summer. I invite them all to take part in the activities commemorating Longueuil's 350th anniversary.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, after 140 years of attempted assimilation, being stripped of their lands, their rights, their hopes and their dignity, we understand the frustration of first nations communities. For too long the Government of Canada has broken its promise to address this injustice.

First nations communities are challenged with high unemployment, inadequate housing and the effects of the residential school system. They are looking forward to the day when the Prime Minister apologizes for residential school tragedies. They are looking forward to signed treaties and the recognition of their languages and history. They are looking for an end to poverty and social injustice.

Next Thursday, June 21, is National Aboriginal Day. On Vancouver Island, first nations people will be celebrating their heritage and culture, and they have much to celebrate. Their roots are strong and their will to succeed is unwavering.

I will be there to celebrate with them, to assure them that the NDP is committed to working to ensure fairness and equality for all first nations in Canada.

Ottawa SenatorsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week the Ottawa Senators' great Stanley Cup run ended after a tough series against the Anaheim Ducks. The Sens were led in the trenches and on the bench by 28-year-old right winger Chris Neil.

Chris was born and raised in the town of Flesherton, in my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, and has played for the Senators since 1998. He is a power forward who plays with the heart of a lion.

Chris was an integral part of the Sens run in the 2007 playoffs and made his presence known both on the bench and along the boards.

Chris Neil is a fan favourite, both in Ottawa and in Flesherton. During the Stanley Cup finals, hundreds of fans, including his father Barry and brothers Jeff, Dan and Jason packed the hometown arena to watch their hero. The town of Flesherton was red, covered in ribbons and other decorations to show its support.

Congratulations to Chris Neil on a great season and for being a great ambassador for the riding and the sport of hockey. We are all proud of him.

Medal of BraveryStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is a very proud day for my constituents of Newton—North Delta. One of our finest police officers and one of my constituents, Constable Gerald Proctor, will receive the Medal of Bravery from the Governor General.

He is receiving this medal for rescuing a woman from her car, which plunged into the Fraser River after a collision. Constable Proctor, like so many of the outstanding police officers in our community, did not think twice about putting his own life on the line. He dove into the freezing waters and pulled her to safety.

I am sure I speak for all my constituents and the House when I congratulate Constable Proctor on this well deserved honour. Please join me in congratulating him on this great honour and his contribution as a great Canadian.

Medal of BraveryStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow Daniel Peacock from Rimbey, Alberta will be awarded the Governor General's Medal of Bravery.

While camping with his church group last June, 15-year-old Daniel risked his life to save a friend from drowning in the strong current of the Ram River. Daniel reacted instantly when a fellow camper lost his footing and fell into the deep, raging water. Battling the strong undertow with his frightened friend on his shoulders, Daniel swam to the surface and helped the struggling young man back to shore and waiting rescuers.

Daniel's maturity, ingenuity and courageous efforts likely prevented a tragic drowning. He showed his selflessness when he said, “My life is not more important than Jeromy's and I could not live with myself if I watched him drown to death”.

Daniel Peacock is a hero. On behalf of the constituents of Wetaskiwin, I want to thank him for his noble action and congratulate his parents for raising such a remarkable young man.

World Blood Donor DayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, since it is World Blood Donor Day, I would like to thank blood donors in Quebec and around the world, but I would particularly like to stress the importance of transfusion safety in universal access to blood donations. The Canadian tainted blood scandal was one of the last century's worst medical tragedies.

In fact, on June 7, the Superior Court of Quebec approved the Settlement Agreement between the Government of Canada and all those infected with hepatitis C before 1986 and after 1990.

This initial legal settlement should be applauded, but it is unfortunately too late for the 500 individuals who were excluded from the Liberals' first compensation package, and who died waiting for one from the Conservatives.

Let us hope that that this settlement will offer some form of relief to their families and to the 5,500 people infected, some of whom have lost everything.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to rise today to recognize the right hon. Prime Minister's historic announcement Tuesday afternoon in a new and progressive approach to the resolution of specific claims.

We are all aware of the negative fallout from unresolved specific claims, the frustration, the tension, the erosion of the goodwill that exists between first nations and other Canadians. When the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was appointed to the office, he made it a priority to fix this broken system. With the announcement of this new approach, this government has made a huge step forward.

I extend my congratulations to the Prime Minister, the minister and National Chief Phil Fontaine for this significant accomplishment. It is an impressive example of what can be accomplished when we pledge to work together, governments and first nations, to make a difference in the lives of the first nations people and communities in Canada.

Kurt WaldheimStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, when great contributors to our society and our world pass away, it is important that we recognize them for what they did right.

Kurt Waldheim passed away earlier today at the age of 88. He was the fourth secretary-general of the United Nations, serving from 1972 to 1981. In 1956 he was ambassador to Canada and he returned to the ministry in 1960. Then he became the permanent representative of Austria to the United Nations in 1964.

Beginning in 1968, he was the federal minister of foreign affairs in Austria. Then he returned as permanent representative to the UN in 1970. Waldheim served two terms as UN secretary-general, during which he oversaw disaster relief in Bangladesh, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, as well as peacekeeping missions in Cyprus, the Middle East, Angola and Guinea. He returned to Austria and was elected as president in 1986 and served until 1992.

He contributed greatly to his country and the world as UN secretary-general, and we commend him for that.

Veterans AffairsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Betty Hinton Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canada's new government is strongly supportive of veterans and their widows.

Instead of trying to score cheap political points, the member for Pickering—Scarborough East should encourage his Liberal colleagues on the veterans affairs committee to focus on the veterans independence mandate.

The Conservative government has increased spending on veterans by $523 million a year. In contrast, in 1995 and 1998 the old Liberal government cut a collective $69.7 million.

The Conservative government added 12,200 new clients to the veterans independence program. The Liberals cut VIP entitlement to allied vets.

We have introduced the veterans bill of rights. On their watch, the Liberals cut the burial program for veterans.

We have established a veterans ombudsman. The Liberals cut veterans travel rates and treatment benefits.

Canada's new government has invited the official opposition to be a part of the process of improving the veterans independence program at committee. This new government supports and values the men and women who sacrificed and fought for our freedoms. They are our priority. The Liberals--

Veterans AffairsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Victoria.

Access Health CentreStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak about an innovative and valuable project in my riding, the Access Health Centre.

In partnership, AIDS Vancouver Island and the Victoria Cool Aid Society plan to create a comprehensive health centre providing care to the homeless and those affected by HIV-AIDS and hepatitis C, groups that typically face barriers to accessing mainstream medical care.

The centre is designed as part of a preventive health and drug strategy. It will provide effective services while reducing the costs to government and society.

Support for this project crosses all party lines. All MPs in south Vancouver Island recognize its value and its potential in assisting homeless people to rebuild their lives.

This much needed project requires the participation of all levels of government. I urge the Conservative government to collaborate and to commit financial support to make this a reality.

Beth Shalom AnniversaryStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to highlight the 50th anniversary celebration of the Congregation Beth Shalom, located in Ottawa-Vanier.

On Sunday, May 27, I was pleased to take part in the kickoff ceremony of these celebrations. On that occasion, a very lively concert entitled “A Musical Odyssey” was presented. It was great fun.

The congregation is very active, dynamic and open to all ages. It brings joy and happiness to many constituents. On its 50th anniversary, I wish to congratulate the congregation.

This congregation has embraced a vision shared by many Canadians that Canada is an open, pluralistic and democratic society. It is an integral part of our social fabric and has contributed in endless ways to Ottawa's development and to our collective Canadian identity.

I extend my most sincere best wishes to the members of the Jewish community and in particular to the Beth Shalom congregation on this joyous occasion.

Palestinian AuthorityStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, by weakening the Palestinian Authority, did the international community not reinforce the position of those who claim that only an armed struggle will free the Palestinian people from their miseries? Instead of taking this opportunity to show the Palestinians that democracy is the best path to take, the international community marginalized those who would have preferred a democratic route.

We can see the results. The Palestinian Authority appears to be losing all control over the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, we are hearing allegations of war crimes committed by the Palestinian parties involved. No one can be happy about this worrisome situation that not only complicates the revival of peace talks, but also makes the security of Israel even more problematic. The Palestinian Authority must be reinforced immediately, while there is still time.

Canada, the first country in the world to cut funding to the Palestinian Authority following the last election, cannot wash its hands of the current situation. The government now has the opportunity to show that it is able to promote peace. The Mecca agreement sent a message of reaching out, and we must respond to it.

Foreign AffairsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, within hours Mr. Din Ahmed could be deported from the United States to Bangladesh, where he faces execution. This follows a trial in absentia that was severely flawed, a trial the member for Mount Royal called “a political trial without due process”.

A number of NGOs, such as Amnesty International, the Catholic bishops, the CFS, the United Church and the Quaker committee, urge Canada to accept Mr. Ahmed to our country, where he would be welcomed by family who live here, including a niece in my riding.

Other MPs, including the member for Halifax, support that call and have worked for his freedom.

Canada is a humanitarian nation that opposes the death penalty and supports due process. It would be unconscionable for Mr. Ahmed to be sent back to Bangladesh to be executed.

If he is sent back, we ask the Government of Canada to monitor Mr. Ahmed, ensure he is not tortured and do everything possible to ensure that the death penalty is not carried out.

His Canadian family and many Canadians across this country ask that Din Ahmed be spared.

Budget 2007 Implementation ActStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals do not recognize the fiscal imbalance, and now they are voting against Bill C-52.

The bill is now before the Senate, which is comprised of a majority of unelected Liberal senators. If the bill is blocked by the Liberals in the Senate, it will result in the loss of more than $4 billion in tax breaks and funding for programs to the end of the 2006 fiscal year, including more than $1 billion to help provinces reduce patient wait times and $1.5 billion for provincial environmental initiatives in support of projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Leader of the Liberal Party should show a bit more leadership by urging irresponsible Liberal senators to make the interests of Canadians their priority, to respect the will of the House of Commons and to vote for bill C-52.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, today the Prime Minister would have had a lot of explaining to do concerning his handling of Afghanistan.

Let us start with the Red Cross. Last Monday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs made a number of claims that were contradicted by the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kabul, who confirmed that the Red Cross is not conducting an inquiry into allegations of torture in Afghanistan.

Will the Prime Minister admit that the only people really investigating allegations of torture in Afghanistan by Afghan authorities are the Afghan authorities?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the International Committee of the Red Cross has a right to visit detainees at any time. That right, of course, derives from international law.

I think everybody in the House is now well familiar with our supplementary agreement that we entered into with the government of Afghanistan and which reaffirms within that agreement that role for the Red Cross.

Of course, that agreement, as everybody knows, and it was tabled in the House, sets out quite clearly that the onus is on the government of Afghanistan to advise Canada, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and the Red Cross about any corrective action with regard to complaints about treatment of prisoners.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, so much for the Red Cross and this government's attempts to manipulate the situation. Now let us talk about censorship in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

On April 25, the Prime Minister stated that ministers are not consulted about documents prepared under the Access to Information Act. That is not true. We now know that the famous report on allegations of torture that the minister claims he never saw was, in fact, sent to his office “for review”, and that the government prohibited the public servant who has information about this issue from appearing before the parliamentary committee.

Will the Prime Minister let this person talk? What is he trying to hide?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to have to say it, but the Liberal Party leader's accusations are totally false.

Everybody knows that the Department of Foreign Affairs reports annually on human rights and they are internal reports intended to help inform policy.

On the question of the redactions, everybody in the House knows and has heard repeatedly that those redactions are done by officials who are charged with that responsibility. It is done without any political interference and that is the case with these reports as well.

There is absolutely no truth to the allegations being levelled by the leader of the Liberal Party right now and he should apologize for them.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, there is an easy way to know. We just have to let public servants testify at the committee. This interdiction is showing that there is something to hide.

There is another cover-up. The Prime Minister's own department produced a report last November showing that the Taliban resurgence is so dramatic that the country may split in two. This report has never been published. Instead, the government published a very rosy report last February. Why? To hide the truth is not a way to support our troops or to help Afghanistan.

How could the Prime Minister let his ministers table a report that he knew was false?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, one would have to be living under a rock not to realize that our troops are facing real challenges in Afghanistan. We are very proud of the work they are doing. I am quite sure that the Liberal leader is aware of it as well.

Something he never talks about is the progress we are making in Afghanistan, such as how over 4.6 million refugees have returned to the country, per capita income has doubled and the Afghan economy has tripled. Our intervention is making a real difference for the people of Afghanistan. It is something the leader of the Liberal Party never wants to tell Canadians about.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Privy Council Office report clearly indicates that the Taliban made a dramatic resurgence in 2006. Suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices had unpredicted success, according to the report. Yet the Minister of Foreign Affairs tabled a report in Parliament saying that everything was fine.

Why is this Conservative government continuing to lie to Canadians about Afghanistan?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, everyone knows the challenges our troops are facing in Afghanistan, and unfortunately, there have been some regrettable incidents involving injury and loss of life.

But there are many positive things that the Liberal Party is ignoring. For example, 7.2 million children have been vaccinated against polio, 4.3 million children have been vaccinated against other childhood diseases, 77% of Afghans now have access to medical clinics, compared to less than—

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's own department produced a report documenting a dramatic increase in the Taliban insurgency, which could split the country in two.

In February, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of International Cooperation tabled a report in this House indicating that everything was just fine.

Why did this government choose secrecy and deception to hide the truth about Afghanistan from Canadians?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, we are completely open. I think the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine knows Canada faces challenges in Afghanistan.

The greatest obstacle to the reconstruction of Afghanistan is the continuing violence and the constant threats from the Taliban and al-Qaeda, whose main goal is to prevent Afghan men, women and children from leading normal lives. We want to help the Afghans. I am now inclined to think that the Liberals do not.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again the Red Cross has contradicted the government in the matter of Afghan detainees. A senior Red Cross official confirmed that he knew nothing about the investigation by Afghan authorities of allegations of torture. Yet, according to the government, the latest agreement between the Afghan and Canadian authorities requires that the Red Cross be kept informed of the investigation. Once again it is a case of complete and utter bungling. We are in the land of deception.

Can the Prime Minister set the record straight and tell us whether or not the Red Cross is kept informed of the investigation into allegations of torture?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I believe that everyone is aware that we reached an agreement with the Afghan government to confirm the role of the International Committee of the Red Cross. This additional arrangement does not create any obligations for the International Committee of the Red Cross. However, it does require the Afghan government to inform Canada, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, and the International Committee of the Red Cross of corrective action taken.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is completely ridiculous. Everyone knows that the Red Cross is a party to the agreement, except the Red Cross itself. That is really something: the Red Cross is party to an agreement without knowing it. Senior officials at the Red Cross do not lie to us.

Could the minister not follow their example?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, this is an interesting issue. In my opinion, the agreement works well. Canadian representatives continue to have open and constructive dialogue with the International Committee of the Red Cross in the matter of detainees in Afghanistan. This is obviously working well.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the desire to conceal the real situation in Afghanistan is so strong that the Minister of Foreign Affairs simply cut the following sentence from the report: “Extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture and detention without trial are all too common.”

How can the Minister of Foreign Affairs go on making more and more reassuring statements about the treatment of prisoners, when he is deliberately censoring facts as disturbing as these?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I have answered this before. We have heard it many times and it is getting a bit dull. The fact is that the minister was not personally involved, nor were any of his political staff, in any review of any reports. All redactions that occur are done by staff within the department who have the responsibility to exercise their obligations under the access to information law and to apply that law and their best judgment when they make those redactions. That is exactly what happened.

The allegations again made by my friend opposite are totally false. I would really ask that she kindly withdraw them because she has no basis for them.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government started by serving up a smorgasbord of inconsistent versions. Then, we were kindly given a report that had been censored by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. And then, on two occasions, they used the Red Cross to back up falsehoods.

For a country that has pretensions to inspiring democracy and transparency in Afghanistan, what example does it think it is giving to Afghans by disguising reality in this way, and by not telling the whole truth in this House?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, we are not concealing the truth, but I want to talk about the truth in Afghanistan today.

As of today, 4,000 new medical clinics have been opened there. In 2006-07, nearly five million children were enrolled in school, a third of them girls, while in 2001 there were only 700,000 children enrolled in school and none of them were girls. This is a remarkable improvement.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, we can no longer have confidence in this Prime Minister or his government.

There has been no transparency about the prisoners in Afghanistan; there has been no action on Bill C-30 and climate change; there has been nothing done about ATM fees and the banks continue to rake in profits; the Accountability Act is meaningless when we have ministers concealing their travelling expenses; and the Minister for la Francophonie and Official Languages now has her very own sponsorship scandal.

How can Canadians have confidence in this government now?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, Canadians have great faith in our government because we have delivered on the commitments we made to them.

We have a strong economy with the lowest unemployment rate in 33 years. This is a great success and I believe that even the leader of the New Democratic Party will agree.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I could offer a small list of why I am not prepared to agree with what the hon. member is saying because during this session the Prime Minister and the Conservatives have very clearly shown why Canadians simply should not trust the government.

We see cover-ups, according to the Red Cross, on stories about detainees. We have seen cover-ups of the travel expenses of ministers. We have heard promises to deliver a plan on climate change and cleaner air but we have not received anything that will work. The Prime Minister promised to do something about wait times but we have seen nothing. He broke his promise to Atlantic Canadians and betrayed Saskatchewan--

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. the government House leader.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

That is a long list, Mr. Speaker, but let me tell the House about it.

We are talking about a new and better agreement that deals with detainees in Afghanistan. We are talking about a better economy that is producing more jobs. We are talking about ministers who spend way less than their predecessors in the Liberal Party. We are talking about more results for working Canadians, lower taxes and more jobs.

It is a great result for Canadians and we are all proud of that. Those members should be proud of that for a change.

Equalization FormulaOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the anger in Saskatchewan about the Conservative broken promise on equalization has forced the province to launch court action. All of Saskatchewan's political leaders agree, including the Conservative opposition leader. Even the Minister of National Revenue now admits that the promise was broken but no one over there will stand up for Saskatchewan.

The Prime Minister has been ducking Saskatchewan's premier for more than six months. Will he now meet the premier and offer him too an insurance policy, just like he is negotiating with Nova Scotia, to protect Saskatchewan against Conservative dishonesty?

Equalization FormulaOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the member for Wascana did nothing for Saskatchewan in all the years that he was representing Saskatchewan here in the House of Commons.

Unlike this government, which, this year alone, will transfer in budget 2007 more than $800 million to the province of Saskatchewan, the budget that the member for Wascana and his colleagues voted against three times in this place. The largest per capita payments in Canada are going to the people of the province of Saskatchewan and the member for Wascana is opposed.

Equalization FormulaOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister once called the Atlantic accord “Premier Hamm's greatest accomplishment”.

Jane Purves, former Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative cabinet minister and the chief of staff to John Hamm during the Atlantic accord negotiations, has withdrawn her name for the Conservative Party nomination in Halifax because the Prime Minister is “dismantling Dr. Hamm's legacy”.

If the Prime Minister cannot convince his own star candidates that he is telling the truth about the Atlantic accord, how can he convince Nova Scotians?

Equalization FormulaOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as all members know, the premiers had many meetings with the Council of the Federation and they were unable to come to an agreement with respect to the equalization.

The premiers, including all the premiers of the receiving provinces, have been asking for more than two decades for fiscal equity in terms of equalization in Canada and for a 10 province, principle based formula. That is what we have been able to arrive at.

There are some unique situations in Nova Scotia because its accord runs to 2019 and we have had some constructive discussions with the premier on that subject.

Equalization FormulaOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joe McGuire Liberal Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, the government continues to carry out its policy of institutionalizing poverty in Atlantic Canada. The report by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council shows all four Atlantic provinces losing huge amounts of money because of changes made to the equalization program.

P.E.I. will lose $196 million due to the changes and that is not even counting the millions we will lose because we are going to per capita funding for the Canada social transfer.

Why has the government totally undermined the purpose of the equalization program and why is the Prime Minister pursuing the depopulation of Atlantic Canada?

Equalization FormulaOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Equalization FormulaOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. Question period started out very quietly. I think we should resume that trend now. The hon. the Minister of Finance has the floor to answer a question.

Equalization FormulaOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the minister of finance in New Brunswick said the following about the report:

So far Premier Graham has had a very positive working relationship with [the] Prime Minister...and we intend to continue on that same route.

Indeed, the premiers have been asking for a principle based, predictable, long term formula for equalization in Canada. We had an experts panel look at that. Yes, it is necessary that the national government act on this because the premiers could not agree. We have and we are continuing--

Equalization FormulaOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Madawaska—Restigouche.

Equalization FormulaOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, we have heard a lot of things in recent months about promises to Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia being broken. All of it was justified.

Now we have independent proof that the four Atlantic provinces have been had by this budget. My province, New Brunswick, is losing $1.1 billion, according to a report by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council. We know it, and New Brunswickers know it.

Why will this incompetent minister not admit that his budget ignores Atlantic Canada, and that it will be a disaster for New Brunswick?

Equalization FormulaOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as I just pointed out, the Liberal minister of finance for New Brunswick does not agree with the suggestion that was just made.

Let me say that under the new formula all provinces will be better off in Canada to the tune of $39 billion over seven years. That is $39 billion in transfers for health care, for education, for infrastructure and for environmental progress in all the provinces and territories in Canada. It is a great step forward as we move away from the mess that was created by the Liberals over 13 years.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, as with the Standing Committee on Official Languages, the chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development unilaterally changed the order of business. After the chair stepped down, all the Conservative members refused to serve as chair, which meant that the committee was unable to address the government's environmental record at the G-8.

Can the Prime Minister assure this House that no instructions were issued by his office or that of the Minister of the Environment in order to derail the work of that committee?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are entitled to ask some questions here today.

Are the Conservatives' efforts not ultimately aimed at simply silencing the opposition in order to cover up Canada's part in killing the Kyoto protocol at the G-8 summit?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I did not hear the question.

However, I will say that no instructions were issued by the Government of Canada, not by the minister or the Prime Minister's Office. I have known the hon. member for Red Deer for quite some time. He is a very honest fellow, who has a great deal of experience in this House of Commons, and I am happy to say he is a good friend.

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Vivian Barbot Bloc Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, in the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, the Bloc Québécois brought forward a motion calling on former Lieutenant-Governor Lise Thibault to appear before the committee, but to everyone's surprise, the NDP took to defending the monarchy.

To avoid being told, as Lise Thibault said, that some of the money received constituted supplementary pay, does the government not think it would be appropriate to have the lieutenant-governors and the Governor General appear before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to justify their expenses?

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Durham Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, the government took quick action recognizing that taxpayers' dollars have to be used responsibly. We called for the Auditor General's report and received it yesterday.

We announced that we were going to be calling in the RCMP. We will be working with the Quebec government authorities to identify the ineligible expenses and work with them to recuperate those dollars illegally spent on behalf of all Canadian taxpayers.

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Vivian Barbot Bloc Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, beyond what the RCMP will investigate, does the government intend to call for an investigation into those at the Department of Canadian Heritage who turned a blind eye when a red flag was raised that something was not right about the former lieutenant-governor's expenses?

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Durham Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, I will be meeting with Minister Pelletier. We will be working collaboratively with the government of Quebec. Both levels of government intend to review the processes and ensure there is accountable, transparent and good management of public funds.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, Conservative government policy, contrary to that of the previous Liberal government, is to actively lobby other countries to block the passage of the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous people. This is despite the fact that officials within the departments of foreign affairs, defence and Indian affairs have urged the government to support the declaration.

How can the government justify its solidarity with American and Australian foreign policy rather than with the first nations aboriginal people of this country?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, it should be pointed out that the member and the former Liberal government had never at any point supported the UN draft declaration. In fact, there are many issues with the draft declaration. Our government wants to look for ways to improve it, so that we have a declaration that works for Canada.

However, let us talk a bit about human rights. The Liberal Party, the Bloc and the NDP all voted to actually put off extending human rights to first nations people until after this summer. They have to head home to their cottages, but they will not extend human rights to first nations people.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is another reinvention of reality. National and local aboriginal organizations have asked Canadians for solidarity with them.

According to a letter to the president of the UN General Assembly, the government is standing side by side with countries such as Russia, Colombia and Suriname that are known for their flagrant human rights violations against indigenous people in their opposition to the declaration.

How can aboriginal Canadians trust that the government wants human rights for aboriginal people here at home when the government is undermining their efforts globally?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I find it bizarre hearing this logic from the member opposite. We have before the House of Commons Bill C-44 which actually extends human rights to first nations people in Canada. This is something that has been historically unjust.

We have the opportunity today to move forward and extend human rights to first nations people. I would ask that the opposition parties come on board with the government and bring human rights to first nations.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, first nations and aboriginal communities have once again been ignored by the dishonest, minority Conservative government. The government failed to consider, when doling out $300 million for cervical cancer vaccinations for Canadian women and children, that aboriginal women and their daughters are not included in that group.

Will the Minister of Health admit that his incompetent handling of this file puts the health of aboriginal women and girls at risk?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, nothing in fact could be further from the truth. Just last Friday I signed a historic agreement with British Columbia first nations leaders which is going to transform and revolutionize first nations health in that part of the country and hopefully for the rest of the country

We are putting our money where our mouth is. We are adding more resources for first nations health. We are in fact transforming the system so that it actually delivers better health care. After 13 years of Liberal indifference, that is an improvement.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, first nations fall under federal jurisdiction, not provincial or territorial. The government has not provided a single dollar to protect aboriginal women and girls from cervical cancer. First nations women and girls have been left out. The government knows it and the health minister has done nothing to fix it.

Will the minister take immediate steps to ensure aboriginal women and children receive the same screening and protection as every other Canadian?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, I do not know what the hon. member is talking about. This kind of program is still being negotiated with the provinces and territories, and in fact, we have $300 million more in place for the vaccine against cervical cancer, but it can only happen if the Liberal dominated Senate actually passes the budget bill. When are the members on the other side going to help to make sure the budget actually passes?

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, I read with great interest another press release from the member for Timmins—James Bay about Canada Day funding. The member of misinformation is constantly attempting to make two plus two equal five.

I represent the riding of Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, the most patriotic riding in Canada. My community will be celebrating our country's 140th birthday on July 1 and this event should not be slighted by false allegations by the NDP member.

Could the Minister of Canadian Heritage please clarify this issue for the House and for the member of sound and fury?

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Durham Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, the government is proud to support Canada Day celebrations with $7.3 million this year. It is the same amount that has been allocated for the past three years.

The government is also very proud to support celebrations like Quebec's 400th anniversary celebrations which are part of the founding of our country. I would also point out that we support celebrations such as Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, Aboriginal Day and Multiculturalism Day.

In fact, it is too bad manipulation of the facts demonstrates that the NDP members do not join in celebrating parties.

TaxationOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, first the government destroyed public affordable child care. Then at tax time it clawed back its own $1,200 benefit. Now it is asking women to prove they are single after a change in marital status while withholding the child tax benefit.

Last week alone five women came to my constituency office asking why they had to go to food banks and crisis centres to survive. The government needs to do what is right by putting a woman's advocate in all government departments.

When will the government direct the Canada Revenue Agency to stop humiliating women and have their child tax benefits--

TaxationOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. Minister of National Revenue.

TaxationOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar Saskatchewan

Conservative

Carol Skelton ConservativeMinister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, we do no such thing. When people come to the office, they must verify the living conditions they are in and no one under any circumstances is denied their basic rights.

Human Resources and Social DevelopmentOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is pretty lame after a year.

Over and over again the government continues to fail ordinary working Canadians. Today's Conference Board report tells us Canada is failing citizens in all kinds of areas including poverty eradication. It is failing because women and children have to rely on food banks and crisis centres because of unnecessary paperwork. The government is failing because it does not have a strategy to protect and create manufacturing jobs.

How many more reports and studies does it take for the Prime Minister or his representatives to stand up and tell workers when they will have a made in Canada strategy—

Human Resources and Social DevelopmentOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. Minister of Human Resources and Social Development.

Human Resources and Social DevelopmentOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Medicine Hat Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, while the NDP want to talk about studies we are acting.

The government moved immediately upon coming to government by putting in place the universal child care benefit which supports 2 million children and 1.5 million families.

We have moved to provide $500 million a year to the provinces so we can reach out to people who have never been in the workforce and help them get the training they need to succeed. We have helped with a $1.4 billion housing trust. We are acting while the NDP sit and snipe, complain, and see the glass as only 90% full.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, this dishonest Conservative government has been caught breaking yet another promise.

During the election campaign the Conservatives promised to create a Canadian agency for assessment and recognition of credentials. Then in budget 2006 they pretended they were moving forward on that promise. Now the minister has admitted that they have no plans in implementing that agency after all.

Will the Prime Minister explain if he was dishonest when he made that promise or just--

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member knows that there is no such thing as a dishonest member. The member in making that kind of suggestion is out of order.

The hon. parliamentary secretary is rising though to answer the question.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. The previous government said it would tackle the issue. It failed to tackle it for 10 years. It said it would do it and it never did.

We did do something about that. We created an office that will in fact deliver on our commitment to help foreign trained individuals and their families with the launch of the first phase of the foreign credentials referral office. It is in place and it is working.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, talk about revising the truth. Not only--

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. The hon. member for Mississauga—Erindale has the floor. We will have to be able to hear what he is saying.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hope this time we are going to get a real answer.

Not only does that referral office duplicate the work of the previous Liberal government's going to Canada immigration portal, but it offers no additional value to those who seek help. This is a far cry from what the Conservatives promised during the last election.

Why will this parliamentary secretary not admit that the government broke another promise and it is incapable of delivering what it promised?

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, once again, nothing can be further from the truth. The office is functional. It is working. It is a task finding and referral service through a dedicated phone line. It has in person service centres in various places: Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax.

There are pilot orientation sessions overseas in China, the Philippines and India. We are training more officers, more personnel, 320 in service centres, that will be operating by the end of 2007. We are getting the job done.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister. On May 29, 2007, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration with much fanfare announced her solution to the issue of lost Canadians.

According to the minister, this magic date is January 1, 1947. The second world war ended in 1945. The war babies, children of Canadian servicemen who fought for our freedom, were born before 1947.

When will the Prime Minister instruct this incompetent minister to withdraw the appeal of the Joe Taylor case and recognize Joe Taylor and others like him as Canadian citizens?

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the issue of lost Canadians goes back for a long time. For at least 13 years it was in existence and that member and other members did nothing about that.

This particular minister has indicated in a practical way what will be happening and has said there will be legislation coming in the fall to deal with this issue.

Mr. Chapman, who is a champion of lost Canadians, said, “Obviously there are a lot of things in there that please me. Overall it's a wonderful start. This is a jump start forward. There's no question about it, we're starting down the road on a much better path than we were before”. Those issues will be addressed.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, we just heard from Tweedledum. Maybe now we will hear from Tweedledee. In her announcement the minister stated:

--anyone born to a Canadian citizen abroad...is a Canadian citizen and will have their citizenship confirmed if they are the first generation born abroad. But no further.

This dishonest government is denying the birthright of Canadian children if they and their parents were born outside Canada.

When will the Prime Minister recognize that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, and stop playing with our children's birthright? When will the Prime Minister instruct this--

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the Minister through proposed legislation is saying: --anyone born in Canada on or after January 1, 1947, anyone born to a Canadian citizen abroad, mother or father, in or out of wedlock on or after January 1, 1947, will be given citizenship, it will be confirmed, notwithstanding the losing provisions under the act.

In addition, she said she would use her discretionary powers under section 5(4) for those cases that require it. Here is what Mr. Charles Bosdet said, “It is the most extensive proposal by far of anything I know of proposed for citizenship in the last few years, short of actually rewriting the entire Citizenship Act”.

Just be patient--

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

CFB BagotvilleOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the weekend, Colonel Pierre Ruel, Commander at CFB Bagotville, said that the restoration of the primary runway was his top priority since the structure has almost reached the end of its operational life. He went on to say that the future of 3 Wing Bagotville depended on it.

Why did the minister responsible for regional development announce that the work would begin in 2009, when the base commander said that for safety reasons the work needs to start right away?

CFB BagotvilleOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale B.C.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the member raises the issue of recruitment and training. I want to emphasize for the House and for the member opposite that we are having a great deal of success when it comes to recruiting and training. One of our commitments in the last election was to increase the regular forces by 13,000 and the reserve forces by 10,000. We are making great progress in achieving that goal.

Marine TransportationOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, the disappearance of the winter marine link between the Magdalen Islands and Prince Edward Island has really complicated the lives of Magdalen Islanders. The people of the islands have bemoaned this situation year after year, yet the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities does not seem to care. Last week, a delegation from the Magdalen Islands met with Transport Canada representatives to work on bringing a permanent marine link into service.

What will the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities do to respond to their demands?

Marine TransportationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his question.

He is right in saying that last week, I had the pleasure of meeting with the delegation from the Magdalen Islands, including, of course, Mayor Arseneau. We agreed to take a close look at the changes that have taken place in the years since the last study. We agreed to meet again to decide on a plan of action.

Natural ResourcesOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, on Monday, North Dakota turned on the tap to drain Devils Lake into Canadian waters for the first time in over two years.

Two years after Canada and the United States reached an agreement to install an advance filter to prevent invasive species and pollutants from entering our waterways, we are still waiting for the installation to be done. When I asked about this issue in the House last month, the Minister of the Environment laughed and brushed off my concerns.

Why has the government not asked the United States to turn off the tap until it honours its agreement?

Natural ResourcesOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I did no such thing. We take this issue of Devils Lake incredibly seriously.

With the President of the Treasury Board, I met earlier this week with Christine Melnick, the minister of water stewardship. She asked two things of the federal government. I was happy to agree to do both within 24 hours.

HealthOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Liberal MP for Bramalea—Gore—Malton made a statement in the House praising Rick Hansen for his dedication to raising research funding to treat spinal cord injuries. Yet this week the member voted against a budget that gave the Rick Hansen Foundation $30 million to continue its important work.

Could the Minister of Health convey to the House what will happen to that funding if the Liberal Senate delays the adoption of Bill C-52?

HealthOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, I want to add my voice to those in the House, including the hon. member for Bramalea—Gore—Malton, to pay tribute to the Man in Motion, a true Canadian hero, Rick Hansen.

The fact is in our budget bill is a $30 million amount for spinal cord injury research, transition research, which is necessary to bring Canada to the forefront when it comes to this kind of research. If that budget bill is not passed by the Liberal dominated Senate, that will not be part of Canada's legacy. If the senators will not do it for us and for Canadians, they should do it for Rick.

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, the United States coast guard is firing live ammunition in Canadian waters off the B.C. coast. These exercises have been recently conducted in the vicinity of the famous J pod of orcas, with whale watching boats of tourists and biologists nearby. Gun boats and whale boats do not belong in the same waters.

When will the government stand up for Canada and stop American live fire exercises that endanger our orcas, our visitors and our tourist industry? Will the Minister of Public Safety

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale B.C.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the military has these exercises on a regular basis to provide training opportunities for our forces. At every opportunity, especially those related to the training exercises offshore, we do our best to address environmental concerns.

I can assure the member opposite that this has in fact happened in this instance. She can put her concerns to rest about this issue.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, in spite of the fact that Omar Khadr was a 15-year-old teenager at the time he was accused of being a terrorist, in spite of the fact that Australia, Germany, France and the U.K. have all mounted successful opposition to the unjust military tribunal system, in spite of the fact that he is the only Canadian at Guantanamo Bay, not once has the government, has Canada protested the use of the military commissions, nor done anything to get him home.

If the British, Australians, French and Germans could get protection from the government, why will the Conservatives not do something for a Canadian in need at this time?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Vancouver Kingsway B.C.

Conservative

David Emerson ConservativeMinister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, I think the House knows the allegations against Mr. Khadr are very serious. The question of accepting a repatriation of Mr. Khadr is premature and it is speculative at this time.

My colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, has spoken directly to the Secretary of State about Mr. Khadr's well-being and has requested greater access to both his family and legal counsel and educational material for him. Foreign Affairs officials have carried out several welfare visits with Mr. Khadr and will continue to do so.

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, once again Prince Edward Island fishers have been dealt a devastating blow by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Yesterday the minister announced this year's total allowable catch for the Gulf of St. Lawrence Atlantic halibut, including changes that will practically eliminate island fishers the opportunity to participate in this fishery.

When will the Minister of Fisheries treat Prince Edward Island like a province and when will the minister treat the island fishers like other fishers across this nation?

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

3 p.m.

St. John's South—Mount Pearl Newfoundland & Labrador

Conservative

Loyola Hearn ConservativeMinister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, one of the places in our great country, which is very near and dear to my heart, is Prince Edward Island. I have spent a lot of time there dealing with the fishermen.

I have a number of letters, including three “thank you” cards, signed by hundreds of fishermen for helping them out. I even helped put some wharves in the member's riding.

The quotas were set based upon history. That is the right and proper way to do it.

The BudgetOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, unelected Liberal senators continue their open defiance against the Liberal leader, saying they intend to delay passing the budget bill and may even amend it, creating a longer delay and resulting in the loss of critical funding. The opposition leader himself said that at the end of the day, a budget would be the budget the House had voted.

Could the Minister of International Cooperation give the House an example of funding that will be lost if the unaccountable Liberal Senate decides to undermine democracy and its own self-proclaimed influential leader by delaying the passage of this budget?

The BudgetOral Questions

3 p.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner ConservativeMinister of International Cooperation and Minister for la Francophonie and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, this is an important issue.

In the Budget Implementation Act, 2007, we committed to giving $135 million to reconstruction and development in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, unelected Liberal senators are delaying Bill C-52.

We hope that the opposition members will support our development efforts for the Afghan people. Were they not the first to demand more money for reconstruction and development in Afghanistan and Kandahar?

International TradeOral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Thibault Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, to the detriment of Quebec and Canadian companies and citizens, the Conservative government keeps accommodating the United States: a sellout agreement on softwood lumber; the implementation of new CFIA standards that penalize our beef producers, while their U.S. competitors will benefit slightly from the situation; and, finally, the U.S. government's announcement that its nationals will only need a simple piece of identification with a small receipt, while our nationals continue to line up at Passport Canada to satisfy U.S. requirements.

When will the Conservative government stop agreeing to be a slave to the U.S. government and start defending the interests of the public—

International TradeOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. Minister of International Trade.

International TradeOral Questions

3 p.m.

Vancouver Kingsway B.C.

Conservative

David Emerson ConservativeMinister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member will know that without the softwood lumber agreement, the lumber industry in Canada would be flat on its back, even worse than it is today. We are working closely with the United States to improve cross-border travel to ensure that identification requirements are secure as well as facilitative of cross-border traffic. We will continue to do that.

We will work constructively with the United States.

The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

It being 3:05 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Bill C-11 and the Senate amendments.

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

Vote #206

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, amendments read the second time and concurred in)

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I wish to inform the House that because of the deferred recorded division, government orders will be extended by eight minutes.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a very precise question. I wonder if the government House leader is today in a position to deal with Bill C-62, the wage earner protection program?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I will be happy to address that in the affirmative in a moment but there is more that we should know about in terms of the business we are doing.

We will continue today with Bill C-42, the quarantine act, Bill C-58, the railway transportation bill and Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (non-registration of firearms that are neither prohibited nor restricted).

Tonight we have the emergency debate pursuant to Standing Order 52 that the Speaker has determined should proceed.

On Friday we will call Bill C-33, the income tax bill and Bill C-6, the aeronautics bill.

Next week is got the job done week when the House has completed the nation's business for this spring's session. During the got the job done week we will continue and hopefully complete the business from this week, as well as some new legislation and legislation that will be out of committee or the Senate.

The list of bills that are currently on the order paper, in addition to those I have identified for this week that I would like to see completed by the House before the summer recess are: Senate amendments to Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act.

There are also the following bills: Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts; Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Bill C-53, An Act to implement the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID Convention).

Another bill includes Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (accountability with respect to loans).

By the end of next week, Canadians expect that the Senate will have completed its consideration of budget Bill C-52 without any amendments so that they can relax for the summer with the knowledge that $4.3 billion in the 2006-07 year end measures will be in play.

If there are amendments, we will have to be here in the House to respond and protect measures that might otherwise be lost, such as a $1.5 billion for the Canada ecotrust for clean air and climate change; $600 million for patient wait times guarantees; $400 million for the Canada infoway; $100 million for the CANARIE project to maintain the research broadband network linking Canadian universities and research hospitals; $200 million for protection of endangered spaces; and much more.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations with respect to the wage earner protection bill, to which the Liberal House leader referred, and I believe you would find unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of this House, Bill C-62, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, the Wage Earner Protection Program Act and chapter 47 of the Statutes of Canada, 2005 shall be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to a committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at the report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Was that Bill C-62? I did not hear the terms of the motion.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I will read the motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of this House, Bill C-62, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, the Wage Earner Protection Program Act and chapter 47 of the Statutes of Canada, 2005, shall be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole, deemed considered in Committee of the Whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at the report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

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

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time, considered in committee of the whole, reported, concurred in, read the third time and passed)

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Zed Liberal Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place among members and parties with respect to Bill C-440, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act, which, as members know, is for mail free of postage to and from members of the Canadian armed forces, that was introduced in the House of Commons on May 8.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that if you were to seek it you would find consent for the following motion to support our troops and their families: That notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-440 be deemed to have been read a second time, referred to a committee of the whole, reported without amendment, concurred in at report stage and read a third time and passed.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Saint John have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Government Operations and EstimatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Diane Marleau Liberal Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates met earlier today to consider the certificate of nomination of Christiane Ouimet to the position of Public Sector Integrity Commissioner and the committee agreed that said nomination be concurred in.

Therefore, we seek unanimous consent that the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates dealing with the certificate of nomination of Christiane Ouimet to the position of Public Sector Integrity Commissioner be deemed tabled and concurred in.

Government Operations and EstimatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is it agreed?

Government Operations and EstimatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Government Operations and EstimatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act, be read the third time and passed.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I was only a couple of minutes into my speech before members' statements and oral questions, and I was just getting to the good part of it too. As I was saying, under the leadership of the Minister of Health, the government decided to put forward two amendments to Bill C-42. One requires advance notification by land conveyance operators. The other addresses potential confusion with respect to the availability of a due diligence defence for all operators. These amendments reflect the commitment of the minister and this government to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

The first amendment would revert to the original definition of conveyance operator as found in the Quarantine Act. This means that all conveyance operators in the business of transporting cargo and passengers, including buses, trucks and trains, would need to alert a quarantine officer in advance of their arrival in Canada should they suspect a person or thing on board could cause the spread of a listed communicable disease, or if a person has died.

Land conveyance operators, like air and marine, would only be required to inform a quarantine officer of a public health problem on board as specified in section 34. They would not have to perform health assessments.

This advance notice is critically important as it permits an appropriate response to health emergencies on board conveyances and permits the minister to divert conveyances before arrival, if required, to protect the health of Canadians. This would be over and above what the international health regulations require for advance notification, as member states need only to impose this obligation on air and marine conveyances.

As a signatory to the international health regulations, Canada fully intends to meet its international obligations under the instrument. In addition, Canada is prepared to go a step further. The obligations for land conveyance operators will be the exact same as those for air and marine conveyance operators engaged in the business of carrying passengers or cargo.

For conveyances travelling to Canada, conveyance operators will be required to notify a quarantine officer in accordance with the requirements in section 34, even before they arrive in Canada. The obligation to provide this advance notification continues until the conveyance “lands”, so to speak, at its first destination in Canada. For air and marine conveyances, this will be the first airport or port at which the conveyance touches down or docks.

We will also work to make it relatively easy for industry to meet its obligations under section 34.

To implement this requirement in a simple fashion, the quarantine program will develop an information bulletin that will explain what to look for in terms of symptoms, and provide a 1-800 number to call to reach a quarantine officer 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As well, an awareness campaign will be undertaken to inform land conveyance operators of the requirements in Bill C-42. Taken together, the use of a 1-800 number and the awareness campaign will make notification as simple as possible for conveyance operators.

Further, by having early warning of communicable disease threats approaching our borders, we may be able to ease the flow of cross-border traffic. Traffic flow could be eased, as early warning would allow authorities to direct travellers who are suspected of having a listed communicable disease to areas where they could be looked at quickly, while other border traffic continues unimpeded.

This amendment therefore strikes a balance between protecting Canadians from the threat of dangerous communicable diseases, and facilitating the movement of persons and goods across our international borders.

We are also proposing a second amendment to Bill C-42 to clarify that the common law defence of due diligence applies to all conveyance operators. This common law defence was always intended to be preserved in the Quarantine Act.

When we examined the language of subsection 34(4) in Bill C-42, we realized that our intention to preserve the due diligence defence was not entirely clear. Under the charter an accused person has the right to invoke such a defence if facing the possible penalty of imprisonment.

For an offence under section 34, conveyance operators could face up to six months in jail as a potential penalty. Clarifying that all conveyance operators have access to the common law due diligence defence will ensure that the charter rights of those who have made all reasonable efforts to comply with the law are protected.

It is important that we make sure that conveyance operators who make all reasonable efforts to comply with the advance notification requirements know that the defence normally associated with such efforts remains available to them.

Consequently, the second amendment will ensure it is clear that a reasonable effort defence remains available to all conveyance operators that make all reasonable efforts to comply with the requirements in section 34.

We are constantly striving to give Canada the best public health system in order to protect the health and safety of all Canadians.

Through these amendments, Canada will have the most complete advance notification requirements in the world for quarantine purposes.

I feel very strongly that a comprehensive set of legislative tools needs to be available with the intent to protect the health of Canadians so as to avoid the human tragedy and economic and social disruption that would inevitably accompany another event such as SARS.

Consequently, I am seeking hon. members' support to provide Canadians with a greater standard of protection from the threat of dangerous communicable diseases spread via land conveyances. I am therefore asking today for members' support for Bill C-42, as reported from the Standing Committee on Health.

I want to congratulate the Standing Committee on Health for its hard work with respect to Bill C-42. The committee's work on Bill C-42 is a fine example of what parliamentarians can accomplish through the spirit of cooperation and mutual respect for one another's opinions and points of view.

I call upon my hon. colleagues in this House to support the amendments and ask for their cooperation in securing speedy passage of the bill.

Again, it was a great pleasure working with the Standing Committee on Health on this important bill. It was a pleasure to have worked hand in hand with members from across the country from coast to coast to coast, and from each party to ensure that these amendments were brought forward and ensure successful passage of the bill.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, certainly it is a very important bill. The reporting requirement under the bill is restricted to aircraft and commercial watercraft only. That means truck traffic and rail traffic, cargo that crosses our border every day is exempt from the reporting requirements.

I think Canadians and parliamentarians would be interested to know what the relative magnitude and historic risk indicators have been to convince the government that these exemptions would be appropriate.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, I encourage the member to read the amendments. In fact he is completely wrong.

Section 34 now reads to include land conveyances. That is what the committee came up with. The government and all committee members had a very thoughtful discussion on this issue. We were able to come up with wording that addresses the member's concern, and more important, meets the health and safety of all Canadians.

The Minister of Health's leadership in this area was tremendous. I would also like to thank the opposition health critic, the member for Oakville, for her help in this matter and the Bloc health critic and the NDP health critic as well.

This is an excellent example of how the parliamentary process can work in a minority Parliament. I am very pleased and honoured to have had the opportunity to work with the committee.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to split my time with my colleague, the member for Thornhill.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is there unanimous consent?

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. member

Agreed.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of Bill C-42.

Through the cooperation of all members on the health committee, we have together managed to amend and reach consensus on the bill and have done so in a timely fashion. I commend the committee chair, the parliamentary secretary and all the members of the committee for their efforts in this regard.

As has been mentioned, we amended the bill in committee and our amendments will bring section 34 of the Quarantine Act into force. Section 34 deals with reporting requirements of those persons entering Canada who have knowledge or suspicion that they or their passengers or cargo are carrying communicable diseases that could pose a health risk to Canadians. It imposes similar reporting requirements on those leaving Canada as well.

When the first Quarantine Act was passed in 2005, section 34 was not brought into force pending the development of appropriate regulations to deal effectively and efficiently with the act's reporting requirements.

Bill C-42 addresses these regulatory needs. It does so primarily by requiring those subject to the reporting requirements of section 34 to make their reports as soon as possible before arriving in Canada and that their reports be given directly or indirectly to a quarantine officer.

It is interesting to note that Bill C-42 as originally introduced by the government presented an odd dichotomy. On the one hand certain provisions of the bill constituted a slight strengthening of the reporting requirements, yet at the same time, the original bill sought to exclude those who enter Canada by land from any reporting requirements whatsoever.

Given that the majority of passengers and cargo entering Canada come across land via the United States, the net effect of Bill C-42 as originally tabled was to reduce the safety of Canadians. We would have been at heightened risk of exposure to communicable diseases when the entire purpose of the Quarantine Act is to protect Canadians from such risks.

Why would the government propose a regulatory change that threatened the safety of Canadians? It turns out that it is the same reason that the government has decided to harmonize the allowable limits on residual pesticide levels on our foods with the limits of the United States and Mexico.

Big business considers regulatory differences between Canada and the less restrictive American regime to be a trade irritant. In other words, our health might be jeopardized because our current health standards are impinging upon the seamless operations of transnational corporations.

In the case of pesticide residue on our food, we have been assured by the Minister of Health that Canada's new harmonized limits will be based on science and therefore ensure the safety of Canadians. However, one is left wondering what our current limits are based on if not on science.

The minister also assures us that Canada has and will maintain the highest standard of safety for pesticides and other toxins. However, Canada's current standards only seem appropriate when compared to the United States where 40% of regulated pesticide limits are higher than ours.

America's standards are set by the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency that was reorganized by the Bush administration and which has since been condemned by scientists within the United States for its “inappropriately cozy relationship with industry”.

A quick glance at Europe reveals a different view of Canada's standards. For example, our current limit on permethrin is 400 times higher than in Europe, and the Canadian cap on methoxyclor is 1,400 times higher. Canada's current pesticide limits are “middle of the pack” at best and now are about to be compromised further.

As Bill C-42 also demonstrates, if left unchecked, those interested in business deregulation can expose Canadians to health risks in their zeal for business fluidity.

What is the impetus behind these kinds of regulatory changes? It is an industry initiative called smart regulation, in which Mexican and Canadian regulatory regimes are being harmonized with those of the United States. What is rarely mentioned is that this effort is being organized through the security and prosperity partnership.

This international agreement was initiated in 2005 by the Governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico. It was the brainchild of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and its American counterpart, which want deep integration of the Canadian and American economies, military and culture.

This would include uniform regulatory regimes for a wide array of products and services, including food, drugs and environmental protection. It would include increased interoperability between the Canadian and American military. It would include a continental energy pact, whereby Canada would guarantee America's access to our energy resources and force Canadians to compete with Americans for our own electricity as we do now for our oil and gas.

It would include a North American security perimeter that could erode the civil liberties of our citizens. It would include common immigration and environmental policies and a host of other policies that together would dramatically undermine the sovereignty and autonomy of Canada and its citizens.

The participants in the security and prosperity partnership are well aware that this agenda would lack broad public support and have therefore committed themselves to what they call “integration by stealth”. The SPP is not a signed treaty and has never been brought before the legislatures of the three nations for discussion or for committee oversight. Its implementation is being coordinated not by parliaments, not by a broad spectrum of social groups, but by the North American Competitiveness Council, a working group of 30 corporate CEOs, 10 from Mexico, 10 from Canada, and 10 from the U.S.

This group meets regularly behind closed doors with senior government officials and ministers. One of its key objectives is business deregulation and harmonization, yet no other stakeholders have been given a seat at the table and the meeting minutes are not made public. Even more disturbing is that two out of the 10 representatives of Canada are actually American citizens.

The entire security and prosperity partnership is so profoundly undemocratic that 14 U.S. states to date have passed resolutions demanding that the U.S. Congress act to cease America's involvement. The impending changes to Canada's pesticide residue levels are just one small element in an ongoing effort to harmonize Canadian and American regulations in the interests of powerful businesses.

The Canadian government needs to replace corporate control over this partnership with a democratic process that involves parliamentary oversight and public input. It needs to ensure that efforts to reshape our nation are fully transparent and in the interests of all Canadians, not just an economically powerful few.

Fortunately for us, in the case of Bill C-42 the regulatory changes being sought required an amendment to legislation. This brought the changes to the attention of parliamentarians, and in committee we were able to reinstate the reporting requirements for those entering Canada by land.

However, one has to wonder, given the broad scope of the security and prosperity partnership, and given the speed at which its various working groups are proceeding, how many potentially harmful regulatory changes have already been made that might have escaped parliamentary oversight and input from Canadian stakeholders?

As noted at the outset, I am pleased that all members of the health committee worked quickly and cooperatively to reverse the potentially harmful nature of this bill as originally tabled. The resulting legislation will ensure that the health of Canadians is given priority over commercial interests and, as such, I am happy to support it.

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3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier I asked a question about Bill C-42. The copy of the bill that is being distributed by the pages is actually the first reading bill that was passed at second reading and moved to committee.

Maybe the member can confirm that the bill was not reprinted as a consequence of amendments made at committee and that the amendment made at committee was, I believe, amending line 8 on page 1 with “a conveyance that is used”. Is it the member's recollection from committee that the amendment made to include trucks and rail was to just refer to “a conveyance” rather than to “air and watercraft”?

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3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not remember if we ordered the bill reprinted. I have to assume that if he has the first reading bill, it is simply an oversight.

However, I remember clearly from committee that the original bill said “air and sea conveyances” and that is what triggered our reaction to it, because we knew that the original Bill C-12 said “all conveyances” or “a conveyance”, implying anything that carried people or goods. My understanding and memory of the committee work is that we restored the idea of “a conveyance” and that is taken to cover any conveyance: land, sea or air.

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3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act, as it has recently been the focus for the health committee, of which I am the vice-chair. I believe that this bill, as amended in committee, warrants our support and passage in the House today. This important legislation is invaluable to the health and safety of Canadians, our top priority.

Only four short years ago this country was devastated by a SARS epidemic that led to 45 deaths in Canada, not to mention the enormous impact on our health care system and economy. One of the most serious consequences of the violent spread of a life-threatening disease is the fear and panic that it causes for Canadians.

The fear that plagued Canadians during the SARS outbreak was enormous. A deadly virus was spreading in our largest city and it seemed as though it could not be stopped or contained. The fortunate critical lesson we learned, and it was unfortunate as well, with the devastating tragedy and the loss of innocent lives, is that Canada is not immune to communicable diseases.

As a result of this catastrophic situation, Canada received a serious wake-up call and moved quickly to establish the needed tools in the management of disease, virus prevention and containment. The Quarantine Act, along with the passage of Bill C-42 as amended, is vital in protecting the health, wellness and lives of Canadians.

Prior to the new Quarantine Act, which had been given royal assent on May 13, 2005, legislation had not been modernized since 1872, five years after Confederation. In a globalized 21st century world that has come to know about the very detrimental rapid effects of the spread of influenza, the West Nile virus, et cetera, the original legislation in 1872 was greatly outdated and ill-equipped to deal with a SARS pandemic. In our increasingly smaller modern world where we move across borders within the global community, we must be ever vigilant and aggressive in taking preventive and protective measures to safeguard the health of Canadians.

The Quarantine Act was born in the wake of the SARS disaster and was introduced by our previous Liberal government in October 2004. As I mentioned, the Quarantine Act received royal assent in May 2005, though without this proposed section 34. Section 34 of the Quarantine Act requires advanced reporting from conveyance operators. Bill C-42 has ironed out the areas of concern that have been raised which originally held back this portion of the legislation and brings the Quarantine Act to completion.

I fully support Bill C-42 as amended. Bill C-42 was presented to the health committee with the government proposing to omit land conveyances from the act. After careful review and examination, my colleagues and I were in favour of ensuring that land conveyances are included in the mandatory reporting by conveyance operators in proposed section 34. This is paramount, as the legislation as amended and combined adds enhanced protection to Canada's public health system, and I truly believe that including land conveyances in the list of air and water transportation is an essential element of the act and will further enhance the safety of all Canadians.

Bill C-42 also streamlines the process of reporting by conveyance operators as the legislation requires that these individuals report directly to quarantine officers “as soon as possible” before a conveyance arrives at a destination if there is any suspicion whatsoever that any person, cargo or other thing on board the conveyance could cause the spread of communicable disease listed in the schedule, or a person on board the conveyance has died, or any prescribed circumstances exist.

The process of reporting these outlined instances to a centralized system of special quarantine officers “as soon as possible” closes up any holes by emphasizing the parties who must be in communication with one another and by eliminating any potential discrepancy of timing, as the legislation currently states that conveyance operators must report any suspicious incidents immediately, which was not good enough.

Finally, the bill, as amended, also adds the words “as soon as possible before” in proposed section 34; where a conveyance departs from Canada through a departure point, the operator must disclose any circumstances of concern. Once again, this emphasizes the urgency of reporting before the conveyance departs from the country of origin and crosses the border.

I would like to acknowledge that there is no time more appropriate than the present to pass Bill C-42 in the House. Only a few weeks ago, an Atlanta man with a rare strain of highly contagious tuberculosis boarded an aircraft from Europe to Montreal. He rented a car in Canada and drove back to his home in the United States. In the final step of his journey to the U.S., this individual used ground transportation to cross the Canada-U.S. border.

This case highlights several reasons why Bill C-42, as amended, must be supported and why this act is so critical to the health of Canadians and others, those in the United States as well. Although we hope people will self-report communicable diseases, it is clear that we cannot rely on this. We must have measures firmly in place.

While studying this bill in committee and upon debating whether or not land conveyances should be listed in section 34--as it was proposed by the government to delete them--one witness remarked that the exemption of land conveyances was justified as the risk of disease spreading from Canada's only land crossing to the U.S. was minimal. With the new information resulting from this recent TB case, we are now aware of the reality. There is enough of a risk between Canada and the U.S. to have firm, clear measures in place. We cannot take the chance with Canadians' health.

This recent incident of travel from Canada to the United States by land is a clear example reflecting how important this act is. If one individual can go from Canada to the U.S. with a communicable disease, then in fact there is a threat of disease spreading by land both ways. Again, it only takes one such person or incident to put people in both nations at risk.

As we have seen with the case of TB, sometimes that one person will not be willing or cooperative enough to self-report. Therefore, we must have mechanisms in place to prevent the spread of disease, and we need the strongest legislation possible.

Even more telling of the urgency to make sure that the Quarantine Act errs on the side of caution and covers all modes of transportation is that in Canada alone 266,000 travellers a day are coming in through 119 border crossing stations and international airports. The sheer quantity of travel activity is impossible to contain completely, and we all know that when we are dealing with such high volumes on a daily basis nothing can be guaranteed.

That being said, we must do everything possible to avert this type of catastrophe. This was one of the reasons why I, along with others, strongly advocated for land conveyances to be listed and included, as we had it originally, in addition to air and water travel. Given the daily activity of entry into Canada, we should have as many mechanisms in place within our control as possible, not fewer but more. When it comes to the public health of Canadians, it simply would be irresponsible on our part to settle for anything less.

The TB case also disproves another testimony that was presented by a witness at the health committee on the issue of self-reporting. The witness placed particular emphasis on individuals' ability to self-report, saying that we could rely on that, negating any need for land conveyances to be listed in the proposed section. As we have seen, we cannot merely count on individuals to self-disclose, rely entirely on the goodwill of people and put all Canadians' health in their hands alone. As we have seen, we cannot afford to take this route. It is far too risky. We must never leave the health and safety of Canadians to chance. Prevention is paramount.

Bill C-42, as amended, provides more protection for Canadians and allows us to better manage public health threats. Canadians look to their government for protection. They expect us to be ready to deal with health risks and they look to us to look out for their interests.

When Bill C-42 was first introduced in the House, I was surprised that it proposed that land conveyances be removed from section 34. I was very concerned that we had forgotten the steep price that we had to pay as a result of the SARS epidemic only a few years ago, in both human lives and economic fallout. I had constituents whose lives were tragically affected by the SARS crisis. The impacts were devastating.

Where possible, I stressed at the committee my views about strengthening the act, not diluting it. Accurate and timely information is a key element to the successful management of health issues and risks. We learned our lesson from SARS. We do not want to have to learn it again. We established the Public Health Agency of Canada. We appointed Canada's first Chief Public Health Officer to coordinate efforts in managing public health concerns.

We can never afford to be complacent when it comes to the safety of Canadians. It cannot be emphasized enough that Canada is not immune to outbreaks of disease and infection. Germs and communicable diseases do not respect borders.

I spoke vigorously, along with other members of committee, at those hearings to put land conveyances back in the legislation because the extra layer of protection that it adds for Canadians is essential to providing comprehensive coverage. It is illogical to list two modes of cross-border transportation while leaving out the third. I believe that when it comes to the safety of Canadians they would agree that this is in their best interests. The more mechanisms we have in place to deal with health risks in this day and age, the better chance we have to protect them.

This additional protection also serves to provide Canadians more assurances that the federal government is covering all the bases. The SARS outbreak caused a sense of panic in Canadians that I hope we will never know again. I want Canadians to have faith that their federal government is doing everything in its power to strengthen public health care safety, because panic and fear can spread even faster than a virus. We must be responsible leaders in doing our utmost to protect Canadians. I support Bill C-42 in realizing that central objective.

Of course, it is impossible to guarantee complete prevention. We do not live in isolation. The world has become smaller and travel has skyrocketed. Globalization and multinational and transnational corporations have made intercontinental travel seamless and a commonplace form of everyday business.

While little in this world, with the multitude of countries, can be 100% foolproof, it is our absolute responsibility to make sure that all parts of our quarantine provisions are tight and coordinated. Canadians need to know that, no matter what, as a federal government we have maximized our ability to protect our citizens. First and foremost, the federal government is accountable to Canadians.

We want to assure Canadians that we are doing our very best to minimize their risk and safeguard their health and well-being. I support Bill C-42 as amended. I believe that it seeks to accomplish this goal.

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3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak on Bill C-42. There was consensus on this bill in our committee. We worked in the best interests of the safety, and especially the health, of people who might be endangered by the transmission of contagious diseases. We need only think of the case that happened recently. A person in the United States had contracted tuberculosis and was at a stage when the disease could have been transmissible and been very contagious.

And so Bill C-42, which amends the Quarantine Act, is a bill that was intended to modernize a piece of legislation that in fact dated from 1872, although some amendments had been made to it in 2005. So the act was amended in 2005. It was modernized in the context of SARS after it hit Toronto, in Ontario. We know that in 2003 we were somewhat concerned about the transmission of SARS.

SARS led to a study, the Naylor report. That report recommended that certain parts of the act be revised to bring it in sync with a society that had changed, particularly in terms of transportation and the movement of goods and people. The act was not suited to meeting these new needs.

We know that the SARS period in Toronto was quite a hard time. Often when there are contagious diseases or an epidemic it can affect the economy of a country or a province. SARS affected the entire community of Toronto and Ontario because of the possibility the disease would spread. People were worried, but the worry was perhaps not grounded in fact. Was the problem exaggerated?

The Naylor report does a thorough review of that situation. The lesson we can take from it, looking in from the outside, is that we were perhaps not prepared to deal with this kind of challenge, to provide good information, and, especially, to make people feel safe. As to the possibility of contagion, SARS may have been a type of virus that it is more difficult to transmit casually, simply by contact with another person. All the same, we have to move forward, and that is why it was thought wise to revise the Quarantine Act in 2005.

Today, once again, we have to do some more work on it. Some of the previous speakers talked about section 34 which sets out the circumstances in which certain actions should be taken. We might think of people who travel frequently by airplane or boat and how we might be more aware of the fact that an individual or goods could be carrying viruses or diseases that could be contracted by people.

Now Bill C-42 seems to be a small bill, judging by the number of pages. It has very few pages, but at the same time the impact of this bill, if it is applied properly, if there are good regulations, could make all the difference, so that situations like SARS or the case of a disease as terrible as tuberculosis, for example, can be handled better. I am shortly going to talk about the case of Andrew Speaker, an American who was infected with a particular strain of tuberculosis. We do not know how far this may go, but we know that he was able to travel.

Here again, we have a bill, but when it comes to the mechanisms we put in place, there are people and authorities who very certainly have responsibilities.

It is necessary to act quickly and not take it lightly. Section 34 as proposed in Bill C-42 sets out the manner in which information is to be transmitted. The operator of an aircraft or land vehicle must first be informed that a carrier of a contagious disease is aboard the aircraft or land vehicle. Section 34 indicates very clearly the obligation to inform the operator of the fact that he could be responsible for the spreading of a disease. It also states how that operator must inform specific authorities that there is a person aboard the aircraft or vehicle who is a danger to the health of others.

The bill is also very specific concerning the operators of certain types of vehicles. The current act calls for the imposition of that obligation to all means of transportation. It goes much further than boats, aircraft and trains because the bill extends to all conveyances used to carry passengers or cargo. That was one of the amendments proposed by the parliamentary secretary and supported by all the members of the committee.

In section 34 of the act, the obligation of an operator to notify the designated authority in a reasonable manner before entering or leaving Canada, is replaced in the bill by an obligation to notify “if it is not possible for the operator to report.” We know very well that if someone is aware and is obliged to report, that party must still have the necessary means of notifying a quarantine officer. Accordingly, the bill provides that an operator must notify a quarantine officer rather than the designated authority, and it obliges the operator to inform the officer as soon as he becomes aware of the situation, but in a context where that is reasonably possible.

The case of Andrew Speaker led us to consider the different obligations of the responsible authorities who must transmit information. We should be concerned about the number of days that elapsed between May 10 and May 25. How was it that Andrew Speaker, who knew very well that he was a carrier of tuberculosis, was still able to leave the United States on May 12, even though he had been told on May 10 that it would preferable for him not to go abroad? Two days later, he left the country and went first to Paris and then to Greece.

However, on May 14, Mr. Speaker informed his doctor by email that he was in Greece. His attending physician knew full well that he had left the United States. On May 18, American health agencies were made aware of the fact that Andrew Speaker was in Greece with his wife. Between May 14—when he informed his doctor—and May 18, there was a danger and nobody, not even the American health agencies, had been notified. In addition, Mr. Speaker was the subject of an international search, and tests showed that he was carrying a form of tuberculosis that was extremely resistant to antibiotics.

Mr. Speaker was contacted in Italy by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. They recommended that he present himself to Italian health authorities and told him not to take a commercial flight. However, Mr. Speaker did not report to the Italian health authorities, thereby breaking the law.

There may well be some legal proceedings. People cannot simply be left to themselves like this. We cannot say to them that they made a mistake but it is not so bad. There are consequences to this. Some people, and some Quebeckers in particular, are currently being subjected to tests by health agencies to determine whether they have contracted this form of tuberculosis. During the two weeks between when Mr. Speaker knew what he had and when he could have acted and turned himself over to the Italian health authorities, he contravened certain restrictions placed on him before leaving.

The American health agencies were told on May 18 that Mr. Speaker was in Greece with his wife. On May 24, the European health authorities and the World Health Organization were given the same information. Between May 18 and May 24, therefore, there was a vacuum between the American health agency and the European authorities and the World Health Organization. Action must be taken when it is known that someone may be dangerous because he is carrying a contagious disease, a communicable disease, like tuberculosis.

The American authorities gave a simple answer: they did not know where Andrew Speaker was. There is a system in place, but it was not rigorously followed. We need to be concerned when we know that there are systems in place but people are lax about following various directives. Did Mr. Speaker infect anybody? We do not know. However, some people have to undergo tests to determine whether they have contracted this disease.

The situation surrounding this case must be clarified. The United States bears some responsibility. If it does not provide information on time, how can the other stakeholders know what is going on? How can the European or Canadian health authorities get involved if they have not been notified? Canada also bears some responsibility. When we passed the bill, we asked the director of the Public Health Agency of Canada whether there could be some provisions in it that would protect us against this kind of situation. Could Canada take legal action against another country that failed to take certain steps? Here too, things were allowed to drift. There is an investigation.

Some American senators are trying to find out what really happened. When I asked Dr. Butler-Jones, the Chief Public Health Officer at the Public Health Agency of Canada, he told me that he was waiting to find out whether there would be an inquiry or an investigation and that there were lessons to be learned from this incident. However, we have to go a bit farther than just learning lessons. We may have to put in place mechanisms to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.

Does the bill need to be improved? We have said it does not. We do not need to improve it, at least, not by creating legislation that could improve this scenario. We will see what happens. I hope that in the coming months, we will learn that a better reporting mechanism has been put in place. A physician can notify his or her patient, but when a physician tells a patient that he or she does not know what sort of virus or infection the patient is suffering from and the physician does not seem worried, how is the patient supposed to react?

Should the patient not be given even just a written notice to prove that the physician really told the patient not to leave the country?

We can see that even if we have a bill with all sorts of guidelines to protect the health and safety of the travelling public and people who come into contact with someone who has a communicable disease, this responsibility must also rest with any individual who could pose a threat to other people's health and safety.

It was time to improve Bill C-42 by amending section 34 so that it applies to people travelling by air, water or land. This bill must provide conveyance operators with guidelines as to their reporting obligations, given the serious consequences of spreading a communicable disease here in Canada.

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4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Québec for her excellent presentation.

The member and the Bloc Québécois faced a considerable challenge when working on the bill before us because it deals with health, which is an area of jurisdiction that belongs to Quebec. Having said that, we recognize that infectious diseases have no borders. Infections can often spread to several countries. Sometimes they spread only through part of a country. SARS is a good example of this. All of Canada was placed on the list of countries affected by SARS. However, it mainly affected Toronto, which is more than six hours by car from Montreal. In my riding of Montreal, the tourism industry was affected because all of Canada, and not just one province or Quebec, was placed on the list.

This clearly shows the need for the cooperation of all countries through the World Health Organization in dealing with infectious diseases. There must also be cooperation among provinces.

I would like to know if the committee had the time to look at this issue. How will federal services, the quarantine officers, cooperate and work with provincial public health organizations to ensure that illnesses are contained to the greatest extent possible, in the interest of all, whether we are from Canada, Quebec or elsewhere in the world?

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4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has raised an important question. Health is a provincial jurisdiction. As it happens, Quebec has had its own health and safety agency since 1998. Canada also has one, the Public Health Agency of Canada.

After SARS and after the creation of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs recommended that a federal agency be created. In April 2004, there was a demand for this public health agency in Canada, and it came into being in 2006.

It is absolutely necessary to work with the public health agencies. Quarantine inspection officers must also have everything they need to be able to act quickly, in the interest of the population. Earlier I raised the case of the American, Mr. Speaker. We do not know everything about this story. I think that there has been some vagueness in the disclosure of information. Yet, people’s safety is involved.

Let us hope that this collaboration will be much more practical. SARS served as an example for crisis management. Later it was realized that the SARS issue had been blown out of proportion and that the impact on the economy had been felt as far as Quebec. Still, we have to have technical data and to know all about the type of infectious disease an individual may be carrying. A series of tests must be done. In this context, the bill provides more precisely for the mechanisms that should be in place. Since 2004, SARS has served as an example.

In committee, I drew attention to Mr. Speaker’s situation and the context in which he was able to travel, even though he had been warned not to. Lessons can be drawn from this case around the world.

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4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the case of Mr. Andrew Speaker, who has the serious communicable form of tuberculosis, raises an imperative about the legislation or need for it.

I know also that representatives of the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Health Canada as well as persons responsible for the security and prosperity partnership issue were at the committee meeting.

Because there was implicitly an exemption for buses, trucks, trains and cars in the original bill, it strikes me that it was possible there was a trade-off between the border considerations and the economic considerations of those priorities with the health of people.

Is the member aware or did she receive any indication from the witnesses at committee that the reason the exemptions were there in the first instance was in fact not inadvertent but deliberate, taking into account objectives other than health and safety?

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4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I remember the various objections that were raised about this bill as written when it was introduced. People were concerned that drivers and passengers in vehicles travelling between the United States and Canada would not have to comply with the requirements of the bill to declare that they were carrying an infectious disease.

However, we have changed things. The parliamentary secretary made an amendment. For example, instead of talking about watercraft, aircraft or conveyances prescribed by regulation, the bill now talks about conveyances. The scope of the bill has been broadened to include any conveyance used commercially or otherwise. That broadens the scope of the bill.

I should say that we were very aware that we would not be able to cover all conveyances, but it is clear that we cannot have a quarantine officer at each border crossing or customs office. Those who raised objections wondered what would happen if someone felt ill or reported illness to customs. There is the obligation to report to customs, and it is actually much easier to comply with than when a sick person is travelling by air or water, because it is much harder to stop an aircraft or watercraft that is already underway.

We took the objections raised by committee members into account. That is why we decided to include an amendment to more fully address the issue of protecting Canadians.

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4:15 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, this was a particularly interesting exercise. We must always put the health of Canadians first. It is important that Canadians are not only safe but that they feel safe.

One of the very important lessons from the exercise that the whole committee has been through is the importance of being vigilant regarding reading the wording very carefully.

The bill was put forward as a housekeeping change and as we hear from members who have spoken, it has turned out to be more than a housekeeping change.

I certainly support the act and I thank my colleagues from the Bloc, the Liberal Party, the parliamentary secretary and the minister for acting very quickly when, as critics, we brought up our concerns about the fact that lands would be removed as a condition of the Quarantine Act.

I can understand updating the bill because we would naturally add air. That did not exist in the Quarantine Act when it was written. However, regarding the removal of lands, when the other critics and myself as the NDP health critic looked at the bill more closely, we realized it probably had a number of other consequences to which we needed to pay attention.

I want to give a brief overview of that. I will use TB as an example because in that particular one many things went wrong. They would not be fixed necessarily by the act because it broke down in many places.

If a noticeably ill person were to fly into Canada, as the individual would have been, get on a bus or a train with very noticeable symptoms, there would have been no responsibility on the part of any staff to report the individual. They would have carried on for some length of time with the other passengers on the train, the bus or whatever, exposing all of these individuals to a potentially communicable disease. That presented for us a great dilemma.

While we did hear from many public health officials that in the space of time it takes to take a flight from London, England to Ottawa, symptoms are unlikely to present themselves. That may be true. However, if a person got on a train in Florida and travelled all the way to Vancouver, there indeed would be time for symptoms to present themselves.

If a person contracted the disease but was not showing symptoms, a week later this person certainly would be. Therefore this person would have exposed a large number of people in a very small contained space to a communicable disease.

I would mention that we see a lot of cross-border traffic between the United States and Canada. We are always glad to have American tourists visit. I assume they are always glad to have Canadian tourists visit. I think we would all agree to that.

We found it unusual at committee that whenever we asked anybody whether this had any connection to the security-prosperity partnership, we were told that none of those people were available to come to talk with us. The health witnesses we spoke to said they did not know anything about it. We became more and more puzzled as this went on.

Getting back to the example of TB, people think of tuberculosis as a disease we do not hear about very much any more. Anybody who grew up in my generation would have seen TB sanatoriums. When I went into nursing in 1961-2, they were just closing, at least in Ontario, because we thought we had beaten it.

Now we are seeing an increase in tuberculosis, particularly in urban areas, perhaps from people from overseas who come from the very tightly packed urban areas which do not have all of the hygienic advantages.

In my own community, the lower mainland or other cities around the country and in the United States, we are seeing an increase in a disease that we once thought had virtually disappeared.

Anything we can do to protect that from spreading is absolutely critical. That is what people elect us for, to ensure that the health committee and people responsible for health, and indeed all parliamentarians, put people's health as a top priority. We make no concessions to that whatsoever.

We did have some discussions. My Liberal colleague raised the question that we have already lowered pesticide, or raised pesticide, a proposal to allow more pesticide because it will make our trade more even with the United States. So we did have to ask ourselves about whether this was related to the security-prosperity partnership which would make it easier for people to cross the border and, therefore, was related to that.

That would be the worst light to put on it. The best light to put on it would be that people simply did not understand when it came out what that really meant. To give credit to the parliamentary secretary and the minister, when it was brought to their attention it was changed very quickly. I absolutely want to acknowledge that.

We are pleased as long as we are clear that land is back in. I was very pleased to hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health who spoke, although he frequently mentioned airports and water, but he did mention land, trains, buses, cars, anything that is crossing the border. If we are crossing on a cart, a tricycle with something behind it, whatever it is, it is a conveyance and therefore there is a responsibility. If someone believes someone is ill and sees symptoms, but none of us are diagnosticians, except diagnosticians, we can all I think recognize when somebody appears very ill.

I think we recently had a circumstance where a person appeared very ill. If land had not been in there and the United States had not acted, although obviously it did not work in that case, but I am sure the Americans are reviewing why that all slipped through the cracks with them. However, we are all much more comfortable with this.

I rise to support this amendment and be very clear that I think it was all the critics who brought this to the parliamentary secretary's attention. The parliamentary secretary did take that to the minister and the fact that land is back in there makes us able to support this, knowing that we have put the health of Canadians first, but we will always very carefully read something that says it is only a housekeeping amendment.

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am looking at the minutes of the health committee meeting. I note that the parliamentary secretary, on the issue of conveyances other or beyond watercraft and aircraft, had somehow explained and he said:

When Bill C-42 was developed, a decision was taken to remove the requirement for advance notification by land conveyance operators, such as buses and trains, and to focus only on air and marine conveyances. This decision was based on an assessment that land conveyances posed a limited threat to Canada.

Even at the time when the issue was first raised, I believe it was raised in debate during second reading, the exemption for trains and buses and trucks, et cetera, seemed to be questionable decisions to have taken.

It goes so far as to say that maybe there was some method in the exemption and whether or not there was a trade off between economic considerations and public safety and health considerations certainly was an issue.

I raise it for the member that the parliamentary secretary himself simply sloughed it off as having a limited threat to Canada. It just does not seem to be a very substantive answer to a significant question. Has the member received from the witnesses some indication to a greater extent that the exemption in fact was an error rather than a decided situation to be put in the bill?

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4:25 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, we had two witnesses with different opinions. My question was, “Will people be healthier as a result of this?” and one person said yes, that there was no risk and the other said, eventually, no.

Again, the argument was put forward that symptoms would not show themselves that quickly. They might not on a plane, but I am quite certain, from my personal health experience and from seeing tuberculosis when it is active, that indeed we may very well see that or another serious communicable disease show itself over the course of five days, or seven days, or the length of time that a person might be on a bus or a train with someone to be infected.

I think that it again shows the importance when someone says it is a housekeeping change. I cannot say whether it was an error or whether it was an economic decision. I can only present the member, as I did, with my experiences and the fact that we were unable to interview anybody from SPP.

However, to point again to my experience, even if someone says it is a housekeeping change, we must always read everything carefully and not treat any document either more lightly or more seriously than any other one.

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4:30 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal member got up and made suggestions in regard to the act. He originally got up and incorrectly stated that the amendments to Bill C-42 did not include land conveyances. However, he continued to suggest otherwise. I wonder if the member could comment on the bill and confirm that it includes land, marine and air.

Before the member comments, let me just say I am quite disappointed in the previous questioner. He had his facts wrong when he first asked his questions, and that is fair enough, sometimes that happens. However, to continue on in that vein time and time again when the Minister of Health has demonstrated leadership on the health of Canadians is very disappointing and I wish the member would not be so partisan.

I wonder if this member could just confirm for everyone that marine, air and land is included in the amendment to Bill C-42.

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4:30 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, yes, it does. I would not be standing here to support it if it did not.

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4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-42. Since the parliamentary secretary is here and just posed a question to me, I will try to deal with that first.

For the first time in thirteen and a half years, when I asked for a bill from the Table so I could look at it, the bill that was delivered to me and other members who had asked for it was a first reading bill. Unless you have seen, Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Health, in its ninth report, reported back to the House two amendments to the bill, which was debated at second reading.

I looked at the minutes of that meeting, which I believe was June 4, and noted that the chair of the committee had asked for the vote on the two amendments and then asked whether the bill should be reported back to the House, and it. However, there was no question on whether the bill should be reprinted. Therefore, we get into this difficulty where there might be a misunderstanding by members in this place, who were not on the committee, when they assume the bill they receive for debate purposes is the bill as amended. There is an opportunity for the committee to ask if the bill should the bill be reprinted, and in this case it was not.

In answer to the member's question, my question was based on the best information available to me by the House. It certainly was not partisan to continue to suggest that land buses, trains and trucks were still exempted. According to a copy of the bill I received, that was the case. However, the committee had made changes to it.

Maybe the member understands now why I asked that question earlier. For future purposes, should a bill not be reprinted after committee where changes have been made, maybe somewhere it should be stamped “amended” or have an addendum that says what the changes are. Sometimes it may be important.

In any event, I think that clears it up for the parliamentary secretary as to why I still thought that subclause 34(1)(a), dealing with the Quarantine Act, still had watercraft and aircraft and now is replaced by the words “a conveyance”.

It does raise an interesting question though. I am not sure whether the bill has a definition section where “conveyance” is a defined term. However, the bill does say that the minister may make regulations. I assume the regulations will proscribe conveyances from time to time, or be amended, and the minister can do that. The amendments made at committee were appropriate and were supported by all parties at the committee.

If we look at the three meetings, we have a bill that makes very modest amendments to the Quarantine Act in terms of their volume, but their impact is much more important because we are talking about health and safety issues.

We have the recent case of Mr. Andrew Speaker, who has a very contagious form of tuberculosis. He travelled from Europe to Canada and then by land conveyance, a car, or a cab or something, and crossed the border into the United States. During that trip, a number of people, particularly those on the aircraft, were exposed to this very dangerous strain of tuberculosis. This enhances the reasons why dealing with this matter was very important. Of course, the bill came forward before that event took place.

Events in our past have taken place which would have some impact on this. Probably the most significant was the SARS experience. Interestingly enough, if we were to look back at some of the detail, we had taken a number of steps to try to address it. Not many of them were very successful because we did not know very much about the disease itself in the first place.

One of the things we did know was it was an imported situation. In fact, it came from a province in China. It also raised an ancillary issue, which was transborder point to Canada turned out to be Taiwan.

As we know, we do not have diplomatic relations with China. Taiwan has been seeking, for a very long time, to at least obtain observer status at the World Health Organization. Its knowledge and technology would have been of significant help had that occurred at a much earlier time. I know there are still efforts being made to do that. However, one of the most significant threats to the Canadian public's health and safety was imported from China, through Taiwan, to Canada.

If we look at the meetings held by the health committee, one of the things I found fascinating was some of the witnesses in committee were representing public safety and security. There was a substantial amount of discussion about the security and prosperity partnership. This is might surprise some members. All of a sudden we were getting involved in an agreement between the United States and Canada, and Mexico was added, with regard to security and prosperity issues.

In fact, it is much broader than that. I understand that at the Cancun meetings in March of last year, some 300 to 400 bilateral activities were identified as being of interest to the security and prosperity partnership, but that it would be very difficult to prioritize them.

I raise this because at second reading the issue of the exemption given for cars, buses, trucks and trains was brought up in debate, but in the bill it was not explicit. It was by exclusion because the bill itself says:

This section applies to the operator of any of the following conveyances:

(a) a watercraft or aircraft that is used in the business of carrying persons or cargo; and

(b) a prescribed conveyance.

A prescribed conveyance is not defined, but I assume this is in a schedule or regulations that may provide other details, which normally are not available to members when they are in debate. The fact that it was specifically watercraft or aircraft led to the question about all the activity of conveyances, not only of persons but of products, fruits, vegetables, meat products and other things. It is a very important area.

I know a number of the members of border communities have been extremely concerned about the economic impact of having delays at the border, what it causes in terms of the backup for people trying to get across the border when trucks are lined up for many reasons.

I talked to a couple of members and raised the question about whether there were conflicting objectives taken into account when Bill C-42 was tabled in the House at first reading, for debate second reading, by the fact that the other conveyances were not named. The conflict is an economic objective pitted against the objective of health and safety.

I noted this in an early question in the House that this matter had been raised at second reading. It was the amendment to change the bill in subclause 34(1)(a) from a watercraft or aircraft and to replace that with a conveyance, which would cover any conveyance of persons or cargo.

I must admit I was taken aback when the parliamentary secretary made an attempt at an explanation. The explanation, as I read into the record, was it was determined, when the bill was done, that land conveyances “posed a limited threat to Canada” and that it was a conscious decision. I quote from the June 4 meeting of the Standing Committee on Health. The parliamentary secretary said:

When Bill C-42 was developed, a decision was taken to remove the requirement for advance notification by land conveyance operators, such as buses and trains, and to focus only on air and marine conveyances. This decision was based on an assessment that land conveyances posed a limited threat to Canada.

When we think about, it is a significant decision to have taken. Consider the volume of activity that goes across the borders between Canada and the U.S., certainly between the U.S and Mexico. If we read the media reports about products, fruit and vegetables, which have been produced in other countries and imported, the produce has been grown with chemicals that have been banned in Canada for a good reason.

In the last report I saw, Canada today imports fruit and vegetables from other countries. The produce has been produced with 10 or 12 chemicals, chemicals that have been banned in Canada, but not in the country of production. The question is an issue of food safety.

With regard to the United States, in the same report it indicated there were fruit and vegetables imported from other countries, which used some 17 chemicals that were banned in the United States.

In terms of using chemicals to treat fruit, vegetable, meat products and anything else, they may not be present in their pure form. The reason they would be banned by a country in the first instance is that the trace elements in those foods may be harmful to the health and safety of Canadians or those who will consume them. That is where a very large number of our imports come by rail and truck.

They are major distribution conveyances other than air or water. I have to question why the decision was taken that there was a limited risk to Canadians when there was some knowledge that there were some serious threats to the health and safety of Canadians by the importation of products which may have come by truck or rail. We have to ask ourselves whether or not those decisions were motivated by some objective other than health or safety.

Those are the reasons I have raised this issue.

I have looked at the evidence given at the health committee. Representatives appeared from the Department of Public Safety and Security as well as the department responsible for trade and the security and prosperity partnership.

The Quarantine Act is a very modest act. It is so small that it was not even reprinted after being amended.

We had some fairly substantive discussions at the Standing Committee on Health on some significant issues of which Canadians probably have very little knowledge.

I have seen some articles on the security and prosperity partnership, often referred to as deep integration with the United States. The Hill Times published a couple of substantial articles on it. For many people it raises a lot more questions than it gives answers.

We now, I believe, as a consequence have amended this bill in section 34(1)(a) to include “a conveyance”, putting that in and replacing “aircraft and watercraft”, and now includes all conveyances that are transporting or conveying persons, cargo or other things which may be a risk to Canadians.

I wanted to raise that because often things happen in committee which have very little to do with a bill. This is a case in point. If members are interested, they may want to look at the proceedings of the June 4 meeting of the Standing Committee on Health. The witnesses gave a detailed history of NAFTA and of the security and prosperity partnership. I am not sure why the primer was given, but I must admit it was very interesting.

The bill is important. I discussed much earlier public health threats such as SARS, but we also know that West Nile virus and the avian influenza are significant risks. There have been discussions about pandemics. Some experts have said it is inevitable that Canada will experience a pandemic. There have been discussions and public pronouncements that there may not be sufficient medications to treat Canadians and that there will be rules about who will have access to these medications. These issues need to be continually looked at.

Canadians need the assurance that public health and safety will not be compromised by economic expediency or by the objectives of another nation. Canadians need to know that Canada's objectives will be firm. We look to the government to give us assurance that when matters come up, public health and safety will not be compromised for economic objectives.

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4:50 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, when the member first asked me his questions, he had his facts completely wrong in respect to section 34. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and explain to him that the act was amended and land conveyances were included in what has been presented.

However, since then the member has continued to suggest things that are simply incorrect. He has admitted to reading the minutes from the health committee's meeting of June 4, 2007. If the member actually had read the minutes, as he has claimed, he would see the amendments presented. The amendments go on for pages in the minutes. Even a brief overview of the minutes would show the amendments presented. Yet, the member claims that he was unaware of the amendments because the minutes were not printed in accordance with his expectations.

He cannot have it both ways. If the member has indeed read the minutes, he will know the amendment was presented and unanimously passed by committee. In fact, I presented the amendments as parliamentary secretary.

Due to the leadership of the health minister, it is abundantly clear that this government takes the health of Canadians very seriously.

And I see the member is looking through the minutes.

Even in the previous version of the act the option of land conveyances was always there; it just was not explicit. The minister had the ability to include conveyances in paragraph 34(1)(b) in the previous act where it just stated “conveyances”.

Dr. David Butler-Jones, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, is quoted extensively in the June 4 committee meeting and in previous meetings as stating that the risk profile for land conveyances from the United States was very low, and that is why it was excluded.

In the interest of absolute clarity and to make sure there are no ifs, ands or buts, as parliamentary secretary on behalf of the minister I made those amendments.

The member spoke of the SPP. He will also see in the minutes from June 4 that the director general of the innovation partnerships branch of the Department of Industry, on page 2 of the minutes, made an extensive presentation dealing with the government's priorities and concerns in regard to this. In every case health is first and foremost.

The member has taken quotes out of context. Obviously, the member has not read the entire minutes. If he had, he would have seen there were amendments. The member should be more careful in taking selective quotes out of what was an extensive consultation.

Would the member agree—

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4:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for Mississauga South.

The hon. member had four minutes out of ten.

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4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, with due respect to the member, he should know that when I was advised that Bill C-42 was coming forward for debate, I asked one of the pages to bring me the bill. The bill that the pages have available for members in fact is the most recent printing of the bill. It is the bill that was debated at second reading. It was in fact the one that has the exemption.

I wanted to understand why there was not another bill, the bill as amended by committee. When I asked the question of the parliamentary secretary, he pointed out to me there were amendments.

Then I went into the lobby and called up the minutes of the June 4 committee meeting, maybe about 20 minutes ago, and that is the first time I saw it, to see that in fact when the amendments were made, after the second amendment was agreed to, the chair asked, “Shall the bill as amended carry? Agreed. Shall the chair report the bill as amended to the House? Agreed”. It was reported back with the amendments in the report of the committee.

The committee chair did not ask the members whether they should reprint the bill. Therefore, there was no reprint. I have explained this twice now to the parliamentary secretary. I do not think it has quite sunk in, but I will keep doing it.

The minutes I have read are the minutes I have read because I wanted to understand why members were not getting the bill.

I raised his quote. The reason they excluded trucks, trains and buses, and I quote him, is that they “posed a limited threat to Canada”. That is what he said to this place. Then he said in his question here and I quote him again, “for absolute clarity we made the amendment to say a conveyance covering all conveyances”.

Including all conveyances, including buses, trucks and trains is not a clarification. It is not a clarification of aircraft and watercraft. It is in fact a very substantial change to the bill. The member again has misled the House. The Conservatives did not want to have those other items in there. They were caught by the member for Oakville for not having included the major conveyance of fruits and vegetables. The member wants to slough it off that for absolute clarity they made the change.

This is not a clarification. This is a substantive change involving the safety, security and health of Canadians. I do not accept for a moment that this is a clarification. It was a change that the government was embarrassed to have to make because it got caught.

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5 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with a great deal of interest to the debate. It was going along quite quietly and nicely, but it suddenly heated up. The member for Mississauga South obviously feels very passionate about what is taking place here.

His speech was very thoughtful and reflective about the importance of this bill and what it is that needs to be done. He actually brought some clarity to the history of this bill and why it needed to be brought forward in the first place in 2006 and why we are now dealing with these amendments today.

I am not a member of the health committee. I have not followed all of the detailed business on this bill. Certainly our member on the committee who spoke earlier has done a great job. She herself has a background in public health. She has a very strong sense of advocacy about what needs to be done to improve public health.

Certainly this issue of transmitted diseases, pandemics and what is the response of a public health authority is a very important matter.

The comment I wanted to put to the member for Mississauga South is that it seems to me while we are dealing with some particular amendments in this bill and because we do have an opportunity to debate the bill today, it does raise the larger question that probably the most important aspect of the work that needs to be done on an ongoing basis--

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5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I do have to allow the hon. member for Mississauga South enough time to reply.

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5 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her input. I always look forward to her commentary because she has a very good grasp of how to bring things back to the important issues.

I would just simply indicate to her that my concern was raised by the testimony of Mr. Paul Haddow, director general of the international affairs departments of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, in which he said, with regard to establishing the priorities for the security-prosperity partnership, that they included developing a pandemic plan for North America for strengthening the cooperation and coordination in the area of emergency preparedness and response and to continue to work on making borders within North America smarter in the sense of achieving the same level of security, but in a way which included the flow of trusted goods and travellers.

It does not include health. It bothered me, it concerns me and we will watch it.

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5 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act. This is an opportunity for us to look at a bit of history at the same time, since the Quarantine Act is probably one of the oldest pieces of public health legislation in North America. We are very aware of this in Quebec. In 2008, we will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of Quebec City. Today, we have a sign: our health critic is in fact the member for Quebec City, and I want to recognize her. Her work on the Standing Committee on Health is outstanding.

This is an opportunity to see the work that we can do in this House: today we are dealing with the text of a law that was first enacted in 1872—and it is important that we remember this.

Public health, like health, has changed considerably over the years. I will offer a little history here. You know that health is a matter within the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces. Over the decades, the federal government has encroached on this jurisdiction, as a matter of political choice. Remember that the universal health care system we have today was set up during the 1960s, at the initiative of a premier of Saskatchewan. This produced the health care system we have today, with all its ups and downs. In the 1960s, even though health was still within the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces, the costs were split. So when the universal health care system we have today was created, the federal government was supposed to foot 50% of the bill. That was the agreement in the beginning.

You understand that because this is a privilege of the provinces, or a matter under their exclusive jurisdiction, the federal government made its contribution by way of transfer payments. That has indeed changed over the years, as successive federal governments, particularly Conservative governments during the 1990s, built up deficits. The Liberals in Pierre Elliott Trudeau's time, however, had also done their bit to increase the deficit.

Consequently, in the beginning, the federal government paid 50% of the bill for our universal health care system, which is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces. This federal-provincial agreement, with the transfer payments, had been properly negotiated. In 1993, in the middle of the big Liberal budget cuts, the federal government's share of health care, through transfer payments, was 13%.

So we have a system, one that was created during the 1960s. In Quebec, it was the time of the Quiet Revolution. It was when the Quebec that we know today emerged. We got on board with the universal health care system, based on one premise: that the federal government, under the agreements signed, would pay for 50% of it. We thought that it was always going to pay 50% of the bill, but as I explained, since this was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces, the federal government used that to withdraw gradually from paying the bill, as its deficits rose. Little by little, we arrived at an agreement whereby in 2010 the federal government should be paying the percentage it was paying in the 1990s. That is the hard reality.

The latest agreement negotiated between the provinces and the federal government aims to re-establish or rebalance its percentage of the bill to what it was paying in 1990. This is one reason why Canadian federalism does not always work—at least in Quebec. Quebeckers learned very quickly that, any time we are dealing with Ottawa, Quebeckers are always the big losers. That is what happened with our health care.

Today we are debating Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act. From a health perspective, it is probably the only file that is truly a federal jurisdiction. A few years ago, we suffered a SARS outbreak, that is, severe acute respiratory syndrome. This disease from outside the country made the entire community, both the provincial and federal health networks, aware of the need to intervene.

In 2005, we therefore decided to make an important amendment to the Quarantine Act, in order to adapt it to the risk of epidemics from outside our borders or epidemics that we might export.

This still surprises me. Many decisions are made in this House and many discussions take place, but all the while, certain realities elude us and manage to slip through all the policies adopted here in Parliament or elsewhere.

At the WTO, discussions are currently underway concerning the agriculture file, which is not yet resolved. In this vast, global free trade system, the agriculture file is one of the most recent issues that the WTO is resolving.

The longer we wait, the more we will see that, theoretically, the only way a person can protect their health is by producing themselves what they eat.

I listened to my colleagues talk earlier about chemicals. The best way a person can protect their health is by one day successfully producing at home everything they put on their table. That is how it will be.

I am always shocked when I see the Liberals and the Conservatives trying to set aside the supply management system put in place by farmers in Quebec and the rest of Canada for dairy products, poultry and eggs. This system balances supply and demand within the provinces and Canada. Yet the Liberals and the Conservatives are tempted to set aside this system, which allows us to meet our own needs for products as important as milk, eggs and butter. These are things we eat every day. They are tempted to set aside this system, because some countries would like to sell us their milk and other products over which we have no control. We have no control over what other countries produce.

Today, we are talking about a bill on quarantine, epidemics and freight movement.

At the same time, we are letting our WTO negotiators set aside supply management, which would allow us to provide for our own needs and produce milk, butter, eggs and chicken, things we eat regularly. We need to be able to self-regulate in this area. Yet the system will probably be set aside one day. The Liberals were prepared to set it aside, and the Conservatives are tempted to do so in order to negotiate with other countries that want to sell us their products. One day, we will no longer be able to produce what we need, and we will have to buy consumer products from other countries, products over which we have no control. We do not know how animals are fed or what is used in producing these products.

This concerns me a great deal. Today, we are discussing a bill on quarantine, a public health bill. As I said earlier, it has been in existence since 1872.

Things were simpler back then. I realize that we must make sweeping changes today because, at the time, people and goods travelled by ship. When there was a quarantine, the ship would raise the quarantine flag. A law had to be adopted to deal with the people and goods on the quarantined ship. Thus, a bill was passed in 1872.

Today, over one hundred years later, we must revise the Quarantine Act. Section 34 establishes what kind of transportation will be covered by this Quarantine Act. It has taken us several years and that is understandable.

Today, this section applies to the operator of any of the following conveyances: a watercraft or aircraft that is used in the business of carrying persons or cargo. We have broadened the scope of the legislation to more than just ships. This had to be done.

In a few centuries from now, we will not be able to accuse the Conservatives of having looked too far into the future. Usually, they look in the rear-view mirror to see what lies ahead. We are recognizing new technologies for transporting goods. That is perfect.

That is why the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-42, which has the merit of involving operators and, as I was saying, “applies to the operator of any of the following conveyances: a watercraft or aircraft that is used in the business of carrying...or cargo”. This makes these carriers and operators take responsibility for their obligation to declare possible quarantines, illnesses or all manner of viruses that may be contained in their cargo, if they are carrying merchandise, or among the human beings travelling on board. This allows us to make adjustments.

However, as I was saying, it also requires us to take a look at our collective conscience. It is all well and good to pass quarantine bills. SARS showed us that despite all the good intentions of our health care systems, we are not sheltered from an epidemic or all sorts of unpredictable diseases. These are things that can happen. The severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS epidemic that happened in 2003, was a sad event that showed us the flaws in our health care system. In my opinion, it was time for Canada to adopt a public health policy together with the provinces. I believe that the Standing Committee on Health did good work in implementing a public health coordination service that is able to intervene and help provinces deal with situations like the one Ontario experienced in 2003. This is good for public health and a good investment for our collective environment.

In the meantime, we never wonder what causes these epidemics. There were others that just fizzled out. Avian flu does not affect people, just animals, and we do not know whether it will affect humans one day or not. The same is true for mad cow disease. It affects animals, but we do not know whether it will affect humans one day. We have to be careful what we import and put on our tables. The main thing we have to take from all of this is that we can now be prepared.

In truth, we are reacting after the fact. SARS struck Ontario in 2003, and that is the reason why we have adopted this bill to amend the Quarantine Act. That is the reality. One day we must try to prevent rather than always trying to cure after the fact. To achieve that, we must ensure that we produce what we put on the tables in this country. That is the hard reality. It is a fine thing to do business with all the other countries of the world, to exchange goods and services, but when it comes to food, to what we produce to put on our tables, one day, our representatives at the WTO must stand up and say that is not negotiable.

Indeed, we cannot allow other countries to send us products, if we cannot be assured of the quality of those products. Genetically modified organisms, GMOs, are already being widely discussed around the world. We must be able to regulate what comes to our tables. Until we can do that, we must ensure that every country is capable of producing what goes onto the tables of its citizens, so that if ever there is an epidemic, a virus or something that stems from the food or the animals that we consume, we will be able to control all of that through our own regulation system.

We are not there yet and I find that disappointing. I say that very politely to everyone. I am disappointed in the way the Liberals defended supply management while they were in power, and the Conservatives are doing the same thing: trying to cast aside supply management. That means if dairy products, eggs, poultry and chicken are removed, there will be no more controls and those products will be imported from abroad. Some day we will be inundated with foreign products because those countries, owing to their population, will be into mass production. At that point, we will no longer be competitive.

One day, we will poison our population. That is what will happen. We will make our own people sick. The new way of doing things will bring viruses. If we do not adopt legislation similar to the bill we are discussing today, then some day we will have to adopt other bills to try to counter those plagues.

It would be easy to ensure consistency in everything we do by adopting bills like the one before us today to modernize the Quarantine Act.

We also have to take a stand with the WTO and say that agriculture—the food we put on Canadians' tables—is not negotiable. We must maintain complete control over the quality of the products we eat. That is the way it is.

We are talking about this for all kinds of reasons, one of which is that in order to make a profit, companies are going too far and genetically modifying products. They want things to grow faster, and they put all kinds of things in there to make them stronger and healthier, but in reality, they are making them less healthful by chemically treating them. That is a fact.

The Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-42 to implement section 34 as amended. I will read section 34 of the Quarantine Act, which will come into force when this bill is passed. I will then read the amendments. Section 34 reads as follows:

34(1) Before arriving in Canada, the operator of a conveyance used in a business of carrying persons or cargo, or of any prescribed conveyance, shall report to the authority designated under paragraph 63(b) situated at the nearest entry point any reasonable grounds to suspect that (a) any person, cargo or other thing on board the conveyance could cause the spreading of a communicable disease listed in the schedule; (b) a person on board the conveyance has died; or (c) any prescribed circumstances exist.

(2) Before departing from Canada throug h a departure point, the operator shall report to the authority designated under paragraph 63(b) situated at the departure point any circumstance referred to in paragraphs (1)(a) to (c) that exists.

(3) If it is not possible for the operator to report before their arrival in or departure from Canada, the report shall be made at the entry or departure point, as the case may be.

(4) The authority shall notify a quarantine officer or an environmental health officer without delay of any report received under this section.

These are the operator's responsibilities, which are to be carried out upon entering or leaving the country.

The amendment introduced today in Bill C-42 completes section 34, which I read earlier.

34 (1) This section applies to the operator of any of the following conveyances:

(a) a watercraft or aircraft that is used in the business of carrying persons or cargo;

...

(2) As soon as possible before a conveyance arrives at its destination in Canada, the operator shall inform a quarantine officer or cause a quarantine officer to be informed of any reasonable grounds to suspect that

(a) any person, cargo or other thing on board the conveyance could cause the spreading of a communicable disease listed in the schedule;

(b) a person on board the conveyance has died;

(c) any prescribed circumstances exist.

...

The original section talked about the operator of a conveyance without specifying the type of conveyance. Now it mentions transportation by watercraft or aircraft. Furthermore, the original section talked about reporting at the entry point and now reporting is done beforehand, as soon as possible, so that quarantine officers are informed before arrival. The situation does not need to be reported upon arrival at the border, it needs to be reported beforehand, as soon as possible.

I want to acknowledge the work of my colleagues in the Standing Committee on Health, the hon. member for Québec, among others, and to say that it is good that we are updating legislation from 1872 to deal with reality.

These are diseases that can be transmitted by virus, epidemic or otherwise. However, it is also important to realize that this bill is a reaction to the SARS epidemic in Ontario in 2003.

I hope the WTO will make good decisions to ensure that our agriculture will be protected, so that the food we put on our tables will protect our constituents and that we will not have to pass another bill one day because we should have realized that what we put on our tables should be produced here, according to our standards, to ensure that food safety and public health are protected.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that XDR-TB is a form of TB that is fatal in roughly 50% of regular cases, and about 90% of the people with HIV-AIDS will also die because of the disease.

We know that a gentleman boarded a flight to Montreal through the CSA and at that time the Czech authorities did not notify the Montreal airport or Canadian authorities prior to this person landing. It seems to me that the report states that the Czech authorities and the Czech airlines knew, because at that time, even though the flight was in the air, they knew that this gentleman had this serious case of XDR-TB.

Section 17 of the existing Quarantine Act provides that every person who contravenes certain sections of the act or regulations is guilty of a summary conviction offence. This component is still in this new revised act, even though it updates a reference to certain sections.

The new act does not seem to really say to the airlines that they have to report. They obviously knew about this person. They had the responsibility to tell the airlines and tell the Canadian health authority that this person arriving in Montreal had this disease and therefore should be under quarantine, so obviously they broke the existing Quarantine Act. I do not know whether the new act would fix the loophole. I do not understand why the Canadian authorities or our government did not charge the airlines that failed to report to Canada what had—

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I have to give the hon. member a couple of minutes to reply. The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel has the floor.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is quite right.

The problem is that the changes to Bill C-42 apply specifically to the operator, therefore the pilot of the aircraft, who will have to make the report. I think we should also ensure that airlines which know about it have to do so. Pilots can always say that they were not informed about the health status of one of their passengers. It is obviously time to ensure, therefore, that airlines are also involved.

As I read Bill C-42, only the operator, that is to say the pilot, is implicated. It could well be, though, that the airline did not tell him. People are always innocent, as we know, until proven guilty. So even if the pilot says that he did not know and was not told, under Bill C-42 he is still responsible. We should ensure that the airlines and all the personnel in charge are also required to follow up.

In clause 71, it says: “Every person who contravenes subsection 6(2), 8(1) or 34(2) or (3) ....” In my view, on the basis of my legal training, “every person” could also include a body corporate, that is to say, the officers of an airline.

This situation is obviously intolerable. I agree completely with my colleague. It is unacceptable for someone who knows that a person has a contagious disease not to inform the people at the destination. At least this bill will require an operator to do so as soon as possible. In this case, he should actually have done so as soon as he found out. I hope that corporations, or the bodies corporate constituted by airlines, can also be included.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel said that the federal government promised a few years ago to contribute about 50% of the costs of the provincial health care systems.

I would like to correct him on that point, if I may, because what the federal government promised to do was contribute 50% of the insured health costs. Insured health costs at that time included hospitals and medical services, such as the medical services plan equivalent in the province of Quebec.

What has caused a great increase in health costs in many of the provinces is the cost of prescription drugs, home care and other services that are not insured. That is why the percentage has gone down. The Liberal government topped it up by $41 billion close to the end of our last mandate. The present government is not doing much for health care.

I wanted to correct that point. It was never the intent of the federal government to cover 50% of all health care costs in each province.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would not like to correct my hon. colleague, but when the health care system was established in Canada, the federal government did promise to cover 50% of the costs. It is false to claim that the government continued to cover 50% of the health care costs even up until last year, and the hon. member knows it.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from May 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (methamphetamine), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am quite pleased to speak to private member's Bill C-428 presented by the member of Parliament for Peace River.

Bill C-428 amends the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in order to “prohibit the production, possession and sale of any substance or any equipment or other material that is intended for use in production of or trafficking in methamphetamine”.

I am supporting this bill at second reading. I am recommending to all members of the Liberal caucus to support it and vote for it at second reading in order that it may be referred to committee for further study.

It is a very short bill. The bill would make it a specific crime to produce, possess or sell substances or equipment intended for use in the production or trafficking of methamphetamine. It does so, as I mentioned, by amendment to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which is Canada's federal drug control statute.

The street name for methamphetamine, because that is essentially what we are talking about, is crystal meth. It is also called ice, crystal, glass, jib and tina, for instance. It is a chemical stimulant that creates a very strong effect on the central nervous system. I would like to give members an example.

There is a study called “Coping with Meth Lab Hazards” by Geoff Betsinger, dated November 2006. It will be presented at a national conference. A DEA study states:

Methamphetamine, like cocaine, is a potent central nervous system stimulant. It can be smoked, snorted, injected or taken orally. It increases the heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and rate of breathing; it dilates the pupils; and [it] produces euphoria, increased alertness, a sense of increased energy, and tremors. High doses or chronic use have been associated with increased nervousness, irritability, and paranoia. Withdrawal from high doses produces severe depression. Methamphetamine can be a lethal, dangerous and unpredictable drug.

The study notes that in large doses there can be aggressive behaviour, auditory hallucinations and paranoia, with delusions and psychosis. These are frequent effects. The study states:

Abusers tend to engage in violent behaviour; mood changes are common and the abuser can change from friendly to hostile rapidly. The paranoia produced by methamphetamine use results in suspiciousness, hyperactive behavior, and dramatic mood swings.

Crystal meth is easy to produce in small, clandestine labs set up in any place from homes to hotel rooms by mixing a cocktail of about 15 chemicals that are usually easily available. The main ingredient for producing crystal meth is pseudoephedrine, a cold remedy, and it is cooked with chemicals commonly found at a hardware store, such as red phosphorus, iodine, ammonia, paint thinner, ether, Drano, and the lithium from batteries. The recipe for crystal meth is widely available on the Internet, but I will not mention the sites.

It can also be very profitable. Police say an investment of about $150 can yield up to $10,000 worth of the drug. While the manufacturing process is relatively simple, it is also toxic and dangerous. Each kilogram of crystal meth produces five to seven kilograms of chemical waste, which is often dumped down the drain or in the backyard. Another byproduct is toxic gases that often can lead to fire or explosions in the lab.

When a crystal meth lab is discovered, a special clandestine drug lab team is brought in to investigate it, as is a chemist from Health Canada who advises on the dismantling of the lab. A house that has contained a crystal meth lab needs to be decontaminated and can remain uninhabitable for months.

In fact, this study that I have mentioned talks about how “the greatest risk of long-term exposure” to crystal meth and the toxic waste byproduct is assumed by “unsuspecting inhabitants of buildings formerly used by clandestine drug laboratory operators where residual contamination may exist inside and outside the structure”.

For instance, we know that in many cases insurance companies will refuse to insure a home rented legally to individuals who established within the home a clandestine lab that resulted in damages. The decontamination will not be covered by the insurance policy even though the owners of the property had no involvement and no knowledge that these illegal activities were taking place on their property.

In Canada the problem of crystal meth production and use seems to be growing. For instance, in 1998 four clandestine crystal meth labs were seized in Canada. By 2003 that figure was up to 37. The World Health Organization says that methamphetamine, after marijuana, is the most widely used illicit drug in the world.

I would like to talk about the previous government, our Liberal government, because it did recognize the growing problem of crystal meth. In August 2005 our government increased the maximum penalties for possession, trafficking, importation, exportation and production of methamphetamine. Our Liberal government move