House of Commons Hansard #77 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was authorities.


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Some hon. members


Foreign AidPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

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Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the agreement of members to go back to this part of the proceedings.

I am presenting a petition from hundreds of citizens in Port Moody, Coquitlam and New Westminster. I am a proud founding member of the Greater Vancouver Gogos. “Gogo” means grandmother in Zulu. This organization wants to see Canada live up to its decades-old pledge to increase aid to 0.7% of GNI.

The petitioners say that Canada, shamefully, ranks fifteenth out of the 22 countries that have made this pledge. They note that 25 million to 30 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV, yet only one in five has access to lifesaving anti-retroviral medication. It is appalling that 1,400 children die every day from AIDS. The petitioners call on the government to allow generic anti-retroviral drugs to be exported to Africa, and they ask the government to honour the pledges that Canada made at Gleneagles in 2005.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence, be read the third time and passed.

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Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta


Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to say that infrastructure is the responsibility of our provincial partners, but the federal government is allocating the most money in 60 years to help our partners and to help the deficit, which the member has brought up.

Indeed, we have developed really good policy, which the member knows--or at least the member who sits on the committee knows--in relation to consultations with the communities. Indeed, board members and council members have to act in the best interests of the city they represent, just like board members of the port have to act in the best interests of the port itself. There is a fiduciary obligation on them to do so.

However, I did notice that the member from the Bloc mentioned earlier that there was no money for the St. Lawrence and Quebec. That is just not true. The St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes even had $15 million allocated some time ago from the government in relation to security, as well as $350 million for climate change for the province of Quebec, $1 billion for security, and $2.1 billion for gateway and border crossings. All of these things are great initiatives by this country, which Quebec, the people of the St. Lawrence and the people of Montreal can take advantage of. All the ports in Quebec can do so.

In relation to the member's comments earlier, he said that the NDP was not trying to obstruct the legislation, so I would ask now for unanimous consent to pass Bill C-23 at all stages.

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Some hon. members


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Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

We know the Liberals are in favour of it. We know the Bloc is in favour of it. We know the Conservatives are in favour of it. Ten per cent of the House is objecting to it: the NDP.

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An hon. member

We are here to do our job and debate it.

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Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Let me say that if the hon. member is not trying to delay the legislation, we know that 90% of the House is in favour of it, as is everyone we heard from, from all cities, all provinces, all municipalities and even the member's own city, the city of Burnaby, as well as the cities of Nanaimo, North Vancouver, Port Alberni and Port Moody. All of these cities have been consulted on this and we have not heard any negative effects of that consultation.

At this stage, if the NDP is not trying to delay it, I would ask for unanimous consent. We know that the other parties will agree, so will the NDP agree to pass Bill C-23 at all stages now?

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The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I must advise the hon. parliamentary secretary that even during his presentation I sensed that there was not unanimous consent, so we will focus on the question he asked and ask the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas to reply to the question. He might want to clarify whether in fact there is unanimous consent for the motion to be moved by the hon. parliamentary secretary.

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Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think you have already ruled on whether you heard unanimous consent or not. I would certainly defer to your expertise. That is your job to make that determination, not mine, and you have already done that, so there is no need to go back to that.

I am interested in what the parliamentary secretary had to say. We are going to do our job in this corner of the House and we are going to raise our concerns. We are not going to be put off that track because we do believe that we have raised serious issues and I can continue to do that.

I thought two things were notable about the commentary from his recent intervention. He said that the government put more money into infrastructure than any government in 60 years. That may well be true, but the reality is that it is not nearly enough.

The FCM, as I have pointed out, has said that there is a $123 billion infrastructure deficit and that the Conservatives have not even approached the very basic need in that regard.

There is a huge problem there. We have seen that the Conservatives have chosen to gut the physical capacity of our government, so that we cannot possibly meet those kinds of needs.

The government has chosen to give big tax breaks to large profitable corporations, instead of seeing to the needs of Canadian communities and their infrastructure needs. I do not think this serves us particularly well. I do not think it is anything to be particularly proud of.

There might be some humility in the ability of not being able to meet the infrastructure needs of Canadians and now we are setting up another major demand on that infrastructure funding by allowing the ports to compete with municipalities for that funding. It does not bode well for the needs of our communities.

He also said that the government had taken great pains to ensure cooperation between port authorities and municipalities, and that the port authority and board members were going to be told that they should operate in the best interests of those municipalities.

The reality is that the people elected to act in the best interests of those municipalities are municipal councillors, the members of city council, the local mayors. It is those people who have a direct mandate from the people of their communities to represent those interests. We believe that they should be very directly involved in the governance of port authorities. Because of that electoral mandate that they have from the people of their communities, they should be involved in that process.

We believe it should not be up to the goodwill of those people who are appointed to the boards of port authorities, but that it should be directly related to the mandates given by people in local elections to municipal elected officials.

That is a very important point I think that needs to be made in all of this and it is a deficiency of the legislation that we are debating today.

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Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has taken, and rightly so, quite a bit of his time to talk about the intersecting set of interests between the port authority and the municipality in Toronto. For example, there is a huge difference of opinion about the island airport as a niche part of the infrastructure. There is a difference between the port authority's attitude toward that and that of the municipal council.

I think this House would agree that those kinds of issues have to result in some sort of a compromise, one that serves the needs of the city. One also must recognize that there is a national strategy with respect to air transportation and there are also strategies with respect to marine. We are talking about marine here.

My question is, would perhaps the approach taken for the airport's authority and how it is appointed be somewhat of a model that might be applicable here, where the municipal council has an opportunity to appoint and put forward appointees that may or may not be accepted by the authority?

They are nominees that are considered for their background of experience from municipal matters and so on. In some cases they may be past members of council and so on, but at least they have a perspective.

Would the member wish to comment with respect to that kind of an approach? Would it be possible, when the national policy framework for strategic gateways is debated, to propose an amendment through that window with respect to changing the appointments process for port authorities?

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Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the member raised the question of the Toronto Island Airport because that has been a significant irritant for the city of Toronto and the local port authority. It is a specific example of the kinds of issues that arise when port authorities have responsibility for non-marine uses, and airports are a non-marine use, as far as I could determine. There are sea planes, I suppose, but I do not think the Toronto Island Airport deals in sea planes either.

That is a very pertinent example of the kinds of problems that we see arise when port authorities do not have to divest themselves of non-marine uses of their lands or developments. That would be a very important example to resolve because we know that the city of Toronto has had a very different perspective than the port authority.

Also, city councillors in Toronto have had some very serious conflicts with the port authority when it comes to how port authority lands will be developed. I know city councillor Adam Vaughan in Toronto has pointed out on a number of occasions the kinds of run-ins he has had on what would seem to be very simple development issues that he has not been able to resolve in a friendly or cooperative way with the port authority. It sometimes has meant that he has ended up in court because of those kinds of measures.

Those are the kinds of things, when we are looking at legislation about port authorities, that we should be seeking to ensure are resolved. That kind of cooperation is part of the mandate in the legislation. Port authorities need to provide that kind of cooperation and their non-marine uses are governed by municipal authorities, the people who are elected by the residents of those communities.

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Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if could inquire as to how much time is available for debate.

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The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for York South—Weston has 20 minutes for debate and then 10 minutes for questions and comments, of which I hope there will be several.

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Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. After I am finished speaking, you may change your mind.

I welcome the opportunity to talk about this particular piece of legislation, particularly with respect to the most recent commentaries made and concerns raised by the member from the Bloc and the member from the New Democratic Party. It behooves us just for a moment to reflect on what has actually happened with respect to marine issues and so on.

Recently, many members of the House were invited to the Corporation of Mid St. Lawrence Pilots where a tape was presented which outlined some of the very up-to-date and extremely important issues related to safety that the pilots associations are having to contend with. The whole issue with respect to security in today's modern milieu has been alluded to by other speakers.

The pilots also talked about the legislative approach that is now challenging us to match a global competitive economy with the infrastructure we have, both legislatively and with the ability to meet our safety responsibilities, and the whole issue with respect to environmental spillage and all those things.

The pilots were really at the forefront of preparing this tape just to remind us that this ancient marine activity, which is relatively modern in terms of Canada's geography, has to be updated commensurate with the kinds of issues that have evolved. So, we really are looking at legislation that is not that old.

As a matter of fact, the marine act of 1998 had up-to-date legislative tools within it that made it much more relevant. It also indicated that the Minister of Transport should come back with respect to a review process, and that is what we are all about here today.

We are looking at that process of review. We are trying to match the recommendations that came out of that process as a result of, as I said, a very comprehensive activity by the committee. I was not a member of that committee but I certainly have been following this issue. We are looking at the review and we are trying to determine whether that matches the challenges that have been outlined.

There seems to be a very broad consensus from coast to coast to coast that the amendments that have been brought forward in updating the marine act are in keeping with the concerns that have been raised to see our marine infrastructure as an extremely effective tool in meeting our globally competitive objectives.

The review also concentrated on two areas with respect to the recommendations. It talked about making the marine sector, in particular, the port authority, more financially flexible in order to make decisions quickly that are in the interest of the port authority in its setting. My colleague from Burnaby has indicated, and certainly questions have been raised, that perspective may have applicability in Burnaby but it has different applicability in Toronto.

I would like to make it very clear that with respect to the marine sector's economic flexibility there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to port authorities from coast to coast to coast.

The second recommendation alluded to the construction of a new and flexible federal funding approach for infrastructure. This is where some points of contention have come up.

The Bloc member indicated that he was not satisfied that allocations with respect to the central gateway, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence gateway, were quantitively enough to justify the seaway improvements that are necessary. He talked about the ability to change the seaway in terms of Montreal's capacity to accommodate cruise ships.

It has been a long time since cruise ships have been seen in Toronto but the pilots association has indicated that larger tankers, if not cruise ships, are precluded from utilizing the seaway. The capacity is much greater in terms of the size of those tankers and cargo ships than they were in the early nineties.

Huge investments are not only important from a Bloc perspective in Montreal but they have applicability throughout the seaway into the Great Lakes and cities that are interested in seeing the infrastructure improve.

The parliamentary secretary said that there was more money available, such as the $2.1 billion with respect to the Quebec-Ontario continental boundary, and that investments could come from that fund.

The purpose of this discussion is not to get into whether certain ports will benefit under the Marine Act. It is more about whether there is a national strategy that port authorities, regardless of where they are, can lock into, whether it is in Burnaby, in the most westerly part of our Pacific gateway, or in ports within the Atlantic gateway or Pacific gateway.

It is unfortunate that there has not been much discussion on the national strategy report, which is supposed to come after the bill has been approved. It seems that when we talk about municipalities and their relationship with port authorities, whether it is in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver or wherever, it is inherent that the process be one of cooperation, of partnership and of being developed around principles. Without those principles we are really talking about an ad hoc gateway approach, an ad hoc strategy with respect to the central St. Lawrence-Great Lakes gateway, and that the parts do not integrate.

Having a national strategy means that we should be backfilling on planning principles, but someone, somewhere, with some jurisdiction needs to bring them forward. It would enable those who are responsible for implementing a national strategy based on those principles to say in Toronto, when it comes to marine improvements and infrastructure, that this is how the national strategy is being applied right across the country and that whatever program is funding that part of that strategy it will be made by the local port authorities and integrated into the national plan.

We do not have that process yet in place but the objectives of this act is for that to happen. We need to take it on a certain degree of faith that during that next part of the process that kind of thinking will prevail. Without it, we again will not have an integrated marine plan and we will not achieve the objectives of any of the gateway strategies, the Atlantic or Pacific gateways, or how it relates to the borders and the marine activity plays.

Those were the issues raised through questioning and the government and the minister should take note of that. We can be more assured that the amendments being put forward would facilitate the achievement of a globally competitive marine activity that would deal with the issues of concern to people, such as marine safety as it relates to spills and marine activity as it relates to terrorist activity, and those have not really been addressed in this discussion.

I want to make a comment from a Toronto perspective because I was involved when the local airports authority was established. If we do not have a total understanding and a corporate memory, we sometimes keep making the same mistakes. When the local airports authority was established in the greater Toronto area, it was always the intent that the island airport would be under the umbrella of the airport authority. I agree with the member when he says that we should not be mixing port activity with air activity. If the Toronto island airport had been subsumed under the umbrella of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, decisions would have been made as it relates to the economic activity that air travel, the niche value of the airport, and that would have been defended by the airports authority.

What is happening is that the airports issue has been politicized. Activity has been brought into it from the local community. It is literally a legislative free-for-all with the city taking one position, the airports authority not taking any position and it is a matter of airports. I stress that it was an airports authority in the early nineties that had been established. No one in Toronto can argue that there has not been a tremendous achievement through the airports authority with the improvements that have been made at Pearson and so on and so forth.

I do not mean to digress but since that issue has come up it is just a case example with respect to the ongoing national interest being bolstered and underpinned by an organization, be it local in nature, because most of the people who will be on the ports authority, whether it is in Toronto, Burnaby or Montreal, will be local people. They will be representatives with expertise and so on. However, there will always be that conflict if there is no national plan with principles that are outlined and with the role of the local planning and economic development regime at least intersecting that national plan. Without that plan, there will be no sense of accountability, either in principle or in the decisions, and the satisfaction and faith in the decisions that are brought forward.

I do not mean to mix my analogies but that is no way to build a railroad. One needs to have a sense of what the destination is, how the various lines of communications are channeled together to develop a consensus and then move ahead on the national plan.

This legislation, though, does take a step in that direction and, from my own personal perspective, it is very worthy of support. However, a lighter-handed approach at some subsequent point needs to be taken with respect to the appointment of members to the ports authorities.

In Toronto, there are a number of organizations, such as the Toronto Economic Development Corporation, which attempted to bring in representation from the ports authority and other organizations, the downtown business group. Representation is coming in from labour that feeds into the Economic Development Corporation's representations and deliberations.

That would be the approach that should be taken with respect to ports, particularly in urban areas. Where people have demonstrated some degree of municipal experience and commitment, who are of equal importance as those who have been involved in other aspects of economic activity, whether they come from the trades, business equally, both large and small, so too should there be a representation of people who have a sense of the planning dynamic, the needs of the local city and how those decisions of the ports authority factor in to achieving that.

Municipalities these days try to be as inclusive as they can and as transparent and public as they possibly can be. That is the whole nature of municipal government. It is very difficult when there are nationally established institutions that have grafted on to what should be a happy host but, because there is some basic lack of understanding, both in the qualifications and backgrounds of the people who are sitting on the boards of the ports authority in this case, do not even mention the legislative mandate that the ports authority has with respect to its national character. One can appreciate that one is sewing the seeds of conflict if there is not some legislation or at least some principles that are established with respect to the backgrounds of the people who sit on the boards of the ports authority.

I would highly recommend that two things happen. First, when we have the discussion on the national strategy, that these kinds of issues get a fulsome debate. The development of a national strategy requires that the principles, be they the planning or the objectives, be fully debated so that the port authorities, no matter where they are, are locking into those principles and building a national marine infrastructure that will serve our country in a globally competitive environment.

Second, where the issues related to cities are concerned, more consideration should be given to the representation on the port authorities to those who have municipal experience and have been involved in municipal planning exercises with respect to an official plan, a harbour plan or whatever it is. That then would facilitate the bumping and nudging of the national strategy into place right across the country.

The government would be well advised, during this next part of the process, to look at those kinds of issues. At the end of it, the objectives of this act will be more likely achieved. That is what both sides of the House are attempting to cause to happen. We not only want a strategic alignment of our corridors and an investment in them but in order to integrate them we need to set out the objectives of a national strategy so we can then see Canada with a new legacy of economic prosperity in a globally competitive world for decades to come.

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1:10 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for York South—Weston for his support of the bill.

The bill is critical to getting the infrastructure built in Canada to ensure our long term prosperity. Unfortunately, the NDP members seem to be hellbent on opposing the bill. They are obstructing it. They are delaying it. It is going to negatively impact the economic prosperity across the country, especially in British Columbia.

As the House knows, I am from the west coast. I understand the needs of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, which administers the largest port by a long mile in Canada. I had a chance to meet with representatives from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority yesterday. They advised me of a project that they intended to bring forward under our building Canada plan. This project is one where they are working together with the cruise lines that come into Vancouver bringing tourists.

As we know, when these large ships berth in Vancouver, they continue to run their engines to provide power for their ships and that creates more and more greenhouse gas emissions. That is exactly what our government is fighting against. We want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has recognized that and so have the cruise lines. They have come forward with an expensive project to install something called “shore power”, clean power that would be available to the cruise lines to use while they were berthed in Vancouver.

To do that, the port authority will need federal funding. Under section 25, at present there is no ability to receive federal government funding. Bill C-23 would make that possible and would allow organizations such as the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to access critical federal infrastructure money to build those kinds of facilities, which would reduce the impact on our environment.

Does the member believe that what are essentially commercial disputes between the Toronto Port Authority and the city of Toronto should stand in the way of implementing such critical legislation as is Bill C-23?

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Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me make it clear that I did not try to extrapolate from the Toronto issue any argument that the bill should not be supported. I used it to illustrate that, in the larger public interest, there were reasons why, both systemically and in developing principles, we should find some way to get around those kinds of issues that exist in Toronto.

The member has answered the question by providing the example with respect to using marine technology and our marine infrastructure for a green approach to this subset of the industry. It is a very good example.

We dwell on the issues related to oil spills and pollution with respect to the industry. We have also talked about the difficulty of containers with respect to the importation of possible terrorist activity. We have to be careful on that.

However, we have a tendency not to talk about the high value added approach that we can use through the industry. Those who have been on cruises have experienced this: ships sit there and the air pollution is unbelievable. Yes, this should be one of the principles of the national strategy. It should be to use the marine sector to get that high value added improvement through the use of new technologies and to use those as, pardon the expression, pilots that would place Canada's marine activity on a best practice basis internationally.

The member has raised a very good example of what the opportunities are in the sector. Yes, it is for those reasons we should move ahead. It is an example of where the port authority has seen a problem. It has responded to that problem and it needs now to enter into a partnership. The program funding at the national level will provide that opportunity.

I hope that answers the question. It gives a sense of moving in the right direction in this sector. We should be moving equally in that kind of a direction with respect to air quality through airlines. There is a huge concern, especially in the vicinity of large airports, with respect to that kind of pollution. It is all moving in the same direction for a legacy of a higher quality of life. The member has given a good example.

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Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the presentation by my colleague on Bill C-23. I also heard his comments and suggestions concerning the involvement of municipal representatives in the governance of port authorities. His own party will have a lot of work to do because his critic, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, had some far from friendly discussions with the councillor from the City of Toronto when he appeared before our committee. The situation within his own party will have to evolve.

I am concerned by what is happening in Toronto, namely the dispute between the city and the port authority. Without an envelope for the development of the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor like the one for the Asia-Pacific gateway, and if port authorities were ever allowed to apply for funding under infrastructure programs to which the cities have already applied, we can just imagine the dispute that would arise in Toronto, for example. I would not want such conflicts to erupt in other cities that have port authorities, either, such as Montreal, Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Sept-Îles or Saguenay.

The only money available in the budget for the building Canada fund has been allocated to the Asia-Pacific gateway. There is no more money and we should not be imagining there will be more. I hope that my colleague will agree that we should establish a specific budget for the development of the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor.

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Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, just to correct the record, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence did not sit on the local council.

More germane to the question is the competition that may start to come about in cities accessing gateway funding. The member put forward a legitimate question. During the development of a national strategy, whether it is rail or road or marine, the Great Lakes gateway is all part of it. There cannot be one without the other.

Funding for the Pacific gateway should be equally available for improvements to the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes portion of the national marine infrastructure funding.

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The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Vancouver East has the floor for 20 minutes of which 8 minutes are today.

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Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on Bill C-23 on port lands and port authorities.

First, it is ironic that earlier today the parliamentary secretary accused the NDP of delaying the bill. In actual fact the questions from his members during questions and comments have delayed the bill, so I will not get my full 20 minutes today, which will delay it further. I certainly intend to take my full 20 minutes because I have a lot to say on this.

I represent Vancouver East. The whole of my northern boundary borders the port of Vancouver, from Cambie Street to Boundary Road. Over many decades, whether it is myself as the current member of Parliament or whether it was the former member of Parliament, Margaret Mitchell, we have dealt with many issues concerning the port of Vancouver.

I want to acknowledge that there is a national and economic significance in terms of trade and economic activity to the ports in Canada. The port of Vancouver is an incredibly important economic engine in Vancouver and in British Columbia and, indeed, in Canada. There is no question we need legislation that lays out the importance and the mandate of that function.

I have also learned, over 11 years of being a member of Parliament, that the interface between the port and what happens on port lands and the local community, because sometimes it is a residential neighbourhood, or a commercial neighbourhood and the municipality of which it is a part, is a very important question. It is some of those issues that I want to focus on today.

We were told earlier by the parliamentary secretary that we were delaying this bill. We think it is very important that we have adequate debate. We are not delaying the bill; we want to have adequate debate.

I point out that at committee the parliamentary secretary said everyone was in favour of the bill and the ports came out in favour. On January 29, only two port authorities came as witnesses, Vancouver and Montreal. On the second day of hearings, there was one city councillor, someone from the community airport impact review in Toronto and an individual. That was it. Then the bill went clause by clause. In fact, it went through with lightning speed.

Unfortunately, the NDP amendments at the committee were ruled out of order. Those amendments would have addressed some of our serious concerns about bill, concerns about the questions of accountability, jurisdiction and mandate as they relate to the local community.

As I mentioned earlier, Vancouver has had significant issues over the years relating to the port activity, the adjacent residential neighbourhoods and the city of Vancouver as a whole. One of the NDP amendments would have ensured that a majority of the board of the port authority would be made up of municipal councillors. As well, the land use plan that a port authority might develop would be approved by the municipality.

This has been a very key issue for many years, in that port authorities can approve developments and legally do not have to abide by municipal zoning. In some cases that has happened in a voluntary way. Vancouver has had a lot of interaction and cooperation between the port authority and the city of Vancouver in developing various plans over the years. However, there is nothing legally binding in the legislation to ensure that happens.

When problems arise, the port authority, as a legally standing body, has the ability to put through a development that may be detrimental to local residents, to the adjacent residential community and, indeed, to the city as a whole. That creates an enormous amount of conflict. That conflict does not need to happen if only we could structure the port authority in such a way that is in context and is reflective of the interests of the city as a whole.

Again, I want to emphasize that no one is questioning the important mandate ports have and the fact that they need to be given scope and authority to do their work.

However, as we see in the bill, we are now moving into a territory where, for example, a port authority could be making decisions about non-marine functions, activities on land that may have a negative impact. There will be no oversight for that from the local municipality.

Those of us who have been municipal councillors were very used to going to public hearings. We were very used to having zoning bylaws where there is a due process. None of that will apply here.

As we see, port authorities getting this vastly expanded mandate that will allow them to bring in land uses that are not necessarily primarily or strictly port related will cause all kinds of conflicts.

We have already seen that conflict in our community, whether it was with the Lafarge Concrete facility that had been an ongoing battle in east Vancouver for years or whether it was with other potential developments that the port wanted to approve. Residents had to organize and go up against the port authority and a board of directors that really had no accountability to people.

That is why it is so important that we have some municipal representation on those port authority boards. That is a very serious concern for us. I also have major issues around security with ports, and I will address that when I speak in the next round on the bill.

I do want to say that we believe the bill would have been far better off if it were sent across the country in terms of holding public hearings. I know there are many local resident groups and people who have been very interested in the issue of port development who would have wanted to comment on the bill.

Unfortunately, they never got the opportunity to do that, so here we are now at the eleventh hour of the bill at third reading and some of these very fundamental questions will remain unresolved and not dealt with.

I will continue to speak on that. I appreciate the fact that I will have further time when the bill comes up and I certainly intend to deal with the concerns that we have in the NDP.

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1:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

When the House returns to the study of Bill C-23, there will be 13 minutes left for the hon. member for Vancouver East.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

moved that Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (punishment and hearing), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I begin second reading debate on Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. The bill was written because of an incredibly brave and determined family, the Moffitt family, who are in Ottawa today. They suffered the loss of their son through a violent criminal act and were then thrust into a justice system that they learned was in desperate need of improvement.

Their experience, although unique in facts, is not a unique story. Many of us have constituents victimized by crime who, while they try to cope with that victimization, also try to make sense or get answers from a justice system that many times provides neither sense nor answers.

When I began assembling this bill, there were other measures that I thought of incorporating as well. These included deterrent measures by increasing the spectrum of mandatory prison sentences for a variety of firearms crimes as well as improving the effectiveness of high risk offender supervision orders under sections 810.(1) and 810.(2) of the Criminal Code.

I am very proud that our government moved decisively and introduced those measures as well as others which this Parliament recently passed in Bill C-2.

In Bill C-2 we enacted a series of reforms to make our justice system work better. I say to all members of this House that this approach is repeated in Bill C-393: specific targeted measures to make our justice system work better. I hope members will give it the same consideration and approval they did with Bill C-2.

Understanding individual circumstances and learning how the system and laws could be improved is a fundamental part of how democracy and Parliament works.

We can improve our justice system. Insight, wisdom and the courage to say that no one else need suffer as they have is sometimes the message we get from victims of crime.

Bill C-393 aims to improve how the criminal justice system works in three specific areas. Members will see the sensible and positive results. They are clear, specific and important.

In this place, members can set aside partisan differences and debate changes in law and policies that make improvements. This bill presents such an opportunity.

Brockville is in my rural riding of Leeds—Grenville. Just before Christmas 1998, residents of that city learned that Andy Moffitt, a 23-year-old engineering student at the University of Ottawa with a bright future before him, was stabbed to death while trying to break up a fight in an Ottawa restaurant.

Andy was from Brockville. Mother Paulette, father Rod and younger brother Michael lived in Brockville, while older brother Rod Jr., raised in Brockville, lived in Ottawa.

Andy was expected home for Christmas and when there was noise at the front door in the early morning of December 24, the family thought it was Andy. It was not. It was the police telling them that their son, their brother, had been murdered.

As the evidence would subsequently show, when the justice system managed to proceed with the case after the killer had been released on bail, only to be re-arrested for committing new crimes, Andy died trying to stop a violent attack on another person. He did not know his killer. He died trying to do the right thing. Andy was posthumously awarded the Governor General's Medal of Bravery for his action.

I have come to know his family since his death and I know where he got his courage and his sense of right and wrong. Through all the grief and anguish of the crime, the trial such as it was, the parole system such as it was, the Moffitt family have remained steadfast in their determination that the flaws in the justice system that their son's death exposed can and must be corrected.

The motivation for the Moffitts is to ensure that no one else goes through the nightmare that they had to endure. They are not motivated by revenge or harsh punishment.

The proposals they have inspired in Bill C-393 are designed to prevent further violent knife crimes, to reinforce the stated intent of the existing law, and to continue the ongoing progress Parliament has made in treating crime victims.

I reference the facts of the case because they are important. They demonstrate deficiencies in the current justice system and how they can be remedied.

Andy's killer was a drug dealer who was meeting with another criminal with whom he had a dispute. In contemplation of this, he purchased a knife and concealed it in case he felt the need to use it later. His act in doing this and then pulling it out later was clear, calculated and deliberate.

Bill C-393 does not create a new crime. It creates mandatory consequences for the crimes of deliberately and criminally carrying a concealed knife and for killing an unarmed person with that knife.

I mention this because I know some members opposite believe mandatory prison sentences are unwarranted because the crimes involved are spontaneous. While that may be true for some crimes, it is clearly not for these crimes which are calculated and capable of being deterred.

The Supreme Court of Canada recently upheld the constitutional validity of Parliament using mandatory minimum sentencing in defined circumstances. In that case, R. v Ferguson, the Supreme Court recognized that mandatory prison sentences are part of the overall sentencing functions which include both specific and general deterrence.

Criminologists and practitioners note that certainty of consequence is a greater deterrent than potential severity of consequence.

Penalties proposed in Bill C-393 replicate existing mandatory prison sentences and correspond directly to homicides committed with firearms.

As part of that deterrent intent, Bill C-393 also creates increased sentences for repeat criminal concealment offences and consecutive sentences where that crime is committed with other crimes.

The bill also modifies an existing authority of a sentencing court under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to require a delay in parole eligibility from one-third of the imposed sentence to one-half of that sentence.

This bill sends a message that there will be clear and certain negative consequences for persons criminally concealing and using knives. It is not a reaction to one incident.

Knife crimes have exploded in Canada and while we have responded appropriately to firearms crimes, it is time to do the same with knife crimes. From 1999 to 2006 the number of homicides committed with knives was greater than with firearms.

The 2006 crime statistics show that homicides committed by young people are at their highest rate since 1961 and that 44% of these are committed using knives compared to 17% using firearms.

It is important to understand that it is the criminal arming through concealment of the knife that must also be targeted.

Kingston, Ontario police chief Bill Closs is one voice of many who has warned us about this explosion of criminal knife carrying and the inevitable lethal consequences.

Statistics Canada indicates in 2005 only 31% of victims were attacked with guns, while 68% were attacked with knives or other sharp objects. In the same year, in 19 Ontario jurisdictions, only 25% of victims were attacked with guns while 75% were attacked with knives or other sharp objects.

No jurisdiction is immune in experiencing this epidemic of violent knife crime. Edmonton, for example, reported a 15% jump in violent knife crimes since last year.

It is time I return to the facts of Andy's case because they are also the foundation of Bill C-393's reforms.

Andy's killer was released on bail less than three months after his arrest. He was rearrested for breaching his bail and for committing new crimes. Following his rearrest, he was allowed to plead guilty to the reduced charge of manslaughter seven months later. At sentencing he was given pretrial custody credit for the time he had been detained initially and for the time he had been detained after breaching bail and committing new crimes. It gets worse. The killer was given extra credit for being on bail, bail which he breached.

Recognizing time spent in pretrial custody is longstanding and codified as part of a judge's sentencing discretion pursuant to section 719.(3) of the Criminal Code, but it is not obligatory. There is no required mathematical formula.

Section 515 of the Criminal Code also lawfully authorizes the denial of bail to people with criminal records or those who have breached their bail, or both.

Sentencing courts are not required to give repeat offenders, or people who breach their bail, credit for pretrial custody, but that is exactly the practice that has developed in Canada.

For Andy's killer, the time spent in custody as a result of being charged with a crime was just less than three months. He was given 30 months credit for his pretrial custody and restrictive bail conditions, even though he caused their occurrence. Reward for bad behaviour is unacceptable.

Is it any wonder that remand custody numbers are through the roof as the bad guys figure out that two or three for one as a reward for past crime is a good deal?

This is what lies behind the phenomenon that has become known as the revolving door justice system.

It undermines the integrity of the justice system and the confidence that Canadians have in it. Courts pronounce sentences but with pretrial custody credit the real sentence is a fraction of what has been pronounced.

Canadians deserve better than this. Bill C-393 is a step in that direction. Specifically, the bill would amend subsection 719(3) giving direction to sentencing courts, consistent with some court rulings that persons who are denied bail according to the existing law, due to their past criminal record or for breaching bail, are not entitled to discounts off their sentence.

Further, it stipulates that where credit is given it be given on a day for day basis, reflecting the reality that in our current system more than 95% of offenders do not serve more than two-thirds of their court imposed sentence, as was the case for Andy's killer.

If likelihood of early release is to be taken into account in calculating pretrial custody, then logically it should be applied in calculating the actual sentence. The net effect for those entitled to pretrial custody credit is a straight one day for one day calculation, which will go a long way to restoring public confidence.

Andy's killer was sentenced to what was supposedly an eight year to nine year sentence. After giving him the hyperinflated credit, the judge said: “I am going to require that you serve--giving credit for what I have indicated--five years in prison. So you will serve a further five years in a penitentiary for the manslaughter of Andrew Moffitt”.

However, sadly, that also was not true. Andy's killer was released three and a half years later when Canada's statutory release provisions kicked in. Fixing that problem is beyond the scope of Bill C-393.

Notwithstanding the judge's solemn pronouncement, Andy's killer was eligible for parole after about 18 months. The Moffitt family prepared agonizingly for these hearings to give a voice to their son and to express their personal safety concerns in light of the killer's criminal behaviour while supposedly under the previous supervision of bail, and because by terrible coincidence he was returning to his hometown of Brockville.

How could anyone expect that they would not attend and would not want to know the truth about the risk this killer posed? The family's dealings with the corrections system were defined by uncertainty. In the name of offender privacy, they were denied details about the killer's conduct while in custody, including whether he posed a risk to them.

Hearings were also adjourned at the last second, causing enormous emotional upset, and were without consequence to the killer in regard to being able to reschedule his request for early release. This is an unintentional and needlessly cruel consequence of our current parole system. It is these deficiencies that Bill C-393 will also address.

I want to pause here and note that the reason the Moffitt family could attend and participate in the parole hearings was thanks to the House recognizing and confirming enhanced victim rights over the past 10 years. This has been a significant accomplishment.

Having created those rights, we now need to make sure that the parole board has clear authority to treat unjustifiably cancelled hearings accordingly and to include consideration of legitimate victim interests in assessing what information is to be provided to them. This is the final part of Bill C-393. These are relatively small but important improvements to a part of the justice system.

In summary, Bill C-393 is a tightly focused bill that addresses three specific areas where our justice system needs to and can work better. Its sentencing provisions are not aimed at simply imposing harsh treatment on offenders. It is designed to prevent such crimes and to prevent the loss of life.

Its bail provisions are not meant to undermine the proper discretion of the judiciary but to reinforce the existing rule of law and not reward past criminal misconduct. Its corrections provisions are simply an expression that, having properly created a process of victim participation, we must ensure that it is properly informed, where the parole board has the power to prevent it being used to further traumatize victims.

I am asking for the support of members of the House so this bill and the improvements it will bring can go forward. While members opposite may turn this into a partisan issue, that type of debate does not belong here.

When Andy Moffitt stood up from his seat and took action to prevent an attack that night nine years ago, he did not do so thinking of his actions as heroic. He did so because something inside him said it was the right thing to do.

Today, in our unique responsibilities as the elected representatives of the people of Canada, we have the opportunity to stand and do the right thing, which is to support Bill C-393 for the people of Canada.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.


Brian Storseth Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate my colleague for an excellent speech outlining some of the flaws we have experienced in our judicial system. I want to also say that since being elected to the House in 2006, I have had the opportunity to deal with the member for Leeds—Grenville firsthand and have experienced his passion for judicial reform and for the constituents of his riding.

I noticed, however, in investigating this private member's legislation, that it was first introduced in 2005, when unfortunately it saw very little if any real action from the government of the day. I was wondering if perhaps the member could tell us about and perhaps reflect today on some of the actions that have been taken by this government to help with judicial reform and how his private member's legislation may enhance this.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.


Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, those are kind words from my hon. colleague. The fact is that this bill was first introduced in the 38th Parliament. I reintroduced it in this Parliament. It has been working its way through the system.

However, in the time since our government took office we have been taking action in terms of judicial reform and getting tough on crime. We of course have tougher jail times for those who commit crimes with firearms. We have new bail provisions that require those accused of serious gun crimes to show why they should not be in jail while awaiting trial. As well, of course, we have better protection for our youth with the raising of the age of protection from 14 to 16. These are just a few of the important criminal justice reforms of this government.

I am proud to stand in this House with Bill C-393. I encourage all members to support it because it is something that is very much long overdue.