Mr. Speaker, at this stage in considering Bill C-10, we are looking at amendments proposed and discussed earlier. The particular focus of these amendments relates to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which is contained in part 7 of the bill.
As I mentioned in some questions and comments earlier, this bill is very much about the economy. In fact, everything is about the economy. The amendments proposed now, while arguably rational, were or are calculated to distract from the economic aspects of this bill.
I will admit that I too had prepared amendments in relation to this particular aspect, and to some other aspects, of this bill. I did not proceed with them on the order paper, because my party is of the view that the economy and Canadians who are now at financial risk in the economy deserve greater attention from all of us in the House than do some of the more technical aspects of this bill.
However, in discussing these amendments, I want the record to show that I have some degree of discomfort with the methodology adopted by the government in its decision to include as part of the stimulus package amendments to this very old piece of federal legislation.
It is there for very good reasons. The Navigable Waters Protection Act assures federal jurisdiction for shipping on our navigable waters, an area that continues to be of huge importance to us. These changes are arguably needed in the act, but why has the government chosen a stimulus package and placed technical amendments in the updating of a very old statute in a bill like this?
There actually is a reason, and I think I can see it. It is that the government has seen that there may be some infrastructure investment in bridges, wharves, canals, navigation buoys, levees, dams, docks and other types of structures. These could be the targets of infrastructure spending. Some of the provisions of the Navigable Waters Protection Act might delay or stall the investments in these works.
There are two aspects to this piggybacking of the Navigable Waters Protection Act in the stimulus package: the measures being put forward for adoption may arguably speed up investment, but they may directly or indirectly reduce the potential for protection of aspects of our navigable waters. Most of us around this place will have an eye for that, and we understand it. It is not as if we do not have environmental protection legislation out there. It is not as if we do not have real scientists, engineers and architects preparing this stuff. However, at the end of the day it is very important that we not lose sight of the proper way of doing things with respect to the environment, with respect to access of our citizens to these waters and with respect to the recreation industry. A lot us have received information from the Canadian Rivers Network. That perspective is very legitimate.
The policy aspect of a minister doing end runs around environmental protection legislation and other legislation that might provide for the public interest but that might also delay investment in a stimulus package is a very important consideration. We are not inviting our government here to be stupid, but we are nervous that the legislation will provide some fast-tracking that places the public interest at risk.
In addition to that, there are clauses in the bill that have actually removed the right of Parliament to review the government and ministerial activity after it has taken place. I cannot for the life of me figure out why the government has done this. We may regard this as just technical, but I do not regard it as technical.
There are actually seven clauses in the bill. I will put them on the record right now: clauses 244, 275, 279, 287, 292, 328 and 453. Each of those clauses purports to remove from Parliamentary scrutiny the administrative regulatory action of a government minister or the governor in council. Some of those involve the Navigable Waters Protection Act and other provisions involve other aspect of legislation in the stimulus package. That is simply unacceptable.
Some may say that the impact was inadvertent because the real purpose of putting these provisions in the bill was to avoid the slowing down by the regulatory process at the front end, the prepublication, the consultation, et cetera. Not only is the government trying to remove that pre-enactment scrutiny but it also has the impact of preventing Parliament from reviewing the regulatory actions to begin with, and that involves a whole slew of regulatory activity, which includes orders and exemptions, certificates, rules and directions.
Bill C-10, in these clauses, authorizes either the governor in council or ministers to take these acts and then says to Parliament that these are not statutory instruments and it cannot look at them after. That is absolutely wrong.
It is more than likely that someone from the other place will read some of the debate and more than likely that someone in the other place, that is the Senate, may take an interest in this issue. But at some point, these particular Bill C-10 enactments, including these provisions involving the Navigable Waters Protection Act, will have to be turned around. They will have to be fixed.
I cannot continue comfortably here in the House without trying to do something to fix this. It is now a question of a number of members in the House holding their noses while we pass this economic stimulus package. I cannot stress enough the stupidity of tagging onto economic stimulus legislation a whole lot of contraband in the back of the ambulance. It is not the right place to do it.
I recall another bill in a previous Parliament, also Bill C-10 coincidentally, where, in making a change to the Income Tax Act, this particular government thought it might want to test the waters on what many regarded as a censorship issue. That was just as dumb. We should not be using finance and economic stimulus legislative enactments to deal with other issues like updating the Navigable Waters Protection Act. This should happen in a piece of stand alone legislation.
The bill also has amendments involving the Competition Act. Those amendments should also be stand-alone legislation so the House can truly sink its teeth into it. The problem now is, and I hope Canadians realize it, that we have one bill with all of this in it. The main thrust of the bill is economic stimulus, but we have all of these other add-ons in the back of the truck and a lot of these add-ons, we do not like.
The amendments here are, in part, calculated to get rid of some of that extra baggage, but we are in a situation now, if we are to get the stimulus package moneys through Parliament, authorized, out on the street and creating jobs, we have to pass the bill the way it is now. I regret that, but that is a political reality.