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House of Commons Hansard #31 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was judges.

Topics

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be speaking to this bill at third reading.

I want to comment at the outset that the member for Portage—Lisgar asked a question a few minutes ago and I want to assure her that she should not be personally affronted by comments made on this side of the House. We want to assure her and all members opposite that we are very serious in trying to make this legislation good legislation. We want to do it right, and we want to do it right the first time. There is no advantage to the government in having legislation that will be attacked in the courts or that may not be workable in the long run.

We are doing our job. We were elected as opposition members. If our constituents had wanted us to come here and rubber-stamp everything the government wanted to do, they would have elected Conservatives or, as my colleague said, Liberals, but they would not have elected NDP members. However, they did elect NDP members and have done so for years. They will continue to do so in the future.

It is our job to point out mistakes that the government is possibly making, to try to make improvements before bad legislation gets on the books, or gets on the books and is knocked down or thrown out by the courts.

The member from Vancouver had mentioned a very gaping area of security in the fact that 99% of containers coming into this country are not inspected. News organizations have done investigations in the past in Canada and in the United States and they have found a lot of illegal substances coming in in containers. It is very easy to load drugs into containers and get them through the borders. If the government wants to look at very serious breaches of security, that is certainly one area it should be looking at. We would encourage the Conservatives to do that.

We also think there are some improvements that can be made. We have made amendments at second reading and at committee, and so far, the government has chosen to ignore them, although there are signs, and the parliamentary secretary was telling us recently that he would be willing to talk about an amendment that needed to be made. I think that if we were to give ourselves a little bit more time here, we could possibly get this resolved to the betterment of the bill and a better situation for Canadians.

Therefore, I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words following “That”, and replacing them with “Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities for the purpose of reviewing clause 5.2 with a view to reviewing the procedures on security clearances”.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The amendment is in order.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for moving the amendment. I will have a chance to speak to it a little bit later. In the meantime, I want to ask him a question.

Perhaps he could describe some of the conversations we have had on this particular bill. Perhaps that would explain why we feel it is appropriate to move this amendment at this time.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member has made an important observation. I am quite familiar with the ability in some jurisdictions of ministers to be a little bit independent in their actions and their thoughts and to make good amendments and even cooperate with the members of the opposition to arrive at a successful conclusion.

The parliamentary secretary seems to be a little bit different from some of the members opposite in that regard. I think there is potential here. I believe he has expressed some interest and concern that perhaps one or two of the NDP amendments could be worked upon at the third reading stage. Perhaps we could come up with a compromise that the member for Western Arctic could support and the NDP caucus could support in support of this bill in an effort to get it through.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend the member for moving the amendment and trying to reach a consensus on this issue. We all want to improve rail safety.

I think it is important to provide a couple of examples to make sure that people understand the context of what could happen. On the border in my region, with 40% of Canada's daily trade, often there are people who are caught within legislation with unintended consequences. I do worry about the powers of the minister with regard to the screening process. Even now we are seeing some extreme behaviour by current ministers who are denying a British MP entry into Canada and other types of behaviour that have not really been effective in terms of the original intent of their discretionary power.

In Windsor often it is the issue of someone having a marijuana charge from back in the person's teens. There are people who drive trucks for just-in-time delivery for the auto industry who 25 or 30 years ago committed an offence that prohibits them from having access to different programs and screening. Not only that, it depends upon the interpretation and discretionary power of the people they encounter at the U.S. border.

I will give a particular example of a worker who worked at a major auto company for 25 years and had an outstanding employment record. The worker, who as a teenager had one charge of having a marijuana cigarette, was detained every time at the border for two to four hours. We had to work that through to stop that from happening. I commend the member for making sure that these types of situations could be resolved before they create a drag on the economy.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is certainly a very good observation. We have an economic slowdown at the moment. We are looking at putting a lot more restrictions on workers when all they are trying to do is their jobs.

We have a government which for a number of years now has been attempting to repeal the long-gun registry on the basis that it is going to make criminals out of farmers and duck hunters. The argument it makes is that the criminals are still going to get the guns.

I see a parallel here, because the same government that is trying to eliminate the gun registry is now attempting to put in regulations that possibly could put big restrictions on people. We just had a letter given to us by the Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers, who are very concerned that their compliance costs with this legislation are going to be very high. They are going to have a lot of difficulty with this type of legislation. We should be listening to these people and trying to work around the problems rather than trying to ram this bill through.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, the committee worked very hard on this bill. In the short time I have been on the committee, I have seen members from every side of the House work together. We brought in a variety of witnesses and all the stakeholders. I believe that the work we did at committee has brought this bill to the place it is and the consensus that has been built on this bill. The amendment as it stands is something on which I do not think we need to move forward.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would encourage the member for Portage—Lisgar to reconsider those comments. This legislation not only has to make it through third reading in this House but also has to go to the Senate to be dealt with before it becomes a law of the country. I have already mentioned that if we develop legislation that is simply going to be challenged by the courts and end up being ruled out of order at the end of the day anyway, we have not really accomplished much.

As the member said, we have spent a lot of time on this bill. However, the fact of the matter is that we are just asking for a little bit more consideration here. That is why we moved the amendment at third reading.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is what I find a little incomprehensible. The Conservatives did not get the job done. They did not put together a bill that did not have huge flaws in it. They did not listen the first time around when the member for Western Arctic brought forward those amendments. They did not listen to the testimony and the letters from organizations that raised real concerns about the impact on farmers and longshore workers.

We have a government that did not want to do the job right, and now it is being confronted with an amendment that says sorry, but this House requests that it gets the job done and that the government does it right. Yet, there are Conservative members who seem to object.

My question for the member for Elmwood—Transcona is quite simple. Why would the Conservatives object to getting the bill right? Why did they not choose to get the bill right in the first place and actually listen to what people were saying about it?

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, those are very good comments as well. In many respects, the Conservatives in some ways do not realize they do not have a majority government. They think they do, but they do not. They have to deal with all the parties in the House and on a proper basis.

We have had a third reading procedure in Parliament for many years now. An hon. member who is new here, as I am, will recognize at some point that the bill must get through all the stages. One does not get it to second reading and demand that a vote be taken because one sat on a committee for a few days and heard a bunch of presenters.

There are numerous people across the country who do not know about this bill at all. As a matter of fact, we have dealt with another bill dealing with charities and 90% of the charities do not even know this bill exists. It has now gone through at least three parliaments in six or seven years.

For the hon. member to think that somehow the Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers and its members know about this bill, I think she is sadly mistaken. I am sure they do not and there are many others who are going to wake up one day and find out this bill is in effect and they were not even aware of it. There is no harm in taking a little more time to hear more people's concerns and do more study on this bill.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, the Olympics are coming. The Olympics are very important to all Canadians from coast to coast to coast who are preparing for them.

One of the reasons this bill is very important is that Canadians expect the government will take care of them. That is what this bill does. This bill ensures that Canadians will be protected and that people who come to visit the Olympics will be protected.

I find it amazing that the hon. member has voted against security at the border and the military. When he has had the option to make sure that Canadians are protected, he has constantly voted against it. Now we have another opportunity to protect Canadians and the hon. member is trying to delay it yet again. Could the hon. member comment on that?

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is ranting and raving. His government lets 99% of cargo containers into this country without screening. If the hon. member is concerned about security, why does he not deal with that issue?

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am really happy to see that we are actually debating this in more detail. Some of the questions raised deserve more attention. The hon. member for Portage—Lisgar pointed out that many witnesses were before the committee. There were a few witnesses in front of the committee, but I might jog her memory about some of the witnesses who talked about the amendments.

I have committee transcripts from Tuesday, March 10, where the government representatives presenting evidence to the committee on the amendments that I put forward did not understand the amendments and had to admit in the transcripts that they had it wrong on two out of three of the amendments. In fact, when they presented the departmental view on the amendments, it was an incorrect view. It did not speak to the actual substance of the amendments. Officials had to retract those statements and agree with them. So what we saw was a lack of interest on the part of the bureaucrats in this process in informing the committee members of the nature of the amendments.

The member for Portage—Lisgar said we did a very detailed job on this. This is not the case. Quite clearly the transcripts show what happened in the committee meetings. We did not give this enough time. We did not see enough witnesses.

The hon. member for Portage—Lisgar brought up the point about farmers and the fact they are protected under regulations. Are they protected under statutes which can hold them free of the conditions that the minister could apply to them under the statute we are passing? When we talk about the farming industry, we were not presented with information at committee. There is no mention of farmers at committee. That issue was not dealt with. Quite clearly, once again, we have more work to do.

The issues raised in the House of Commons at the time of this debate are actually very serious issues when we are talking about the imposition of very onerous conditions that can be imposed on any industry in this country by the minister through regulations, through governor in council, without any further opportunity for parliamentarians, who are the ultimate judge of legislation. That means we have not done our job. We should take the opportunity that has now been given us, through this amendment, to go back and look at the amendments again to ensure that we get this right.

This is not a delaying tactic. This is an opportunity to make good legislation. What else do we stand in the House for other than to provide the very best of service with our thoughts and our directions as parliamentarians? I take my work seriously. I look at the legislation. My staff takes its work seriously. If we make mistakes, they are honest mistakes, and we want to be corrected. We want to ensure that what we are saying, the principles, the philosophy, and the direction the legislation applies will carry through in that fashion when it is applied to Canadians. That is our job here. There is no smaller job. There is no larger job. That is our job.

When we see that is not being accomplished, we have to go back to make it happen. We are not here simply to engage in partisan politics. This is not why we get up in the House of Commons and talk about issues like this. I really hope that perhaps we can come to some understanding on the bill through a process that would allow us to go back to the committee, allow us to continue the work needed to be done on this legislation and bring it forthwith to Parliament and get third reading done, and then moved on to the Senate in good fashion where it would not have questions about it. Let us get it out to the public where the public is satisfied with what we have created. All those things are the work that we should be doing here.

As a New Democrat, as a person who has worked with legislation at a municipal level, who understands what happens when we put in legislation that is not appropriate, we have to do things right. We have a chance to do things right. I am very happy that my colleague has brought forward this amendment. I trust that this amendment will pass and that we will be able to deliver to Canadians, in a timely fashion, a good piece of legislation.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think it is very important that this amendment has been brought forward by the member for Western Arctic, who is very concerned about how farmers are treated in this bill, how longshore workers are treated in this bill.

It is interesting to note that where there are more Conservative MPs, farmers are worse off. In Manitoba, where there are fewer Conservative MPs, they actually have much better farm receipts. Saskatchewan is worse. In Alberta, where there are more Conservative MPs, they have the worst farm receipts in the country. So, I can gather from that, that the Conservatives do not seem to care much about farmers and people in the agricultural sector. They just seem to sell them out. It is tragic.

However, we have an opportunity. Essentially what the member for Western Arctic has done, since the government failed the first test, is allowed the Conservatives, is allowed the government, a retake on this exam to actually get the bill right, subject to the testimony that has already been provided and the letters that have come in about the major flaws and problems in this bill.

My question for the member for Western Arctic is this. Why would the Conservatives not snap up this offer on a retake on an exam that they failed so horribly the first time?

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I do not really think the Conservatives have failed here. This is not a question of fail or pass. This is a question of production of good legislation. It is a complex business. Sometimes we want to move things ahead because we have other agendas. Perhaps we have concerns about things like the Olympics that say this has to be done and if we allow the other parties to interfere with the process, it might not get done.

We are not talking about interfering with the process here. We are talking about sending the bill back to committee so that we can top it off with a couple of days on the one item alone, so that we can deal with it in a good fashion and ensure that it is completely correct, that all the committee members understand how this works, that the government understands how it works, that we do not get fed information that is not correct from the government witnesses, and that everything is lined up in good fashion. That is my feeling about it.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I did have an opportunity to talk to the member while speeches were going on. I tried to answer a couple of questions he did have that he was not able to do his own homework on, and I provided specific information in relation to the Privacy Act and one of the concerns he had. In fact, we cannot go against the terms of the Privacy Act, and the government cannot. I want to make sure I put that on the record so he clearly understands that the balance between the two cannot be compromised. The Privacy Act protects Canadians and their privacy, and we are going to continue to do that. So, that is not an issue on this particular question.

It is good to see the NDP members stand up for big business like agri-retailers. I really appreciate that because we hear a lot of them talking about farmers. I think they should let me stand up for my constituents, just like all of the Conservatives will continue to stand up for farmers across this country, the only party in this House that has done so. Indeed, I have a huge portion of farmers in my riding and I have heard clearly that they are in favour of this legislation.

However, I do wonder why he is putting off such an important piece of legislation. We have heard from members, from expert witnesses, who have come forward to say that we need this for the Olympics. Why would he put this back on the burner when I have already satisfied those questions?

My question for him today really is this. Why did he vote in favour of moving this particular bill out of committee and into the House? Because it was unanimous. If he were to check the record, he would see that he actually voted to move this out of the committee. I asked him three times if he had an opportunity to talk about a compromise on any particular l piece of legislation that the government could live with. He never talked to me before he put through his amendments. He never talked to me after he put through his amendments. He talked to me today, after it is back in the House. So what more can we do? We listen, we act, and we are reacting. But we have to do this in the best interests of Canadians, and I wonder why he supported this bill at committee to move it on if he is not supporting it today. He is playing games.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

March 23rd, 2009 / 5:30 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I find that statement to be a bit absurd. The legislation was on the order paper for a later time. We had considered putting amendments at the report stage. The Conservative government moved the bill ahead very quickly on the order paper. In fact, it delayed the work it was doing on Bill C-2 today in order to push the bill forward so our amendments could not come forward in the proper sequence, which would have been as the bill came forward.

The question of how the bill is in front of us now is an issue. Quite clearly, in the last committee meeting, we had a lot of testimony that was not correct, and the witnesses had to agree. That is in the transcript of the committee meeting.

When it comes to offering up amendments, the hon. member across had the opportunity in the committee meetings to provide amendments to my amendment and the members chose not to even talk about it, partly because the information the government officials were providing to the committee was incorrect. Therefore, we had a problem.

Now it is in front of the House and we have to have this debate, which is fine. Canadians can hear a bit about what we are doing in the House. We are not trying to slow down this legislation.

Perhaps some of these questions would be better dealt with at a Senate committee meeting, where the Senate could ship it back to us once it had amended it.

What we should do is get the work done in a correct fashion, as I pointed out.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the amendment offered by the member for Elmwood—Transcona, seconded by the member for Western Arctic, is a real gift to the government. Basically we have said that we will work with the government to work out the major flaws that have been identified, not by us but by others across the country. Letters from people, from farmers and longshore workers, were read into the record, letters that said these were major flaws. The government seems to be giving the back of its hand in saying, no, that it does not want anyone to work with it to improve the bill, that it does not want to have anything happen that will make the bill—

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member has referred to letters from farmers who oppose the bill. I would like him to produce those. I have not seen any. I would like him to produce all these letters that he suggests oppose the bill. If he is going to refer to that in the House, I think it is fair that he provide those to us.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

If the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster has any letters that he would like to table, he would need the unanimous consent of the House to do that. Failing that, he can continue with the rest of his question.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will speak more slowly so the Conservatives across the way can understand. I said that we had read into the record letters that have indicated the concerns raised among farmers and longshore workers. I ask my colleague and other Conservative members to check the blues because the NDP gave it all out them. We provided all that information. The member for Western Arctic did as well.

Essentially the NDP has said that there are deep flaws with the bill. We have produced the letters that have indicated what those deep flaws are. What we have said is that we are willing to help the Conservatives govern right.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I do not know how much more I can add to what I have said already. I trust we can move ahead with this motion, we can do the work that is required and that should be enough.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I did not receive an answer to my previous question. I am simply asking why the member voted to move the bill out of committee, if there were such deep flaws. I am sure he has a colleague behind him from the NDP giving him advice on it. Why did he vote to move the bill on, out of committee and into the House if there were such deep flaws? He raised his hand. It was unanimous. All the members around the table realized the importance of the Olympics and the importance of the bill.

Why yesterday was it good and today it is not? Is he playing politics?

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

He should read the transcripts, Mr. Speaker. That would indicate where my dialogue was. We do not need to play silly games.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?