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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

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, this is another example of the government introducing a huge omnibus bill with a whole bunch of different items in it. Bill C-16 is 216 pages long.

The member red-flagged the Fisheries Act. Why does the member think the Fisheries Act was not included in the bill? It seems to have everything else.

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, far be it for me to apply a divining rod to the government or to find the water. I do not know. It might be that the government is embarrassed by the fact that twice in a row it announced that by now it would already have a national water strategy for our country.

There is no national water strategy, which is why the Minister of the Environment, having cut the funding for the GEMS project with the University of Waterloo in water testing, reinstated it the day before World Water Day, Saturday past, to perhaps pick up the slack there.

I do not know why the Fisheries Act was an omission. It certainly would be interesting to hear from the minister himself. Given the powers the Fisheries Act officers have and the impact on fresh water, it will be very important to see whether this omission can be addressed and whether the bill can be amended.

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has put it in context in that we have a bill that will deal with environmental enforcement issues and fines and penalties. When it gets down to it, I think Canadians want to see that we support our laws and that the penalties and the fines are appropriate, but in its essence it totally ignores the environmental risk in the history of humanity, the threats to the planet. We also have, as examples in the budget, changes that will affect the effectiveness of our federal Environmental Assessment Act, which would in fact weaken existing legislation.

There seems to be a contradiction in the agenda of the government. Would the member help us to understand how we should move forward on these matters?

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, we need good environmental enforcement. We need proper fiscal signals being sent to the marketplace. We need new creative approaches like eco-covenants. We need to reward good voluntary behaviour. We need to provide the demand pull that only a federal government can with procurement systems. There is a whole suite of measures that will actually drive up environment performance. As of now, we do not see a coherent approach.

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

When debate resumes on this matter, the member will have four minutes remaining in questions and answers.

The House resumed from March 12 consideration of the motion.

Foreign Affairs and International DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It being 6:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion to concur in the third report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #30

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment to the motion at third reading of Bill C-9.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #31

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the amendment lost.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, climate change is the defining issue of our era, with its impacts on our economy, health and security potentially large and irreversible. Climate change is a comprehensive challenge. There is no silver bullet solution.

The Conservative government must build partnerships with national governments worldwide, business, consumers, local authorities and the energy sector. It must find abatement solutions and increase incentives for climate friendly research and development to protect Canada's competitiveness.

Unfortunately, Canada's research and development has now fallen to just less than 2% of GDP, below the OECD average. Our country's number of triadic patents also remains under the EU-25 and OECD averages. In stark contrast, our country's scientific and technological workforce experienced steady growth in research personnel between 1995 and 2004, with annual growth over 4%, well above the OECD average.

Today, Canada is falling behind its international competitors. The U.S. stimulus plan allocates six times more funding per capita on science and technology research, renewable energy and energy efficiency development than Canada.

Just four days ago, Minnesota's largest private foundation, McKnight, announced that it will spend an unprecedented $100 million over the next five years to address global climate change. McKnight is joining forces with other large U.S. foundations, including the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, in pledging more than $1 billion to prevent climate change. McKnight's president, Kate Wolford, called climate change an “extraordinary challenge” that must be addressed within the next decade to prevent irrevocable harm to the planet.

What specifically is the Conservative government investing in climate change innovation from people to process to research to marketing? Was there an increase to the Canadian climate and atmospheric science fund? The Liberals had a strategy in 2002.

Research and development is a key driver of long-term sustainable economic growth. The past experience of countries such as Finland and Korea shows that reforms aimed at strengthening innovation can help countries emerge stronger from a crisis and help put them on a more sustainable growth path.

What is the government investing in climate change innovators, as most knowledge is embodied in people rather than the firms and institutions that employ them? What action is the government taking to prevent climate researchers from leaving Canada as their funding dries up? What investment is the government making to expand the number of available climate friendly technologies and their mitigation potential?

7:10 p.m.

Langley B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the government remains deeply committed to sustaining Canadian research capacity in the climate change and atmospheric sciences. Our government supports world-class climate change research in many ways, including through university and government research projects. This February, Laxmi U. Sushama of the Université du Québec à Montréal became a new Canada research chair in regional climate modelling. This was part of $120.4 million to fund 134 new or renewed Canada research chairs in 37 Canadian universities.

Several Canadian scientists have taken leading roles in the intergovernmental panel on climate change. We are working hard to maintain or improve our strong position in this area through many new science and technology initiatives, as outlined in the 2007 Federal S&T Strategy: Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage.

As part of the clean air agenda, we have invested $1.5 billion in several priority research areas, including climate change adaptation. This includes $15 million for research to improve climate change scenarios and $14 million for a program to assist northerners in assessing key vulnerabilities and opportunities for adaptation.

Furthermore, the recent economic action plan allocates more money for green initiatives than any budget in Canadian history, and I thank the member for supporting that, with $1 billion over five years for clean energy research development and demonstration projects. We are one of the world leaders in this technology, including carbon capture and storage. We also invested over $150 million in the International Polar Year, more than any country.

The Federal S&T Strategy lays out a comprehensive, multi-year plan to make Canada a world leader in science and technology and a key source of entrepreneurial innovation and creativity. A cornerstone of the plan is developing, attracting and retaining the highly skilled people we need to thrive in the modern global economy.

We are working hard to build up our scientific capacity through increased funding to the Canada research chairs program, for instance, and the creation of the new Vanier scholarships. This was launched in September 2008 to support 500 Canadian and international doctoral students with scholarships valued at up to $50,000 per year.

Overall, Canada remains the second largest spender, after Sweden, on R&D through higher education among OECD countries. An independent study in 2006 concluded that Canada ranks among the top five countries in the field of climate, meteorological and atmospheric science.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are considerable time lags in the climate system and, therefore, many impacts of global warming are already locked in for the coming decades.

Within decades, many more millions of people will experience flooding due to sea level rise and suffer disease due to drought, floods and heat waves. In 2003, 35,000 died in Europe as a result of the heat.

Globally, the costs of adaptation could range from tens of billions to several hundreds of billions of dollars. Investing in adaptation to these impacts is therefore an immediate priority.

What specific investment is the government making in climate change adaptation here in Canada? Finally, what is the government doing to reduce the costs of available or emerging emission-reducing technologies to fight earth's most pressing threat?

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the question that rings throughout the hall is from the hon. member's leader asking why we did we not get it done, speaking to the Liberal Party. What a shame that the Liberals did not get it done after 13 long years.

In addition to attracting and retaining the best and brightest scientists, we are providing them with the tools necessary to conduct world-class research.

The economic action plan includes over $2 billion to support deferred maintenance and repair projects at post-secondary institutions and federal laboratories in order to improve our research capabilities. Again, evidence that we are getting it done on the environment.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, on February 23, my question for the government concerned the lack of transparency from the government with respect to the listeriosis outbreak.

The question related to why the Prime Minister's office has refused to release the notes from conference calls related to its role in managing the listeriosis crisis of last summer, a crisis that resulted in the largest food recall in Canadian history which came about as a result of contaminated meat products that led to the death of 20 people.

We know there were concerns about the increase in listeriosis as early as June of last year and that it was not until mid-August that CFIA appears to have become involved.

We also know that at a July 24 meeting involving CFIA, the issue of listeriosis was discussed when it was originally denied. I want to be clear that although this discussion was, in a general sense, not a specific situation, it was information that was withheld and I want to note that the issue was discussed.

We know a number of meetings between representatives of the company involved and senior government officials, including ministers, took place through the summer and into the fall. The question is: What was discussed during these meetings?

The fact is that the PMO is denying access to information as required by law. As well, increasingly there are questions about the Prime Minister's investigator.

As I said in my original question, the investigator has no authority to subpoena documents, no authority to subpoena witnesses and, in fact, reports to the very minister who is in charge of the food safety system in this country and that minister will decide whether or not all or parts of a report will be released.

Perhaps the government would care to provide the House with answers to the growing questions concerning the independent investigator. For example, under the section “Conduct of the Investigation”, it states that the independent investigator will “not have any personal or other conflict of interest or any bias in relation to any of the matters relating to the investigation”.

Is it not also important that there be no perception of a conflict of interest and, if so, how does the government explain that the investigator occupies offices on the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Experimental Farm site, that the investigator remains active on the Prime Minister's Advisory Committee on the Public Service and that two senior staff members are seconded from the federal government?

Does this lady have a coffee with the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Boardin the morning? They are within sight distance of each other. This is not the perception that we want to instill. The other point is that she can allow individuals who will be interviewed to attend the interview with counsel.

What authority does the investigator have then to compel witnesses if legal counsel instructs the client not to cooperate? According to the guidelines, there is no authority.

Why is the Prime Minister's office denying information and why does this investigator have no authority to do what she ought to do in an investigation?

7:20 p.m.

North Vancouver B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak this evening regarding the member's earlier question and Canada's access to information laws.

As said before in this chamber, the member opposite is trying to create the impression that decisions about what information to release are driven at the political level. This is absolutely false. Access to information requests are never handled by ministers or political staff. Professional and trained access to information staff in the public service perform the work across departments and agencies. It is the heads of those departments and agencies who are responsible for the administration of this program within their organizations and we expect everyone to obey the law in every respect.

The Federal Accountability Act, which was introduced by our government, brought into force the new access to information policy. The act and its companion action plan instituted an unprecedented level of rigour and scrutiny across the federal public sector. It contains the most extensive amendments to the Access to Information Act since its introduction in 1983.

This government takes Canadians' right to access to information very seriously. To ensure that the Access to Information Act is complied with, we have created an inventory of best practices to raise employee awareness of their information management responsibilities. In the past year, 628 members of the ATIP community have participated in 51 training sessions to ensure compliance with the act. The latest statistics show that the government has been effective, accessible and transparent with access to information requests and the government continues to strengthen openness and transparency in government operations.

The Treasury Board Secretariat, for example, has developed a framework for the management of information in the Government of Canada to strengthen management across the public service. To suggest that it is the ministers or their staffs who decide what is to be released and what is not to be released is a complete misunderstanding of how the system works. The member opposite knows this.

In his testimony before committee, the Information Commissioner stated, “We have not found through our investigations direct political interference in the processing of access requests”.

This government is committed to openness and transparency with respect to government operations. In fact, 69 new institutions are now accountable to Canadians through the ATIA. For the first time ever, Canadians can see how these institutions spend their tax dollars. In 2007-08, the government processed a record number of requests, an increase of 38% over the last five years. These are tremendous steps toward openness and transparency.

I thank the member opposite for the question. This government does take Canadians' rights to access to information very seriously.

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, is that not sweet? The government blames the reason for the lack of information on the bureaucracy. It blames it on the bureaucracy for the information not being provided.

The Conservatives are the government and we now know that one of the worst records on access to information in the world is coming from the Conservative government. The information is not being provided. The spirit of the act and the letter of the law are in fact being violated. For the member to talk about the government's Federal Accountability Act, the spirit of that one was broken long ago.

The fact is that the government does not know what openness and transparency mean. What is the reason? Is there something to cover up here? We do know that it is violating the spirit of the act.

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, this government takes Canadians' rights to access to information very seriously, as I mentioned before. We are the ones who fought for the rights of Canadians to know how their government operates. We opened up the Wheat Board, the CBC and dozens of other institutions to the Access to Information Act, something the Liberals failed to do.

Our Federal Accountability Act contains the most extensive amendments to the Access to Information Act since its introduction in 1983. Sixty-nine new institutions are now accountable to Canadians through the ATIA. For the first time, Canadians can see how these institutions spend their tax dollars. This government is committed to openness and transparency with respect to government operations.

Let us look at the facts. ATIA requests are up 14% thanks to our changes. That is almost 30,000 requests in 2007 and more than 25,000 since 2005. These are tremendous steps forward with openness and transparency, steps the Liberals never took.

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:27 p.m.)