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House of Commons Hansard #33 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was benefits.

Topics

Canada-Colombia Free Trade AgreementPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade AgreementPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, may I just say, in defence of my hon. colleague from the NDP, I believe he was standing during the introduction of private members' bills. We saw him quite clearly stand during that portion of routine proceedings but, unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, you did not recognize him.

I am not sure if the members from the Bloc Québécois understood that the member was standing. I would wonder if now we could get unanimous consent to revert to the introduction of private members' bills to accommodate the hon. member from the NDP.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade AgreementPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is there unanimous consent to revert to the introduction of private members' bills?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade AgreementPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Country of Origin Labelling ActRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-346, An Act respecting Country of Origin Labelling.

Mr. Speaker, I want to deeply thank my hon. colleague from across the floor for his demonstration of grace and collegiality. I appreciate that.

I am honoured to rise today to introduce a bill that would mandate the labelling of country of origin on all food products.

Currently, the system of labelling is haphazard and unclear. Country of origin does not always mean that. It could mean the country of assembly or the country of origin of some ingredients. Families cannot make informed choices about the foods they buy. Perhaps they want to buy Canadian or perhaps they want to avoid food from a certain country for ethical or health reasons or even buy food from a particular country to support producers there. They may wish to buy fair trade or support locally grown products but they currently are unable to make these choices. My bill would give consumers a voice and that is something that all members should support.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Fish Labelling ActRoutine Proceedings

March 25th, 2009 / 3:25 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-347, An Act respecting the Labelling of Fish.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce a bill concerning the labelling of seafood products.

My bill would mandate producers and importers to place a label on all seafood products identifying them as either farmed or wild. This is particularly important with respect to salmon on the west coast of our country. Many of us want to make health conscious choices but, when it comes to seafood and salmon, there is little information available for us to make an informed choice. In many cases, farmed shellfish have a large environmental impact and wild fish is often better for the environment.

This bill is a major step in allowing families to choose what they eat and what they feed their children. Many people want to choose wild fish but are unable to make an informed decision.

A number of organizations, such as Living Oceans Society, which is a great advocate of healthy and sustainable seas, have called for legislation like this. I support their calls and urge all members to vote in favour of my bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Bill C-201--Canadian Forces Superannuation ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. On February 25, 2009, you invited members to comment on whether Bill C-201 would require a royal recommendation. Without commenting on the merits of this private member's bill, it is the government's view that our constitutional provisions and parliamentary procedures require that this bill be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Mr. Speaker, you have made numerous rulings that bills which change the criteria for a benefit payment or which increase the amount of a benefit payment must be accompanied by a royal recommendation. This is because the change or increase would modify Parliament's previous authorization for payment requiring new spending. Any bills which require new spending must be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

I will explain how these rulings apply to Bill C-201.

Because of the nature of their jobs, many Canadian Forces and RCMP members retire prior to reaching the age of 65. The acts governing their pension plans allow for the start of pension benefits before the age of 65. Pension benefits for members whose age is less than 65 include two parts: a lifetime benefit, which is consistent from the time of retirement through the member's lifetime; and a bridge benefit, which tops up the pension until a member reaches 65 and becomes eligible for Canada pension plan benefits. This is roughly equivalent to what the member will receive under the CPP when he or she reaches age 65.

At age 65, the bridge benefit is eliminated through a reduction formula in subsection 15(2) of the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, for retired members of the Canadian Forces, and in subsection 10(2) of the RCMP Superannuation Act, for retired members of the RCMP.

At age 65, members are eligible for Canada pension plan payments, which offsets the elimination of the bridge benefit. The total pension amount remains essentially unchanged, but it is received from two sources: the Canadian Forces or RCMP pension plan itself, and the Canada pension plan.

Bill C-201 would repeal the subsections which eliminate the bridge benefit. This would mean that members age 65 and older would collect their lifetime pension benefits, the bridge benefits, and the Canada pension plan benefits. In other words, the bill would result in an increase in pension benefits for members age 65 and older.

By increasing the demand on the Canadian Forces and RCMP pension plans in order to continue paying the bridge benefit to those over age 65, the bill would require new spending.

For the Canadian Forces, this bill would create a one-time lump sum past service liability of $5.5 billion and increase the ongoing annual cost of the plan, amounting to a $74 million increase for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

For the RCMP, the bill would create a one-time past service liability of $1.7 billion and increase the ongoing annual cost of a plan amounting to a $36 million increase for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

There may be a suggestion that these increased costs could simply be paid out of the current pension account and therefore would not trigger the need for a royal recommendation; however, this would not be accurate. The Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the RCMP Superannuation Act set out pension accounts and provide that benefits payable under the provisions of the acts are paid from the consolidated revenue fund and the respective pension funds on an ongoing basis. The acts also specify that the government must make up any shortfall.

The transactions and balances of the accounts are reported annually in the public accounts of Canada, and the obligation to pay accrued pension benefits is reported as a liability of the Government of Canada. Contribution rates were established for the Canadian Forces and RCMP pension plans to fund the current benefit arrangements and not the more generous benefit that would be created by Bill C-201.

If employee and employer contribution rates are increased in order to fund the more generous benefit, the increase to the employer's portion would necessarily increase demand on the consolidated revenue fund, and if contribution rates are not changed, demand on the consolidated revenue fund would increase since the acts specify the government must make up any shortfall.

In conclusion, the amendments in the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the RCMP Superannuation Act proposed by Bill C-201 would clearly require significant additional and distinct expenditures not authorized by the current acts. The bill therefore must be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Bill C-201--Canadian Forces Superannuation ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, we understand fully that the bill we have put forward does require a royal recommendation.

The reality is we are talking about citizens who serve and protect our nation overseas and within our borders. I think any allocation of the Queen's resources definitely could be well spent and allocated to the people who serve us. The men and women of our armed forces and RCMP are our greatest Canadian citizens. We should be doing everything we can to assist them, especially on their retirement.

Considering the positive nature of the bill, I look forward to the government following the issue of the royal recommendation quite closely.

Bill C-201--Canadian Forces Superannuation ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I will of course examine the matter and come back with a definitive ruling on it. It sounds as though the proposer of the bill thinks it needs a royal recommendation. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons seems to think it does. I will examine the matter and give a ruling in due course.

In any event, the bill can proceed until the third reading stage. It is only at the third reading stage when there would not be a vote if I make the finding that has been suggested by both hon. members. I will examine it.

The House resumed from March 23 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.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise today to speak to this bill. I want to mention the fine work that has been done by all members of the House but in particular by the hon. member for Western Arctic.

The NDP supports the general aim of this bill, which in short, aims to provide made in Canada regulations concerning the transportation and handling of dangerous goods. The New Democrats believe it is important to ensure the safety of the public, workers, and indeed all those involved in the transportation of dangerous goods. Once again, this bill brings to Canada an updated and made in Canada set of regulations to achieve that goal.

I also want to point out the excellent work done by several industry advocates and those knowledgeable about the transportation of dangerous goods, including those in the Teamsters union, who met extensively with members of the House to give their expert views in the area.

In the NDP's view, there is one major and serious flaw with the bill, which is that the bill requires everyone in Canada who handles dangerous goods to obtain a security clearance, the details of which unfortunately are not spelled out in the text of the statute. Instead, the criteria that would go into a security clearance are left undefined and are left to regulations. In other words, these are matters that will not be debated and passed in the House and Parliament. We have no idea what these criteria will be.

In the NDP's respectful view, it means the criteria that go into deciding whether someone in the country obtains a security clearance, which will be necessary for the individual to obtain and maybe retain his or her employment, are left to the discretion of the minister and are subject to change. That leads to a very real concern. The criteria that ultimately will be discerned and applied in the security clearance certificates will violate Canadians' long-standing privacy and constitutional rights.

Because of this flaw, the NDP tried to refer the bill back to committee, to get the committee to work on the matter to improve the bill and put it in a position that would address our party's concerns. Unfortunately, that has not been the will of the House. I want to elaborate on why we think this is such an important feature of an otherwise sound bill.

Prior to being elected, I worked for 16 years with a union that represented many workers involved in the transportation industry, many of whom were involved in the transportation and handling of dangerous goods.

I also did a lot of research on the drive to inculcate security requirements in this field. In particular, I became aware of the security and prosperity partnership process which began in 2005 under the previous Liberal government and championed by then Prime Minister Paul Martin. This process was carried on by Prime Minister Harper, and continues to this day.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. I would remind the member that he is not to use the given names of members of the House of Commons.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will gladly strike those references and refer to them as the previous Liberal prime minister and the current Prime Minister.

The SPP essentially comprised executive level and bureaucratic discussions among Canada, the United States and Mexico. These discussions have been conducted outside Parliament and have been conducted in secret. We have found that in these discussions over 300 separate areas of government involvement have been under discussion with a view to harmonizing these standards, things that involve food safety, consumer protection, water. Almost every aspect of our country's sovereignty has been up for discussion in these talks.

One of our concerns is regarding the essence of the matter before the House right now and of which I am speaking, which is, the criteria that go into security clearance for workers. The United States has imposed draconian requirements upon workers in the United States ever since 9/11. Many of these violate long-standing principles of Canadian jurisprudence and law, including our human rights, our rights to privacy and our rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For example, in the United States it is considered lawful and there is legislation to require workers who are not only involved in the transportation and handling of dangerous goods but in all sorts of areas to provide things like biometric information, retinal scans, fingerprints, hand shapes, and DNA samples. They have been asked and, at the risk of losing their jobs, are required to provide invasive information, such as their sexual orientation, the ports of entry when they immigrated, notwithstanding that they may have been citizens for decades, criminal records, marital status, and educational institutions they attended. This information has also been required of their spouses.

In the United States this information is not only required of these workers but they are required to sign forms that authorize the United States to share that information with any other country in the world. In many countries these workers do not have the same protection and many countries do not have the same respect for human rights that Canada has.

Those of us who have been following the SPP talks for the last three years are very concerned that Canada has tacitly agreed to follow the standards set by the United States in these areas. Because the criteria that will go into the granting of a security clearance are not specified in the legislation, we have grave concerns that these criteria will drop to those invasive standards that have been imposed by the United States.

One might ask what the difference is, that this is about the transportation and handling of dangerous goods, and people who have to cross the border into the United States should be subject to these standards. Here is where there is a major problem. It may be justifiable for these standards to be imposed on workers who transport dangerous goods across the border. That may be reasonable, but it is not reasonable to impose those standards on workers who never leave this country, those workers who work in warehouses and storage facilities in the body of our country. For them to be subjected to the extraterritorial application of American law when they may choose never to leave our country is wrong. It leads to concerns about people's democratic rights where Canadian citizens are subjected essentially to American-made requirements when they have no democratic right or means to influence those standards.

There have been cases where workers in the United States have lost their jobs when they decided to enforce their privacy rights, or they have lost their jobs when some aspect of the information that they have provided has caused concern.

If this were to happen in Canada, if someone were denied a security clearance certificate, how would the individual be able to challenge that?

In this case, we in the New Democratic Party are concerned. Canadian workers should have their right to privacy and their human rights respected.

We do not, in any manner, dispute the requirement to impose standards that ensure Canadians are safe and that the transportation of dangerous goods is conducted by people to protect the safety of the public. However, I would point out that there has not been one instance, not one in this country, where anybody who has transported goods in the transportation industry has been charged with any offence.

It is a great price to pay for Canadian workers to subject collectively the potential loss of their civil liberties when there has not been demonstrated in even one instance across this land, a need for same.

We must jealously and sedulously guard our civil rights at all times. It is easy in a time of peace to stand up for those rights, but it is harder when we are under threat. It becomes even more incumbent upon us as parliamentarians, I would respectfully submit, to stand up for those civil rights, those rights that our forefathers have fought for and that people are currently fighting for across this globe, to make sure that our rights are protected at all times and are only deprived of those rights for good and sufficient reason.

The bill would be an excellent bill, were it to include in the legislation, now debated in the House for all parliamentarians to see, the criteria Canadian workers would have to satisfy in order to get security clearance. Unfortunately, once again, the bill does not have that measure, and therefore, we are unable to support the bill because of that one aspect.

I would encourage and implore the members opposite who have done fine work on the bill, in many aspects, to look at this section. I am sure it is not their intent to violate the privacy and civil rights of Canadian workers, but they should be vigilant to ensure that the bill does not have that effect, even inadvertently.

I want to congratulate the fine work of my colleague from Western Arctic who has been such a strong supporter and protector of Canadian workers, and vigilant in making sure that their rights are taken into account, so that we can ensure not only the safety of dangerous goods in this country, and the transportation and storing of same, but also the civil and privacy rights of Canadian workers.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Resuming debate. Is the House ready for the question?

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

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

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

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

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.