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House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was regions.

Topics

The EnvironmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions. The first one is from citizens who are concerned about the danger of pollution. They are saying that Al Gore's film summarizes the life-threatening global danger from atmospheric pollution.

The petitioners request that the Government of Canada legislate programs consistent with meteorological reality and immediately reduce the climate change crisis by diminishing fossil fuel dependency while sponsoring initiatives and incentives to promote less harmful technology.

Corporate AccountabilityPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to present a second petition from folks who are calling upon the government to immediately develop legal mechanisms to require Canadian companies operating internationally to meet clearly defined corporate accountability standards including existing international human rights and environmental standards, and to ensure that these standards are met.

The petitioners also request that Parliament develops effective monitoring verification and compliance mechanisms to ensure that Canadian companies operating internationally meet these clearly defined standards.

Citizenship and ImmigrationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the upsetting responsibility to present a petition signed by over 800 disappointed constituents, and counting, who are disillusioned by the decision of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to deport Lioubomir and Olha Nalesnik .

Since fleeing Ukraine in 1994 for security reasons Mr. and Mrs. Nalesnik have contributed positively to Canadian society by working continuously through this period, paying their taxes and volunteering in our local community, exactly the type of new Canadians our country needs.

Consequently the petitioners urge the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to reverse his decision to deport Mr. and Mrs. Nalesnik. They have established roots, built new lives in Canada, and made a positive contribution to society during their 15 years here.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade AgreementPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present to the House a petition calling on Parliament to reject a Canada-Colombia trade deal until an independent human rights impact assessment is carried out. That the agreement be renegotiated along the principles of fair trade which would take environmental and social impacts fully into account while genuinely respecting labour rights and the rights of all affected parties.

They are deeply concerned with the violence against workers and members of civil society by paramilitaries in Colombia, and the more than 2,200 trade unionists that have been murdered since 1991.

All Canadian trade agreements should be built upon principles of fair trade which fundamentally respect social justice, human justice, labour rights and environmental stewardship.

Sri LankaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the House will recall, a few weeks back we had an emergency debate in terms of the unfolding tragedy in Sri Lanka. Since that time nothing further has occurred from the Canadian government.

On behalf of concerned citizens, I am reading the following petition which states that: “We, the undersigned, call upon the Government of Canada to: intervene immediately to stop the war and urge for resumption of peaceful negotiations, urge the Sri Lankan government to allow NGOs to the affected areas, urge the Sri Lankan government to allow access to independent media, and urge the Sri Lankan government to allow an independent human rights monitoring mechanism.

TaxationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by Canadians who support changing an existing tax loophole that provides and unfair advantage to large retail cooperatives and harms small to medium size retailers. At present, large retail cooperatives can avoid paying corporate income tax due to the way they are structured.

This petition was circulated at over 200 bicycle retailers across Canada including several in Vancouver Quadra. It calls on Parliament to change the tax laws to allow small and medium size businesses to compete on a level playing field with large retail co-ops.

Small and medium size businesses are often locally owned and integral to their communities. During a time of economic uncertainty, it is more important than ever to have fair tax treatment for small and medium size businesses so they can survive and ultimately thrive.

AsbestosPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from thousands of Canadians who draw the attention of the House to the fact that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known and the fact that more people now die from asbestos than all other industrial causes combined.

Yet, the petitioners point that Canada is still the world's second largest producer and exporter of this deadly carcinogen. They also point out that Canada spends millions of dollars subsidizing the asbestos industry and blocking international efforts to curb its use.

These petitioners call upon Parliament to ban asbestos in all of its forms, end all government subsidies of asbestos both in Canada and abroad, and stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam convention.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 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, question No. 58 will be answered today.

Question No. 58Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

With respect to the participation activity and limitation survey PALS, as part of the Canadian census: is the government planning on withdrawing support for the PALS being part of the upcoming census?

Question No. 58Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, HRSDC remains committed to ensuring that the data required to support disability-related policy development, program delivery and reporting are available. The feasibility of a 2011 PALS, as well as alternative options for disability data collection are being evaluated currently.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

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

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Marine Liability Act and the Federal Courts Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When the debate was interrupted for question period, the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca had the floor. There are eight minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks and I therefore call upon the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will get to the last part of my speech. I was getting into the part about the fact that human activities are the biggest threat to our oceans. As I said before, 17 of the major fisheries in the world are depleted, overfished and becoming extinct. This is a catastrophic problem.

Global warming is causing sea levels to rise. Many pesticides and nutrients are getting into the ocean system. Factories and industrial pollutants are pouring into the oceans. Air pollution is responsible for one-third of the toxic contaminants and nutrients that enter our coastal waters. Invasive species are causing greater problems.

There are solutions out there and I am going to provide some of them. Number one is to establish marine protective parks. On the coast of British Columbia there are a number of areas that can and should be protected.

Dr. Sylvia Earle, who hails from Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and the Scripps Research Institute in California, one of the world's leading oceanographers, has repeatedly called for the protection of areas in the world where fish species go to become larger and reproduce. The failure to protect these areas, which are unregulated and unprotected, will result in the massive demise of major fish species that are the cornerstone species not only in the oceans but also critical to the lives of people across our globe.

We fish and the fish will not be available, a major source of protein. What are we going to do when that source dries up? We have a serious problem and we have to act now.

There needs to be an elimination of destructive fishing practices, like ocean dragging. Ocean dragging destroys ecosystems on the ocean floors. It must be banned. I expect that the government can work with us to provide leadership in that area.

We all know what climate change is. What does not receive enough attention is the impact of climate change on our oceans. Oceans act as a carbon dioxide sink. They also produce oxygen. As temperatures rise, the ability of oceans to absorb carbon dioxide and oxygen, quite frankly, diminishes. The decrease in carbon dioxide absorption results in a feedback loop that actually causes a worsening of climate change.

This is the horror story before us. Once these feedback loops begin, they cannot be stopped. The increase in ocean temperatures resulting in a decrease in oxygen results in the death of fisheries because these anoxic areas are created that do not have any oxygen. The absence of oxygen will kill fish. It is critically important that we start to address this issue.

On the issue of climate change, we are going to look at Copenhagen, which is really Kyoto 2. I am going to present a solution that I think can be quite innovative.

The forests of the world are actually giant utilities. These utilities provide us with an ability, through photosynthesis, to produce oxygen and reduce carbon dioxide. That is what photosynthesis is. As we slash, burn and cut these forests of the world, including our own, it results in a decrease in the carbon dioxide consumption or the carbon sink capabilities but it also reduces the production of oxygen. The great forests of the world are utilities but we do not pay for them. There is no value in them. The only value they have right now is, frankly, to cut them down.

What if we were to change the way we think about the forests of the world? What if we were to look at the forests of the world as giant utilities that provide a benefit, which they do? They produce oxygen and reduce carbon dioxide. What if we paid not to cut down the forests? What if we were able to provide a value for those forests? That can be done.

It is estimated that every forest can absorb about 200 tonnes of carbon every single year. At a price of $10 per tonne of carbon, that is $2,000 per hectare. In the case of Indonesia, for example, it would be mean over $2 billion would go to Indonesia not to cut its forests down. Putting a value on carbon and a value, therefore, on the forests because of their ability to consume carbon produces a value for the forests and for the people who have them. They could then produce carbon credits which could then be sold to generate money for their communities.

This is particularly important in developing countries. Herein lies the opportunity for CIDA. CIDA deals with human development. The Department of Environment deals with environment. The twain do not meet. There is a chasm between the two that has never been connected.

If we are to address the issue of climate change and the issue of human development, then environment and human development are two halves of the same whole. The way to connect them is through CIDA and the Department of the Environment working together so Kyoto 2, or the negotiations that will take place in Copenhagen, will produce a system where carbon has a price and forests have value.

Looking at forests as a giant public utility, moneys can accrue, so cutting down the forests would be unnecessary. That would arrest the horrible situation occurring around the world, which is the destruction of forests. The destruction is not only the cutting down of the forests, but in many cases they are being burned. In the burning of the forests, we see the release of greenhouse gases. It is a terrible situation.

Canada can provide leadership. Not many people are talking about the solution, but I firmly believe our ability to move forward, putting a price on carbon, putting a value on forests and paying for not cutting them down, will ensure that the people see value in keeping those forests, which would benefit the people surrounding them. In other words, when we benefit people, we also benefit our environment.

With respect to global warming, it is critically important that the government looks at best practices. It should be engaging, interacting and showing leadership rather than following. South of the border President Obama has chosen to take this with both hands and address the problem, as opposed to what happened in the eight years prior to that.

Our government, tragically, is cutting and choking off the funds for significant climate change groups in Canada, particularly those attached to universities. There is a network, partly at the University of Victoria, and Professor Weaver sits on the international panel for climate change, which won the Nobel prize. However, the government is choking off those funds. It is cutting the funds to this network, which has been built over the last several years to deal with climate change. Tragically, this will remove the very solutions we want.

I have provided a number of solutions for the government to improve our oceans, our navigable waters and our environment. We, in the Liberal Party, strongly want to work with the government to improve the bill to ensure that it addresses the concerns of Canadians.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the hon. member's comments on Bill C-7. How will passing Bill C-7 help to promote marine protected parks and ocean dragging and stop climate change, about which he spoke so eloquently?

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, the fact is it will not, but we provide this opportunity for the government. We, in the opposition, can work together. All political parties, all members are offering the government solutions.

The government can put forth solutions to eliminate dragging and have a comprehensive strategy to deal with our oceans. It can take a leadership role rather than a subservient role on the issue of protecting marine areas in Canada and throughout the world, critical marine areas for the protection of species, many of which we consume as foodstuffs. The government also needs to work with first nations groups, which are willing partners to make this happen.

We need to do many things on climate change, on species protections and on reducing pollution. The solutions are out there. It requires leadership. It requires focus. It requires the Conservatives to do their job, rather than sitting back and thinking that other countries and other groups will do it for them. They will not.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I did not catch the intervention of my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca prior to question period, but I fully appreciate the fact that his comments are in an overall context. He talks about the impact of dragging and bottom dragging on the entire ecosystem. We would hope that we work toward trying to reduce the impact on the overall ecosystem.

However, part of the bill is troubling. I know we want to send this to committee so we can find out whether enough is enough or just what is enough. I know just prior to the start of the last year's offshore lobster fishing season, a vessel, the Shovel Master, went down just off the coast of Yarmouth. It contained 70,000 litres of diesel oil. It sank on one of the most fertile lobster grounds just off the coast of Nova Scotia, so there is a great concern there.

I know the legislation addresses a number of different elements. I know it implements rules to make Canada's laws consistent with international protocols. There is one aspect on which I would like the member to comment, and maybe we will find this out in committee. I would appreciate his insight on the supplementary fund protocol that increases the amount of compensation to $1.5 billion. I know my colleague is very well aware of issues like the Exxon Valdez and so forth. Where does the $1.5 billion compensation fit in the whole scheme of things? Will that be enough? We understand the costs involved in these cleanups somewhat, but could I get his take on the limit of $1.5 billion in the legislation?

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, my friend from Cape Breton—Canso has always worked extremely hard for his constituents on the east coast. Again, we are two bookends from the east and west coasts who have some similar problems.

The fact is we need know from the government how the fund will be managed, what the accountability will be and how the government will use it. Frankly, there are a lot of new technologies out there to deal with spills and to protect the environment and cleanups. We have not heard from the government how it will attract, identify and utilize those new technologies. It would be wise for the government to do this so we can ensure we get the best bang for the buck.

My colleague comes from the east coast. We do not want to see on the west coast a repeat of the cod fishery's disaster that occurred on the east coast. It speaks to a failure of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, a failure of management, to listen to the scientists, to look at the science and to do the right thing for a sustainable fishery, whether it is on the east or the west coasts.

This is such an urgent problem for all those users of fisheries on the east and west coasts. We strongly recommend that the government listen to the people who are involved so we can adopt the best practices and do it now.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's intervention speaks, in large measure, to the importance of allowing members of Parliament to speak their mind during any debate. He has raised a series of issues that might have some relevance to the marine liability issue.

Would he spend a few moments reflecting on one issue he has raised, which is the significance of the environmental impact of the release of greenhouse gases when there is an environmental destruction of our forestry? The reason I would like him to do that is the bill will be examined in committee in the context of how to apply the liability issues to freighters, to cargo carriers of product that could potentially have a damaging effect on the environment.

Since he talked about the value to a pristine environment, if we transfer that value onto an insurance model, then we could impose upon those individuals or corporations that engage in activity detrimental to the environment an appropriate tariff for liability purposes.

Would he share his views and his thoughts in that vein for those of us who serve on the committee and would like to bring some of those issues to a more specific discussion of the bill when it does come to committee?

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, on the issue of marine liability, it is very important that user groups be brought in front of the committee. They need to be consulted to establish a mechanism and one they are fully aware of since they are the ones who will be responsible for moving those tankers and ships through various routes.

The other point I would like to make is the routes have to be established. They have to be out of the way of major marine mammal areas as they affect marine mammal reproduction. We need to deal with the issue of sonar and the use of sonar for our military. We know military sonar has a significant and profound impact upon marine mammals.

Double-hulling is another issue that needs to be brought up. We need to discuss when to do that.

Overall, we need to consult with the private sector on how to prevent these things from happening. We talk about what we will do when they happen, but it is critically important that we do all that we can to prevent these marine disasters. We know they can have such a profound impact upon ecosystems and the people who live near them. We have seen that they can be devastating.

My hon. colleague asked about forests. The destruction of forests result in an increase in greenhouse gases and a decrease of the absorbent capacity of the oceans to remove greenhouse gases and to absorb oxygen. This results in a decrease of oxygen in the oceans, which kills all manner of fish.

Also, because the oceans have a decreased ability to absorb greenhouse gases, the temperature therefore will go up. This results in an increased melting of the glaciers of the world, most of which will in fact become extinct over the next century.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to Bill C-7, an act to amend the Marine Liability Act. This is not my riding's greatest concern, but it does show that I give thought to the bills that are important to this House.

I have reservations about the nature of this particular law as it brings out some of the dilatory nature of the government. This law is acting on a 2005 report.

It is important that the House and the government address some of the less glamorous sides of government. However, I think the laws that we have seen coming through the transportation and infrastructure committee of late are laws that could have been and should have been addressed some time ago and could have been and should have been part of some animated discussion in terms of setting standards.

I think they find themselves less subject to that because of the long time it has taken for the government of the day to actually address the business of the day. For people even lightly concerned with the affairs of the country, it has now become commonplace to recognize that the Conservative government has been very occupied with its own politics and its angling for power. The actual day-to-day running of government and moving forward with the business of government have lost out in very significant measure.

The bill before us today addresses some significant things in the sense of conventions to which Canada has made itself a signatory. It addresses a glaring gap in the liability coverage with respect to adventure tourism as it relates to the Maritimes, our various coasts and their ability to continue. People know that the whole move toward ecotourism in terms of employment and so on leaves those operators disadvantaged. The Conservative government has put a whole range of the public interest on a slow boat that will only come into harbour when it is in the political interest of the government, not the public interest. This is a hallmark of the government. It is not just the public interest, but some very specific parts of the country that suffer.

I predict that this is going to become increasingly recognized as a measure of some of the disappointment that people have with the government, because this is a signature. We can look at the relationship between laws like this one and others. Currently before committee is another law looking at Arctic waters and the extension of the 100-mile limit to a 200-mile limit. There was a consensus on that some time ago. There is also some work being done around changes to some of the remote airports.

A lot of these things could have been and should have been addressed by the House some time ago, but they did not fit the mode of the government. People may wonder is it not the job of the government to simply govern. That is not what the government of the day saw as its main reason for being here. Instead, led by the Prime Minister, it uses every opportunity and every ounce of its power and every aspect of privilege to introduce things that advance it in public opinion and give it a better chance to win government.

A year or two ago many reasonable Canadians would have called that something of an overemphasis, that that is not exactly how they understood the government and its particular brand of conservatism. I think it is now fairly well entrenched with the Canadian public that there is an opportunism that trumps the public interest.

We need to have some reasonable level of debate. For example, there are nuggets in this legislation that speak to levels of liability and adopting international conventions to establish them. Some of the ones that are fixed do increase, but this is a complex bill that addresses crafts of different sizes, from canoes or paddle-powered boats up to tankers weighing hundreds of tonnes and those that also carry bunker fuel for their propulsion.

This is a long overdue consideration of the pollution protections for our coastal waters and how well they conform. We can be fairly guaranteed that ships of a certain size will have registration and insurance once this law comes into effect and two of the international conventions that are waiting on this law come into effect in terms of guaranteed licensing and insurance. This is the result of a report in 2005 and we stand here in 2009 coming only to its first deliberation.

Again, it is important to consider that this is part of a pattern. To be reasonable and fair, we must take a look at the government's own accountability reports in areas like infrastructure. In 2007-08, according to the government's own report on infrastructure, there is a strong indication that only about 5% of the dollars budgeted for that year actually was distributed.

The government should have focused more on bills such as the one before us today, Bill C-7, on the actual running of government, actually getting dollars out, getting laws modified and passed, keeping up with the business of government, the unglamorous side, the non-political side. The ratio is what we have to fulfill if we are not going to end up gumming up the works, which is the situation I humbly submit the government of the day now finds itself in.

Not having been interested in running good government, it now finds itself with a backlog of public interest items that have to be reckoned with. Its agenda up to now has really been to sustain itself in power and hopefully propel itself into a majority, but now that agenda stands exposed. It stands somewhat weakened and instead of being able to play Whac-A-Mole with the various issues that pop up every day, there is a heck of a lot of governing that has to be reckoned with.

In not spending 95% of infrastructure dollars, in not bringing forward this bill sooner, Canadians have not been served well. That is the simple and clear matter of it. Canadians wonder why the government is not taking care of a variety of initiatives.

Canadians would be disturbed to know, for example, that some of the bills that have come forward to deal with some of the concerns, not just regionalized in places such as Vancouver but around community safety and so on, have been to this House before, have been offered consensus support by the parties before, but for its own agenda, incredibly for a government that would portray itself as having an abiding interest in some level of community safety, the government has actually held onto those bills. It has delayed them so that it could go to the polls and talk about them as not having been passed.

If we look at the various parliamentary manipulations around bills presented to this House, we will find that to be accurate and to be the case. It is a government again that has really broken new ground for the high ratio of incredibly intensive political considerations of its actions. There is no denying that every government that brings things forward needs to have a consideration for the well-being of the opinion of the public, but this is a whole different level that knocks out what many of the constituents who sent all of us here would see as reasonable or fair in the face of our overall obligations.

With respect to the Marine Liabilities Act and the Federal Courts Act that makes these consequential amendments, this says to the people who, for example, have been waiting for adventure tourism for these five years that we are going to get around to it, that this actually may be in the purview of the government to do some of the heavy lifting on some of the things that need to get done. We can also sense, as we have at committee, a certain lack of enthusiasm of the government for that job of finding where it is it can move things forward on behalf of Canadians.

The biggest illustration of this perhaps is in the recent business around the federal budget. The government, in its wisdom, thought it would bring in an agenda that would cut $5 billion, but it turned into an $18 billion agenda of deficit financing, of incentives and of stimulus. Whether it comes to that moment of the day or a bill like this one, I think all fair-minded Canadians are asking themselves whether the government really means it, if it is being compelled to do it, if it is not really part of how it has put itself at risk in terms of promises that it has made to Canadians, if it is really a sincere commitment on the part of the government to run the ordinary business.

Clearly Bill C-7 falls into the category of the ordinary running of government. This is the kind of thing we would like to think that parliamentarians out of the limelight would spend some of their time on, making sure that we get it right, making sure that Canada does not fall behind other countries, as apparently we have now, in ratifying the conventions, that we do not fall behind other jurisdictions, as we apparently have, in terms of promoting the ecotourism that comes with marine adventure tours and so on.

Quite frankly they have been unable, without our adherence to the convention, to find liability insurance to the same degree that would make that possible. It is actually a significant constraint on something that should be within a proper discussion of its impact. Every new industry has its ups and downs in terms of what it can do, but it is something that has been touted, quite rightly, as a way for some of the communities that previously depended upon resource exploitation, that have found that a less viable industry, to turn to that and to find themselves better supported in a way that is much more in keeping with the environment.

As the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca spoke about so eloquently earlier, there is an environmental tie-in here, but we can understand as well that there is a lack of enthusiasm on that particular front. This has not been a direction in which the government has tilted its hat. There has been minimal coverage of some of these things.

I want to say to the people who are keeping track of how Parliament is doing that this is a consistent feature of how we find the government. It is just covering the minimal bases and working every angle that it can to advance what its true agenda may still well be.

On this side of the House, we would like to believe there is a capacity in the government to hunker down to business, to look at things like Bill C-7, to look at its obligation to fund infrastructure projects, and to take some of the partisanship and political component out of it.

If one listens, for example, to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, one will know that is not the case. Of the times that the issue has been raised, whether it be here or in committee, it really is around a partisan element.

We hear a defence for the idea that most of the money should go, for example, to Conservative ridings. The government still, in its old-fashioned outlook, looks after its prerogatives even in this hour of need for Canadians. Last December 44,000 people lost their jobs in the construction industry. I do not have a comparable number in terms of how significantly people are affected in the ecotourism industry that is referred to in this bill in terms of marine adventure, but no doubt they would find themselves compromised for a time simply because they did not fit the bulls-eye of the government. That bulls-eye has in it a very high quotient of political self-interest.

We would hope that with the encouragement of Canadians with some of the events of recent months there could actually be some kind of learning in place by the government. That is what Canadians require. They require that the government, for the time that it is there, actually exhibit the capacity to look after a broader range of interests.

Later on today the government will have a chance to express itself with respect to a particular group of immigrants who have the wide support of Canadians as resisters to the Iraq war. They have come from the United States. They have given up an entire lifestyle and connection to their home country out of an ethical and moral crisis that they have experienced. These are people who have spent, as an example of people who live in my riding, as much as 27 years serving their country and their military. Yet, members opposite, because they think that simplification serves their agenda, are prone instead to mischaracterize these people in the negative and look at them as something less than the special case considerations they are.

Having a Canadian sensibility is something that needs to be worked for by a government that is prepared to roll up its sleeves and be open to the new ideas and occurrences that come, not from the people who occupy the chairs in this chamber, but rather from the Canadian public. Instead, for members opposite, that too often has been found lacking.

It is our hope that this bill will find at least some time in committee and that we will look at purposefully and weigh the balance by consulting with some of the groups that are affected by some of the liability coverages put forward in terms of the risks that Canadians have.

It is interesting that there is a whole range of things that still need to be done in terms of international shipping. I think most Canadians would probably sleep a little less easily if they knew that the amount of liability available, for example, for an oil spill is much less than the damage it could cause to our coastline and to our environment. That would be concerning. Yet, as I spoke earlier, there is a conspicuous lack of urgency in terms of driving the government forward to bring us this bill after four years.

There does arise the possibility of hope for how the government may conduct itself in this regard and more broadly. It is in that tempered hope that the government has been put on an effective probation as it needs to be.

We know that left to its own devices it would simply reproduce the record that it had in recent years of being unable to fund infrastructure projects and unwilling to put out a whole range of government actions. We saw in the last budget report a whole range of projects that went underfunded, unspent and unattended to by a government that is simply too concerned and spends too much of its time on its political interests and not enough time on the public's interests.

This bill is only one example of several that have started to slowly come out of the bureaucracy that is a necessary part of government. One can almost hear that word in disdain from the members opposite, but there is a part of governance that is not about what gets into the headlines. I understand there has not been a lot of media coverage of this particular bill.

Therein lies some of the reasons the government has taken so long to bring this forward. Nowhere in the coda of the government, of the ethics, of the way it expresses itself is a commitment to do government better, to actually see government work as opposed to castigated, as opposed to put a whole host of imagined ills on what happens to government, but the very idea that government could be made to function better, frankly, even in an enterprise way, to try different ideas and better ideas of making government work better rather than handing it off to some blurry version of the private sector that it has in mind.

Some of the members opposite served in the Mike Harris government in Ontario, the Conservative government in Ontario, and we found, in case after case, what happens when a government is not focused on making government work fully in the public interest. Every day there are people driving on highway 407 that was given off, handed away completely, to the private sector without due valuation for the public interest. It was sold for $3 billion and evaluated for $11 billion not even 12 months later. A complete giveaway.

People do not talk publicly about the justice project, in which some of the members opposite were involved, in terms of current ministers, and yet the justice project ended up with hundreds of millions of dollars spent by a private sector firm on developing a case management system. It ended up in litigation and got exactly zero for the government of the day and governments to follow.

There are other cases of billions of dollars wasted by a particular brand of Conservative that holds government in disdain. I guess what I want to say in terms of the Marine Liability Act, in dealing with the needs that are brought forward here, is an element of vigilance is required, not just on this side of the House but on the public's part as well. In order to understand the government of the day, it is important to understand this predilection that it has towards its own interest.

Some of that has become part of the public characteristic that people have attributed to the Prime Minister, whether fairly or not, but I think it has started to stick as what they see. Most recently some of the public opinion polls say that he is not trusted in terms of the direction of the economy.

I would submit, humbly, to the members opposite that this is part of the problem, that their leadership as well as individual members do not speak in this House about things like how to get infrastructure money to their own communities. They do not say that the gas tax method would get the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in some cases directly to their municipalities, directly to their local needs, because maybe, and I do not wish to ascribe motive, but it seems on the surface of it that they subscribe to the old style of in the back room, slicing up the piece of pie and hoping that their riding will get that. Well, even though there is a propensity to see that money go toward Conservative ridings, it does not necessarily mean that their riding will benefit.

I would submit that just as people want to see us address things, long overdue things like marine liability, they want us to reckon with how to get dollars out in stimulus, dollars that are being borrowed from their grandchildren. That is what happens when money is borrowed, that they would meet that higher standard, that in fact we would see those dollars land out there in products that are worthwhile.

We have yet to hear from a single member in the government party on that subject. In fact, they all voted against their local communities getting a fair share of those infrastructure dollars. Instead, they have submitted to an old fashioned application program that will allow somebody in the back rooms to put their fingerprints on it. They hope it will mean a bigger set of scissors and a bigger chance to actually cut the ribbons and so on, and take credit for it.

I would say to the members opposite, just as this bill should have been in this House some time ago, just as we should have been helping marine tourism previously, just as we should have been ensuring that our environmental protections are as strong as they needed to be in terms of moving us forward sooner, so, too, must there be a different look at how government operates.

There is an increasingly short period of time should the government not see, appreciate and understand that. I would look to the wisdom of the members opposite when it comes to the variety of votes and choices that are coming forward and the considerations they make in their own caucuses to tell the government, and its leadership, plainly, that it is time to look after the people of Canada and not to look after the Conservative Party of Canada over and over again in this place.

I look forward to the chance to dialogue further with members about this bill and obviously, even more important, about the priorities that this bill represents, not just the protection of our marine traffic into Canada, not just the modernization of what we are doing in terms of protecting the environment and advancing some of the newer types of industries, but having this House be effective on behalf of Canadians so that it does not take four years to get a functional bill in front of this House where members can put it in front of committee and bring in the groups that need to look at it.

It may trouble people who are observing us to know that we are not all tasked every day in terms of the government putting in front of us the important issues around the auto sector. We have seen nothing from the government about what it is doing in the auto sector, the forestry sector or infrastructure. It has simply does what it thinks is in its political interests and does not expose it to this House.

To give credit to the United States, it has shown the public what it is doing. The result is that we have no protection in terms of assets pledged for the dollars that we have offered to General Motors, for example, none whatsoever. It was all pledged to the Americans. We look forward--

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member's statements and I have a question for him.

Upon reading the bill, it seems to me that the current legislation gives equal liability treatment to passengers or customers whether they are riding a ferry or on a sightseeing trip. The same treatment is given to people who are involved in much more risky activities, such as whitewater rafting, kayaking, whale watching or Zodiacs. People involved in those sorts of activities are accepting a much higher risk than people riding ferries or on sightseeing cruises.

With Bill C-7, we are, in a way, giving preferential treatment. We are taking away the liability of the adventure tourism industry which, right now, are having to buy insurance policies to cover the liability.

If the member or his son and daughter were taking a trip on a ferry and there was an accident, they would be covered up to a certain level under the law and would be covered in the same way right now if they were riding in a Zodiac or whitewater rafting. This would exempt the whole group of adventure tourism companies and allow them to have waivers, which is not allowed under the current act, which means they would get away from buying insurance and protecting their passengers by having customers sign waivers saying that they are responsible if something happens to them.

I wonder whether this is something we should be taking a closer look at. We would be allowing a group to get out of the responsibilities it has right now. Insurance companies put tough requirements on industries, and maybe that is the way it should be. Should we be allowing an industry, which is riskier, to get out of providing liability, letting their customers sign waivers and putting the responsibility on children who may be hurt? The tourism operator will tell the tourists that it is their problem, that it will not pay out.

Does the member think we should be exempting operators and does he think that is fair?