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House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.

Topics

Resignation of MemberRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

I may ask for unanimous consent.

The highlight for me of the 39th Parliament was an opportunity to travel to Afghanistan with the defence committee to meet with the men and women who were serving in the Canadian Forces there. I was very impressed by their determination, skill, high level of training and their commitment to Canada and the job they were being asked to do.

The defence committee wrote a report on the war in Afghanistan. I, it will not be a surprise to most members, presented a dissenting opinion on that report. I believe that dissenting report is as valid today as it was two years ago when I wrote it.

I mention these achievements because too often Canadians think there is no effective role for an opposition member of Parliament. Some think members in opposition cannot achieve anything. It is very important for Canadians to know that all of us in this place can and do achieve real results for ordinary Canadians.

Canadians only see question period reflected in the news cycle, so they can be forgiven for thinking that Parliament is a nasty kind of sandlot filled with testosterone-driven egos. The truth is that all of us on both sides of the House have more in common than what divides us. We disagree on some fundamental policy issues, and that is an important part of our democratic system.

I hold my values as a social democrat very strongly, just as others in this place hold different views. I only wish that we could debate these differences with a bit more civility.

I urge all my colleagues to tone down the insults and abuse. What has been hurled back and forth across the floor has often lacked wit and wisdom. This place has become less civil over the past few years and I believe that this is evident in the increasing cynicism all of us hear from voters when we go door to door. It is, ultimately, dangerous for our democratic system.

There is one other issue I must draw attention to, and that is the glacial rate of progress toward gender equality in this place. The first woman MP, Agnes Macphail, was elected in 1921. This was a breakthrough for my grandmother's generation, my mother was not even born then.

Now in 2009, women represent just over 22% of the House of Commons. We have hovered around 20% for the last 15 years. At this rate of progress, and I have used the most up-to-date scientific calculations to determine this, it will take until December 4, 2100 to reach parity. That is darn near 100 years from now, and it is simply not good enough.

I urge all political parties in the House to get with it and nominate more women. After all, we are more than 50% of the population of our country. It is well past time. Our Parliament must more accurately reflect the Canadian population in every way.

I want to conclude with a few words of thanks. I am trying not to get emotional. I want to thank the Clerk, Audrey O'Brien, for all the assistance she has given me. It is a huge privilege for me to serve in a Parliament with the first woman to ever hold this prestigious and very important position.

I want to thank my staff in the constituency office, and all members know about this, because they are the front line people. They are the ones who face the sometimes angry constituents, the people who have issues around some of the government policies. They work so hard and I want thank them for all the work they have done for me over the years.

I want to thank to my staff on Parliament Hill, without whom I know I would not have been nearly as successful as I have been over the last few years.

I also want to thank some of the support people on the Hill: the drivers, the food services people, the postal workers, the messengers, the clerks, the interpreters, the security guards and the pages. All of these wonderful people make it possible for all of us to do our jobs. I know I could not have been nearly as effective without their help.

I want to thank my husband, Peter, who has sometimes taken abuse because of the road I have travelled and my choice to run for political office. I know at one point, while canvassing for me on the doorstep, one angry man said to him “What kind of man are you? How do you allow your wife to do such a thing?” I know that has been tough, and it has been hard to have me away. I appreciate his support all these years.

I want to thank my sons, Matthew, David and Stuart, their terrific partners and my seven very brilliant grandchildren.

There are some things I will not miss. I will not miss the weekly flights from B.C. I will not miss the jet lag. However, there is much I will miss here. I will miss my colleagues on both sides of the House. I will miss the work, especially at committee where great things are sometimes accomplished.

I wish all of my hon. colleagues in this place great wisdom and great compassion as they face the crisis that is affecting Canadians today. Finally, I want to thank the voters of New Westminster—Coquitlam for putting their faith and confidence in me.

Resignation of MemberRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, while the very popular member is receiving congratulations on an incredible political career as she is saying goodbye, I just want to add our best wishes to her on behalf of the Prime Minister, on behalf of the government and on behalf of a fellow tri-city resident who has taken many flights with my hon. colleague across this country over many years.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to say farewell to a friend, farewell in the political sense of the House. She is leaving this place but she is not leaving public service. She is seeking the nomination in an election in a provincial campaign which will be decided on May 12 of this year in British Columbia.

Politics and public service has always been a part of the member's life. As a matter of fact, she worked for a number of years for Pauline Jewett who was a former well-respected and well-regarded NDP member of Parliament in this place and served four terms, three of them from British Columbia. The member served in her office, serving constituents in her own way, which we all know that our staff does in a multitude of ways that only help to serve our civil society. When Pauline Jewett decided not to seek re-election, a door opened and the member stepped into it and stepped through it.

The member was elected into the House in the campaign of 1988. She made some substantive contributions, not the least of which is the one for which she is most noted and which she mentioned in her speech. After the tragic murder of 14 women on December 6, 1989, the member passed a private member's bill to recognize nationally the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This year marks the 20th anniversary of that horrible tragic moment. It is a remarkable tribute that 20 years later this will not just be recognized as a local tragedy but as something the entire country needs to recognize as we all move forward to try to build a better society. That is, in part, because of the work of the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.

It is often very easy for these tragedies to come and go and for us to say how awful they were, but to elevate and define the greater problem, to point a light on it and to force debate and discussion is a very helpful thing. It is a remarkable tribute to a remarkable woman who has served the House in many ways with distinction.

I have looked at the list and I have looked at the dates that she was in the House and I saw that she has had the opportunity to debate Prime Minister Joe Clark as minister, Prime Minister John Turner as opposition leader, Prime Minister Mulroney, Prime Minister Chrétien, Prime Minister Paul Martin, our current Prime Minister and, of course, to serve with Ed Broadbent, Audrey McLaughlin and Alexa McDonough in this place. A lot of Canadian history has come across this floor that she has been a witness to and in fact has been a part of in very important and very helpful ways.

When she discussed and mentioned in her talk about the importance of civility in the House, I can say that those were not empty words. I know from personal experience. About a year ago, I had a situation in the House and that member was one of the first people to call me and to recognize that what happened was wrong.

We have neighbouring ridings and in an election campaign a few years ago, when it was particularly nasty and personal but unnecessarily so, she went out of her way to call the opposing NDP candidate and tell the candidate to cool it. She walks her talk when it comes to civility in Canadian politics and not just in the House but elsewhere.

I looked on the Library of Parliament website and it says that the member has served for 2,965 days. I suspect she has felt every one of those days. With those long flights to and from Vancouver, I know it is not easy spending 10-plus hours every week in a tube, in an airplane and suffering through the food, the waits and all that sort of stuff, but we all do it because we believe in service and we believe in greater values.

When she was engaged in these debates, she would say that good strong debates in politics were a part of politics and that it was the best of politics when people had firm disagreements and disagree in thoughtful ways. She has given more than she has gotten. She has won more than she has lost.

What is the federal NDP caucus' loss may well be the provincial NDP caucus' gain.

To Peter, to Stuart, Matthew and David, and to Christopher, Ian, Meagan, Lauren, Kate, Maggie and Rebecca, “your bride, your mother, your grandma is coming home and she has earned it”.

Congratulations!

Resignation of MemberRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I feel extremely honoured and privileged to have the opportunity to say a few words about the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam who is a good friend. I have known her for many decades and I had the opportunity and honour to work with her when I was the Premier of British Columbia.

She is a great member of Parliament, a great British Columbian and a great Canadian. We have talked many times during those flights back home and, at other times, we talked about our grandchildren.

I want to tell her, Peter and everyone else in her family that they will have her back. She will have at least 12 hours on her hands, which she used to spend on flights, to spend with her grandchildren. I have three grandchildren but she has many more. I do not know whether I will ever catch up.

I want to tell the member that it has been an absolute delight to know her as a human being and as a friend. In a sense, she has been a friend and a guide because she was here before I was here. She has lived her principles. She has shown the breadth and depth of her commitment with the issues that she has tackled and with the vigour and determination with which she has tackled those issues.

I know she probably thinks it will be bit of a relief to go back to British Columbia but in British Columbia politics is known as a blood sport. I do not know how much more or less civil it will be but politics in British Columbia is as exciting as ever. I know that when she goes back to British Columbia she will make a great contribution to my province and her province and will continue to make a great contribution to this country.

I thank the member for serving us in Canada and in British Columbia.

Resignation of MemberRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my voice to those of my colleagues in thanking the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam for her services to the House.

I have been sitting for eight years now on the Standing Committee on National Defence, and my colleague has always impressed me with her bearing and the way she presents her arguments. She is a highly intelligent woman with her own particular way of presenting the issues, but she is also a woman with a big heart and great humanity, something that is extremely important in the work we do.

This is a woman who brings all the data together and gives it a human dimension, which is indeed a character trait of many women. This is why it is important for the political world to open up to the idea of more and more women coming in to change politics, no matter the parliament in question.

So I want to say to my colleague on the Standing Committee on National Defence that we have greatly appreciated her presence. Furthermore, politically speaking, the Bloc Québécois and I were often on the same side of the fence as she, and were often looking across at the same people on the other side of the fence. But she was always very civilized about it, with the emphasis on dialogue.

Mention must also be made of the charisma of this woman. Although one must be careful when provoking her, because under her sweetness and charisma there lurks a veritable lioness. She is capable of baring her claws and biting. I have seen her do it. Fortunately I have not been a victim, but I have seen her do it. She is perfectly capable of defending herself, and whatever parliament she works in, I am sure she will make a great member.

I would like to add something which I think will please her. I believe that her family, which is in attendance here, was a major factor in her decision to go back home. This too must be respected. Often members will say that they have had a very active life in politics, but have only one regret, that of not being there enough for their family. I want to thank this family for having loaned us a woman of such calibre. This must have been a great sacrifice, for they were deprived of her presence for many years.

This return to the bosom of her family is important, and I think it must be emphasized. Politicians often need the support of their family. When we are a long way away, we find it difficult because our family is not close by. Of course we then turn to friends, but that is not the same as turning to one's own family.

Therefore I want to thank her husband, her children and her grandchildren for allowing us to discover this great lady of politics.

The Bloc Québécois wishes this hon. member good luck with her career. We are eager to go and meet with her in her new parliament in British Columbia.

Resignation of MemberRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of our entire caucus and our former leaders Ed Broadbent, Audrey McLaughlin and Alexa McDonough, I offer our thanks for her extraordinary work and service to our country. Dawn Black is a courageous woman and a woman of integrity, who has worked unfailingly for her constituents of New Westminster—Coquitlam. Our thanks are heartfelt.

I also very much appreciated the fact that the members remained in the House while we thanked my colleague. This shows the respect that all MPs have for the efforts of this extraordinary member.

I can say that the member of Parliament, as a member of a caucus, is an extraordinary contributor. I think all of us in this chamber have participated in caucus meetings and, from the way in which the member conducts herself here, I think members can imagine that in a caucus meeting she is a very important influence for us all. She has a sense a humour, which she utilizes strategically. However, I must say that there are very few others in the caucus who command the kind of respect that the member commands when she speaks to us about important issues.

I do not mind saying that when I asked the member if she would take on the challenge of being our spokesperson on issues of defence, she was a bit surprised. However, none of her colleagues were surprised at the recommendation, because when a country is involved in war those discussions are so important. I want to underline something that the member spoke about in her speech just a few minutes ago because she underlines it all the time with us. She says that as we discuss the issues of war and what we have asked our brave soldiers to do and all of those who work in our military, we must always remember that they are courageous, that they are our children, that they are young people in our country who are trying to make a difference and that they are motivated by the very best of what it is to be a Canadian and, therefore, no matter what debates might happen about what we ask those in the military to do, we must always stand firm in the recognition, as we do on all sides of this House, of that service. I believe that, perhaps in part, it is because she has family members who serve on the front lines and I know how proud she is of the service of her sons, for example, who she speaks about quite often.

I can only imagine what a challenge it was, because of the emotions of the time, when the École Polytechnique massacre took place. The member worked with her colleagues in the House at that terrible time to ask what we could do to make a difference for the future, how we could take on the challenge of violence against women that the terrible attack represented. The lasting contribution that will probably stand out for so many years was her initiative that secured the support of the entire House, which is hard to do, for the declaration of a day of remembrance and action on December 6 of each and every year.

In recognition of the work of this wonderful member of Parliament, I think we could rededicate ourselves to that issue and try to infuse into that day even more meaning. There is no question that the issue of violence against women continues to be a very serious problem, not just here in Canada but around the world.

I should say that the member, while she was out of politics, stayed involved internationally through the Socialist International, which brings together countries from all around the world and political parties from those countries, including many governments, to take action on major issues. She focused on the issues affecting women through her work there.

I believe the emphasis she has placed here today and has continued to place on the important role of women in politics and the need to have more women in the House of Commons and at all levels of government is so important. I want to thank her for reminding us of that today. She has given us a challenge, because we do seem to be stuck at about 20% in the House of Commons. I think we should all work towards the day when we have full representation for women in the House of Commons, and that would be 50% plus one.

She has also participated in so many things. She is a member of the Greater Van Gogos. I am not sure that everybody knew that. The Gogos are the Canadian grandmothers who came together with the grandmothers of Africa who are now raising their grandchildren because their daughters have passed away due to the AIDS crisis in Africa. I know the Stephen Lewis Foundation played a considerable role in acting as a catalyst there. The work of these grandmothers is quite extraordinary. I know that is a cause that our member will no doubt be continuing on with.

Because so many wonderful words have been said here today, I simply want to close with a reference to the family and staff. The staff have worked very hard. The member has had an extraordinary team working with her. Of course, her family's support has always been there and been so solid. I can say that she is very proud of her family and we are as well.

On behalf of New Democrats across the country, we want to wish the member of Parliament for New Westminster—Coquitlam well in her next venture. We do hope that she will be successful in it. We do hope that we will be working with her in a new capacity. We will miss her here, but her contributions are by no means reaching a conclusion. In some ways, they are just beginning.

Resignation of MemberRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I pass on best wishes to the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam also.

I believe another point of order is arising here. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Bill C-304--Secure, Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

April 2nd, 2009 / 3:35 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 with respect to Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians, brought forward by the member for Vancouver East.

Without commenting on the merits of Bill C-304, I submit that this bill would create new spending and therefore must be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Bill C-304 would require the minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to consult with provinces, municipalities and aboriginal communities to establish a national housing strategy.

Subclause 3(1) of Bill C-304 provides that the minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation shall, following consultations with provincial ministers and representatives of municipalities and aboriginal communities:

establish a national housing strategy designed to ensure that the cost of housing in Canada does not compromise an individual’s ability to meet other basic needs, including food, clothing and access to education.

Subclause 3(2) states:

The national housing strategy shall provide financial assistance, including financing and credit without discrimination, for those who are otherwise unable to afford rental housing.

I submit that subclause 3(2), relating to providing financing and credit without discrimination, can only be accomplished by making changes to the parameters governing provision by the Government of Canada of a guarantee to mortgage loan insurers operating in Canada.

Providing homeowner mortgage loan insurance to individuals who were previously unable to obtain financing because of their financial circumstances would require changes to the mortgage loan insurance parameters, which would change the guarantee that the government provides to private mortgage loan insurers in Canada as well as to the conditions and criteria used by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to determine eligibility for mortgage insurance.

Therefore, the effect of the national housing strategy would be to broaden the eligibility of homeowner mortgage loan insurance, which would increase government liabilities by covering individuals who would otherwise not have been eligible for such loans.

In a decision on changes to the parameters for a program, on April 23, 1990, the Speaker ruled in the case of Bill C-69, the Expenditures Restraint Act, that:

...there are instances where the objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications may be affected in such a manner as to involve financial implications. For instance, if a program is extended to cover an additional period of time or if the parameters of a program are broadened to cover more applicants, then a royal recommendation is necessary.

In a decision on increasing government liabilities, on June 12, 1973, the Speaker ruled in the case of Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Farm Improvement Loans Act, that:

It may be said that the proposal in Bill S-5 does not in itself propose a direct expenditure. It does, however, propose substantial additional liabilities on public monies.

The responsibility for housing is shared between federal, provincial and municipal governments. Bill C-304 appears to rely on the constitutional spending power to implement an expanded federal role in housing in the form of a new federal housing strategy.

Subclause 3(2) of Bill C-304 makes clear that a key element of this new national housing strategy would be to increase federal spending on housing.

Therefore, I humbly submit that the bill should be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Bill C-304--Secure, Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am the member who is putting forward Bill C-304, which will receive its first hour of debate today. I have listened very carefully to the comments from the member across the way who is rising and suggesting that this bill will require a royal recommendation.

I first introduced this bill a number of years ago, and I have reintroduced it in this Parliament. I have to say that it was written very carefully. The purpose of the bill was designed in such a way that it is focusing on the development of the need for a strategy and a plan. I would submit that there is a difference, a very key difference, and a balance between a bill that speaks to the need to have the development of a strategy and plan and a bill that actually clearly delineates that money shall be spent.

The focus of this bill is to say that the federal government should be collaborating with the provinces, the territories, first nations, and municipalities to develop a housing strategy for Canadians. What flows from that plan would be the subject of another debate, should this pass, and I hope it will pass because I think it is something that is urgently needed in this country. It may well be at that time, in terms of when a plan is developed, that we will be in a debate such as the member has raised today.

The focus and the key element of this bill is for the federal government to work with its partners to develop a plan and a strategy. It does not speak to the implementation or the development of funds or the expenditure of funds, it focuses on the need to develop a plan in partnership with other key stakeholders across the country.

I feel that is a very important difference. As submissions are received, Mr. Speaker, I hope you will consider that and recognize that developing a plan is something that I as a member, and other members, should be able to call on the government to do. It is within the government's mandate to do that, to work with other partners. What flows from that would be the subject of a further discussion, a further debate, and these issues may arise, but they do not arise at this particular time for the purposes of Bill C-304.

Bill C-304--Secure, Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to respond to my hon. colleague's response to my point of order.

I appreciate the fact that the member has drafted this very carefully. However, I would argue that this bill is more than just calling for a plan. I would point again to subclause 3(2) that says the government “shall” provide financial assistance”.

It does not say the government should investigate the possibility of providing financial assistance. That small word “shall” implores the government, and quite frankly, I would argue, compels the government, if this bill were taken forward and enacted, to increase its financial expenditures, which of course is in contravention of any private member's bill.

Therefore, I would argue once again, Mr. Speaker, it will require a royal recommendation, because the bill is not asking for a plan, it is asking the government directly to provide additional funds to create and follow through with this national housing strategy.

Bill C-304--Secure, Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader and the member for Vancouver East for their submissions on this point. I will take them under consideration and come back to the House with a ruling in due course.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Indian Oil and Gas Act, as reported with amendment from the committee.

Speaker's RulingIndian Oil and Gas ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

There is one motion in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-5.

Motion No. 1 will not be selected by the Chair, because it requires a royal recommendation.

There being no motions at report stage the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Speaker's RulingIndian Oil and Gas ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Speaker's RulingIndian Oil and Gas ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave, now?

Speaker's RulingIndian Oil and Gas ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Speaker's RulingIndian Oil and Gas ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.

Speaker's RulingIndian Oil and Gas ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Vancouver Island North B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed very gratifying to see Bill C-5 advanced to third reading. After nearly a decade of discussions and consultations, we are finally bringing this legislation into the 21st century. In the process, we will be helping to bring much needed prosperity to oil and gas producing first nations.

This long overdue bill is an important step forward in levelling the playing field for resource-rich first nations that face obstacles to achieving their full economic potential. I remind my hon. colleagues that the Indian Oil and Gas Act has remained unchanged for the past 34 years. To say that Bill C-5 is long overdue, is an understatement. That is why I am so proud to be taking part in corrective action with this legislation to set first nations on a better course for the future.

As I pointed out, the last time I spoke on Bill C-5, this is a concrete example of the Conservative government's commitment to ensure that aboriginal Canadians fully share in economic opportunities. It is an important building block that will enable first nations with oil and gas reserves to build stronger, more reliant communities that can better manage their own affairs. The oil and gas sector represents a source of promising economic development opportunities for first nations. The Government of Canada, through its special operating agency Indian Oil and Gas Canada, currently manages over 1,000 oil and gas producing wells and about 150 new wells are drilled on reserves each year.

In 2005-06 over $270 million in oil and gas revenues were collected by the Government of Canada on behalf of first nations. More than $1 billion in revenues from on reserve oil and gas activity has been collected by Indian Oil and Gas Canada on behalf of about 60 first nations over the past five years. That revenue is then passed on, in its entirety, to those first nations communities. This much needed source revenue is being used by these first nations for training, new housing, water and sewer projects, initiatives that are building stronger communities and a brighter future for their children.

Notwithstanding the current economic downturn, industry remains committed to developing partnerships with first nations. The oil and gas sector is continuing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in exploration and exploitation activities on first nations reserve lands, more than $300 million worth over the last five years alone. While there is great promise, the potential for first nations economic opportunities in the oil and gas sector is dependent upon industry investment.

Private sector interests lament that up until now federal laws governing development activity on reserves have not kept up with industry needs. They also complain that the regulations are unclear in many cases, which can cause delays, additional costs and lost investment opportunities. Industry stakeholders clearly prefer to invest in lands where the regulatory regimes are certain and where communities offer opportunities, not challenges. That is precisely what this bill would provide.

Let me review the many progressive features in Bill C-5 that would ensure first nations lands are every bit as attractive to investors as off reserve lands.

First, the act increases clarity. The amendments clarify both ministerial and judicial oversight powers in high-risk areas such as levying of fines and searches and seizures. Another way that Bill C-5 would clarify would be by harmonizing federal legislation with provincial regimes. This is important because provincial oil and gas laws related to conservation and environmental protection are amended from time to time. If the federal regime does not stay abreast of these changes, it puts first nations seeking investment at a clear disadvantage.

The incorporation by reference of these amendments would ensure the federal regime would keep pace. More to the point, it would eliminate disparities between on and off-reserve lands. Again, this would provide greater certainty for potential investors and facilitate economic development. All of this would be done while, in all circumstances, fully maintaining the federal government's fiduciary responsibilities to first nations.

The second major advantage of Bill C-5 is that it would improve Canada's ability to regulate oil and gas activities on reserve land. Bill C-5 would give the minister, through Indian Oil and Gas Canada, greater authority to audit operators and collect royalties owed to first nations. Once developed, new regulations will establish a clear set of rules to prevent companies from using certain transactions with subsidiaries or related parties to unduly reduce royalties payable to first nations.

Furthermore, the minister would have a 10-year limitation period to commence legal actions to collect unpaid royalties and other amounts owing. This is especially important. There would be no limitation period in cases of fraud or misrepresentation. Without this provision, provincial standards would apply and in some cases the limitation period would be as low as two years. This added protection would ensure that first nations were paid what they were rightfully due.

The final major area of improvement made possible by Bill C-5 concerns environmental protection and ensuring that first nation sites of cultural, spiritual or historical significance will be protected from potentially adverse effects of oil and gas activities. Because the federal regime would be harmonized with provincial environmental protection laws, new enforcement actions to protect the environment from oil and gas activities would be identical to the ones currently available to the province off reserve.

The minister would also be provided new powers to suspend operations if first nation sites of cultural, spiritual or historical significance were discovered or threatened by the oil and gas activities. Oil and gas activities would only be permitted to resume when the minister would be confident that the risk of harm would no longer exist. In addition, the regulations could require first nation concurrence before these operations are resumed.

Another important change in this legislation responds directly to the priorities of first nations. The concern was raised repeatedly that the on-reserve regime did not keep pace with the off-reserve regime. To address this need, the amendments would expand the authority of the governor in council to make regulations and to facilitate regular improvements to them. In fact, the approach taken by Bill C-5 would guarantee continuous changes and improvements to ensure that the federal oil and gas regime would remain current.

Under the act, regulations would be monitored, examined and, when required, amended on a never-ending basis. This means that first nations would never again have to wait for 30 or 35 years before amendments to modernize the act could be implemented.

This is another aspect following on the act in which first nations will play a crucial role. We will continue to work together with oil and gas first nations and their advocate, the Indian Resource Council, during the development of the regulations, just as we did during the development of this act.

I remind the House that before developing the bill, extensive consultations were carried out with first nations with oil and gas interests. Since 2003, Indian Oil and Gas Canada has held one-on-one sessions with over 85% of the oil and gas-producing first nations.

My hon. colleagues can rest assured that passage of this legislation is not the end, but merely a continuation of an ongoing consultation process with first nations. That is not rhetoric. That is a promise.

During the minister's appearance before committee, he mentioned a letter of comfort which he sent to the Indian Resource Council last year. I should explain that the Indian Resource Council is a national aboriginal organization that advocates on behalf of some 130 first nations with oil and gas production or the potential for production.

In writing, the minister outlined Canada's commitment to modernize the on-reserve oil and gas regime. He also committed to continue our partnership with the Indian Resource Council during the development of the regulations. Of concern to many, the minister reassured oil and gas first nations that there was nothing in Bill C-5 that affected first nations' jurisdiction over their resources. Nor did the act extend the jurisdiction of the provinces to those lands or resources.

The minister reiterated that it was the Government of Canada and not provincial authorities that would be responsible for managing first nation lands and resources. The letter of comfort also addressed first nation concerns related to value-added opportunities. For example, the minister pledged to establish first nation energy business centres of excellence in Alberta and in Saskatchewan.

Furthermore, the minister committed to identifying opportunities for greater first nations input and involvement in the decision-making processes at Indian Oil and Gas Canada on issues that directly affected them. As well, he signalled his willingness to explore options for greater first nations control over the management of their oil and gas resources. Of great interest to us as legislators, the minister promised to establish a continuous change or improvement process.

These assurances reinforce our government's determination to ensure first nations share equally in our country's prosperity. Members of government believe profoundly that first nations citizens must participate fully in all that Canada has to offer and be given the tools to achieve greater economic self-reliance and an ever-increasing quality of life. Bill C-5 would help to advance these goals by providing modern legislation, competitive regulations and sound practices that would create the conditions for economic success and social progress.

These goals are shared by all members of the House. The key to unleashing this potential lies in passing this modernized legislative framework into law. By endorsing Bill C-5, we will be confirming, once again, that collaboration and partnership between the federal government, the private sector and aboriginal people can lead to a better future. Indeed, it will help build a better country for us all.

I call on all parties to lend their support and ensure the speedy passage of this necessary and overdue legislation.

Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in AfghanistanCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor ConservativeMinister of State and Chief Government Whip

Madam Speaker, I believe you would find consent for the following travel motion: I move:

That, in relation to its order of reference of February 10, 2009, 12 members of the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan be authorized to travel to Washington, D.C. from April 22 to 23, 2009 and that the necessary staff accompany the committee.

Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in AfghanistanCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Does the hon. minister have unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in AfghanistanCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in AfghanistanCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in AfghanistanCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in AfghanistanCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Indian Oil and Gas Act, be read the third time and passed.

Indian Oil and Gas ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I commend the government for bringing forward this act. It is long overdue. I come from a jurisdiction where oil and gas is a huge part of the income for the province. One of the big vacuums has been the proper regulation of oil and gas activity on first nation lands. I commend the government for finally coming forward with a more modernized system.

I raised this question in the briefing the government provided, which I appreciated. When will the regulations come forward? In addition to the consultation with the first nations, which is appropriate and constitutionally required, will the government also consult with additional concerned people, including people living adjacent to the first nation communities who could potentially be impacted by either air emissions or contamination of water from the oil and gas activity? Will they also be consulted in the development of the regulations?