This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #162 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was omnibus.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will point out the following facts. The average length of a budget implementation act under the previous Liberal government was under 75 pages. The present government is currently averaging over 300 pages.

While the Prime Minister complained about five measures in the 1994 budget bill, last spring's bill contained roughly 60 distinct and unrelated measures.

As Speaker Lamoureux said in the 1970s, “...there may come a point where the omnibus bill becomes too large and too complex”. We have now reached that point.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this debate on omnibus legislation. Like my colleagues, and particularly now my colleague from Etobicoke North, I agree with what the current Prime Minister stated in this place in 1994 when, as an opposition member, he criticized the use of omnibus legislation asking:

How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns?

He continued:

We can agree with some of the measures but oppose others. How do we express our views and the views of our constituents when the matters are so diverse?

The complaint of the Prime Minister, then speaking as an opposition member in 1994, about the use of omnibus bills ought now to underpin his work as Prime Minister. Rather, he is forcing legislation through this place as he himself regaled against. Indeed, it is time that the House took action to study and restrict the use of sweeping omnibus legislation that, among other things, deprives MPs of the opportunity to undertake the requisite detailed and differentiated analysis of the diverse constituent elements in a given omnibus bill, deprives the members of the House of the necessary public oversight with respect to these bills and undermines public participation in the political process as well as the public right to know.

I am not suggesting that the government somehow does not have a right to pursue its policy objectives. What must be debated, however, is the integrity of the process used and the merits of the means chosen. The purpose of Parliament is not to serve as a rubber stamp of the government, to be disconnected from the people and our constituents, even in a majority Parliament. Indeed, the government has yet to explain how Canadians are worse off when this body does take the necessary time to study subject matter items in detail, to separate out disparate legislative proposals and thereby, as a result, to produce the appropriate high-quality legislation deserving of our Parliament and our people. Indeed, it would seem by his own acknowledgement in this place that the member for Calgary Southwest at the time acknowledged these same views in 1994.

Accordingly, my brief remarks will be organized around the discussion of two particular pieces of legislation, the recent federal budget implementation bill, and Bill C-10, the omnibus crime bill. While those are the two latest and most blatant examples of the use and abuse of the omnibus process, the government has a pattern of bundling perfectly acceptable items with utterly untenable legislation, and does so not only to its peril but to the peril of its own case and cause.

The recent federal budget legislation, Bill C-38, is what I have referred to elsewhere as the hydra-headed Trojan Horse omnibus budget implementation bill, for it was as stealth-like in its scope as it will be and has been prejudicial in its impact, the whole constituting an assault on the integrity of Parliament and its members, as well as on the democratic process. That is putting it modestly and mildly.

Simply put, while this 400-plus page piece of legislation was supposed to be anchored in the budget, in reality it had very little to do with the budget. Rather, in its sweeping scope it introduced, amended or repealed more than 70 federal statutes with the omnibus Trojan Horse providing political cover for pervasive and prejudicial impacts on everything from Canadian retirement plans to environmental protection, from immigration to food safety. All of this was accomplished through sleight-of-hand omnibus legislation where, for example, one provision undermined the whole of our environmental protection safeguards.

This enormous hodgepodge, this disconnected bundling together of variegated legislative proposals, did not and does not allow for the requisite differentiated discussion and debate, let alone the necessary oversight of the legislation. It imbued the executive with arbitrary authority to the exclusion of Parliament thereby serving as a standing abuse to the canons of good governance, transparency, accountability, public oversight, cost disclosure and the like. Indeed, this alone should have been cause for its defeat.

As Andrew Coyne put it at the time, “The scale and scope is on a level not previously seen, or tolerated”. He noted that the bill made “a mockery of the confidence convention” and that there was no “common thread” or “overarching principle” between the legislative items therein, let alone its standing contempt for Parliament in matters of process and procedure.

Moreover, and again on the crucial issues of parliamentary process and procedure, this bill was sent to the finance committee. Accordingly, the review of the environmental regulations therein, which overhauled, weakened and undermined the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and environmental protection as a whole, were thus not reviewed by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development where it belonged.

Similarly, the provisions that changed the First Nations Land Management Act were not the subject of examination and study by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, as my colleague from Etobicoke North identified, where they ought to have been deliberated. I could go on with numerous examples in this regard.

Moreover, if circumventing proper and thorough parliamentary review were not enough, the government invoked time allocation to limit discussion on the bill at every stage of the legislative process.

I am not suggesting that invoking time allocation, as the government has done again and again, violates the rules of this place. What I am suggesting, as many commentators have said, is that this use of it, particularly in the context of omnibus legislation, is unnecessary, prejudicial, surprisingly undemocratic, in effect, unparliamentary, and otherwise unsubstantiated, unwarranted and, frankly, is a contempt of Parliament and the people.

Surely if Parliament had to debate something like going to war, it would be easy to see why we might have time allocation to ensure that we get to the most pressing debate first. Or, if there were court decisions that affected many statutes, we might easily welcome an omnibus bill that could make the same change to many statutes at once, and that has been done by this House.

What is so disconcerting with the budget implementation bill is that the government need not have been in such a rush. There was no coherent or compelling theme, as commentators and experts have pointed out, to the omnibus proposals contained in the bill. Frankly, it could have used more study and, as we see with the current tainted beef scandal, the provisions on food inspectors perhaps warranted a more thorough review.

There are many issues that remain with the budget implement bill, not the least of which is the question of cost disclosure and the remaining possibility of a lawsuit from the PBO over the government's failure to be open and transparent about the extent of the budget cuts proposed and its cost impact.

In the matter of the omnibus crime legislation, Bill C-10, the problem with omnibus legislation is illustrated no less compellingly. While the same generic omnibus critiques operate in this context, namely, what Richard Poplak in a Globe and Mail piece termed “Chinese disease...hollowing out democracy”, for which Canadians are increasingly bearing the burden of this onslaught, I would refer to one case study of the government's omnibus failure: the amendments to the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, JVTA.

The JVTA was one of nine constituent bills of Bill C-10, one which received little attention. This landmark legislation, however, allowed, for the first time, Canadian victims of terror to sue their terrorist perpetrators in Canadian courts.

I supported the principles of the JVTA and had even introduced similar legislation in a previous session for that purpose. However, the government's version of this bill warranted improvement, which it did not allow for. Accordingly, I proposed a series of amendments at the legislative committee, explaining that I sought only to strengthen the government's bill. All of my amendments were summarily rejected by the Conservatives, as were all opposition amendments. Indeed, all 50 of my proposed amendments to Bill C-10 were summarily rejected. There was no debate or consideration given. In fact, I was accused of obstruction and delay for merely suggesting these changes. At the next meeting, the government moved to shut down debate entirely, a flagrant abuse of the parliamentary and legislative process.

Certainly a majority government has the procedural right to use its majority as it pleases. However, it ignores the opposition at its peril. Indeed, the government eventually realized the merit of my amendments and proposed them later as its own. Therefore, these amendments became part of the legislation in a dilatory fashion, prejudicing the outcome and even the improvement that could have been warranted in that legislation.

Simply put, legislation has to be examined on the merits and, when so examined, the Conservatives' omnibus crime bill revealed that it would result in more crime, less justice, at greater cost, with fewer rehabilitation opportunities for offenders, less protection and voice for the victims, and less protection for society. We are now slowly seeing the consequences of the legislation being that which we predicted at the time. In fact, we have situations and problems with regard with prison overcrowding, mandatory minimum penalities and the like, that are likely to be struck down by the courts. I could go on.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, some of the contributions today from the opposite side have brought to mind a comment that at the time shocked me. Back in May when the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act, omnibus Bill C-38, was being debated, the Conservative member for Vegreville—Wainwright said:

Mr. Speaker, the member must really have very little to complain about when it comes to this legislation, because he focuses on the process, as do so many others opposite.

Quite frankly, Canadians do not care about process; what they care about is what the end result will be. What they care about is having ample time for debate, and there has been a record amount of time for debate on a budget bill.

Does my colleague think this might be indicative of a broader attitude that underlies how the Conservative government thinks of democracy in the House? I wonder if the hon. member for Mount Royal might comment on whether this reveals an underlying problem with how the government thinks about the House.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, when the Prime Minister was a member of the opposition, he addressed the question of process in particular and expressed his concern that omnibus-type legislating was undermining the parliamentary process. As I said, this has been undermining the integrity of Parliament itself because process is inextricably bound up with parliamentary procedure, inextricably bound up with our constitutional responsibilities for public oversight, for seeking cost disclosure and the like.

When legislation is bundled together and rushed through Parliament, it has adverse consequences on both process and substance. The legislation itself may be flawed but may never get properly examined. The committee process that is used does not allow for adequate review and the calling of appropriate witnesses, particularly when we have time allocation. The use of such time allocation may compound matters to exclude stakeholders, not only us here in this Parliament but even in a federation it may exclude provinces' input, as we saw with Bill C-10 and the omnibus crime bill.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, each time my colleague delivers a speech in the House people usually take note, and today is no exception. He has nailed a couple of very important points, the reflection on and the comparison with what took place with Bill C-10. The member proposed amendments that were voted down by the Conservative majority in committee. The minister tried to put them back into the legislation at the last minute, which did not happen, but at least the amendments did get in through the Senate. Those improvements, because it was at odds with the charter, made sense.

Eight hundred amendments were proposed to the omnibus bill through debate here in the House and through votes in the House, and the government supported none of them. Was the member somewhat surprised that there was not one suggestion or amendment brought forward that might have been able to improve the omnibus bill? Was he surprised that the government rejected all 800 amendments?

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, normally one should be surprised; in fact one should even be shocked by such an approach. However I have come to learn that such has become a matter that is passed off as normal process and procedure in the House, which really is an abuse of process and procedure. It goes much further.

We are witnessing situations because of the manner in which we are enacting legislation with constitutionally suspect provisions. I am not only referring here to those mandatory minimums, which have already been ruled unconstitutional in the Smickle case in Ontario, but to other provisions with regard to prison overcrowding, where we are going to witness constitutional challenges as well.

There is a whole series of constitutionally suspect legislation where we could be avoiding unnecessary litigation. We are going to be imbuing the public with unnecessary costs, and the legislative process will be unnecessarily burdened.

Let me just quote and conclude with what the Prime Minister himself said, because this is a perfect conclusion to this debate. The Prime Minister argued in 1994 that his concern with omnibus legislation was “in the interests of democracy”. Surely it is in the interests of democracy that this matter now be properly studied and remedied by this place.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate this opportunity to address my hon. colleague's motion. However, from the outset, I want to point out to my colleagues across the way that the economy remains priority one for our Conservative government.

With the economic recovery still fragile, we remain focused on ensuring Canada offers the right environment to attract the best business investment necessary to create more and better-paying jobs and improve the living standard of Canadians. Ironically, one of the most effective ways to achieve this is through action opposed by the other side, to give job creators means to hire more workers by lowering their taxes, which is exactly what this government has done. Rest assured that our Conservative government understands that it is lower taxes that help stimulate job growth and that it is expanding markets for Canadian businesses that will help our economy thrive.

The fact is that we have a strong economic record, one that Canadians can look to and trust, as we once again face the economic headwinds emanating from abroad. In short, thanks to the prudent fiscal and economic decisions made before the downturn hit, Canada's economic and fiscal health today is stronger than that of most other developed nations.

When faced with the unprecedented global crisis, our government responded with Canada's economic action plan, which stimulated the economy, protected Canadian jobs during the recession and invested in long-term growth. The results have been both positively received and widely recognized. For example, the Canadian economy's performance on jobs and economic growth has been among the best in the G7. While we would like to see more progress, it is important to note that we have recovered and exceeded all of the output and all of the jobs lost during the recession.

Since July 2009, more than 820,000 net new jobs have been created, the strongest growth in the G7 by far. Certainly in my riding of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, we have seen a dramatic drop in the unemployment rate in our particular community. Virtually all of those jobs have been full-time positions. However, that is not all. Canada has the distinction of having the world's soundest banking system for the fifth year in a row, as affirmed two weeks ago by the World Economic Forum. Forbes magazine has ranked Canada number one in its annual review of the best countries for business.

Five Canadian financial institutes were named to Bloomberg's list of the world's strongest banks, more than any other country. Three credit rating agencies, Moody's, Fitch and Standard & Poor's, have all recently reaffirmed Canada's top-tier, AAA credit rating. What is more, our $3 billion U.S. bond issue earlier this year was widely subscribed, with EuroWeek magazine concluding that the fact that Canada is

able to do a trade like that…cements its status as a true Treasury alternative and the best credit in the world.

Clearly, Canada's fiscal fundamentals are solid, and people are noticing. In fact, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has praised Canada's economic record, saying:

Canada's path of great budgetary discipline and a very heavy emphasis on growth and overcoming the crisis, not living on borrowed money, can be an example for the way in which problems on the other side of the Atlantic can be addressed.... This is also the right solution for Europe.

While Canada's economic achievements are encouraging, our government understands that now is not the time to become complacent. There are international risks that can affect our outlook: the crisis in Europe and the slowing recovery in the U.S.

I would like to draw everyone's attention to the enduring sovereign and banking crisis in Europe. As the Prime Minister has observed, “The risks to the global economy stemming from the euro zone remain considerably elevated, with the capacity to affect all of us”.

In the eurozone, real GDP contracted in the fourth quarter of 2011, was virtually flat in the first quarter of 2012 and then contracted again in the second quarter of 2012. In addition, current indicators show little improvement, suggesting that the euro area economy is unlikely to see a sharp rebound in the near future.

Many nations, even those oceans away, are concerned about the impact of the eurozone crisis on their own economies. We are all obviously concerned about the situation there, but European leaders need to address their economic problems directly.

The recent announcement by the European Central Bank that it would support European sovereign bond markets is a step in the right direction. However, as the Minister of Finance has noted, we continue to wait for intentions to become actions.

Another serious issue of concern for the world economy is the long-term fiscal challenges of the U.S. This also has a short-term dynamic. Without a political agreement, a number of tax increases and spending reduction measures, representing about 4% of U.S. GDP, are scheduled to come into force at the beginning of 2013. This has been labelled the “fiscal cliff”. The U.S. needs to reduce its fiscal deficit over time. This point is clear. However, it also needs to ensure that there is certainty in the short term, so that markets and investors can be confident that its economic growth will not be interrupted.

Interestingly enough, it is Americans who are suggesting that the United States should emulate Canada's policies to improve their own economic situation. Indeed, just last year the finance committee travelled to the U.S. and met with congressmen and senators. At every meeting we went into, there was so much appreciation and people said we were so lucky to come from Canada.

Just a month ago, we received the highest praise from our American friends when Tom Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said:

We've got a strong example of the positive effect of good policies...—Canada. Why has our northern neighbor recovered faster and more robustly from the global recession than nearly all the other major economies? Due to a series of smart policy decisions.

... Canada has transformed its economy while other nations continue to struggle. ...it is growing faster than many of its competitors. It has recovered all the jobs lost in the recession...

Let's take a lesson from the north and tackle these priorities now.

What a great quote from our American friends.

It is our Conservative government that understands what type of economic policies Canada will need to weather the storms beyond our borders. What better place to find examples of policies that create jobs, stimulate economic growth and secure Canada's long-term prosperity than economic action plan 2012?

With our largest historical trading partners, the United States and Europe, going through a prolonged period of economic uncertainty, we know this will put downward pressure on Canada's economic growth. We will not be able to rely on these trading partners to the same extent we did in the past. We must develop new markets and create new opportunities in dynamic parts of the world if we are going to keep raising our standard of living.

Our government is committed to increasing Canada's exports and creating conditions necessary for our homegrown businesses to compete in the global marketplace. Increasing Canadian export is key to our future growth. Our government believes that the sustainable growth agenda involves structural reforms, including trade liberalization that allows for Canadian businesses and their workers to fully compete in the global market.

Our government has already made Canada one of the most open and globally engaged economies in the world. In six years we have reached trade agreements with nine countries and are negotiating with many more. We have also concluded foreign investment promotion and protection agreements with 11 countries and are in active negotiations with 14 others. We are optimistic that our negotiations with the European Union will soon produce an ambitious trade agreement that facilitates increased Canadian exports to Europe. Recently, our Prime Minister met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Ottawa to strengthen dialogue on this key initiative.

However, it does not end there. Combined with the government's commitment to increasing Canadian exports is our continued tariff relief to enhance the competitiveness of Canada's manufacturers and importers. In all, our government has eliminated more than 1,800 tariff items and provided more than $435 million in annual tariff relief to Canadian businesses. As a result, Canada is now the first tariff-free manufacturing zone in the G20.

Our government continues to create the right conditions to enable Canadians and Canadian businesses to feel confident to invest, to create jobs, to participate in the global marketplace and to grow our economy.

In fact, just last week the Minister of Finance announced new tariff relief for Canadian manufacturers to help create jobs and economic growth and enhance their competitiveness in the domestic and international markets.

Let me stress this point. Trade has long been a powerful engine for Canada's economy, driving it forward through some pretty tough times. It demonstrates the government firmly believes and our record demonstrates that.

Unfortunately, not all the parties represented in the House share that view. If the NDP had its way, we know that our economy would falter under its protectionist policies. That party has opposed almost every trade agreement that has come before the House. The Liberal Party just let the trade file languish during its time in government. Fortunately, on this side of the House, we take action.

Deepening Canada's trade investment relationships in large and fast-growing export markets around the world is integral to jobs and growth. In the past few years, our government has been aggressively expanding commercial relationships in the Asia-Pacific region to create jobs and economic benefit. The opportunities for Canada in this dynamic region are vast, with an economic growth rate that is two to three times the global average.

By 2040, China and India are predicted to be the number two and number four destinations for Canada's merchandise exports, with South Korea and Japan in the top ten as well. That is why we are pursuing a whole host of trade initiatives with Asia.

Let us consider the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example. The TPP's current membership represents a market of 510 million people and a GDP of $17.6 trillion.

At the G20 leaders summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, TPP partners announced their support for Canada joining this partnership and, indeed, it was an historic opportunity.

However, this trade effort in this region has some company. In addition to the TPP, Canada is pursuing a number of similar initiatives, including continuing trade negotiations with Japan and continuing exploratory discussions toward trade negotiations with Thailand.

Our government continues to take action to increase Canadian exports to China. China is the second largest two-way trading partner, after the United States, and bilateral trade is expanding rapidly. Fuelled by a 27% boost in Canadian exports to China, two-way merchandise trade reached $65 billion in 2011, accounting for 7.3% of Canada's trade.

Again, on a local note, I look at our forestry industry in British Columbia. That expansion into China in terms of its product has been absolutely critical in terms of its continuation.

More specific, from 2006 to 2011, Canadian exports to China rose from $7.8 billion to $16.8 billion, an increase of 115%. During the same period, Canadian imports from China rose from $34.5 billion to $48.2 billion, an increase of 40%.

Canada has a strong network of trade commissioners throughout China who can help Canadian businesses to asses the potential of the Chinese market, find qualified contacts and resolve any problems that might come along the way. This network was expanded in 2009, when Canada opened six regional trade offices to expand our presence to second-tier cities, the new drivers of the Chinese economic growth. Our country now has 11 points of contact for Canadian businesses in China.

To increase protection for Canadian business in China, earlier this month, we signed the Canada-China foreign investment promotion and protection agreement. This landmark agreement will provide a more stable and secure environment for Canadian businesses in China.

I could easily go on for another 20 minutes, highlighting our government's economic action plan initiatives to strengthen business competitiveness, for example, in resource development, immigration reform, cutting red tape. It is pretty clear that when it comes to creating the kinds of economic growth that will mean a brighter future for Canadians and their families, this side of the House knows the best route to getting there. Why? Because, unlike the Liberals, our government has a plan for jobs and growth and will continue to stick with it.

I urge my colleagues across the floor to stop voting against a plan that would create jobs, generate economic growth and secure Canada's long-term prosperity. Our Conservative government is creating the right conditions for Canadian businesses to compete around the world. Our government is absolutely committed to keeping Canada strong and prosperous, even in a volatile and uncertain economy. Maybe for a change the Liberals will get on board.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the Conservative member, and she was very careful not to mention the motion. I will quote for her the key point of the motion. It is the Prime Minister's words. In 1994 he said:

Mr. Speaker, I would argue that the subject matter of the bill is so diverse that a single vote on the content would put members in conflict with their own principles....Second, in the interest of democracy I ask: How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns?

Those were the Prime Minister's words then. I could not tell from the Conservative member's remarks if the member was advising that the Prime Minister's words were wrong then, or has he broken the words he used then in recent years and now is pushing an omnibus bill that goes against the very words he said in 1994?

What advice is the member giving us in terms of the Prime Minister's word? Is she advising that the Prime Minister stand and oppose omnibus bills today, or break his word from 1994?

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I spent a great deal of time in my remarks talking about the very extraordinary situation we found ourselves in as a government, a situation that required a comprehensive response in a whole host of areas and that would knit together to provide the future and the path toward our future.

Prior to the budget implementation act one, there was a technical briefing that was very poorly attended by MPs on the other side of the House. During the technical briefing, there was an opportunity to hear, in great detail, how these different measures knitted together in a comprehensive whole to move Canada forward for our economic prosperity.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I remind my colleague opposite that we are not debating the content of any particular bill. She is constantly bringing up the omnibus budget implementation bill and defending what was in it.

Essentially I am concerned about what comprehensive legislation does and how it affects what we look at within those bills, not what we have done within the bills, but how we look at those different issues in the bill.

There are basically two different ways we could put forward legislation. There is the omnibus idea, where a lot of stuff is packed into one thing. Yes, it allows the government to push through its agenda very quickly, but is this quick legislation more important than ensuring that we have a meaningful examination of what is being done and allowing members to express themselves on different issues and how they would affect our constituencies.

Would the member opposite comment on that?

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, that question is about process. I talked about the extraordinary and very important situation in which Canada found itself. However, I do want to spend a minute talking about the process.

The bill had incredible opportunities within the House for debate. I sit as a member of the finance committee. I certainly recognize the hours and hours of listening to witnesses. I talked earlier about a technical briefing which unfortunately was somewhat poorly attended by the opposition, but was an enormous opportunity to really understand what the bill was trying to accomplish.

We certainly had significant debate. I note there were areas that were divided into a subcommittee, which also spent a lot of time looking at specific areas in environment and fisheries. If I look at the opportunity for the members of Parliament to debate the legislation, the time spent in committee and in subcommittee was a good opportunity to look at the measures in the bill and the opportunities it provided.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was a bit surprised by this motion. Previous governments, including the Liberal government, have passed omnibus budget implementation bills. Even Speakers in the House have ruled and some have said that these types of bills are procedurally correct, common practice and entirely in order. I listen to the arguments of the members opposite and one of their concerns is that our bill is bigger than their bill.

First, I did not know that size matters. Second, when we talk about what is inside our bill and how comprehensive it is, I wonder if it ever has dawned on those members that perhaps it is comprehensive because the government is actually getting things done for Canadians.

Could my hon. colleague speak to the importance of the bill being comprehensive at this time, especially with global uncertainty?

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague brings up two very important points. One is that the Speaker's rulings in 1994 looked at the budgets and budget implementation acts as typically involving a lot of statutes and helping to move the policy agenda forward.

Earlier in my speech, I talked about the very extraordinary circumstances that we found ourselves in with global uncertainty. Since the depression, we have not found ourselves in such a difficult financial situation. Therefore, having a comprehensive plan that is far reaching and has guided Canada into a very enviable position has been absolutely critical.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have restrained myself from asking the hon. member to keep her points relevant to today's motion, so forgive me for also asking an irrelevant question based on something in her speech.

She has been touting the benefits of the Canada-China increasing investments. What is the member's opinion on whether it would not be prudent for the current Canada-China investment treaty, which would lock Canada in for a period of 15 years to preferential treatment of Chinese enterprises, even more preferential treatment than Canadian businesses would receive in China, to come before the House of Commons before it passes automatically in Privy Council?

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, that truly is not only inaccurate but it is outside the relevance of the discussion for today. However, I look at the forestry sector in British Columbia, and the member is also from the community of British Columbia, and how trade with China has been absolutely critical. I have a number of mills in my community that have put a couple of hundred people in our rural areas back to work. Again, that relates to our very positive trade relationships throughout the world.

Again, it does all tie into a big budget bill requiring a comprehensive plan for extraordinary times.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have to wonder when I hear the member opposite talk about the government's fabulous track record. Canada has a trade deficit of $50 billion. If she follows her plan, how much further in debt will we be in four or five years? $150 billion? $200 billion? I have my doubts about this plan.

There is one thing that the Conservatives do not seem to consider. By winning a majority, they won the right to do whatever they want. I get the impression that, by abusing procedure, they are trying to give themselves the right to do whatever they want any way they want. Parliamentary procedures and traditions exist so that things are done a certain way. By trying to quickly pass such massive bills, the Conservatives are showing their contempt for other members of Parliament.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, if we reflect back on the Speaker's rulings of the past and we reflect on the need for a budget to reflect very comprehensive challenges that a country faces, he will see that we have followed what is a very good process and indeed the outcomes have been extraordinary. We look at 820,000 net new jobs, some of the best growth in the G7. Again, the outcomes speak for themselves.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, indeed it is a good day to be debating this particular subject for several reasons. I will be splitting my time with the member for Kingston and the Islands.

The previous speaker talked about comprehensiveness as a defence of the omnibus legislation. However, something can be as comprehensive as one wishes, but if it is dumb, it is dumb. Whether it is layered with other material, it does not matter, it still comes out in the end as I said.

What we are talking about today in regard to omnibus legislation really runs roughshod over what we are trying to do in the House. We are trying to have a comprehensive debate and to get answers to questions that we have on particular situations, whether they deal with the environment or fiscal matters and taxation.

Lately, it has been hard in this House to have a debate in which members are not totally into their notes. We look at the speaking handed to us by people who are not elected. No offence to them, but do we not gather enough information when we go about in our ridings that we cannot stand up and say to this House and the country what it is that we are representing? Can we not come into this House, stand here and speak freely about what is happening in our ridings and how we are affected by budget legislation?

Come with me to a time in 2004 when we had the Atlantic accord. It was decent legislation that talked about the sharing of resources between Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador as well as Nova Scotia. We had serious negotiations about how to share revenues.

For example, I have always felt that the principal beneficiary of any particular resource should be those closest to that resource. The lion's share of the royalties of the oil extracted from the oil sands goes to the crown in Alberta. However, in this case, because the resources are offshore, they are in the jurisdiction of the federal government and so something had to be done.

Why can Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and Nova Scotians not be principal beneficiaries of what is on their shoreline? It is what they fished for over centuries. If there is oil beneath those fish, obviously they should reap the benefits of that as well and be responsible for it.

We were engaged in a large argument but an agreement was reached between the then premiers, Danny Williams and John Hamm, as well as the prime minister of the day, the Right Hon. Paul Martin. The deal had to be put into legislation and it was put into a budget bill. There we have the message.

At the time, the Conservatives, including the now Prime Minister, the ministers from Newfoundland and Labrador and from Nova Scotia as well as the critics all said vehemently, “How dare you do that? How dare you take something as special as this and lump it into a larger budget legislation?”

Now, several years forward, all of a sudden we not only find ourselves getting special legislation like the Atlantic accord but also that other things are being added to the budget bill to a point where everything that was said before is now denied. It is now said to be different, that it is different in scope, to the effect that “We have the keys to the shop now; therefore, the shop has to change in our direction”.

I hope the message that we give to the Conservatives today will simply be this: When will they practice what they used to preach?

Let us take a look at 2006. Just before taking the reins of power, the Conservatives said that in order to benefit Newfoundland and Labrador so that it would be the principal beneficiary of its own resources, they would take the line that stretches 200 nautical miles from the shoreline and the federal government would own the species in that zone and manage and be responsible for them. Anything beyond that line would international and they would go through international forums to resolve issues. However, the Conservatives said that they would remove that line and unilaterally move it out a further 200 miles. What did they do?

As my hon. colleague from Avalon would say: “Nothing, not a thing”. We got nothing out of it.

This is the situation. The Conservatives went to the international forum and said they had a deal that actually gave them custodial management. Can members imagine that? They were actually going to move this line. Not only did they break the promise, not only did they backtrack, but they also pretended they did not. That has to be the worst of all. Not only would they lead us down the garden path and tell us something that they would not do, they thought we were stupid enough to buy it. They actually thought that we believed they had done it. It is like a political Cirque du Soleil. There are so many jumps and theatrics involved it is not even funny. They were going to move it unilaterally from the shoreline out further. Nada. Nothing.

To move on to this particular omnibus bill and look at what they did, say that everything we have ever wanted to do for this country were to be wrapped into one little pill we could swallow. None of it was debated. Given the fact that most of the members refer to talking points, we can understand where they are coming from with omnibus legislation, because every word is the same. Everything that is wrong with the other side of the House is wrapped up in talking points pertaining to something that we are not even going to do and never said we would do. How many times do they get up and read exactly what the other person has said?

There is a theory out there that if one can convince a hundred monkeys to do the same thing, the rest of society will think those monkeys are right. There we have the perfect analogy: If one says something hard enough, long enough, people just might believe it. The problem is that the Conservatives actually think that others will believe the same thing. To say it is laughable is the biggest understatement of the day. When do they practice what they used to preach? That is the issue here. Again, we used the quotation in the motion.

Bear with me on this one. This is my favourite. On March 25, 1994, the Prime Minister criticized omnibus legislation, suggesting that the subject matter of those bills was so diverse that a single vote on the content would put members in conflict with their own principles. Congratulations to the Conservative Party of Canada. It has now run completely against its own principle on this one, yet it pretends it has not. When will it practice what it used to preach? That is the ultimate goal.

I would humbly say to the House when it comes to the legislation, what is wrong with taking this apart? The experts, the people who study legislation, have said that it should be taken apart to be looked at separately, and in particular that the environmental legislation in this omnibus bill is worthy of its own debate and having its own committee. When the Conservative government was first elected, it created a subcommittee on the environment alone. Now all of a sudden the environment is lumped into everything else that is on the go.

Here is a good one. The Conservatives are going to look at MPs' pensions. They should look at MPs' pensions. Now they will also look at perhaps unfreezing our salaries. So much for the pain. Freeze the salaries. That is right, freeze the salaries and take a look at our contributing more. If they were gutsy enough they would take this out of the bill and say they were freezing our salaries and looking at our pensions and that we would suffer as a result, just like every other Canadian is now. However, the backbenchers do not want to do that.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. The time for government orders has expired. Therefore, the five minutes of questions and answers will take place after question period.

Statements by members, the hon. member for Ahuntsic.

Human TraffickingStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I introduced a bill to provide better tools to police forces and prosecutors in the fight against human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

The bill calls for the proceeds of this crime to be confiscated, for the victims to be protected and for tougher sentences to be handed down.

This bill was drafted following extensive consultation, including with police officers from the SPVM morality branch and child sexual exploitation unit, the Barreau du Québec, and women's and victims' advocacy groups such as Afeas, the Regroupement québécois des CALACS, COCES, Concertation-Femme, Maison de Marthe, Plaidoyers-Victimes, the Centre diocésain de la condition des femmes, CATHII and the CLE.

I want to thank all these people for their dedication to the victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, and I wish to acknowledge the presence of some of these groups in the House.

I invite all my colleagues to set partisanship aside and support this bill in the name of justice and dignity for all victims of human trafficking.

Science and TechnologyStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is National Science and Technology Week. Across the country youth are learning about future careers in science and we are showcasing Canada as a world leader in research, development and innovation.

In my riding of Kelowna—Lake Country, I recently met a young CEO, Ryan Holmes, who is an Okanagan success story in innovation and technology with the social media company HootSuite, proof that in the Okanagan, as in the rest of Canada, innovation is flourishing.

A recent study by the Council of Canadian Academies came to the conclusion that Canada's science and technology enterprise is healthy, growing, internationally competitive and well respected. This success can be attributed to our government making science and technology a priority. We have provided an unprecedented $8 billion in new funding since 2006, which has resulted in Canada being internationally praised for our ongoing commitment to supporting science.

This is good news, which I encourage my colleagues from all sides of the House to share with Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Offshore SafetyStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, there is a debate taking place in Newfoundland and Labrador over whether to resume helicopter night flights to offshore oil platforms on the Grand Banks.

The Wells inquiry into the March 2009 crash of Cougar Flight 491, which killed 17 workers, recommended that night flights be suspended until all risks are mitigated to an acceptable level. The offshore oil companies have just delivered a report that recommends a resumption of night flights, but that report says there is still a definite higher risk at night than during the day.

Workers on offshore oil platforms say that risk is too high. Their families say that risk is too high. The most important recommendation of the Wells inquiry was for there to be an independent safety regulator for the offshore oil industry, that an independent safety regulator, not the oil companies themselves, would be the best judge of justifiable risk.

Once again, the Conservative government is failing to protect workers at sea.

Heart DiseaseStatements By Members

October 16th, 2012 / 2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past summer, Brett Maclean, a professional hockey player from Port Elgin, suffered cardiac arrest while playing pickup hockey with his friends in an arena in Owen Sound. Fortunately, the arena was equipped with an automatic external defibrillator, which was used to bring Brett back from the brink. Only 23 years old and coming off a 25-goal season in the American Hockey League, Brett was working toward a full-time spot in the NHL.

I would like to commend Mr. Maclean on his strength and positive outlook on life after this sudden incident. His hockey career is over for now, but his impact on the community is just beginning. In August, Brett, along with some help from his friends, put on a road hockey tournament at the Lakeshore Racquetball Club in Port Elgin, raising money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Earlier this month, Brett also took part in the launch of the Heart and Stroke Foundation's new awareness campaign, just three months out of the hospital.

I congratulate Brett for his courage and willingness to help others battle this serious disease. We must all work together to help fight heart disease and raise awareness. Congratulations to Brett.

Birthday CongratulationsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to a remarkable woman living in Clarenville in my riding of Random—Burin—St. George's.

On September 4, Mrs. Lydia Hiscock turned 105 years old. Since 2009, Mrs. Hiscock has been residing at the Dr. Albert O'Mahony Memorial Manor. She was among its first residents and helped cut the ribbon when the facility held its official opening.

Born in the picturesque fishing community of Little Heart's Ease in 1907, Mrs. Hiscock married her husband, George, in 1930. Together they raised eight children and have been blessed with a large extended family. She has 33 grandchildren, 58 great-grandchildren and 27 great-great-grandchildren.

Mrs. Hiscock worked hard over the years cleaning and drying fish and carrying out other chores that were part of the daily routine of our outport life in Newfoundland and Labrador. According to Mrs. Hiscock, hard work and a profound belief in God have been the pillars of her long life.

I ask all members of the House to join me in recognizing Mrs. Hiscock who is now in her 106th year.

Democratic Republic of CongoStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister was in the Democratic Republic of Congo this past weekend for the summit of la Francophonie, where he emphasized the importance for all member states, including the DRC, to guarantee respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Canada has voiced our concerns over the situation in the DRC, including the number of human rights violations, the need to improve democracy and the deterioration of the security situation in the east. The Prime Minister made it very clear that concrete progress in these areas must be made.

While visiting, the Prime Minister announced funding of $20 million over four years to help developing countries manage their natural resource industries responsibly and transparently while fostering prosperity and job creation.

We will continue to express our deep concern with the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.