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House of Commons Hansard #190 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was lake.

Topics

Speaker's Ruling--Bill C-464Private Members' Business

December 3rd, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The Chair would like to take a moment to provide some information to the House regarding the management of private members' business.

As members know, after the order of precedence is replenished, the Chair reviews the new items so as to alert the House to bills which at first glance appear to impinge on the financial prerogative of the Crown. This allows members the opportunity to intervene in a timely fashion to present their views about the need for those bills to be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Accordingly, following the November 7, 2012, replenishment of the order of precedence with 15 new items, I wish to inform the House that there is one bill that gives the Chair some concern as to the spending provisions it contemplates. It is:

Bill C-464, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act (parental leave for multiple births or adoptions), standing in the name of the member for Verchères—Les Patriotes.

I would encourage hon. members who would like to make arguments regarding the need for a royal recommendation for this bill or any of the other bills now on the order of precedence to do so at an early opportunity.

I thank honourable members for their attention.

It being 11:05 a.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from October 2, 2012, consideration of the motion that Bill C-420, Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill introduced by my colleague from Westmount—Ville-Marie aims to appoint a commissioner for children and young persons in Canada. I agree with the substance of these measures.

I became involved in the NDP because I saw the work my party has been doing for years, including for instance, the motion moved by former NDP leader Ed Broadbent aimed at eliminating child poverty by the year 2000. I probably do not need to point out that successive governments have failed to achieve that goal. Nor do I need to explain how hard my colleague from Timmins—James Bay has been working on behalf of aboriginal children, particularly on initiatives such as Shannen's dream.

The current state of affairs is appalling. Canada is no longer a leader when it comes to children's well-being. Out of 30 OECD countries, Canada ranks among the bottom third regarding infant mortality, health, safety and poverty. Those statistics are cause for alarm. Our children and teenagers should be at the centre of our policies and actions. We should work on their behalf. We should not need a commissioner to remind us of that, but unfortunately, as history has shown, it seems we do.

Regardless of the mandate of such a commissioner and the impact the office will have, we as a country must take a greater interest in our children. We should invest now to provide them with better services and better living conditions. This summer, I attended the Canadian Medical Association's annual meeting in Yellowknife, where the focus was on health determinants. Delegates attended a presentation by Sir Michael Marmot, a subject matter expert from the United Kingdom.

Social determinants of health are gaining greater attention and being more widely studied. A number of health-focused organizations are investigating them. One of the highest-profile organizations studying health determinants is the World Health Organization. WHO defines social determinants of health as the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, including the health system.

These circumstances reflect policy choices and are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels. The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities—the unfair and significant differences in health status seen within and between countries.

In his presentation, Sir Marmot identified six strategic objectives for healthy living, and I would like to list them all: strengthen the role and impact of ill health prevention; create and develop healthy and sustainable places and communities; ensure a healthy standard of living for all; create fair employment and good work for all; enable all children, young people and adults to maximize their capabilities and have control over their lives; and give every child the best start in life.

As Sir Marmot said in his presentation, the longer we wait to rectify inequalities, the worse problems associated with low income become. Quoting from his own work, Fair Society, Healthy Lives, he said:

Disadvantage starts before birth and accumulates throughout life. Action to reduce health inequalities must start before birth and be followed through the life of the child. Only then can the close links between early disadvantage and poor outcomes throughout life be broken.

The evidence is there and experts have said it on more than one occasion: we must address the socio-economic factors. Poverty has an impact on health. It has an impact on education and crime.

In the case of health, I would like to provide some statistics from the Canadian Medical Association: 68% of Canadians with an income greater than $60,000 describe their health as excellent or very good. For Canadians with an income of less than $30,000 a year, this rate drops to 39%, a difference of 29%. Furthermore, 59% of those with an income of less than $30,000 accessed the health care system, compared to 43% of those with an income of $60,000 or more.

Canadians with an income of $30,000 or less are also more likely than those with an income of $60,000 or more to use tobacco—33% versus 10%—and to have been diagnosed with a chronic illness—41% versus 28%.

With regard to children, I would like to point out that 22% of children in families with an income of less than $30,000 are very or somewhat overweight, compared to 9% of children in families with an income of over $60,000. I would like to remind hon. members that not everyone can afford to register their child in hockey, especially if the family income is less than $30,000.

The numbers are there and I have just presented some of them. Yet, this government has decided to punish the poor of our society. The government's ad hoc employment insurance reform will penalize many families and will have an impact on children. The cuts to the federal tobacco control strategy will have an even greater impact on people with incomes of less than $30,000. All these measures will affect our health care system.

It is important to create this type of position for the health of our children. In a 2009 report, the Canadian Paediatric Society, the CPS, called for the creation of a commissioner for children and young persons. The report explains that the CPS recommends that a Canadian commissioner for children and young persons be appointed so that the opinions and needs of these individuals are taken into account in all federal government initiatives affecting them. UNICEF Canada and a number of other child advocacy groups have made the same request.

We need tools to ensure that Canada fulfills its commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, we must look at the big picture and make a consistent effort. By not giving our children what they need now, we are jeopardizing their health, and that is unacceptable.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Lise St-Denis Liberal Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, a bill for the establishment of a commissioner for children in Canada is crucial because of the deterioration of the socio-economic conditions of children in our country.

For years, one crop of MPs after another has tried to fight poverty and to ensure that Canadian youth have an equal opportunity to succeed.

Unfortunately, we have to admit that Canada's children and youth continue to be on the excessively long list of people who are exploited, abused and criminalized. The number of children suffering from malnutrition continues to grow. Children who suffer the consequences of hunger, violence and a lack of education are legion in our society, and we are concerned about this scandalous situation in a developed country such as ours.

In a special report to the UN, which was tabled in Geneva on February 6, 2012, the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates stated that Canada must do better today and tomorrow. Irwin Elman, the Ontario representative of the group, pointed out that Canada does not have a monitoring mechanism to provide a detailed and reliable national view of living conditions and the progress made in furthering the rights of aboriginal children and youth. This council also reiterated its request for the creation of a national commissioner for children's rights.

We must examine this proposal to create a commissioner for children in the context of budget cuts that are affecting the most disadvantaged in our society. Creating a commissioner for children and young persons would remind us of our commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Defending the rights of children around the world has been part of our political agenda for decades. We now have the opportunity to take another important step to protect youth.

The notion of fundamental rights has changed significantly since the creation of the League of Nations and the publication of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As a society, we are now in a position to include measures for child protection and development that are consistent with our collective wealth. A country like ours, with our material and intellectual resources, is in a position to create this structure independent from the government and to give children a voice.

As set out in the bill, a commissioner for children must be independent in order to inform the public about the shortcomings of and the progress made by our institutions dedicated to children and young people. The position of commissioner is held during good behaviour for a term of five years, in order to create the judicial independence needed for the investigations that are part of his or her duties. The commissioner would protect all children benefiting from the laws and conventions that define and govern children's rights. The commissioner has jurisdiction over criminal laws that affect the rights of children and young persons. The application of these child protection principles is very complex, particularly in light of the number of laws, regulations, departments and agencies that directly or indirectly influence these rights.

The machinery of government is so complex that it is unrealistic to think that elected officials have access to all the information they need to connect children's fundamental rights with the thousands of government programs operating in rural or urban regions.

A commissioner for children would have to promote the government's rights and responsibilities towards children, in order to democratize this information and to reach all segments of the Canadian population.

We have failed to protect our children from the discrimination and suffering resulting from violence and abuse. We have ignored our important obligations to protect children. We have enshrined laws and conventions on human rights, while overlooking the main issue of applying the related principles.

The mandate of a legislator includes obligations related to executing the rules that govern our democracy. Essentially, we have agreed on the principles of education, mental health, criminal liability and children's health care. However, how can we ensure equity and respect for the rights provided for by our laws and conventions without creating an office of the commissioner that is independent from the government? How can we claim to support justice without knowing how children and young people are treated by our court system?

Answers to our questions about the status of children in Canada are long overdue. We live in a huge country where our guiding principles must be applied fairly. We cannot allow departments to take a random approach to honouring the fundamental rights of children. Despite thousands of government programs to combat inequality, children across Canada are victims of abuse, exploitation and poverty. Our institutions are so complex that sometimes we do not hear the complaints and grievances of Canadians, be they young or old.

Creating a children's commissioner dedicated to the study of social phenomena affecting children is in line with the principles in our laws. The commissioner could work with agents across the country to demonstrate the application of laws and conventions that define children's rights. The commissioner could receive reports and recommendations from individuals and groups concerned about the status of children in an effort to enrich our understanding of the situation.

This bill promotes the involvement of children in decision-making processes that affect them. The greater interest of the child guides legal decisions in Canada, and the office of the commissioner must make involving children a priority in fulfilling its mandate. We have agreed to basic rights for all citizens of this country, but our work will not be done as long as our Charter, laws and conventions apply only in theory, and we continue to fail the populations that our institutions should be protecting.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to thank my Liberal colleague for introducing this bill, which will make up for the Conservative government's lack of leadership since coming to power.

I will explain in detail why the NDP and I support this kind of initiative. It is based on the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child. For years, the NDP has been championing the rights of children in Canada, supporting the work of those advocating for the rights of children, and promoting collaboration with international bodies like the UN.

We know that co-operation with international organizations has been going poorly lately because of the Conservatives' attitude. However, once Conservatives are removed from power in 2015, I am confident that we will be able to get Canada back on the right track as a fairer, greener, more prosperous country that cares more about the well-being of children.

As I mentioned, we support this bill. However, we do have some reservations, since the Conservative government will be the one to appoint the commissioner. Considering the Conservatives' patronage appointments in the past, particularly regarding the immigration bill that gives more power to the minister, we are very reluctant to give the Conservatives any more power. I am pretty sure that people watching us at home feel the same way. That said, I would like to put partisanship aside, because it is actually a pretty good bill and I want to make sure we have enough time to debate its merits.

In 1991, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Essentially, it committed all parties, including Canada, to take all necessary measures to ensure the respect, protection and implementation of children’s rights. It also required Canada to review its legislation on children. Furthermore, it committed the parties to re-examine their legal system, social services and health care networks and their education system, as well as to review the funding levels available to those systems.

Unfortunately, the Government of Canada deserves a failing grade. If this were a grade on a report card, Canada would get an “F”. It might get a few marks for effort. However, at the end of the day, since Canada does not have such a commissioner or an independent person responsible for the well-being of children, many of the ratifications and measures proposed by the government and meant to protect young people or ensure their well-being have been nothing but empty promises. No one behind the scenes has really done anything to implement the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

If a commissioner were appointed, he or she could play a leadership role. He or she could either be part of the parliamentary branch or be completely independent. We in the NDP prefer that people who serve the House of Commons be independent. That way, it is easier to ensure positive results no matter which party is in power. In that regard, I would like to congratulate Kevin Page, who has demonstrated that the independence of individuals in positions like his is crucial to playing a leadership role in Canada.

Bill C-420 would establish the position of commissioner for children, who would be responsible for ensuring that Canada complies with provisions of the convention, as I mentioned, and also for implementing the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which Canada also ratified in 2000 and 2005 respectively. These are good measures that have the support of the NDP, and we truly want the government to take a leadership role in these areas. The position of commissioner established by this bill would allow the government, as the leader, to fulfill this role.

According to the report of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, many children in Canada face obstacles to realizing their full potential as young Canadians, even though most children's basic needs are met. Unfortunately, even in a rich country such as Canada, too many children live in poverty for many reasons that I do not necessarily wish to address at this time.

My purpose is not so much to speak about poverty as to describe the situation of our young people. That is an area in which Canada also lags behind. While doing my research, I even learned that Canada is lagging behind with respect to the basic indicators of child welfare. This is due in part to the fact that, as I mentioned, Canada's federal system does not have an intergovernmental mechanism to ensure that international treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child are implemented across the country.

The NDP supports the appointment of an independent or parliamentary child advocate. We support this measure, but we also believe that Canada could take the lead in other initiatives, especially if the Conservative government is interested—I am reaching out here—in introducing a children's health initiative to support and expand healthy meal programs for children in community centres and schools. These are practical measures that can make a difference and help many of these young children whose basic needs are not being met.

Are hon. members familiar with Jordan's principle? It is a principle that the NDP supports. In short, this principle seeks to resolve jurisdictional disputes between two federal government departments or between two levels of government, for example, between the federal and the provincial or territorial governments. This prevents interminable delays during which the needs of the child are not met.

Let us take the example of an aboriginal child who should normally have the same access to services as any other Canadian. Since it is unclear which authority is supposed to pay for these expenses, aboriginal young people often have to wait a very long time before their needs are met.

We therefore support Jordan's principle, which would make it possible, in the case of such jurisdictional disputes, for the government or department of first contact to meet the needs of the child and then refer the matter to the jurisdictional dispute mechanism. We believe that it could be worthwhile for the commissioner to play a role in this regard.

The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay is a strong supporter of the Shannen's dream initiative. I would like to commend him for the great work he has done in this regard. Shannen's dream urges the federal government to ensure that all first nations children attend a school that is in good repair and that all first nations schools receive equitable education funding.

Unfortunately, the poverty rate in Canada is high, particularly among first nations. I find this very distressing. I am proud to live in a country that is rich in human and financial resources, but I think it is very unfortunate that so many people are still falling through the cracks.

To come back to the issue of creating a national office of child and youth health, I think that we could even rally the Conservative member for Simcoe—Grey to this cause and get her support. In fact, in 2007, she was the government's advisor on healthy children and youth. She published a report entitled, “Reaching for the Top”, in which she strongly recommended that Health Canada and the Government of Canada create a national office of child and youth health. I hope that the Government of Canada will support the Liberal initiative as the NDP is doing.

At the end of the day, we need leadership in Canada with regard to children's health, particularly since, unfortunately, Canada is doing so poorly in terms of measures to support early childhood development, for example. The OECD countries devote an average of 0.7% of their GDP to child care expenses and early childhood development. Were hon. members aware of this? That is more than double Canada's investment in this area. What is more, only 50% of Canadian children with disabilities have access to the technical assistance they need to ensure their well-being.

Canada is definitely lagging behind, which is a major problem. I would simply like to remind hon. members that the NDP has been a strong advocate of the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child for a long time. I would like to commend my Liberal colleague and thank him for introducing this measure in the House. I would like to remind those watching at home that the NDP will continue to stand up for children's rights. I hope that the Conservatives will vote with their hearts in favour of this bill, as the Liberals and New Democrats are going to do.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-420. I would like to thank those who have spoken to this bill, who have shared their thoughts with me and who have taken the time to listen to me.

In speaking with other members of Parliament, I was reminded of how parliamentarians, regardless of party, can work together to achieve common goals.

Indeed, at the heart of the bill is a goal that we all have in common, improving our children's lives.Twenty-three years ago all parties committed to end child poverty by the year 2000. We failed. We did not fail because we could not agree or because we did not care; we failed because we got distracted. That is why we need a commissioner for children, so that we do not get distracted again from improving our children's lives. This is not a partisan issue. The Liberals were in power for most of the last 23 years and we did not create a children's commissioner.

Over the past weeks I have heard several concerns about a children's commissioner, that it would be costly, redundant and would step on provincial toes. While I understand these concerns, I do not believe they apply when one takes a closer look at Bill C-420. Let me address each of them in turn very quickly.

First, some have said that the $5 million cost of a children's commissioner would be better spent on programs for children. While these programs are an integral part of what we can do for children, a children's commissioner would help us learn how to use our money more efficiently. For example, many of today's programs for youth are focused on addressing problems after they have arisen. A commissioner could help us focus on prevention, surely a more cost effective way of helping young people. The investment in our children's future is worth every penny.

Second, some have said that a children's commissioner would be redundant, duplicating processes that already exist at the federal level, such as parliamentary studies, reports to the UN and committees within government.

Yes, parliament does study children's issues, but certainly not enough or we would have succeeded in eradicating child poverty. Moreover, it was one of these parliamentary studies, a Senate report entitled “Children: The Silenced Citizens”, that recommended establishing a children's commissioner.

Yes, Canada does report to the UN every five years about children's rights, and every five years the UN reminds us that we have not yet established a children's commissioner.

Yes, there are committees within government that focus on children's issues, but these committees coordinate between different departments and levels of government. They do not focus on improving children's rights in Canada.

A children's commissioner would provide us with the information we need to improve what we do for our children.

Finally, some worry that a children's commissioner would infringe on provincial jurisdiction. They are right that many issues affecting children are provincial, and because of this nine of the ten provinces have established children's advocates, like the one proposed in Bill C-420. But these provincial advocates are calling for the establishment of a federal commissioner. Why? Because there are many areas affecting children beyond the reach of the provinces, such as aboriginal affairs, youth criminal justice, marriage and divorce law. For example, which drugs can be given to children under state care? Additionally, there are many areas of shared jurisdiction where children are falling into the cracks, like child welfare, health care and combatting child poverty. A federal children's commissioner could study any of these issues without stepping on provincial toes.

Consider a few questions a children's commissioner could ask. How do custody laws affect children going through divorces? How effective has the Youth Criminal Justice Act been in fighting crime among young people? These are but a few examples.

It is by answering questions like these that a commissioner for children can help parliamentarians focus on eliminating child poverty. According to Statistics Canada, today, nearly one in 10 children lives in poverty. The proportion rises to one in four children living with single mothers and one in three children living in aboriginal communities. In all, that is more than a half-million children who live in poverty in Canada.

With the help of a commissioner for children, we can change this.

I urge all members to vote in favour of Bill C-420 to send it to committee, where it can be improved. This will prevent us from once again getting too distracted to focus on eliminating child poverty.

We owe this to our children.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The time provided for debate has expired.

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

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

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

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

In my opinion, the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, December 5, 2012, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Suspension of SittingCommissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Debate having completed on the private member's business, we will suspend the House until 12 p.m.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:39 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12:01 p.m.)

Points of OrderPrivate Members' Business

Noon

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I move that, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-45, in clause 321, be amended by adding, after line 13, on page 291, the following: (2.1) The addition of the navigable waters listed below is deemed to be in the public interest and the governor in council shall by regulation, as soon as it is reasonably practicable after the day on which this act receives royal assent, add those navigable waters to the schedule, including with respect to lakes their approximate location and latitude and longitude, and with respect to rivers and riverines the approximate downstream and upstream points, as well as a description of each of those lakes, rivers and riverines, and where more than one lake, river or riverine exists with the same name indicated in the list below, the Governor in Council shall select one to be added, namely:

Lac du Gros Morne, Emily Creek, Pendleton Lakes, Lac du Canard, Fifteen Mile Creek, George Creek, Petit lac des Chevaux, Upper Gimlet Lake, Tatisno Creek, Lac Lise, Healey Lake, Trapper Creek, Lac Boomerang, South Riske Creek, Grand lac Rouleau, Ferrier Lake, Charlie Chief Creek, Lac Walter, Slop Lake, Knife Creek, Petit lac du Rat Musqué, Lunch Lake, San Jose River, Lac de la Bouderie, Twenty Mile Creek, Hendrix Creek, Lac Long, Petitot River, Rivière Yamaska Nord, Hopian Lake, Sand Creek, Lac Blanc, Francis Creek, Taltzen Lake, Lac Bellevue, Three Mount Bay, Genlyd Creek, Grand lac Marlow, Davis Lake, Holte Creek, Ruisseau de la Belle Rivière, Hilltop Lake, Morrisey Lake, Lac Faudeux, Toronto Lake, Skeena River, Lac des Chasseurs, Moss Lake, Sandell River, Lac de la Ligne, Carafel Lake, West Road (Blackwater) River, Ruisseau Bonhomme, Partridge Lake, Peter Aleck Creek, Lac Dupire, Lipsy Lake, Pitka Creek, Lac Beaver, Grass Lake, Fiftyseven Creek, Lac des Érables, Minnow Lake, Ormond Creek, Lac Fortmac, Black Sturgeon Lake, Ling Creek, Lac de la Crute, Alexander Lake, Bulkley River, Lac Côme, Tompkins Lake, Red Rock Creek, Lac Mikwasau, Little Boulder Lake, American Creek, Lac Vert, White Spruce Creek, Lac Rock, Porter Lake, Lussier River, Lac de la Montagne, MacFarlane River, Nome Creek, Lac Loan, Talbot Creek, Alix Lakes, Ellis Creek, Coglistiko River, Rivière Nouvelle, Betula Lake, Porcupine Lake, Lac Clapier, Grass Creek, Kwanika Creek, Lac à Florant, Boffin Lake, Cornwall Creek, Lac Simard, June Lake, Fortress Lake, Lac Bass, Bolton Creek, Conkle Lake, McCuaig Lake, Lac Ouimet, Larder Lake, Kaiser Bill Lake, Lac du Cerf, Turner Lake, Lac Briend, Pistol Lake, Wasley Creek, Lac Sam, Alexander Lake, Petite rivière Rimouski, Lyn Creek, Lac Otter, Misema River, Keily Creek, Lac Alfred, Flora Lake, Lac du Pylône, Twin Birch Lake, Swamp Creek, Lac à Théodore, Paulson Lake, Lac Sept Milles, Sydney Creek, Lac Doré, McKenna Lake, Cambridge Creek, Lacs Daviault, Chapleau River, Lac de Boue, Grassy Lake, Jackson Lake, Lac du Pont de Cèdre, Walker Creek, Lac Watson, Suez Pit, South Albert Creek, Lac Albanel, Hand Lake, Lac Verrier, Burgess Lake, Thomas Creek, Rivière Chibouet, South Nation River, Chapperon Creek, Petit lac du Castor, Brewery Lake, Étang Irving, Dorothy Lake, Ramhorn Creek, Lac Savignon, Wilson Lake, Durney Creek, Lac Bixley, Swartman Lake, Red Deer Creek, Lac Petasoon,

Sandcherry Creek, Fern Creek, Salmon Arm, Indian River, Lac à L'Aéroplane, Two Island Lake, Etsho Creek, Lac des Robin, Hemlock Lake, Selman Creek, Lac Perdu, Kilpecker Creek, Kitza Creek, Lac Tourville, Hub Lake, Soo River, Anders Lake, Suschona Creek, Rivière Bourlamaque, Ambrose Lake, Big Bar Creek, Lac à Dick, Fullerton Lake, Meldrum Creek, Lac Carbert, Vrooman Creek, Troutline Creek, Lac du Grand Homme, Jawbone Lake, Spahomin Creek, Lac Pougnet, Laval Lake, Pulley Creek, Lac Roy, Rivière Escuminac, Lac Ti-Jean, Lac Carvel, Lac Numéro Trois, Lac Rouge, Lac Secondon, Fullerton Lake, Donaldson Lake, Steed Lake, Clay Lake, Port Darlington, Mackay Lake, Bat Lake, Kettle Lake, The Cut, Pirie Lake, Wood River, Grant Creek, Halden Creek, Jarvis Lakes, Chipesia Creek, Klicho Creek, Eleven Mile Creek, Hewson Lake, Roe Lake, Pulley Creek, Spahomin Creek, Troutline Creek, Akehurst Lake, Little Bobtail Lake, Scott Creek, Hemp Creek, Kuthai Lake, Webster Creek, Orren Creek—

Points of OrderPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. member seems to have a very lengthy list. Usually in these types of situations the motion is put to the House to see if there is consent and then, if there is consent, to move on.

I am going to stop the member there, first to see if there is consent for the motion to be moved—

Points of OrderPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Points of OrderPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I am somewhat confused and I would seek some clarity on your most recent decision.

My hon. friend from Halifax was in the process of moving a unanimous consent motion.

Points of OrderPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

There is no consent.

Points of OrderPrivate Members' Business

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

I will thank the Minister of Public Safety for his comments.

As the Speaker well knows, there is very clear direction to the House when a member is in the process of moving a unanimous consent motion. Some have been quite lengthy and complex in their nature. My friend is seeking to amend the omnibus legislation Bill C-45, which removes many tens of thousands of lakes and rivers from the protection of the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The House of Commons Procedure and Practice, which all members know well, and should know page 590 very well, says:

....a Member wishing to waive the usual notice requirement before moving a substantive motion would ask the unanimous consent of the House “for the following motion”, which is then read in extenso.

This is an important part of the instruction given to this House. After the motion has been read in extenso,

The Speaker then asks if the House gives its unanimous consent to allow the Member to move the motion.

It is impossible for the House to make a decision on a motion that has not yet been fully read. That is clearly the direction that has been given to this House.

We have had the former House leader for the government move such a motion on one of their own bills. It was extensive. It was long and complicated. However, the House gave leave for that member to read the extensive motion.

What I am a bit concerned about is that in the decision the Speaker just made to curtail the ability of the member for Halifax to read out the motion, the Speaker called for a question that has not yet been put. Clearly in our instructions that we follow stringently in this place, that question cannot be asked until it has been asked.

I will remind the Minister of Public Safety that the latitude given to members is a liberal latitude and that there is some extensiveness used in guiding the Speaker and this House as to what can be done under unanimous consent motions.

The clarity over the Speaker curtailing the ability of the member for Halifax to read the motion out, and then calling the House to answer the question yea or nay seems to me an impossibility and in direct contravention of the rules that guide this place.

I humbly seek some clarity as to how this process has proceeded.

Points of OrderPrivate Members' Business

12:10 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, on that point of order, I would point out the motion being made was made without notice and it requires an extraordinary remedy in the circumstances of unanimous consent of this House. Thus, at any point when it is clear that there is no unanimous consent, I think it is appropriate that be terminated.

I would like to move that in relation to Bill C-45, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration of the report stage, and one sitting day shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill, and at the expiry of the time provided for the consideration at report stage, and at 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for government business on the day allotted to consideration of the third reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposable of the stage of the bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Points of OrderPrivate Members' Business

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I appreciate the eagerness of the hon. government House leader. I have not yet called for orders of the day, so I cannot hear that motion just yet.

However, if I can get back to the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, it does say in O'Brien and Bosc that if no dissent is detected then the House is obviously allowing the member to move the motion.

I take the member's point with regard to the reading of the names. In my view, the member had moved the substance of the motion and was in the process of reading an abnormally lengthy list of names of lakes that would be added. She had the floor for approximately 10 minutes.

There was a similar case that Speaker Milliken dealt with, wherein the member at that time was reading a long litany of the names of members, I believe, and there were several points of order. The Speaker decided that because it was unduly lengthy, and in view of the fact that there was obvious disagreement to the motion being moved, in order to manage the use of the time in the House efficiently he intervened to see if there was consent.

In my view, there is a similar parallel here. As was her right, the member sought the floor on a point of order to ask for consent to put the substance of her motion, and then got into the part of the amendment that added all of the names of lakes, and perhaps rivers, that she was interested in. Given that it was likely to go on for a significant period of time and that she had already had the floor, in the interests of allowing the House to make a decision on that, and sensing that the House was eager to do so, I asked to see if there was even consent for her to move the motion.

I do not want to get into hypotheticals. However, if the House would have granted consent, I am sure the House would have then wanted to hear the whole term of the motion.

I will hear the hon. member again as a courtesy, but I do believe I have made my points on this.

Points of OrderPrivate Members' Business

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, we looked for precedence as well. We think there is an important grey zone. You read the reference in terms of hearing the substance of a motion, yet we have tried to rely on the core issue that guides the House when it comes to unanimous consent.

We looked at the motion from, I believe, Mr. Epp, who started to name various members of Parliament in his motion. In that precedent, he named every member of the Liberal Party by name and riding. Speaker Milliken had to intervene. However, I do not think that the intervention was on its length but rather the fact that the member started to name members of Parliament of an entire party.

We looked at the precedent of the now Minister of Justice who moved a similar motion both in extension and length. It was on a money laundering and terrorism bill where the government sought to make substantive amendments to a bill at this stage in debate, which is exactly what we have tried to do. The minister read out a very lengthy amendment seeking unanimous consent. He rose on a point of order and the House had to hear the entire motion before it could decide whether it was in favour or not of allowing that practice.

We know this place can do almost anything under unanimous consent, and that is what the minister sought to do that day. The member for Halifax is attempting the exact same process.

Reading out those particular bodies of water that would no longer be protected has importance. I am sure members of the Conservative Party would also be interested in this, particularly the Minister of Public Safety, as we had not even got to the lakes and rivers in his constituency that would no longer be protected. His ability to say that he gives no consent before having even heard the motion, or any of the Conservative members to say “nay” before they have heard it, pleads ignorance before the facts have been read out. It is disturbing as to their own decision-making process in that they no before they have heard.

This reminds me of the government House leader who just last week said that it did not matter what amendments would be moved, that the Conservatives would vote against them anyway. It shows a certain amount of disregard for the parliamentary process.

In terms of your role, Mr. Speaker, in this intervention, I want to be quite clear with the way we are approaching this process. This is a grey zone created by moving a substantive and detailed amendment, which the member for Halifax is seeking to do to protect Canadians' lakes and rivers. After the bill passes, these lakes and rivers will no longer have protection for their navigation and other important environment considerations.

The House has not yet heard the terms for the particular lakes and rivers that are involved. I think this would be of interest to not just members in this place, but the Canadians they propose to represent as well. To say “nay” before one has heard about the lakes and rivers in one's riding seems to say that they are not important and that moving the motion is not important.

The Minister of Public Safety can keep muttering out “no consent”, but the fact is he does not yet know the implications to his own constituency, nor do any of the Conservatives. This is why it is important to have the capacity to do this.

Mr. Speaker, I respect the ruling and judgment that you have given in referring to other parts of our practice, but it seems that this quote is quite clear:

With unanimous consent, bills have been advanced through more than one stage in a single day and referred to a Committee of the Whole rather than a standing committee and have even been amended by unanimous consent.

This is what the Minister of Justice, then House leader, did before to address the crime bill. Also:

—a Member wishing to waive the usual notice requirement before moving a substantive motion would ask the unanimous consent of the House “for the following motion”.

This is then read in extenso. It seems to me that maybe you heard the essentials of the motion, Mr. Speaker, in the first iteration from the member for Halifax, but one would hope Conservatives, hearing about an important lake or river in their ridings, might think they should have a moment where they would be allowed to change the legislation for the better.

I know it is a novel concept for the government because in almost 900 pages of omnibus legislation it has not changed a comma or a period. All these things seem to have been made perfect by the Conservatives in their first writing. However, we know that not to be true because this omnibus bill is making corrections to the last omnibus bill.

Therefore, in this case, the member for Halifax is attempting to make improvements to the bill through unanimous consent, which seems to me to be worthwhile and viable according to the rules we are guided by.

I understand your ruling, Mr. Speaker, in terms of the initial preconception. However, in terms of members being able to vote on a motion that they have not yet heard, even if it is large, seems to be a practice that the House should be very careful of and wary in moving down that path, particularly with a government like that one that seems so keen on shutting down debate at all its various stages and allowing legislation to go through untouched.

Points of OrderPrivate Members' Business

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I appreciate the points made by the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. However, I would remind him that there are two stages in seeking unanimous consent, the first of which is to ask for the ability to move the motion, and there are many reasons why members may wish to do that or not.

I do find in situations in which we can envisage points of order to seek unanimous consent potentially take quite a bit of the House's time and when there is a clear lack of consent right at the outset, it is up to the Speaker to judge what is in the best interest of the House.

Given the previous example when there had been a practice for the member who was in a certain point of motion, reading names in that case and in this case listing lakes and rivers, because they are unusual and not moved under the normal rubric for motions with proper notice to see if the House would like to continue hearing the motion, or if the House is not giving consent at the outset, is where this is coming from. I appreciate hon. members' points on that.