House of Commons Hansard #258 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was railway.

Topics

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being Wednesday, we will now have the singing of the national anthem, led by the hon. member for Chatham-Kent—Essex.

[Members sang the national anthem]

Day of the HoneybeeStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Independent Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is more than just honey that comes from honeybees.

One of every three bites of food eaten worldwide depends on pollinators, especially honeybees. Many crops rely completely on them. In Canada, over $2 billion a year in agricultural production depends on honeybees.

However, bees are dying and disappearing in record numbers. Pesticides, parasites and pathogens are killing one-third of all colonies each year, and it is getting worse. A threat to the honeybee is a threat to our food and to us all. Today is the day of the honeybee in 185 municipalities and 3 provinces, including Thunder Bay. I hope the members of this House will join me in supporting efforts to make May 29 our national day of the honeybee.

I invite Thunder Bay citizens to join me this Saturday for a day of honeybee celebrations at the Thunder Bay Country Market.

National Health and Fitness DayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to emphasize the need for us all to work together to promote health and fitness for all Canadians. We are facing the terrible situation of raising the first generation of children who may not live as long as their parents will. That is why we need to improve our health level now and show our children that we can do better.

This is one of the reasons that colleagues all around this House and I have worked together to create National Health and Fitness Day, the first Saturday in June, this year being June 1.

Over the last few months, more than 40 towns and cities across Canada have proclaimed the day, including Pond Inlet, Yellowknife, Whistler, Calgary, Ottawa and Halifax. In Ottawa, there is a cycling event planned at city hall with national leaders. In Vancouver, we will have a run with Olympian Ashleigh McIvor and the Minister of Transport.

We also have the strong support of the Running Room and the Fitness Industry Council of Canada, which has encouraged over 500 private clubs across Canada to waive their drop-in fees for June 1.

I thank all my colleagues, from all parties, who are promoting better health for all Canadians. It shows the next generation that we can work together to make Canada the fittest nation on earth.

World MS DayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is World MS Day. Multiple Sclerosis is a neurological disorder that causes disability. Most diagnoses occur between the ages of 25 and 31, afflicting about twice as many women as men. It is not known what causes this disease, and as yet there is no cure.

MS puts hard demands on the health and income of family members acting as caregivers. There are three important changes that we could make to help people with MS and their caregivers stay in the workforce and ease their financial hardships.

Employment insurance sickness benefits should be made more flexible so people with MS and other disabilities can get support when and how they need it. The criteria for receiving disability credits and benefits should be eased to help people with MS and other disabilities to qualify because their health condition varies over time. Finally, disability and caregiver tax credits should be refundable to improve income support for caregivers, particularly those in need.

These steps would help people with MS and their families cope better until a cure is found.

Iran Accountability WeekStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the regressive clerical military dictatorship in Iran goes through its mockery of fair elections, a brutal crackdown has been unleashed. That is why many members are taking part in the Iran accountability week. We are shining the light of truth on what is happening inside Iran.

I want to draw attention to a few such examples. First, Navid Khanjani, a Baha'i student, was denied the right to go to university because of his faith and was sentenced to 12 years of brutal imprisonment in Tehran's Evin prison.

It reconfirms the wilful pattern of abuse by this regime. Members will recall that I spoke last year in the House about Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor who has been sentenced to death for practising his faith.

Another Christian pastor is also in jeopardy right now. Pastor Saeed Abedini is a dual American-Iranian citizen who was arrested, beaten and sentenced to eight years. His health is now deteriorating because of his beatings.

We renew our call on the regime to release Navid Khanjani, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, and Pastor Saeed at once.

Somali-CanadiansStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, my warm, loving Somali community left a war-torn country to come to our peaceful country, only to have many of their children die at the hand of violence, often gun violence.

Almost 50 young Somali-Canadian males have been killed in Ontario and Alberta since 2006. In 2012, between June and October, six of 33 Toronto shooting homicides befell Somali-Canadian men. That means the Somali community, making up less than 100,000 of Toronto's population, had 18% of the city's shooting deaths. Our Toronto Somali-Canadian community faces poverty, education challenges, job challenges, imported guns from the United States, and the overwhelming fear to report the violence.

Our resilient Somali-Canadian community hopes the government will investigate these deaths, develop federal-provincial job programs supporting Somali-Canadians, develop job opportunities with the RCMP, and examine witness protection.

Manitoba Women EntrepreneursStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to honour two business people from my riding, Judith Mccaskill, owner of the Sandy Lake Hotel, and Marsha Trinder, owner of the T.W. Ranch, finalists for the 2013 Manitoba Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

I also want to congratulate Ms. Mccaskill for winning the contribution to community award. Judith Mccaskill has owned the Sandy Lake Hotel for 12 years and has turned her business into a gathering place for Manitobans from all walks of life. She has worked to make her community a better place, raising $223,000 for charity, establishing the Sandy Lake Merchants Association and improving the health of her community. Marsha Trinder has operated the T.W. Ranch since 2006, where she raises Tennessee walking horses for sale across Canada.

Women entrepreneurs are one of the fastest-growing groups within the Canadian economy and are crucial to the success of rural communities, not only in my riding but throughout all of Canada.

Congratulations to these two business people for their exemplary work and success.

BullyingStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week was particularly upsetting for me.

In the last few days, young Taylor Moldvan, 17, from Milton, Ontario, and Ann-Élisabeth Belley, a 14-year-old from Jonquière, in my area, took their own lives. They were both victims of bullying.

Again, Canada has failed to protect its children. As legislators, we have a unique role to play and we need to find solutions. This means funding and promoting bullying prevention. It means working with the provinces, parents and young people to ensure that tragedies like these do not happen again. It means that a national bullying prevention strategy must be adopted. This is a duty we owe our children.

On behalf of the NDP, I wish to extend my condolences to the Belley and Moldvan families as well as their loved ones. I promise that we will continue to work until Canada adopts a national bullying prevention strategy.

One Heart WinnipegStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, this past Sunday I attended the 4th Annual One Heart Winnipeg event. One Heart Winnipeg is part of a two-week focus called “Love Winnipeg”, encouraging the sharing of God's love through random acts of kindness within the community.

Over 90 city churches joined together on Sunday morning to attend One Heart Winnipeg. This is the first event to be held at the Investors Group Field, the new home to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Pastors and more than 12,000 attendees prayed for the City of Winnipeg, for its leaders and its safety, and to seek God's blessing. Speakers at One Heart included dignitaries, such as Mayor Sam Katz and Bombers legend Milt Stegall, along with many church leaders from across the region.

I hosted students from Faith Academy on Monday here in Ottawa, and I want to congratulate these students, and everyone involved with Love Winnipeg and One Heart Winnipeg. These students wore their yellow T-shirts saying “Love Winnipeg”.

Random acts of kindness are a wonderful way to live out one's faith and strengthen our communities.

IranStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to recognize the 25th anniversary of the largest systematic violation of human rights committed by the Iranian regime.

In the summer of 1988, the Iranian regime tortured and executed five thousand political prisoners and buried them in mass graves for simple activities like distributing pamphlets. They deny it to this day. The tyranny of Ayatollah Ali Khomeyni showed no respect for democracy or human rights. The gangsters who carried out this brutal, deliberate massacre remain in powerful positions. We condemn these despicable crimes against humanity.

This is the same Iran that as of yesterday is shamelessly leading the UN Conference on Disarmament. I am proud to note that Canada's envoy walked out in protest.

With supposed elections in Iran in the coming month, we encourage Iranians and the Iranian diaspora to visit www.theglobaldialogue.ca to catalogue the repression that this brutal regime continues to this day.

I call on all Canadians to join us in the effort to highlight the ongoing human rights atrocities in today's Iran.

Girls Government ProgramStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I was honoured to meet with grade seven and eight girls from schools in my riding: St. Cecilia, Annette Street public school, and High Park Alternative. A delegation from their program called Girls Government initiative introduces young girls to politics and encourages them to consider politics as a career option.

After more than a decade since being a co-founder of Equal Voice, I regret that only 25% of our parliamentarians are women. Though that number is much higher in the NDP, at 40%, Canada still has a long way to go to truly reflect Canadian diversity here in Parliament.

The girls told me about issues they are determined to change, things like factory farming and mental health stigma. These young people are brimming with passion, creativity and optimism.

Today I want to make a prediction. I predict some of these girls one day will stand in this House, and I say “bravo”.

The SenateStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Senate adopted our Conservative government's 11 tough new rules governing Senate travel and expenses proposed by Conservative senators.

Our government is focused on delivering meaningful reform to the Senate—including elections, term limits and tough spending oversight.

Canadians understand that our Senate, as it stands today, must either change or, like the old upper houses of our provinces, vanish.

While we are bringing tougher accountability measures for Senate expenses, the leader of the Liberal Party has come out as the champion of the status quo, demanding that the Senate remain unelected and unaccountable, because it is an advantage for Quebec.

The Liberal leader is once again trying to pit Canadians against each other. He also said that those who spoke only one official language were lazy, which is unacceptable.

We said we would fix the Senate’s rules governing travel and expenses, and we delivered.

Henry MorgentalerStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to pay tribute to Dr. Henry Morgentaler, whom we lost this morning. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and loved ones.

We recognize Dr. Morgentaler's courage and perseverance.

We recognize his courage, his dedication and the way he changed the course of Canadian history. As a champion for reproductive justice and women's rights, he took our country forward. Thanks to Dr. Morgentaler's fight, a generation of Canadian women have had access to choice.

Dr. Morgentaler was honoured with the Order of Canada for his tireless efforts for nearly half a century, putting his life and freedom at risk so that Canadian women could have access to safe abortion services.

Twenty-five years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in his favour, declaring that women have the right to choose. Unfortunately, even today, access to reproductive services remains unequal. We must remain vigilant against repeated attempts to roll back these rights. New Democrats will continue Dr. Morgentaler's fight and the pursuit of equality.

Leader of the Liberal Party of CanadaStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Aspin Conservative Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, our party and our government is demanding real accountability in the Senate, including thorough, tough new expense rules we pushed through yesterday.

On the other hand, the leader of the Liberal Party champions the status quo in the Senate. It is no wonder Canadians abandoned the Liberal Party in the last election. It is exactly this type of poor judgment on the Senate's status quo that Canadians reject.

The leader of the Liberal Party's poor judgment does not end there. The Liberal leader has known for weeks that a Liberal senator is hiding $1.7 million in an offshore bank account. This senator only remains in the Liberal caucus because of the Liberal leader's poor judgment. He is clearly in over his head.

College of the North AtlanticStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize a talented young man from Ramea, a small, isolated town with a population of 525, in the riding of Random—Burin—St. George's. Zachary Green is a graduate of the digital animation program offered by the Bay St. George campus of the College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville.

In 2012, Zachary produced a short film called The Collector, an exceptional piece of digital art for which he received national and international recognition. Recognized by the Toronto Applied Arts magazine, Zachary received the Digital and Character Animation Award. His film has been screened in Seattle at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth and at Chicago CineYouth, sponsored by the Chicago International Film Festival. Zachary credits the exemplary program and instruction he received at the College of the North Atlantic for his success.

He is currently employed in St. John's, as a 3D modeller, with GRI Simulations Incorporated.

I ask all members to join me in wishing Zachary Green continued success as he pursues a career in digital animation.

EthicsStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the media has revealed that a Liberal senator is the beneficiary of a $1.7 million trust set up in an offshore tax haven in the South Pacific.

Weeks have gone by, yet this Liberal senator has refused to come clean with Canadians. She refuses to confirm she has made the proper disclosures of her offshore wealth to the Senate Ethics Officer. The leader of the Liberal Party and the Liberal Senate leader are aware of the situation but are refusing to take responsibility.

Canadians deserve to know. Why is this Liberal senator stashing money in offshore tax havens? The fact that Liberals are hiding this information and that this tax-evading senator still remains in the Liberal caucus is yet more evidence of the Liberal leader's lack of judgment.

EthicsStatements By Members

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, last night both Conservative and Liberal senators feigned shock and horror to learn that Mike Duffy had been engaged in partisan politics while milking the Senate, but the reality is it is a time-honoured tradition. Lots of senators are full-time political operatives for their parties, with their salaries, their staff and their travel fully paid by the taxpayer. This has been going on for decades, but not a single Conservative or Liberal blew the whistle on any of these senators. Why would they? Just like there is no fix for an egg-sucking dog, once the senators got a taste for that juicy subsidy, there is no way to ever make them stop.

No wonder the Prime Minister's Office orchestrated a cover-up. How many other senators were working the last federal election while collecting a senator's salary?

In a few moments, the Prime Minister will again face simple, straightforward questions from the Leader of the Opposition. I implore the Prime Minister, out of respect for Canadians, to leave his talking points alone and tell Canadians the real story behind the Mike Duffy cover-up.

Members of the New Democratic PartyStatements By Members

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, our government has cut taxes for all Canadians more than 150 times since 2006. They have saved an average of $3,200.

Canadians are proud of that record, and they expect each and every one of us to pay our fair share. Our government has taken strong action to crack down on tax evasion.

Unfortunately, paying their fair share does not seem to be a priority for opposition members. Canadians were shocked to learn that more than two members of the NDP owe tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes. They are also furious that the NDP knew about the problem and hid the information from honest taxpayers.

How can they want to impose new taxes on Canadians without first setting a good example by paying their own taxes?

Taxpayers in my riding are disappointed in the NDP's attitude and want them to hear this message: pay your taxes.

EthicsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister acknowledged the existence of the email in which Mike Duffy wrote that he stayed silent on the orders of the Prime Minister's Office.

Who in the Prime Minister's Office has a copy of that email?

EthicsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, this is an email, I understand, of Mr. Duffy, a former Conservative senator. As we know well, the activities of Mr. Duffy are being looked into by the appropriate authorities. Of course, any and all information we have will be shared with those authorities.

EthicsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, has the RCMP contacted the Prime Minister's Office to obtain that email or all other documents that it has in relation to this matter?

EthicsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, to my knowledge we have had no such contact. Of course that would be very different, I understand, than the leader of the NDP who, after 17 years of apparently knowing about the activities of the mayor of Laval, who is now charged with various offences, did not reveal that information to the public and the police until very recently.

Any information we have that is relevant we will reveal immediately.

EthicsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, who did the Prime Minister task with—

EthicsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

EthicsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. Leader of the Opposition.

EthicsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, who did the Prime Minister task with managing the crisis surrounding illegal Senate expenses?

EthicsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I do not fully understand the question.

Obviously, the Senate is responsible for managing its expenses and business, but because of recent events, the Senate has asked other authorities to investigate. Investigations are ongoing. We are adamant that those who acted inappropriately will be held accountable.

EthicsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, when was the topic of illegal Senate spending first raised in cabinet?

EthicsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the NDP leader knows full well that we cannot discuss cabinet matters.

As a matter of course, while we are sworn not to discuss cabinet matters publicly, I can certainly say that these matters were not matters of public business at any point. In fact, as we have said, I became aware of this matter on May 15. I immediately made that information public, which is very different than the leader of the NDP who withheld information on the wrongdoing of the mayor of Laval for 17 years.

EthicsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, that is interesting. That was not yesterday's excuse.

Does the Prime Minister have proof that the $90,000 cheque his chief of staff gave Mike Duffy was a personal cheque?

EthicsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, that is what Mr. Wright told me. I immediately insisted that the public be informed. Mr. Wright is currently being investigated by the ethics officer.

Once again, as I have said repeatedly, as soon as this information was conveyed to me by the former chief of staff, I immediately insisted he go to the appropriate authorities and the information be made public, which is totally different than the leader of the NDP who withheld that information from the public and from the police for 17 years.

EthicsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday it was reported that the RCMP asked the media for that February 20 email that details the $90,000 arrangement between the Prime Minister's chief of staff and Mike Duffy.

As we know, the Prime Minister's Office has a copy of that email. Will the Prime Minister proactively make that email public?

EthicsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I have said repeatedly, we have put in place government authorities to deal with any kind of matters such as this that may arise. We expect the authorities to deal with those matters and they will have the full assistance of the government in doing so.

EthicsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister said that he did not learn about his chief of staff's $90,000 payment to Mike Duffy until Wednesday the 15th. Yet media contacted his office on the afternoon of Tuesday the 14th to comment on the payment. His office and Mike Duffy then released identical statements on the source of that payment.

How does the Prime Minister reconcile his assertion that he did not know about the scandal until Wednesday if his office responded the afternoon before?

EthicsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, as I have said before, Mr. Wright informed me and informed others of this matter on the morning of May 15. That is why I did not know that in the afternoon of May 14.

On the contrary, it was my understanding, the understanding of the caucus and the understanding of the government that Mr. Duffy had repaid his expenses using his own resources.

EthicsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, even the meagre answers provided to us by the Prime Minister do not add up.

It is a simple question. How can the Prime Minister explain that he said he knew nothing of his chief of staff's $90,000 cheque until Wednesday, May 15, yet the PMO and Mike Duffy's office released identical, coordinated statements on the afternoon of May 14?

EthicsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, once again, those are the facts. I do not like them, but they are clear.

We have been very clear about what the facts are in the situation. When I became aware of such information, I immediately revealed that information to the public.

On the other hand, the leader of the Liberal Party should explain why he has known for weeks that a member of his caucus, a Liberal senator, is connected to an undisclosed offshore bank account worth $1.7 million and he has chosen to take no action whatsoever.

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister just told us that, until May 15, he thought that Mike Duffy was repaying his illegal Senate expenses himself. That raises another question.

On what basis did the Prime Minister assume that Mike Duffy had even agreed to repay his expenses? Who informed the Prime Minister of that?

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, my understanding was the same as everyone else's, that Mr. Duffy was repaying his expenses himself. He said so publicly.

Those are the facts. Mr. Duffy himself said that publicly.

However, as little as three years ago, the leader of the NDP said that he knew absolutely nothing about the affairs of the former mayor of Laval, which are now being investigated by the Charbonneau commission. It is up to him to explain why, when he knew such information, he did not think it relevant to tell the public or the courts.

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, in a typical day, how many times does the Prime Minister speak with his chief of staff?

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I do not understand the question.

As I have said a number of—

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The right hon. Prime Minister.

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Harper Conservative Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the former chief of staff did not inform me of the payment he made until May 15. I have been very clear about this matter. The facts are clear.

Why did the leader of the NDP withhold information about the activities of the former mayor of Laval for 17 years?

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, when did the Prime Minister first speak with Nigel Wright about the whole question of the Senate expenses scandal?

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, obviously we all spoke of this as soon as the story was in the news. As I have said repeatedly, I was not aware of any payment made by Mr. Wright before the 15th of May.

What I do not understand is how the entire Quebec construction industry can be mired in a deep scandal involving mayors and public officials all across the province, subject to an inquiry called by the government he was a member of and that for all of those years he did not think it relevant to inform the authorities and the public that he had been offered considerations by the mayor of Laval.

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport explicitly said that the $90,000 cheque was issued “Because we didn’t believe taxpayers should have to pay the cost and Mr. Duffy was not in a position to pay them himself”. Who is we?

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Wright has been clear that his motive was he wanted to see the taxpayers recompensed for expenses that we all believed were inappropriate. It is important that those expenses be recovered. It is also important that all the people who have been involved in this be subject to the appropriate investigations and held accountable.

Once again, when we knew this information, it was all rendered public. I contrast this with the leader of the NDP who withheld vital information on the improper activities of the mayor of Laval for 17 years, even during a provincial royal commission.

EthicsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, did Nigel Wright receive or will he receive severance pay?

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Wright will receive only the payments to which he is entitled under the law and nothing more.

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, he is entitled to his entitlements.

Under the law, how much severance pay is Nigel Wright entitled to? Would it just happen to be approximately $90,000?

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we are required to pay certain amounts under law, such as certain accumulated vacation pay. Those policies are clear. The government cannot work around them. Mr. Wright will be paid only those amounts of money.

Once again, we have been absolutely clear about this matter, unlike the leader of the NDP.

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's Office was first informed of this matter on May 14. Who in the Prime Minister's Office knew on May 14?

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, once again, I have been very clear that Mr. Wright informed me of this on May 15. We have been very clear on that. As soon as we knew that information, we made it public. If we had known earlier, we would have made it public earlier, unlike the leader of the NDP who, when confronted with information regarding the improper activities of a mayor, who is now charged with various corruption offences, refused to provide that information to the public or to the authorities for 17 years.

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, has the Prime Minister asked that all emails to and from Nigel Wright's email account in the Prime Minister's Office be examined to see if there is any reference whatsoever to the Mike Duffy affair, or to any and all documents concerning the Mike Duffy affair?

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, once again, we have put in place the appropriate authorities to investigate such matters when they arise. We will obviously assist those authorities and we will ensure that anybody who has broken any rules or laws is held accountable. We are doing so promptly, unlike the leader of the NDP who, in spite of the fact he knew about the inappropriate activities of the former mayor of Laval, and has now admitted it after having denied it in public repeatedly, refused to provide that information.

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, what has the Prime Minister learned from the audit of Pamela Wallin's expenses that led her to resign from the Conservative caucus?

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, as members well know, the audit of Senator Wallin's expenses is not complete. Senator Wallin has chosen to step outside of the caucus until those matters are resolved. She obviously will not be readmitted unless those matters are resolved. If she has in any way acted improperly, she will be subject to the appropriate authorities and the consequences for those actions.

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the Prime Minister could tell us who in his office was responsible for the discussions with Senator Tkachuk and Senator Stewart Olsen between February and May 15. That is critical for us to find out.

Who exactly in the Prime Minister's Office was responsible for managing this file?

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, the original Senate committee report did reflect the results of the audit and the Senate took new action yesterday. A new report has been out. The RCMP has appropriately been brought in.

More important than that, what Canadians are looking for is the action that was taken yesterday by the Senate, which is 11 new items of accountability to protect the interests of taxpayers. We think that is the action Canadians want to see and that is the action we are taking.

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, there was no answer to the question. It is clear that the minister is perhaps not aware of the fact that his colleagues in the Senate have to re-eat all the words that they refused to allow in the original report because the original report was completely changed as a result of we do not know what.

I would like to ask the minister a very clear question. Who in the Prime Minister's Office had conversations with Senator Tkachuk and with Senator Stewart Olsen that led to the words being changed? Who was responsible for that?

EthicsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, the premise of the question is entirely false.

Yesterday the Senate did two very important things for Canadians. The first was to issue a report that was agreed to unanimously, including Liberal members, to refer this matter to the RCMP, which is entirely appropriate. Second, the Senate took action on 11 specific items to protect the interests of taxpayers going forward.

Those are the things the Senate did and they are exactly what is in line with what taxpayers expect.

EthicsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's Office was running this whole thing.

Senator Tkachuk said yesterday that he had conversations with Nigel Wright.

The question we are asking is very clear. It is not hard. Who, other than Mr. Wright, was in the Prime Minister's Office? The Prime Minister refuses to answer the question, but the minister is here.

Who in the PMO was responsible for the conversations with Senator Tkachuk and for managing this important matter?

EthicsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, as he said in his statement when he stepped down, Mr. Wright took sole responsibility for this because he was the one involved.

Government AppointmentsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Arthur Porter is in jail under charges of fraud and money laundering. Just two years ago the Conservatives had full confidence in Mr. Porter. They made him the chair of the CSIS watchdog and appointed him to the Privy Council. Despite charges connecting Mr. Porter to one of the largest fraud cases in Canada's history, he remains a member of the Privy Council.

Will the government remove him from the Privy Council?

Government AppointmentsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, as a matter of clarification, Mr. Porter was appointed to SIRC with the support of the NDP and the Liberal leadership.

I would like to congratulate the authorities for a successful arrest.

While I cannot comment on a specific case, anyone involved in corruption must face the full force of the law, unlike the leader of the NDP who knew about corruption, who knew about a bribe attempt, who denied it years later, and has now had to come clean.

Government AppointmentsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether they realize that they are protecting a man who tried to make a run for it and leave his wife behind in prison. They are allowing that individual to remain a member of the Privy Council.

The intelligence sharing fiasco in the Delisle case happened under Porter's watch and fraud at the MUHC happened under Porter's watch. It is time to end the charade.

The request to extradite Arthur Porter is currently in the federal government's hands.

Can the minister confirm this information and will he take immediate action to have Mr. Porter tried in Canada?

Government AppointmentsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the member says that someone was protected. What we do know is that the Leader of the Opposition denied a specific bribery attempt, and then less than three years later, came clean on this. For 17 years, the Leader of the Opposition knew about a bribery attempt, denied it and has finally had to come clean.

Who is protecting who?

La défense nationaleOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, under Arthur Porter's watch at the Security Intelligence Review Committee, Jeffrey Delisle sold state secrets to Russia, and CSIS refused to share that information with the RCMP.

For the past two days, the minister has been asking us just to trust him. The problem is that when we trust him, we end up with cases like Porter and Delisle on our hands.

What corrective measures has the minister taken with regard to collaboration between Canadian security agencies?

La défense nationaleOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, if the member has any information that any member of our security forces behaved contrary to Canada's interests, I would encourage her to immediately refer to SIRC.

Let us talk about sharing information. What we do know is that it is very clear that the Leader of the Opposition failed to share information that was pertinent to a bribery attempt, which is now what we are hearing about in the province of Quebec.

Why did that particular member fail to disclose pertinent information and fail to share it with the authorities?

La défense nationaleOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister knows full well that his non-answers are all about protecting his government and nothing more. The Delisle case is an embarrassing litany of failures. It is a failure to fix well-known security problems, a failure to share key information between agencies, a failure to maintain confidence and credibility in the eyes of our intelligence partners. Worst of all, it is a failure to be accountable to Canadians.

I ask the minister once again: What is he doing to restore Canada's reputation with our allies in the wake of this embarrassing mess?

La défense nationaleOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I have answered that question. If the member has any information that security forces behaved contrary to Canada's interests, I would encourage him to immediately refer it to the Security Intelligence Review Committee.

Let us talk about hiding information. Let us talk about the Leader of the Opposition, who for 17 years, hid attempts by the mayor to bribe him. These matters are now being disclosed in a public enquiry.

Why did the Leader of the Opposition not do his duty?

Natural ResourcesOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Conservative Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government is proud of Canada's refining sector.

Canada is a world leader in this sector. It exports more than 400,000 barrels of oil products every year, which is much more than what we can use. We know that the NDP wants to impose a carbon tax that would destroy our refining sector.

Could the Minister of Natural Resources share the latest data on Canada's refining sector with the House?

Natural ResourcesOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Conservative

Joe Oliver ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, Valero, which operates the refinery in Lévis, said that it may have to close down if line 9B is not reversed.

However, the leader of the NDP has publicly stated that he is opposed to the reversal. The New Democrats are prepared to watch the refinery's 500 unionized workers lose their jobs, just to support their party's ideological crusade against the oil and gas industry.

Government AppointmentsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the mismanagement and ethical problems at ACOA continue today. We learned that the CEO of Enterprise Cape Breton is under investigation by the federal Ethics Commissioner.

Enterprise Cape Breton is responsible for a budget of $50 million. I would like to ask the government to explain what it is the Ethics Commissioner is investigating. Given all the mess at ACOA, what is it going to do to restore confidence to that important economic development institution in Atlantic Canada?

Government AppointmentsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Egmont P.E.I.

Conservative

Gail Shea ConservativeMinister of National Revenue and Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation is an independent arm's-length Crown corporation. My expectation is that ECBC conducts its business with integrity, accountability and respect for Canadian taxpayers.

We have ensured that this matter was brought to the attention of the Ethics Commissioner, and we do expect that the CEO will fully co-operate with that investigation.

Government AppointmentsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, Atlantic Canadians want economic development. Instead, ACOA is becoming a home for Conservative mismanagement and ethical breaches.

Yesterday, Conservatives had the audacity to claim that they did not rig the ACOA hiring process, but the report clearly stated that “decisions in the (hiring) process were based on Mr. MacAdam's circumstances as a minister’s staff member”.

Then the defence minister's chief of staff interfered, and he changed the report.

So let us try again today. What consequences did the minister's chief of staff face for this attempted cover-up?

Government AppointmentsOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Egmont P.E.I.

Conservative

Gail Shea ConservativeMinister of National Revenue and Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, ACOA is very busy supporting economic development in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Public Service Commission is an independent body, and as such, makes its own determinations on what or what not to include in this report. This was their report.

The independent investigation by the Public Service Commission did not find any evidence of wrongdoing or influence on the part of the ministers, or of any political staff, for that matter. We have taken action in response to the commission's recommendations.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I spoke to Vital Tremblay, the president of Sylviculture Tramfor, in Chicoutimi. He and other business owners in the forestry sector are worried about losing expertise at the end of the season in October as a result of the EI reform. His workers will surely find another permanent job and will not want to return to the forest for a few weeks next year.

It takes three years to train a good forestry worker. Will the Prime Minister reconsider his EI reform, which is jeopardizing the financial well-being of the forestry industry?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times in this House, the changes we are making to employment insurance are to make sure that Canadians are better connected to jobs.

I ask the member opposite to maybe read the budget, economic action plan 2013, where we are investing in training to make sure that individuals have an opportunity to do exactly that: train for those jobs that are available, those in-demand jobs. We are connecting employers with employees and employees with employers. We are doing that to make sure we can grow the Canadian economy. I encourage the opposition to get on board.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, this is precisely what spurred a constituent of mine from Acadie—Bathurst to start a petition in the fall of 2012, calling on the government to withdraw its EI reform. More than 34,000 people signed this petition. That is in addition to the 30,000 signatures collected in Quebec by the CSN and the FTQ and at the massive demonstrations attended by thousands of workers.

The Atlantic premiers have joined forces to oppose the reform, along with the Quebec premier.

Will the Prime Minister continue to ignore half of the country, or does he not give a damn?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, as I have just said, I would encourage the opposition to get on board with what we are doing with economic action plan 2013. We are creating jobs and opportunities for Canadians to be better connected to jobs, whether that be through job alerts or whether that be through the opportunities in economic action plan 2013: 5,000 more internships; the Canada jobs grant, which is an excellent opportunity to train. These are all items we encourage the opposition members to support. We are creating jobs for Canadians, and we encourage them to support us in doing that.

EthicsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, on February 13, the Prime Minister told this House that he had personally reviewed Senator Wallin's travel expenses and found them to be perfectly fine. However, once the audit began, Senator Wallin came to a different conclusion, and she has already reimbursed tens of thousands of dollars of expenses that she must have thought were inappropriate or perhaps fraudulent.

Canadians are wondering. Why would the Prime Minister say that these expenses were perfectly fine, when he should have known that the auditors had to go back to the Senate committee to ask for permission to go even further back, because these expenses were so appalling?

EthicsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague knows, independent authorities are looking into these matters, but I would again refer my colleague back to the statements the Prime Minister made just last Tuesday when he spoke to all Canadians.

He made a very clear statement that everybody in this country who has the privilege to serve in public office should understand that they should never be here if they are planning to enrich themselves, and if they are planning to do so, they should leave right now. That is the truth, whether it is in this House or whether it is in the Senate. It is true whether it is Mike Duffy or whether it is Liberals who have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

EthicsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister had also said two months previously that the expenses were perfectly fine, but Canadians are wondering, in light of the Duffy-Wright scandal, if the Prime Minister can categorically reassure Canadians that the money Senator Wallin has already reimbursed, with potentially tens of thousands of dollars of further reimbursements to be given by Senator Wallin, were, in fact, her funds personally, or did somebody in the Prime Minister's office, or perhaps Conservative Party headquarters, reimburse her or give her a gift to cover this appalling reimbursement?

EthicsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, of course, it is expected that any individual repay taxpayers from his or her own funds. That is why Nigel Wright took sole responsibility for the behaviour he engaged in, which the Prime Minister said was entirely unacceptable. He resigned, and the Prime Minister accepted that resignation, as taxpayers expect.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Nunavik Inuit are struggling with a serious housing crisis, but the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development seems to be too busy to respond to a simple request for a meeting dating back to April 8. This request has remained unanswered for nearly two months.

In committee of the whole the minister stated that, “It takes two to tango”. That is fine, but I wonder why the minister is still refusing to meet with Makivik Corporation representatives.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Madawaska—Restigouche New Brunswick

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt ConservativeMinister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's comment is completely untrue.

Yesterday he came to my office to give me a letter from the company in question requesting a meeting. Today, he has the gall to stand up and accuse me of refusing to meet with the Makivik Corporation.

I will continue to do what I have been doing since I was sworn in, namely to meet with as many aboriginal communities as I can, with aboriginal chiefs and youth throughout the country. I will continue doing so according to my schedule, not his.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, they are too busy to meet with Makivik, but they are not too busy to spy on first nations activists like Cindy Blackstock. Spying on Dr. Blackstock is a new low in the Conservative campaign to stall the human rights complaint. The Privacy Commissioner clearly said that the minister's department crossed the line.

Which other activists are having their privacy rights breached by the government? Will it now drop the campaign against Dr. Blackstock and provide the tribunal with the documents it needs?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Madawaska—Restigouche New Brunswick

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt ConservativeMinister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, if the member is preoccupied with the kids living on reserve in this country, she should also be preoccupied with all of the families on reserve that are deprived of basic rights, which we in the House are trying to give them. I am talking about the matrimonial property legislation, which will come for third reading soon. I hope she votes on the right side of it if she really cares about native families.

Veterans AffairsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government remains focused on honouring Canada's veterans for their remarkable contributions to our nation. Canada has and continues to support UN-led missions abroad, and we honour our veterans who have sacrificed in defence of equality, freedom and the rule of law.

Could the Minister of Veterans Affairs please update the House on the significance of today being the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers?

Veterans AffairsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Lévis—Bellechasse Québec

Conservative

Steven Blaney ConservativeMinister of Veterans Affairs and Minister for La Francophonie

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Chatham-Kent—Essex for his question about Canadian peacekeeping veterans.

Today I had the opportunity to have lunch with representatives of peacekeeping veterans organizations to express our government's gratitude for their service.

Today, on the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, let us salute the thousands of Canadian Armed Forces personnel who served under a UN banner to defend freedom and the values we hold dear. Few words can express our shared appreciation and respect for each and every Canadian UN peacekeeping veteran for the great things they have accomplished.

Lest we forget.

EthicsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, look at the Conservative record: an access to information system in tatters, stonewalling Parliament—

EthicsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

EthicsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please.

The hon. member for Random—Burin—St. George's.

EthicsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, imagine cheering for an access to information system in tatters, stonewalling Parliament and the Parliamentary Budget Officer, obstructing the election fraud investigation, defending Peter Penashue's indefensible political donations, blatant partisan patronage at ACOA, whitewashing the investigation into that patronage, whitewashing the audit of Conservative senator expenses, and then whitewashing the whitewash.

What happened to transparency and accountability? When did the government become the thing the Conservatives always claimed to hate?

EthicsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, if my hon. colleague wants to compare records, let us take a look at the Liberal leader's record so far. He said that Canadians who do not speak both of Canada's official languages are “lazy”. He said that Canada is not doing well right now because it is Albertans who control our agenda. He said that he does not believe in reforming the Senate because we have 24 senators in Quebec and there are only 6 for Alberta and British Columbia, and that benefits us.

He does not have a pan-Canadian vision. He attacks different regions of this country. We will be glad to compare the record and leadership of our Prime Minister against the divisive failed-already leadership of the Liberal Party.

Tourism IndustryOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix, like other major tourist events, is an economic driver for Montreal, Quebec and Canada.

The Conservatives refuse, yet again, to work with their provincial and municipal partners to keep the Grand Prix in Montreal for the next 10 years.

It is a matter of choice: they can continue to invest in their propaganda or they can invest in something truly worthwhile, like the Formula One.

Will the federal government work with its partners to keep the Grand Prix in Montreal?

Tourism IndustryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the premise of that question is totally false.

In 2010, our government signed a five-year agreement, bringing us up to the 2014 Grand Prix. They were not involved in that agreement and they are just waking up now. We took care of this long before they even realized it. We will continue to work with our partners, as usual.

That being said, we do not negotiate in the public arena. We are well aware of how important the Grand Prix is for Montreal, Quebec and Canada. We will continue to work with our partners, and of course we will respect Canadian taxpayers' ability to pay for these things.

Canada DayOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, this government is proud to celebrate all the things that make Canada the united, strong and free country we are today, the best country in the world.

On July 1, Canadians across the country, including in Orléans, will get together with family and friends to celebrate the 146th anniversary of Confederation.

Can the Minister of Canadian Heritage please tell this House about the Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill this year?

Canada DayOral Questions

3 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, Canada Day is a great day, on which I know all members of Parliament take pride in celebrating this country. Indeed, Canada has a great deal to celebrate. We are leading the G7 in job creation. We have the lowest taxes in 50 years. Violent crime rates are down.

We are going to be celebrating Canada Day this year, our 146th birthday, in every part of this country. Here in the national capital, we are going to be welcoming artists like Marie-Mai, Carly Rae Jepsen and Jennifer Gillis, great artists from across the country, to come here and show the brilliance of Canada's artistic community, while we celebrate a country that has never been more “strong and free” than it is right now.

Government ExpendituresOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Parole Board's last meeting in Edmonton cost Canadian taxpayers a whopping $250,000. It flew in guest speakers and put everyone up in a five-star hotel. Then the government footed the bill to Canadians. This is yet another example of the Conservative government's double standards. The Conservatives are playing favourites by wasting resources on a three-day meeting for the Parole Board while they tell ministries to cut budgets and front-line staff.

For a government that is so set on reducing spending, how could the Conservatives let this happen?

Government ExpendituresOral Questions

3 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the New Democrats opposed our measures to cut these conferences in half, in 2012. Because of the action taken by our Conservative government, spending on hospitality is down 25.5%. The opposition members have consistently opposed us in taking strong action to protect taxpayer dollars. In fact, when I indicate that there should be a measure of control over expenditures, the opposition members say I am interfering.

41st General ElectionOral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is yet another chapter in the robocall saga.

The CRTC has just imposed $369,000 in fines on political parties and individuals who broke the rules on robocalls. The NDP, the Liberal member for Westmount—Ville-Marie and the Conservatives, including the member for Wild Rose, were singled out by the CRTC. All of them made misleading calls to Canadians. The Conservatives alone received over $92,000 in fines for their inappropriate calls.

Can the government confirm that the Conservatives are going to pay the fine and, more importantly, that they will stop using these unfair tactics?

41st General ElectionOral Questions

3 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we are pleased that the CRTC has clarified the rules. We are going to pay the fine today. We are going to work with the CRTC so that we are able to follow all the rules in the future.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

On the occasion of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of a delegation of veterans representing Canadian peacekeeping groups.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor ConservativeMinister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing or Special Order or usual practice of the House, the deferred recorded division on Motion M-432, standing in the name of the Member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, scheduled to take place today, immediately before the time provided for Private Member's Business, be deferred anew until today, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions, immediately after the vote on the second reading stage of Bill C-49, Canadian Museum of History Act.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. Chief Government Whip have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from May 27 consideration of the motion.

Last Post FundPrivate Members' Business

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #700

Last Post FundPrivate Members' Business

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion defeated.

The House resumed from May 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-458, An Act respecting a National Charities Week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

National Charities Week ActPrivate Members' Business

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to an order made Wednesday, May 22, 2013, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-458 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #701

National Charities Week ActPrivate Members' Business

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to an order made Wednesday, May 22, 2013, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-48.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #702

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed from May 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Museums Act in order to establish the Canadian Museum of History and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Canadian Museum of History ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House shall now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment of the member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher to the motion at second reading of Bill C-49.

The question is on the amendment.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #703

Canadian Museum of History ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the amendment defeated.

There is a correction on the third reading vote at Bill C-48. The final result was yeas: 276; nays: 1.

The next question is on the main motion.

The hon. Chief Government Whip is rising on a point of order.

Canadian Museum of History ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you seek it, I believe you will find agreement to apply the results of the previous motion to the current motion, with the Conservatives voting yes.

Canadian Museum of History ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?

Canadian Museum of History ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canadian Museum of History ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel NDP Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, we agree to apply the vote, and the NDP will vote against the motion.

Canadian Museum of History ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, we will apply and we will vote no.

Canadian Museum of History ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois will vote against the motion.

Canadian Museum of History ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Independent Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, Thunder Bay—Superior North will be voting yes.

Canadian Museum of History ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Green Party will vote in favour of the motion.

Canadian Museum of History ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Independent

Peter Goldring Independent Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, Edmonton East will be voting yes.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #704

Canadian Museum of History ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from May 22 consideration of the motion.

Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation BandPrivate Members' Business

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to the order made earlier today, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion M-432 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #705

Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation BandPrivate Members' Business

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion defeated.

I wish to inform the House that because of the deferred recorded divisions, government orders will be extended by 43 minutes.

I understand there has been an agreement to allow the hon. member for Bourassa to say a few words.

Resignation of MemberRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, it seems that your life is going to be easier starting on Monday. You will have just a little more peace and quiet in the House. A familiar voice you have occasionally had to call to order will no longer be here.

I rise before the House today with great emotion to address my fellow Canadians and my colleagues for the last time as the member for Bourassa.

I am announcing my departure from federal political life as of June 2—16 years to the day from the first time the people of Bourassa gave me the privilege of representing them, a privilege they have given me on six consecutive occasions.

I would like to express my appreciation to my constituents, who have placed their trust in me year after year, in good times and in hard times. Thanks as well to the members of my executive and the thousands of volunteers who made it possible for me to be here for all these years.

I would also like to thank all of my staff: Maurice, Joe, Lise, Sylvia and Rolande, who have always served the people of Bourassa with the greatest professionalism, in both Ottawa and Montréal-Nord. Not only did they carry out their duties, but they did so with enormous sensitivity and effectiveness in the most difficult cases. People often come to us as a last resort, and believe me, my staff worked miracles. Thank you, my friends. Thank you, Maurice.

Obviously, 30 years in federal politics and 16 years as a member have forced my family to make many sacrifices. To my wife, Chantale, and my children, Geneviève and Alexandre, go all my appreciation and gratitude for their understanding and sacrifice. I thank my family for always being there for me. I am sorry that I was not always with you, but know that I love you beyond measure.

I would also like to take this opportunity to wish a happy birthday to my mother, Lucie, who is watching us today. Happy birthday, Mom! Thank you Mom and Dad for being here with us.

I would like to thank and salute my colleagues in caucus and on both sides of the House. It has been a privilege to work next to them. Of course, we have had fights a few times because we do not understand each other or they do not understand my French expressions. Nevertheless, it has been a privilege to sit with them.

Thanks also to the House of Commons employees, and the security guards whom I greeted every morning. They have all my respect. Thanks to the pages, the Sergeant-at-Arms, the Clerk and her staff and the other officers of Parliament. My gratitude goes also to the House interpreters—we do not call them translators, we call them interpreters—for their courage, professionalism and determination, as they tried to understand the homegrown expressions I used in the House.

Resignation of MemberRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Bravo!

Resignation of MemberRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

And well we should applaud them. They must have had smoke coming out their ears at times.

I have enjoyed sitting in the House of Commons, whether as a member or as a minister. I would also particularly like to thank the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien, who allowed me to make a real difference in the world of sport in Canada and to stand up for our country’s values at Citizenship and Immigration, especially after the events of September 11. I also want to thank former prime minister Paul Martin for appointing me to the position of minister for La Francophonie and special adviser for Haiti.

I am especially proud to have negotiated the agreement to bring the World Anti-Doping Agency to Montreal, to have created a meaningful policy on sport in Canada and to have assisted our Olympic and Paralympic athletes and their coaches.

I am proud to have taken action to ensure respect for the languages spoken by all of our athletes, be they anglophone or francophone. Thanks to the body that came to be known as the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada, athletes are no longer at the mercy of their federations.

In immigration, the agreements I signed made regionalizing immigration a priority. I salute my colleague, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.

The one I am the most pleased with was the one we signed with Manitoba. This was a historical agreement that allowed Manitoba to pick up its own immigrants. It was good for the economy and the people.

I promoted francophone immigration across the country, simplified the points system and started major debates on issues such as creating a national identity card and using biometric data offline.

Since I have been sitting in the House for 16 years now, I will take the liberty of sending a few messages to the government and to my colleagues as a whole, regardless of political party.

Canada is a magnificent country, and its wealth derives from its diversity, from its variety. Let us never forget that Canada has two official languages and that no one should be considered a second-class citizen. French exists across the country, and the Government of Canada must ensure by its actions that francophones are respected.

It also means that judges of the Supreme Court should be bilingual.

Multiculturalism is an important Canadian value, and we should never have to choose between that value and bilingualism. They are two complementary values that must not be forced to compete with each other.

Let us respect the public service and stop using it as a scapegoat or cannon fodder. Public service employees do an incredible job. They are professionals and part of the solution.

Let us stop pitting the regions against each other. Canada is strong when we respect the uniqueness of every province and territory.

Quebec is a nation, and it must be respected. Let us make sure we do not constantly throw fat on the fire just to provoke flare-ups. Instead let us use this great diversity to strengthen our connections.

Lastly, Parliament needs more transparency. Democracy is fragile, and it is our responsibility to protect it.

My only regret is that I was never able to do justice to Louis Riel, the founder of Manitoba and a father of Confederation. The man is innocent, and we must put right the mistake that was made.

In closing, I quote the Greek philosopher Epictitus, who said, “Do not expect events to unfold as you would wish. Accept them as they occur and you will be happy.”

As for me, I am going home to Montreal, as Ariane Moffatt says in her song. I will stand as a candidate for the mayoralty of Montreal, Quebec's magnificent metropolis.

Be forewarned, however: if anyone thought I acted up in the House just to make myself heard, know that my voice will travel from Montreal to Ottawa. Learn the word of the day: “unavoidable”.

Mr. Speaker, I have loved sitting in the House. It has been an honour to be among you. There is nothing nobler than to enjoy the public's trust. However, we do not own the right to be here; we borrow it, and for varying lengths of time. Let us all remember that.

Thank you, my friends. It has been an honour.

Resignation of MemberRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to pay tribute to the hon. member for Bourassa.

First elected nearly 16 years ago and re-elected five consecutive times, the member for Bourassa has certainly left his mark in the House while performing a number of important duties, both in government and in opposition.

Known for his fiery temper and his straightforward, colourful language, the member for Bourassa never failed to attract attention, either through his speeches in the House or his comments in traditional and social media, not to mention on the street.

The fiery spirit that defines the member for Bourassa reflects his passion for the public service and his love of politics.

I faced this seasoned and experienced politician when I first came to the Hill. Although he did not always go easy on me, it was clear to me that this man has a profound respect for the institution, for his peers and for the various parties.

The hon. member for Bourassa was one of those colleagues who, from the very beginning, showed me that despite the heated debates, camaraderie can still thrive among parliamentarians, and most of all, that everyone wins by supporting it.

On behalf of the government and myself, it is my pleasure to salute the hon. member for Bourassa for his contribution to the House and to federal politics.

I wish him every success in his future endeavours.

Resignation of MemberRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to pay tribute to my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Bourassa. We were both elected to the House of Commons on June 2, 1997.

I want to quickly wish his mother a happy birthday. I am sure she is very proud of her son.

Since he was first elected, the member for Bourassa has had many roles. I had the opportunity to work with him when he was an MP, and also when he was minister and secretary of state. I also had the honour to work alongside him at meetings of the Standing Committee on Official Languages and during parliamentary trips. Official languages are very important to the member, and he cares a lot about ensuring that people who speak either language can access government services in both official languages.

The member for Bourassa is known for being outspoken, passionate and dedicated, for having integrity and, of course, for being an active tweeter. He is also known for his voice. Whether he is in the front or back of the House, no one has a hard time hearing him. We will miss hearing his voice as we make our speeches.

He was always available and always jumped wholeheartedly into his work. I will always remember the young hockey player—I am sure he does too—from the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. He had visa problems and could not join his team in Bathurst. The member for Bourassa was the citizenship and immigration minister at the time. He put his whole team to work on the issue. I remember it well. The morning of December 25, Christmas Day, I got a call saying that the issue was resolved and that the young hockey player was able to return to the country that very day and continue playing. What a great Christmas present for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

The House will be losing an MP who truly cares about his constituents and about Canadians. After 16 years in Parliament, the member for Bourassa has left his mark, both in the House and in committee.

On behalf of the NDP, I want to wish the hon. member all the best in his new endeavour. I look forward to following him on Twitter and Facebook. Good luck, my friend.

Resignation of MemberRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I assume that our leader, the member for Papineau, and the Liberal caucus asked me to give this speech on the 16 years the member for Bourassa has spent in federal political life not only because we have been friends for more than 16 years, but also because I knew him in his previous life.

At that time, in the late 1980s, I was a student. I had a quiet class; the students were studious and they listened. All of a sudden, we were joined by a student who was feisty and who could not be ignored, and the class was turned upside down. Half of the students supported him; the other half did not. He had an opinion on everything and, on top of that, he was a good student. When he came to my office, he never came alone. He always had his gang with him.

I must tell you, Mr. Speaker, that they were federalists, and it was not because of me—I never discussed politics at the university, never—but because of him.

I am telling this part of the story to explain that the member for Bourassa did not choose politics; politics chose him. He fell into it when he was a little boy, and this is where his impressive size comes from.

Resignation of MemberRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

An hon. member

Like Obelix.

Resignation of MemberRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Exactly, he is a political Obelix.

In conclusion, I would like to say that the personality traits I saw when he was a student were also evident during his 16 years here in the House, at the cabinet table and everywhere in Canada.

He is a man of sharp contrasts: both strong and whole, but also attentive and compassionate; he works like the devil, but he is exuberant and a good friend; colourful, but cultured, even though he tries to hide it. He is committed, which is why he works so hard. He has the courage of his convictions; he is not pushy, but he is persuasive. He is a formidable politician. He is close to people, a populist in the best sense of the word, but at the same time he is a man of principle. I have never known him to shy away from an issue. As he says himself, he is judicious and hard-hitting. He listens, but once he has heard the facts, he will stir things up, as he did with sport and immigration, and in all his other areas of responsibility.

I will conclude, otherwise I would speak for days and days about the member for Bourassa. As for the future, I just want to say, as the member for Saint-Laurent on the island of Montreal, Cavendish Boulevard is not completed. This is a shame, and it is about time.

Resignation of MemberRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Patry Bloc Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to mark the departure of the member for Bourassa, as he begins a new career.

For the past 16 years, he has made his mark on Parliament Hill. He has been a minister three times, and president of the Privy Council. As the former secretary of state for amateur sport, he contributed to the creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency in Montreal. I think that he must wonder sometimes, as we do, what an Olympic hockey team from Quebec would look like.

Although I may not always agree with his political views, I would like to describe the man, and not our differences. The member for Bourassa was the first member to congratulate me and offer some encouragement in facing the challenge of being a member of Parliament when I was first elected in May 2011. In doing so, the member for Bourassa showed me that, beyond the debates, the parties and our political differences, respect is still one of the most important qualities in our society. This was striking.

Over the years, the member for Bourassa has become a central player, central to government 2.0 and central to Canada’s political scene.

In conclusion, regardless of where his new career will take him, what can I do but wish him all the best in maintaining his sense of commitment and his passion in his future endeavours.

Good luck, Denis, my friend!

Resignation of MemberRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is also a great honour for me, as leader of the Green Party, to join my colleagues in paying tribute to the hon. member for Bourassa.

At times like these, we are like a small community. We are only 308 people in a small town, with neighbours and friends. We may have political differences, but in our hearts, we stand together as Canadians.

At this time, I want to pay tribute to the hon. member, who is also a friend and colleague. I also want to pass on best wishes from my deputy leader, Georges Laraque, who was one of the hon. member's colleagues in Bourassa. They worked together on a lot of major issues, such as homelessness.

Our friend, the member for Bourassa, is not retiring from political life. Some might be disappointed, but after 16 years of service to his country, he is choosing to serve his community more locally. We all wish him well and we will miss him here.

I join all of our friends—and thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity—in thanking the member of Parliament for Bourassa for service to Canada, and for doing it with such panache.

Resignation of MemberRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I wish the hon. member for Bourassa well. I am sure the left ear of the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville will not be sad to see him go, but I am sure the rest of us will miss him.

Notice of MotionWays and MeansRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I have the honour to table a notice of a ways and means motion to introduce an act to give effect to the Yale First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of this motion.

I also have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Yale First Nation Final Agreement, the Yale First Nation Tax Agreement, the Yale First Nation Harvest Agreement and the Yale First Nation Final Agreement Appendices.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36.8 I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 34 petitions.

FinanceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 19th report of the Standing Committee on Finance in relation to Bill C-60, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures.

The committee has studied the bill and has agreed to report the bill back to the House without amendment.

Retirement Income Bill of RightsRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-513, An Act to promote and strengthen the Canadian retirement income system.

Mr. Speaker, since the Mackenzie King government first introduced the Old Age Pension Act 86 years ago, Liberals have fostered a long history of creating, enhancing and expanding pensions available to Canadian seniors.

From old age security to the CPP and the supplements, we understand the extreme importance of protecting and preserving pension security, adequacy and coverage for all Canadians. Today I am pleased to present a bill called an act to promote and strengthen the Canadian retirement income system or, as I like to call it, the pension income bill of rights. I am seeking to enshrine in law the notion that all Canadians have the right to contribute to a decent retirement plan and to be provided with up-to-date, unbiased and conflict-free information on their retirement savings.

Too often financial illiteracy, inadequate opportunity and economic instability strip away the hard-earned savings of our seniors, and that needs to stop. This is the first bill of its kind ever proposed to better protect our seniors and their nest eggs, and I am proud to present it.

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

Punjabi Heritage Month ActRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-514, An Act to designate the month of April as Punjabi Heritage Month.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce a bill to designate the month of April as Punjabi heritage month.

Punjabis have been partners in building Canada for over 100 years. Punjabis have helped strengthen Canada's spirit of giving and generosity through significant contributions in the areas of arts and culture, language, business and sport, among others.

From the beat of the dhol and the festive spirit of baisakhi to the fast-placed sport of kabaddi, and the traditional meal of makki di roti and saag, Punjabis have established growing, vibrant and dynamic forms of cultural expression that are unique to the Punjabi-Canadian experience. New Democrats believe it is time to recognize the contributions of Punjabi Canadians.

The bill would give an opportunity for every Canadian to celebrate the accomplishments and culture of the Punjabi community, and designate every April in Canada as Punjabi heritage month.

I hope all members of the House will support this legislation.

[Member spoke in Punjabi and provided the following translation:]

The recognition of Punjabis, a proud moment for Canada.

[English]

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

Protection of Law Enforcement Animals ActRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-515, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (law enforcement animals).

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to introduce my private member's bill, the protection of law enforcement animals act. This necessary piece of legislation would ensure that the innocent animals that help protect us all are protected themselves.

I look forward to working with all members in the House to ensure that the legislation receives safe passage.

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

Artist's Resale Right ActRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-516, An Act to amend the Copyright Act (artist’s resale right).

Mr. Speaker, this has been a long time coming for many of us. It is an issue that has been around for quite some time.

First, I want to thank my hon. colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. We have had many conversations about the issue. We would also like to thank one of the inspirations, his wife Andrea, who is part of the Society of Canadian Artists.

We call this “droit de suite”, which originated in many countries throughout Europe, and right now we hope to bring it to our country. It is an artist's resale right. When one makes an original piece of art and sell it, one gets the full benefit, but in subsequent sales the value of it may increase substantially but the original artist does not see any benefit from that. That is what the bill hopes to correct. In 70 countries around the world, they have recognized this special right, this resale right for artists.

Currently there are people who are destitute and poor and they are selling their artwork in the streets for $20, $10, $15. Meanwhile, the art they had produced many years prior is selling in art galleries for thousands of dollars. They see nothing of that.

Musical artists and other people do receive great benefits from their prior work, but artists do not. I had the honour of travelling to the convention this weekend to talk about this.

Again, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore. We have spoken of this many times. I hope that the House will adopt this necessary measure for the artists of our nation in order for them to receive compensation for their hard work and their vision. I thank all members in the House for hearing me and also thank my colleague for helping me do the bill.

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

Sex SelectionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present eight different sets of petitions today. They are all dealing with the same subject matter. The first group is from my riding and the surrounding area. There is another one from Cambridge and Waterloo. The final six are all from the Guelph area.

All of these petitioners are calling on the House of Commons to condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination.

Genetically Modified AlfalfaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present. The first one calls for a moratorium on GM alfalfa.

The petitioners are calling upon Parliament to impose a moratorium on the release of genetically modified alfalfa in order to allow a proper review of the impact on farmers in Canada.

Food and Drugs ActPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is calling for an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

The petitioners are calling upon the House to support an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, mandatory labelling for genetically modified foods.

Sisters in SpiritPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the last petition regards the stolen sisters.

The petitioners note that research has convinced Canadians that violence against aboriginal women must be stopped and that we need to find strategies, resources and tools to stop the women from disappearing. Therefore, they are calling on the government to fund the important work of protecting women through the Sisters in Spirit initiative and to invest in initiatives recommended by the Native Women's Association of Canada to help prevent more women from disappearing.

Experimental Lakes AreaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Independent Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, petitions continue to come in requesting that the government rethink its decision to not fund and staff the experimental lakes area due to the national and international importance of this institution for over 50 years.

Kettle IslandPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is the first of what I suspect will be numerous petitions signed by the good citizens of Ottawa asking to bring to the attention of the House and the government the choice that consultants have made for an interprovincial crossing on Kettle Island.

The petitioners state that a bridge that promotes urban sprawl, heavy truck traffic in urban communities, car commuting, and more traffic congestion is an unacceptable 1950s-style planning solution, and a failure of the National Capital Commission's mission to protect and enhance green space and build a world-class national capital region.

The petitioners ask that the Government of Canada not proceed with the funding of this bridge.

Impaired DrivingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have 21 separate petitions to present, all on the same subject.

The petitioners are calling upon the Government of Canada to implement a new mandatory minimum sentence for those persons convicted of impaired driving causing death.

Canadian Broadcasting CorporationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions.

The first petition is primarily from residents of the Ottawa area and deals with the subject of the CBC, our national public broadcaster.

The petitioners are calling for stable, long-term and predictable funding and the independence of the CBC. The petition is particularly timely, given the amendments to the sections of Bill C-60 which would affect crown corporations.

The EnvironmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from residents of the Vancouver area.

The petitioners are calling on this Parliament to protect west coast British Columbia from the threat of supertankers bearing oil, or more accurately the pre-crude substance known as bitumen and dilbit, and to keep it a tanker-free coast.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 1284, 1285 and 1287.

Question No. 1284Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

With regard to government communications: (a) what is the (i) headline or subject line, (ii) date, (iii) file or code number, (iv) subject matter of each press release that contains the phrase “Harper government” issued by Infrastructure Canada since February 6, 2006; (b) for each such press release, was it distributed (i) on Infrastructure Canada’s website, (ii) on Marketwire, (iii) on Canada Newswire, (iv) on any other commercial wire or distribution service, specifying which such service; and (c) for each press release distributed by a commercial wire or distribution service mentioned in (b)(ii) through (b)(iv), what was the cost of using that service?

Question No. 1284Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a) and (b), links to all Infrastructure Canada press releases can be found by doing a search on the following websites: for Infrastructure Canada, http://www.infrastructure.gc.ca/media/media-eng.html#nr; for Marketwire, http://www.marketwire.com/?lang=en-US.

With regard to (c), Infrastructure Canada has a contract with Marketwire. Marketwire rates vary depending on the distribution; however, pursuant to paragraphs 20(1)(c) and 20(1)(d) of the Access to Information Act, information regarding rates and invoicing is considered third party information. As this information could reasonably be expected to prejudice the competitive position and the integrity of future competitions of a third party, the information requested in the above question cannot be disclosed without appropriate consultation.

Question No. 1285Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

With regard to government communications: (a) what is the (i) headline or subject line, (ii) date, (iii) file or code number, (iv) subject matter of each press release that contains the phrase “Harper government” issued by Transport Canada since May 1, 2012; (b) for each such press release, was it distributed (i) on Transport Canada’s website, (ii) on Marketwire, (iii) on Canada Newswire, (iv) on any other commercial wire or distribution service, specifying which such service; and (c) for each press release distributed by a commercial wire or distribution service mentioned in (b)(ii) through (b)(iv), what was the cost of using that service?

Question No. 1285Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a) and (b), links to all Transport Canada press releases can be found by doing a search on the following websites: for Transport Canada, http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/mediaroom/releases-2012.htm; for Canada Newswire, http://www.newswire.ca/en/index.

With rebard to (c), Transport Canada has a contract with Canada Newswire, CNW. CNW rates vary depending on the distribution; however, pursuant to paragraphs 20(1)(c) and 20(1)(d) of the Access to Information Act, information regarding rates and invoicing is considered third party information. As this information could reasonably be expected to prejudice the competitive position and the integrity of future competitions of a third party, the information requested in the above question cannot be disclosed without appropriate consultation.

Question No. 1287Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

With regard to the amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act in A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures: (a) what is the amount of funding provided by Transport Canada (TC) to First Nations organizations so they can follow through on the amendments; (b) which First Nations organizations participated in the decision-making process identifying which waterways would be protected under the Act; (c) what are the details of the commitments made by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to the First Nations and organizations consulted, namely (i) the meeting dates and times, (ii) the details of meeting minutes and agendas; (d) which First Nations groups or organizations received TC funding to analyze and comment on the bill; (e) how TC worked with First Nations organizations at the national, regional, provincial and international levels; and (f) what is the total amount of funding provided by TC to the Canadian industry so it could analyze and comment on the bill?

Question No. 1287Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a),Transport Canada does not provide funding to third parties to attend consultation sessions.

With regard to (b), (c), (e), and (f), in the fall of 2012, the government introduced Bill C-45 and offered technical briefings to aboriginal and other stakeholder groups once the bill was tabled before Parliament. The parliamentary process continues to be relied upon as the formal consultation process in law-making. Modifications made to the act in fall 2012 reflect long-standing consultation started in 2009 for minor works amendments with many groups across the country, such as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Canadian Construction Association, the Assembly of First Nations and provincial governments.

With regard to (d), (d) is not applicable.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Furthermore, if Questions Nos. 1277, 1282, 1289, 1292, 1296 and 1300 could be made orders for return, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 1277Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

With regard to the government’s answers to Order Paper questions in the current session of Parliament: (a) why did Transport Canada not provide the detailed response requested in Q-898 and Q-1131; (b) why did Infrastructure Canada not provide the detailed response requested in Q-654, Q-898 and Q-1131; and (c) why did the Economic Development Agency of Canada for Quebec Regions not provide the detailed response requested in Q-654, Q-898 and Q-1131?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 1282Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

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

With regard to all physical assets owned by the government, since 2006, what assets have been sold, broken down by (i) date sold, (ii) market value, (iii) sale price, (iv) purchaser, (v) initial purchase price, (vi) time planned for service, (vii) time actually in service, (viii) reason for sale?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 1289Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

With respect to any repayable portion of contributions made under the Economic Action Plan in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011: (a) what businesses received funding; (b) when did they receive the funding; (c) how much repayable funding did they receive; (d) how much of the repayable funding has been repaid as of March 27, 2013; and (e) how much of the repayable contribution is expected to never be repaid?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 1292Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

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

With regard to the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia: (a) how many employees are currently employed and how many were employed in the fiscal year 2010-2011; (b) what are the current base salaries for each individual employee and what were the base salaries for each individual employee in the fiscal year 2011-2012; (c) broken down by month, how many overtime hours and how much overtime pay did each employee receive from 2010-present; (d) broken down by month, how many hours of overtime were paid overall since 2010; (e) broken down by month, since 2010, how many days in a row does the average employee work before receiving two consecutive days off; and (f) how many days in a row does the average employee work before receiving one day off?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 1296Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

NDP

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

With regard to foreign fishing vessels: (a) how many foreign fishing vessels have had permission to fish inside Canada's 200-mile limit off the east coast of Canada since 2003; (b) what are the names of the foreign vessels and their home countries; (c) what species have the foreign vessels fished; (d) of the foreign vessels that have fished inside Canada's 200-mile limit since 2003, have any been cited for illegal fishing violations; and (e) what are the names of the Canadian companies that have chartered the foreign fishing vessels since 2003?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 1300Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

With respect to advertising paid for by the government, broken down by fiscal year, for each fiscal year from fiscal year beginning April 1, 2006 up to and including the first half of fiscal year 2012: (a) how much was spent for each type of advertising, including, but not limited to (i) television, specifying the stations, (ii) radio, specifying the stations, (iii) print, i.e. newspapers and magazines, specifying the names of the publications, (iv) the internet, specifying the names of the websites, (v) billboards, specifying the total amount of billboards and the locations of the billboards, broken down by electoral district, (vi) bus shelters, specifying the locations, (vii) advertising in all other publically-accessible places; (b) for each individual purchase of advertising, who signed the contracts; (c) for every ad, who was involved in producing it; and (d) for every ad, what were the production costs, both direct and indirect, broken down per advertisement?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

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

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, the Arms Trade.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

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

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Standing Committee on FinancePoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a very specific point of order with regard to Bill C-60, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures, and the work that was done by the committees that were studying this bill, particularly the finance committee, which invoked some measures we believe are not in order and fell well outside of its mandate.

As some context for those Canadians who are not familiar with Bill C-60, this is another piece of omnibus legislation. We rose earlier on similar points of order with respect to how the bill was handled.

In its nature, being an omnibus bill under the current government's watch, with the expansion of omnibus legislation to include so many different matters, the government has faced a difficulty of its own making in that it is not purely a financial bill and it is not simply a bill to implement the budget; it would do much more. While it has an anti-democratic nature and tone for us, in various ways we have struggled with the ability for members of Parliament to properly study and amend legislation that is so broad.

I wish that you would review the motion adopted by the standing committee on May 7, as well as the proceedings that resulted from this specific motion, and that you rule to determine whether these proceedings were in order or not and whether the committee overstepped its authority when adopting this particular motion. I will refer in detail to what the motion accomplished and how it fell outside of the mandate of the committee.

We raised a very similar point of order, if you will remember, around Bill C-45. That was the second omnibus bill that followed on Bill C-38. We had deep concerns about the fact that the Standing Committee on Finance, during its consideration of that massive omnibus bill, went beyond its mandate and usurped the authority of the House when it invited other standing committees to study particular sections of Bill C-45. On their own mandate they started to carve the bill up and send it out. It then allowed these committees that were studying the bill to move amendments and then saw it as if those amendments had been moved by members of the finance committee.

We argued at the time that this went beyond the mandate and the reference from the House, from you as the Speaker.

A similar argument could be made about Bill C-60. It was introduced on April 29.

On May 7, after the government used time allocation to shut down the debate once again on discussions at second reading, it ended with the passage of the following motion, which stated:

...that Bill C-60, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to [the Standing Committee on Finance].

Hansard on that day of May 7 specifically quotes you as saying:

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

It is pro forma and it is how bills are referred to the committee.

The committee acted outside of its powers and authority, those powers conferred on it by this House, when it adopted a motion on that very same day asking other committees to study sections of the bill, namely the standing committees on industry, science and technology; veterans affairs; human resources, skills and development; the status of persons with disabilities; citizenship and immigration; as well as foreign affairs and international development. That is where the government sought to parse out the bill.

It is very difficult to deal with omnibus legislation that is so obviously varied that it implicates so many different committees. The government has pushed, and I would argue broken the democratic limits of our legislature, by packing so much into these individual bills. In essence it is hiding from Canadians what its agenda is as these bills then come back to the House for one single vote on so many matters. This was something that the Conservatives concerned themselves with greatly when they were in opposition. You have heard me mention many of the quotes from the Prime Minister and various ministers in his cabinet on how much they disliked this tactic when the Liberals used it. It is now a tactic that the Conservatives seem to enjoy using with much relish.

Although I believe the Standing Committee on Finance went beyond its mandate to ask these five other committees to study the bill, this is not the principal concern that I want to raise with you today.

The committee went even further this time in going beyond its mandate, by adopting a motion to allow members of Parliament who are not members of a caucus represented on the committee to file amendments to the bill. It went further by directing that any amendments suggested to the committee would be deemed to be proposed during the clause-by-clause consideration on Bill C-60, even if the member who presented the amendment was not present.

Let us take a moment with this. Out of some seeking of convenience, the committee members passed the motion at their own discretion, not by any power given to them by the House, to allow amendments that came from people who do not sit on the committee, who are not recognized parties in the House. They allowed amendments to suddenly appear and be presented as if they came from somebody on committee. This goes against three fundamental principles that we hold dear in the House.

Only the House can appoint committee members. This is well known. It is done at the beginning of every session when we constitute our committees. No committee can self-appoint members. It has to come from an order in the House.

Only committee members who have been appointed by the House can move a motion. In order to move a motion, a member must be present at the time the motion is moved. We just dealt with a piece of private member's legislation before my point of order. A seconder was missing from her particular seat. The House properly waited until that member took her seat so that she was present. Motions cannot be moved if people are not here.

The rules of committee as established by the House specifically prescribe that members of a committee are designated by the House and cannot include members of a non-recognized party. This is a practice and a procedure we have used for many years. The rules established by the House also specifically prescribe that only a member of a committee can move a motion.

According to O'Brien and Bosc's House of Commons Procedure and Practice:

Only a member of the committee, or his or her designated substitute, may move an amendment or vote on an amendment.

Standing Order No. 119 stipulates that:

Any member of the House who is not a member of a standing, special or legislative committee, may, unless the House or the committee concerned otherwise orders, take part in the public proceedings of the committee, but may not vote or move any motion, nor be part of any quorum.

The O'Brien and Bosc text, on page 1019, states:

It is the House, and the House alone, that appoints the members and associate members of its committees, as well as the members who will represent it on joint committees.

The status of member of a committee is accorded to Members of the House of Commons who belong officially to that committee. This status allows them to participate fully in their committee's proceedings: members may move motions, vote and be counted for purposes of a quorum.

The Speaker has ruled that this is a fundamental right of the House. It cannot be taken away. A committee simply cannot move a motion to take such a power away from the House. I am quoting now:

The committees themselves have no powers at all in this regard.

I would like at this point to mention your ruling, Mr. Speaker, from last December. You will recall that at the time, we moved our point of order regarding the last omnibus bill, Bill C-45, specifically with respect to the role and rights of independent members in the context of report stage.

The government House leader argued that the current process by which independent members are not allowed to present motions at committee means that at report stage of bills, a single independent member has the ability, in his words, “to hold the House hostage in a voting marathon”, as if voting were somehow connected to a hostage-taking, by submitting numerous report stage amendments.

In response, Mr. Speaker, you suggested that members may try to find ways to accommodate independent members at committee in order to allow them to present motions. You said the following:

Were a satisfactory mechanism found that would afford independent members an opportunity to move motions to move bills in committee, the Chair has no doubt that its report stage selection process would adapt to the new reality.

I understand that the motion adopted for Bill C-60 at committee was somehow a response to this ruling and an attempt by the Conservative Party to cut short the proceedings at report stage. However, I believe that the Conservatives fundamentally misinterpreted your ruling to in fact allow independent members to move motions to amend bills at committees. The Conservatives should have, and must have, sought agreement of the House to allow the members to sit on that committee. That is a power they cannot take away simply by a motion at committee. Indeed, it is from the House that committees derive this power. Committees on their own do not have absolute powers.

While committees are often quoted as being masters of their own fate, I will cite from O'Brien and Bosc at page 1047:

The concept refers to the freedom committees normally have to organize their work as they see fit and the option they have of defining, on their own, certain rules of procedure that facilitate their proceedings.

A second quote, on page 1048 of O'Brien and Bosc, states:

These freedoms are not, however, total or absolute.... committees are creatures of the House. This means that they have no independent existence and are not permitted to take action unless they have been authorized/empowered to do so by the House.

A second quote on that same page states:

...committees are free to organize their proceedings as they see fit.... committees may adopt procedural rules to govern...but only to the extent the House does not prescribe anything specific.

Members of a committee, and only members of a committee, as well as associate members when they replace those members, are able to attend the committee and thus move a motion at committee.

O'Brien and Bosc further tells us that:

Standing Orders specifically exclude a non-member from voting, moving motions or being counted for purposes of quorum.

The rules also clearly state that a member must be present for the motion. This is a fact. We have never moved away from this fact or this rule or procedure. To suddenly invent a process by which a motion can be moved but the member may be absent contravenes the basic tenets of democracy and representation. We could suddenly have votes where people just call in and speak their intentions rather than be here themselves.

Where a notice of motion has been given, the Speaker will first ensure that the Member wishes to proceed with the moving of the motion. If the sponsor of a motion chooses not to proceed (either by not being present or by being present but declining to move the motion), then the motion is not proceeded with....

This has happened many times in the House. We have seen private member's bills that members chose not to move. They either made themselves absent from the House or they remained in their seats and the motion was not moved forward. Nobody else can do it on their behalf. No one can simply come in and say, “The member intended to be here, but is not. Please allow the member's private member's bill or motion to be considered”.

There is a precedent for a Speaker overruling a committee matter, because sometimes Speakers, often, and I think for good reason, have been loath to involve themselves in committee business.

I quote from O'Brien and Bosc, page 775:

Since a committee may appeal the decision of its Chair and reverse that decision, it may happen that a committee will report a bill with amendments that were initially ruled out of order by the Chair. The admissibility of those amendments, and of any other amendments made by a committee, may therefore be challenged on procedural grounds when the House resumes its consideration of the bill at report stage. The admissibility of the amendments is then determined by the Speaker of the House, whether in response to a point of order or on his or her own initiative.

Amendments were moved with no member present who was actually intent on moving that motion. People were made members of the committee, one assumes, by a motion the committee did not have the power to designate.

For the House to now consider, at report stage, Bill C-60, with these amendments in place, is strictly out of order. It is the proper role of the Speaker of the House to intervene to say that things were done improperly and have to be done right.

In 2007, a point of order was raised in the House dealing with the admissibility of three amendments contained in a bill at report stage from the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Speaker Milliken ruled two of the amendments out of order, finding that they imported into the bill concepts and terms not present in the bill and were therefore beyond the scope of the bill.

I quote from Speaker Milliken's ruling on February 27, 2007:

...the Speaker does not intervene on matters upon which committees are competent to take decisions. However, in cases where a committee has exceeded its authority, particularly in relation to bills, the Speaker has been called upon to deal with such matters after a report has been presented to the House.

That has happened here today.

In terms of amendments adopted by committees on bills, if they were judged to be inadmissible by the Speaker, those amendments would be struck from the bill as amended because the committee did not have the authority to adopt such provisions.

This means there exists a precedent for the Speaker rejecting amendments to a bill and the process by which it was there.

Mr. Speaker, I ask you to rule and review the motion adopted by the standing committee on May 7, 2013, as well as the proceedings that resulted from that motion, and that you rule to determine whether these proceedings were in order and whether the committee overstepped its authority when it adopted the motion.

The House of Commons and Parliament, and democracy in general, have suffered much abuse under this tactic and use of omnibus legislation. We have presented ourselves many times in defence of the institution and the right of members to speak and the people we represent to clearly understand the legislation the government is attempting to move.

The abuse of omnibus legislation has been a decision by the government. The difficulty it is having in the way amendments are moved and the process by which a bill goes through are of its own making, and it has only itself to blame.

A committee cannot take powers the House did not give it. Simply accepting motions from members who are not part of a committee and are not present to move the motion, contravenes the basic tenets of this place. The presence and acknowledged presence of a standing member of any of these committees is required—it is a basic, fundamental requirement—for a motion to proceed. These motions were considered improperly. We ask that you rule in this matter.

Standing Committee on FinancePoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, on the first issue raised by my friend regarding the fashion in which the committee chose to seek or invite the assistance of other committees regarding advice on the bill and assistance with study, I think that is a matter that has been thoroughly litigated. My friend is seeking to litigate it again before you. I simply want to address that I think it is a settled and established practice. What the committee did is something it has done quite often.

The more novel issue before you is the invitation to ensure and allow the participation of the independent members of Parliament, those who do not reach official party status. We have a growing number of them in this Parliament, notably the Green Party, members of the Bloc Québécois and some others that represent such members. The effort by the committee was to ensure that they would have an opportunity to participate at the committee stage to propose amendments.

This was not something, I understand, the committee dreamed up on its own. It is obviously a clear effort by the committee to respond directly to the invitation you made in your previous ruling on how this challenge should be particularly responded to. I will quote from your decision when this matter was up before. We were dealing with the question of an inordinate number of report stage votes and the cumbersome fashion of dealing with them. You said the following in your ruling:

It is no secret that independent members do not sit on committees in the current Parliament. In light of recent report stage challenges and the frustrations that have resurfaced, the Chair would like to point out the opportunities and mechanisms that are at the House's disposal to resolve these issues to the satisfaction of all members.

The Standing Orders currently in place offer committees wide latitude to deal with bills in an inclusive and thorough manner that would balance the rights of all members.

That statement by you, Mr. Speaker, is in direct contrast to the very constraining and rigid approach being advocated by the opposition House leader that would freeze out independent members. I will repeat again some of the phrases and words. Your statement was that the “Standing Orders currently in place offer committees wide latitude to deal with bills in an inclusive and thorough manner that would balance the rights of all members”.

It is trite, of course, to say that committees are masters of their own process. That is the fact, and what we have here is an example of where the committee has sought to devise an approach to their own process that responds directly to your invitation. I will further quote from your decision:

In fact, it is neither inconceivable nor unprecedented for committees to allow members, regardless of party status, permanently or temporarily, to be part of their proceedings, thereby opening the possibility for the restoration of report stage to its original purpose.

Further on you say:

...there is no doubt that any number of procedural arrangements could be developed that would ensure that the amendments that independent members wish to propose to legislation could be put in committee.

That is exactly what the committee did. The committee did exactly what you in your ruling on this previous matter on report stage votes invited them to do. This what is sometimes called in the world of law a conversation with the courts. In Parliament, on the evolution of rules, with you as Speaker and judge of this place, we are having that conversation with the committee, and the committee is responding to your invitation. It has done so with the motion it put in place and with the processes it followed. Indeed, such amendments did occur at the committee pursuant to the process it put in place, based on your invitation.

I will conclude with your further comments:

Were a satisfactory mechanism found that would afford independent members an opportunity to move motions to move bills in committee, the Chair has no doubt that its report stage selection process would adapt to the new reality.

Mr. Speaker, what you did in your original ruling was wrestle with a difficult problem that was a source of frustration that led to vexatious disputes here. It was having an adverse effect on the ability of this place to function well. You made what I think were some very constructive and practical suggestions on how that could be remedied.

A change in our process and, indeed, your decision, Mr. Speaker, speaks to the fact that what we have, and what we have had throughout the question of dealing with report stage votes, is an evolving process to which there have been responses in the Standing Orders and now to which you invited another set of responses that could occur in the processes that committees adopted. In this case, the committee did exactly that.

As a result of that, there is an expanded ability of independent members of Parliament to participate at the committee stage of the process. They did so in this case. Their amendments were heard and they had an opportunity to proceed. We think that is an appropriate response to the invitation the Speaker provided specifically on bills of this nature, on the processes that we have in place. For that reason, it is one that should be encouraged and rewarded. It is four square within the direction your ruling set out and the invitation you provided, Mr. Speaker, and, as such, I see no fault in the process.

I may wish to come back to you, as I have not had an opportunity to prepare to make these arguments or respond in this fashion, but, on its surface, that is the essence: that the committee has done exactly what you, as Speaker, asked it to do.

Standing Committee on FinancePoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I have had the opportunity to go over some of the things that took place in committee, and we should be concerned.

When the government House leader talks about the evolution of process, what we have witnessed is an evolution that takes away the ability of individual members to perform their duties on numerous occasions.

For example, the government House leader could argue that the usage of time allocation is an evolution of process. That evolution that the government has adopted works against, what we would argue, the best interests of Canadians in limiting the opportunity for individuals to express themselves on a wide variety of bills, including Bill C-60.

Let us take a look at what the government has now proposed to do.

The Conservatives are saying that inside the committee they now want to mandate all members of the House, whether they are part of an officially recognized party or not, to bring forward their amendments to the committee well in advance. However, as one can easily imagine by the way the government has managed this evolution of process, the Conservatives are really trying to prevent independent members who are not part of a recognized political party the opportunity to present their amendments at report stage. This raises a whole spectrum of issues that really needs to be addressed.

I am concerned that if the government were trying to demonstrate good will based on a Speaker's ruling, with all due respect, then this should have been was raised at one of the House leader's meetings and received a consensus of support. We have to be very careful when we look at changing rules, which is ultimately what the government House leader has proposed to do. We have to be very careful that there is a consensus from all political entities inside the House to do that. If we take a look at what took place at the committee, members will find that there was not unanimous consent in passing the motion in question, which is important to recognize.

The second issue I would like to raise is the letter that I understand the leader of the Green Party received. Imagine receiving a letter which gives a very clear indication that one has x amount of time to get all of one's information gathered and amendments in place. The letter suggests that must be done by Monday, May 27, at nine o'clock in the morning. Again, I call into question the legitimacy of this.

This issue came up through a point of order by the New Democratic opposition House leader, and there is great merit for that. We will take a look at this matter in more detail and we might want to add further comment on the issue as time progresses.

However, I want to emphasize how important it is when the government House leader makes reference to the evolution of process or rules. Whenever he starts to fantasize or talk about it, in the past, it has not been a positive thing in democracy in the House of Commons.

I raise this issue as a red flag. We need to tread very carefully before making any sort of ruling on that which seeks to deprive individual members, or collective members, the opportunity to do something they have done in the past because the government deems it as not as clean or quick as it would like to see things take place. The Conservatives are bringing in these draconian-type changes or proposals, which are not healthy for democracy in the House of Commons.

Standing Committee on FinancePoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, since the point of order raised by the House leader of the official opposition concerns the non-recognized parties, it is appropriate for us to have our say today. I will reserve the right to add more arguments later because we were not aware that this point of order would be raised today.

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, the ruling you made in December 2012 reminds me of what happened in 2001 when your predecessor, Speaker Milliken, also made a ruling that restricted the use of report stage amendments. Between 1968 and 2001, successive Speakers were rather flexible with regard to report stage amendments.

In your ruling, you asked the government to show some openness to participation by members from non-recognized parties or independent members in certain committees, enabling them to propose amendments in committee. There is an important distinction, Mr. Speaker, and you are well placed to be aware of it. The Conservatives also know this, because in 1993 they were a non-recognized party. The NDP knows it too, because the NDP was also a non-recognized party in 1993.

The problem is that the members of this House fall into two categories. In the House we have an opportunity to ask questions and make speeches. We even have some speaking rights, which unfortunately we can no longer exercise because the government has been imposing time allocation motions on nearly all bills. Still, we feel we have proportional equality with our counterparts in the other parties. It is natural that we will be allocated fewer minutes because we have fewer members.

In committee, on the other hand, it is not the same as in the Quebec National Assembly, where the other parties have given the non-recognized parties—such as Québec solidaire and Action démocratique before it—the right to sit on committees, speak at committee meetings and even vote. Here, none of that is possible. I do not want the non-recognized parties to be treated like a ping pong ball in this dispute between the government and the recognized parties in this House. I think we have something to say on the subject.

The existence of the report stage simply allows us to propose the amendments we were unable to propose in committee, the amendments we have not had an opportunity to discuss. It is the only right we have left, Mr. Speaker, and I would like you to preserve it. We must be careful. The government says this is an invitation, but no party in the House has given us anything since May 2, 2011, and we are not asking for any gifts. We do not want additional privileges; we simply want our rights to be respected.

In committee, however, as happened in the committee studying Bill C-60, the only committee where we have been able to propose amendments, we had a few short minutes to do so, but no opportunity to speak at all. We were not allowed to ask questions of the public servants who were present or vote on the amendments we were proposing. If the government thinks it was giving us a gift, it is mistaken.

We want to preserve our rights. Therefore, we must be able to propose an amendment, discuss it, debate it and vote on it, and be aware of all committee activities, as it is possible to do in the House at report stage.

My first request, Mr. Speaker, is that you ensure that the rights of all members of the House are preserved, especially those who are less numerous, like the members of non-recognized parties.

Standing Committee on FinancePoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, first, I thank the hon. House leader of the official opposition for raising this matter.

As you might imagine, Mr. Speaker, I have been in a quandary, unable to imagine exactly how I would put to you the various ways in which I feel my rights are being infringed upon by this turn of events with the finance committee. I would like to reserve the ability to work to put my arguments together for you to present them tomorrow.

I turn to you, Mr. Speaker, as, in your own words in your ruling in April on the matter raised by the member of Parliament for Langley, it is “the unquestionable duty of the Speaker to act as the guardian of the rights and privileges of members and of the House as an institution”. I turn to you as the guardian of my rights and ask that I be allowed the right to present my response tomorrow to the excellent point of order of the House leader of the official opposition.

Standing Committee on FinancePoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I will say that I am bewildered but not entirely surprised. I suppose that some of the independent members, whose rights you sought to protect and the committee sought a process to protect, are now complaining of that. That is a paradox in itself.

I only wanted to rise at this point to respond immediately to two very narrow things. The first is my surprise at the Liberal deputy House leader's position, because it is entirely contrary to the position his party took at committee, where the Liberal finance critic said that he liked the parliamentary secretary's comments welcoming the independents to the committee because the Liberals welcomed the input of the independent members at that stage of their deliberations at committee. That view is a little bit different.

The other point I wanted to address very quickly was his concern that the problem with this process is that in the invitation to the independent members to participate, there was a deadline for them to submit amendments.

There is a deadline for every member of the committee, from all parties, to submit amendments. They are all constrained in exactly the same fashion, so there is no discrimination there. There is no disadvantage to the independent members in that regard. That argument is entirely without any foundation.

As I said, I may come back with more.

Standing Committee on FinancePoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two very small points. I appreciate the new-found passion that the Conservatives have for independent members, because we can recall that when an independent member's bill was at committee, the Conservatives were gutting that very same legislation and denied her the ability to even address her own piece of legislation, claiming the very rules that we are talking about here today.

My specific point, and I am not sure if my hon. colleague was present for the entire citation that I used, is that the main argument that we used is if this is the remedy by which the government seeks to satisfy the involvement of independent members at the committee stage, that is a remedy that can be sought, but the power rests here with the House of Commons. It simply does not rest with the committee to invent the power to appoint or adopt motions from members who are not part of a committee. That is a fact.

The committee itself is a creation of the House of Commons. The members who are involved in that committee and any standing members who may be a part of it come from here, not come from any chair or from any motion that has passed.

In his response—and I know he is going to come back and deliberate further on the points that we raised—my hon. colleague needs to address this specific point, because it is the argument that we are making to you, Mr. Speaker. The argument is that the committee has the powers that are vested to it from the House of Commons. It is exclusive of that power to just invent who gets to sit on that committee. To suddenly invite amendments from members who are not there is also exclusive of that power. We cannot move motions of people who are not present. That is a fact. It is true here and it is true at committee.

I do not see why the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons has such a problem understanding that, other than that he has found some convenient article. If the government chooses to do it this way, it can, but it has to come from here. For goodness' sake, let us protect some of the privileges and powers of the House of Commons.

The instruction from the House of Commons did not allow the committee to do that. It did not. I read out the citation and reference to the committee. It did not say that the committee chair can suddenly appoint whomever they like and take whatever amendments they like. It did not. It is in black and white. If my hon. colleague across the way would like me to read it to him, I can.

The fact of the matter is that the power rests with you, Mr. Speaker, as you refer a bill, and it rests with the House in designating which committees are instructed to study the bill, and how. How the committee does everything beyond that is its business, and we respect that right, of course.

However, to ignore the central point of our argument today in this point of order means either there is no counter-argument or they are going to search around for one for a couple of days. Obviously the decision rests with you, Mr. Speaker, and I appreciate the comments from my colleague for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

Standing Committee on FinancePoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am loath to get into a point-for-point debate at this point. I know members are coming back to respond to points that have been raised in a more extensive way, so can the hon. member for Winnipeg North maybe participate in that exchange, or does he feel that he really has to get it off his chest?

The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Standing Committee on FinancePoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, this is just a very quick point. The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons tried to give a false impression. The Liberal Party voted against the motion. I do not want to take words out of context, but we voted against the motion in committee. That is an important point.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

moved:

That, in relation to Bill C-52, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (administration, air and railway transportation and arbitration), not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at the third reading stage of the bill; and

that, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at 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 disposal of the said stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There will now be a 30-minute question period.

The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

As tempted as I am, Mr. Speaker, to draw some attention to what just took place with my friend from Saanich—Gulf Islands and the whip for the Conservatives, I will at least say it was a touching moment. The House was able to share new-found compassion across the political spectrum.

In all seriousness, there is frustration and confusion around this recent closure motion that has been invoked today. The government has left the category of feeling shameful about shutting down debate in the House of Commons and usurping our democratic rights and now does it with a certain glee and excitement, even on bills that the opposition has talked to the government about agreeing with and about agreeing to limit the number of speakers so that we can move through the legislation in a proper way.

Conservatives are pushing an open door now. They are saying that the opposition is in their way, that they cannot get their jobs done and they have to invoke closure again and that it is so tragic. They seem to take some sort of joy out of further shattering the record of any government in Canadian history for shutting down debate in Parliament. There is no prize for this. They do not get an extra set of balloons for having broken the record so badly.

Is it not feasible or imaginable for the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities or anybody in this place to realize that actually talking with opposition members and finding common ground on legislation that we can agree to is so much more preferable than coming in with these closure motions, one after another, and invoking some sort of fear tactic about opposition that does not even exist. It just does not seem very parliamentary or decent for the Conservatives to constantly say that their hands are forced and that arms are being twisted in the House when no such thing is going on.

I simply do not understand why they keep doing this.

The Minister of Transport and the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons say that this undemocratic motion is necessary, but they need to justify it.

Where is the proof? Our critic is willing to work with them. That is not a problem. Members of the House of Commons can work together to benefit all Canadians. It can happen.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2013 / 5 p.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we announced on December 1, 2012, that it was very important for all shippers in the country for us to pass this bill.

I understand what my colleague is saying about working well together.

When I agree with something, I vote for it. I do not try to suspend discussion or to block discussion. In committee, New Democrats spoke about the evolution of the Canadian Wheat Board, truck traffic, infrastructure replacement, rail safety and budget cuts. I have sheets of paper listing what they spoke about, but they were supporting those things. What it is, is what they do not.

When a bill like this is so important for the shippers of this country, we take the measures necessary.

Taking the measures necessary means passing this bill for the sake of the country's economy. Our government does not stand to gain anything from this bill. We do not want a set of balloons; we want a bill that makes sense for this country's shippers, whether they are in agriculture, business or industry.

We know how important it is for everything to be done right when it comes to our country's rail system. A wide variety of products are being shipped, and all of the country's shippers support our bill.

Today, after months of delay, deferral and stalling, we feel it is time to move forward.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the minister's response, and we will get a chance to talk about the bill itself, but what I want to focus attention on is not the bill but rather the process. The government has demonstrated it knows no shame in terms of closure inside the House of Commons. That is something that all Canadians should be concerned about.

Every piece of legislation has some sense of urgency to it. What is unique with this government is that it has this driving force to limit debate, to prevent members of Parliament from debating. No matter how simplistic or complicated a bill is, the government is determined to shut down debate on important issues. That is what is so wrong with what the government is doing.

We have seen it with this Conservative-Reform majority government. It is a change in attitude. It is either my way or the highway. It is either we get behind the bill, stop talking about it and allow it to pass or the government will bring in time allocation. Time and time again—and we could repeat it 36-plus times—the government has brought in time allocation.

This is new for the Government of Canada. No other government has used this measure so willingly and shamelessly in the history of our country.

My question is not for the minister responsible for the bill but for the government House leader. Why does the government House leader continue to bring in time allocation? That is shameful behaviour, and the Conservative majority government has to take responsibility for its lack of respect for the House of Commons and all members of the House. Why is the government continuing to bring in time allocation as part of a normal procedure?

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have some quotes from Canadian organizations that are supporting the bill.

These measures will create the conditions for improved railway performance and accountability. It will help ensure all shippers can gain access to an adequate level of service.

It was Kevin Bender, President of Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, who said that.

Stephen Vandervalk, president of Grain Growers of Canada, said, “We especially thank Agriculture Canada and Transportation Canada and the federal government for listening to farmers and moving this legislation ahead.”

Richard Paton, president and CEO of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, said:

The level of service offered by Canada's railway can make the difference between companies investing here, or taking their business elsewhere. So this legislation is critical—not only for our industry's competitiveness, but for Canada's overall productivity and prosperity.

David Lindsay said:

Ensuring a fair and balanced relationship between shippers and the railroads will help the forest products industry retain and create jobs for the benefit of the Canadian economy.

That is what we want to do. We want to support the Canadian economy. From the time we came here and up to the last economic action plan, that is all we have wanted to do, and we will continue to do so.

It is time to pass this bill.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the Minister of Transport is in such a rush to end the debate and even to prevent me, as a parliamentarian, from speaking to this bill, why did the Conservatives wait five years before bringing this initiative forward?

It sounds like double-talk to me. To suddenly be in such a rush sounds like last-minute timing, given that they dragged their feet for five long years. Shippers have been in this situation for a very long time, and the Conservatives have done nothing.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague should familiarize himself with the history of this bill. It all began in 2006, right after the former minister of transport, Mr. Cannon, took office.

A process was instituted that has lasted since that time. Studies and research have been done, and study committees created. A panel composed of three rail transport specialists was created. They toured the country to listen to the people and see how the bill should be framed.

It was a long process. Actually, I think I am the fourth or fifth minister of transport since the process began. When I arrived at Transport Canada, we hired Jim Dinning, who is known nationwide for his impressive administrative skills. Mr. Dinning did an excellent job of laying the groundwork for the bill; it is going to enable us to move forward.

I myself went to the port of Saguenay, in the member’s region, to announce a $15-million investment to provide a railway branch line so that shippers will be able to send their goods from all over Abitibi, all the way from the far north, out of that port.

We believe that rail transport is a very important factor in Canada's economic future. That is why we want to continue supporting the economy and these shippers today. This did not happen in a day. The work was done over several years and is now taking shape.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the Minister of Transport's efforts on this. Obviously this has been an encompassing process from 2006 to today.

I am a little lost for words. We hear some NDP members saying that this is going too fast and we need to slow down, while other members of the NDP are asking what is taking us so long. From my perspective, as a government we have supported infrastructure. My own province of British Columbia has the Asia-Pacific gateway. Obviously, some needs have been expressed by the industry over the years to have access.

Would the minister repeat the economic reasons for seeing this bill go forward so industry can have that sense of certainty and see our economy grow?

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill is an important part of our plan to strengthen our economy. Our government is working to improve rail freight service in Canada to better support economic growth, resource development and our ambitious domestic and international trade agenda.

As I have said, the corridors are very important for us. The Asia-Pacific gateway is a success worldwide. I was in Germany last week for the international transportation forum with ministers of transport from around the world, from Korea to China to Japan. All these ministers know the Asia-Pacific gateway very well. We have made a success of that. Why? Because we have invested in the infrastructure in the country to improve our economy. That is why we want to continue to do so.

The bill would change the rules, but that would help shippers have an agreement with rail companies, and that is very important for shippers. They have been asking for that for years. That is why we have to continue.

The goal of this legislation is to encourage railways and shippers to work together. Shippers will have the right to a service agreement with railways to enhance clarity, predictability and reliability in rail service. The bill would help shippers manage and expand their businesses, while ensuring the railway operates an efficient network for the benefit of all users. A strong, competitive rail freight supply chain is vital to Canada's economy as a whole and the challenging global economy. All sectors of the economy must work together to drive growth, job creation and long-term prosperity.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are not here to discuss the merits of the bill that the minister has suddenly declared to be extremely urgent.

There is something else I would like the minister to explain. We do not have any major problems with his bill. However, I do not understand this sudden urgency. The minister is telling us that it has not moved forward since 2006.

That is the kind of thing people say when the previous government was another party. Since 2006, however, we have had a Conservative government, the minister’s own government. As the minister said, he has done studies to get this bill going, as he should.

It is now 2013 and all of a sudden, today, at the end of the parliamentary session, a 40th time allocation motion is being brought in. Can the minister comment on that? Why is it suddenly so urgent? What is so urgent, to the point of shutting down all debate and once again preventing people from coming to testify and democracy from taking its course?

All the ministers want their bills to get passed quickly, right now, and they are all using time allocation motions.

I would like an explanation, because up to now I have not heard anything from the minister.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, if my colleague had listened carefully to what I said, he would know that I never said that our government had blocked anything. They are the only ones blocking things here because they want to take Quebec out of Canada and I totally disagree with that. I want a strong Quebec in a united Canada. This is not what the member wants. His party wants to prevent Canada from gaining ground in the province, while I want to ensure that all parts of Quebec and the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region can reap the benefits of a growing economy that is capable of creating jobs everywhere.

No one ever said the project was blocked. We said we had done things properly, by the book, by involving the shippers and the rail companies. We set up a committee, a panel of experts who crisscrossed the country. Sometimes things take time, but I never said that it was blocked. He is making things up.

Now we have reached the stage where all the shippers in the country are asking us to do this. When business people, many of them from the area around Victoriaville as well as all the other regions of Quebec and across Canada, ask us to take measures that will stimulate the economy, well, that is what we do. This is why we think it is time for the bill to be passed.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are delighted to hear that the minister is unblocked, finally.

That said, I think this is the fourth time in four days that I have risen to criticize this process, something that now seems to be standard practice for this government. They bring in a gag order to end debate.

What the Minister is not saying is that in 2006, the Prime Minister prorogued the House because he was about to be clobbered by the opposition parties. Such actions tend to derail bills. There were elections after that in 2008 and 2011.

Today, all of a sudden, on this beautiful May 29, we are told there is great urgency—in fact, we hear this every day. This is the fourth bill of its kind, and they are not trivial bills either.

There was Bill C-48, which dealt with all kinds of tax amendments, Bill C-49, meant to change the name and mandate of a museum, and Bill C-54, the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act. These are not inconsequential bills.

Now we have Bill C-52 before us. I believe the cat was let out of the bag yesterday when a colleague of the minister rose to say that they were ultimately not interested in what people from the various ridings had to tell them. What interested them was what they, the Conservatives, had to say on those matters.

In their view, once we agree on a bill, we should be quiet, stay politely seated and not say another word because, in any case, they are not interested in what the people of Gatineau have to say, through their member, on the merits of the issue.

Only three hours were allotted for debate at third reading. That is appalling. It is a hijacking, not of a train, but of debate. It is shameful. For reasons unbeknownst to us, this is now part of this government's normal procedure.

I do not want to know whether the bill is good, since we are going to vote for it. I want to know why we are being compelled to do it this way. To date, the minister does not appear to want to give us an answer that is sensible and acceptable, at least for the people of Gatineau.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to recall a little history.

I had the honour of experiencing a byelection in 2007 and the general elections in 2008 and 2011. I am very familiar with the schedule of the last few election years here at the federal level, having experienced several of them. Indeed, elections may have had an impact on the progress of certain business.

Nevertheless, since the NDP members agree on the bill, they will still agree even if we debate it for several more hours. That is what the hon. member just said. We believe it is time to move on.

However, at the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, they talked about the ideological struggle to abolish the Canadian Wheat Board, the degree of difficulty experienced by heavy-duty trucks between -40 oC and 40 oC, our government's inaction on railway security measures, cuts at VIA Rail Canada, opposition to the introduction of rail service, and so on.

I have four pages of similar topics that they discussed and that were not necessarily related to the bill being discussed in committee. When time is allotted to us, we should use it to address the proper subjects and to advance arguments that relate to them at the time.

At the committee meetings regarding Bill C-52, we discussed a range of subjects. I can name others: the potential risks associated with the transport of bitumen by pipeline, the national transit strategy, the closing of rail lines between Gaspé and Chandler, and so on. I have four pages of subjects.

If the relevance of the topic at the time we discuss it is so important to them, they should have set an example in committee. Today it is time to pass this bill for the Canadian economy. The government is only acting in the interest of the economy and the people who want to create jobs.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I also attended the meetings of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

Strangely, as he looked over his documents, the minister appears to have forgotten the many amendments that were proposed and rejected. I do not want to get into that debate, however, because we are now discussing a time allocation motion. Day after day, minister after minister and bill after bill, we are witnessing the same thing.

I really feel as though the government is operating backwards. It is taking an exception and turning it into a rule. Since we are talking backwards, I will ask my question in a backwards way.

Can the minister speak on behalf of his government and tell the House what the acceptable procedure would be so that a bill on any subject at all could follow the normal process?

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill will be voted on sooner or later.

I think the ideal would be for all parties to vote together in favour of this bill. I outlined the benefits of this bill a few moments ago in English, and now I will repeat them in my mother tongue.

The bill will give shippers the right to have a service agreement with the rail companies. If such an agreement cannot be reached in commercial negotiations, the shipper can ask for an arbitration process to reach an agreement. The bill also provides that in cases of non-compliance, the shipper can call upon the Canadian Transportation Agency to impose a financial penalty of up to $100,000 per violation on the rail company. The proceeds of such penalties will go into government revenue and help stimulate the economy. We do not want this procedure to be used excessively.

If the shipper has suffered excessive financial losses because of the poor service provided, the shipper can still bring a suit for damages. A civil suit is still possible.

This bill will force everyone in the supply chain to improve their efficiency, which will help ensure that goods move more quickly.

Those are the elements we are really concentrating on. We want to improve the service in order to create and maintain jobs.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, are we to understand that the minister does not have the necessary influence in his cabinet to move this important legislation up sooner than it has been presented in the House, that he has to resort to a tool such as time allocation? Is he not showing the weakness of his influence in his own cabinet? This legislation has been waiting for seven years, and he cannot convince his own team to move it up on the legislative agenda.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a little absurd given all the delays to the schedule mentioned earlier.

Today, I am proud of our team's work. I am proud of what has been achieved since the last election, and since our work began on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I am proud of everything that we have managed to achieve together.

What matters today is not what I think, but what Canadian shippers think. I could read many more pages to give members a sense of just how proud these folks are of what has been done to move this bill forward.

I will leave it up to Canadians to decide who has influence here. It is my firm intention to win my seat again at the next election. We shall see what fate befalls this member.

We are capable of working very hard to move things forward. The member is the one who spoke about influence. We shall see how things turn out, since I am not the one who made this point.

That being said, we will continue to make sure that the economy prospers in every region of the country, including in Quebec—after all, I am a proud fellow from the Saguenay—Lac-St-Jean region. I want to work towards that. I do not believe that anything is achieved by attacking other members on their alleged ability or inability to get things done.

I think we worked hard. In fact, this bill is now at third reading. To those who feel that things have moved too quickly, I would say that things can never move fast enough when it comes to job creation and Canada's economy.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, as the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, I would like to tell Canadians listening to me now that this government's attitude is a source of great frustration for me.

In just four days, there have been four gag orders. This is the 40th gag order. This is unprecedented and will make the Guinness Book of Records. It has never happened before.

On top of that, the Conservatives are proud of what they are doing. They are proud to silence members who were democratically elected by their fellow citizens. They are proud to shut us up and to tout the effects that their decisions will have on Canadians' lives.

My question is for the Minister of Transport. Every time the opposition proposes amendments, the Conservatives refuse to take them into consideration. Why is that?

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said many times in committee, we talked about this bill with a number of committee members from both sides of the House. We had many discussions and I would remind the House that, at the request of the official opposition, we talked about the major environmental concerns surrounding greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles even though we were talking about the railway. We also talked about making passenger rail service more efficient when we were talking about transporting freight, and investing in public transit in Toronto when we were talking about rail transportation and developing a national public transit strategy.

I have a question for the member opposite. When we are dealing with something as important for our country's economy as allowing shippers to have agreements with Canadian railway companies—which they have been asking for for years—why do they not talk about that topic in particular? We could have made a lot of progress and the vote could have been held a long time ago.

That said, here we are today. We do not live on an island. The economy of our American partners seems to be rebounding. Nonetheless, between 70% and 75% of Canada's exports go to the U.S. and much of that is shipped by train. It is important to provide these companies the means to achieve their objectives and remain profitable.

Of course, we can meet in committee to talk for weeks and slow down the debate. However, at the end of the day, when we want to pass bills to help support the country's economy, we want to be efficient about it.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister asked why we are not debating the bill. What we are left is debating this time allocation motion. Again, it is the 40th one.

We want to debate the bill in committee and bring forward amendments. The Conservatives do not want to do that. They accuse us of delaying the bill. The Conservatives have a majority in the committee. They decide the witnesses. They decide how long it is going to take. They control the agenda. They are the ones who have delayed for seven years.

Then, when we bring many reasoned amendments forward to the committee, the Conservatives ignore them because they do not want to hear from the opposition. They do not want to hear from Canadians. Of course they bring up a list of people who are supporting the bill. All the Conservatives have done is throw them a bone. At this point, after this long, they will take what they can get. What they could have had is far more, if the government had actually listened to the NDP, had taken our amendments into consideration and added them to the bill.

That would have certainly made for a better bill that we could be passing. It would have a greater economic impact that would help more Canadians than what the government is doing.

I want to ask the minister a question. Why did they not do that?

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, let me quote some representatives of organizations on this bill.

Jim Facette, president and CEO, Canadian Propane Association said:

The new legislation respects the commercial nature of the relationship between the railway carrier and the propane shipper, but also addresses the recommendations of the Rail Freight Service Review Panel. It contains all of the measures that the propane industry requested – the right to a Service-Level Agreement, an arbitration process should commercial negotiations fail, and consequences for non-compliance. The propane industry is pleased to support the Fair Rail Freight Service Act. It is our hope that the Act, coupled with recent improvements we have seen from the railways, will enhance competition and promote positive relationships between the railways and the shippers.

Greg Cherewyk, executive director of Pulse Canada, said:

Every step in this process is just that, a single step towards the goal of a more predictable and reliable supply chain that makes Canadian businesses more competitive in the international marketplace.

This is what business men and women want. They want to create jobs. They want to have this discussion and this bill done. That is what we will deliver for them.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time and put forthwith the question on the motion now before the House.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

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

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation MotionFair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #706

Fair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

I declare the motion carried.

I wish to inform the House that because of the proceedings on the time allocation motion, government orders will be extended by 30 minutes.

It being 6:14 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from May 1 consideration of the motion that Bill C-419, An Act respecting language skills, be read the third time and passed.

Language Skills ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about a bill that should have been completely useless. We should not have even had to discuss it because, it seems to me and to most Canadians, it should go without saying that our officers of Parliament should have to be bilingual.

Mr. Speaker, even you are not listening to me. I do not see the point in continuing.

Language Skills ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Language Skills ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

I will repeat that if members want to have private conversations, they should leave the chamber. I cannot hear the member and he cannot hear himself think or talk.

Language Skills ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, now that everybody is listening carefully, I am saying that we are discussing a bill that we should normally not have to discuss, something that has been taken for granted and that Canadians thought was done already.

The obligation for officers of Parliament to be bilingual and to speak Canada's two official languages is something that seemed self-evident until this Prime Minister appointed a unilingual Auditor General. That was a shock. The party to which I belong reacted so strongly that it refused to vote in favour of the appointment of that Auditor General. We left the House without even voting.

I would like to thank my colleague for preparing this bill, which we of course support and which will ensure that officers of Parliament are required by law to be bilingual at the time of their appointment. It made no sense to take them on as unilinguals and to say that they would learn the other official language on the job, while working. That would mean learning French because we know very well that a unilingual francophone will never be appointed. They will appoint unilingual anglophones and say that this is not a problem because the appointees will learn French.

It is insulting to tell Canadians that the incumbents of such crucially important positions will be asked to devote considerable time and effort to learning a language when they are over 40 or 50 years of age. They have better things to do. They must be able to understand both official languages at the time of their appointment.

The reasons for that are obvious. First, the role of an officer of Parliament, whether that of auditor general or another officer such as the commissioner of official languages, is to be able to speak with parliamentarians, to discuss matters with them and to understand them and make themselves understood.

Many of my colleagues are unilingual. To be elected in Canada, people do not need to be bilingual. They only need to convince voters that they are the best candidate. It is very important to be understood when speaking to, let us say, the Auditor General, and to understand what the Auditor General has to say. Since MPs are at the service of Parliament, they should be able to be understood by all parliamentarians.

That is the first reason. The second reason is that, in order to make decisions, officers of Parliament must read a large amount of information that comes to them from across Canada, including from Quebec, New Brunswick and many places in Canada where information is in French. How can they understand that information on their own if they cannot read it on their own? They need that information to make decisions. Competency includes the ability to read in both official languages.

The third reason is that the office in question, like the Office of the Auditor General, must also be able to work in both official languages. However, if the head of that office is a unilingual anglophone, everything will be done in English. The person at the top must therefore be able to understand both languages so that the office can operate in both languages.

There is another essential reason. The auditor general and the other officers of Parliament are not mere bureaucrats, but rather communicators. They must communicate their information to Canadians. Nuanced communication is not possible if they cannot speak to Canadians in both languages. I can say that the entire saga leading up to the sponsorship scandal would have been entirely different if the auditor general at the time had been unable to speak French. And I say that having experienced the event first-hand.

The other reason that the Auditor General and other officers of Parliament should be bilingual is to send the right message to the youth of our country. If they have ambition and want access to all the responsibilities of their country, they should learn the two official languages.

It is key for people to do that when they are 18 years old because it will be much more difficult when they are aged 48. When they will perhaps want access to these responsibilities, it may be too late. We need to send this message now, through this bill. It is key to shaping our country and the ability for Canada to pay tribute to its two official languages.

It is an incredible asset for us to have two official languages that are international languages. We need to be sure that it will be part of our future. We need to send a message that the most important responsibility, including yours, Mr. Speaker, is to be able to address fellow Canadians in the two official languages.

The Conservative government finally agreed to accept these arguments, and we are glad of that. I think it is important to emphasize that here where we are all together. It was not easy. They proposed amendments, but those amendments will not prevent us from voting in favour of the bill. Still, I would like to take this opportunity to say that those amendments were not useful. They added nothing very positive. They actually weakened the obligation to be bilingual. It has been weakened, but I think it is still strong enough. The ability to speak and understand both official languages well is a prerequisite for appointment. That will do; we can live with it. The bill is still “votable” despite the amendments that weaken it.

The Conservatives also eliminated clause 3, which provided that the governor in council could, by order, add offices to the list established in clause 2. In that way, the government could have added to the list of offices for which bilingualism would be mandatory, without returning to Parliament. A belief in bilingualism is a belief in making it more widespread. The government did not want to give itself that power; it wants to come back to Parliament. That does not change much in the end, because if a government really wanted to add more offices, it could come to Parliament and make a convincing argument. If it did not want to, no law could make it do that. Thus, it is not a useful amendment.

With another amendment, the governing party also eliminated clause 4 concerning interim appointments to the offices mentioned in Bill C-419. This clause read:

In the event of the absence or incapacity of the incumbent of any of the offices listed in section 2 or vacancy in any of these offices, the person appointed in the interim must meet the requirements set out in section 2 [that is, the bilingualism requirements].

We know what the Conservatives are trying to do, but they will not succeed. Once this bill has been passed by the House of Commons and the Senate, there will be no way to exempt any interim office holder from the law. According to the law, the interim incumbent must be bilingual. When a Canadian is given such a serious responsibility, whether permanently or temporarily, that person must meet the requirements set out in the law. If the law requires an auditor general to be bilingual, then an interim auditor general must also be bilingual. If the government were to defy this law, it would be defying common sense and leaving itself open to legal action.

Thus, despite these efforts by the Conservatives, this is still a good bill. I implore the government not to play games. We are ready to send it to the Senate quickly. I have talked with my Senate colleagues; they are ready to proceed quickly. The bill will be voted on in the House and sent to the Senate. The Senate will look at it carefully, as senators always do, but they can do it quickly. They must ensure that this bill becomes law and does not fall into limbo when the government decides to prorogue the House in an attempt to revive its moribund government.

Language Skills ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity today to speak to Bill C-419, An Act respecting language skills. I want to extend my sincere thanks to the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent for having introduced such a worthwhile bill. We often run into each other because our ridings are side by side. I can attest to the outstanding work she does each and every day. The bill she introduced is yet another example of her good work.

I would also like to tip my hat to the member for Acadie—Bathurst, the NDP official languages critic, who has always been a fervent supporter of bilingualism and francophone minority communities. I want to applaud his efforts, which helped contribute to this bill's success.

As I said, I am very proud to support Bill C-419, which is designed to ensure that the 10 officers of Parliament are bilingual.

Having been raised in a perfectly bilingual military family, I have always cherished both official languages. I grew up watching both Passe-Partout and Sesame Street, and learning both French and English at home.

At a very early age, I was taught the importance of bilingualism in Canada as a way to better understand two of our founding nations and their culture. I was also taught that speaking both of Canada's official languages would offer me better employment opportunities, especially if I wanted to work in the public sector. Therefore, I have always believed that it was an essential prerequisite for the highest-ranking public servants to master both official languages in order to be appointed to such important positions.

When I was a parliamentary guide here in 2007, it was a point of pride for me to point out to visitors from other countries that bilingualism was a prerequisite for our highest-ranking public servants as a proof of the importance that was given to bilingualism in Canada.

Unfortunately, as has often been the case since I became a federal MP, the Conservative government has denied that basic principle since winning majority status. It appointed a unilingual English Auditor General who is still not able to respond to questions in French during press conferences.

Bill C-419 aims to fill a major gap in the current legislative framework, and that gap was made obvious with the Conservatives' ill-advised appointment. This bill also clarifies the language obligations of the 10 officers of Parliament. Given that their functions and roles require them to interact with parliamentarians and Canadians, they must be able to communicate with parliamentarians and Canadians in the official language of their audience's choice.

It was insinuated, in committee and elsewhere, that we were trying to violate the language rights of officers of Parliament, but that is clearly not the case with Bill C-419. In fact, there is nothing keeping an officer of Parliament, such as the auditor general, from conducting a press conference entirely in English. The important part is that they be able to respond to questions in French when necessary.

We are not trying to deny officers of Parliament the right to work in French. On the contrary, we are trying to guarantee the language rights of every Canadian. It is a matter of respect for all Canadians, whether they live in a minority language situation or not, and respect for the MPs they elected to represent them.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, I had the opportunity to study my colleague's bill in detail and I saw the merits of it. I understood the need for this bill. The original version of it was excellent. It responded directly to the concerns raised by the appointment of the current Auditor General, among other things.

This bill received support from members of all parties represented in the House. Unfortunately, at committee stage, the bill was butchered. The committee's Conservative majority did everything in its power to limit the scope of the bill, going so far as to insinuate that the NDP was trying to institute measures that would discriminate against the hard of hearing. I have heard it all since I have been in Parliament. They also eliminated the preamble of the bill, which provided the definition of officer of Parliament.

Without that part of the bill, this concept remains rather vague.

The Conservatives also removed any mention of the fact that the Constitution recognizes French and English as Canada's two official languages that receive equal privileges in Parliament. They removed that. This is not something controversial. This should be common knowledge for everyone in the House, regardless of their party or whether they are unilingual or not. That was not the issue. I thought it was a real shame that the Conservatives did not want to include these fundamental principles in the final version of Bill C-419.

Quite honestly, when we look at their record when it comes to official languages, especially when it comes to defending the French fact and the French language in Canada, we are hardly surprised.

Consider the appointment of a unilingual anglophone Auditor General. We spoke about that in the House. The government promised that, in less than a year, Mr. Ferguson would have a sufficient mastery of the French language to at least be able to answer questions. That is still not the case today. It was truly unrealistic to make such a promise given the scope of the Auditor General's duties. It was absolutely illogical and inconceivable to think that, in just one short year, he could gain a sufficient mastery of the language of Molière to be able to answer people's questions and interact with them without the help of an interpreter.

Consider also the appointment of unilingual anglophone judges to the Supreme Court. For years, the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst has been fighting to try to change the law and ensure that, even in the Supreme Court, people can really choose the language in which they want to interact. They can make that choice now, but there is no guarantee that the judges present will understand everything and that these people will truly receive equal treatment. They may receive less time to plead their case because the interpreters need time to do their job. Judges who do not have a good knowledge of French may not be able to grasp the subtleties in the documentary evidence.

We have here a host of problems that the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst and other members of the NDP have been trying to resolve for years. We are faced with the same situation today: judges appointed to the Supreme Court do not understand French, not even the most basic French. This is problematic, and this government has an unbroken record of inaction in this regard.

Another example is the closure of the Maurice Lamontagne Institute library, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' only French library. This government shut down the library just to save a few bucks.

When we look at the different decisions this government has made, we unfortunately get the impression that French represents additional costs for Canadian taxpayers and that it is not necessarily considered a fundamental value or foundational principle of Canada. French is seen as a constraint and an obstacle to overcome, rather than “the language of ambition”, as the Commissioner of Official Languages so eloquently described it.

I want to get back to the closure of the Quebec City maritime search and rescue centre. There are some rumours in the papers that the government has apparently decided to reverse its decision to close the centre, but it still refuses to confirm that.

We tried to raise the issue several times at the Standing Committee on Official Languages. We moved some motions. When the Commissioner of Official Languages appeared the last time, we even asked a number of questions about this issue. The commissioner completely agrees with the NDP that the government must guarantee bilingual services at the Halifax and Trenton centres. That is not currently the case. Both the Auditor General and the Commissioner of Official Languages illustrated that.

However, to save a few million dollars, the government is prepared to jeopardize the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people who use the St. Lawrence and who have the misfortune of being francophones in this country. That is really too bad, but it reflects the attitude we saw in committee.

Although the government was reluctant, we managed to keep the essence, the spirit of the bill. We are proud of that. Once again, I want to congratulate my colleague for working so hard and for being patient while working with members from all the parties. I am not always patient, so I admire that a lot.

The NDP has always been firmly committed to protecting the language rights of Quebeckers and all Canadians.

I hope that all parliamentarians will join the NDP in supporting this excellent bill, Bill C-419.

Language Skills ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier for her work at the Standing Committee on Official Languages and for her impassioned speech here today.

I have the honour of rising today to support Bill C-419 introduced by my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent.

I had a rather unusual youth. I am a Franco-Ontarian born in Toronto. My father's family is anglophone and has lived in Scarborough for over 90 years, while my mother comes from a francophone family from Sherbrooke and Montreal. When I was young, living in Toronto, I was very fortunate to get my education at the Petit Chaperon Rouge francophone daycare, the Georges-Étienne Cartier Catholic elementary school and the Bishop de Charbonnel Catholic high school. I understand what it means to be part of a linguistic minority.

I was also lucky because my anglophone father, David Harris, studied in Montreal so he could learn French. He has now been teaching French to young anglophones in Scarborough for 25 years. Linguistic duality is very important for me and my family.

Bill C-419 is intended to make a positive change by ensuring that future officers of Parliament work in both official languages from the time they are appointed, so that Canadians receive services in the official language of their choice.

It is indeed my privilege to rise this evening to speak to a very important and critical bill, Bill C-419, an act respecting language skills.

As a fluently bilingual franco-Ontarian with deep familial roots in Quebec, my support for the bill is partly technical and partly personal. I have lived my whole life with the linguistic duality of Canada, and understand the importance of protecting our traditional language rights.

When I was a member of the Standing Committee on Official Languages after being elected in 2011, I had the distinct honour of working with Mr. Graham Fraser, the Commissioner for Official Languages here in Canada. I developed a strong respect for Mr. Fraser in his view about official languages. His testimony in particular about the bill at committee was very important and provided a very important summary of the bill. He said:

Bill C-419, which was put forward by the New Democratic MP for Louis-Saint-Laurent, is to the point and unequivocal. Its purpose is to ensure that persons whose appointment requires the approval by resolution of the Senate, House of Commons, or both Houses of Parliament, can understand and express themselves clearly in both official languages without the aid of an interpreter from the moment they are appointed. It is an important bill for the future of Canada's linguistic duality. I therefore support it unconditionally.

The bill is a response to the controversy caused by the Conservative appointment of a unilingual Auditor General in November 2011. While the notice of vacancy clearly indicated that proficiency in both official languages was an essential requirement to the position, the Conservative government sadly ignored this.

Given the protection of language rights embedded in the Constitution and the long history of custom and tradition, it is very unfortunate and disappointing that this type of bill is even necessary. However, the appointment of the unilingual Auditor General for Canada seemed to indicate the Conservative government's willingness to ignore our rights and traditions and roll back our official language rights.

We cannot let this happen. As parliamentarians we must do everything we can to protect our language rights when they are threatened. For that reason I thank in particular the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent for bringing the bill forward and for getting support from all parties to ensure that kind of situation never happens again.

The bill helped tremendously in that effort. The bill of the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent clearly seeks to clarify the linguistic requirements for officers of Parliament to ensure that this type of situation does not happen again. It is a question of respecting the linguistic rights of Canadians and the members who represent them.

Officers of Parliament must be able to communicate with members of the Senate and the House of Commons as well as Canadians in the official language of their choice.

The bill, when adopted, would ensure that future holders of the ten following positions should understand both French and English without the assistance of an interpreter, and be able to express themselves clearly in both official languages when they take office.

It recognized that fluency in both official languages is essential for anyone holding the following positions. Unfortunately, as my colleague from Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier mentioned, there were some changes at committee that added a bit of nuance or a lack of clarity in the bill.

The 10 positions that we are speaking of as officers of Parliament are: the Auditor General of Canada; the Chief Electoral Officer; the Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada; the Privacy Commissioner; the Information Commissioner; the Senate Ethics Officer; the Conflicts of Interest and Ethics Commissioner; the Commissioner of Lobbying; the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner; and the President of the Public Service Commission.

Each of the above offices was created under legislation that specified, among other things, the terms of employment and the nature of the office's relationship with Parliament.

In my opinion, all of the positions I have just mentioned are officers of parliament. This is important, because officers of Parliament must work closely with Parliament and must interact with parliamentarians on a daily basis. It is essential that these officers can work with members in both official languages and must therefore be proficient in both official languages at the time of their employment.

Why must officers be bilingual at the time of their employment? First, we have the Constitution, which stipulates that French and English are the official languages of Canada. Second, French and English have equal status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of Parliament. Third, parliamentarians have the right to use either French or English during debates and work in Parliament.

I want to take a moment to express the joy and pride that I have being a member of the NDP caucus, with so many of our members being fluently bilingual and those who are unilingual are making tremendous efforts to learn Canada's other official language so they are better able to do their jobs and interact with their colleagues and other people in Parliament. I am incredibly proud of the number of MPs who are working on that day in and day out. Almost every day when I pass by the lobby, I can see two or three of our members working on that other official language to gain the skills to be better parliamentarians.

Again, this bill only became necessary following the appointment of a unilingual auditor general. Shortly after the announcement, the NDP filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada.

In June 2012, the commissioner in his final report about his investigation concluded that the position of auditor general should have been filled by a candidate who was proficient in both official languages. For the commissioner under the Official Languages Act, the Office of the Auditor General, as well as the Auditor General himself, is required to provide services in both official languages as a public figure of a government institution which responds to Parliament.

He also concluded that the Privy Council Office, which manages Governor-in-Council appointments, failed to comply with its obligations under the Official Languages Act.

According to the commissioner, “Historically, the appointment process for officers of Parliament was administered by the Senior Appointments Secretariat at the Privy Council Office. The process does not contain precise language proficiency provisions for incumbents of these positions. It is when the position becomes vacant and a recruitment strategy put in place with specific selection criteria that linguistic requirements are determined”.

In the case of the Auditor General, the requirements did state that the auditor general should be proficient in both of Canada's official languages.

Respect for Canada's two official languages has always been a priority for the NDP. Bill C-419 is consistent with this priority. We want all MPs to give their support to Bill C-419 so it soon becomes law. Proficiency in both official languages at the time of appointment must be recognized as essential, particularly for the 10 offices targeted in the bill.

With the adoption of Bill C-419, we are taking the first step in ensuring that all future officers of Parliament are bilingual and then we can move on to other aspects, like ensuring that Supreme Court of Canada justices are bilingual so they can hear court cases in both official languages without the need of interpretation.

I believe everyone who ever aspires to those high positions and roles should take it upon themselves to learn the other of Canada's official languages, if not already bilingual, so they can apply for these positions and take on the roles that we have in the institutions of Parliament, the Supreme Court and elsewhere to ensure that Canada's linguistic duality is not only respected, but enriched through those additional appointments of bilingual officers of Parliament.

Language Skills ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-419 today. I want to congratulate my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent, whose riding is next to mine, on her wonderful, excellent work.

My colleague introduced Bill C-419 after a unilingual anglophone was appointed Auditor General in November 2011. At first the Conservative government defended the appointment of the Auditor General and opposed the bill.

Fortunately, the government has since changed its mind and seems to now support the NDP's bill. If it passes, Bill C-419 will ensure that future appointees to the 10 officer of Parliament positions set out in the bill will be required to understand French and English without the assistance of an interpreter and will have to be able to express themselves clearly in both official languages.

In short, Bill C-419 sets out the 10 positions for which bilingualism is considered an essential qualification. Because of the nature of the work, these positions require the individual to communicate with all parliamentarians and Canadians in the official language of their choice. It is a matter of respect.

I am happy to see that the bill has made it through the important step of being studied by the Standing Committee on Official Languages. The essence of the bill remained intact, which is excellent news.

However, I have to wonder why the Conservatives did not explain some of the amendments they proposed to the structure of the bill. The Conservatives removed the preamble, which emphasized the importance of the equal status of French and English in parliamentary institutions and in the Constitution.

When he was called upon to speak to the bill, the Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, spoke in favour of including such a preamble in the bill. He said:

I have heard no arguments for deleting this preamble. It is practical, and I consider it useful. It expresses the spirit of the bill, its goals and objectives, so that ordinary people can understand why the bill has been introduced. It also describes the bill's overall aims.

It is unfortunate, but it has become apparent that, when the Conservatives amend legislation, far too often they remove the context and historical references. It is truly disgraceful. That kind of attitude must be denounced and corrected. I suggest that the Conservatives change their approach.

I sometimes get the impression that the Conservative government is confused about its definition of bilingualism. You have to admit that it is hard to reconcile how, on the one hand, the Conservatives claim to be advocates for official languages and yet, on the other hand, they impose budgetary restrictions at the expense of bilingualism. The fact is that if you peel away the rhetoric, French is far too often given second-class status. There are so many examples attesting to this that it is impossible not to doubt the sincerity of the Conservative government.

Here are the plain facts. The government appointed a unilingual anglophone to the position of Auditor General. The Conservative government also appoints unilingual anglophone judges to the Supreme Court of Canada. It is the Conservative government that coerces francophone public servants to work more often in English. It was under a Conservative government that the pilots who travel on the Saint Lawrence River between Quebec City and Montreal had to file a complaint last winter with the Commissioner of Official Languages because they were unable to communicate in French with the crews of two Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers. Finally, it is also this Conservative government that does not see the problem with closing the only bilingual rescue centre in Canada, perhaps even in North America.

There is no doubt that the state of bilingualism in Canada is cause for great concern. Last year, the Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, expressed his fear that the $5.2 billion in spending cuts called for by Ottawa between now and 2015 would result in a number of unwelcome surprises, such as a reduction in the services provided in both official languages. Unfortunately, the commissioner’s predictions seem to be coming true. The members on the other side of the House do not know where the money is going. Furthermore, in the blink of an eye, $3 billion that was supposed to go towards fighting terrorism has gone missing. Had the government invested in bilingualism, perhaps we would not be where we are today.

According to an article in the daily newspaper Le Devoir, budget cuts are forcing departments to reduce the number of documents they have translated. This is evidenced by the fact that the production rate at the Translation Bureau dropped by 9% in 2011–12, with a further drop of 17% forecast for 2012–13. Moreover, departments are asking francophone staff to write their reports in English in order to save time and money.

In my opinion, the situation is, quite simply, unacceptable. Ottawa is even streamlining the office of Commissioner Fraser. In future, it will have to use money from its own budget to update its computer systems in order to process complaints more efficiently.

If the government really cares about bilingualism, as we do on this side of the House, logically, it should be providing the commissioner with more resources so that he can do his job properly.

Recently, I read in a newspaper that bilingualism has stagnated over the past decade. This is really appalling. We want more and more people across Canada, geographically the second-largest country in the world, to be proud of their Canadian history, which endowed us with two official languages.

These two languages allow us to bring together people from all continents. We should be more proud of that. That is why it is important to invest in this area and to tap into Canadian pride regarding our two wonderful official languages, French and English.

In 2002, the Prime Minister said that Canada is not a bilingual country. Ironically, today he is saying that it is his duty to protect the French language throughout this country. How times have changed. Again this week, however, according to an article in Le Droit, the Commissioner of Official Languages said that he needed to weigh his options for forcing the government to abide by the Official Languages Act when appointing judges, ambassadors, deputy ministers and heads of crown corporations.

Last year, Graham Fraser asked that the Privy Council Office, the Prime Minister's department, take into consideration the Official Languages Act when determining the language requirements for thousands of positions filled by Governor in Council appointments.

In the commissioner's opinion, if a position requires a bilingual candidate, the government should ensure that the selection committee respects that criterion. One year later, the government has remained silent on that recommendation.

Here is part of a letter that Mr. Fraser wrote to the member for Acadie—Bathurst, who does outstanding work on the Standing Committee on Official Languages:

[The Privy Council Office] has yet to follow through on our recommendations...We are currently weighing our options for ensuring that the [Privy Council Office] fulfills its key mandate of helping the government meet its commitments pursuant to part VII of the Official Languages Act.

Part VII of the act stipulates that the federal government must work to enhance the vitality of linguistic minority communities and promote the use of French and English in Canadian society. It is important to note that it is in no way necessary for everyone appointed by the Privy Council Office to be bilingual, but those who work with the public must, generally speaking, be proficient in both languages.

There needs to be objective criteria governing language levels for each position, and that is why Bill C-419 is so important.

To conclude, I invite all of my colleagues, from all parties on this side of the House as well as the Conservatives across the aisle, to support this bill. Too many mistakes have been made in the past.

People who show real leadership are able to acknowledge their mistakes and move forward. That is what this bill is proposing. It is a significant bill because it concerns official languages, one of the pillars of Canada's history. We have an opportunity here to show unity and vote unanimously on a bill that concerns us all. This would be a step in the right direction.

It is time to show Canadians that although parliamentarians may sometimes disagree on many issues, we can stand together when it comes to respecting Canada's official languages. We can say they are a source of pride and that we must invest more so that one day we can all speak both languages in order to communicate better with each other and live in a better society.

Language Skills ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to congratulate my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent on her bill concerning bilingualism as a hiring requirement for officers of Parliament. This gap is totally unacceptable and has lasted for far too long. Needless to say, the subject of this bill, namely Canada's linguistic duality, is a key issue.

Respect for Canada's two official languages is a priority for the NDP. This bill is very timely, since this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Laurendeau-Dunton commission.

A Statistics Canada study released on Tuesday tracking bilingualism from 1961 to 2011 shows that young people are less and less exposed to French, and few immigrants are bilingual.

The Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, has also expressed concern about the statistics shown by this study. This trend is not a good omen. The study tracked the evolution of bilingualism in Canada since the Laurendeau-Dunton commission was created. That is what laid the foundations for Canada's policy on bilingualism.

When it comes to public life and bilingualism in Canada, certain concrete measures have far-reaching effects. This is why my colleague introduced this bill.

This is about defending bilingualism in Canada, so we need to take meaningful action to do that. Obviously, we all know that this bill stems from the controversy generated by the appointment of a unilingual Auditor General in November 2011, when the job posting for the vacancy clearly said that proficiency in both official languages was an essential qualification for the position.

In spite of the government’s change of direction on this bill, the fact remains that its track record in this regard is not a glowing one, and its negligence is detrimental to Canada's linguistic duality. The most blatant example of this was the appointment of Michael Ferguson as Auditor General.

That is why the NDP decided to take action by introducing a bill to recognize that officers of Parliament must be fluent in both official languages at the time they take up their positions. I am therefore glad that the government has ultimately listened to reason on this issue, at least with respect to officers of Parliament. That is a start. The Conservative government has a chance to stop taking us backward on official languages. This is a simple matter of respecting the language rights of Canadians and the parliamentarians who represent them.

Proficiency in both official languages at the time of appointment must be recognized as an essential qualification for the 10 key positions identified in the bill. The policy on official bilingualism must apply to officers of Parliament. If it does not, Canada's linguistic duality will be seriously undermined.

Let us now look at this bill, and how important it is, in greater detail.

By the nature of their duties, officers of Parliament have to be able to communicate with parliamentarians and Canadians in the official language of their choice. We know very well that this was not the case for the appointment of the Auditor General.

Accordingly, if the bill is enacted, future occupants of the 10 positions in question will have to understand French and English without the assistance of an interpreter and will have to be able to express themselves clearly in both official languages when they take up their position. It therefore recognizes that proficiency in both official languages is essential to the performance of their duties.

The following positions will be affected by these measures: Auditor General of Canada, Chief Electoral Officer, Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, Privacy Commissioner and Information Commissioner.

Under this bill, the appointment of a unilingual person to the position of Auditor General or to any other of the 10 key positions would simply have been impossible.

This bill has brilliantly managed to clarify the linguistic obligations of officers of Parliament so that this kind of situation will never occur again. Only 10 positions are affected by the bill, which thus acknowledges that proficiency in both official languages is essential in performing the duties of officers of Parliament. Consequently, officers must have that proficiency at the time they take up their duties, for a number of reasons.

The Constitution provides that English and French are the official languages of Canada. English and French enjoy equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in the institutions of Parliament. Parliamentarians have a right to use English or French in the debates and proceedings of Parliament.

Since officers of Parliament maintain close ties with Parliament and must interact with parliamentarians, it is essential that the incumbents of those positions be proficient in both official languages at the time they are hired. This is also quite obviously a simple matter of respect for our official languages, which, under the Constitution, have the same status in Canada, and for both linguistic groups.

Everything thus stems from the NDP's actions in this matter because the NDP filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada following the appointment of a unilingual individual to the position of Auditor General.

In June 2012, the commissioner concluded in his final investigation report that the position of Auditor General should have been filled by a candidate with proficiency in Canada's two official languages. In the commissioner's view, the Office of the Auditor General is required under the Official Languages Act to offer services in both official languages, and the same is true of the Auditor General himself as the public face of a federal institution that reports to Parliament.

He also concluded that the Privy Council Office, which manages Governor in Council appointments, had failed to meet its obligations under the Official Languages Act.

According to the commissioner, historically, the appointment process for officers of Parliament was administered by the Senior Appointments Secretariat at the Privy Council Office. The process does not contain precise language for fluency provisions for incumbents of these positions. It is when the position becomes vacant and a recruitment strategy is put in place with specific selection criteria that linguistic requirements are determined.

Thus Bill C-419 also offers a solution to the absence of specific provisions regarding the language skills of officers of Parliament.

This bill is particularly important for the francophones of all countries, including Quebeckers. Quebec's National Assembly unanimously condemned this appointment and the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne strongly denounced it.

The response of the Commissioner of Official Languages and francophones across the country is clear, as is the NDP's approach. We will no longer tolerate unilingual appointments to such important positions.

In conclusion, and because we are dealing with important positions, I would also like to tell the Conservative government again how important it is that judges on the Supreme Court be bilingual, and this should be the second logical step to be taken by the government.

The debate is not over. We still have not swallowed the appointment of the unilingual Justice Moldaver to the Supreme Court. With the government's continued refusal to include bilingualism as a selection criterion for the appointment of judges, English is becoming the main language of an institution that is central to Canadian public life. Therefore, there is still much work to be done in terms of bilingualism in Canada, and it is high time that this changed. The time for defending the principle of unilingual central institutions, such as the Supreme Court, has come and gone.

I said earlier and I repeat that my colleague’s bill will remedy this deplorable situation regarding officers of Parliament. Proficiency in both official languages is essential for some positions.

As we know, the NDP is firmly committed to protecting the language rights of Canadians, and we hope that all parliamentarians will support Bill C-419 so that it becomes law.

I am sure members will agree with me when I say that this bill is very important for francophones in all countries, and especially the constituents of Montcalm, who for the most part are French-speaking. Many of them have Acadian roots. Therefore, for the four municipalities of New Acadia and for the NDP members from Quebec, respect for both official languages is a priority, but for the people in my riding of Montcalm, being served in French is not a choice, it is simply a very legitimate right.

Language Skills ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent has the floor for her five-minute right of reply.

Language Skills ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to thank all of my colleagues for their kind words.

This is the ultimate chance for me to express my deepest gratitude to everyone. I am thankful to all members for believing in this bill. We are going through a rough week in Parliament, and I believe it is a welcomed change to see that everybody is of one mind on at least one topic.

I have enjoyed listening to what was said in the House during the debate. I am impressed by the attachment felt and expressed by my colleagues toward Canadian bilingualism.

If we look back just a short 50 years, we can clearly see all of the progress that has been accomplished in matters of minority linguistic rights in this country.

Linguistic diversity is a wonderful thing. In this particular case, Canadian society is very fortunate. We have made a choice to become a state where two languages will be equal in rights. For all those small French-speaking communities across the prairies, for the Franco-Ontarians, for the dynamic and creative Anglo-Quebeckers and for the wonderful Acadian nation, this decision embodies one very clear need, that being survival.

The days when we thought the only way for us to live together was to trample each other are not far removed from us. Terrible things were said, insults were exchanged and injustice often had the upper hand.

Looking back, we can see that somehow, by believing in this crazy ideal, we have changed and succeeded. This House of our common understanding represents this leap forward that we have accomplished. The Parliament of Canada, true to the ideals of state bilingualism, functions in both official languages and, if I may add, functions very well, in English and in French.

Once again, I would like to salute the hard work of the talented translators and interpreters who contribute every day to making this institution all that it hopes itself to be. What we have here is a case of genuine excellence, and I believe all Canadians should be proud of this. Our most grateful thanks to all them.

However, translators and interpreters cannot do everything. They cannot be everywhere all the time. As well, certain positions necessary to the proper functioning of Parliament require a skill that elected officials do not need. Officers of Parliament are an integral part of the system. In fact, they are the safeguards embedded in the system that make sure everything is lawful, proper and in order.

As such, the individuals who hold these positions are as important as the security staff on the Hill. The friendly security guards protect the physical integrity of this Parliament whereas the officers of Parliament protect its moral integrity.

It goes without saying that both groups need to be bilingual. Both groups need to be available for elected officials and Canadians at large, in English or in French.

Fortunately, it appears that we are all in agreement and saying that the list of 10 positions proposed in Bill C-419 includes people who must be bilingual in order to do their job. I think that this list, which is the cornerstone of my bill, kept as it is, even with the amendments put forward in committee, helps strengthen the foundations of our Parliament.

We are contributing to the effectiveness of Parliament and we are adding a greater sense of respect for this institution that, after all, represents all Canadians. Thanks to our goodwill, we are making tangible improvements. Furthermore, we are sending a clear message to the people of Canada. We are reiterating to them that bilingualism is a guarantee of excellence in the federal administration and that, in addition to opening doors, bilingualism first and foremost opens hearts.

I imagine that we will always have our little squabbles. Language is, after all, the highest and most impregnable bulwark of identity. As soon as there is the tiniest question about the place of honour that language holds in our pride in our identity, anyone and everyone gets up in arms. We start saying “we” instead of “I” and we ascribe cohesive intentions and ideals to millions of people who do not even know each other.

Let us keep in mind that we have sometimes courted disaster by trying to be too proud and too strong. I believe that my generation has understood that a fluid identity is a good thing and a clear, firm step towards the other. This is a multi-faceted world, and the people of my generation are too busy experiencing this diversity to martyr themselves to the cause of national retrenchment. My generation is no longer afraid it will disappear—it is only afraid of not being able to reach its full potential.

I encourage young Canadians growing up in linguistic minority communities to believe in their own language and the benefits it offers. I would remind young people who are part of the linguistic majority, Quebeckers and English Canadians, that the world will open up to them if only they open up to it. I beg them not to turn inward because they are unwilling to learn. If they open their hearts to other languages, they will never regret it.

Language Skills ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The time provided for debate has expired.

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

Language Skills ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed

No.

Language Skills ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Language Skills ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Language Skills ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Language Skills ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Language Skills ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to an order made on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 5, 2013, at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

The House resumed from May 23 consideration of the motion that Bill C-52, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (administration, air and railway transportation and arbitration), be read the third time and passed.

Fair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak in support of Bill C-52, the Fair Rail Freight Service Act. I will focus my remarks on how this bill will contribute to strengthening the shipper-railway relationship as it facilitates the commercial negotiation of service agreements.

Canada's freight rail network is a vital link to global markets and supply chains, because it facilitates the import and export of millions of dollars worth of commodities and manufactured goods each and every day. Our economy relies on the billions of dollars of revenue generated by Canadian manufactured goods and export commodities, such as grain, pulp and paper, coal and potash. Canadian consumers and businesses also depend on containerized goods, arriving daily from Asia and Europe, moving to cities across the country in an efficient manner.

Bill C-52 will help the thousands of companies that rely on rail to ship these goods and will help the Canadians who are employed by these sectors. Given the importance of rail to Canada's economy and trade, ultimately Bill C-52 will contribute to Canada's economic growth and job creation.

The goal of Bill C-52 is to support the adoption of service agreements between shippers and railways. Service agreements can help strengthen the shipper-railway relationship. They can make it easier for businesses to plan how they will transport their goods to market. In recent years, the railways and their supply chain partners, including shippers, ports and terminals, have signed many such agreements. These agreements have improved rail service, collaboration, communication, and ultimately, supply chain efficiency. In short, service agreements are a tool to bring greater certainty and reliability to rail freight service.

This bill supports best practice in the industry. To achieve this, Bill C-52 has two parts. It would provide shippers with the right to a service agreement, and it would offer service arbitration to establish the terms and conditions of service in the event that negotiations fail. Most importantly, the new provision would create a strong incentive for the parties to negotiate service agreements commercially.

A shipper who wanted a service agreement could approach a railway. In turn, the railway would be obligated to respond to the shipper within 30 days. This would ensure that shippers and railways would first try to reach commercial solutions to tailor their service relationships.

In the event negotiations failed, the shipper would then turn to service arbitration to receive an imposed service agreement. However, before arbitration could begin, the shipper would be required to provide advance notice of 15 days to the railway. This 15-day period would further support commercial negotiation, as it would allow both parties one last chance to reach a compromise before service arbitration started.

In the end, it is expected that the current use of service agreements would be expanded. Going forward, any shipper who needed a service agreement would be able to obtain one either commercially or through service arbitration.

Some may try to say that this proposed legislation would be adding red tape and would burden rail companies. To this I would like to respond, no. We are providing a solution in case of service failure. We expect railways and shippers to continue working together and building on the success of the proactive measures from the rail freight service review.

This proposed legislation is important, because it provides the framework to enhance the standard level of respect for service agreements. This has many benefits. By facilitating better collaboration between shippers and railways through negotiating service agreements, parties could then agree on clear service elements and performance standards. Shippers and railways would clearly know what was expected of each other and would be able to work better together to make their day-to-day interactions more efficient.

Service agreements could also strengthen the relationship between shippers and railways by determining what to do when there is a service failure. Communication protocols could be put in place and recovery plans could lay out how and when service could resume.

Canadian shippers and railways could also use service agreements to lay the foundation for how they could expand their businesses together. Negotiations on a service agreement could be an opportunity for a shipper to discuss traffic growth plans and see how railway service could be adapted to respond to growth. The legislative right to a service agreement, supported by an arbitration process if commercial negotiations fail, would therefore be quite powerful.

Across Canada, shippers, whether large or small, whether shipping intermodal containers or raw commodities, would be entitled to obtain service agreements establishing a road map with the railway to achieve the benefits I just explained.

However, do not take only my word for it. This is what Mr. Rick White, General Manager of the Canadian Canola Growers Association, had to say about Bill C-52. He said:

The Canadian Canola Growers Association is pleased to see the inclusion of a number of important elements in Bill C-52, including the right to negotiate a service level agreement if commercial negotiations fail. With over 85 percent of canola seed, oil and meal exported to more than 50 markets worldwide, effective and efficient rail service is critical to the success of farmers and our entire industry.

That brings me to Canadian trade and our gateway and corridor initiatives. The railways played a primordial role in Canada's settlement and economic expansion, and they continue to play a key role. Rail networks are a core part of Canada's transportation system.

Our Conservative government has worked to strengthen Canada's transportation system in various ways, including with strategic gateways and trade corridor initiatives. Through these initiatives, our Conservative government, along with its partners, has made significant investments to reduce congestion along key corridors and to build capacity to capitalize on growing trade opportunities. Our gateway initiatives also encourage stakeholder engagement and dialogue as a key means of improving how our gateways function. Evidence shows that this gets results. Through working together, stakeholders have been able to address operational issues and enhance the performance of our gateways.

The proposed new legislative measure on service agreements supports such partnerships. It is through such partnerships that we can achieve an efficient and reliable supply chain. This would allow us to meet demand in existing, expanding and new trade markets. In this sense, the legislation would support our government's economic agenda.

In my role as chair of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, I had the opportunity, as the other members did, to hear first-hand from shippers and other stakeholders about the importance of this legislation. I was pleased to hear that there was an astounding amount of support for this bill, and the committee heard this testimony from the groups involved. Whether it was Port Metro Vancouver from British Columbia; the Manitoba Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, Steve Ashton; or the Halifax Port Authority, Canadians from coast to coast to coast were supportive of this legislation.

That does not take away the fact that in agreements like this, not everyone gets everything he or she wants, but I think everyone would have to admit that we came out with a balanced bill. That is why I am here speaking in support of it.

Let me just take a few minutes to read some of the testimony we heard on this legislation:

Bill C-52 is extremely important to Port Metro Vancouver.... Past performance of the railways has made Bill C-52 necessary. I think the bill has appropriately walked the fine line of mandating action but allowing for the flexibility to tailor agreements to the needs of each shipper.... I would recommend proceeding with the approval of Bill C-52.

I think we need to accept the fact that in some circumstances it won't be possible for a party to actually, in good faith, negotiate an agreement. In that sense, Bill C-52 does suggest a mechanism for resolving that impasse.

The legislation includes the right to ask an arbitrator to establish an agreement. In that sense, Bill C-52 is an improvement and it needs to be passed.

I will not re-read the entire transcript of the meetings we held, but this gives the House an indication of the testimony we heard at our committee.

So far I have discussed the benefits of the bill in terms of the service agreements that are in place and how the bill expands Canadian trade. I have also gone over some of the testimony that was heard at the transport committee during the study of the bill.

I would now like to shift the focus to a sector that is very important to me, agriculture. I represent the rural riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, and while shipping by rail is not extremely common in my neck of the woods, I have certainly seen that farmers are very concerned about how their product is transported from the farm to the markets.

Having been a farmer myself, I know that the agriculture business is full of uncertainties. That is why I am very happy that we will be moving forward with Bill C-52 to ensure that Canadian farmers will be protected by these service agreements so that they know they will always have a viable option to ship their product.

As I said, agriculture is one of the main pillars of my riding and certainly one of the main pillars of the Canadian economy. Canada's agriculture, and indeed the entire agri-food industry, plays a vital role in creating jobs and keeping our economy strong. However, our farmers depend on efficient, effective and reliable rail service so that they are able to move crops off the farm to valued customers, not just in Canada but around the world.

That is exactly what Bill C-52 will do for our hardworking farmers. It will ensure their right to a service agreement with railways to enhance clarity, predictability and reliability when shipping their product.

Furthermore, I would like to expand on the nature of the bill and indicate that the bill is not only a benefit to the shipper but that the rail services will also benefit from the changes that will be brought forth in the bill. The bill does not pit shipper against rail service. The goal of this legislation is rather to encourage railways and shippers to work together.

The fair rail freight service act would help shippers to manage and expand their businesses while ensuring the railways can operate an efficient network for the benefit of all users. This will ensure a strong, competitive rail freight supply chain, which is critical to the success of the Canadian economy. In these challenging global economic times, all sectors of the economy must work together to drive growth, create jobs and ensure long-term prosperity.

Before I wrap up my comments, I would like to proactively answer some the questions that opposition members of the House may have with regard to the bill. I will begin with the possible question that may arise about why the bill had not been tabled earlier. The response to this is quite simple: it takes time to get things right.

On this piece of legislation, we took the time necessary to hold in-depth consultations with stakeholders on the matter. We carefully reviewed the submissions that we received so that we could advance with a framework that would benefit all parties involved. It was a long process, but as members can see by some of the quotes I presented earlier, it has worked, and we have a very useful bill before us in the House.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the members of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I see members of that committee from all sides of the House here. We did not always agree on everything, but at the end of the day we have a good bill, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the strong work and support by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. This is a bill that many people, including shippers, have asked for, for a number of years. The minister has done it, and we are here today discussing it in the House.

Another question that is brought up around the bill is the notion that new provisions in the bill will negatively affect the efficiency of Canada's rail system. This is not true. The arbitrator must consider the efficiency of the rail network and railways' obligation to provide service to all shippers when making decisions.

Finally, I will respond to the possible question of why there is not a list of elements that must be included in a service agreement under the bill. This is because there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to these agreements. Every situation between shippers and rail services will be different and will require different needs. Therefore, this approach will ensure that the arbitrator has the flexibility needed to make the appropriate decisions.

I think there will be few of these arbitration decisions, but there would be that flexibility for the two parties to sit down, and the arbitration process would occur only when a custom-made deal that works for both parties cannot be worked out.

To conclude, service agreements are an important commercial tool that supports the shipper-railway relationship because they bring clarity and predictability to rail service. As some associations put it after the tabling of the bill in December 2012, this will serve as a platform for continued collaboration with Canadian railways.

This bill would work wonders for shippers and rail services in Canada and would be of enormous benefit to all sectors, including the agriculture industry.

The government's objective is to facilitate the adoption of service agreements between shippers and railways for those shippers who want one, and Bill C-52 would accomplish this.

I urge members to join me in supporting this bill. I hope that my colleagues across the way will show their support for this bill and vote in favour of its passage.

We have heard from many members during the discussion on this bill, and while I mentioned agriculture quite a bit, because there are a lot of agriculture products that travel, the bill would affect everything from forestry to fertilizer to potash. Therefore, this bill is very important.

Saskatchewan is the largest producer of potash in the world, a lot of which is exported, and rail allows it to get moved. As well, the mining industry transports all kinds of products. There is even talk right now of more crude oil moving by rail. I think we all have to admit that pipelines would be the preferred route, but business will always look at every opportunity out there, and rail is one of them.

Fair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, farmers in my area have been waiting nearly two decades for the reform of service agreements. They have been waiting almost two decades for this legislation.

I have a precise question for the chair of the transport committee.

We have heard from the government side that this is very important legislation. My question concerns the timing of the bill in the 41st Parliament. When did the minister approach the House leader to table this legislation? I do not need a precise date, but I would like the month and the year.

Fair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned the farmers in his area who, like many across this country, have been waiting a couple of decades. I do not know if that number is accurate, but this government was not here two decades ago. However, I would point out that we are here today. We got the job done on it, and we are here to debate it.

If this member is as concerned about his farmers and producers getting their product out to where it needs to go as much as he seems to imply that he is, at the end of the day I am certainly going to be thanking him for his support on this bill.

Fair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think it is imperative that we give credit where credit is due, and actually it was the shippers, who come in many different forms, who took the approach of lobbying all three political parties half a dozen years ago. They indicated that we needed to enact legislation that would allow for things like service agreements.

It is fairly widely believed that the field is not level in terms of shipping products throughout North America, particularly in Canada, where the scale has been heavily in favour of the rail. This is one of the reasons we had to have service agreements.

I have known for many years, and particularly the last three or four years, that the member for Wascana has represented the Liberal Party exceptionally well by applying pressure on the government to act on this issue.

The Liberal Party will support Bill C-52 to go forward, but I have a specific question for the member on the amendments that were brought forward. Why was the government not prepared to accept some of those amendments? The amendments would would have made this legislation that much stronger, and the bill could have received that much more support from the different stakeholders.

Fair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question, for his comments, for his indicated support for this bill and for the fact that he obviously understands this bill.

He talked about the service agreements, et cetera. Yes, there were some amendments that were put forth, but his party and all parties in this House were represented on the committee. There was great discussion and debate about the amendments and, at the end of the day, the committee's wisdom was to present the bill as it is.

The member did mention his colleague from Wascana, who was here for 13 years before we came to power. He is probably wondering the same question I am, which is why they did not get the job done in that 13 years.

Fair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague on the other side just asked about the introduction of this piece of legislation. It actually started in 2008, with the rail freight service review. It was a two-year process. It was quite extensive and exhaustive, and there was enough guilt on the railway side as well as on the shippers' side when it comes to numbers to make it clear that something had to be done.

This measure was first introduced—in fact, I introduced it—in March in 2012, prior to the election, and then was picked up after the election, in December. This is a piece of legislation that has come a long way and has had lots of consultation.

My question for my hon. colleague is this. When the railway companies looked at this legislation initially, they fought against it, said they did not need it and said they would arrive at their service arrangements themselves. They said that it would drive negotiation away from the table. What I believe will happen is that it will drive both parties to the table, and if they cannot negotiate, it would be an arbitrated settlement. I wonder if my colleague would agree with me.

Fair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Yellowhead represents a very agricultural riding. I have passed through it, although not often enough. It is a beautiful agricultural part of the country where people use rail to get a lot of their product out.

As to his question, at the start of these negotiations it is fair to say that neither side was happy with the proposal. However, at the end of the day, my colleague is absolutely correct that this bill would encourage even more agreements between shippers and railways. As everybody knows from listening to the debate today and tonight, some agreements have already been voluntarily signed between them, but this measure would create more and bring them all to the table.

Nobody likes change, and that probably includes shippers and railways, but I think this bill will do what it is intended to do.

Fair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Yellowhead for that clarification about when the legislation was tabled. We know the genesis of this bill was around 2006, when the conversation began with the government. My question prior to this was specific to the 41st Parliament, which the member for Yellowhead also clarified, saying that the bill was tabled in December 2011.

My supplementary question, a follow-up to my first question, is for the chair of the transport committee. Can he give us an overview of the history of this legislation's movement through the House and committee? We know that first reading took place in December 2011. When did second reading take place? When was it considered in committee, and how long was the time from when it was in committee to the time it arrived in the House? Can he give us the timelines, in months and years, of the different readings and the consideration in committee?

Fair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I cannot give him all the answers that he is looking for because I took over my role as chair of the transport, infrastructure and communities committee last September. Since that time, this bill came forth before us earlier this spring. We have been working on it, and I believe it would be the end of April or first part of May when the vote came through the first time at second reading. He is wanting dates, and if he calls me I can get those for him, but I just do not have them off the top of my head.

Fair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his speech and his work on the transport committee. It is a lot of responsibility to be a chair and I certainly would not be the person to do it.

There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding with opposition members. They keep asking process questions and then argue that there should be results. We hear from some members that this is going too fast and then we hear from other members that this is not happening fast enough. This is a complex problem. We have a case where there is a de facto duopoly, hundreds of small industries, agricultural-based and mining-based workers, and the government has fundamentally addressed it with this legislation.

I would like him to again reinforce the fact that the whole reason for this bill being here is to build certainty and allow Canadian goods to be shipped across this country, to use the ports we have put billions of dollars into, and to see good things happen here in Canada.

Fair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a great question. As for his surmise that New Democrats are more worried about process, he would have to ask them about that. It seems it does not matter what the issue is, New Democrats want us to do something about it, bring in some new rules, et cetera, and when we do, they stand and vote against them. I have no idea on that point.

As to the question from my colleague, I know businesses, industry and agriculture in his riding will certainly use this new act. There is no doubt in my mind that it will work for them.

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7:40 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, to begin, I would like to tell you that I will be sharing my time with the very able member for Churchill.

I am pleased to rise in the House today to discuss the bill that would give customers of railway companies the right to establish service agreements with those companies and would create an arbitration process in case of failed negotiations. Despite its weaknesses, the bill is very important for the Canadian economy, especially for the agricultural, mining and forestry sectors, which depend heavily on rail transport.

The bill is not perfect. Still, we appreciate that after so many years of fine words and no action, the Conservatives have finally acted and introduced the bill.

On this subject, I would like to thank the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina who, by introducing her own bill on protecting customers of railway companies, was able to prod the Conservative government into action. The government presented its bill six months later. Better late than never.

My speech will have three parts. First, I will highlight the importance of strengthening the position of shippers in Canada's rail transport sector. Then I will show that the bill does not go far enough to improve services and protect shippers. Finally, I will propose amendments based on the recommendations presented to the Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities by the Coalition of Rail Shippers.

Why is it important to take action to improve rail transportation services? Because rail is among the most-used means of transport in Canada. In Canada, railways transport more than 70% of goods shipped on land. The economic power of railways is considerable.

That leads me to my second point. Despite the importance of this mode of transportation for many shippers, service interruptions, delays and various problems with productivity are common among rail transporters. This situation affects many sectors, including natural resources, agriculture, forest products, mines, chemical industries and the automotive sector.

In terms of agriculture, 80% of service agreements are not complied with by the railway companies. This means delays or trains that simply do not arrive, damaged rail cars or not enough rail cars. In addition to the losses caused by this kind of problem—such as harvests that may rot—the poor quality of rail transport services undermines the ability of Canadian exporters to compete in world markets. This situation costs the Canadian economy many hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

Let us now try to determine the source of these problems. One of sources of these problems is, of course, the virtual monopoly. As the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla said earlier in his question, the problem is the monopoly held by the railways in Canada. In most regions of the country, shippers cannot choose their railway carrier because they have access either to CN or to CP. Even in cases where both companies are present, one of the two usually charges prices that are much too high, which does not leave shippers with much of a choice. To some extent, the monopoly situation was made possible by the Liberals when they were in power. They are the ones who privatized CN in 1995. By failing to set out protective measures for shippers, they reinforced the virtual monopoly we have today.

At the time, one option would have been to privatize railway activities while ensuring that the rail transportation system remained public, which also would have been beneficial for VIA Rail. Right now, VIA Rail mostly has to use rented tracks belonging to CN.

When I was deputy critic of transport, I met with the Western Canadian Shippers' Coalition and it let me know what it needed to help foster economic growth in the west, on the Prairies. I am sure it is going to be happy to see this very bill come to life. It has been waiting for more than five years. It has been waiting for seven years for this legislation to come to life.

Just to clarify for Canadians, the Western Canadian Shippers' Coalition is made up of important Canadian companies, like the Alberta Newsprint Company, Al-Pac Forest Industries Inc., Canadian Forest Products Inc., Canadian Oilseed Processors Association, Canadian Wheat Board, Coal Valley Resources Inc., Coalspur Mines Ltd., Dunkley Lumber Ltd., Grand Cache Coal Corporation, Lehigh Cement, Chemtrade, Millar Western Forest Products and Suncor, among many other important Canadian companies. Many of these companies are in the natural resources sector.

The government tends to think that it is the best friend of the resource sector. The sector relies on the government as a regulator to ensure reliability in terms of service. The result, if it is done properly, is that companies prosper and flourish. Without leadership, without the government taking on its role as regulator, the companies simply endure or, even worse, sometimes flounder. This legislation would allow the companies to simply endure. It is not good enough to let them prosper and flourish.

The NDP would prefer to see these companies prosper and contribute to the health of our resources sector and the agricultural sector. In committee, there were amendments proposed by these two sectors. The NDP listened, but the government was in such a rush to fall behind, that it really did not listen to what these companies were asking for. I am going to read what the companies asked for and what the Conservatives did not consider.

One thing they wanted to do was to fix the service agreements. They wanted, one, to include details on service agreement components; two, a deletion of the term “operational” as it would limit the ability to negotiate and arbitrate service agreements; three, to include a dispute resolution mechanism in service agreements for breach of contract; four, to limit the ability of railway companies to levy penalties and charges that are not in the service agreement; five, to limit arbitration for failed service agreement negotiations to matters raised by the shipper; six, to limit railway companies' ability to raise network issues in arbitration, for example, finding convenient excuses for not agreeing to shippers' demands in contract negotiations and arbitrations.

New Democrats felt that these were very reasoned amendments and the government had a choice: it could listen to the resource sector and Canadian farmers or it could listen to a monopoly with a long history of manipulating government throughout Canadian history. Unfortunately, it looks like it chose, for these amendments at least, the side of the monopoly, as the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla mentioned.

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7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Duopoly.

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7:45 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

It is a duopoly. Sure, I will give him that.

I would like to read a quote about monopolies, which goes like this:

They had begun to consider the Government...as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

That is a quote by Franklin Roosevelt, a democrat. Contrary to allusions by the government, the “D” in NDP stands for “Democratic”. We are the only party over the past 50 years to stand up for the democratic rights of all Canadians and not just a select few. When we hear the smears from the other side, we know our principles. We do not abandon those principles for the sake of power. We do not remain silent in the face of adversity.

As I mentioned before, for competition to flourish in our country, sound, organic and healthy competition, it requires co-operation. The government should have listened to the good people who work on the farm or the people who work in the resource sector. Instead, time after time, Conservatives choose to listen to the privileged few to enable their abuse of power and give them carte blanche to crush Canadian competitiveness. Canadians deserve better.

In 2015, the NDP will provide the leadership to steer our economy out of the perilous straits, out of scandal and corruption to that prosperous future Canadians long for and desire.

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7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad we have had an exchange of ideas, talking about the difference between monopolies and duopolies. There are many things in the speech the gentleman has brought up tonight, and they are worthy of noting.

First, when it comes to resource development, a conclusion is quite obvious from the policies that the NDP espouses on a daily basis, particularly if we look recently to the election in B.C., where the New Democratic Party and its economic policies, particularly around resource development, were flatly denied by British Columbians.

When the member says that the NDP represents rural communities and represents the resource sector, I would ask them to take a stark look in the mirror and see if that is true. Definitely in my province of British Columbia that is not the case.

Again, this is a complicated issue. I would like to ask the member whether he agrees with us that government does have a responsibility to listen, particularly in cases where there is a complex, difficult issue, where there is a duopoly, where there are numbers of shippers that are unhappy with the services they receive and they are all competing for the same services.

When you are going from a system that is predicated right now on these companies having to be taken to court to a regulated system—

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7:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

There are five minutes for questions and comments, and we are well past the first minute.

We will go to the hon. member for Vaudreuil—Soulanges.

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7:50 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP is the party that supports the people who work in this sector every day. In the resource sector, in the agricultural sector, we are the ones who are there on the ground helping these people out when they have problems with their employer or when they feel that injustice is being done. We are the only ones in the House who truly support these workers in these sectors.

To help them, the government should take on its role as a regulator, which is to provide fairness in an industry and to allow competition to happen so more jobs can be created. In its role as a regulator, it has not done the job. The Conservatives had a choice. They could have chosen healthy Canadian companies and their workers, or a duopoly. They chose the interests of the duopoly over those of great Canadian companies that make our economy work.

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7:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that his party is not the only one that represents the workers. There are other parties in the House that believe we represent the workers just as well, if not even potentially even better.

With respect to Bill C-52, we also represent the interests of small businesses. It is the shippers in particular who are most impacted by this, and indirectly the workers too. However, we are talking about large and small businesses that have been anxiously awaiting this measure.

In regard to CN, the member brought up the fact that the Liberals privatized it in 1995. A few years later was when this issue came to light. Does the NDP take the position that it would buy back CN or nationalize a railway?

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7:50 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Winnipeg North missed my point. When a government, be it Liberal or Conservative, takes an ideological position—in this case, the Liberal government taking an ideological position of privatization without really thinking of the consequences of that ideological decision—then we end up having to do repair legislation, as we are doing tonight.

The member says that the Liberals also defend the workers, but all I have heard for the past few months is Liberals defending the rights of middle-class workers. What about the workers who are having difficulty, who are not in the middle class? I have not heard anything from his party about that. I find it very rich that the member for Winnipeg North brings this up and pretends to be the defender of working people in Canada.

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7:55 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House to speak to Bill C-52, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (administration, air and railway transportation and arbitration). This topic has been a very important one for my constituents and for people across rural communities and, particularly, western Canada.

Before I go further, I want to acknowledge the hard work of my colleague, the member for Trinity—Spadina, who for years has been a real advocate when it comes to fairness in the transportation industry. She has worked very hard on reforming this act, in particular, and bringing the NDP position forward.

The NDP position is fundamentally one of seeking fairness and a fair playing field for those who depend on rail service as part of their work, business and industry and, very important, the communities that depend on fair rail service to ensure their employers and industries are dealt with appropriately.

We in the NDP have made it clear that we support the bill at this point, but we believe it must be strengthened as we go forward. We are not pleased with the delays that the government has allowed and also the kind of cowering we have seen from it, which is not a surprise, to major corporate interests in this field.

As we know, the proposed bill will give rail freight customers or shippers the right to service agreements with rail companies. It also puts in place a Canadian Transportation Agency-led arbitration process for failed negotiations and penalties for those who violate the arbitration results.

Key amendments that the shipping company pushed for and that were championed by the NDP were unfortunately defeated in the committee. Without these rejected amendments, we believe the bill remains a partial success for the shippers and it must be strengthened in the future.

It is important that we indicate to stakeholders and to the government that this is not a done deal. As with anything, but particularly when we talk about this area, the bill needs to be further strengthened.

Bill C-52 partially addresses the fact that rail freight customers, known as shippers, have been suffering from insufficient freight services stemming from the abuse of market power by the large rail companies.

The Conservative government has finally tabled legislation, after years of talking and inaction, to address the fact that many shippers cannot even get a service agreement as rail companies have not been willing to negotiate.

As the bill only covers new service agreements, current agreements and contract violation, which are all a major source of revenue loss for shippers, are not affected by Bill C-52.

Certainly in terms of the stakeholders that have been involved, I would like to read into the record some of the stakeholders who have spoken out in support of the NDP broader position, which is that the act must be strengthened.

I recognize that the wish for this act to be strengthened comes in large part from people who work in the mining industry. As someone representing an area that depends on mining and as someone who is proud to say that I come from and live in a mining town, I recognize that in order to ship the ore and the goods that are needed for the mining industry to both do its job and to export its product, fair rail services are essential.

The Mining Association of Canada, as represented by Pierre Gratton, indicated:

Although MAC appreciates the government's initiative through Bill C-52, it is our view that the bill, unless amended, will not deliver on the government's promise...“to enhance the effectiveness, efficiency and reliability of the entire rail freight supply chain”.

Coming from western Canada, I share with many of my colleagues from there the understanding and the clear recognition of the importance of agriculture in our region, particularly agriculture when it comes to grain production. I want to read the message that was brought forward by the Grain Growers of Canada, as represented by Richard Phillips. He noted:

I think what we're looking at here is the level of service and timeliness of service to meet our sales commitments. That's what we're really talking about. [...] When Pulse Canada was down in Colombia and we'd just signed a deal there, we were looking forward to increased exports to Colombia, and the Colombians said they weren't sure they'd actually buy anything more from us because they couldn't get reliable enough delivery of product on time.

Clearly there is a concern about our ability to export. These are clearly serious concerns brought forward by our clients when it comes to reliability and timeliness of exports of a fundamental product, which is grain. That is unacceptable. It is a clear indication of why it is absolutely essential that we not see this as a "done deal" as such, but that we understand it is something that needs to go forward. We must continue to listen to stakeholders and seek a truly fair system when it comes to the rail service provided in our country.

As someone who is proud to come from western Canada, I want to read into the record the words of the Western Canadian Shipper's Coalition, as represented by Ian May. He noted:

Since the government committed to the legislation, we've heard that service has improved. I can tell you that it hasn't. I can tell you that as recently as two weeks ago we had mills just about shut down because they couldn't get boxcars in western Canada, and not just one. Whether that's coincidental with a broader understanding of Bill C-52 and perhaps the fact that it is balanced versus a shipper bill that would have levelled the playing field—and that's our language—I don't know.

The Western Canadian Shipper's Coalition, a very inclusive coalition and one that has a great deal of clout in Western Canada, is clearly stating that the bill does not go far enough, that there are serious problems in the kind of rail service that is provided and that they are getting a raw deal. That concerns me a great deal. In the last few years, and certainly since I have had the honour of being a member of Parliament for northern Manitoba, it is clear to me, day by day, the way in which people in my part of the country are getting a raw deal from the government.

I want to indicate the cutbacks to Via Rail, for example, have directly impacted the people of northern Manitoba and will continue to impact as tourism picks up in the summer. The people who are affected are those who live on the Bayline and in Churchill, who depend on reliable, quality rail service provided by Via Rail.

I also want to indicate the lack of imagination and commitment to another transportation hub, which is the Port of Churchill. It is truly a gateway to Arctic trade and to opportunity, not just for Manitoba but for all of Canada. Yet the government has squandered opportunities to truly make investments. The gutting of the Canadian Wheat Board as we knew it played a major role in setting us back. As we know from last year, the shipments through the Port of Churchill are nowhere near where they ought to be.

I also want to indicate the government's failure to invest in an all-weather road network across northern Manitoba, something that could improve the quality of life of many first nations and Metis people in that part of the country, as well as the economic development opportunities.

Again, time after time, we are seeing a government being short-sighted toward the interests of northern, rural and western Canadians, and we see it in this bill that must go further. I agree with my colleagues that western, northern and rural Canadians deserve far better.

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8:05 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments from my colleague from Churchill. She started off talking about her colleague from Trinity—Spadina, the great comments she had, and the great work she was doing on this file.

It is interesting to note that one of her propositions is that there would be absolutely nobody looking at the overall network. Whether this network is owned by a government, as it used to be, or it is a private enterprise, the member wants the shipper to be able to go to the rail company and say, “I want you to ship my goods and I do not care what else you have in your network; it has to be completely ignored. I do not care if your network gets overwhelmed or collapsed; nobody should be taking that into account. Only worry about my one shipment or my shipments over the course of this year”.

Does the member not realize that there is a thing called “the folly of the commons”? That is when there is a field that can only handle so many sheep, and if someone wants to put 1,000 more sheep in it, the field that is feeding that network is killed off. There is absolutely no gain in that. In fact, what happens is that the individual destroys not only that shipper's ability to ship, but everybody's ability to ship, and nothing gets to market. Is that really what the member wants to see happen in this situation?

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8:05 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the member's contribution. I was a bit surprised by the repeated reference to sheep. We are a bit beyond that, although some days I wonder about the government's members and any comparisons to that.

However, this member is my neighbour in my province, and I know he represents an area that very much depends on rail transportation.

My question for him is this. Recognizing the importance of industry and of customers getting a fair deal from their rail transportation companies, is that not critical to expanding the economy? Is it not critical to ensuring that people in his constituency and in our province have a brighter economic future? Therefore, instead of criticizing, would he not join with us in calling for his own government to do better?

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8:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will pick up on that point of recognizing the valuable contributions that our rail lines make to the province of Manitoba, as I suspect they make to all provinces. If I can gloat for a bit in terms of the province of Manitoba, in particular the city of Winnipeg, whether it is our CN shops, our CP shops, or the potential of CentrePort, there is all of this humongous network that is virtually nationwide. However, Manitoba, because of its geographical location, is actually in a great position to do that much more. The potential is there, and it is real and tangible.

One of the core aspects of being able to ensure we have that future growth of demand depends on the shippers, and it depends on a number of elements that will allow for that growth to proceed. That is why it is so critically important that we have this service agreement, and that is why, in essence, it could have been better. The bill itself, in principle, is good and worthy of supporting, but it would have been better had there been some amendments—

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8:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. We want to leave some time for the response.

The hon. member for Churchill.

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8:05 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, the NDP's position is clear. This bill can and must go further when we are talking about truly making it a fair deal and looking at how we can strengthen service agreements and the ability of clients and industry to engage in arbitration when things are reaching a breaking point.

It is very clear that time and again the current government is short-sighted when it comes to building true economic opportunity. In western Canada, often the Conservatives use overblown rhetoric about what they are doing on behalf of our provinces, and yet here is a perfect example. Western Canada and the industries in our region depend on rail service. Clearly we have heard from stakeholders that they are getting a raw deal and that the government can do better. Yet, instead of taking the opportunity to listen to important stakeholders, whether in the grain industry or mining, we have been left with a half-baked bill and an approach that certainly does not represent the best interests of western Canadians.

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8:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today in the House to talk in support of Bill C-52, which proposes to amend the Canada Transportation Act.

Before I begin my remarks, I want to say that of course Canadians from far and wide know that our government is focused on what matters most to Canadians, which is jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. It is our government that has been praised and has received accolades from international organizations from around the world, from the OECD to the IMF, and Forbes magazine, which says that Canada is the best place to be doing business.

There is a reason for that. There is a reason why international organizations praise this country. There is a reason that Governor Branstad of Iowa says he is afraid to bring potential investors to Iowa. It is because his state is so close to Canada that he knows he may lose investors because the Canadian economy is doing so much better than the U.S. economy. There is a reason for all of these things.

As I said, our government focuses on what matters most to Canadians. The Liberals on the other hand focus on dividing Canadians. They talk about their Quebec leader and how superior they are to the rest of Canada. Their leader has said that Canadians who do not speak two languages are lazy. They say they are against reforming the Senate. They are for the status quo because they are afraid of losing 24 senators in Quebec.

We have to give the NDP credit on the other hand because at least they are consistently wrong. Let me propose something to the NDP. Rather than being called the “New Democratic Party”, they should be called the “Old Democratic Party” because it is the same old policies from the sixties and seventies: high spending, high taxes and reckless spending on crazy social engineering schemes—

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8:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Kingston and the Islands is rising on a point of order.

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8:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, since it is quite a chore to be here until midnight, I would like to hear relevant debate. I am not even sure what bill my hon. colleague is talking about. I hope he knows.

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8:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, order. I appreciate the intervention from the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands.

I recognize that we are just three minutes into the remarks of the hon. member for York Centre. I note that he, and members generally, are allowed tremendous liberty in terms of their comments around the question that is before the House. I am sure that the hon. member for York Centre will be bringing those ideas and arguments around to the question that is before the House.

The hon. member for York Centre.

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8:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it does not surprise me. The NDP members feel the Liberals nipping at their heels, so they are a little excited and a little nervous.

We are here to talk about Bill C-52, so let me begin.

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8:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

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8:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

I am happy to receive such praise from the opposition, and I look forward to their support of Bill C-52.

I would first like to thank the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities for his steadfast and laser-like focus on creating the bill that is before us today to bring fairness to this sector of our economy. Of course, I also want to thank my colleagues on the transport, infrastructure and communities committee, particularly our chairman who has done yeoman's work in making sure the bill got through the committee expeditiously.

As the minister said on December 11, 2012, “This bill will help shippers maintain and grow their businesses while ensuring that railways can manage an efficient shipping network for everyone”.

Bill C-52 supports the interests of the entire economy. Given the importance of rail service to our country, shippers need to have service clearly defined and they need to know that the railways will deliver rail service efficiently and effectively. That is the only way shippers can properly plan and seize market opportunities.

I would like to talk about some of the new provisions that are proposed in Bill C-52. First, the bill would give every shipper the right to a service agreement with the railway and would provide an efficient and effective process for establishing such an agreement when commercial negotiations fail. That is key. Every shipper would be able to request a service agreement with their railway. That is an important point. The railway would now have 30 days to respond. This particular change is an important gain for all shippers, including small and medium-size businesses. It would ensure that they have an opportunity to negotiate service with the railway directly.

Second, if the parties cannot agree commercially, the shipper would have access to a timely and efficient process to establish an agreement. Under the auspices of the Canadian Transportation Agency, shippers would be able to request an arbitration process. This important arbitration process would establish, in a clear and comprehensive manner, how the rail service would be provided by the railway.

For many years, shippers have raised concerns that they have faced additional costs or lost sales when rail service is inadequate, particularly when they face regular problems such as delays in receiving rail cars. Canadian businesses or farmers can agree that this situation is a significant challenge for their operations. Shippers generally acknowledge that railways have made improvements to freight service in recent years. However, shippers believe that an effective enforcement mechanism is essential to ensuring that improvements continue.

This brings me to the third important point. We want to ensure that railways are held accountable in the event of service failures. This would be achieved through monetary penalties. These financial penalties could reach up to $100,000 for every confirmed breach of an arbitrated service agreement. Specifically, the financial penalty would take the form of an administrative monetary penalty under the auspices of the Canadian Transportation Agency. This consequence would ensure greater railway accountability.

Now, let me explain how this new provision would work. When a shipper is concerned that a railway has breached a service agreement that the agency had arbitrated, he or she could ask the agency to examine the situation. If the agency confirms a service failure in such a case, it can apply the monetary penalty to the railway company for a confirmed breach.

This potential and significant financial penalty would provide a strong incentive to comply with arbitrated service agreements. The amount of the penalty imposed would depend on the severity of the service breach. As with any administrative monetary penalty system managed by a regulatory body, the penalty would be payable to the Crown and not to the shipper. The agency is the appropriate body to confirm whether a breach has occurred, and can set a penalty accordingly. Indeed, the agency's role under this new provision would be to look at the reason for the breach and determine the right consequences, case by case.

Giving the agency the authority to impose the administrative monetary penalties is a sound approach. During consultations for this bill, both shippers and railways acknowledged the agency's expertise in rail freight service issues. In addition to this strong new enforcement tool, shippers will also have access to two other mechanisms to address railway service problems.

Of course all shippers will retain their right to file a complaint on service with the agency. All shippers will also retain the right to seek damages resulting from railway service failures through the courts. These rights apply regardless of whether shippers have agreements arbitrated by the agency or agreements they negotiated commercially.

First, a shipper can file a complaint with the agency under the existing level service provision under the act, which requires railways to provide adequate and suitable service. If the agency confirms that the railway has not met its service obligations, it has broad powers to order a range of corrective actions to be taken by the railway.

The new provision on service agreements complements this existing remedy for examining rail service complaints. If a shipper has a service agreement that defines clearly the railway's service obligations, this will provide a more precise reading of when obligations are not met, and facilitate the filing of a complaint in such a case if a shipper deems it necessary.

Second, shippers will continue to be able to sue for damages incurred due to rail service failures. Seeking damages through litigation is an especially important option for those shippers who are seeking compensation for significant lost sales or costs incurred due to a railway service failure.

Shippers wanted to ensure that any new enforcement tool, such as administrative monetary penalties, does not undermine any existing remedies. This strong new enforcement mechanism would not in any way disrupt, replace or erode existing shipper remedies.

I am confident that in most cases shippers and railways would be able to work out service agreements commercially that include communication protocols to be followed when service failures occur. Moreover, I expect commercial agreements would also identify recovery plans to mitigate the impact of any service failures.

The great strength of Bill C-52 is that all of its elements would help drive commercial negotiations.

Through the implementation of the bill, shippers will be in a better position to negotiate service agreements with the railway in the commercial forum. Both railways and shippers have expressed their preference for commercial solutions.

As all stakeholders continue to work in collaborative partnerships, I firmly believe that Bill C-52 includes a strong enforcement mechanism. It provides the best way forward in supporting commercial solutions and innovations that strengthen our rail freight system, a system that will foster Canada's economic growth, a system that will support shippers and railways as they strive to grow their businesses, capture new opportunities and create jobs and prosperity for Canada and Canadians.

I strongly encourage all members of this place to vote in favour of Bill C-52, a bill that would not only help strengthen our railway system, it would support our growing economy and lead to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

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8:25 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my Conservative colleague.

CN made $2.7 billion in profit last year. Do the Conservatives really think that a $100,000 penalty is going to change the way the company operates?

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8:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Good grief, Mr. Speaker, only the NDP would see profit as an evil. It is absolutely ridiculous.

We on this side of the House have imposed penalties in the range of $100,000, but we encourage the parties to work it out commercially together, not have something imposed from the top, which we know the NDP members love to do because they think that government knows better than individuals do, government knows better than the two parties who are negotiating in free and open agreement do.

We on this side are focused on what matters most to Canadians, and that is jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. We see profit on our side of the House as a good thing, not an evil, as does the NDP.

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8:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would give the member credit. He sure does have those talking points from the Prime Minister's office down pat. I will give him full credit for that.

My question is related to a lost opportunity. The government was in a wonderful position where it had substantial support outside of the House and inside the House to move forward. A number of amendments were brought forward that would have provided more strength to the legislation, that would have had a broader appeal, particularly to many of the stakeholders, the shippers, the people the hon. member says are generating the jobs.

We do recognize the valuable role in job creation and how they generate the jobs for our economy, there is no doubt about that.

My question to the member is, and he should put the speaking notes aside for now, why does he feel that his government put a pass on improving the legislation, which would have given more strength to the legislation and which would allow for an even fairer playing field for our shippers from coast to coast to coast?

Fair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government consults more than any other government in Canadian history. There were extensive consultations, not on the economy, but on Bill C-52. In fact, on the bill itself, for example, Kevin Bender, president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association said:

These measures will create the conditions for improved railway performance and accountability. It will help ensure all shippers can gain access to an adequate level of service.

This goes on and on. I have, from the president of the Grain Growers of Canada, from the chemistry industry, from the Forest Products Association of Canada, quote after quote on how Bill C-52 would create a fair, open, accountable and legitimate form of commercial interaction between the shippers and the railways.

The member talks about a lost opportunity. I will tell him about a lost opportunity. 1993 to 2006 was a lost opportunity when the Liberals were in power in this country. They sat on their hands, did nothing and left the country in a mess. It is our government that is picking up the pieces and giving Canada back to the Canadians.

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8:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, as part of our natural resource committee, we have been studying market diversification in the energy sector. I note that Jim Facette, the president and CEO of the Canadian Propane Association said this about the bill:

It contains all of the measures that the propane industry requested — the right to a Service-Level Agreement, an arbitration process should commercial negotiations fail, and consequences for non-compliance.

One of the things we did hear as part of that study and testimony was the propane industry's ability to potentially expand its markets to replace higher carbon fuels all across Canada.

As we know, rail is a good way to get into many of our rural areas.

I wonder if my colleague would comment on the possibilities of expanding existing businesses in Canada with strong, stable rail service?

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8:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member who has provided the first informed and educated question of this question period.

Let me say that it is our government that has made the economy the number one priority. It is our government that focuses on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians. It is our government that has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio of any G8 country. It is our government that has the strongest job creation record of any country in the G8.

Our government has created the conditions for business to thrive and to grow in this great country of Canada. In the interests of fairness and support for business, we have introduced Bill C-52, which the member has commented on, which would help small business. It would help big business. It would help the energy sector. It would help the mining sector. It would help all sectors of our economy, from one end of our country to the other.

Thank goodness that we have the best finance minister in the world and the best Prime Minister and leader that one could ask for to lead our economy as the number one economy in the G8.

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8:30 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is just unbelievable. They are all tooting their horn on the other side.

However, I do agree with the member that the big problem started in 1995 under the Liberals, when they decided that they were going to sell CN.

I had the opportunity to attend one of the committee hearings on this matter where the shippers indicated that they routinely suffer from service disruptions. Sometimes some of them would actually lose the freight they were shipping because it was going bad; it would not get there on time.

We see at committee after committee opportunities to strengthen the bill. We are not saying it is not a good bill. We believe it is a good bill. The only problem is that there have to be amendments. How could the Conservatives be so arrogant to believe that there should not be any amendments?

Let us look at this one, in particular. Nine amendments were put forward by the NDP and 10 by the Liberals. We did not pull these out of our hats. These amendments were brought forward by witnesses.

Why is that the Conservatives spend the money bringing witnesses here and they choose to ignore them all the time, no matter what? It is just unbelievable.

Why were all recommendations from the independent rail freight service review not incorporated into the bill? Why is it the Conservatives continue to ignore the requests of witnesses who would be directly impacted by the amendments they will not change?

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8:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member on one specific point, which is that in 1995, under the Liberal government, it was an abomination, and we should have seen results back then. Typical of the Liberals, they just find it difficult to make priorities.

The member says that we did not listen at committee. We did listen at committee. We had a variety of witnesses from all sides. We had a thorough consultative process before the bill was even drafted.

I have a number of quotes. Let me just give the member one from Richard Paton, president and CEO of the Chemistry Industry Association, who said, on Bill C-52, “The level of service offered by Canada's railways can make the difference between companies investing here, or taking their business elsewhere”.

This government focuses on what matters most to Canadians—jobs, growth and long-term prosperity—and on creating an environment in which jobs can grow and we can maintain our position as the number one job creation economy in the G8.

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8:35 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. I also want to thank my colleague from Trinity—Spadina for her work as our transportation critic, for her tireless work with a community that is invested in seeing improvements to the Transportation Act and for her efforts to improve the bill.

Bill C-52 would amend the Canada Transportation Act. It is a bill that is long overdue.

Rail transportation is the backbone of the Canadian economy. It is in the DNA of our history, and it is something that touches a huge part of our economy. More than 70% of all surface goods in Canada are shipped by rail. We are a vast country and a country that is open to the world. It is very export oriented, and having good transportation networks is absolutely fundamental.

Many of us are familiar with the railway industry. I know that in my family, my grandfather, my husband and my mother all worked in the railway sector. It is part of our country, part of our history and part of our current economy. It touches so many Canadians.

What we have been finding through the study on the bill and leading up to the bill is that 80% of service commitments for agricultural rail customers, which means that they deal with food, feed and farm materials, are not met by the railway companies. There are serious delays, insufficient numbers of rail cars, et cetera. A rail freight service review found that 80% of shippers were not satisfied with the service they received.

What is the root of the problem? One would think that after a couple of centuries, we would be getting our rail service right, but sometimes when governments rush to fix one problem, they create other problems. Sometimes when governments have ideological blinders on, they are wilfully blind to the problems they are creating.

In 1995, the Liberals were in a rush to show that they were jumping on board the privatization bandwagon. They wanted to prove to the world that they could privatize with the best of them. One of the companies they rushed to privatize was CN. They privatized the company, CN. They privatized the tracks. What they forgot to do was put in any safeguards for Canadians, safeguards for shippers and safeguards for our passenger rail service in terms of access to the railway tracks. They basically turned it over to the private sector.

CN is doing very well. It made a profit of $2.7 billion. Bravo. It is doing well. It was just announced this week that the CEO made a salary of $48 million. I am sure he worked hard for every single penny of it.

The trouble is that these ideological decisions create problems. It was the Liberals in 1995 that unleashed this, and frankly, neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives after them, for almost 20 years, have done anything to fix the problems until this bill. It is with insufficient measures that they are trying to address the problems.

Let me say up front that this is a bill we will be supporting at report stage and third reading, but it is a weak bill. It is a bill that does not do the job Canadians really need it to do.

The bill would give rail freight customers or shippers the right to service agreements with rail companies. It is shocking that they have not had this before now, especially with the two majors, CN and CP. It also puts in place an arbitration process, led by the Canadian Transportation Agency, in cases of failed negotiations or where there are penalties for violating the results of arbitration.

This is positive. Canadians deserve fair and reliable freight services. This is obvious and logical.

Shippers pay good money, but they need a stronger position vis-à-vis the two main companies that form a duopoly. Together they have a kind of two-party monopoly. Their power is only partially addressed by Bill C-52.

There were recommendations by the shipping community at the committee stage that were sensible, practical and modest, yet the Conservatives ruled them out of hand with no serious consideration.

As the official opposition finance critic, I certainly know this. With every budget bill we have massive omnibus budget bills. We have been dealing with another one this week, Bill C-60, which again, is an amalgamation of all kinds of changes to different laws, many that have nothing to do with finance and budgets. We have seen that they never accept one amendment to any of their budget implementation legislation. Experts in their fields have testified at the finance committee that the government will have problems if it bullies ahead with certain changes, such as getting rid of the inspector general of CSIS. The expert who helped set up CSIS told us that this would cause problems, but it did not matter. The Conservatives are more expert than the experts, and they went ahead and made the changes anyway.

In this case, they heard expert testimony about why certain changes should be made. However, the Conservatives gave them no serious consideration. They rejected the changes out of hand, which is a bit sad, because this House ought to be about discussion, debate, learning, and ultimately, compromise to get the best laws possible for Canadians.

The bill needs further improvement. The NDP will continue to work with businesses and shippers across the country to improve this legislation and to tackle the issue of uncompetitive freight rates and gouging of the shippers. What we heard from businesses across the country was that they are getting poor customer service. They have had disruptions in rail service and unacceptable service costs. We heard about produce rotting, because it could not be shipped. We heard about lost contracts, because there was no guarantee that the goods could be shipped reliably, which made Canadian businesses unreliable suppliers. We heard about missed connections with ships for travel and shipping. This is a daily occurrence for industries across Canada.

Poor rail services are hurting Canadian exporters, damaging our global competitiveness and costing us jobs, which is a little ironic from a government that talks a lot about jobs. However, when the rubber hits the road, it often misses the train. That is what has been happening with this legislation.

There are a number of key amendments we put forward that the shipping community pushed for. They were championed by the NDP and defeated at committee. Without the rejected amendments, this bill remains only a partial success. Nevertheless, it is still worthy of our support. I want to stress that we are dissatisfied with the outcome. It is not what the shippers really wanted to see. Therefore, there is a need for future strengthening of this legislation.

Sadly, I see that my time is just about up. There is so much else to say. Thanks for the attention of this House. I look forward to the questions of my hon. colleagues.

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8:45 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear the member talk about her support for the bill, because the bill is supported by Pulse Canada, the Grain Growers of Canada, the Forest Products Association of Canada, the Western Barley Growers Association, the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, the Western Grain Elevator Association, the Canadian Fertilizer Institute, the Canadian Canola Growers Association and Western Canadian Wheat Growers.

I would like to ask my colleague if the NDP will support this bill and have it expedited as soon as possible.

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8:45 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes, of course, shippers across the country will want some progress. One step forward is better than nothing, especially after almost 20 years.

The hon. member knows full well that there was still tremendous frustration that the bill did not go further. For example, the penalties in the service agreements are very limited, a maximum of $100,000, and they do not compensate the shippers. The penalties go to the federal government. It can be costly to fight this arbitration process. There was concern about how all that would work. The arbitration process only applies in very limited situations and only to future agreements, not to existing ones.

There are still real problems, but, as the member heard me say from the outset, we will support the bill.

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8:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, a number of Conservatives have stood in their place and pointed out that X and Y support this legislation. There is no doubt there is a fairly long list of individuals or different stakeholders supporting the legislation. I would highly recommend to those listening or presenting this list that they also recognize the fact that just because they are supporting the legislation does not mean they would not like to see the legislation improved upon. In fact, I suspect if we were canvass a number of the groups that the most recent questioner put on the record, we would find a number of them would like to have seen some of the proposed amendments supported and passed by the government.

Is my colleague of the same opinion that many groups support the legislation because they see it as a step forward, but, in the same breath, it is a lost opportunity where we could have done so much more? The minister might have the support of all members in the House, but it does not necessarily mean the Conservatives should pat themselves on the back because they could have done a whole lot more. Would she agree with that synopsis?

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8:50 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, after almost 20 years of dealing with the frustrations and tremendous power imbalance, I would call it, between the power of the railways to determine the level of service they will offer and the shippers who are desperate to get their products shipped within Canada, out of the country or perhaps to the U.S., certainly any step forward is better than nothing. I agree with that.

However, let me give one example of a shortfall. We have greater transborder trade and exchange with the U.S. than between any other two countries in the world, yet shipments from Canada to the U.S. are not covered by the legislation. It is another area where there is a shortfall. Does that mean this bill does nothing? No, of course not. It is a step forward, but it is a missed opportunity. It is not even half a loaf. It is a couple of slices of bread when perhaps we could have had the whole loaf. That is the point.

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8:50 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Parkdale—High Park for her excellent speech and her responses to the people who asked her questions. I am always impressed by what a fine job she does as finance critic. I am convinced that Canada would be much better off if she were Minister of Finance today.

I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-52, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (administration, air and railway transportation and arbitration), which comes to us from the office of the Minister of Transport, who is also one of my riding neighbours.

I want to say that, although the NDP and I are preparing to support this bill, which is a step in the right direction, we found the government's closed-mindedness during the study in committee unfortunate.

As opposition members, both Liberal and New Democrat, we put forward amendments that were supported by witnesses and experts in the field, and the Conservatives systematically voted against them.

I also want to congratulate my colleague from Trinity—Spadina on the incredible job she does as transport critic. Seriously, I would immediately substitute her for the minister from Roberval, who is the Minister of Transport, and transit in Canada would be much better for it.

To get to the heart of the matter, for those not familiar with this bill, I want to say that it partly addresses the problems of railway transportation service customers that do not have access to adequate service as result of the monopoly held by the major railway companies.

However, since the bill covers only new service agreements, current agreements and contract breaches, which are major causes of revenue losses for shippers, are not affected by Bill C-52. That is one of its deficiencies. We would have liked to remedy that in the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, but that was not done.

I will mainly address three points, given the time I have today.

First, Canada's shippers deserve fair, reliable railway transportation service that is worth what they pay. The need to strengthen the shippers' position against the monopoly of CN and CP is only partially addressed in Bill C-52, as I mentioned.

The six recommendations from shippers, in committee, were reasonable, practical and modest. That is why we proposed them. Yet the Conservatives rejected them without even considering them. I will elaborate on this later.

There are other areas that need improving.

I would like to stress that the NDP, especially the member for Trinity—Spadina, the NDP transport critic, will continue to work with shippers. Shippers shared their concerns with us, and it is clear that despite the passage of this bill, this file will not be closed.

We are going to continue to work alongside shippers to improve Bill C–52 and address the problem of excessive prices caused by a lack of competition. This is a problem, for which the Conservatives are to blame, because we know that they are in bed with the lobbyists for the major rail companies.

Personally, I believe that the bill is biased. The Conservative government has acted shamelessly. It could have taken a closer look at the bill and what shippers wanted instead of systematically siding with the rail lobby.

Shippers are often SMEs. I stand up for SMEs. My riding is located in rural Quebec, in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. The main industries in the region, for those who are not aware, are forestry and aluminum production. The Niobec mine, not to mention agriculture, can also be found in my riding. All of these products can be shipped by rail.

This bill and the future of Canada's railways directly affect me. At the end of the day, the more that is done to improve the rail network, the stronger the economy that uses this mode of transportation will be. Rail transportation is far more environmentally friendly than transportation by truck.

Concerning my first point, many shippers are not satisfied with the services they receive given the price they pay for those services. They are especially critical of the rail transportation service interruptions and the hundreds of millions of dollars in costs to the Canadian economy year after year.

For Canadian industries, this may mean that harvests rot in the fields, that plants and mines are just marking time and they miss the ships meant to transport their products. It may also mean that inadequate rail freight services hurt Canadian exporters, jeopardize our competitive position internationally and cost jobs in Canada.

We cannot afford to suffer losses on the international marketplace just because the railways are unable to organize their services properly.

In addition, the clients of rail freight services, from farmers to mining companies, are penalized by the virtual monopoly in rail services. In most parts of the country, shippers cannot choose which rail carrier to use because they only have access to CN or CP. Such is the case in my riding. Even where both rail companies provide services, one of them usually sets its price too high, leaving the shipper with hardly any choice at all.

Shippers routinely defray the cost of service interruptions, delays and a range of performance shortcomings by CN and CP. Pickups and deliveries are made on time or not at all. The number of cars requested is often different from the number of cars provided, and the cars provided are sometimes damaged.

The situation affects many sectors, such as natural resources, manufacturing, agriculture, forestry products, mines, chemicals and the automotive sector.

For the most part, the products of these industries are intended for export. The poor quality of rail transport services undermines the ability of Canadian exporters to compete on the international marketplace.

As an example, soybeans from Argentina have a competitive advantage on, for instance, Japanese and Chinese markets because they are delivered more quickly and more punctually than soybeans from Canada, even though the distance covered by the Canadian products is substantially shorter. This clearly shows that there is a problem with our rail system.

Shippers have told the Conservative government about their dissatisfaction for years now, but the Conservatives have not taken any real measures. Since 2007, their approach has been to talk about it and wait. They started off by promising to ask a panel of experts to study the issue.

I know that the Conservative government likes to postpone the passage of good bills endlessly. However, at some point, you have to move from consultations to actually taking action.

What we want is clear. Farmers and other businesses have been footing the bill for years for the poor quality of rail freight services and have never really been able to get Ottawa’s attention. I am pleased that they have a listening ear in the member for Trinity—Spadina.

In order to truly remedy the situation, the NDP advocates strengthening the shippers’ position. We are on the side of businesses and exporters, and we are determined to get them the rail freight services they deserve.

Bill C-52 will cover only new service agreements, not existing ones, and that presents a problem. It means that many shippers will continue living with unreliable and unfair services with no access to the resolution process when existing service agreements are violated.

Arbitration is available only to shippers negotiating new agreements. Instead of offering all shippers speedy, reliable assistance through dispute resolution, Bill C-52 offers a limited arbitration process to a small group of shippers.

The arbitration process presented could be very expensive for shippers and place an unfair burden of proof on them by asking them to prove that they need the services of the rail transportation company.

One of the things we are calling for is the inclusion of penalties in service agreements, to compensate shippers for service interruptions, damage and lost productivity.

In its present version, the bill provides for maximum fines of $100,000 to be paid to the federal government, not the shipper. In order for fines to have a deterrent effect, they should be higher, given that CN made a profit of $2.7 billion in 2012.

The NDP will stand up for farming, mining and forestry communities, like the ones in my riding, and will fight to put an end to the unacceptable treatment and unreliable rail transportation services provided by the big rail companies.

We need a stronger bill to protect the customers. We will work with shippers to get them the fair and reliable rail transportation services they deserve.

The poor quality of rail transportation services causes Canadian shippers hundreds of millions of dollars in damage every year. Canadian jobs are at stake. We have to act now.

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9 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, I want to put on the record what Richard Paton, the president and CEO of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, said:

The level of service offered by Canada’s railways can make the difference between companies investing here, or taking their business elsewhere...this legislation is critical — not only for our industry's competitiveness, but for Canada’s overall productivity and prosperity.

Would that encourage the member to help have this legislation be moved expeditiously?

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9 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to tell my Conservative colleague that the NDP and I want to have this bill passed, even though it is not perfect.

I consider it a privilege to have spoken today, because it is not often possible to speak, when we are gagged with time allocation motions.

I am grateful that my colleagues and I have been able to speak. It is very important to hear what people have to say. In Ottawa, I like to talk about my riding and about agriculture and forestry and mining companies.

I would therefore like the others to be allowed to speak.

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9 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord on his excellent speech and for standing up not only for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, but all of the Saguenay. He does a very good job at representing the greater Saguenay region.

Moreover, unless I am mistaken, the greater Saguenay region will soon be celebrating its 175th anniversary. We can therefore be proud of our member of Parliament. I am very proud of him.

Like him, other colleagues have done an excellent job on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. Unfortunately, the Conservatives chose not to adopt the excellent motions moved by the NDP. Nevertheless, we did a remarkable job in committee. We always bring forward amendments to improve bills.

Unfortunately, the Conservatives are blinded by their ideology, and they do not listen to the experts.

Would my colleague like to share his comments regarding the excellent job the NDP did on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities?

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9 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, my NDP colleague from Drummond stole my thunder.

The NDP team is doing an excellent job on every committee of the House of Commons.

Indeed, in my speech, I did not have the time to mention all my New Democratic colleagues who are doing an excellent job and are doing their utmost to convince the Conservatives on the other side of the table to adopt good amendments, even though they are not always successful.

I would therefore like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities: the member for Trinity—Spadina, the member for Trois-Rivières, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and the member for York South—Weston. They made a valiant attempt to have nine amendments passed to improve the bill.

This evening, Canadians realize that in 2015, they will be able to vote either for the status quo or for a proactive team that wants to improve Canada's rail system.

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9:05 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier, my hon. colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord spoke about how important it is to have legislation that will convince the big rail companies to respect the people who use them: forestry workers, miners, farmers and so on.

He went on to say that the fine was not steep enough to convince the major corporations, CN and CP, which make billions of dollars a year, to respect their clients. Of course, this ruffled the Conservatives’ feathers.

It is important to have good managers. Yet on the other side of the House, the Conservatives are very bad managers. They lost track of $3.1 billion earmarked for the fight against terrorism, and they have no record of a $90,000 cheque from their chief of staff, which was used to pay off the debts of senators who are not able to pay their own debts.

I would therefore like to hear why my colleague thinks that it is important to have credible, solid legislation to ensure that rail companies respect their clients.

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9:05 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, under the current bill, the fines imposed on CN would only amount to $100,000, which is really too little for a company that makes $2.7 billion.

The CN president even did some lobbying of the Conservatives, and he managed to influence them so they would not increase the fines. We can see that the Conservatives are not on the side of shippers, but are on the side of the rail lobby instead.

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9:05 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and put some comments on the record in regard to this bill. I had the opportunity to serve as the chair of the transport committee that listened to most of the presentations, and we certainly listened to the concerns expressed.

Before I begin my comments, I would like to give congratulations to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Minister of Transport. This has not been an easy file. It has been a file where if they do not get it right, they will not get a lot of second chances. They have spent a lot of time working together. They have listened to stakeholders and they have listened to the people who have vested interests in producing a fair deal at the end of the day. This particular bill we are putting forward would address many of the issues that were proposed and put forward by the stakeholders in the negotiations.

I do want to start right off by saying that I support this bill. Particularly in my new role as chair of the agriculture committee, it is one that will benefit the agricultural sector, and also the people I represent in the communities of Brandon and Souris.

The decision to move to a fair rail freight service act was discussed in 2011. It was an act to provide shippers with the right to a service level agreement and a process to establish such agreements when commercial negotiations fail. Many people would ask why this new bill is important. Why it is important to agriculture and to farmers? Like any business, it is one thing to have a great product, which I believe our farmers in Canada have, but it is another to be able to get it to market in a timely and efficient way.

Across Canada, producers and processors export 50% to 85% of their production, and they rely on an efficient and effective rail service to get their products to their customers. Farmers today ship 65% of their soybeans, 70% of their wheat and over 83% of their pulses beyond our borders. Last year alone, Canada reached a new record of exporting $47.7 billion in agricultural food and seafood, with significant increases in key markets, such as China, Hong Kong and Russia.

We are not done. We are on track to increase those export dollars and expand our markets. A full one-third of those exports are driven by Canada's world-class grain industry, which is also a powerful engine of our jobs and our economy and what our government has been all about for the last several years. It brings $15 billion to the farm gate. Jobs and growth depend on exports. An efficient rail service upholds the reputation of our agricultural exporters in foreign markets, and if our buyers are happy with delivery they will come back for more Canadian products rather than moving on to other sources of supply.

Our government remains very focused on trade because it drives one in five jobs across our great country. As part of our government's strategy for economic growth and prosperity, we have been pursuing a very ambitious trade agenda. I suggest to the members opposite that regrettably they were not able to participate in approving the trade agendas we have put forward, but they continue to move Canada forward, particularly our agricultural producers.

In fact, a key part of our economic action plan is the most ambitious trade agenda in Canadian history. Since taking office, we have concluded trade agreements with nine countries and have many more in the hoppers. We recently released the Agriculture and Agri-Food Market Access Report, documenting some of the keys wins we have had on the trade front over the last few years. Those wins include restoring beef access to South Korea, a potential market of $30 million by 2015; expanding access for canola to China, a market worth $1.6 billion; and, just recently, expanding access for our beef to Japan, which will double our market there.

I understand that numbers being put out there sometimes confuse people, but the bottom line is this: our Manitoba producers, our Canadian farmers, our food processors and our economies depend on trade to prosper.

What would the bill do to ensure a more efficient and reliable rail system for farmers? Most importantly, the fair rail freight service act would give shippers new tools to level the playing field in their relationship with the railways. The fundamental change would help to ensure the smooth and uninterrupted delivery of Canadian products to our customers. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is backing this commitment with the crop logistics working group, which provides a forum for transportation-related issues. On November 20, 2012, the Minister of Agriculture announced a new mandate for this working group to continue finding efficiencies and driving costs out of the entire food value chain.

We all know that the potential for growth lies beyond our borders in this great country, and our Conservative government continues to work closely with industry to open up new markets while strengthening and expanding our existing trade relationships. We cannot afford to put that business at risk. Canadian grain farmers and grain marketers have sales orders to fill around the world and are heavily dependent on the railways to move their product to market.

I am pleased to note the strong support from industry for this new bill. Stephen Vandervalk, president of the Grain Growers of Canada, said:

This new legislation will go a long way to address our farmers’ shipping needs. We are thrilled to see this legislation moving through Parliament. A lot of hard work has gone into this.

Pulse Canada also stands behind this new legislation. Gord Bacon said:

We're very pleased to see the government taking some action, because we have a long history of wanting to see improvements in the predictability and reliability of rail traffic.

The Keystone Agricultural Producers have expressed their support by stating:

The ability for shippers to acquire service level agreements is something we’ve been requesting for a long time. Reliable rail service is a major concern when we market our grain, so the sooner this passes, the better.

This legislation is a no-brainer. We have both sides at the table. We have both sides in agreement. Rail service disruption damages our entire reputation for exporting into foreign markets. If our buyers are concerned about delivery disruptions, they will soon move on to other sources of supply. We do not want our customers to think twice about buying from Canada. The livelihood of Canadian farm families depends on uninterrupted, timely and efficient rail service. I ask that we act now. I ask that we move forward on the bill as quickly as possible.

I would also like to add a couple more comments from people who have passed them on to me.

Richard Paton, president and CEO of the chemistry association said “...this legislation is critical — not only for our industry’s competitiveness, but for Canada’s overall productivity and prosperity”.

I want to congratulate all parties involved in this. It was a difficult challenge laid before parliamentarians, but also for members of the committees who met to try to hammer out this deal. Mr. Jim Dinning was very effective in creating the groundwork that we needed to come to this. At the end of the day, I believe with the ability to create service agreements, the people who have had issues with rail delivery and rail service in the past will have a way of resolving this.

I want to congratulate the rail companies, the short-lines and all people involved in that transportation industry. They have worked very hard to create an atmosphere where we can grow, where our opportunities will continue to grow, and where service will become the mainstay of western Canada and Canadian deliveries, not only to our markets to the south but to markets around the world.

I encourage all members to support this legislation.

Fair Rail Freight Service ActGovernment Orders

9:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have noticed in the northwest of B.C. that because of the system we have established, where there is often a monopoly of service to some of the shippers, that CN, in the case of the people I represent, has been less than forthcoming about getting cars, especially on any of the spur lines. Lumber mills or grain shippers who happen to be slightly off the main line have an incredibly hard time finding a company that is willing to deal with them. There have been a lot of complaints lodged with the Competition Bureau, et cetera, and so on down.

I wonder if my colleague is satisfied that the changes being made here would provide some of those sawmills with service. I am talking about Burns Lake and Fort St. James, and places that are keeping their mills going but just hanging on. The idea that cars do not show up is unacceptable. They are willing shippers. They are willing consumers. They have the money and they have the product to move but they are too small sometimes, it would seem, for CN and these large players. We have afforded them this monopoly in a lot of cases. They do not have access to another way of getting their product to market.

Would this legislation satisfy what these shippers, sawmills and grain shippers are going to need? As he said at the beginning of his remarks, we only get a few chances to get this thing right. We do not look at reforming our rail too often, and it has been wrong for a while, particularly for these types of producers.

I wonder if he has anything in this legislation that would offer those good people a solid sense that they will be able to be viable in today's competitive market.

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9:15 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that no matter how big or how small we are in this industry, it is individual producers who ship grain cars. They are reliant on not only agreements but on working arrangements with the rail line companies.

For the shippers and the people who use that service, with the ability to have service agreements and contracts, a commercial deal will always stand up. Lack of service has always been the challenge and the question the shippers have put out there. What do they do when they are shorted? They have no alternative.

Having it in the agreements and having commercial agreements will go a long way toward resolving a lot of those issues, and not only for people in the hon. member's community. I respect that, but we have the same issues and the same situation, and we are trying to resolve them. I think this measure will help.

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9:15 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Brandon—Souris for the very good work he is doing as the chair of the committee that is examining the bill. He has done a lot of great work over the years. He has worked with both shippers and the railway companies to find a suitable legislative resolution for what are sometimes very difficult problems.

With the demise of the Wheat Board monopoly, which has been quite good for western Canada, producers now have the opportunity to grow more wheat and send out more product.

We are seeing a tremendous resurgence in some of the crops that were not being grown because of the stifling effect of the Wheat Board monopoly, but I am concerned about the smaller shippers mentioned by the member across the way, small grain farmers and others who want to ship their products around the world.

Does the member see a solution for some of the concerns people have raised when it comes to smaller producers and smaller shippers against larger rail companies?

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9:20 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that recently producers from western Canada were before the agriculture committee. One of the questions raised was whether they had seen a service level improvement, even without the agreement but with the idea that it is in place and looks to be moving forward. To a person they suggested to us that the shipping, through the west coast particularly, had become better than ever before. We have obviously seen an increase in wheat grown this year, and I think it is because of the freedom of choice that people have.

The fact that agreements can be struck with any individual, any organization or any business suggests that the companies, particularly the rail companies, are very serious about doing business. They got the message loud and clear, and other than a few glitches this winter with weather and other conditions, we have seen the ability to provide service. We have seen them making great efforts to satisfy their market. They know very well that their success depends on getting that product to market in a timely fashion.

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9:20 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member.

Bill C-52 is a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, the shippers made six recommendations to the committee that were not considered by the Conservatives; none of them were accepted. Yet we know very well that these new agreements will not address contract breaches.

Since there are two main railway companies providing these services, if there is an interruption of service the shippers cannot count on another railway company to transport the goods. That affects their ability to compete on the world market.

How does the hon. member propose to improve this bill, which is really a mess at present?

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9:20 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have read most of the transcripts of the debate and the discussions that went on in moving this bill forward. A number of organizations, particularly the shippers, came forward and expressed discontent that they did not get it all and that there were other things.

Negotiation is that way. Whenever I go to negotiate, I always want to get more, but at the end of the day, when both sides are a little bit happy and a little bit unhappy, they have probably reached a fairly good compromise.

When we have comments by the leaders in the industry saying that this is a good thing for their suppliers and their people, I suggest that it is a good thing for all Canadians.

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9:20 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to congratulate the chair of the committee on making sure this legislation is going through smoothly. I would like to remind him how important it is, and I know he knows this, to our own agriculture industry.

I am surprised that there were shippers who were not happy. I read that the president of the Grain Growers of Canada said:

This new legislation will go a long way to address our farmers’ shipping needs. We are thrilled to see this legislation moving through Parliament. A lot of hard work has gone into this.

He added:

We were also happy to see performance standards included in the arbitration process.

I just wondered if the member would like to elaborate a little on what this is doing for our agriculture, especially in landlocked areas such as Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and how important it is to have this for our farmers.

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9:25 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question, but I would suggest that sometimes Manitoba and Saskatchewan are not always landlocked, since they are surrounded by water.

It is interesting, because the whole debate about this rail service agreement was to find a way to satisfy both the shipper and the rail companies. We understand that choices are limited, so the rail companies have to understand that they have to provide good service, while the shippers have to understand that they have obligations to make and commitments to keep in a deal. If either one makes a mistake or creates an impasse, there are legal ways of resolving it and coming to the solution and ways of moving forward without being tied up. Previously they were tied up in courts forever, and it was just a waiting game. Now we have a direct resolution.

I think producers like it. I think shippers like it. I think the rail companies will grow to like it as we move forward. Canadians will benefit from it.

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9:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in this debate on Bill C-52. During the course of this debate, all sides in the House have said they are glad to see this piece of legislation before the House. At the end of the day, it will probably garner pretty general support.

However, there is indeed disappointment, not just in the House but among a very significant number of those in the shipping community, who had been hoping and working for years—

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9:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

There is a conversation going on at a fairly loud level. Could I ask members who want to have a conversation to take it outside into the lobby? I am having a hard time hearing the member.

The hon. member for Wascana.

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9:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, thank you for attempting to regain a little order. It is much appreciated.

What I was saying was that there is significant disappointment, not just in the House but in the shipping community. The legislation does not fully achieve the objectives that the shipping community had been hoping for. They have been waiting for this legislation for a long time.

The debate about level of service agreements in the country began in 2006-2007. Before that period of time, the focus was on costing agreements and the level of freight rates and whether or not farmers and other shippers were receiving the full value that they thought they should receive. The argument was all about having costing reviews and the timeliness of costing reviews, what revenue was raised by freight rates and how it was shared or not shared across the entire continuum, from the shipper to the port and ultimately to export destinations.

In 2006-2007, the focus really zeroed right in on the issue of level of service agreements. That is when this debate really began.

The government took a while to think about that, but in 2008, the government said it agreed that there was a legitimate issue, that service levels might well be deficient and there ought to be a review of the level of service prov