House of Commons Hansard #89 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was justice.


Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

moved that Bill C-483, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (escorted temporary absence), be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today at third reading to discuss my private member's bill, Bill C-483, the escorted temporary absence act. I firmly believe this bill would provide a good balance between the need to reintegrate prisoners into Canadian society and the need to do everything in our power to keep our streets and communities safe.

Even if we have not been personally affected by crime, it is not hard to imagine the trauma that victims or their loved ones may feel when they learn that the criminals who victimized them have been granted an escorted temporary absence. Regardless of the reason, it is my belief that Canadians want assurances that all possible measures are taken to ensure their safety when the prisoners are in the community. We find these measures in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, which outlines the decision-making criteria for escorted temporary absences.

As we have heard in these debates, escorted temporary absences, or ETAs, can be divided into two main categories: those that are obligatory or necessary, as for court proceedings or medical treatment; and those that are for correctional purposes. There is no question that there are circumstances when an inmate must leave a penitentiary for obligatory reasons, such as for court proceedings or medical reasons. In these cases, the releasing authority determines and applies the proper security escorts, up to and including the use of physical restraints. These decisions are for the most part straightforward. Even a high-risk prisoner, for example, must have access to emergency medical treatment when it cannot be provided within penitentiary walls. These types of absence are granted because they are necessary.

It is when we get into the non-obligatory absences, in other words those that are for correctional purposes, that victims become concerned about how decisions are being made to allow the inmate to be absent from a penitentiary. The decision to send an inmate outside penitentiary walls for non-obligatory reasons is made using greater discretion, taking into consideration among other factors whether the absence would contribute to the goals outlined in the inmate's correctional plan.

Today, decisions on escorted temporary absences for inmates serving minimum life sentences are authorized by the penitentiary warden. However, some of them require the approval of the Parole Board of Canada, based on the scheme outlined in the Criminal Code. To be clear, minimum life sentences are imposed for first degree and second degree murder, as well as high treason.

The current ETA scheme for inmates convicted of these offences works as follows. For inmates serving minimum life sentences, the Parole Board must approve the ETA from the start of the sentence up until the time of day parole eligibility. Once at day parole eligibility, the Correctional Service of Canada takes over as the sole releasing authority. For those inmates who committed murder before they turned 18, the Parole Board must approve the ETA from the start of the sentence up until the expiration of all but one-fifth of the specified number of years that the inmate is to serve without parole eligibility. Once at the one-fifth mark, Correctional Service Canada becomes the sole releasing authority.

Over the past several years, our government has made a number of legislative changes that give victims a larger role in the corrections and conditional release system. Of note, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, which came into force in 2012, enshrined in law the entitlement of victims to attend parole hearings and to make a statement, and it expanded the definition of who can be considered a victim. Measures like these have contributed to a greater public understanding of the decision-making process surrounding the conditional release of federal offenders. It only stands to reason that victims of crime want every opportunity to make their views known and have their safety considered.

Bill C-483 builds on these efforts, and responds to calls from victims who want the Parole Board to remain the releasing authority for all temporary absences, regardless of when an inmate becomes eligible for parole. Shifting decision-making authority for ETAs to the Parole Board after an inmate reaches day parole eligibility would address victims' concerns. As members of this House know, the bill has received thorough examination in committee, and, as mentioned earlier, the objective of the bill is to provide the Parole Board with greater decision-making authority for ETAs for inmates serving minimum life sentences.

To ensure the bill would meet this goal, amendments were passed in committee so that the Parole Board is explicitly named in the CCRA as the decision-making authority for escorted temporary absences after day parole eligibility. Through these amendments and existing provisions within the Criminal Code, the Parole Board would be responsible for ETAs for the duration of an inmate's life sentence.

At the same time, we have also clarified certain conditions relevant to this authority. For example, if an inmate reaches day parole eligibility and successfully completes a rehabilitative ETA, authority would move to Correctional Service Canada to grant all future escorted temporary absences. At that point, if an inmate breaches any conditions of a subsequent escorted temporary absence granted by Correctional Service Canada, this decision-making authority would revert back to the Parole Board.

Complementary to this, we have moved an amendment to limit the authority of an institutional head of Correctional Service Canada to authorize ETAs to inmates serving life sentences imposed as a minimum punishment. As a further measure to keep the Canadian public safe, the amended bill now states that Correctional Service Canada has authority to cancel all ETAs, including those authorized by the Parole Board if deemed necessary. This particular amendment would ensure that if an inmate's behaviour changes or if there is an issue within the penitentiary that prevents the ETA from taking place, Correctional Service Canada can make the decision to cancel the ETA.

Taken together, these amendments would ensure that the bill meets its intended objective. I ask all members of the House to support this bill as amended, and ensure its swift passage.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Oxford for bringing this bill forward and for the compromises that were made in committee, which creates a situation that would both protect the rights of victims and is also workable for the Parole Board and the parole system.

My question for the member is this. New Democrats had proposed an amendment in committee that on the first escorted temporary absence from prison, those convicted of murder should be accompanied by two correctional staff. The current regulation says that they can be accompanied by anyone and it only needs to be a single person. Given the serious incidents we have had with those convicted of murder on their first escorted temporary absence, we suggested the requirement that the convict be accompanied by two Correctional Service employees for the first escorted temporary absences.

Since the government voted against that motion in committee, I wonder what the member would think about that as an addition to this bill and why the government did not support it.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue of which he speaks was brought up by the union that represents members of Correctional Service Canada. Most of the incidents date back a few years, when there were very serious incidents. The whole issue about the manning and so on rests with Correctional Service Canada. I believe that if the member wishes to pursue that, he should pursue it through Correctional Service Canada on its staffing issues with respect to absences and other issues that deal with prisoners leaving institutions.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the remarks by the member for Oxford, and Liberals will certainly be supporting this bill. However, does the member not recognize that this bill is substantially different than what was originally introduced?

All of the witnesses who came before the committee actually believed that the Parole Board would be making decisions on all escorted temporary absences. The bill, now, is not anywhere near that. It is not that I disagree with the bill now, as I think the amendments were correct. However, I have a problem with private members' bills being debated in this place as if that is the reality. After the witnesses left, the justice committee amended the bill substantially and we have a substantially different bill. I wonder if the member could comment.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Actually, Mr. Speaker, I am very satisfied that the bill meets the requirements that were originally set out in the bill. It is about victims and their rights. Victims retain those rights in this bill in the same manner, but the bill has been amended so that prisoners will not receive any escorted temporary absences unless the national Parole Board has granted them.

In the past, the national Parole Board would turn down an application and then the individual could go to the warden and receive an escorted temporary absence pass. That is the whole problem with what was in the previous legislation. When the member for Malpeque was the solicitor general, I wish he had fixed that problem in his time, and then we would not be dealing with it here today.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Scarborough Centre Ontario


Roxanne James ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Oxford for bringing this important legislation forward.

I have two questions. The first one is a very general one. Why did the member choose to bring this type of legislation forward? The second one is a little more specific. Was it brought forward in relation to or in respect of any problems known currently within Correctional Service Canada with regard to the escorted temporary absence process?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for the support of this bill.

In response to her question, the issue was not one of the prison wardens. That was not the issue, ever. It was the legislation that was in place that created this particular issue.

I am very satisfied with the response we have received from a number of family members of victims that this was exactly what they were looking for, something that gives them an opportunity to have a voice in the system on releases.

We have taken a government approach and a private members' approach that victims are the people who are important, not the prisoners. We understand that the prisoners have their rights and they are enshrined in many places, but in the past the victims have been the misplaced people. We are just trying to put them back into the equation.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak today in support of the member for Oxford's private member's bill, Bill C-482. On this side of the House, we share the concern of all Canadians for the victims of crime and we support initiatives that will help to better support those victims within the legal process, which for victims can often be bewildering and often forces them, on a repeated basis, to relive the emotional impacts of victimization. Therefore, anything we can do to make that legal process easier for victims, while allowing them to have that input, is certainly something worthy of support.

However, on this side of the House, we are also concerned about assistance to victims of crime in helping put their lives back together. We have some concerns that the private members' bills that have come forward, and even the government's victims bill of rights, neglect that part of treating victims fairly, that assistance to them in getting counselling or whatever else they need to get back to whatever they can of their previous life.

Some of this is in provincial jurisdiction, but I am concerned that most provinces have severely underfunded their victims' compensation funds and in some of the provinces, including all the provinces in the Atlantic, these funds have actually been eliminated. Examples of assistance that people might need, let us say if they had a loved one murdered who was the sole breadwinner, are job training to get back into the workforce or those kinds of assistance that we often forget about in focusing on the legal process, which is important. However. there is another side to this.

On this side of the House, we are also concerned that we take measures to ensure we do not create new victims, and that means both effective crime prevention and rehabilitation programs.

We understand the concern that many victims have about escorted temporary absences. We know that to many of them it feels like some kind of early release or privilege to which the perpetrators are not entitled. Therefore, helping victims better understand the process and participate in that is a worthy objective.

We clearly understand the need to prevent surprise encounters. We have had too many instances where families have not known that someone is actually out on escorted temporary absences and they might run into them in the community, which is a great shock to them. I know Correctional Services Canada endeavours to ensure that this does not happen. This bill would actually strengthen the requirements to give notice to victims of those temporary absences.

There is another concern about escorted temporary absences, which I raised just a moment ago in the question for the member for Oxford; that is the safety of those absences both for the public and for the Correctional Service employees of those who are serving sentences for the most serious crimes.

At committee, we urged the government to place in legislation the requirement that those first escorted temporary absences for those serving sentences for murder be accompanied by two fully trained Correctional Service employees, not just one employee. The most serious problems we have had with escorted temporary absences have always been on early escorted absences for those convicted of murder.

Recently in 2011 in Drumheller, we unfortunately had an incident where a convicted murderer was being escorted by a single corrections staff in a non-secured vehicle. The person escaped and took hostages. This creates both a threat to the public and to the corrections staff involved. We were disappointed that the government was not interested in accepting this additional improvement to legislation.

We did support the bill at second reading, but we had some concerns about the original version of the bill. As I said before, I was pleased that the member for Oxford and the government side were prepared to accept a compromise version of the bill that we had suggested. In its main provisions, the bill is substantially different, although not different in principle, than what was originally introduced.

The member for Oxford talked about the current provision for those convicted of serious crimes in which the warden would become the granting authority for escorted temporary absences in the three years immediately prior to parole. The bill would now create a workable situation where the Parole Board would still have the first authority to decide on escorted temporary absences.

If the bill had remained as in its first version, we were concerned that the Parole Board would conduct all hearings into escorted temporary absences and, frankly, that was not workable. That would have required, in the estimates of officials, an additional 900 hearings at the Parole Board every year, placing a large burden upon the Parole Board and also placing a very large burden upon victims who would have had to submit impact statements at each of those additional 900 hearings.

The compromise that has been adopted will have the Parole Board make that initial decision before escorted temporary absences are granted. Then, if there are no problems, additional escorted temporary absences can be granted by the warden. We think that is quite workable and it guarantees a role in that initial decision for victims.

The other provision is that if people fail in their escorted temporary absences, and it does not have to be a hostage taking, then it would go back to the Parole Board, not just to the warden, for a decision on whether they should be granted future escorted temporary absences. Again, on this side, we think that is a reasonable provision. It will also allow victims to have a say at that time. If people had done something which violated the terms of their temporary absence, then the victims would get to talk about that and make their opinions known.

Again, the compromise is important, both in protecting the rights of victims to have input and in not interfering with the role of escorted temporary absences as part of a rehabilitation program. When we stop to think about it, escorted temporary absences are the first step on that road to recovery for many of those who have been convicted of serious crimes and it is a way of testing whether they are ready to go out into the public. Therefore, is important that they be under supervision the first time they are released.

The second part to rehabilitation is that escorted temporary absences create an incentive to complete rehabilitation programs, an incentive to move along through the correctional plan so when those people return to the community, they are not the same as they were when they originally committed those serious crimes. In ensuring that ETAs still play a role in rehabilitation, we will help to guarantee there will not be future victims by the same perpetrators.

I want to stress that we support Bill C-483 in its compromised version. We thank the government for being willing to consider our ideas on this and adopt that compromise. We look forward to having a further debate on how we can have effective crime prevention and rehabilitation programs to prevent their being future victims. When we get to the government's bill on victims' rights, we look forward to talking about how we can provide additional supports, not just rights, to those families that have been victims of serious crime.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand at third reading to further discuss Bill C-483.

As I indicated in my question, I listened to the member for Oxford as he spoke on the third reading of this bill. What he did not say, though, was that this was now a substantially different bill than was originally introduced. I personally believe we are seeing a pattern where backbench members introduce private members' bills with all of these quite out there intentions in terms of protecting victims.

A set of hearings are held on original bills. Quite a number of witnesses come in and make presentations based on original bills. After the hearings are done, the Department of Justice comes in and sometimes makes more amendments than there are clauses in the bill, which means it is a substantially different bill at the end of the day. The victims who have come before the committee, at the request of Conservative members, still believe the bill is in its original intent. However, it is not. Justice has come in and changed the bill substantially.

In my view, to a great extent victims are being misled on what legislation is being implemented here at the end of the day. The original intent of Bill C-483 would have required the full participation of the Parole Board of Canada in virtually all escorted temporary absences for those convicted of either first or second degree murder rather than the warden of federal institutions being responsible for that program.

The targeting of only those convicted of first and second degree murder in this legislation implies that both the number of offenders involved and the likelihood of their early release represents a threat to the community. The information by the promoter of the bill identifies a single case of the release of an offender on the authority of the warden of the institution who had been denied a similar request the year prior. No evidence was provided that the offender in question committed any offence while on temporary release. The legislation as it was originally presented to the House was not supported by evidence indicating an abuse of the escorted temporary release program, which would justify such legislative change.

Even in its current form, it remains to be seen as to what degree the legislation is actually addressing an issue or whether it is an example of the Conservatives playing to their base and creating an issue. If the issue was what was stated in the beginning with this legislation, then why the amendments by the Department of Justice?

As I said earlier, when victims come before the committee, they base their decisions on the original legislation, which in this case is that the Parole Board would have to review all escorted temporary absences. That is no longer the case because the bill has been substantially amended by the Department of Justice after the witnesses presented at the hearings. It certainly does not look at the evidence of the witnesses who came before the committee because the witnesses wanted to go a bit further in many cases.

What evidence has been produced has indicated that ETA program, or escorted temporary absences, as currently structured, basically has a 99% success rate. That has to be said.

Escorted temporary absences are granted to allow offenders to obtain treatment that is unavailable in a penitentiary, to be with critically ill family members, to attend funerals, and to prepare for other types of conditional release. During these absences, an offender is escorted by a Correctional Service Canada staff member or a trained citizen escort.

Offenders are eligible for an ETA at any time during their sentences. The duration of an ETA varies from an unlimited period for medical reasons to not more than 15 days for any other specified reason. Wardens typically authorize ETAs. In certain instances, for offenders serving life sentences, Parole Board of Canada approval is required.

The category of escorted temporary release, as defined above, in 2011-12, involved 2,675 offenders, and for all categories and all offenders it was granted on 44,182 occasions.

The point was raised by some witnesses that the government should be taking control of its justice agenda and should introduce well-thought-out and carefully drafted legislation, rather than using the private members' bill process, which has required government intervention during the committee process to bring the private members' bills into conformity with Canadian law.

As I said, and I really want to emphasize this point at third reading, some 16 private members' bills have been brought forward by backbench members on the government side. We have seen some challenges in the courts to some of the legislation coming out of this place. When witnesses come before committee on various private members' bills, they look at the original bill and everything that is intended to be done by the original bill. The hearing process is based on that.

As I said, there are 16 different bills we have seen or that are yet to come forward.

With respect to this particular legislation, the NDP proposed an amendment. That amendment was based on evidence that witnesses had produced before committee. The Liberal Party also had an amendment, which would have changed the word “may” to “shall”, to make it compulsory for the Department of Justice and the correctional release system to do such and such.

The opposition parties had amendments based on the evidence of witnesses who appeared before committee. What happened at the end of the day? The Department of Justice or Public Safety Canada, somewhere on the government side, or someone within the bureaucracy, decided to make a number of amendments. They are usually made to soften legislation from its original intent and to narrow the focus, so the bill is substantially different. That is the problem I have with the way the government is proceeding with all of these bills, not just this particular bill.

On April 1, the government presented its amendments to Bill C-483 at the public safety committee. That is where my concerns arise.

The government's amendment, however, has undermined the principle of the legislation. It was presented to the House in the third report of the committee. I am running out of time, so I will not go into it, but it is available in the committee record.

The principle of the bill, as the witnesses who appeared before the committee testified, which was that decisions related to the authority to grant ETAs would be removed from the office of the wardens of the institutions and would be placed under the control of the Parole Board of Canada, has been removed from the bill. The intent that all temporary absences be approved by the Parole Board is no longer there. That changes the bill.

We will support Bill C-483, but it has substantially changed.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Scarborough Centre Ontario


Roxanne James ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Oxford, once again for his demonstrated commitment to supporting victims of crime. Whether it is his great work as a member of Parliament or his numerous years as a law enforcement officer, he has spent his life keeping Canadians safe.

It was this member who brought forward the bill we are discussing today, which would further strengthen victims' participation in the corrections and conditional release systems.

As all members of the House know, our Conservative government has taken strong action to support victims of crime. We believe that the criminal justice system must provide victims with an opportunity to have their voices heard.

Since 2006, we have established the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime to provide information on victims' rights and services for victims, to receive complaints, and to raise awareness of victims' concerns among policy-makers and in the justice system. We have also made the rights of victims a priority in our reforms to the justice system and have recently followed through on our commitment in the Speech from the Throne to introduce legislation to create a Canadian victims bill of rights.

Our government is determined to do more and will continue to listen to the concerns being raised by victims. Our commitment is that we will act on victims' concerns to ensure that we provide them with the support they need.

Simply put, an escorted temporary absence is a short temporary release of an inmate into the community under escort. There are two types of ETAs. These are rehabilitative and non-rehabilitative. As it stands now, ETAs for inmates serving minimum life sentences must first be approved by the Parole Board of Canada before being authorized by Correctional Service Canada. This scheme is found in the Criminal Code, which states that the Parole Board of Canada has to approve ETAs for inmates serving minimum life sentences from the start of a life sentence up until he or she reaches day parole eligibility.

Once an inmate reaches day parole eligibility, Correctional Service Canada's authorization of ETAs is no longer subject to the Parole Board of Canada's approval. In other words, if an inmate who is serving a life sentence is never granted parole, Correctional Service Canada remains the releasing authority for ETAs for the remainder of the sentence.

The Criminal Code also states that although the Parole Board has the authority to approve ETAs up until day parole eligibility, Correctional Service Canada has the authority to grant temporary absences for medical reasons, court proceedings, or coroners' inquests at any time in an inmate's life sentence. While the current regime works well in that almost all ETAs are successfully completed, we feel that it is important to consider the position of victims.

Prior to the introduction of this bill, we heard from victims that the Parole Board of Canada needed greater decision-making authority over these types of absences. During the study of the bill, committee members were given an opportunity to hear first-hand how the ETA scheme currently operates and what concerns members of the public have about the current system. Among the witnesses who appeared at committee were victims support groups and victims themselves, who shared their concerns about the current system and questioned why ETA releasing authority is transferred to Correctional Service Canada.

We heard from a witness who said that victims are asking for an open, transparent, and accountable system. On the point of accountability, we heard that the current ETA system does not go far enough in terms of adequate checks and balances. Victims believe that the power to grant ETAs more appropriately belongs within the Parole Board of Canada, through which it is felt there is increased rigour and accountability involved in making these types of release decisions. Our government wholeheartedly agrees.

Bill C-483 would do just what victims have asked us to do. It would give the Parole Board of Canada almost exclusive authority to grant ETAs to inmates who are serving minimum life sentences. That is the primary reason we support this proposed legislation.

That being said, our government felt it was important to introduce amendments at committee to ensure the sound application of the measures laid out in this proposed legislation. We are pleased that two government motions were adopted at committee stage. These motions would work in tandem to give the Parole Board of Canada greater authority over escorted temporary absences. The bill, as amended, would ensure that the Parole Board would maintain decision-making authority for ETAs after an inmate reached day parole eligibility. In other words, the amendment would ensure that decision-making authority for ETAs would not continue to be automatically transferred to Correctional Service Canada once an inmate reached his or her day parole eligibility date.

We have also ensured that Correctional Service Canada wardens would have limited authority to authorize ETAs for inmates serving minimum life sentences. Under the proposed scheme, if an inmate was never granted a rehabilitative ETA, or if an inmate was unable to successfully complete this type of ETA, the Parole Board would remain the releasing authority for the entirety of his or her custodial sentence.

By virtue of our amendments, the only time rehabilitative ETAs would be granted by Correctional Service Canada is if an inmate successfully completed a rehabilitative ETA after day parole eligibility. Only at that time would CSC be able to take over as releasing authority.

Although the proposed scheme would allow ETA releasing authority to be transferred to CSC in limited circumstances, we would also ensure that the authority could revert back to the Parole Board as needed. When would this occur? If an inmate failed to successfully complete an ETA authorized by CSC, releasing authority would go back to the Parole Board.

These amendments respect the spirit of the bill, which is to ensure that the ETA decision-making authority stays almost exclusively in the hands of the Parole Board of Canada. In addition to respecting the intended objective of the bill, the amendments would also ensure legislative harmony between the ETA scheme in the Criminal Code and the scheme we are proposing in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

The ETA schemes in both pieces of legislation would work together to ensure that the Parole Board had greater authority over escorted temporary absences for inmates serving minimum life sentences. The Criminal Code would continue to give the Parole Board authority to approve ETAs from the start of a life sentence up until day parole eligibility. Once at day parole eligibility, the ETA scheme we are proposing in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act would take over and would state that the Parole Board would continue to have decision-making authority over ETAs.

This bill builds on the strong measures we have taken to support victims of crime and to improve our federal correctional system. I hope that all members will support us in our goal to improve the rights of victims, and I ask for full support to pass this bill as amended.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the support from across the House.

The member for Malpeque has brought forward an argument he has used several times with respect to the amendments to the bill. He brought a motion before the House that has already been dealt with by the Speaker. The amendments are appropriate and do not change the intent of the legislation. However, I want to move past that part.

For anyone serving a minimum life sentence, it is as a result of a very serious crime. In most cases, it is likely the result of the death of an individual.

A particular case I am fully aware of is the death of Detective Constable William Hancox of the metro Toronto police. He was brutally murdered by two individuals. His widow, Kim Hancox, has been very supportive of changes in the legislation so that the victim's families have the opportunity to know what is happening with respect to releases. She is very upset that in many cases, the Parole Board of Canada turned down release applications only to have them granted later by the prison authorities.

There is no complaint about the prison authorities. The problem has been the legislation. This bill attempts to change that legislation to put the real authority back in the hands of the Parole Board of Canada, which it would do. To that end, we are very happy.

I will be so pleased to see this bill clear the House on Wednesday of this week, when I believe there will be a vote. We can move forward then.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Some hon. members



Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Some hon. members


Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Some hon. members


Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 98, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 28, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Suspension of SittingCorrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The House will now suspend until 12 p.m.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:43 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 p.m.)

Use of House of Commons ResourcesPoints of OrderPrivate Members' Business



Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order, and it will not take up too much time. This is a matter that seems pretty straightforward to me, but I rise in the House to address some of the arguments the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons made on May 16, just before we adjourned.

The arguments made by the government House leader were made in response to the point of order I raised regarding the fact that the motion moved under Standing Order 56.1 on March 27 by the Minister of Labour should have been deemed inadmissible. The concerns I raised on May 16 were that with no framework around Standing Order 56.1, this could well mean open season on smaller parties in the House of Commons.

The first argument the government House leader put forward is that Standing Order 56.1 does indeed allow motions to be moved under this standing order to “establish the powers” of committees of the House. He is absolutely right in this regard, which is something I also mentioned during my initial intervention on this point.

However, where the government House leader is wrong is in his suggestion that establishing the powers means instructing a committee to undertake a study, as was the case of the March 27 motion. Giving an instruction to a committee in fact goes beyond the scope of Standing Order 56.1.

Standing Order 56.1, concerning the powers of committees, refers to very limited powers, including a committee's ability to travel.

In his response, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons quoted Speaker Milliken, who clearly stated the following in very relevant passage on page 461 of O'Brien and Bosc:

...this rule was meant to be used not to reach into the conduct of standing committee affairs to direct them, but rather in a routine manner, to provide them with powers they do not already possess, such as the power to travel.

We know that the Conservatives like to use quotations from experts out of context, so please allow me to put this one into context as it clearly demonstrates that Standing Order 56.1 cannot be used to instruct a committee. I would like to quote the footnote, also on page 461 of O'Brien and Bosc, that accompanies this quote from Speaker Milliken:

The government used this rule to dispose of a motion to apply closure to the debate at committee stage of Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act. In response to a point of order, the Speaker ruled that using this rule to direct the business of a committee was a new development in the House and one he found out of order.

As I mentioned at the beginning, this seems to me to be a pretty straightforward case, but for the sake of clarity, let me address the other arguments presented by the government House leader on May 16.

He mentioned that Standing Order 56.1 was used on November 8, 2012, to mandate the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to conduct a study required by section 533.1 of the Criminal Code. He said that this is the same type of motion as the one from March 27, which he therefore believes was also admissible.

The problem with this argument is that its premise is totally flawed. The motions from November 8, 2012, and from March 27, 2014, are two completely different motions achieving different aims, the first one being within the acceptable limits of Standing Order 56.1 but the second one reaching far beyond those limits.

Indeed, the motion from November 8, 2012, is different, because it concerned a mandatory statutory review of an act. Let me quote again from House of Commons Procedure and Practice, which governs us all. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, on page 1002, says:

A number of Canadian statutes contain provisions that require their review by a committee once they have come into effect. ... Depending on the legislation in question, such a review must normally be done by a committee of the House of Commons or of the Senate, or by a joint committee. It is up to the Houses of Parliament to choose the appropriate committee to carry out the review.

I may add that it often happens that acts do not specify which committee is to conduct the statutory review to avoid problems caused by name changes of the committees. Subsection 533.1(1) of the Criminal Code says:

Within three years after this section comes into force, a comprehensive review of the provisions and operation of this Part shall be undertaken by any committee of the Senate, of the House of Commons or of both Houses of Parliament that may be designated or established by the Senate or the House of Commons, or by both Houses of Parliament, as the case may be, for that purpose.

In the case of the motion moved under Standing Order 56.1 in November 2012, the law already provided for a statutory review from a House committee. The committee needed an order of the House to proceed, as set out in the Criminal Code. This was something the House had to do. It was a routine matter and it fell well within the limits of Standing Order 56.1, which is why we believe that it was right for the Speaker to deem this use of Standing Order 56.1 to be admissible at that time.

The same cannot be said about the motion that was adopted on March 27, which requested PROC, the procedure and House affairs committee, to launch a study without any statutory basis whatsoever. The motion to have PROC launch a study was not a routine matter, since it instructed a committee to launch a substantive new study. It fell well outside the limits of Standing Order 56.1.

In his response to my intervention, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons tried to support his arguments with a ruling made by Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie on June 5, 2007. He argued that the March 27 ruling reflected Deputy Speaker Blaikie's ruling.

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons did not read Deputy Speaker Blaikie's ruling in its entirety. If he had, he would know that the motion from March 27 should clearly have been deemed out of order. That is exactly how Deputy Speaker Blaikie ruled on June 5, 2007. He rejected a motion moved under Standing Order 56.1 because the motion went beyond the scope of the Standing Order. His ruling was very clear. I quoted from it when I raised the current point of order.

However, since it seems as though the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons did not understand, I will quote the key components of his ruling again:

A key element in my ruling today is the fundamental precept that standing committees are masters of their own procedure. Indeed, so entrenched is that precept that only in a select few Standing Orders does the House make provision for intervening directly into the conduct of standing committee affairs....

Interestingly, the only reference to committees in the Standing Order is one allowing motions for “the establishing of the powers of its committees”, suggesting that the rule was meant to be used not to reach into the conduct of standing committee affairs to direct them, but rather in a routine manner, to provide them powers they do not already possess. A review of the previous uses of Standing Order 56.1 appears to support this. The only examples dealing with standing committees or standing committee activity the Chair has been able to find have to do with granting standing committees the power to travel. The power to travel is, as all hon. members know, a power standing committees do not possess and so the use of Standing Order 56.1 in that regard falls squarely within the parameters of the rule.

Accordingly, to repeat the words I used when this matter was first raised, the use of Standing Order 56.1 to direct the business of the committee, of any committee, is a new development in the House and one that I find out of order.

I will repeat this last sentence in English so that the government House leader can hear it:

...the use of Standing Order 56.1 to direct the business of the committee, of any committee, is a new development in the House and one that I find out of order.

That is the end of the quote. It could not be more clear.

The government House leader then continued his remarks on this point of order by going to great lengths to point out that Standing Order 56.1 cannot be used for substantive matters, such as passing laws, but can be used for non-substantive affairs, and that the motion moved on March 27 did not concern a substantive matter.

This point may be interesting, but it is irrelevant to the question at hand. The point at hand is that the literature on this issue explicitly prevents the use of Standing Order 56.1 to instruct a committee to conduct a study. Let me quote again from page 672 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, the guide that guides us all. In discussing the use of Standing Order 56.1, it states:

...its use to give a direction to a standing committee of the House has been deemed contrary to the Standing Orders.

This is in line with Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie's ruling, which I also just quoted.

Therefore, whether or not the motion from March 27 is considered to be a substantive one might be an interesting point, but it is one that is completely moot with regard to the point of order I raised on May 16, which is that the motion should have been deemed inadmissible because House of Commons Procedure and Practice expressly prohibits the use of Standing Order 56.1 to give a direction to a standing committee.

To sum up, with regard to committees, Standing Order 56.1 can be used to allow committees to travel. It can also be used to determine which committee will conduct a statutory review as mandated by an act, as this is a routine matter. Other uses are severely limited by the letter and spirit of Standing Order 56.1.

This is why Standing Order 56.1 cannot be used to give an instruction to a committee. This point is clearly stated in O'Brien and Bosc and was reiterated by Deputy Speaker Blaikie in 2007 when he deemed a motion to be inadmissible because it did just that.

The issue is that the motion of March 27 gave an instruction to a committee and should have been deemed inadmissible by the Chair. This is what I have asked you to rule on. I have also asked for the Chair to give guidance to the House as to how this provision should and should not be used in the future. Otherwise, it is open season on smaller parties in the House.

I look forward to your prompt reply, Mr. Speaker.

Use of House of Commons ResourcesPoints of OrderPrivate Members' Business

12:10 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I respond briefly to the comments of my friend, who has raised a few points.

The first is the nature of what he is asking, the relief that is being sought here. If I can use an analogy from the judicial side, it is almost in the nature of a reference to whether the government would have the ability to have a reference to the Supreme Court to seek an advisory opinion when there is actually no issue at hand before it. He is seeking your advice, Mr. Speaker, on an issue that is well behind us to give direction for the future, a kind of hypothetical question that he is looking for a response from the Speaker on.

Of course, that is not the appropriate role of the Speaker. The Speaker would adjudicate a particular dispute in order to determine how we go forward in a particular circumstance. However, as you know, Mr. Speaker, you are not in the practice of entertaining academic arguments for the purpose of providing academic answers. I, of course, could come up with very many interesting questions that I could pose as points of order to you, Mr. Speaker, to seek your answers even though they were not matters that had come into dispute before the House, but it is not the practice of the Speaker to do that as in the form of a reference.

With regard to the particular issue, it is behind us now, and the Speaker's practice is quite clear that in such matters the point of order has to be brought at the earliest possible opportunity and certainly at an early enough opportunity to allow the Speaker's decision to be of some consequence and to affect the future deliberations of the House and the process as we go forward. To raise the question at such a late point certainly is not an appropriate fashion in which to do it, and certainly not a point at which you, Mr. Speaker, would deal with it.

There are some precedents that clearly refer to that. If I look at decisions of Mr. Speaker Milliken in Debates at June 12, 2001, page 5031, when such a circumstance arose, Mr. Speaker Milliken said:

In so far as today’s proceedings are concerned, the Chair is satisfied that the motion was adopted this morning without 25 members rising in their place and without objection at that time as to the procedural acceptability of the motion. The matter has come before the House at this late hour and, in my view, the motion has been adopted and will apply for tonight’s proceedings, and we will leave it at that.

Clearly, the procedural objection has to be brought at that time, and that is the precedent that has been set there. That is certainly not the case here. That is a higher test than even the one I was putting to you, Mr. Speaker. That was a case where it still could have affected the proceedings going forward that evening, but even then Mr. Speaker Milliken ruled that it was brought late and out of time.

Then there was an additional occasion on September 18, 2001, at page 5256 of Debates. Mr. Milliken said:

At that time I ruled that the terms of the motion would stand, having been adopted by the House some eight hours before the hon. member raised his point of order.

Then further, two pages later, at page 5258, he said, again on September 18, 2001:

As I previously indicated, I allowed the motion adopted on June 12, 2001, to go ahead because there were no objections raised at the time it was moved. By the time hon. members expressed concern to the Chair some eight hours later, the Chair saw no alternative but to proceed with the terms of the motion.

Those are perfectly good precedents in this case for the reason that, first, we do not engage in hypothetical points of order, which is what we have before us; second, in the case of an actual dispute the objection to the process and the procedure, including Standing Order 56(1), a motion has to be brought immediately at that time, which was not the case here; and third, we are being asked to deal with this very much after the train has left the station.

The House has proceeded and has rendered it. It has been brought out of time. As such, it should not be dealt with by the House in that fashion.

Use of House of Commons ResourcesPoints of OrderPrivate Members' Business

12:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The Chair will take the comments from the two House leaders under advisement and return if needed to the House subsequently.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario


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


That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, commencing upon the adoption of this Order and concluding on Friday, June 20, 2014:

(a) on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the ordinary hour of daily adjournment shall be 12 midnight, except that it shall be 10 p.m. on a day when a debate, pursuant to Standing Order 52 or 53.1, is to take place;

(b) subject to paragraph (d), when a recorded division is demanded in respect of a debatable motion, including any division arising as a consequence of the application of Standing Order 61(2), but not including any division in relation to the Business of Supply or arising as a consequence of an order made pursuant to Standing Order 57, (i) before 2 p.m. on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, it shall stand deferred until the conclusion of oral questions at that day’s sitting, or (ii) after 2 p.m. on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, or at any time on a Friday, it shall stand deferred until the conclusion of oral questions at the next sitting day that is not a Friday;

(c) the time provided for Government Orders shall not be extended pursuant to Standing Order 45(7.1);

(d) when a recorded division, which would have ordinarily been deemed deferred to immediately before the time provided for Private Members’ Business on a Wednesday governed by this Order, is demanded, the said division is deemed to have been deferred until the conclusion of oral questions on the same Wednesday;

(e) any recorded division which, at the time of the adoption of this Order, stands deferred to immediately before the time provided for Private Members’ Business on the Wednesday immediately following the adoption of this Order shall be deemed to stand deferred to the conclusion of oral questions on the same Wednesday;

(f) a recorded division demanded in respect of a motion to concur in a government bill at the report stage pursuant to Standing Order 76.1(9), where the bill has neither been amended nor debated at the report stage, shall be deferred in the manner prescribed by paragraph (b);

(g) for greater certainty, this Order shall not limit the application of Standing Order 45(7);

(h) no dilatory motion may be proposed, except by a Minister of the Crown, after 6:30 p.m.; and

(i) when debate on a motion for the concurrence in a report from a standing, standing joint or special committee is adjourned or interrupted, the debate shall again be considered on a day designated by the government, after consultation with the House Leaders of the other parties, but in any case not later than the twentieth sitting day after the interruption.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the government's motion proposing that we work a little bit of overtime over the next few weeks in the House.

I have the pleasure of serving in my fourth year as the government House leader during the 41st Parliament. That is, of course, on top of another 22 months during a previous Parliament, though some days it feels like I am just getting started since our government continues to implement an ambitious agenda that focuses on the priorities of Canadians. We still have much to do, and that is the basis for Motion No. 10, which we are debating today. Regardless of what other theories that folks might come up with, our objective is simple: to deliver results for Canadians, results on things Canadians want to see from their government.

As government House leader, I have worked to have the House operate in a productive, orderly, and hard-working fashion. Canadians expect their members of Parliament to work hard and get things done on their behalf. We agree, and that is exactly what has happened here in the House of Commons. However, do not take my word for it. Let us look at the facts.

In the previous session of the 41st Parliament, 61 government bills received royal assent and are now law. In 2013 alone, which was a shorter parliamentary year than normal, the government had a record-breaking year with 40 bills becoming law, more than any other calendar year since we took office, breaking our previous record of 37 new laws in 2007 when I also had the honour to be the leader of the House. That is the record of a hard-working, orderly, and productive Parliament. With more than a year left in this Parliament, the House has accomplished so much already, handing many bills over to the Senate for the final steps in the legislative process.

Just as we had a record year for legislative output, Canadian grain farmers experienced a bumper crop with a record yield in 2013. Understanding the real challenges faced by grain farmers, our government acted quickly on Bill C-30, the fair rail for grain farmers act, moving the bill through three readings and a committee study before handing it over to the Senate. This bill would support economic growth by ensuring that grain is able to get to market quickly and efficiently. The House also passed Bill C-23, the fair elections act, which would ensure that everyday citizens are in charge of democracy, ensuring the integrity of our electoral system and putting rule breakers out of business.

Two supply bills received royal assent, thereby ensuring that the government has the money it needs to continue providing services to the people.

When we passed Bill C-25, the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Act, we fulfilled our promise to protect the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation's enrolment process, making it fair and equitable while ensuring that only eligible individuals will be granted membership.

Earlier this spring, royal assent was also given to Bill C-16, the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Governance Act, making the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation the first self-governing nation on the prairies and the 34th aboriginal community in Canada to achieve self-governance.

Next on the agenda is Bill C-34, the Tla'amin Final Agreement Act, which will implement the agreement with the Tla'amin Nation. Bill C-34 will give the Tla'amin increased control over their own affairs. They will have ownership of their land and resources and will be able to create new investment opportunities and make decisions determining their economic future.

We considered and passed through all stages of Bill C-5, the Offshore Health and Safety Act, which will enhance safety standards for workers in Canada’s Atlantic offshore oil and gas industry to protect Canadians and the environment while supporting jobs and growth.

Bill C-14, the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act, became law just a few weeks ago. This act will ensure that public safety should be the paramount consideration in the decision-making process involving high-risk accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

Also, this spring, our government passed Bill C-15, the Northwest Territories Devolution Act, which honoured our government's commitment to giving northerners greater control over their resources and decision-making and completing devolution all before the agreed-upon implementation date of April 1, as well as Bill C-9, the First Nations Elections Act, which supports the Government of Canada's commitment to provide all Canadians with strong, accountable, and transparent government. Bill C-9 provides a robust election framework, improves the capacity of first nations to select leadership, build prosperous communities, and improve economic development in their communities.

However, despite these many accomplishments, there is more work to be done yet before we return to our constituencies for the summer, let alone before we seek the privilege of representing our constituents in the 42nd Parliament.

During this mandate, our government's top priority has been jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity.

It is worth saying that again. During this mandate, our government's top priority has been jobs, economic growth, and long-term prosperity. That continues. Through three years and four budgets since the 2012 budget, we have passed initiatives that have helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs for Canadians, as part of the one million net new jobs since the global economic downturn. We have achieved this record while also ensuring that Canada's debt burden is the lowest in the G7 and we are on track to balance the budget in 2015.

As part of our efforts to build on this strong track record, our government has put forward this motion today. Motion No. 10 is simple. It is straightforward. It would extend the hours of the House to sit from Monday through Thursday. Instead of finishing the day around 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m., the House would, instead, sit until midnight. This would give us an additional 20 hours each week to debate important bills. Of course, the hours on Friday would not change.

Extended sitting hours is something that happens practically every June. Our government just wants to roll up its sleeves and work a little harder a bit earlier this year.

Productivity is not just a function of time invested, but also of efficiency. To that end, our motion would allow most votes to be deferred, automatically, until the end of question period to allow for all hon. members' schedules to be a bit more orderly.

Last year, we saw the New Democrats profess to be willing to work hard. Then, mere hours later, after the sun would go down and people were not watching, what would the NDP do? It would suggest we pack it in early and move adjournment, without any accomplishment to show for it.

In order to keep our focus on delivering results and not gamesmanship, we are suggesting that we use our extra evening hours to get something done, not to play idle, unproductive games. We are interested in working hard and being productive, and doing so in an orderly fashion. That is the extent of what Motion No. 10 would do. Members on this side of the House are willing to work a few extra hours to deliver real results for Canadians. What results are we seeking? Bills on which we want to see progress, that are of great significance to Canadians, are worth spending a little extra time to see them considered and, ideally, passed.

Of course, we have the important matter of passing Bill C-31, Economic Action Plan 2014, No. 1. This bill implements our government’s budget—a low tax plan for jobs, growth and a stronger Canadian economy. It is also an essential tool in placing the government on track to balanced budgets, starting in 2015.

We have a number of bills that continue to build on the work we have done in support of victims of crime. Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, is another essential piece of legislation that will crack down on cyberbullies and online threats by giving law enforcement officials the tools necessary to investigate and tackle these crimes. We are taking clear action to combat cyberbullying and I ask the opposition to join us in this pursuit.

Every day in Canada, our most vulnerable—our children—are the victims of sexual abuse. This is truly unacceptable and as a society we must do our part to better protect our youth. With Bill C-26, the Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act, we are doing our part.

Our government's comprehensive legislation will better protect children from a range of sexual offences, including child pornography, while making our streets and communities safer by cracking down on the predators who hurt, abuse, and exploit our children.

Therefore, I ask the opposition to work with us, support this important piece of legislation by supporting this motion.

It is also important that we move forward with one of the most recent additions to our roster of other tackling crime legislation. Last month, we introduced Bill C-32, the victims bill of rights act, which will give victims of crime a more efficient and more effective voice in the criminal justice system. It seeks to create clear statutory rights at the federal level for victims of crime, for the first time in Canada's history. The legislation would establish rights to information, protection, participation, and restitution, and ensure a complaint process is in place for breaches of those rights on the part of victims. It would protect victims, and help to rebalance the justice system to give victims their rightful place. I hope we can debate this bill tomorrow night. By passing Motion No. 10, we will make that possible.

Our efforts to protect families and communities also extend to keeping contraband tobacco off our streets, so that the cheap baggies of illegal cigarettes do not lure children into the dangers of smoking. Bill C-10, the tackling contraband tobacco act, would combat this by establishing mandatory jail time for repeat offenders trafficking in contraband. Aside from protecting Canadian children from the health hazards of smoking, it will also address the more general problems with trafficking and contraband tobacco propelled by organized crime roots. With luck, I hope we can pass this bill on Friday.

Just before the constituency week, the Prime Minister announced Quanto's law. Bill C-35, the justice for animals in service act, would pose stiffer penalties on anyone who kills or injures a law enforcement, military, or service animal. I know that the hon. member for Richmond Hill, having previously introduced a private member's bill on the subject, will be keen to see the extra time used to debate and pass this bill at second reading before we head back to our constituencies.

Bill C-12, the drug-free prisons act, could also have a chance for some debate time if we pass Motion No. 10. This particular bill will tackle drug use and trade in the federal penitentiaries to make the correctional system a safer place, particularly for staff, but also for inmates, while also increasing the potential for success and rehabilitation of those inmates. As a former public safety minister, I can say that this is indeed an important initiative.

Delivering these results for Canadians is worth working a few extra hours each week. Our clear and steady focus on the strength of our Canadian economy does not simply apply to our budgets. We will also work hard next week to bring the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement into law. Bill C-20, the Canada-Honduras economic growth and prosperity act, would enhance provisions on cross-border trading services, investment, and government procurement between our two countries. It would also immediately benefit key sectors in the Canadian economy, by providing enhanced market access for beef, pork, potato products, vegetable oils, and grain products.

As a former trade minister, I can say first-hand that this government understands that trade and investment are the twin engines of the global economy that lead to more growth, the creation of good jobs, and greater prosperity. Trade is particularly important for a country like Canada, one that is relatively small yet stands tall in terms of its relationship and ability to export and trade with the rest of the world. If we are to enjoy that prosperity in the future, it is only through expanding free trade and seizing those opportunities that we can look forward to that kind of long-term prosperity.

Through Bill C-18, the agricultural growth act, we are providing further support to Canada's agriculture producers. This bill would modernize nine statues that regulate Canada's agriculture sector to bring them in line with modern science and technology, innovation, and international practices within the agriculture industry. The act will strengthen and safeguard Canada's agriculture sector by providing farmers with greater access to new crop varieties, enhancing both trade opportunities and the safety of agriculture products, and contributing to Canada's overall economic growth.

As the House knows, our government has made the interests of farmers a very important priority. We recognize that since Canada was born, our farmers in our agriculture sector have been key to Canada's economic success. As a result, Bill C-18 will be debated this afternoon. It would be nice to have the bill passed at second reading before the summer, so that the agriculture committee can harvest stakeholder opinion this autumn.

Over the next few weeks, with the co-operation and support of the opposition parties, we will hopefully work to make progress on other important initiatives.

My good friend, the President of the Treasury Board, will be happy to know that these extra hours would mean that I can find some time to debate Bill C-21, the red tape reduction act. This important bill should not be underestimated. It would enshrine into law our government's one-for-one rule, a successful system-wide control on regulatory red tape that affects Canadian employers. Treasury Board already takes seriously the practice of opining that rule, but we want to heighten its importance and ensure that it is binding on governments in the future. We want to ensure that Canadians do not face unreasonable red tape when they are simply trying to make a better living for themselves, and creating jobs and economic growth in their communities.

Another important government initiative sets out to strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship. For the first time in more than 35 years, our government is taking action to update the Citizenship Act. Through Bill C-24, the strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, we are proposing stronger rules around access to Canadian citizenship to underline its true value and ensure that new Canadians are better prepared for full participation in Canadian life. This legislation will be called for debate on Wednesday.

The health and safety of Canadians is something that our government believes is worthy of some extra time and further hard work in the House of Commons.

Tomorrow evening, we will debate Bill C-17, the protecting Canadians from unsafe drugs act. Under Vanessa's law, as we have called it, we are proposing steps to protect Canadian families and children from unsafe medicines. Among other actions, the bill would enable the government to recall unsafe drugs, require stronger surveillance, provide the courts with discretion to impose stronger fines if violations were intentionally caused, and compel drug companies to do further testing on a product. In general, the bill would make sure that the interests of individual Canadians are looked out for and become a major priority when it comes to dealing with new medications and drugs.

Bill C-22, the energy safety and security act, would modernize safety and security for Canada's offshore and nuclear energy industries, thereby ensuring a world-class regulatory system, and strengthening safety and environmental protections. This legislation, at second reading, will be debated on Thursday.

Bill C-3, the safeguarding Canada's seas and skies act, could pass at third reading under the extended hours, so that we can secure these important updates and improvements to transportation law in Canada.

We could also pass the prohibiting cluster munitions act. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs explained at committee, the Government of Canada is committed to ridding the world of cluster munitions. Bill C-6 is an important step in that direction, but it is just the beginning of our work. Extending the relevant elements of the Oslo Convention into domestic law would allow Canada to join the growing list of countries that share that same goal. I hope members of all parties will support us in this worthy objective.

By supporting today's motion, the opposition would also be showing support for Canada's veterans. The extra hours would allow us to make progress on Bill C-27, the veterans hiring act. The measures included in this legislation would create new opportunities for men and women who have served their country to continue working for Canadians through the federal public service. As a nation, we have a responsibility to ensure that veterans have access to a broad range of programs and services to help them achieve new success after their time in uniform is complete. This initiative would do exactly that.

Of course, a quick reading of today's order paper would show that there are still more bills before the House of Commons for consideration and passage. I could go on and on, literally, since I have unlimited time to speak this afternoon, but I will not. Suffice it to say that we have a bold, ambitious, and important legislative agenda to implement. All of these measures are important, and they will improve the lives of Canadians. Each merits consideration and hard work on our part. Canadians expect each one of us to come to Ottawa to work hard, to vote on bills, to make decisions, and to get things done on their behalf.

I hope that opposition parties will be willing to support this reasonable plan and let it come to a vote. I am sure that members opposite would not be interested in going back to their constituents to say that they voted against working a little overtime before the House rises for the summer.

I commend this motion to the House and encourage all hon. members to vote for adding a few hours to our day to continue the work of our productive, orderly, and hard-working Parliament, and deliver real results for Canadians.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course on this side of the House we are always ready to work hard. The problem is that we have a government that does not really listen. When we look at what has happened in the past few weeks, we see that a number of bills have been rejected by the Supreme Court of Canada, precisely because the Conservatives did not do their job.

Of course it is important to have a debate in the House, but the government has to listen to the good advice it keeps getting from the NDP.

I am very interested in his comments about hard work, because the government House leader has been in his position for a number of years now. I am new in my position, so I referenced back to June last year. The government House leader, in good faith, is saying that the Conservatives are here to work.

The problem is, and people who are listening to us can go on the House of Commons website and find out for themselves, that last June, 90% of the speakers in the evening sessions were the New Democrats and opposition members. Less than 10% of the speakers were from the Conservative Party. We can see, if we go online, that there was usually only one Conservative MP who would show up to speak in the course of any evening session.

There are exceptions, which the member mentioned. The government House leader referenced the fact that the NDP tried to adjourn the House at one point. The reality was that no Conservatives had shown up to speak that night.

Therefore, my question for the government House leader is this. Will the Conservatives finally show up to work and speak in these evening sessions this year?