House of Commons Hansard #246 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was riding.

Topics

Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

This august place is not necessarily known for co-operation and complementary work, but I want to thank all the members for their hard work and our elders who are here with us today for such a momentous evening.

Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I suspect if you were to canvass the House, you would find it the will to call it 6:02 p.m., which would enable us to begin private members' business.

Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Is it agreed?

Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It being 6:02 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

moved that Bill C-352, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and to provide for the development of a national strategy (abandonment of vessels), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, oil spills and marine debris from thousands of abandoned vessels across the country pollute our waterways and put local fishing and tourism jobs at risk. For too long, jurisdictional gaps have left coastal communities with nowhere to turn when they need help with abandoned vessels.

I first encountered this on Parker Island, a small island off Galiano. Constituents came to me saying that for 10 years they had been trying to get an enormous abandoned barge off of their white sand beach. They had asked every single department, provincially and federally, and got the runaround for 10 years. Someone had had a big dream of turning one of the old Expo 86 barges into a floating bed and breakfast, or something like that, but by the time it beached on the shore, it was rotting. My constituents would phone the Coast Guard, which would say it was a hazzard to navigation and that maybe they would have a look at it. The Coast Guard would then simply tie on the rotting pieces of rebar or the chunks of concrete or asbestos insulation that had fallen onto the beach. Children could not play there and the fisheries were harmed. It was a total mess, and no one would help.

I was chair of the Islands Trust Council at the time. We did not have any authority to deal with this, but we tried to find out whether this really was a result of a hole in jurisdiction and if other communities were having the same problem. We went to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities, the local government association for the Sunshine Coast on Vancouver Island. We took past resolutions, asking for action, to the Union of BC Municipalities, representing 180 municipal and rural governments all bound together.

One time, I led a delegation of 19 different local governments to meet with the Liberal B.C. minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations. There were 19 different local governments all in one room asking for help, saying that the minister should get it fixed or implore Ottawa to assume its responsibilities, that this was a marine issue, that it was about the oceans and vessel registration, and that the minister should be acting. Other countries act in regard to such vessels, but Canada fails to act.

For 10 years, we were completely ignored. That is one of the reasons I wanted to get elected as a member of Parliament: to bring the solutions here and to fix this once and for all.

During the course of the election campaign, the Viki Lyne II came into prominence in the riding I was hoping to represent. In Ladysmith Harbour, four years earlier, Transport Canada had found a beautiful old 100-foot fishing trawler adrift, the Viki Lyne II. She had been built in 1961 and had met a bad end. Transport Canada towed her into Ladysmith Harbour, which was viewed as a safe harbour, and there she sat for four years at anchor. Ladysmith had put an awful lot of effort into waterfront beautification, tourism promotion, and yet this horrific rusting hulk was sitting there, a hull that the Coast Guard, in a marine survey in year one, had said was maybe only being held together by the rust, yet it was a vessel with 125,000 litres of contaminants on board.

Ladysmith has jobs invested in aquaculture, tourism, and fisheries. All of them were threatened if the worst-case scenario happened to Viki Lyne II, and still we could not get action. A huge rally during the election campaign was organized by Take 5, one of the great local newspapers. Former MP Jean Crowder had been very active, trying to bring solutions to this. The former mayor of Ladysmith, Rob Hutchins, and then his successor, Aaron Stone, had a very strong alliance with the Stz'uminus First Nation. Here I raise my hands to Chief John Elliott, who was a very strong partner, he and his council. They repeatedly wrote letters to the federal government asking for help.

The Ladysmith Maritime Society, a community-owned marina, pushed as hard as it could for solutions. Finally, having been loud about this in question period, which some members might remember, a former fisheries minister, now the member for Nunavut, said that he would find a way to fund the removal of the Viki Lyne II. A little more than a year ago, there was a huge community celebration when, five years after was had first asked, the Viki Lyne II was finally towed away. In our effort, the Ladysmith Chronicle, a great local newspaper, had really helped us keep the pressure on and tell the story.

After the Viki Lyne II was towed away, every person who had been involved in her removal recommitted to a comprehensive coast-wide solution. The one off approach of dealing with the problem on a boat-by-boat basis, and not dealing with it until it became an emergency, had not been tenable. All them said that no community should have to work as hard as Ladysmith had to get that one boat removed.

Therefore, I brought to the House legislation based on all of the years of advice from coastal communities to fix vessel registration; to pilot a vessel turn-in program; to create good, green jobs by working with local salvage companies and innovating with recycling. Maybe we can find some markets for fibreglass, which has just not been done yet. Finally, my legislation aimed to end the jurisdictional runaround by making the Coast Guard the first point of contact. If someone finds an abandoned vessel, they contact the Coast Guard, and the Coast Guard works it out between other federal agencies who should take the first action.

From Tofino, B.C., to Fogo Island, Newfoundland, my legislation has been broadly endorsed. Fifty coastal communities; businesses; harbour authorities; marinas; and labour groups, such as the the BC Ferry and Marine Workers' Union, Vancouver District Labour Council, and the Union of BC Municipalities all endorsed my legislation.

This summer I went to Nova Scotia and met with local leaders from all over who are facing the same problem, and they all agreed that this legislation would meet their needs and that we needed to accelerate it. We kept raising the pressure, along with many of my other Vancouver Island colleagues, some whom are sitting with me here today. We raised the issue of abandoned vessels 80 times in the House just in this Parliament alone.

The government kept promising that action was imminent. It did announce some funding back in the spring, which was better than a kick in the head, but, honestly, a drop in the bucket, with $260,000 this year for small craft harbours and $300,000 for removal from anywhere else in the rest of the country. The bill for removing the Silver King from my colleague's riding of Courtenay—Alberni was $300,000. This one vessel would have blown the whole budget for the entire year. The capital regional district, which my colleague, the MP for Victoria, represents in part, has applied to the federal government for $1 million to remove the backlog of abandoned vessels. Therefore, $300,000 is not going to go very far.

Then, on October 22, another vessel sunk in Ladysmith Harbour, the Anapaya, which had already been on Transport Canada's inventory of vessels of concern for three years. It certainly was a lot more expensive to recover, and more damaging to local jobs and the environment once it was sitting on the bottom of Ladysmith Harbour leaking oil than if, proactively, we had been able to remove it before it sank. I am very grateful to the Coast Guard, as it has so many times risen to the call for action without really having the proper resources, and without a super-clear authority. Those good men and women of the Coast Guard have acted. However, we need to support and resource their work and give them clear responsibility.

On October 30, just eight days after the Anapaya sank, the transport minister introduced Bill C-64. The bill is compatible with my legislation, as there is no overlap. When I saw that the minister had finally acted, I thought, great, my bill would really fill the gaps in his bill, and both pieces of legislation could move forward together. The transport minister's bill does not legislate on the most pressing issues with abandoned vessels. It does not deal with the backlog and does not fix vessel registration. The transport minister wants to be able send fines and penalties to the owners of vessels, but if there is no proper vessel registry, how will he ever know where to mail the bill?

Therefore, these two pieces of legislation should have been able to go forward together. Again, because the government's bill did not deal with the backlog, part of my bill suggested a vessel turn-in program, kind of like the successful cash for clunkers program for vehicles, which many provinces have worked on. Without that kind of turn-in program, we will just not be able to deal with the backlog.

We have heard of all the procedural games the Liberals used. They blocked my bill at the procedure and House affairs committee. I went to an appeal and showed them exactly all of the ways the bills were compatible and not in conflict, but they used their majority on committee to vote me down. We then used an unprecedented tool that had never been used in the history of the House of Commons, a secret ballot vote.

Even under the cover of the secrecy of the ballot box, I had an awful lot of Liberal colleagues say they were sorry but were voting with the government on this one. I wish they had voted with coastal communities, voted to have the solutions from all of those coastal mayors, brought to this House, and at least had the courage to have these debated in committee. To me, it felt like a real betrayal of the Liberal commitment to work across the aisle co-operatively, and to work with local communities to find solutions. I am disappointed. None of the B.C. coastal voices are included in this legislation, and I do not believe there are any B.C. Liberals on the speaking list today who are willing to speak about why they did not want to support this bill. In contrast, in the previous Parliament, when the Liberals were the third party, they voted for former MP Jean Crowder's version of this bill. That included the fisheries minister, transport minister, and the prime minister. Anyway, times have changed.

Tonight is the end of the road for Bill C-352. It is what coastal communities have been asking for for decades, but this is our consolation prize final hour of debate. Because of the Liberal push, this will not go to committee or a vote, which almost never happens. However, here we are making history again.

Yesterday, I was very pleased to have the support of all parties of the House to fast-track the transport minister's bill, Bill C-64, to committee immediately. Our communities are so hungry for solutions, and I am really glad there was agreement to move that quickly. The minister's bill will go to committee and I will do my best, along with my colleagues, to insert as many of those coastal solutions that remain from my blocked bill within the minister's bill.

I will finish by saying that I continue to be awed by the power and innovation of coastal communities. These are people who take matters into their own hands, find fixes, and use the system to advocate for them. Honestly, they should not have had to work this hard. This should have been solved 15 years ago, as every other maritime country has pretty much done.

I will not forget that the Liberal government tried to stifle coastal voices. However, my resolve to include the innovation and problem-solving nature of coastal community leaderships into the government's bill continues so that we can finally solve the abandoned vessels problem and get it off the backs of coastal communities. For ecology, the economy, and local jobs, let us respect that coastal wisdom. Let us honour the advice of these elected local leaders and bring their abandoned vessels solutions to this House and into Canada's legislation.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak to Bill C-352. Before I speak to the bill, I want to sincerely thank the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith for her commitment to and her advocacy for coastal communities and the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels. We both agree that something has to be done about this ongoing problem.

I often use the example of a truck when I talk about abandoned vessels. If truckers are through with their rigs, they cannot leave them at the side of the road and expect someone else to look after them, so why should we expect anything different from people who own vessels.

During the election in 2015, I heard over and over again about the problem of abandoned and wrecked vessels and the problems they cause in our coastal communities. Living in Nova Scotia and representing a large coastal riding, this was not an issue that was uncommon to me. That was why I was happy to bring forward Motion M-40 to the House in February 2016.

My private member's motion helped put the issue of abandoned and wrecked vessels on the government's radar and set the wheels in motion, leading up to this fall, when the Minister of Transport introduced the government's bill C-64. This is comprehensive legislation that will deal with the ongoing problem of abandoned and wrecked vessels. We need to be proactive, not reactive.

I am proud of the fact that this legislation was based on a motion I put forward that was unanimously adopted in the House. Coastal communities have had a problem with these vessels, and those problems have been punted between federal, provincial, and municipal governments, because nobody wanted to deal with the issue. I am so happy that we have taken the initiative and are moving to provide long-term solutions to deal with this problem. Bill C-64 is a comprehensive plan that would address the problem of abandoned vessels and put the onus squarely on the owners, where the liability belongs.

Bill C-64 has many objectives that would be met to ensure a long-term solution to this issue. The bill aims to strengthen owner liability, including the cost of cleanup. It would address irresponsible vessel management, including by prohibiting vessel abandonment. It would enhance federal powers to take proactive action on problem vessels. It would introduce a compliance and enforcement regime, with offences and penalties, and it would clarify the roles and responsibilities of Transport Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Coast Guard. In short, it would make it illegal to abandon a vessel and would close loopholes that have made abandonment possible without recourse.

A key difference between Bill C-64 and Bill C-352 is the involvement of the Coast Guard as the receiver of all wrecks. On this difference, I believe that the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith and I have very different opinions.

In my opinion, our Coast Guard is there to serve our coastal communities with search and rescue operations and to conduct vital scientific research. To designate it a salvage organization would be inappropriate for these men and women and the role they provide in our coastal communities.

Currently, lobster fishers in my riding are braving the Atlantic Ocean at times that are trying and in weather that can turn on a dime. I would hate to think that at a time when they may be needed off our coast in an emergency situation, resources for the Coast Guard might be tied up dealing with an abandoned vessel that someone has dumped.

I believe that the responsibility for vessels belongs squarely with the people who own them, not with the Coast Guard, and ultimately the taxpayers of Canada. A significantly stronger regulatory regime to make sure we can identify who owns vessels and that owners have a proper way of disposal would be a more comprehensive and better way of dealing with this issue.

There are times when the government has to step in to help with removal, as was the case this summer with the removal of the Farley Mowat, in my riding. The town of Shelburne had done everything possible to have the Farley removed, but unfortunately, it was met with resistance at every turn. The federal government recognized that the town could no longer face the impending environmental disaster this ship posed and stepped in to have it removed. The people of the town of Shelburne were ecstatic to get rid of that rusting hulk of garbage after three years of trying everything. However, we need to deal with these vessels before they become the kind of problem the Farley Mowat did, and Bill C-64 would accomplish just that.

In closing, I again want to thank the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith for her advocacy and her support of Bill C-64. I note that there are some differences between Bill C-352 and Bill C-64, but we all want the best solution to address this long-standing issue. I look forward to working together to make sure we get this right. Like my colleague, I want us to be able to deal with the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels so that our coastal communities do not have to.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour to stand before the House to talk to the private member's bill from our colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith, Bill C-352. It is unfortunate that we are speaking at a time when really the government has pretty much scuttled her bill, as we get jeers across the way, and really did everything in its power at every step of the way for the member of Parliament and her advocacy for the issue.

We cannot have a debate or a speech on abandoned vessels without first giving due to our hon. former colleague, John Weston, who also brought forth a bill very similar to this. It was in June 2015 in the 41st Parliament that Conservative MP John Weston introduced Bill C-695, which would have dealt with very similar issues or similar points that Bill C-64 and Bill C-352 have. One of the things that I will agree with our colleague across the way from South Shore—St. Margarets about is the responsibility. Whether it is somebody who is polluting or somebody who is abandoning a vessel, Conservatives also agree that there has to be some onus and responsibility on that person, the owner of that vessel or the person or organization that is doing the polluting.

One of the things that I will take a bit of deference to in terms of our hon. colleague who just spoke before us from South Shore—St. Margarets, whom I respect greatly, is the fact that her motion, Motion No. 40, really precipitated BillC-64. I would offer that it probably helped along the way, bringing the awareness to the government, but I would also then say that those who walked before us, including our hon. colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith and our hon. former colleague, Mr. John Weston, and the work that he did in the previous Parliament, set the ground for where we are today.

We have heard examples. While our hon. colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith did name the Expo 86 barge, it was affectionately known on the Pacific coast as the McBarge. I believe that is the one she was referring to. It was a floating McDonald's during Expo 86 and it had been towed out to Ladysmith. Some entrepreneur had some grand ideas as to what he or she was going to do with it. However, as with many of our small businesses, with all the whims and whimsies and “fail to plan” and “plan to fail” it sat there and collected rust.

In doing research for this speech today, I looked quickly in the news articles. Just recently, at the beginning of November, the Town of Ladysmith applied for federal funding to remove nine derelict vessels. That is unacceptable. Whether it is a small municipality on the Pacific coast or on the Atlantic coast, this is unacceptable and that is what the challenge has been in terms of abandoned vessels. Whose responsibility is it? There is a lot of finger pointing when there are abandoned and derelict vessels as to whose responsibility it is, who is going to take control of and mitigate the situation. What I felt was compelling in our hon. colleague's private member's bill, Bill C-352, was something that I was not aware of. I have to say that when I was tasked to talk to this, I actually reached out to our hon. colleague and wanted to find out a bit more about the issue. I am from British Columbia. I can read the headlines and know that there are challenges and issues there, but I confess I am in a landlocked area. Outside of maybe a rowboat, there are not a lot of the huge derelict vessels that we will see in some of our coastal communities.

Therefore, I want to know what the difference is between Bill C-64, and our hon. colleague's bill in the previous Parliament, Bill C-695, and our hon. colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith's bill, Bill C-352. She said that the fundamental difference is it assigns responsibility to the Coast Guard. I will touch on that quickly when I get a chance.

The overwhelming issue that we have, and I think our hon. colleague said it very articulately, is that when we are trying to track down the owner of a vessel that has perhaps changed hands three, four, or five times, how do we assign a fine to somebody who does not own that vessel anymore? The federal registration process for marine vessels is and has been flawed. I thought that Bill C-352 identified this issue, which I was unaware of. I look forward to Bill C-64 coming to committee and working with my colleague across the way from South Shore—St. Margarets to make some amendments to it, because I think there are some strong points that will allow us to finally put this issue to rest.

One of the things I want to talk about is the responsibility of the Coast Guard. Our hon. colleague from South Shore—St. Margarets made a great point. The responsibility, as it sits with Bill C-352, would go squarely on that of the Coast Guard. Somebody ultimately needs to take responsibility for that. Whether with respect to enforcement, or mitigating the issue and removing it from the waters, somebody should be responsible. There should be a singular group or organization that one can call when one has a ship that is rusting in one's area, whichever that is, the Coast Guard or Transport Canada. There is no finger pointing. The challenge is that we have a Coast Guard today, and I think my hon. colleague knows where I am going with this, that is challenged for resources. My hon. colleague across the way from South Shore—St. Margarets knows that this is something that as the shadow minister for this file I am deeply aware of. We have 27 marine vessels in our Coast Guard fleet with 75% to 148% of their notional lifespan. We have perhaps the oldest marine vessel fleet in the world.

Canada has the largest coastline in the world, yet we are asking our brave men and women in our Canadian Coast Guard to brave the waters, to enforce our Arctic sovereignty, and because 90% of all of Canada's trade goes by marine and waterways, to make sure that our seaways and waterways are free of ice so that our ports and communities can remain viable, and our mariners, fishermen, and those coastal communities can receive the services they require from our Canadian Coast Guard, with a fleet and resources from a federal organization that I believe requires some attention.

I understand I have about a minute left. I do not know if there is much more that needs to be said.

I congratulate our hon. colleague for her tireless efforts in seeing this through, and working with our former colleague, Mr. Weston, in supporting his bill also, Bill C-695. I know Mr. Weston supports Bill C-352. I look forward to perhaps having our hon. colleague at committee, and working with our colleague across the way from South Shore—St. Margarets, to do some great work, as we usually do at the fisheries committee, and come up with a piece of legislation that will protect our harbours and our coastal communities, and make sure that those who require the resources are getting it, like our Canadian Coast Guard.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I just want to start by stating into the record what an absolute pleasure it is to have such a dedicated colleague like the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith. We are fortunate enough to be neighbours on beautiful Vancouver Island. We share a coastline. We both have a connection to Jean Crowder, the former member of Parliament Nanaimo—Cowichan. We often like to joke that it took two of us to replace Jean, because that is how good she was.

I want to set the stage for my constituents back home who may be watching this. We are here debating, and we have been given one hour for my colleague's Bill C-352. We are here because the Liberal government has used its majority, and has used bully tactics to silence her voice, to silence her right to take forward legislation in this House on behalf of her constituents.

The procedure and House affairs committee deemed this bill non-votable. The member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith appealed to this House and, for the first time ever, we had a historic secret ballot vote. We lobbied Liberal members of Parliament. We sent almost 30,000 emails to them from strong voices in coastal communities. However, still, the Liberals decided they were going to quash the member's voice and not let her stand in this place to bring forward legislation, as is the right of every member of Parliament in this place. That is why we are here today.

My riding has a long history with abandoned vessels. I could write a whole book just on Cowichan Bay and what it has gone through. In fact, we still have the SS Beaver below water, waiting for action to happen.

I have had a long history with abandoned vessels. The biggest problem with abandoned vessels has been the jurisdictional finger pointing. If it was laying on the seabed, it was the jurisdiction of the province, unless it was a municipality that had that particular foreshore; if it was an obstacle to navigation, the Coast Guard was called, which more likely than not would just tow it to the nearest sandbar and leave it there. In other instances, the port authorities could be involved. The main point is that constituents, when they found an abandoned vessel, had no idea who to turn to, and would just completely get the runaround.

I appreciate the government's efforts on Bill C-64. I am very glad that the House gave unanimous consent to move that important piece of legislation to committee. The argument that my colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith has made is that her bill fills in some important gaps, and the two bills complement each other. It comes down to coastal voices. We have worked so long on this legislation, for many years. We have had the backing of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, and many different organizations that are involved in protecting our coast.

For the Liberals to use their majority just to silence us, and to not even bring forward this bill for a vote shows an extreme lack of courage on their part. I would have loved to have seen coastal British Columbia members of Parliament—

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member has said this on a couple of occasions, and I do not think it is appropriate.

We had a secret ballot, so it is unfair for the member to say that the Liberals actually voted one way or another. In fact, it could have been others who voted that way.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

If the hon. member wishes to participate in debate, he may want to ask to be put on the list.

The hon. member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford has the floor.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Government Orders

December 6th, 2017 / 5:40 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, to the point of order, that is definitely a point of debate. I know my constituents know exactly how Liberals voted. We just have to take direction from the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, but that is beside the point.

The point is that this House, with its Liberal majority, decided that coastal voices were not going to get their turn. The Liberals denied my colleague her chance to bring forward legislation in this House and have it debated. It shows bully tactics and extreme lack of courage, and it is absolutely shameful behaviour on the part of a government that came in with a mandate to give more respect to Parliament and parliamentarians.

In fact, I remember the speech by the Prime Minister when I was at the orientation session for new members of Parliament. He kept going on about how important our role as private members was in this place, our ability to bring forward legislation, bring forward those ideas, put them in a bill, and have it debated and voted on so we could actually have recorded votes on where individual members of Parliament stand.

We will never get to know that now with Bill C-352. We will not know where B.C. Liberal MPs stand on that bill because they decided to make it non-votable. Those are the facts. I could go on and on, but I just want to end with this. No matter what their tactics, it will not stop us from speaking up strongly.

Again, I want to salute my colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith for the incredible work she has done on this file. Even with the criticisms I have just levelled at the Liberal government, I can assure members that when it comes to Bill C-64, we will do our due diligence on it. We have given agreement in principle, but I believe there are important amendments. I look forward to the hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith working on that bill and making sure it actually is the right fit for our important coastal communities.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a huge honour today to rise to speak to Bill C-352 on abandoned vessels. I would like to thank the member of Parliament for Nanaimo—Ladysmith for tabling this very important bill and proving she is a strong steward and champion for our environment. It follows the work she has been doing in our coastal communities for decades, and in one of her many roles as the chair of the Islands Trust

I would also like to thank the former New Democrat member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Cowichen, Jean Crowder, for her work in Parliament for more than a decade on this issue. There is no doubt that the NDP and our coastal community MPs have led the charge for healthy oceans and federal leadership in addressing abandoned and derelict vessels.

Bill C-352 is important for the environment and the economy in coastal communities for several reasons. It would end the run-around and finger-pointing by designating the Coast Guard as the agency responsible for directing the removal and recycling of abandoned vessels. This is fundamental when dealing with abandoned and derelict vessels. It would get taxpayers off the hook, by fixing vessel registration and creating a fee to help cover the cost of vessel disposal, like in Washington State. It would prevent vessels from becoming hazards by piloting a turn-in program at safe recycling facilities. It would be great for the economy and green jobs by supporting local marine salvage businesses. Most important, it would build a coast-wide strategy, in co-operation with local and provincial governments, in service of our constituents as coastal people.

These key points, and they are all key to the bill, were derived from more than 15 years of work and advocacy by local stakeholders in coastal communities in British Columbia, and I cited the former MP Jean Crowder and the current member from Nanaimo—Ladysmith, working with individuals, organizations, and local mayors and councils from my riding, from Tofino to Qualicum Beach through the Association of Vancouver Island Municipalities, and a resolution that was supported by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. This bill reflects their concerns and priorities.

However, the government's response to Bill C-352 has been inadequate and undemocratic. In fact, it shut out coastal voices. Instead of thoughtfully examining the bill, offering amendments, and allowing a free vote, the government has chosen another path, deciding to table Bill C-64, which is significantly different in that does not take the advice of local and regional stakeholders, who have been engaged in this issue for 15 years. It is not without merit, but has some gaping holes.

For instance, Bill C-64 would not create nor define a national strategy to deal with abandoned vessels. It has no turn-in program or a cash for clunkers incentive for owners who may be at risk of losing or considering abandoning their vessels at sea.

Finally, while Transport Canada admits there may be thousands of abandoned and derelict vessels along our coastlines today, there is no mechanism or plan to clear this backlog.

Unlike the government bill, BillC-352 directly deals with each of these glaring weaknesses. In spite of this, the government made an effort to defeat Bill C-352 before it could even be debated.

Again, I want to thank my colleague and neighbour from Nanaimo—Ladysmith for bringing this issue forward and for working and co-operating with other parliamentarians. My thanks for her good nature and commitment to progressive co-operation and getting results for her constituents and coastal communities. She has urged all MPs to give their unanimous consent to move the government's along to help our coastal constituents as quickly as possible.

My colleague has done incredible work in bringing coastal communities together, in bringing this forward and in demonstrating that she and the NDP members are leaders in defending coast communities on the environment and the protection of our coast.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, just to make sure I do not run out of time, I want to profoundly thank the coastal leaders who built this legislation and who kept this dream alive all this time.

The North Pender trustees on the Islands Trust Council, Steeves and Hancock, worked with me for years on this. Denman Island trustees Bell and Graham also worked closely with me. There was trustee Peter Luckham, who is now Trust Council chair, and Islands Trust staff, Adams, Gordon, and Frater. There was amazing female leadership and great wisdom that found solutions and helped coastal communities find their voice together to propose solutions and pitch them to provincial and federal governments.

From the Regional District of Nanaimo, I want to thank regional directors Stanhope, Houle, Veenoff, and Dorey, all within my region and all very strong partners. We would not have gotten as far as we did without them.

From Ladysmith, I thank former mayor Hutchins, current mayor Stone, and councillor Steve Arnett, who has been on this file with me the whole time, for 12 years at least. Duck Patterson and Carol Henderson, both councillors, have been very supportive. I thank the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce. Rod Smith, at the Ladysmith Maritime Society, has been a treasure of information and someone on the water who gets these problems.

In Nanaimo, city councillor Diane Brennan has been working for years with me on this. Mayor McKay and councillor Bill Yoachim have both been really supportive. A former chair of the Nanaimo Port Authority, Jeet Manhas, has been a strong partner. I thank the Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce CEO, Kim Smythe. I thank the Georgia Strait Alliance and the BC Ferry & Marine Workers' Union. They are all right in Nanaimo and Ladysmith and have all been strong partners committed to finding a solution.

The men and women of the Coast Guard have again and again come to the fore. I want to thank the mayors of Victoria and Oak Bay and also my fantastic staff team: Jennie, Michael, Hilary, Lauren, and Mikelle. I also thank Scott and Karen, who used to work on my team. They have just blown this out of the water. We have finished our campaign significantly earlier than we intended to, but they put all horsepower into it the whole time.

I want to thank tremendously all the coastal voices, in multiple ridings, on both sides of the country, who, over the last couple of weeks especially, emailed coastal Liberal MPs, imploring them to give coastal voices an opportunity to be heard in the House and voted on. Together they sent 27,000 individual emails to coastal Liberals. They made phone calls directly to their offices and sent Twitter messages. I thank them. We pushed as hard as we possibly could have. We could not have worked harder to get consensus here to have the bill heard. That is a real point of pride.

That said, I want to flag, for our next chapter, that this is a problem across the whole country. There are thousands of abandoned vessels Transport Canada has identified. In Newfoundland, the Manolis L is one that 25 years later is still burping up oil and harming fisheries. My colleague has been fighting for six years, at least, the Kathrine Spirit , an abandoned vessel threatening drinking water in her riding in Quebec. There is the Cormorant, in Nova Scotia. All over we are seeing these. We have to work together.

We cannot characterize my proposal to make the Coast Guard the receiver of wrecks as turning the Coast Guard into a salvage operation. If I can say anything to the government, it is that it must recognize that asking people to take a constitutional lesson or read an org chart to figure out who might be able to help them with the problem is untenable. We are not asking the Coast Guard to do the salvage. We are asking it to hold the expertise and to navigate the system and talk to the relevant federal agencies to figure out who is actually going to take action. However, it should not be up to local governments, or ratepayer groups, or environmental organizations, or businesses, such as in Cowichan Bay, where they themselves paid to helicopter out abandoned vessels when they got fed up waiting for federal action.

Please, let us pull together on this for our economy, for the environment, for jobs, and to give people faith that the federal government can work together and solve problems that coastal communities identify. Let us work together. Let us get this done.

I thank everybody who tried their best to make it happen.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The member addressed her comments to the government at one point. I want to remind her to avoid using the word “you”. It would make life a bit easier here in the House.

The time provided for consideration of this bill has now expired. As the motion has been designated as non-votable, the order is now dropped from the Order Paper.

It being 5:56 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 30(7) the House will now proceed to the consideration of Bill C-377 under private members' business.

An Act to change the name of the electoral district of Châteauguay—LacolleGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

moved that Bill C-377, An Act to change the name of the electoral district of Châteauguay—Lacolle, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, today is a big day for my constituents. It is an important milestone in my first move as member of Parliament, which I undertook on behalf of my constituents, to change the name of our riding, Châteauguay—Lacolle, to “Châteauguay—Les Jardins-de-Napierville”.

The reason behind this bill is that the name Châteauguay—Lacolle is inaccurate. If we look at a map of my riding, we see that the municipality of Lacolle is actually in the neighbouring riding of my hon. colleague from Saint-Jean. The municipality in my riding is Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, a municipality with its own history, its own institutions, and its own raison d'être.

Even before I took office, the residents of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle talked to me about this issue, and I pledged to do whatever I had to do to remedy the situation. It is with that in mind that I have the honour to rise today in the House. As if it were not enough that the name Lacolle is erroneously used to designate Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, which is not at all the same thing, we have also noted several times in the past two years that the name Châteauguay—Lacolle is confusing for the constituents of both ridings and has created misunderstandings for some stakeholders.

The names Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle and Lacolle are often used interchangeably by different stakeholders, such as representatives of national media, mainly because what is referred to as the Lacolle border crossing, which is located on Highway 15, the main road between Montreal and New York, and is the busiest border crossing into the United States, is located in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, not in Lacolle.

I am sure my colleagues are aware that the situation at the Lacolle border crossing these past few months, the influx of asylum seekers from the United States, has helped sustain the incorrect name. However, there is good news. For the most part, those involved have managed to set the record straight in recent months.

Many citizens have told me they do not like the name Châteauguay—Lacolle, not only for the reasons I have just explained, but also because it is damaging to the pride that the people of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle take in their municipality and to their feeling of belonging. Following many discussions and conversations with the people and organizations of this region, the name Châteauguay—Les Jardins-de-Napierville emerged as a logical and meaningful choice for a number of reasons.

First, Les Jardins-de-Napierville is the name of a regional county municipality that includes nine of our 15 municipalities. Second, the main city, Châteauguay, is located at the northwest end of the riding, whereas the RCM of Jardins-de-Napierville includes the nine municipalities located in the southern and eastern parts of the riding. Most of the residents of the other six municipalities self-identify as being from Grand Châteauguay, a name we hear a lot. All of the citizens, those from the Châteauguay region and those from the RCM of Jardins-de-Napierville, could identify with the name Châteauguay—Les Jardins-de-Napierville.

The Jardins-de-Napierville RCM, whose beauty is represented by the word “Jardins” or gardens, is known for being the top market gardening region in Quebec. Lastly, the name Châteauguay—Les Jardins-de-Napierville is a good representation of the semi-urban, semi-rural nature of our riding.

I would also like to talk about a very special person who contributed greatly to choosing the name Châteauguay—Les Jardins-de-Napierville. I am talking about the late mayor of Napierville, Jacques Délisle.

If memory serves, he was the first to propose this name. This dedicated man, who left a remarkable legacy to his municipality, may also end up leaving his mark on the entire riding.

I would point out that I am sponsoring this bill for my constituents. A petition calling on the House of Commons to change the name of our riding to Châteauguay—Les Jardins-de-Napierville has been circulating in the region for weeks. The response has been excellent. The petition has already been signed by people from all around our riding, including, of course, the mayors of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle and neighbouring towns. As elected officials, they are pleased to support my initiative on behalf of their constituents, as are my hon. colleagues from Saint-Jean, La Prairie, and, I believe, Salaberry—Suroît.

Since I still have a bit of time, I now have the pleasure of giving a brief history lesson to all those listening and watching. As indicated in my bill, the riding of Châteauguay—Lacolle was created in 2013, following a redistribution that came into effect with the dissolution of the 41st Parliament in 2015.

The current riding was formed from the former ridings of Châteauguay—Saint-Constant and Beauharnois—Salaberry. It seems the Quebec electoral boundaries commission erred when it named the new riding. The fact that Lacolle became part of the Saint-Jean riding during a previous redistribution process probably went unnoticed. We do not know what happened, but one can imagine.

After doing some research and discussing the matter with the mayor of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, I think there may have been some confusion between Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle and Lacolle.

Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle is a parish municipality that was established in 1855 in honour of Bernard-Claude Panet, Quebec's 12th archbishop.

The Lacolle part of the name comes from the name of the seigneury to which the land once belonged. Today, Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle has a population of about 1,500. Lacolle is a village municipality that was established in 1920 and officially constituted in 2001, and now has a population of about 2,800.

Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle was established long before Lacolle, but it has developed more slowly in recent decades and its population has not grown as much as that of its neighbour. That is why the municipality of Lacolle is better known.

Now that we have a better understanding of the history of our region, please allow me to outline how name changes come about and the criteria any proposed name change, including that proposed by my bill, Bill C-377, must meet.

First, given the practice of reviewing electoral district boundaries every 10 years following a new national census, Elections Canada provides the 10 provincial electoral boundaries commissions with guidelines on riding name conventions and best practices. While Elections Canada will enact any name changes legislated by Parliament, there are practical and technical issues that must be considered, such as the limited capacity of databases. Thus, riding names are limited to 50 characters or less in order to enable the easy display of the riding names on websites, maps and paper reports, as well as easily readable geographic products.

I note for the record that the name proposed by the bill before us, Châteauguay—Les Jardins-de-Napierville, has 38 characters, including hyphens, dashes, and spaces.

My understanding is that any changes to federal electoral district names would require royal assent no later than January 2019 to be effected prior to the next federal election. According to the legislative timelines of our Parliament, I am hopeful that Bill C-377 will come into force in a timely manner.

The name selected for ridings should reflect the character of Canada and be clear and unambiguous. I believe this criterion is met by my bill, as the names refer to a major municipality in our area and a regional municipal county region.

Third, a distinction is also to be made in the spelling of names between hyphens and dashes. I would ask members to listen carefully. Hyphens are used to link parts of geographical names, whereas dashes are used to unite two or more distinct geographical names. This convention is respected, as a dash is used to separate Châteauguay and Les Jardins-de-Napierville and the hyphens are kept in Les Jardins-de-Napierville.

Elections Canada's guidelines also have positive characteristics that are all met in the proposed new name, for example, the sense of the location and the logical order of multiple elements. On the electoral map, we see that Châteauguay and Les Jardins-de-Napierville are two geographical names that correspond almost entirely to the territory of the riding and conform to a reading of the map from west to east, in other words, from left to right.

The name of an electoral district must be unique, meaning the components of each federal electoral district name should be used only once, which is indeed the case for the elements Châteauguay and Les Jardins-de-Napierville.

Finally, I should note the preservation of tradition is important and that it is quite acceptable to have same or similar names for both federal and provincial constituencies when their core areas embrace the same population centres. This is the case for the name of Châteauguay, which is the name of a provincial riding that includes Greater Châteauguay, consisting of Léry, Mercier, and St. Isidore, as well as the City of Châteauguay representing more than half of the population in our federal riding.

The guidelines also contain negative characteristics that are all avoided in the name Châteauguay-Les-Jardins-de-Napierville. However, I will name only those that do not correspond to the inverse expression of the positive characteristics already enumerated, and that are therefore already understood implicitly.

I can repeat that point if necessary, but I will give the House some examples.

The name of a federal electoral district should be clear in both English and French, and as much as possible be acceptable without translation into the other official language, thus avoiding multiple forms, possible inconsistencies, and confusion. Another characteristic to be avoided is the use of cardinal points such as east or west. This would only encourage clumsy translation between official languages.

The incorrect use of hyphens and dashes is to be avoided at all cost. Bill C-377 correctly uses a dash to designate the City of Châteauguay within the name, while the individual words of the region of Jardine are correctly separated by hyphens.

For the record, the use of actual names of provinces, personal names, and names that are imprecise or contrived from non-geographical sources are also to be avoided.

I believe that I have raised all of the arguments that should satisfy my hon. colleagues here in the House that the name proposed by Bill C-377, Châteauguay-Les Jardins-de-Napierville, respects all of the pertinent guidelines of Elections Canada.

I would like to use the remainder of my time to paint a picture of my wonderful riding, which is blessed with splendid natural beauty, lands full of riches, a vibrant economy, and really wonderful people.

My riding is located in the province of Quebec, on Montreal's south shore, in western Montérégie. It is made up of 15 municipalities, including Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle.

I am also very grateful to represent a riding that is semi-urban and semi-rural. The city of Châteaugay, with its 48,000 residents, including over 15,000 anglophones and allophones, boasts a major industrial area that is home to many innovative businesses.

In contrast, most of the surface area of the riding is rural, and we are also very proud of our agriculture and agrifood industry.

I look forward to my colleagues' questions. I could go on for hours about my riding, Châteauguay—Lacolle, and provide much more detailed information.

An Act to change the name of the electoral district of Châteauguay—LacolleGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, my question is simple. The hon. government House leader has put a process in place for us to change the names of our ridings. It has been a streamlined process, and various members have submitted their changes to the hon. government House leader. Those changes are proceeding. It is quite simple.

The hon. member opposite has chosen to use her chance to table a private member's bill as the way to change her riding name. I understand her desire to change the name, but what I do not understand is why she would use such a rare opportunity to bring forward a private member's bill to do this, when there is already a process in place by the government House leader.

I am a little confused as to why she would not use her private member's bill opportunity to table another a piece of legislation that perhaps her constituents would be interested in.

An Act to change the name of the electoral district of Châteauguay—LacolleGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

As members, we have the privilege of introducing any bill that is important to our constituents.

The notion of identity may not seem all that important, but it is very important to my constituents. The name of a town that is not even in my riding was mistakenly included in the name of my riding. My constituents see this as a serious mistake that must be corrected. As soon as I had the opportunity to introduce my bill, I decided that it was a very important matter and I could not let the opportunity pass me by.

Based on my research, in the previous Parliament, it would seem that there was a 12-month period in which the members concerned could have corrected the riding's name, but they did not. My constituents consider this to have been a disservice.

An Act to change the name of the electoral district of Châteauguay—LacolleGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Erin Weir NDP Regina—Lewvan, SK

Madam Speaker, I have had a great experience working with my colleague from Châteauguay—Lacolle on the government operations committee. However, I have to say, after that answer, it is still quite unclear why she has chosen to use a private member's bill to change the name of her riding.

We do not dispute the importance of this name change, but as we speak, there is a process under way by the House leaders of all parties to put together a bill to change the names of several ridings. The member for Châteauguay—Lacolle had access to that process, and we really do not understand why she did not use it, and why she is instead using a private member's bill, which is a rare opportunity.

There are a limited number of spots for private member's bills to be put before Parliament. Many members will not have an opportunity in this Parliament to have a private member's bill of theirs debated or voted upon, and we are using one of those opportunities here to do something that other MPs are doing through a collaborative process.

I want to give my colleague another opportunity to explain, not why it was important to change the name of the riding, but why it was important to do so through a private member's bill.

An Act to change the name of the electoral district of Châteauguay—LacolleGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Madam Speaker, I am shocked. I am shocked that members of this House would question the choice of a fellow member to use a private member's bill. There is absolutely no precedent for that.

Members of this House are free to bring forward a bill. If I have the honour and chance to present a bill, I present a bill, not a bill that is important to me, but important to the people of my riding. That is what the people of my riding said.

They said, “Lacolle is not even in our riding, this needs to change!”

That is what I am doing.

An Act to change the name of the electoral district of Châteauguay—LacolleGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I appreciated the speech by my colleague from Châteauguay—Lacolle, a riding whose name will change in due time. I want to reassure her straight off that the official opposition fully agrees with the substance of the bill and that we will be supporting the measure.

As my hon. colleague has shown, there is indeed a major anomaly in the name of the riding, which refers to Lacolle, a place that is not even located in the riding of Châteauguay—Lacolle, but rather in that of Saint-Jean.

On a related note, the crossing at the American border is still known as Lacolle, even though that refers to the municipality of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle. I thank my collague for that important clarification. In my own riding, in Quebec City, the Jean Lesage international airport is often referred to as L'Ancienne-Lorette airport, and yet, it is not located in L'Ancienne-Lorette, but rather in Quebec, but it still goes by its old name, even though L'Ancienne-Lorette is across the street. Much to my disappointment, I do not represent the Quebec City airport. It is a shame because aviation is a passion of mine, as I have often mentioned to the Minister of Transport. The airport and surrounding area are represented by the hon. member for Louis-Hébert, whom I value and respect.

We therefore agree with the change and appreciate the member's clarifications. She did a great job giving us the history of her riding and its parishes and towns and explaining the importance that should rightly be placed on having accurate names. I have two simple questions for my colleague regarding minor concerns.

First of all, I have always found it a little strange, to put it politely, that the names of federal ridings are so long. As I learned from the member, they cannot be more than 50 characters, but that seems very long to me. I always have a hard time remembering the name of the riding of my colleague from Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix, which is not too far from my riding. Federal riding names can go on forever. Look at my colleague from Foothills. It is one word. It is simple, impossible to mess up. Louis-Saint-Laurent is the name of a former prime minister, so people do not mess that up either. However, when ridings have four or five names stuck together, even if it is under 50 characters, I still think that is too long.

I mention this because the member is proposing that her riding be renamed Châteauguay—Les Jardins-de-Napierville. If this is what the people want, I have no problem with it, and I support the member, since she took the time to listen to the people. However, I was quite surprised to see that they wanted to change a relatively short name to a rather longer name. I recognize that this is perfectly legitimate, historically speaking.

Furthermore, I am just as surprised as my colleague from Lethbridge and the NDP member that this member chose to raise this important issue, which we do support, in a private member's bill, when if she had just waited a bit, she could have included it in the omnibus bill that the minister will be introducing soon.

For the information of those watching and listening, every 10 years, the electoral map and the riding names are reviewed. In a so-called omnibus bill, which we have no problem with, the government includes amendments proposed by members. Members can be for or against them. It is a legitimate debate.

It is unfortunate that my colleague instead chose to go out on her own by introducing a private member's bill, instead of joining the 337 other members of Parliament who are going to participate in good faith in the government's process, which has the support of parliamentarians.

We all recognize and will fight for the right of the member to table that kind of bill. However, I will express my surprise, because she should have used another way to achieve exactly the same goals. We do support the goals, and we recognize that the population will too. That is fantastic and we do support it 100%. However, we are a bit surprised that she tabled a a private member's bill.

For us, a private member's bill is an important bill. A private member's bill is a front door bill. Why do I say that? It is because less than two years ago in the House, which my colleague from Foothills will remember, there was a strong debate about Bill C-4, introduced by the government, which was to kill two private members' bills tabled in the previous Parliament. They were Bill C-525 about democracy and unions, and Bill C-377 about transparency and unions. Those bills were tabled by Conservative members, but not the government.

For us, those private members' bills were front door bills. Unfortunately, the parliamentary secretary for the prime minister said many times in the House that the Conservative government used back door bills to table those pieces of legislation. What an insult. All members in this House are front door members. All bills tabled in this House are front door bills. No one here is a back door member, and no one here tables back door bills, contrary to what the member for Winnipeg North said so many times less than two years ago.

I am going to repeat what I just said. I want to make it clear that for us, all bills are front-door bills, regardless of whether they are private members' bills or government bills, legislative bills or money bills.

Less than two years ago, the member for Winnipeg North, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, no less, made a huge deal out of things and told the House that the Conservative government had used backdoor bills. These were private members' bills. These bills were about union democracy and union transparency. Sadly, they were killed off by Bill C-4, a bill tabled, debated, and passed by the Liberal government.

To be clear for the hon. member for Châteauguay—Lacolle, and I am sorry to refer to her with that title, but I know it will be over in less than two years, Conservatives support the will of the people 100%. We appreciate the hard work that has been done by the member, the fact that she listened to her constituents, and did her homework. That is fantastic. We are just a little surprised by how many members will have new titles, but if that is the will of the people, we will recognize and respect it. We are also a little surprised that instead of getting on the train, and I do not know if that is the right expression in English.

Instead of jumping on the omnibus bill bandwagon, the member decided to go a different route.

Instead of going with an omnibus bill, which we recognize she has the right to do, she decided to go with a private member's bill, while so many other issues could have been addressed as opposed to changing the name of a riding. This could have been achieved with an omnibus bill.

I want to reiterate that we agree with Bill C-377.

An Act to change the name of the electoral district of Châteauguay—LacolleGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, as has been said, we are beginning our study of Bill C-377, which was introduced by my colleague from Châteauguay—Lacolle.

I am very familiar with the western part of her riding, which used to be part of Beauharnois—Salaberry, the riding I represented before the boundary changes of 2015.

Like the current riding of Salaberry—Suroît, Châteauguay—Lacolle includes a city that contains half the constituency's population, as well as several rural areas. Montérégie-Ouest is a fantastic agricultural region that is also facing some challenges.

I fully understand my colleague's need to change the name of the riding to Châteauguay—Les Jardins-de-Napierville. As my other Conservative and NDP colleagues said, we understand and commend the initiative shown by the member in consulting her constituents, doing historical research, and keeping an election promise. That is why we are going to vote in favour of her bill.

However, I am wondering, and everyone else is too, why my colleague chose to go with this process and this tool, namely, a private member's bill, given the economic, social, and environmental issues affecting our region and the fact that the government has a process in place to handle riding name changes. Members mentioned an omnibus bill where all members had the opportunity to participate and propose new riding names. We are still able to do that.

The party leaders have already agreed on the process to allow all members of the House to propose new riding names and change the names of their ridings before the 2019 election.

We must first tell our House leader about the name change. Then, the staff of the House leaders will compile a list of the members whose ridings names need to be changed. A member is chosen to draft the omnibus bill that will encompass all of the riding name changes of all the MPs who submitted proposals.

Elections Canada will then be consulted to make sure that everything is in order with regard to the riding names and the time allocated to make the necessary changes. The member will then amend the bill as required, introduce it in the House of Commons, and seek the unanimous consent of the House to change the names of all of the ridings in question at the same time.

That process was used in 2014 with Bill C-37, which enabled all those name changes.

Why did my colleague from Châteauguay—Lacolle use a member's privilege, the privilege to introduce a private member's bill? We know that just over half the MPs will have the privilege of debating their bill in this Parliament. Our names are drawn out of a hat, and chance alone determines where our bill ends up on the list and whether we get to debate it right away.

For example, I am 194th on the list, and I may have the opportunity to debate my private member's bill. That means I have to choose my bill carefully. The bill my colleague chose to debate has to do with changing her riding's name. She could have done that and also chosen another issue altogether. She could have done both to have a positive impact and make life better for the people of her riding and all ridings in Canada, but that is not what she did.

I am quite surprised that she chose to use this tool to promote a name change that we all agree on and will vote in favour of.

I consider introducing a private member's bill on this topic a lost opportunity because a private member's bill can be life-changing for thousands or even millions of Canadians. For example, in Montérégie-Ouest, there are a lot of issues that would benefit from a private member's bill to bring about economic, social, or environmental change.

Les Jardins-de-Napierville is part of what is known as the “Jardin du Québec”. Many agricultural producers are located in this region and they need the support of their local MP.

First, we might consider the challenge of seasonal workers. We know that the vegetable farms need hundreds of foreign workers in their fields between March and October or November. There should be protections for these workers when the government negotiates free trade agreements.

If we look at NAFTA, there are no guarantees that supply management will still be there tomorrow. We have talked about this and raised the issue many times. Why not create a bill on one of these agricultural issues in order to help the agri-food sector, especially since it employs one in eight Canadians?

Our region needs to be more attractive to small and medium-sized businesses. Our rural regions have a dire need for things like high-speed Internet, 4G service, and infrastructure to help young entrepreneurs and to secure businesses that are already established in the region. Back home, a common joke is that when it rains, there is no Internet. When it is windy, there is no Internet. Could the hon. member have worked on a bill to improve that situation for our schools, hospitals, workers, and students?

An economic bill would also have been useful, especially from a government member, who may have the inside track on getting her bill passed.

The environment is another critically important issue. Protecting our waterways is as important for my colleague's riding as it is for mine and for every riding in Canada. In fact, my colleague was invited to the announcement on dismantling the Kathyrn Spirit, which is a threat to a drinking water supply in Beauharnois, on Lake Saint-Louis. That shipwreck has been rusting away for six years. I would have liked to get more support from my colleague from Châteauguay—Lacolle on this subject and to see her work with the hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith.

It is rather ironic that both bills were debated today. Bill C-352, introduced by my colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith has been muzzled. We cannot vote on her bill because the government decided to declare it non-votable in order to make room for the Minister of Transport's bill, which would actually have complemented C-352. The 50 coastal communities that helped develop this bill for the past 15 years will not get to see members of the House vote on it.

An Act to change the name of the electoral district of Châteauguay—LacolleGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

An hon. member

That is terrible.

An Act to change the name of the electoral district of Châteauguay—LacolleGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Indeed, that is terrible. It is an attack on democracy. It is sad to see the government misusing its tools to make changes to a riding name, something we are all able to do anyway, and miss out on an incredible opportunity to address pressing issues in the ridings and make progress on currently problematic situations on the ground.

I support the constituents' request to change the constituency name from Châteauguay—Lacolle to Châteauguay—Les-Jardins-de-Napierville. However, I think that the hon. member could have used better judgment by using a better tool and tackling another issue for her private member's business.