House of Commons Hansard #182 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.


Contribution of Ranchers and FarmersPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.


Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB


That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize that the ongoing contribution of ranchers and farmers as stewards of the land and conservationists is part of our history, proudly shared by all Canadians, and should consider establishing policies which would support and encourage the development of private farm and ranch land conservation and restoration projects.

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour and privilege for me to rise today in the House of Commons to give the first speech on my Motion No. 108. I am looking forward to working with all my colleagues from across Canada, from every party present in the House, to pass what I believe is this important motion.

Canada has a long and storied agricultural history. Because of technology advances in Canadian agricultural practice, this country has become one of the biggest food producers in the world. That is one of the reasons that Canada has always played a very important role in the world, and why we will play an even bigger role in the future. There is a need for healthy, affordable, nutritious food. Having access to such things, along with clean drinking water, assures that the human body can meet its very basic physiological needs. Canada is a major contributor to ensuring that the world is fed. With the world population expected to grow by billions in the coming decades, the issue of meeting the global demand for nutritious food is going to become an even more pressing concern. Canada's farmers will be playing a critical role to ensuring that we can rise up to this challenge and meet the demands of a hungry world.

Canada's story would not be complete without talking about its agricultural history. Indigenous peoples have had a long history of agricultural practices in Canada. The first French settlers started agricultural practices in the Maritimes and in Quebec. With the British contribution, as their empire grew, so did their need for food. Wheat production ramped up in what was New France, and continued to grow after the British settled North America. Upper Canada had a significant wheat economy. Lower Canada even began to import wheat from Upper Canada. There was discussion of a wheat standard, which would link the amount of money printed to the wheat holdings of the colony. It was a novel and unique idea at the time. Early settlers were efficient and able to produce more than they needed for their own needs.

The western part of Canada was populated in the late 19th century and early 20th century. It soon became a major producer of food. Palliser's Triangle, or the area of the Prairies in southeastern Alberta and southern Saskatchewan today, was named after the British captain, John Palliser. He explored the prairie region in the 1840s for the British government, and he was not impressed with the potential of the Prairies for settlement and agricultural practices. In fact, his report stated that no one should settle here. The Canadian government later built the railroad across the Prairies, and settlement expanded significantly. In one year alone after the turn of the century, 1.4 million immigrants arrived in Canada, and for decades many people homesteaded across the Prairies. If only Palliser could see what kind of society we have developed there now. The Prairies are often referred to as the breadbasket of Canada.

Today, we have significant agricultural sectors in many parts of the country. Many farms in southwestern and eastern Ontario are some of the lushest farmland in Canada. There are many crops grown there, like soybeans and corn, and there are many other farms, like dairy and poultry. Quebec is similar, with dairy farms being prominent. The Atlantic provinces were also very active in agriculture, both then and today. For example, we know very well that P.E.I. potatoes are among the best in the world, and Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick are well known for their cranberry and blueberry farms. British Columbia has an incredible variety of agricultural sectors. It is well known for its fruit orchards, as is Nova Scotia. The wine industry of Ontario and British Columbia have now expanded to other provinces. The industry is now coast to coast.

With all of this in mind, I am presenting this motion today to my colleagues here in the House, and to all Canadians. It is important to recognize that our Canadian ranch and farm families are among the most environmentally minded people in any sector of the Canadian economy. Farmers will always have the environment as their number one concern. Some of the best conservationists are ranchers. Their ranches form a major part of the backbone of the economy of much of Alberta. They are also a major part of the Bow River riding, the constituents I am so humbled to represent here in Ottawa.

I would like to speak about some of the technology used by farmers in the area I represent. For example, one of the environmentally friendly technologies and practices used is called no-till agriculture. No-till agriculture means avoiding the old-fashioned way of disturbing the soil through annual tillage. This has numerous environmental benefits, and it can also greatly improve the sustainability of farming operations at limited cost to the farmer. Not only is it better for the soil, it saves the amount of water needed for farming, because soil that has been used through no-till farming has better water-retention qualities. This means less runoff and wasted water.

When it comes to wetlands on farm property, our Canadian farmers have been innovative and smart in dealing with the challenges of protecting these critical riparian habitats while at the same time continuing to farm their land. There is also the use of cover crops, which sole purpose is to enrich and rejuvenate the soil so that it can be used for years and years to come. These are just a couple of examples where our innovative Canadian farmers are leading the world in protecting our environment while ensuring that the Canadian agriculture and agrifood sector is sustainable, environmentally friendly, and economical.

Another technological advance over the last number of decades has been with the use of chemicals by farmers. They have become safer and they are used less. This means that everyone, from the farmer to the business to the consumer, and throughout the supply chain, is benefiting from these new technologies. Our ranch families are expert conservationists. They survive and thrive by ensuring that the land they use on a regular basis for their livelihoods is sustainable and healthy so that it may be passed on to future generations. This means that they are good stewards of the land that they tend to. Often on these pastures and ranch areas, there are significant varieties of wildlife and vegetation. Ranchers and farmers understand the biospheres of their land base and the surrounding land base. These are some of the challenges that are faced, often on a daily basis by our ranchers, which they handle so well.

One of the great tools that ranchers use in their land management plans is that of grazing. Grazing is an incredible conservation tool when used properly, and can ensure that grassland is environmentally sound and able to be used for generations to come. The Prairies were historically grazed by millions of migrating buffalo. The grasslands are kept as a healthy biosphere by the grazing animals of ranchers, as once was done by the free-ranging buffalo. These grazed grasslands provide habitat for native plants and animals.

All of these scenarios speak to the heart of my motion. Farmers and ranchers are conservationists and environmentalists. No farmer or rancher wakes up in the morning dreaming of ways to wreck their land. They get up thinking of new ways that they can improve it. They do this because otherwise their land quality declines. It is in their best interest to consider how they can improve soil quality, improve the quality of the product they produce, and how they can do it while minimizing their impacts on the environment.

When it comes to conservation, I would like to speak about my experience serving as a member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. The committee does a lot of great work and has thus far produced two reports in Parliament. I am pleased to say that both of these reports were unanimous, meaning that they carry more weight with stakeholders and the government.

The last report that it had the honour of releasing in March was the report on protected areas and conservation within Canada. One of the opportunities that this study afforded committee members was the opportunity to travel to many communities, including some in southern Alberta. We met on the land with a rancher and farmer. He was able to discuss with us the extensive conservation projects they are working on. The ranch we visited is just outside of Cochrane and is called the Quarter Circle X Ranch. The owners and operators are John and Tracey Buckley. They, as many ranchers and farmers, have made a firm commitment to sustainability in how they deliver their product to the marketplace. They are a testament to how ranchers operate in communities across Canada. An important fact to remember is that over 98% of Canadian farms are family owned and operated, even today. These small-business owners are often the backbone of the economy, in countless rural economies across the country.

Canadians want access to affordable, nutritious food, and their preference will no doubt always be food that comes from Canadian farm operations. Ranchers play a major part in this work. They take care of the ever-important rangeland. Having healthy rangeland leads to a number of very positive outcomes and impacts on the natural environment. Our ranchers are able to manage the land, especially by the use of cattle, to ensure they are conserving this important land. One of the major benefits of having healthy ranchland is that they act as carbon sinks. I know there is some research that tells us Canada as a whole is a net carbon sink, and I hope we can capitalize and improve upon this research in the future.

Ranchers and farmers play a big part in this piece. This is one of the reasons this motion recognizes that ranchers and farmers are environmentalists and conservationists. This motion supports the fact that we have to tap into this valuable resource in the future. We need to protect this incredibly valuable rangeland, which delivers so many net benefits to our environment and well-being.

One of the things that modern farmers realize is the growing consumer demand for information on where and how their food is grown, and whether it is grown or raised in the most sustainable manner possible. Thanks to many modern technological advances, Canadian farmers have ways to track this data. Many of the large food companies are following the lead of producers by being as transparent as possible with their clients.

This motion is one that I believe will resonate with Canadians from coast to coast, as well as from different age groups, backgrounds, and demographic groups. I also hope it will foster an important discussion on the rural-urban divide in Canada, whether real or imagined. Canada is a large geographic expanse with many different regions and ecosystems, and a vast area that is used for ranching and farming activities.

One of the issues of the past 150 years or so has been the rural exodus to cities. The vast majority of Canadians now live in urban areas as opposed to rural areas. I think this may lead to a certain divide in attitudes, ideals, and opinions. However, recognizing where our food comes from, who is growing it, or, in the case of live animals like cattle, raising it, we can help to show our friends and relatives in urban areas that our ranchers and farmers are sustainability focused and conservationists.

One of the great advancements that helps Canadian ranchers and farmers practice efficient and sustainable practices on their land is the advent of sound plant science. There are some innovative companies across Canada that contribute to this technological wisdom. There is an excellent company in my constituency for example, called Stamp Seeds. It is an expert in seed management for the agricultural sector.

A lot of this technology has had a major impact on how our farmers grow their product. It has led to a savings in water. The irrigation sector has become highly technologically advanced, which has created water savings, but has also created a tremendous environment for an incredibly varied biosphere.

Advanced agricultural practises have decreased soil erosion. It has meant that we can grow more food on the same land. It means we can use less fuel in the agriculture and agrifood sector. The advent of safe nutritious foods with increased production has meant that Canada can produce food for a hungry world without having to sacrifice our important land base.

When it comes to the conservation side of the equation, our ranchers and farmers are at the forefront of sustainability. In Canada, for example, we have a number of organizations that work with landowners to help them preserve important land. For our crucial wetlands, for instance, we have Ducks Unlimited, which is an organization that I am proud to support. Ducks Unlimited plays an important role in the preservation of wetlands. The Canadian wing of this international organization has projects throughout Canada. Ducks Unlimited is currently working with a number of organizations, both in industry and with ranchers and farmers across Canada, to create a plan to make Canada a world leader in sustainable agriculture.

Organizations that are participating are Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Croplife Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Fertilizer Canada, Grain Growers of Canada, Soil Conservation Council of Canada, and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. This is a broad range of organizations which have come together with the goal of increasing our agricultural output while ensuring we do not need to use more land as one of the main objectives.

This is an excellent project, which will require a lot of know-how from our Canadian ranchers and farmers. They will be the ones doing all the work on the ground. Thanks to the support of the aforementioned organizations, it is my hope that this will become a reality. The study is being spearheaded by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops.

I believe that Motion No. 108 is a necessary display of support for our ranch and farm business industry, those who work in conservation every day. This motion is truly worthy of the support of dear hon. members, because I believe it is worded in a way that makes it universal. It applies to a variety of cereal crops and dairy businesses, to the woodlot stewards maintained as part of agricultural properties, to those who grow fruit and potatoes, and to those who work in wetland conservation and restoration within their agricultural operations.

This is an important way for us as Parliamentarians to recognize the people in our agriculture sector who play an important daily role in the work of conservation. I thank hon. members for listening to me, and I hope they will support me in this important motion here today.

Contribution of Ranchers and FarmersPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my Conservative Party colleague and friend for moving Motion No. 108. I would also like to congratulate him on his speech in the House of Commons today. I am always happy to talk to the House about agriculture and how important it is.

Not long ago, we had an NDP private member's bill that would have made it easier to transfer family farms. We know that the average Canadian farmer is getting older and starting to think about retirement. The bill would have enabled farmers to transfer their farms to their children for $1. It would also have repaired a tax system injustice to facilitate the transfer of family farms. Unfortunately, the bill did not even make it to committee for detailed study.

I would like my colleague to comment on the importance of introducing measures to facilitate family farm transfers. I would also like to know if he is disappointed that all but a few Liberals voted against this important initiative to facilitate the transfer of farm businesses.

Contribution of Ranchers and FarmersPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. colleague's question is one of the larger ones out there in the sense of transferability of properties from generation to generation. Many of our farm operations are generationally transferred, and we should do anything we can to help.

These are generational farms and ranches. People have cared for the property for generations and feel like they have been stewards of the lands for generations. They believe it is not their land, that it belongs to the country and they are just temporary stewards, so anything we can do to help the process for these stewards and conservationists in this small business backbone of our agricultural industry should be done.

Contribution of Ranchers and FarmersPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague for bringing this great motion forward. We never give enough recognition to farmers for what they do.

When I think back to my days in agriculture, I remember when we would work the field three or four times, and it would be dry and dusty, and the wind would blow the dust over the doorsteps and it would be all over the place. Now I look at the fuel consumption of tractors and the number of passes over the fields and I see how much that has changed.

Could the member give an example of what his area looked like in the 1960s and 1970s compared to what it looks like today?

Contribution of Ranchers and FarmersPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, in my riding we have the four largest irrigation districts in the country. The technology has moved from flood irrigation to sprinklers that used a lot of power and wasted a lot of water. Now the sprinkling systems have underground piping to convey the water. The efficiency in water usage has increased by a minimum of one-third in the same property to increase crop productivity.

Farmers can use a computer at home to analyze their property's soil sampling and find that they need two inches on one part while on another piece they only need one-quarter of an inch because of the soil retention. The productivity change from the 1960s and 1970s when I was young and out there with a shovel in an irrigation ditch has come with the highly technical way that farms can use their lands. It is incredibly different. It is highly efficient and uses a lot less energy.

Contribution of Ranchers and FarmersPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask how the provinces are seeing this issue in relation to the federal government. Farmers have some challenges in dealing with the provinces and with the federal government. How would Motion No. 108, which I will be speaking in support of shortly, cut through the provinces and the federal government in working with the farmers?

Contribution of Ranchers and FarmersPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, there are challenges in programs that are provincially supported and may be federally mandated, but if farmers are identified as conservationists and stewards of the land up front, in the sense that they are working together in the same process, it is easier to bring provincial departments of agriculture together with the federal government if they have a program they would like to implement. That co-operation, working with the agricultural sector provincially and federally, is a natural process. If we are all talking the same language and working together, it could be facilitated.

Contribution of Ranchers and FarmersPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

La Prairie Québec


Jean-Claude Poissant LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Bow River for raising the critical issue of the link between agriculture and the environment. As we know, producers deserve our full support in making their farms even greener than they already are.

Farmers knows how important it is to maintain soil, water, and air quality in order to support their farms and their livelihoods from generation to generation. They also know that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand in hand. Our government knows this, and it also knows that farmers are excellent stewards of the land who take environmental conservation very seriously.

I would like to outline some of the investments we are making to help farmers capitalize on opportunities for sustainable growth, while adapting to climate change.

With the provinces and territories, the federal government is investing $350 million over five years to support scientific research and environmental initiatives in the agriculture sector. This funding will support education and increased awareness of environmental risks on farms, and help put in place environmentally beneficial management practices such as planting rows of trees to reduce soil erosion, using fencing to protect streams and wildlife habitats, and improving farm equipment to better target the application of fertilizers and pesticides.

I want to point out that governments are working on the next agricultural policy framework, which includes programs that focus on environmental priorities on farms and are science-based in order to ensure the sustainable growth of the sector.

For example, we must better protect water quality, soil health, biodiversity, and air quality while implementing measures to adapt to climate change. We intend to better support the adoption of precision agriculture technologies, tools, and innovative products in order to help the agricultural sector enhance its contribution to Canada's climate change commitments.

The next agricultural policy framework will also support the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change with measures that enhance farmers' ability to store carbon in their lands.

The government is also strengthening its commitments by investing another $27 million in its agricultural greenhouse gases program. This investment will support 20 new research projects to be carried out in partnership with Canadian universities and environmental groups.

These projects will study a variety of issues, ranging from the greenhouse gas emissions associated with blueberry, potato, and feed crop farming in British Columbia to the planting of willows in river-irrigated areas in Atlantic Canada in order to sequester carbon.

Overall, the renewed program seeks to help farmers reduce greenhouse gases and adapt to climate change in four main areas. These include a management and food strategy, carbon sequestering through land use and farming methods, agroforestry, and agricultural irrigation and drainage.

This $27-million program supports research and development and raises awareness among farmers. For example, at the University of Alberta, a federal investment of $3.7 million will be used to carry out three projects that will focus on the environmental footprint created by the farming of various grain crops, livestock grazing systems, and shelterbelts.

These projects will be led by scientists from the university with assistance from our scientists in Lethbridge. They will help farmers make their operations even greener than they already are.

At Dalhousie University, we are investing over $1.7 million in a prospecting project on soil formation and evolution in order to determine the carbon and nitrogen content of the soil and assess each type of soil to determine its carbon storage potential.

We are also investing in excess of $1.1 million in a project run by the Fiducie de recherche sur la forêt des Cantons-de-l'Est, a forestry research trust in the Eastern Townships, to find ways to reduce on-farm greenhouse gas emissions.

The agricultural greenhouse gases program is a nationwide program that will offer Canadian farmers practical and affordable solutions and help them continue to be leaders in sustainable agriculture.

Our government is working to make our agricultural sector more profitable, sustainable, and green. In the 2017 budget, we allocated an additional $70 million to further support science and innovation that focuses on agricultural discovery. Research will focus on addressing emerging priorities, such as climate change and soil and water conservation.

All of this is in addition to our government's many other positive initiatives, including budget 2017's $200-million investment in green technology and our $5.2-million investment in the agricultural youth green jobs initiative, which will attract young Canadians to green jobs in the agriculture and agrifood sector.

This year, Canadians will celebrate our great nation's 150th birthday. We know that our world-class farmers are vital to feeding the global population and saving the planet. That is why our investments in the environment are essential.

I grew up on my ancestors' farm in La Prairie. Like all Canadian farmers, we understand the importance of protecting the earth, air, and water and making sure they are in good shape when our children take over. I was a fourth generation farmer, and I was very proud when my son took over the farm.

Once again, I thank the member for Bow River for raising the matter of how important farm-specific environmental programs are. We support this motion.

Contribution of Ranchers and FarmersPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak in support of Motion No. 108. I want to congratulate my colleague from Bow River on his initiative in moving this motion. I am very proud to rise and talk about agriculture and agrifood.

The motion before us today highlights the contribution farmers make to protecting our lands and the environment, and calls for measures to promote the conservation of agricultural land.

The motion proposes two extremely important concepts, namely, environmental protection and the conservation of Canada's agricultural heritage. This is very timely given that we are celebrating Canada's 150th birthday this year. We will have the opportunity to talk about the history and evolution of agriculture, as well as the investments that have been made and the changes that have taken place over the years.

The motion warrants special consideration because, despite how clear it is, it gives us the opportunity to raise several issues that are important to farmers and the future of agriculture in Canada. As agriculture and agrifood critic, I think it is important to talk about the extraordinary work done by Canada's agricultural producers when it comes to protecting our environment, improving our lands, and ensuring sustainable development. With that in mind, the government needs to continue to invest more to fight climate change, working closely and in partnership with farmers, providing them with the means to protect the environment and their lands using new technology.

Recently, private member's Bill C-274 was introduced in the House of Commons. The government needs to put measures in place to encourage the transfer of family farms. This bill sought to put an end to an injustice and make it easier to transfer farms. Canada lost more than 8,000 family farms over the past 10 years. In my riding, the regional municipality of Maskinongé has lost 146 family farms since 1979. Over $50 billion in farm assets are set to change hands between 2016 and 2026. The government needs to be reminded that it missed a golden opportunity by failing to send Bill C-274 to committee for further study. The bill had the support of some 100 organizations across Canada. I would like to commend my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques for his initiative.

It is very important for family farms to be transferred to members of the same family, as doing so helps preserve agricultural land and ensure the survival of agriculture across Canada. As everyone knows, agricultural lands are not renewable, and we need to do everything that we can to protect them.

The NDP is the only federal party to have consulted stakeholders from across the country when developing an agriculture strategy. This bill, this policy, supported the conservation of agricultural land and raised the very important issue of our food sovereignty. The government announced that it will be holding consultations about this policy, and I will be following this very closely.

Our vision connects Canadians from farm to fork. That is why we need to assess the whole situation and bring an integrated approach to federal policy that connects agriculture, rural development—we must not forget access to high-speed Internet in the regions—health, and income security. Adopting a pan-Canadian food strategy such as the one proposed by the NDP will ensure that young people and new farmers can access the capital and land they need to work in the agriculture sector.

Furthermore, a food strategy recognizes that the federal government has a key role to play in working with the provinces and territories to protect critical watersheds that cross provincial boundaries, to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and to reduce food waste.

Essentially, a food strategy aims to ensure that everyone eats well and can access healthy and affordable food. It is important to ensuring that our agricultural communities are sustainable for generations to come and that Canadian products find growing markets both at home and abroad. We must protect our agricultural heritage because this is about food sovereignty.

I want to remind members about an issue that we debated at length in 2012. The previous Conservative Party eliminated the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration program in an omnibus bill. This was a really important program because it was responsible for rehabilitating lands affected by drought and erosion in the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

We know that the previous government dismantled the program without the benefit of an environmental impact study. After it was dismantled, the pastures were transferred to the provinces. However, the problem is that, in some cases, the provinces sold the lands to private investors, and in most cases, they continue to lease them to ranchers, but at higher rates and with fewer services, all while ignoring the need to protect the environmental integrity of the Prairies.

This issue affects many stakeholders, including environmental groups, wilderness conservation groups, farmers, ranchers and young people who want to take up farming.

This issue is very important to the Prairies, but especially Saskatchewan, where there are still many pastures left to be transferred. We know that the transfers of these community pastures and lands will soon be complete, in 2018.

There is still time for the Liberal government to do something to save these prairie lands, and we are calling on it to do so.

I also want to touch on our supply management system. I think that, at one point, my most common utterances in the House of Commons were “protecting our supply management system” and “diafiltered milk”. We are asking the government to take action because concrete action is vital to protecting our supply management system. We know that the government has fallen short at times in terms of border control and protection, and that has led to financial losses for dairy producers.

Two weeks ago, the Auditor General of Canada told us that the Canada Border Services Agency should have assessed $168 million of customs duties on imports of quota-controlled goods. Producers suffered huge losses because the government fell down on border protection. Now our producers are paying the price and losing out on more revenue.

The federal government must implement concrete measures that will really make a difference and protect our supply management system to safeguard our family farms and ensure their long-term survival. Just recently, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food went to Washington. We met with a number of elected officials and explained to them why it is so important to protect our supply management system. Those were really important conversations.

We import between 8% and 10% of what we consume. The Americans import 2%. That is why it is important to have these meetings, especially with the prospect of NAFTA renegotiations looming.

Once again, I would like to congratulate the member for Bow River on moving today's Motion No. 108, which gives us an opportunity to talk about the importance of protecting agriculture in Canada.

We truly hope that the Liberal government will implement measures to facilitate the transfer of family farms and that it will invest more in the fight against climate change.

Contribution of Ranchers and FarmersPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to support Motion No. 108. I am also very proud to represent the constituency of Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, a major farming and ranching constituency. In fact, my constituency produces the most canola in Canada of any constituency.

Canada is a very large country; 10 million square kilometres. Within our 10 million square kilometres, there are just over 200,000 farms. They farm a very small part of Canada. They farm 680,000 square kilometres, or 6.8% of Canada's landmass. However, these 200,000 family farms, on 6.8% of the land area in Canada, provide a disproportionate contribution to Canadian society and the Canadian economy. They are also a repository of cultural and traditional ecological knowledge and values.

This constituency also has a very strong stewardship ethic and is blanketed with organizations known as conservation districts, where local people have gotten together to develop and promote conservation programming.

Right now, agriculture counts for about 8% of Canada's GDP and 12% of all employment. The food and beverage processing industry is the largest of all manufacturing industries in Canada. Overall, about 50% of Canada's agricultural production is exported, but in the west, where I come from, the number is 80%. Therefore, agriculture not only helps our Canadian economy, but it contributes very strongly to the balance of trade as well.

It is very clear that the relatively small number of primary agricultural producers in Canada sets off an enormous chain reaction of jobs, growth and employment that ripples throughout the entire Canadian economy. Not only that, but Canadian farmers produce the world's highest quality food and deliver extremely affordable food to Canadians.

In Canada, we spend about 10% of our disposable income on food. It is among the lowest in the entire world. The fact that low-income people can afford to eat well is one of the best social programs a country could ever have. In other words, we are all part of the culture of agriculture. Not only that, Canada's major cities are largely located within the agricultural regions of Canada, reflecting our country's settlement patterns.

However, we tend to take agriculture for granted and we all expect this flow of high quality, abundant, and low cost food to continue indefinitely, which is a good thing. However, society is now placing new environmental demands on farmers and ranchers and they have responded, utilizing techniques that were described earlier, such as zero tillage, where crops are grown without disturbing the soil.

I recall during the dry 1980s in Canada's Prairies when there were horrific dust storms in the spring. Much of the land was bare and high winds developed. These dust storms are no more, thanks to conservation farming techniques.

I know modern agriculture has been criticized in some corners, but I am a strong proponent of high-tech modern agriculture as an environmental benefit to all of society. The fact that we can grow more food on less land means we can also reserve certain lands for conservation purposes.

Let us look at ranchers like my colleague did. Ranchers have developed grazing techniques such as rest rotational grazing and remote watering that improve cattle weight gain, enhance water quality, and conserve biodiversity.

Regarding cattle ranching, I vehemently disagree with those who criticize the environmental performance of the beef cattle industry. Quite frankly, if we care about the environment, we should eat beef.

Well-managed grazing not only conserves and protects vital grasslands, but is critical to the survival of many endangered prairie birds. In fact, the Audubon Society, undoubtedly North America's most prestigious bird conservation organization, has launched the conservation ranching program. It works with ranchers to improve conservation outcomes. I will quote from one of its documents:

To combat these negative impacts and to keep grass on the landscape throughout North America, Audubon has developed the Conservation Ranching Program. This program is a collaboration with local ranchers within the North American Grasslands, ensuring that grazing regimes produce healthy habitats for target grassland bird species....cattle are an essential management tool for the prairie which led to Audubon's decision to promote their presence on grasslands.

Again, those of us who strongly support the cattle industry should speak loudly and proudly about the conservation benefits of the cattle industry.

The NAFTA Commission for Environmental Cooperation essentially said the same thing. The CEC is a commission of Canada, Mexico, and the United States created under NAFTA. It has released a series of reports underlining the importance of sustainable ranching and beef cattle trade to the grasslands and to the societies and economies of North America.

The crux of the issue, when it comes to conservation programming on private land, is that there is a mix of property rights on private land. The soil is privately owned, but the wildlife belongs to the crown. These rights often come into conflict. Farmers and ranchers by necessity change the landscape to continue agricultural operations, but quite frankly, the public has a legitimate interest in the management and conservation of public resources, such as wildlife, on private land.

The big question is how to manage the public interest while at the same time maintaining farm and ranch profitability. We can emphasize the enforcement approach or the incentive approach. Motion No. 108 talks about the incentive approach.

In most cases, the enforcement approach, which is telling farmers and ranchers how they must run their operations, has been a dismal failure. I recall the actions under the pre-2012 Fisheries Act and the current Species at Risk Act.

I am a member of the fisheries committee. In testimony before the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, when we were reviewing changes the government wants to make to the 2012 Fisheries Act, which our government brought in, there was testimony from Ron Bonnett, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. On November 21, 2016, he said:

The experience that many farmers had with the Fisheries Act, unfortunately, was not a positive one. It was characterized by lengthy bureaucratic applications for permitting and authorizations, and a focus on enforcement and compliance measures taken by officials coupled with a lack of guidance or outreach on the purpose of these measures or information on how to navigate through the process.

Many farmers were then relieved when the changes that were made just a few years ago drastically improved the timeliness and cost of conducting regular maintenance and improvement activities to their farms as well as lifting the threat of being deemed out of compliance. That being said, I think we could find ourselves with an important opportunity to look at how protection can be enhanced in a way that works on the ground for those who earn their livelihood from productive natural resources.

The Species at Risk Act is problematic as well. It has a very strong enforcement role. Currently, it is actually a disincentive to have an endangered species on one's farm.

On the other hand, the incentive approach to dealing with conservation on private land has delivered real conservation outcomes. Again, from Mr. Bonnett's testimony:

I'd like to take this opportunity to share just a few examples from my own farm of growing stewardship actions that have improved fish habitat outcomes. Through Growing Forward 2 and species at risk funding, we were able to access incentive programs that contributed to the improvement of fish habitat. More specifically, through the provincially delivered environmental farm plan and the Species at Risk Act, we put fencing in to keep our livestock sufficiently away from water courses, which has increased water quality and fish population.

In order to provide fresh water for our cattle, we installed a solar powered off-stream watering system. This has led to the rehabilitation of the stream that runs through our pasture areas. These are just two examples from a single farm in northern Ontario that illustrate how stewardship approaches have improved fish habitat in agricultural landscapes through means other than a regulatory-based approach under the Fisheries Act.

When the committee reviewed the Fisheries Act, it unanimously approved recommendations 8 and 9. Recommendation 8 stated:

That Fisheries and Oceans Canada put sufficient protection provisions into the Fisheries Act that act as safeguards for farmers and agriculturalists, and municipalities.

Recommendation 9 stated:

That Fisheries and Oceans Canada work with the farm community and rural municipalities to provide incentives and expert advice to conserve and enhance fish habitat and populations and utilize the enforcement approach as a last resort.

It was made clear to the fisheries committee by the farm community that the enforcement approach simply does not work and that the incentive approach is the one we must take.

Under the Species at Risk Act, there is a really good program in place called the species at risk partnerships on agricultural lands program, or SARPAL. In Manitoba right now, the Manitoba Beef Producers are delivering the SARPAL program, which is as it should be, with the people who know what is going on on the land delivering actual programs.

However, Canada lags far behind the United States and Europe in terms of incentive-based agricultural programs. I hope Motion No. 108 will go a way toward changing that. I strongly urge all members to approve Motion. No. 108, which would not only improve the environment but also improve the lives of Canada's farm and ranch communities.

Contribution of Ranchers and FarmersPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Bow River for raising the issue of land conservation and restoration on our farms.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food, and also having been born and raised on the Prairies, I know that Alberta farmers, and Canadian farmers, are responsible stewards of the land. Their goal is to leave the land in better shape for the next generation.

Farmers and ranchers have always been innovators. They still lead innovation as it relates to productivity and sustainability.

Last month we celebrated Earth Day. On the farm, every day is earth day. Across the country, Canadian farmers are taking action to safeguard their soil, air, and water resources. We know that our farmers are part of the climate change solution. Their sustainable practices have offset part of Canada's emissions by increasing the amount of carbon stored in agricultural soil. They continue to make great strides in reducing agriculture's environmental footprint through higher-yielding crops, more effective use of inputs, such as fertilizers, and the adoption of technologies that use water efficiently.

They use practices like zero tillage, which keeps carbon in the soil and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Twenty-five years ago, zero tillage was basically unheard of on Canadian fields. Today, according to Statistics Canada, almost 60% of Canada's farmers leave the plough in the shed. Not disturbing the soil through tillage, and leaving plant material on the ground, reduces soil erosion, maintains moisture, and captures carbon in the soil.

Farmers apply nitrogen fertilizers in more efficient ways that safeguard the environment and improve the bottom line. Over the past 20 years, wheat producers have reduced their fuel consumption per tonne of wheat harvested by 40%.

Cattle producers have also reduced their environmental footprint. Over the past three decades, farmers have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 15% per kilo through innovative advancements in genetics and feeding. At the same time, they are increasing their production by over 30%. These numbers are unreal. If they were in manufacturing, they would be in every headline in every paper in the country. Canadian dairy farmers can now produce the same quantity of milk as they did 20 years ago with close to half the number of cows and with 20% less in greenhouse gas emissions.

The Canadian agriculture sector has a solid track record in innovation and the adoption of new technologies that have reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Innovations in land management, feeding, breeding, and genetics mean that while Canadian agricultural productivity has increased, emissions have remained stabled. Producers are reducing their environmental footprint through new crop varieties and technologies that allow for higher yields on the same land base.

Clearly, Canada's farmers are up to the challenge of harnessing innovation to find affordable and practical solutions to feeding the world sustainably.

When it comes to programs to support environmental action on farms, our government supports Canadian farmers and will continue to do so. Through our solid investments in innovation and sustainable practices, we are making a real difference in the lives of farmers and farm families across the country. We understand that science and innovation are the keys to driving the sector forward sustainably while at the same time growing our exports and creating job opportunities in the agriculture sector.

Budget 2017 committed to ongoing support for farmers through investments in research, innovation, and science infrastructure. The University of Guelph has been a proud recipient of many grants for research in these areas. That includes an investment of $200 million in support of clean technologies in the natural resources sectors, including agriculture. We are also proud to be investing $70 million in agricultural science and innovation, focusing on priority areas such as water and soil conservation.

I would like to take a moment to highlight our $27-million investment in the agricultural greenhouse gases program, which will help create technologies, practices, and processes to help the sector adjust to climate change and to improve soil and water conservation by developing new farming practices and methods.

Environmental farm plans are another tremendous success story in our industry. Supported by federal, provincial, and territorial investments, farmers make individualized plans for environmental improvements on their farms. Environmental farm planning brings industry, the provinces, the territories, and the federal government together to take concrete action on the environment. They deliver practical solutions farmers can use to help the environment while boosting their bottom line.

Over the past quarter-century, more than 70,000 Canadian farmers have developed environmental farm plans. They have invested untold hours and dollars in environmental improvements, supported by investments from the provinces, territories, and the federal government.

Canada is showing global leadership on the environment. We reaffirmed our strong support for international action on the environment a year ago, when the Prime Minister signed the Paris climate agreement of COP 21.

Our investments are supporting on-farm action on the environment. Through these investments, we are supporting science to help producers reduce their environmental footprint through higher-producing crops; the effective use of inputs, such as fertilizers; improvements in animal genetics and nutrition; and technologies that use water more efficiently.

We are now looking ahead to the next agricultural policy framework that will replace Growing Forward 2 in 2018, something we have been discussing extensively at the agriculture committee. Governments agree that one of the priorities of the framework will be to help the sector capitalize on opportunities for sustainable growth while adapting to climate change.

Farmers are faced with the challenge of increasing production to feed a growing population while protecting land and water resources. Our government is committed to ensuring that farmers have the tools and the support they need to grow, to innovate, and to improve on their excellent land conservation and stewardship record.

It is great to see that the member for Bow River and other members of the House are as concentrated on this as the government. I thank the member for Bow River for initiating this discussion and for bringing forward the motion for us to discuss today.

Contribution of Ranchers and FarmersPrivate Members' Business



John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, it truly is an honour to rise today in support of my colleague from Bow River and of Motion No. 108.

Canadians, especially those in urban centres, do not understand the environmental impact our farmers and ranchers have on their communities. My riding of Foothills, which is in southwestern Alberta, is in the heart of cattle country. Alberta beef comes from my riding, for the most part, and I am proud of the efforts of our farmers.

It is unfortunate that often our farmers and ranchers are overlooked for their environmental stewardship and the efforts they have made to ensure that their land is protected not only for themselves but for future generations. The member for Bow River talked about how important it is for farmers and ranchers to protect their land because it is part of the country, but they also want to protect their land because they know they are going to hopefully pass it on to future generations. I have several farms in my riding that have been in the same family for more than a century, and that is something we are extremely proud of.

Those farms and ranches would not remain viable and successful businesses if farmers were not able to innovate, be efficient, and ensure that they were run as businesses. When it comes to running a farm as a business, every efficiency possible has to be found. A lot of that goes hand in hand with ensuring that they use every environmental technology and innovation that arises as technology changes.

Let us look at zero tillage. A generation ago, farmers in my riding, I am sure, were tilling their fields on an annual basis, but now we would be hard pressed to find even one who would be doing that. That shows how they have changed their methods and their technology to ensure that they protect the land not only for themselves but for future generations.

Many of the farmers and ranchers in my riding use wind turbines and solar power to heat their barns to ensure that the troughs remain thawed throughout the winter.

These are some of the things our farmers and ranchers are doing each and every day to protect their land for future generations.

Contribution of Ranchers and FarmersPrivate Members' Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario


Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism


That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, commencing upon the adoption of this Order and concluding on Friday, June 23, 2017:

(a) on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the ordinary hour of daily adjournment shall be 12:00 a.m., except that it shall be 10:00 p.m. on a day when a debate, pursuant to Standing Order 52 or 53.1, is to take place;

(b) subject to paragraph (e), 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) or Standing Order 78, 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 2:00 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 2:00 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) notwithstanding Standing Order 45(6) and paragraph (b) of this Order, no recorded division requested after 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 22, 2017, or at any time on Friday, June 23, 2017, shall be deferred, except for any recorded division which, under the Standing Orders, would be deferred to immediately before the time provided for Private Members’ Business on Wednesday, September 20, 2017;

(d) the time provided for Government Orders shall not be extended pursuant to Standing Order 45(7.1) or Standing Order 67.1(2);

(e) 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;

(f) 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;

(g) 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);

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

(i) no dilatory motion may be proposed after 6:30 p.m.;

(j) notwithstanding Standing Orders 81(16)(b) and (c) and 81 (18)(c), proceedings on any opposition motion shall conclude no later than 5:30 p.m. on the sitting day that is designated for that purpose, except on a Monday when they shall conclude at 6:30 p.m. or on a Friday when they shall conclude at 1:30 p.m.; and

(k) 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 rise to speak to government Motion No. 14. For the benefit of members, the motion would extend the sitting of the House until we rise for the summer adjournment.

We have much to accomplish in the coming weeks. Our government has an ambitious legislative agenda that we would like to advance in order to deliver on the commitments we made to Canadians in the last election. Let me reflect on our recent legislative achievements before I turn to the important work that lies before us over the next four weeks.

In our last sitting week, the House and Senate were able to reach agreement on securing passage of Bill C-37, which would put in place important measures to fight the opioid crisis in Canada. I would like to thank members of the House for the thoughtful debate on this bill and for not playing politics with such an important piece of legislation. In particular, I would like to thank members of the New Democratic Party for co-operating with the government to advance this bill when it was in the House and for helping us dispense with amendments from the Senate. This was a high watermark for the House and I hope that we can take this professional and courteous approach forward. I would also like to thank senators for their important contributions to this bill.

I would also like to point out the passage of two crucial bills related to trade. The first, Bill C-30, would implement an historic trade agreement with the European Union. The second, Bill C-31, would implement a trade agreement with Ukraine, a country that is dear to many members.

I am proud that our government continues to open the doors to trade and potential investment in Canada to grow our economy and help build a strong middle class.

In looking forward to the next four sitting weeks, I would like to highlight a few priority bills that our government will seek to advance. I will start with Bill C-44, which would implement budget 2017. This bill is about creating good middle-class jobs today while preparing Canadians for the jobs of tomorrow.

I will provide some examples of the initiatives that will contribute to building a strong middle class. The budget makes smart investments to help adult workers retain or upgrade their skills to adapt to changes in the new economy and to help young people get the skills and work experience they need to start their careers.

The budget also provides for investments in the well-being of Canadians, with the emphasis on mental health, home care, and health care for indigenous peoples.

Bill C-44 would provide financing to the provinces for home care and mental health care. It would also create leave for those who wish to care for a critically ill adult or child in their family. These initiatives help build stronger communities.

I would also like to point to initiatives in the budget that deal with gender equality. The first-ever gender statement will serve as a basis for ongoing, open, and transparent discussions about the role gender plays in policy development. Our government has other initiatives that aim to strengthen gender equality. For example, Bill C-25 encourages federally regulated companies to promote gender parity on boards of directors and to publicly report on the gender balance on these boards.

Another bill, which I will discuss in greater detail later in my remarks, is Bill C-24, a bill that would level the playing field to ensure a one-tier ministry. The bill has a simple premise. It recognizes that a minister is a minister, no matter what portfolio he or she holds.

Our government has committed to legalizing and strictly regulating the production, distribution, sale, and possession of cannabis. I look forward to the debate on this important bill tomorrow. I will note that the bill would provide strong safeguards and deterrents to protect young people from enticements to use or access cannabis.

The government has taken a responsible approach in seeking to legalize cannabis by ensuring that law enforcement agencies have approved methods to test the sobriety of drivers to guard against cannabis use while operating a motorized vehicle. This afternoon, the House will continue to debate this bill, which, I will happily note, has support from all opposition parties in the House. I hope that we can agree to send this bill to committee on Wednesday.

Now I would like to return to our government's commitment to improving gender equality. Bill C-24, which stands in my name, seeks to formalize the equal status of the ministerial team. This bill is very straightforward in its nature. It is fundamentally about the equality of all ministers. We strongly believe that the Minister of Status of Women should be a full minister. We believe that the Minister of Science and the Minister of Democratic Institutions should be full ministers.

I am disappointed that the Conservatives do not share this fundamental belief in equality. I think we should send this bill to committee for a detailed study of what the bill actually does.

I would like to draw members' attention to another piece of legislation, Bill C-23, regarding an agreement with the United States on the preclearance of persons and goods between our two countries.

This bill is currently being studied by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. The principle of the bill is simple. It is about ensuring a more efficient and secure border by expanding preclearance operations for all modes of transportation. This will increase the number of trips and the volume of trade, which will strengthen both of our economies.

As members may know, preclearance operations currently take place at eight Canadian airports, and immigration pre-inspection is also conducted at multiple locations in British Columbia in the rail and marine modes.

Once that bill comes back from committee, I hope that we can work together to send it to the other place.

In our last sitting week, our government introduced comprehensive modernization of our transportation systems. A strong transportation system is fundamental to Canada's economic performance and competitiveness. Bill C-49 does just that. The bill would enhance the utility, efficiency, and fluidity of our rail system so that it works for all participants in the system. Freight rail is the backbone of the Canadian economy. It moves everything from grain and potash to oil and coal, to the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, and the food we eat.

I would also like to draw to the attention of members provisions in Bill C-49 that would strengthen Canada's air passenger rights. While the precise details of the air passenger rights scheme will be set out in regulations, the objective is that rights should be clear, consistent, transparent, and fair for passengers and air carriers.

Finally, our government committed to creating a national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians. Bill C-22 seeks to accomplish two interrelated goals, ensuring that our security intelligence agencies are effective in keeping Canadians safe, while at the same time safeguarding our values, rights and freedoms, and the open, generous, inclusive nature of our country.

I appreciate the work that was done in the House committee to improve the bill. The bill is currently before the Senate national security committee, and I look forward to appearing before that committee with my colleague, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Sitting a few extra hours for four days per week will also give the House greater flexibility in dealing with unexpected events. While it is expected that the Senate will amend bills, it is not always clear which bills and the number of bills that could be amended by the Senate. As we have come to know, the consideration of Senate amendments in the House takes time. This is, in part, why we need to sit extra hours. I know that members work extremely hard balancing their House duties and other political duties. I expect that extending the hours will add to the already significant workload.

I wish to thank members for their co-operation in these coming weeks. As I reflect upon my time as government House leader, there were examples where members of the House came together, despite their political differences, and advanced initiatives that touched directly upon the interests of all Canadians. I hope that over the four remaining sitting weeks before we head back to work in our ridings, we can have honest and frank deliberations on the government's priorities and work collaboratively to advance the agenda that Canadians sent us here to implement.

In the previous Parliament, when the government decided to extend the sittings in June of 2014, Liberal members supported that motion. We knew then, as we know now, that our role as legislators is a privilege, and we discharge our parliamentary functions in support of our constituents.

There will be initiatives that the government will bring forward over the coming weeks that will enjoy the support of all members, and there will be issues on which parties will not agree. Our comportment during this time will demonstrate to Canadians that we are all in this together, despite our differences, for the good of this great country. Let us not lose sight of that.

I believe the motion before the House is reasonable. I hope opposition members can support sitting a few extra hours for four days a week for the next few weeks to consider important legislation for Canadians.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately it is going to take more than extended hours to get the current government to keep its promises, since it has broken so many of them already.

If the minister is seeking partisan co-operation, she did not really start on a strong note by completely misstating the opposition's position on Bill C-24. Bill C-24 is about the government wanting to pay its junior ministers more. It has nothing to do with gender equality. The minister claimed it is about gender equality. The Prime Minister happened to choose to appoint women to junior ministerial portfolios. That was a choice he made, not a choice anyone else made.

I want to ask a really simple question for the minister about Bill C-24. Under that bill, are these junior ministers now empowered to bring a memorandum to cabinet? That is an important part of the powers of senior ministers. If we have real ministerial equality, then they would have that power. Would Bill C-24 empower junior ministers to bring memoranda to cabinet, yes or no?

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is fundamentally about equality. This government believes that the Minister of Science, the Minister of Democratic Institutions, and the Minister of Status of Women are full ministers.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Then answer the question.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

The work they do is important work, and that is why we believe that all ministers should be treated like ministers. Let us co-operate.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Daniel Blaikie

Is that a yes or a no? What is the answer to the question?

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

We know we can work better in this place, and that is why it is important that ministers be able to make important decisions. Let us advance this legislation. Let us let the committee do its important work so it can study the bill. We look forward to continuing to deliver to Canadians.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Todd Doherty

The hon. colleagues are putting me in a difficult spot. We have asked the question and we will wait for the answer and respond accordingly.

With that, questions and comments, the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, if we thought we might take some liberties while you are in the chair, it is only because we know you are so capable and can handle it so well.

I am going to resist the temptation to get into substantive debate on the bills that the House leader mentioned in her speech and instead ask about the motion.

We know that the government has some legislation that it has not passed yet. It actually does not have very much legislation at all, but it wants to get the balance of the legislation passed before summer. Part of that is because of the government's ineptitude. It is because the Liberals refused to honour a long-standing parliamentary tradition of seeking all-party consensus before making changes to the Standing Orders. Their failure to honour that principle cost them a lot of time in the House, but that was their decision, not ours. They had another problem, interestingly, on a bill that had to do with preventing genetic discrimination, which was that they had over 40 members of their caucus vote against them. It created a bit of a disciplinary problem, because they can maybe kick one person out of their caucus, but they cannot kick over 40 out of their caucus.

This motion is not just going to put increased strain on opposition members; it is also going to make the Liberal backbench pay for the ineptitude of cabinet, who, by refusing to acknowledge that simple principle of parliamentary tradition, wasted time in the House and did not get the Liberals' legislation through, and now they are asking their backbench to modify their schedules to spend more time away from their family when the government has professed a commitment to a family-friendly Parliament.

Could the minister tell us if this is really the Liberals trying to kill two birds with one stone? Are they trying to get legislation through that earlier they could not, because they were refusing a long-standing parliamentary principle, and also trying to punish over 40 members of their caucus for not toeing the line on other bills? The seals are going to clap anyway, and the ones who are going to be really disappointed and frustrated are the 40 members who voted against that bill.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, members of the Liberal caucus are my colleagues, just like members on the opposite benches are my colleagues, and no member in the House will refer to my colleagues as seals, first of all.

Second, we are people. We are here to represent Canadians, and that is what we will do. Regardless of political stripe, we know that we represent Canadians to make tough decisions. We work in the House every single day. Let us sit a few more hours so that we can have meaningful debate.

The member might be a stranger to having debate and might not be aware of what free votes look like. We committed to free votes. We made a commitment to Canadians about an open and transparent government in which members of Parliament could represent their constituents. This is something I have been looking forward to. We have not seen it in over a decade from the previous government.

Obviously the member has forgotten when he was in the opposition benches, but we are okay with Canadians representing Canadians. We are okay with members of Parliament representing their constituents. If that means we cannot always vote together, that is okay, because we want diversity of thought and we want those perspectives to be represented. That is part of our democracy, and that is why Canada has one of the strongest democracies.

Let us work a couple more hours for Canadians. That is what the motion is about. Let us get the agenda that Canadians sent us here to deliver on. Let us advance it for them so that they can have the opportunities they deserve and that we owe them.

I am just saying we should work a little harder together and co-operate a little bit more. I know we can do it. As our Prime Minister said, better is always possible, and each of us has a responsibility to our constituents.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. House leader mentioned she would like to see certain bills moved from the House to committee. The two that I referred to were Bill C-24 and Bill C-46, which do deal with fundamental principles of gender equality and impaired driving.

Could the member explain to the House why she feels it is important to get these bills to committee for study?

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a fabulous question, and it is part of the work that we do in this place. It is important in the debates that we have in this chamber that members of Parliament be able to represent their constituents, to have the tough conversations that Canadians sent us here to have, but what is important about the committee process is that committees can hear from experts. They can bring in witnesses, hear from stakeholders, and scrutinize legislation in a way that is not possible in this place. That is why we are saying to send it to committee. Let us let the committee do the important work they do.

Part of the commitment we made to Canadians was to empower committees to do that important work. That is why we increased resources to committees. Let us send this important legislation that affects everyday Canadians to committee to scrutinize the legislation. Then let us bring it back here to ensure that it is in its best form.