House of Commons Hansard #192 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was amendment.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I am not one who advocates for higher tariffs and higher taxes, and certainly not for larger government and more bureaucracy. What the member is saying is that we can just hit them with a tariff. I can say, and I believe it wholeheartedly, that when we start applying those types of tariffs, there is reciprocity, and then other countries start applying tariffs in retaliation. I know it may be the goal of the NDP just to have this little island here and not need the world, but as an exporting country, we get it that we do need the world. We want to sell our goods to the world. We are an exporter. Therefore, I do not support that idea.

Also, it is interesting that although we signed on to a Paris accord and although China and some of those countries may, their goals are extended beyond what ours would be, to 2030. Our coal plants were initially set to phase out by 2030; now they are being pushed, so it may be as early as 2025, and some are talking 2020. It is not a level playing field. As Canadians, if we are going to compete anywhere, all we ask for is a level playing field.

Opposition Motion—Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Northumberland—Peterborough South Ontario

Liberal

Kim Rudd LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Orléans.

I would like to thank the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman for bringing Canada's softwood lumber industry back to the floor of this House as part of his motion.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of the industry to our country, the Canadian economy, or the many communities that depend on it. There are close to 600 softwood lumber mills in Canada. Many of them are in remote or indigenous communities. A lot of them are family-owned, and some of them are particularly small and vulnerable operations. However, together these mills are a major employer, providing jobs for some 38,000 Canadians, along with another 32,000 jobs for those working in forestry and logging operations who are at the core of the timber supply.

The result is that last year Canada's softwood lumber industry generated almost $10 billion in exports, more than three-quarters of which were sold south of the border. Therefore, the member opposite is right to be concerned in the wake of the U.S. Department of Commerce's decision to impose countervailing duties in the 20% range on Canadian softwood lumber. We share his concern. This unfair and punitive trade action by our American neighbours could prove devastating and cause lasting damage to Canada's softwood lumber producers, their workers, and local communities. That is why our government plans to continue fighting vigorously for Canada's softwood lumber industry and those whose livelihoods depend on it, including through litigation.

We also expect to prevail because, as members know, every previous ruling by an international tribunal over the last 30 years has come down in Canada's favour. In every case, the U.S. claims of unfair trade practices were found to be flawed, overstated, and overcharged, and ordered changed.

Unfortunately, the motion before us, however well-intentioned, is fatally flawed for two reasons with respect to the softwood lumber file.

First, it accuses our government of failing to negotiate a new deal on softwood lumber with the United States. If the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman is suggesting that we should have accepted any terms with the United States for the sake of a negotiated settlement, then he is simply wrong. Maybe the member opposite supports trade peace at any costs. We do not. Maybe the member opposite is willing to sell out Canada's softwood lumber industry for 30 pieces of silver. We will not. We do not want just any deal for Canada's softwood lumber industry; we want the right deal. We want a durable and equitable solution that is fair to softwood producers, downstream industries, and consumers on both sides of the border—nothing more, nothing less. We will continue to work toward that end.

The ministers of foreign affairs and international trade continue to speak regularly with their American counterparts in search of a new agreement on softwood lumber. In fact, Canada has put forward a number of reasonable proposals to the current U.S. administration that are responsive to the views expressed by the American softwood lumber industry. These proposals would also ensure security of supply at fair prices to American consumers and those U.S. companies that rely on Canadian imports. However, if the member opposite thinks we should just accept whatever the United States is offering, he should think again, because it will not happen on our watch—no way, nohow.

The other fatal flaw in the motion before us is its implicit opposition to our softwood lumber action plan. Such a suggestion is nothing short of shocking, because it illustrates how out of step the member opposite is with the needs of the industry and its workers. While the member opposite is railing against support for softwood lumber producers, Canada's mill operators and their employees have been praising our government for taking swift action and a measured approach to helping the industry.

I would like to outline some of the highlights in our $867-million action plan to strengthen Canada's softwood lumber industry.

As an example, under our plan the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada will make a combined $605 million available in financial products and services, on commercial terms, to help viable companies make capital investments and diversify into new markets. There is also more than $160 million to help the Canadian forest industry expand both its product lines and market opportunities. As well, we will continue to work with the provinces to ensure affected workers have the support and adjustment services they need and deserve.

This includes almost $90 million in new funding to expand work-sharing opportunities to assist companies to retain employees and help affected workers upgrade their skills and transition to new jobs in the field.

Finally, there is $10 million for the indigenous forestry initiative to help indigenous communities pursue new economic opportunities in the forest sector. I look at all these measures and I cannot help but wonder what the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman is opposed to. Which ones would he drop, and why is he against supporting our softwood lumber producers' efforts to maintain good sustainable jobs in our forest sector?

His opinion is certainly in the minority. It flies in the face of what we are hearing from the industry and what media are reporting. Look at some of the headlines. “Forest industry embraces Canada's nearly $870M in softwood aid”, or this from New Brunswick's softwood lumber association, “We appreciate the federal government's focus on this”, or from British Columbia's Lumber Trade Council, that everything we can do to expand markets for our products around the globe helps decrease our reliance on the U.S. market. We agree.

That is why the Minister of International Trade was in China in April to promote the use of Canadian wood in home construction, while his parliamentary secretary travelled to Vietnam, Singapore, and Brunei Darussalam to pursue new export opportunities for Canada's forest sector. That is why the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development went to the United Kingdom and mainland Europe at the same time to tout Canadian wood and wood products and why the Minister of Foreign Affairs followed up those efforts with her own trip to Europe last month.

That is why the Minister of Natural Resources just returned from China yesterday, after spending a week promoting Canada's natural resources in the world's second-largest economy and why his trip included renewing a memorandum of understanding to use Canadian wood in sustainable eco-cities.

There is no way I can support a motion that opposes all those things. I cannot and I will not, because our government will never sign a bad deal for Canada's softwood lumber industry or turn our backs on it when it needs us the most. It just will not happen. We believe in Canada's softwood lumber industry too much to do that to it.

Opposition Motion—Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, today we have heard a lot of finger pointing while we are trying to get a softwood lumber agreement in place. I understand the frustration from everyone. Coming from a community where mills are closed, where we have seen raw log exports go up tenfold in 10 years, we need investments in retooling our industry. We are actually sending our fir out of the country without even cutting it. We are having to buy the chips back from mills in Oregon and Washington to feed our pulp and paper mills. It is ridiculous. When people are unemployed, and they see a mill close and a boatload full of wood, it is pretty disturbing.

I am grateful to hear about the $160 million, but I would like to hear how that is going to roll out. I would like to hear that the government is going to make it a priority when the new B.C. government is sworn in to get to British Columbia to find a way to get those jobs to remain in our country so we can cut our wood here and get those mills open. It would be great to have a parliamentary secretary or a minister show up in my riding, where one-third of the kids are living in poverty and there is extremely high unemployment. We really need a hand.

Opposition Motion—Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Kim Rudd Liberal Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Madam Speaker, one of the ways we are continuing to stay engaged on this file is with the federal-provincial task force the minister set up when this issue came to the fore. That task force is continuing, and there will be further discussions with the provinces. We are also nimble in terms of changes that could happen within the sector, and we will be ready to adjust should that occur.

In terms of diversification of the sector, the member mentioned the chips having to be brought back to Canada. One of the things we are seeing a real appetite for is diversification within the softwood lumber sector and some other things, such as biomass for fuel from the residue from the softwood lumber. I agree with the member opposite that this is a very difficult time for those families and communities, and we will be there, and we are there now, ready to help in whatever way we can.

Opposition Motion—Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, this is not the time to be nimble. We need urgency.

In my community alone, one mill has closed and the other mill has been reduced to one shift. On top of that, the sockeye fishery has closed. We are not going to have a sockeye fishery, which is going to affect indigenous fishers, commercial and recreational fishers, and sports fishing. All will be closed.

We cannot wait. We need the government to show some sense of urgency, and I do not mean six months down the road and bringing everyone together for a conversation. I mean next month. It would be great for the government to show that it means it. People cannot wait. They are being plunged further into poverty. We need the government's help. We need the government to show that it cares about Vancouver Island.

“Coast to coast to coast” is what I hear often from the government. The government says its number one relationship is with indigenous people. Come and see indigenous people in my riding. They will tell you what it looks like when it comes to forestry and fishing and where the government has been. The government has been invisible.

Opposition Motion—Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I am assuming that the member was addressing those comments to the chair and not to the government.

Opposition Motion—Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Kim Rudd Liberal Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member is absolutely right. The urgency is there. That is why we, in record time, provided a comprehensive and very large package to the forestry sector, because we heard those messages on the calls with the provinces from the sector.

The programs are ready now. There has been communication by the provinces to the sector about how to access those programs. There is also $10 million for indigenous communities to help them diversify in terms of their work in the forestry sector. The member is absolutely right that indigenous communities in particular are affected by this, because they are often remote communities and very involved.

We will continue to work on this. On being nimble, my point was that should things change, we will continue to have those conversations so we are able to adjust to those changes. In the meantime, the package is available. I look forward to working with the sector and the provinces to make sure it gets out to those who need it.

Opposition Motion—Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.

Orléans Ontario

Liberal

Andrew Leslie LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Canada-U.S. Relations)

Madam Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman has given me to provide an update on the softwood lumber file. I would like to build on the excellent work that has just been done by my colleague and good friend.

The softwood lumber file is critically important to the Prime Minister, to the government, and indeed, to the people of Canada. It is one we have obviously made a priority. In fact, this has been an absolute priority for the Prime Minister and the government from the very beginning. The Prime Minister raised the softwood lumber issue first with President Obama, during their very first meeting at the APEC summit in November 2015, and again in his first meeting with President Trump in February 2016. I was present for the latter.

Canada's softwood lumber industry supports 220,000 good-paying, middle-class jobs for workers in communities across the country. We have heard some of the very unfortunate incidents that are a result of the imposition of the unfair duties initiated by the Americans.

Softwood lumber production contributes $22 billion to Canada's gross domestic product. In particular, the industry is an economic anchor in more than 170 rural communities, around which are built wonderful jobs, all focused on mills or facilities given to processing the wood.

Given Canada's geographic proximity and close commercial links to the U.S., it is no surprise that the U.S. is our number one export market for softwood lumber. It comprises 75% of overall Canadian softwood lumber exports.

We all know that there are significant benefits for the U.S. in having access to Canadian lumber. For many decades, the U.S. has relied on our exports to fill the gap between domestic production and demand. Canada's softwood lumber has historically been used to meet about one-third of the U.S. import demand. Ten per cent of the overall requirement comes from Canadian forests.

However, despite this mutually beneficial arrangement, Canada and the U.S. have not always seen eye to eye on this file. The 2006 softwood lumber agreement expired in 2015. Let me just correct some of the assertions made by my friends across the way. The previous Conservative government did not achieve a new agreement. They let the deal expire, putting thousands of Canadian jobs, businesses, and livelihoods on the line. This was followed by a one-year agreed standstill period during which the U.S. agreed not to launch any trade actions against Canada. During this one-year standstill, Canada and the U.S. were actively engaged in discussions.

Between January and November 2016, under this agreement, our government negotiators met 18 times and discussed numerous proposals and issue papers with our American colleagues. This high-level engagement was only possible because the Prime Minister and the entire government kept up the pressure on the U.S. administration. This led to a much better understanding of each other's interests. However, Canada and the U.S. remained far apart on core issues.

I know that recent media reports have said that Canada and the U.S. were close to an agreement, but this is not accurate. In reality, the U.S., which must get support for any proposed deal from the U.S. lumber industry, did not put any offer on the table that was acceptable to Canada.

As mentioned by my hon. friend just a few minutes ago, our government firmly believes a new softwood lumber agreement is in the best interests of both countries. However, where we appear to differ from the hon. opposition is that we are not willing to accept just any deal. Our goal, and this is a goal shared by the provinces and territories and by the Canadian industry, is to get a long-term deal that protects Canadian jobs and the industry itself. As mentioned, and as proven, we will absolutely not accept just any deal that locks Canada into an untenable path for our softwood lumber producers.

I want to assure the hon. member, and every member here, that Canada continues to engage the U.S. and move toward negotiating a good agreement for Canada. The Prime Minister has raised the issue many times with the President. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Canada's ambassador to the United States will continue to raise this issue with the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and other key members of the U.S. administration at every opportunity.

Recent efforts by the Minister of Foreign Affairs with the U.S. Secretary of Commerce have led to the re-engagement of officials in technical discussions. We are going to continue to push the U.S. administration at all levels to find a way forward on this file. In the meantime, we are also watching very closely developments on the litigation side.

The U.S. recently imposed countervailing duties of 3% to 24% on Canadian softwood lumber. This was a very disappointing development. We also expect the second decision on anti-dumping duties in the very near future.

The allegations in the softwood lumber industry are simply not founded. Countervailing duties harm everyone on both sides of the border.

I also want to reiterate that the Minister of Foreign Affairs has clearly and repeatedly said that Canada is prepared to stand firm for the interests of Canadian workers and producers, if necessary with legal action. That is why the government is currently reviewing all its legal options. This includes the option to launch a legal challenge through the World Trade Organization and NAFTA.

I know that countervailing duties are a big concern for our softwood lumber industry. That is why early this month, the Minister of Natural Resources, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Minister of International Trade announced $867 million in supports for our forestry industry and our communities affected by these countervailing duties. To help workers, the government is temporarily extending the maximum period for work-sharing agreements from 38 to 76 weeks to reduce layoffs. We are also increasing support for affected workers so they can upgrade their skills and transition to new opportunities.

As the Minister of Natural Resources said, this action plan will be a tangible demonstration of our government’s commitment to take quick and reasonable action in order to defend our softwood lumber industry and to provide a better future for workers, their families, and the communities that rely on them.

I want to return to the hon. member's comments about the industry and sustainable jobs.

Canada's softwood lumber industry is incredibly advanced and forward thinking, and the government is doing everything it can to help create new and sustainable jobs by opening up new markets for Canadian wood products. By diversifying into a variety of markets, of course, we will be less vulnerable to any action from one specific market, i.e., the United States. On this front, the Minister of International Trade and the Minister of Natural Resources have been incredibly active, along with teams from the softwood lumber industry. Earlier this month, the Minister of Natural Resources travelled to China with a delegation, and the Minister of International Trade recently led trade missions to Italy, China, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, and Singapore, which are markets where there is a growing demand for Canadian forestry products.

Let us not forget the European Union, which is the world's second-largest market, with over 500 million consumers and a $22-trillion gross domestic product. The Canada-EU trade agreement, CETA, is a landmark agreement that gives the Canadian forestry industry preferential access to EU markets. Once CETA is fully implemented, the EU will have eliminated tariffs on 99% of its tariff lines. Our forestry sector will benefit from preferential access, which will allow us to provide technical services in the EU, including woodlot management, mapping, surveying, reforestation, timber evaluation, forest damage assessment, and logging-related services.

The government is now making the required regulatory changes to implement the CETA agreement. Once our domestic process has been completed, there will be an exchange of diplomatic notes with the EU to set the date for provisional application where all economically significant parts of CETA will be implemented.

Let me once again provide reassurance to the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman that from day one that this government has been in office, we have made softwood lumber a top priority. Yes, we can agree that a new softwood lumber agreement is the best way to bring predictability and stability to the industry on both sides of the border, but we are not going to accept just any deal. It has to be a deal that is in the best interest of the Canadian industry. We continue to engage at the highest levels in this important issue, because it is a matter of Canadian jobs and communities. It is a matter of prosperity and of fairness.

Opposition Motion—Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, I respect my colleague's service to our country and his experience in that regard. My understanding is that the Prime Minister has given him a specific role in working with the United States, and that is what I want to ask about.

I live in Oshawa, which is famous for building cars, and there is a reality of competitiveness across the border. There is a new government in the United States, which the member is very much aware of. Various companies ask themselves how much it will cost to build a car in Oshawa versus Michigan and look at the different policies. In other words, the U.S. administration is lowering taxes and will not be establishing a carbon tax. Ontario has the highest electrical rates in North America because of policy. We will have a new carbon tax, which is going to have to be as high as the Prime Minister wants or there will be trouble, plus he is going to be raising taxes.

I would like my colleague to reconcile this for the House. If we need to be competitive, especially in manufacturing, and the policies that the government is putting in are making us less competitive with other jurisdictions, one being with our biggest trading partner, how does he reconcile this?

Opposition Motion—Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Leslie Liberal Orléans, ON

Madam Speaker, reverting to the discussion at hand, which has to do with softwood lumber, I would make the argument that the softwood lumber industry is one of the most advanced in the world. It is incredibly competitive. It is composed of an extraordinarily skilled workforce. A lot of small mill owners have literally poured their life's blood into ensuring that their facilities are kept modern, with exemplary working conditions. Quite frankly, our softwood lumber industry is as competitive as any in the world. That is indeed why 10% of the imports to the United States rely on the Canadian supply. That is why there are hundreds of thousands of jobs on the southern frontier, i.e., in the United States, which directly depend on the product of the skilled softwood lumber workers in Canada.

It is true that we have vigorously protested against the unfair allegations of dumping or stumpage fees. We are going to contest those in the international courts, and just like we have done for the last four times, this being the fifth, we are going to win the next court action.

Opposition Motion—Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, I know the parliamentary secretary is working hard and that he cares deeply about this, but people are desperate right now. We know that the forest sector is very complicated. It may seem that sometimes laid-off workers are affected by softwood lumber and others are not affected, but because this industry is interconnected and interrelated, I want to make sure that any forestry workers laid off because of the situation affecting our trade relationship with the United States will get the extended EI benefits that the Liberal government has talked about. The people in my community are not getting the extended EI benefits. They want the softwood lumber agreement to get people back to work, but, in the short term, they need the extended EI benefits.

Can the parliamentary secretary ensure that people in my community will get the benefits? A mill is closed right now, people are unemployed, their EI has run out, and they are looking to supplement their incomes during this difficult time. Again, the fishery just closed. We lost the sockeye fishery in the Somass River. We are getting doubly hit, and no one from the government has shown up in my community.

Opposition Motion—Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Leslie Liberal Orléans, ON

Madam Speaker, I compliment the hon. member for his passion and dedication to his constituents. I entirely agree with the emotion in his voice when he talks about their plight.

The Government of Canada has allocated approximately $800 million, under mainly commercial terms, to ensure there is a transition for those who are affected by the current softwood lumber dispute. We are going to win the legal court cases, but they are understandably going to take some time. The point is that we have to make sure that due diligence is applied to all of the compensatory methods we are using in Canada and that they are under commercial terms, because we want to win the WTO trade challenge in court.

With regard to those workers who are currently unemployed or about to be, the Government of Canada is going to work as quickly as it can to make sure that the money starts flowing to those who are most affected.

Opposition Motion—Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to contribute to this debate on the complete failure of the Liberals on this economic file.

For a government that would have us believe it is all about the middle class, as it is wont to add that at the end of every statement it makes, for example, more ethical government for the middle class, a Liberal commissioner of official languages for the middle class, new standing orders for the middle class, better innovation for the middle class, and a carbon tax for the middle class, it is remarkable just how out of touch Liberals are on the most important issues facing the middle class: jobs, the economy, and affordability.

On housing, for example, as the price of homes rose significantly faster than inflation in Toronto and Vancouver, the Liberals decided to implement a one-size-fits-all mortgage policy designed to cool down the housing markets of Toronto and Vancouver. Unfortunately, this policy is having a similar impact across the country, regardless of whether Canadians live in Warman, Saskatchewan or Queen West, Toronto.

Before the Liberals made these changes to the mortgage rules, a person with $50,000 pre-tax income could qualify for a $277,000 mortgage. Now, that same person qualifies for a mortgage of $222,000. This change makes buying a first house more difficult for many. Several people looking to buy their first home, and realtors, have raised concerns about this policy with me. However, these changes have not had the attention they deserve, considering the disproportionate impact they are having on first-time homeowners in smaller communities where housing prices are typically more affordable.

The Liberals are also tone deaf when it comes to western Canada. On May 12, the Minister of Transport introduced the oil tanker moratorium act, a bill that his own political staff conceded would only impact the future development of Canada's oil sands, and no other activity in northern British Columbia. Let us think about that.

It was not enough for the Liberals to reverse the independent National Energy Board's 2014 decision to approve the northern gateway pipeline subject to Enbridge fulfilling 209 conditions. They decided to go one step further by opting to handcuff future governments should they want to diversify Canada's energy exports. Bill C-48, the oil tanker moratorium act, will do nothing to enhance marine safety in British Columbia. U .S tankers will continue travelling up and down the coast between Alaska and Washington state.

This is the epitome of political irony. Venezuelan oil in Quebec is okay. Saudi Arabian oil on the east coast is okay. Canadian oil in Vancouver is okay. Alaskan oil in northern B.C. is okay. However, Canadian oil in northern British Columbia is not okay. Blocking tidewater access for western Canadian energy producers was not enough. To add insult to injury, this year's federal budget removed incentives for small companies to engage in energy exploration in Canada.

Furthermore, the new carbon tax will disproportionately impact energy-producing provinces. What the Liberals fail to realize is that Canada does not have a monopoly on the production of energy. In North America alone, western Canadian producers are competing against companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, the Permian Basin, and the Bakken formation. As the U.S. is making important efforts to reduce obstacles to energy development, Canada is going the other way.

Capital and expertise in this sector is very mobile, and Canada is in very real danger of being left behind. Canadian firms and foreign investors will not invest in the Canadian economy if the overall cost of doing business vis-à-vis our American counterparts is higher, as has been mentioned. However, the energy sector is not the only sector being targeted. Western Canadian shippers, and especially captive western Canadian grain shippers, are feeling particularly ignored by the Liberal government.

Unlike Ontario and Quebec, where many products can be trucked to their final destination or to a port for overseas export, western Canada is particularly reliant on rail to get product to market. That is why the Minister of Transport's inaction on critical and time-sensitive rail transport issues is leading to uncertainty for both shippers and railroads. Both need it as they negotiate shipping rates for the season and invest in the required infrastructure to keep products moving to market in a timely manner.

That is why, over the past several months, I have asked many times whether the government intended to renew or build on the sunsetting measures of Bill C-30 before they expired on August 1, 2017. The response, time and time again, was that the government recognized the urgency to get this done and that legislation was forthcoming. Unfortunately the Liberals now acknowledge that the key measures in Bill C-30 will sunset before any replacement legislation can receive royal assent and become law.

Since the transportation modernization act was introduced on May 16, the government has set aside less than two and a half hours to debate it, with the Minister of Transport taking the floor to lead off debate at 9:45 p.m. on a Monday night. This means there will be at least a two and a half month gap from when Bill C-30 measures sunset and Bill C-49 receives royal assent.

By the time this legislation has passed, the majority of contracts for the year will have been negotiated with the law in flux. Because of the government's mismanagement of its legislative agenda, these popular measures will sunset without any replacement, and shippers will be the worse off. What is worse is that while this two and a half month gap will negatively impact both railways and shippers this year, the replacement legislation will weaken shipper protections from what they are today. While something is better than nothing, the transportation modernization act is not a replacement for the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act.

What the government is proposing in its omnibus transportation legislation is to take a little used existing remedy called a competitive line rate and rename it long haul inter-switching.

Under a competitive line rate, a shipper could apply to the agency to set the competitive line rate, the designation of the continuous route, the designation of the nearest interchange, and the manner in which the local carrier shall fulfill its service obligations. We know from history that this remedy was infrequently used because of the prerequisite that the shipper must first reach an agreement with the connecting carrier and the two main carriers effectively declined to compete with one another through CLRs. While the requirement that the shipper must have an agreement with a connecting carrier prior to requesting a CLR has been removed, the greater issue is whether the terms imposed by the connecting carrier will be acceptable to the shipper.

While railways do have a common carrier obligations, we know there are ways to avoid doing a haul. For example, both railways have set the price of hauling uranium so high that it is no longer economical for it to be shipped by rail. Furthermore, while long haul inter-switching will be extended to 1,200 kilometres or 50% of the total haul distance, the first inter-switch location from any captive shippers in north Alberta and northern B.C. will be located within the Kamloops-Vancouver corridor, where inter-switching is not allowed beyond 30 kilometres. Therefore, these captive shippers will not be able to utilize this remedy to increase railway competition.

By borrowing and spending in good times, the Liberals have made it harder to deal with real crisis. According to the PBO, even a minor recession would cause deficits to be as large as during the great recession, and that is before considering the fiscal costs of any response.

The Liberals have mismanaged Canada's finances and have closed many doors for economic development. Unfortunately, the full effects of their policies have not reverberated across the entire economy yet.

The choices the Liberals have made to date are not random. They are the result of an overarching vision of picking winners and losers. Right now, my province is coming out on the wrong side of nearly every Liberal policy decision.

For a government that professes to be focused on the middle class, first-time homebuyers, farmers, shippers, and energy workers are all feeling left out in the cold.

Opposition Motion—Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Unfortunately, it being 6:30 p.m., we do not have time for questions and comments. Therefore, pursuant to order made Tuesday, May 30, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings.

Pursuant to order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the opposition motion are deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, June 13, at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.

York South—Weston Ontario

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen LiberalMinister of Immigration

moved:

That a Message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours that, in relation to Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, the House:

agrees with amendments 1(a), 1(c), 4 and 5 made by the Senate;

proposes that amendments 1(b)(i) and (ii) be amended by replacing the number “60” with the number “55”;

proposes that amendment 1(b)(iii) be amended by replacing the words in paragraph 5(1.04)(a) with the following words “made by a person who has custody of the minor or who is empowered to act on their behalf by virtue of a court order or written agreement or by operation of law, unless otherwise ordered by a court; and”;

proposes that with respect to amendment 2:

the portion of subsection 10(3) before paragraph (a) be amended by deleting the word “revoking” and adding the words “may be revoked” after the words “renunciation of citizenship”;

paragraph 10(3)(d) be amended by replacing all the words after the words “advises the person” to the word “Court.” with the following words “that the case will be referred to the Court unless the person requests that the case be decided by the Minister.”;

the portion of subsection 10(3.1) before paragraph (a) be amended by replacing the word “received,” with the words “sent, or within any extended time that the Minister may allow for special reasons,”;

paragraph 10(3.1)(a) be amended by deleting the words “humanitarian and compassionate” and adding after the words “including any considerations” the words “respecting his or her personal circumstances” and by adding the words “of the case” after the words “all of the circumstances” and by deleting the word “Minister’s” before the words “decision will render the person”;

paragraph 10(3.1)(b) be amended by replacing the words “referred to the Court” with the words “decided by the Minister”;

subsection 10(4.1) be amended by replacing that subsection with the following “(4.1) The Minister shall refer the case to the Court under subsection 10.1(1) unless (a) the person has made written representations under paragraph (3.1)(a) and the Minister is satisfied (i) on a balance of probabilities that the person has not obtained, retained, renounced or resumed his or her citizenship by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances, or (ii) that considerations respecting the person’s personal circumstances warrant special relief in light of all the circumstances of the case; or (b) the person has made a request under paragraph (3.1)(b).”;

subclause 3(4) be amended by deleting all the words beginning with “(4) The Act is amended by adding the following” to the words “under this Act or the Federal Court Act.”;

proposes that amendment 3(a) be amended in subsection 10.1(1) by replacing the words “If a person” with the words “Unless a person”;

proposes that with respect to amendment 3(b):

subsection 10.1(4) be amended by replacing all the words beginning with “If the Minister seeks a declaration” and ending with the words “knowingly concealing material circumstances.” with the words “For the purposes of subsection (1), if the Minister seeks a declaration that the person has obtained, retained, renounced or resumed his or her citizenship by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances, with respect to a fact described in section 34, 35 or 37 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Minister need prove only that the person has obtained, retained, renounced or resumed his or her citizenship by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances.”;

by deleting subsection 10.1(5);

proposes that amendment 6(a) be amended by replacing clause 19.1 with the following “19.1(1) Any decision that is made under subsection 10(1) of the Citizenship Act as it read immediately before the day on which subsection 3(2) comes into force and that is set aside by the Federal Court and sent back for a redetermination on or after that day is to be determined in accordance with that Act as it reads on that day. (2) A proceeding that is pending before the Federal Court before the day on which subsection 3(2) comes into force as a result of an action commenced under subsection 10.1(1) of the Citizenship Act is to be dealt with and disposed of in accordance with that Act as it read immediately before that day.”;

proposes that amendment 6(b) be amended by replacing clause 20.1 with the following “20.1 If, before the day on which subsection 3(2) comes into force, a notice has been given to a person under subsection 10(3) of the Citizenship Act and a decision has not been made by the Minister before that day, the person may, within 30 days after that day, request to have the matter dealt with and disposed of as if the notice had been given under subsection 10(3) of that Act as it reads on that day.”;

respectfully disagrees with amendment 7 because it would give permanent resident status to those who acquired that status fraudulently;

proposes that amendment 8 be amended by replacing all the words after “(3.1) Subsections” with the following words “3(2) and (3) and 4(1) and (3) and section 5.1 come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.”.

Madam Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on the amendments to Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank the senators for all of the work they put into Bill C-6 and the amendments that we are considering today. Our government feels that the collaborative work of the senators has made Bill C-6 stronger. In that spirit, our government agrees with the principles behind two of the amendments. I will now detail in my remarks how we also propose some further adjustments.

I would like to emphasize that Bill C-6 reflects the government's commitment to fostering a diverse, fair, and inclusive country. We know from decades of experience that immigrants who become Canadian citizens are more likely to achieve greater economic success in this country, and to make greater contributions to Canadian society, thereby contributing to our common prosperity.

Furthermore, we know that a significant predictor of successful integration outcomes is the attainment of Canadian citizenship. Historically, a very high proportion of newcomers to Canada have become Canadian citizens. It goes without saying that this integration not only benefits the lives of those newcomers who end up becoming new Canadians but makes our country more diverse, inclusive, and fair.

I am sure that all of my colleagues would agree that Canada is strong because of the diversity of Canadians, and that we are diverse because of our country's long-standing embrace, and kind and welcoming nature for newcomers. It is in that spirit that Bill C-6 proposes changes that will remove barriers to citizenship for eligible immigrants. This will encourage their sense of belonging and attachment to this country. We want to ensure that the citizenship process is fair, robust, and flexible, because we place the highest value on Canadian citizenship.

Following third reading of Bill C-6, the Senate has returned three amendments to the House of Commons. These include changing the upper age for citizenship language and knowledge requirements to 59 years; allowing minors to obtain citizenship, as of right, without having a Canadian parent, and without the necessity of applying to the minister for a waiver; and changing the citizenship revocation model so that the Federal Court will be the decision-maker in most cases where citizenship was acquired fraudulently.

I will use the remainder of my time to discuss the government's response to these Senate amendments.

The government does not support raising the upper age limit for language and knowledge requirements to 59. This amendment is not in line with the intent of Bill C-6 to facilitate citizenship to eligible immigrants. Reducing the age range for language and knowledge requirements to 18 to 54 years of age does not weaken Canadian citizenship and its value. In fact, the acquisition of Canadian citizenship contributes to a greater sense of belonging and attachment to our great country. We believe in the importance of having adequate knowledge of Canada's official languages, and a knowledge and understanding of the privileges and responsibilities associated with Canadian citizenship. That is why adults aged 18 to 54 years of age will still be required to show evidence of proficiency in English or French, to demonstrate knowledge of Canada, and to pass a citizenship test.

However, the government understands that for younger and older applicants, this can be a barrier to citizenship. Therefore, Bill C-6 returns the age for language and knowledge requirements back to 18 to 54 years of age. By doing so, Bill C-6 will reduce barriers to citizenship by allowing applicants to achieve citizenship faster and contribute to Canada's economic, social, and cultural growth. Older applicants aged 55 years or older will still be able to access services that will enable them to become more integrated into Canadian society.

The second Senate amendment would make it easier for minors to obtain citizenship, as of right, without a Canadian parent. Overall, we support this amendment. This is consistent with the government's intent to facilitate citizenship for eligible immigrants and with our commitment to remove barriers to citizenship, especially for the most vulnerable.

The government supports this amendment with a technical modification to ensure greater clarity around who can apply and of this concept. The concept of a de facto guardian is unclear in the Senate amendment. Therefore, the government is proposing alternative language to clarify and provide greater clarity to this. This amendment would come into force upon royal assent.

The government also supports, with amendment, the third Senate amendment to enhance the citizenship revocation model. The Senate's amendment provides that all individuals would have the option to request that their case be referred to the Federal Court for a decision. The minister would only decide on revocation cases if individuals do not request that their case be referred to the Federal Court or if the individuals do not respond.

The government's amendments include, first, further narrowing the minister's authority to revoke citizenship to only those cases in which the individual expressly requests a decision by the minister; second, ensuring individuals are able to seek leave to the Federal Court for judicial review of the minister's decision; third, rejecting the part of the amendment that would allow individuals to retain permanent resident status despite having acquired citizenship fraudulently; and fourth, rejecting the part of the amendment that would allow actions taking place after the obtainment of citizenship to be considered in revocation decisions.

For context, since the current revocation decision-making model was introduced in 2015, the minister has been the decision-maker on most cases involving fraud or misrepresentation, especially involving residence, criminality, and identity issues. The Federal Court has been the decision-maker on more serious cases involving fraud or misrepresentation involving human rights violations and organized criminality. Prior to the current model, the Governor in Council made all the decisions in these kinds of cases.

I would also like to point out that individuals who had their citizenship revoked due to fraud or misrepresentation will revert back to permanent resident status if the fraud or misrepresentation occurred during the citizenship process, and will revert to being a foreign national if the fraud or misrepresentation occurred during the immigration process. For those who revert to permanent resident status, which is more than 70% of cases, these people would still be eligible to reapply for Canadian citizenship after 10 years, provided that they continue to meet the requirements.

The amendment to the decision-making model would ensure that there is still judicial oversight of revocation decisions as well as enhancing greater procedural protections. Our government has said in the past that we were open to considering how we can further enhance the citizenship revocation process. My hon. colleagues in the Senate have proposed a model that, with some modifications, will achieve just that.

In terms of timelines, the amendments to the citizenship revocation model would come into force at a later date to be determined by the Governor in Council. This will allow time for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada as well as the Federal Court to put in place the necessary procedures.

To reiterate, the government is committed to building a Canada that is both diverse and inclusive. The story of immigration and the story of citizenship is the story of Canada and we want to continue to make sure that those two stories remain intertwined. Whether newcomers arrive as refugees, family members, or economic immigrants, the contributions that they make to this country, and the generations that follow them, will be important.

We want to encourage our diversity and take steps to ensure that the path to citizenship remains flexible and fair, but also robust, because we want to encourage all Canadians to take pride in being Canadian. That is the guiding principle behind the government's position with respect to the Senate's amendments. We firmly believe that by removing barriers to citizenship and helping newcomers achieve citizenship, our government is contributing to such a future, and by doing that we will be fostering a greater attachment to Canada.

Canadians are proud of our country and of our tradition of welcoming immigrants. We help them settle, integrate, and succeed in Canada. This has been our past, our present, and our future. The importance of diversity can sometimes be taken for granted, but there is no doubt that we are a better country because of it. Our government is committed to building on that success.

We are committed to encouraging all immigrants to take the path to full membership in Canadian society. One of the strongest pillars, one of the strongest indicators of the successful integration outcome is obtaining Canadian citizenship. Bill C-6 would help us ensure that Canada remains the strong, inclusive, and diverse country that it is.

In closing, the government's position is as follows. We do not support changing the upper age for citizenship language and knowledge requirements to 59 years of age. We support, with modification, the amendment that would make it easier for children to apply, as of right, for citizenship without a Canadian parent, and we support, with modification, the amendment to change the citizenship revocation model so that the Federal Court becomes the decision-maker in most revocation cases related to fraud or misrepresentation.

We remain committed to the timely passage of Bill C-6, and as Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, I encourage all members of the House to support the government's position with respect to the Senate's amendments.

I appreciated the opportunity to speak to the Senate amendments today.

A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.

In the words of our Prime Minister, our government firmly believes that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.

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6:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, my question for the minister is about the concern with respect to backlogs in the appeal mechanisms that may exist. The changes being proposed by the government may result in backlogging an already inundated Federal Court system, which is ultimately going to cost Canadian taxpayers. We have heard of many instances where cases are being thrown out, and I understand that we are talking about immigration.

Is there no concern at all among the government that the bill would create a backlog? It would create greater costs to Canadians, because there just are not enough judges to deal with the appeal system that the minister is talking about.

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6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, we are absolutely committed to providing adequate resources to make sure that we have a well-functioning and fair judicial system.

Under the proposed changes to the citizenship revocation model, we commit, as a government, to make sure that there are adequate resources to the Federal Court of Canada to ensure that it can do its work when it comes to hearing these cases. We do not anticipate that there will be difficulties with respect to this issue.

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6:45 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I have a couple of specific questions for the minister relating to the amendments.

First, is the government at this point in time still sending out revocation letters to individuals? Also, for those who are caught in a transitional period, which is to say those who right now have had their citizenship revoked and are still in that process, would the changes of the bill when it comes into force be open to them? Would they be able to apply to the Federal Court for a hearing and have due process afforded to them?

Alternatively, if they choose to make an application to request that the minister review their case, would they have the opportunity to do that? Can the minister clarify the transitional provisions as they apply to the people who are in the system at this moment?

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6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, I will take this opportunity to thank the hon. member for her question and for her work on issues regarding immigration, refugees, and citizenship.

If an individual has received a notice to revoke their citizenship where a final decision has not been made by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, they can opt to take part in the proposed citizenship revocation model. Therefore, they will have the opportunity to avail themselves of this greater and enhanced procedural fairness system.

The previous system was charter compliant. However, we have consistently stated, as has the previous minister, that as a government we are open to listening to others and having them contribute to our efforts to ensure greater and enhanced procedural fairness in the citizenship revocation model.

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6:50 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Serge Cormier LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration

Madam Speaker, I would first like to congratulate the minister on his excellent speech and the wonderful job he has been doing since he was appointed Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. Every day I am impressed by how hard he works and, as parliamentary secretary, I am learning a lot from him. I also congratulate him on taking the time to learn a few sentences in French to open and close his speech.

The minister talked about our collaboration with the Senate on Bill C-6, which was very important to our party during the election campaign. Could the minister expand on that?

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6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member has been very helpful as we have worked on this issue. I really appreciate his work on the file.

With respect to the collaboration with the Senate on this issue, as a government, we value the work that senators have put into Bill C-6. They have collaborated with us in making the bill stronger with the amendments they have proposed. The conversations we have had about the bill have resulted in a much better and stronger bill. The proposed bill will enable us to continue to remove barriers to citizenship for eligible immigrants. We will continue to have more permanent residents than ever become Canadian citizens and become more attached to our great country, to contribute greatly to our economy, our common prosperity, and to the social cultural mosaic of Canada. I am proud of the work the Senate has done on this file.

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6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, one of the strengths of our immigration system through numerous governments, not just under Conservative governments but under previous Liberal governments, has been the consistency of our immigration system. People who want to come to Canada know that the system and the process are reliable. The Liberals' proposed changes will be massive and will create uncertainty for people who want to come to Canada.

One area that the Liberals are not addressing by refusing to appeal the recent Federal Court decision is the issue of people who lie on their application forms. The government had a responsibility to appeal this decision. There are reasonable and legal grounds to appeal. By not appealing, they are incentivizing people to mislead on their applications. How can the government propose to be responsible, not only to future applicants but all the people currently in the process who have followed the rules and given accurate information, when it is now incentivizing people to be misleading on their immigration applications?

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6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, I disagree strongly with the hon. member's contention that the bill would make dramatic changes to the immigration system. In fact, what made dramatic changes to the immigration system was Bill C-24. Bill C-24 introduced barriers to citizenship when the barriers did not exist. Bill C-24 made two-tier citizenship possible in our country, something that is completely unacceptable to the vast majority of Canadians. They feel that two-tier citizenship is the wrong thing to do. Bill C-24 created a system in which people would have to wait longer and jump through so many hoops to become citizens.

Bill C-6 would address those issues and contribute to more integrity within the citizenship system. For the first time, it would empower immigration officers to seize fraudulent documents. I encourage the member opposite to support our amendments.

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6:55 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, one thing the government chose not to take up was indefinite suspensions in the revocation process. Why did the government chose to do that? Imagine being in a situation where someone is under suspicion for a very long time, with no deadline in sight. In criminal cases, there are statutory limitations, but not for immigration. Why?

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6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, the changes we are proposing to make to the citizenship revocation model will enhance procedural fairness. It will result in a vast majority of cases going to the federal court by default, unless the person expressly desires that the minister make the decision.

We feel very strongly that this will contribute to more procedural fairness, not less. In fact, by availing themselves of the federal court to make the decision with respect to citizenship revocation, they will enjoy the same rights and procedural fairness that every Canadian or foreign national enjoys when they go before the Federal Court of Canada.