Madam Speaker, once again, it is an honour to rise in the House.
I will start by following up on the speech we just heard by the NDP member. I will start by illustrating an old saying. I come from a large hunting area where we use the term “on target”. The way the member described co-operative federalism and the need to avoid the inefficiencies that happen in jurisdictions such as this was “on target”, but unfortunately also “wide of the mark”, the “mark” of course being our Constitution. What will happen with this legislation is that it would achieve the opposite of what it originally set out to do, and create even more inefficiencies in our federal system.
We are looking at an act to amend the Aeronautics Act, the Fishing and Recreational Harbours Act and other Acts (application of provincial law), as brought forward by the member for Repentigny. Bill C-392 proposes to amend the Aeronautics Act, the Canada Marine Act, the Fishing and Recreational Harbours Act, the National Capital Act, the Radiocommunication Act, the Federal Real Property and Federal Immovables Act, and the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act. These areas and assets are clearly within the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada, but the bill would make them subject to compliance with provincial laws concerning land use and development and environmental protection.
As articulated during the first hour of debate at second reading some time ago, the government is firmly opposed to this idea. What the bill seeks to do is, by way of federal legislation, upset the established division of powers and decades of co-operation between all levels of government on matters of mutual interest.
This proposition is both untenable and unnecessary. We do believe in co-operative federalism, and it can be achieved without going through these measures.
This proposition is untenable because it is not a small change. One cannot simply cherry-pick certain elements of federal jurisdiction and place them under provincial control without adversely affecting the capacity of the government to carry out its constitutional obligations. It is tantamount to putting a stick in the spokes of federal jurisdiction, and it threatens to upend decades of intergovernmental relations.
I have been here for quite some time and have seen a lot of these issues come and go. There have been spats, some disagreements and some harsh words, but nevertheless we have also seen some great efficiencies created in areas of dual jurisdiction.
The Constitution Act of 1867 clearly sets out the division of powers between the federal Parliament and the provincial legislatures, which includes powers that the provinces have delegated to municipalities. Section 91 of the Constitution Act lists the matters over which the federal Parliament has power, and section 92 sets out the powers of the provincial legislatures. Some degree of overlap is inevitable in some laws, as we have pointed out.
However, this overlap is managed. In Canadian constitutional law, a number of legal doctrines such as the double aspect doctrine, the paramountcy doctrine and the interjurisdictional immunity doctrine help manage these situations and have been calibrated in recent years by the Supreme Court of Canada to encourage co-operative federalism. That is the goal the member talked about in her speech. However, as others have said, this bill would be an even more inefficient way to bring about more co-operative federalism.
It is unnecessary because each piece of legislation the proposal seeks to amend already has consultation and environmental protection provisions built into it, which those operating or managing federal assets and activities must follow in order to enable.
It has, and always will be, incumbent on anyone acting under the authority of federal legislation to abide by applicable provincial and municipal laws, or bylaws in their case, just as those acting under the authority of provincial legislation must abide by applicable municipal and federal laws.
This dynamic has lasted for over 150 years, some of it highly publicized and some not. All jurisdictions must work together on certain issues to promote and protect the interests of all Canadians. Even when we agree to work together, we must still respect our jurisdictional boundaries.
It is important to illustrate the scale of the impact Bill C-392 would have on federally regulated operations and how the subsequent uncertainty in the regulatory framework could impact the business and investment environment of these operators as well as their participation in the Canadian supply chain and in the Canadian economy in general.
Small craft harbours are very popular where I come from in northeastern Newfoundland. They are assets that are of incredible value to fish harvesters throughout the entire province as well as on the east coast, the west coast and the northern coast. The program operates and maintains a national system of harbours to provide commercial fish harvesters and other harbour users with safe and accessible facilities. More than 5,000 volunteers across this country participate in the running of our small craft harbours program and all the harbours from coast to coast to coast. Therefore, the program is crucial to the fishing industry, and by extension, to Canada's culture and economy.
As of May 2018, the program is responsible for 1,013 harbours, including 883 fishing harbours and 130 recreational harbours. Together, these harbours represent over 10,000 structures across this large country, valued at approximately $6.03 billion.
When it comes to aviation, Transport Canada works with its partners and stakeholders, including the general public, the aviation industry, of course, other federal government departments, provinces, territories, municipalities, indigenous groups and international organizations to prevent and/or reduce the adverse environmental impacts of air transportation operations.
I have some experience with that myself, having a famous little airport known as Gander, or YQX. Over the years, we have practised co-operation among the three levels of government, the Town of Gander, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and of course, the Government of Canada and the board of the Gander airport authority.
In January 2017, in direct response to the community's concerns about aerodrome development, the government introduced a new regulatory requirement for anyone seeking to construct a new aerodrome to consult with affected stakeholders, including, but not limited to, the surrounding neighbours and the local land use authority. All stakeholders, including provincial governments, incidentally, can submit their comments and concerns during the consultation process. The proponent of the project must take these concerns into consideration and make reasonable efforts to mitigate them.
My friend from the NDP earlier talked about a lot of situations where one felt rammed by the other one and that there was an area of disrespect between two levels of government. However, this is a symptom of the people involved in that situation. The system we have helps to facilitate a better conversation. Sometimes these things happen, but it is not the fault of the system itself. Sometimes the players involved get a bit heated. I can apply the same sort of reasoning to small craft harbours as well.
Airports and aerodromes are the backbone of the aviation industry in Canada, an industry that employs 140,000 Canadians and contributes over $35 billion in GDP. In both examples, anyone managing an asset or building a new one must already comply with all federal and provincial laws pertaining to environmental protection, land use and development. If there is a conflict between the two jurisdictions, industry stakeholders know that the federal law will prevail.
With hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of billions of dollars at stake in the aviation sector and small craft harbour sectors alone, it is in the national interest to maintain a stable and consistent regulatory framework. The point is that sometimes federal and provincial interests and laws collide. We agree that it happens on occasion. When they do collide, there needs to be a way to determine which laws and interests should prevail. Hence, the paramountcy doctrine. Hence, the interjurisdictional immunity doctrine.
To be clear, the provinces benefit from this clear division too. They have no qualms about making the same argument when facing off against municipalities, which I have witnessed on many occasions, that seek to make changes that fall outside the jurisdiction established for them by provincial statute. Municipal bylaws, particularly those related to zoning, are routinely contested in the courts on the grounds that they are beyond the statutory authority of the municipality. Provinces do not tolerate laws that are ultra vires any more than the Government of Canada does. Of course, we are responsible for protecting those authorities.
In conclusion, what is being proposed in Bill C-392 is unworkable, because it would hamstring the federal authority rather than advance the spirit of co-operative federalism.