House of Commons Hansard #395 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was company.


Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, as you know and as I am sure the member for Carleton knows, it is inappropriate to either directly or indirectly reference the attendance of a member in or not in this chamber, which he just did with the Prime Minister. I would ask that you, Mr. Speaker, would inform him of the rule and ask him to discontinue doing that.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I thank the hon. member for his intervention. He is right that the rules around debate ask that members not make reference to either the presence or absence of members in the chamber. I did note the hon. member for Carleton's reference in that respect. I do not want to editorialize on what he said but the way I took it, it was not making a specific reference to the Prime Minister's absence but referring to the fact that he had been here earlier in the day and remains here. It seemed a little general in nature, but nonetheless I caution the hon. member for Carleton. This is something that of course members should take note of when they are delivering their remarks.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the same point of order, I just want to be very clear, because I was listening extremely closely, that the member mentioned the Prime Minister was in the building, which did not say that he was not in the chamber. Being in the building he could easily have been in the chamber.

However, I have noted that my hon. colleague has not mentioned the budget in the last 45 minutes and it is important always to go back to the budget. Perhaps he could mention the budget and then continue because I do not want him to lose his stream of thought from the moment when the member for Kingston and the Islands said that the Prime Minister was not in the House. I would not say that he said the Prime Minister was not in the House, when the member said he was in the building.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I think we have in fact settled the matter with respect to the reference to the absence or presence of members.

The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay makes another point, about the relevance aspect. I have been following the comments of the hon. member for Carleton. Members will know that members who are speaking on the budget are given a great extent of latitude with respect to budget matters because of the scope of such debates. I note that the hon. member for Carleton references how his remarks relate to the budget, so we will continue.

The hon. member for Carleton.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for remarking on the presence or absence of the Prime Minister. I will say this. Some people bring happiness wherever they go; others bring happiness whenever they go. With that, I will continue my remarks.

What I am seeking in the case of the Prime Minister is that he come to the justice committee. What I was saying earlier was that if he were to rise in the House of Commons right now and say that the cover-up is over and the justice committee will be allowed to finish its investigation, I would terminate my speech. I know there have been many times when the Prime Minister would have given a great fortune to make me stop speaking. I am offering him the chance right now to do that for free, in the sense that the truth will set him free. That is how we can end this speech earlier than it would otherwise go. I assure the members across the way, who have endured me thus far, that this will continue. I can tell they are already tiring, to which I will not take any offence whatsoever.

I was just about to address the international component of this scandal and note the interest the OECD has now taken in the SNC-Lavalin corruption affair. We are party to an international convention against corruption, bribery and fraud that requires the independent prosecution of international corruption. The OECD has expressed concern that the Prime Minister may have politically interfered with the role of the former attorney general in attempting to block the prosecution of a company accused of well over $100 million of international fraud and corruption.

There is no doubt that such international infamy is bad for Canada. We are known as a country of the rule of law. Businesses around the world have always said that, for all of Canada's strengths and weaknesses, they can always count on fair treatment in our court systems and courts of law in the event of a dispute; that our governments do not typically confiscate property, abrogate contracts or carry out any other form of lawlessness; and that it is a safe and secure place for the world to do business.

That reputation is precious to our economy, and the existence of a public scandal where the former attorney general has accused the Prime Minister of personally interfering in a prosecution jeopardizes that precious reputation, thus the interest, and even inquiry, that the OECD has now taken in this scandal. I say that not only because of the international consequences, but to illustrate how serious this matter is.

Countries around the world do not often take notice of political controversies in their neighbouring jurisdictions. Large international and multinational organizations do not typically get involved in the latest political controversy in France, the United Kingdom or Canada, for that matter. This would have to be an extremely serious affair for an international body like the OECD to consider a public comment and statement of that nature. However, we had such a statement, which has now been rendered public for all eyes to see. It is our duty to reassure the global business and legal community that Canada does have the rule of law, that everyone is equal under that law and that politicians have no business monkeying around with the law.

We have the ability to do that by bringing the Prime Minister before the justice committee, along with all of the others who were alleged to have participated in the interference with the former attorney general's role, letting them speak the truth under oath, and letting the committee, which is majority Liberal controlled, issue a report with clear findings. That is all we are asking and most Canadians would consider that pretty reasonable.

One argument we have heard from across the way is that we have to get busy doing other things. I could not agree more. If I can be very blunt about it, I would rather be talking about the Liberal carbon tax or the broken promise on the deficit or a number of other extremely unpopular policy decisions that the Prime Minister has taken. Were we to shift to those failed and unpopular policies just for political purposes, we would be leaving behind a very important loose end with respect to the protection of our justice system under the law.

We are not simply going to try to score political points by talking about something that might be otherwise more politically advantageous. Instead, we are going to stay focused on bringing the government to account for this political interference in our legal system. The reason for that is while it might not be in our political interest to stay focused on concepts like preserving an independent judiciary and legal system, it is the right thing for the country.

There will be time to debate the carbon tax, which kicked in today in Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Manitoba. There will be time to debate the Prime Minister's broken promise to balance the budget this year. There will be plenty of time for those things and we will debate them. More than that, we will solve them with proposals of our own that will lower the tax burden and balance the budget.

That said, now is the time for accountability, and now is the time for us to correct this grievous wrong that the Prime Minister has exacted upon our justice system. We have given him a pathway to do that. It is very simple: Support our motion at committee to have a full-scale investigation. The Prime Minister should come to testify and bring along all of the staff members who participated in the cover-up. Let them all speak freely without any restrictions on what they can say, and then allow the committee to issue a final report that Canadians can read before the next election. That is a very reasonable step forward, which we think any prime minister who has nothing to hide would be prepared to do.

So far, he has not been prepared to do that. As we know, he has shut down two parliamentary investigations, one at the justice committee and the other at the ethics committee. He has refused calls for an independent, non-partisan public inquiry. We have no other venue in which the truth can come out but the parliamentary committees that I have just listed. If the Prime Minister would merely agree to let us move forward with those investigations, we can get the truth out. Then, we can get back to the debates that we all want to have, which are, again, the very unpopular and damaging Liberal carbon tax, the Prime Minister's broken promise on deficits, his failures on the global scene, his disastrous trip to India, his Twitter war with Saudi Arabia, his climb down to Donald Trump in accepting one concession after another in the USMCA and his decision to kill three pipelines. All of those things merit debate, and we as Conservatives want to have and win those debates, and we will.

However, the Prime Minister cannot simply bury this corruption scandal under $41 billion of deficit spending that he is piling up in this cover-up budget.

That is why I am standing here today and giving these extended remarks to all of our colleagues before the House of Commons.

Where are we today with this cover-up budget? We have a government that is using public money to try to drown out a scandal. The Liberals have added $60 billion to our national debt, three times what the Prime Minister promised. Instead of balancing the budget this year, we have another $20-billion deficit, debts that will inevitably lead to higher taxes if he is re-elected.

We have billions of dollars of additional spending announced in the budget without any way to pay for them except piling on more and more debt, and we are entering a period of high levels of risk in our world economy already saddled with excessive deficits and debt, with the budget significantly out of balance, leaving us no buffer whatsoever to cushion us against the blows that the world could very well deal us again.

It is so different from the way we went into the last global recession. Governments, both Liberal and Conservative, made the responsible decisions in the late 1990s and early 2000s to pay off hundreds of billions of dollars of debt. I credit the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien for being part of that consensus of balanced budget, which followed with Harper and Flaherty, who also paid off $40 billion of debt, so that when the great crisis struck in 2008, we were prepared and we had a rock-solid foundation. The reality is that every country went into deficit, but Canada had the smallest deficit. It was the last to go into the recession and the first to come out. It created a million jobs and left the country with a balanced budget.

If we were to have that kind of financial crisis today, we would go into it already $20 billion in the red, which means that every single dollar in additional economic damage would be paid for with borrowed money above and beyond that $20 billion per year. As more people go on EI and draw from the system, fewer people would be paying income and payroll tax. As corporate profits drop, corporate tax revenues fall with them. All those things would only worsen the budgetary balance of the country. That is precisely why it is important to pay down debt during the good times, to prepare for rainy days ahead.

Instead, the Prime Minister has squandered his inheritance. He inherited good fortune in his own life, and he inherited good fortune as a prime minister. In the latter job, he has squandered it. He took a balanced budget and turned it into a massive deficit. He took low taxes and turned them into high taxes. Now he is spending our children's tomorrow on his today. He is doing that because he has made a political calculation that if Canadians see dollar signs flying at them in the form of massive pre-election government spending, they will completely forget about the scandal that has engulfed his government and they will say, “What happened to that SNC-Lavalin thing?” “I don't know. Just work on catching those dollars as they fly by.”

However, Canadians have not been fooled. In my community of Carleton, the wise people of Manotick, Stittsville, Greely and so many other wonderful neighbourhoods have been so fixated on protecting the legal system in our country against the corruption the Prime Minister has tried to administer against it. I have knocked on tens of thousands of doors, and not one person has said a positive word about the cover-up budget, because they saw it for exactly what it was.

Canadians knew exactly what the Prime Minister was doing. They knew that he was carrying out the Kathleen Wynne three-step. We all know the Kathleen Wynne three-step: one, get into a massive scandal; two, massive deficit spending to distract from it; and three, massive tax increases to pay for it all after the election. That is the McGuinty-Wynne three-step. It was designed by its architect, Gerald Butts, and it is exactly what we have in the present budget.

It did not work, though. It is a testament to the wisdom of the Canadian people that they were capable of ignoring every ounce of political bribery that the government attempted to bestow upon them. As they saw their Prime Minister running around throwing wads of cash into the air, Canadians looked a little more carefully. They realized that he was pulling the money out of their wallets and said they were not going to be distracted: “Now, let us get some answers with respect to the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal.”

That is why, wherever I go, people are telling me, “Get to the truth. Do not let the Prime Minister cover this up. It has gone too far. He has crossed the line.”

I am here with an offer to the government on the cover-up. Come to the justice committee, answer the questions, do it on the record, let the committee members write a report and let Canadians decide on the truth in October. Do not cling to the idea that it can all be swept under the rug today and then hope to hobble the way to October without anybody finding out what Liberals did.

It has not worked. It cannot work. There is too much scrutiny and too much interest in finding the truth for the Prime Minister to get away with covering it up any longer. The more he tries, the more difficult it becomes, and the harder and harder it is to prevent the truth from seeping out.

Here we are today, gathered in the House of Commons, the House of the common people, with an opportunity to convert this scandal into a moment of accountability, to prove that this chamber is capable of unearthing hidden facts and making known hidden truths, and holding to account the doers of the deeds. Surely, if the Prime Minister has nothing to hide, then he will agree to allow Parliament to do that.

I note now that I have been speaking directly to the Prime Minister, through you, Mr. Speaker, for a long time. I will note now to some of the members of the Liberal backbench. There have been some courageous individuals in their midst, who have been willing to do the right thing, who have put aside their own political interest and their careers to speak truth, first, to power, and then truth to the public. Liberals might look at them and say, “Jeez, I do not want to go down that road. The Prime Minister will grind me under his foot.”

Liberals should take another look, because they have something that could be preserved, their integrity. They go to their communities and they are rightly greeted as heros. I read this weekend that the former attorney general was honoured with a great feast in her community. People recognized the integrity she has demonstrated in doing her job. They have seen that what she did was very difficult and very rare.

Many sitting on the Liberal backbench might say that they do not have the courage to take on a prime minister, or that they think it is in their political interest to put their heads down, barrel forward, forget about the truth and just get through to October. Then after that, they can worry about whether the truth gets out. However, they will be remembered if that is the attitude they take, because eventually the truth will come out and the members who helped the Prime Minister cover it up will have been exposed as his servants rather than the people's servants.

We have to remind ourselves that we do not work for the government in this place; we work for the common people. That is why it is called the House of Commons. Sometimes people get the organization chart backward. It is the people at the top, under them is the House of Commons and its members, and under them the ministers and the government. That is why the word “minister” has its root in the word “servant”. It is because the ministers were first servants to the Crown, but ultimately servants to the commons, because the commoners can fire the government at any given time.

I know that some members have just been startled and think I am suggesting they should vote for non-confidence. They do not have to go that far that fast. Why do we not start by having a full investigation? What if Liberal backbenchers stood and voted in favour of that investigation in the House of Commons? What is the worst that could happen to them? Many of them have been passed over for cabinet already, and if truth be told, despite their thoughts to the contrary, do not have any hope of getting into cabinet anytime soon, regardless. However, they do have their integrity and could preserve that integrity by voting in favour of an end to the cover-up, by allowing witnesses to appear and the truth to be told. Then they could go back to their constituents and say that the party bosses came down hard on them, but they did the right thing. They would not be in cabinet but would be good servants of the people. That is why I am asking members across the way to join with Conservatives and put country ahead of party, to let the truth come out.

In October, all Liberal members are going to have to go back to their communities—

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Maybe sooner.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Wait a second, I just heard a rumour from across the way, from the deputy House leader. I said October would be the election and he yelled out “maybe sooner”. Maybe a cat has leapt out of the bag, or maybe the deputy House leader has let out of the bag that we could be going into the cover-up election. We had the cover-up budget and now we will have the cover-up election. Get the election done before the truth comes out is perhaps the political strategy across the way.

If I were called upon to give advice to members across the way, and it is a rare occasion that they ever ask for my advice, I would say this: A cover-up is not going to work. The people of Canada are too smart. They have a very good idea of what is going on because they have seen so much evidence so far. They are not going to be fooled by a snap election, an overly expensive budget or an attempt to use a majority to slap down the truth and punish the whistle-blowers who told it.

For their own sakes, they should stand up for what is right, stand up to their Prime Minister, do what is best for their constituents, protect the integrity of our legal system, uphold all that is good about our institutions, lock arms with others who agree, put their party behind their country, look their constituents in the eye and tell them that they did the right thing, not for their party boss but for the people they represent. Then and only then will they have the ability to look their constituents in the eye with total confidence that they did the right thing.

I will be pleased to return to this place and continue this debate at a moment convenient to this House, unless between now and that time the Prime Minister is willing to signal to our party, in writing, that he is prepared to end the cover-up and allow the investigation to continue.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Carleton will have the opportunity to continue his remarks when the House next gets back to debate on the question.

It being 6:30 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 30(7), the House will now proceed to the consideration of Bill S-238 under Private Members' Business.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

moved that Bill S-238, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (importation and exportation of shark fins), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Bill S-238. I would like to thank the member for Beaches—East York for seconding this bill, and I pay tribute to the hon. Senator Michael MacDonald for his tireless work getting Bill S-238 passed through the Senate. I would also like to acknowledge the work of his staff, Ewan Dunn and Kathryn Dunn. It has been a pleasure working with them on this critical issue.

This bill would ban the importation and exportation of shark fins, into and out of Canada, that are not attached to a shark carcass. It would provide an exception for ministerial permit if the importation of fins were for scientific research and would benefit the survival of the species. It would enshrine into law a prohibition on the practice of shark finning.

Shark finning has been banned in Canada under licensing conditions since 1994, but shockingly, the importation of shark fins continues to be permitted. Since 2011, five private member's bills banning the trade in shark fins have been introduced. In that time, nearly one billion sharks have been butchered and killed for their fins, shrinking the international shark population and driving dozens of shark species to near extinction. Last year, Canada imported 170,000 kilograms of shark fins, which is a 60% increase over 2012 levels.

Shark finning is the horrific practice of cutting the fins from living sharks and discarding the remainder of the shark at sea. The sharks then drown, starve to death or are eaten alive by other fish. It is a brutal fishing practice.

As top predators, sharks play a key role in maintaining ocean health. Dr. Dirk Steinke, adjunct professor, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph, testified to this at the Senate fisheries committee in December 2017. He said:

sharks are not only the most vulnerable but, also, probably the most important when you speak of an entire ocean as an ecosystem. They maintain all the species below them in the food chain or in the food network. For us, as scientists, they serve as a very important indicator of ocean health because we can immediately see that if they are not doing well, then something along the food network is also not doing well and we can probe further into that.

Unfortunately, due to shark finning, shark populations are plummeting around the world. The International Union for Conservation of Nature reports that a quarter of all shark species are threatened with extinction as a result of shark finning. Some shark populations have dropped by a stunning 99% over the past 50 years.

The best way to curb illegal finning is to stop the international trade in shark fins, which has been linked to organized crime, as Rob Stewart's films, Sharkwater, and the sequel, Sharkwater Extinction, clearly demonstrate.

In 2013, I tabled Bill C-380, but it was defeated by five votes. Many MPs who are now in the governing party supported that bill, and I hope they will support Bill S-238.

I was honoured to work with my friend, Canadian filmmaker and conservationist, Rob Stewart, whose 2006 award-winning documentary film Sharkwater shed light on the horrific practice of shark finning. Rob tragically died last year filming the sequel, Sharkwater Extinction. However, Rob's parents, Sandy and Brian Stewart, have continued his work educating the public on the need to protect sharks and on the essential role sharks play in our ecosystem. I encourage all MPs and the public to see this award-winning film.

Shark finning is decimating one of the most critical specifies on the planet to satisfy the demand for shark fin soup, yet the fins have virtually no flavour and add zero nutritional value. Canada can become a world leader in shark conservation and ocean stewardship by adopting this legislation. With a federal election expected October 21, it is imperative that Bill S-238 gets through debate, is reviewed by the fisheries and oceans standing committee and receives third reading and royal assent, all before the election is called. Sharks and the marine ecosystems that depend on them cannot wait for another election.

Canadians are watching, and they are waiting for Parliament to act. A petition at calling on Parliament to support Bill S-238 has received over a quarter-million signatures. I implore all MPs to pass this bill and put an end to the destructive practice.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge several people and organizations that have done tremendous work on this. I mentioned Senator Mike MacDonald and Brian and Sandy Stewart. Oceana Canada, Humane Society International/Canada, International Fund for Animal Welfare and numerous municipalities, conservation groups and concerned citizens right across the country are also working to pass resolutions to support Bill S-238. I thank them for all their hard work.

I would like to encourage all MPs to move this through the House as quickly as possible.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Sean Casey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for presenting this bill and for his speech. He would be well aware that there are several municipalities in Canada that have attempted to deal with this through bylaws. I would invite him to offer some comment on the jurisdictions that are impacted and the reason for federal legislation, given that certain municipalities have attempted to take this on.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. Over the years, municipalities have wanted to see action happen across the country. They could not wait for federal, provincial or territorial jurisdictions to move, so they have acted. They have been frustrated over the years, because if we have a patchwork quilt of legislation in different municipalities, business can just move from one municipality to avoid legislation in that municipality, for instance Toronto, and operate, for instance, in Oakville. Certainly I heard from consultations back in 2012, before I introduced the bill in the House, that this was a concern.

What I heard from even restauranteurs and industry was that they wanted a definitive response, a definitive bill, that would level the playing field. A national ban would level the playing field. It would help municipalities and provinces that want to do the right thing. A ban on importing would assist them in dealing with shark conservation and would end this practice and put a stop to it.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague and say what enormous respect I have for him in that he has used his many years in the House to fight for the issue of the ocean ecosystem and has used the opportunities of the House and his role as a member of Parliament to advocate for ocean health and the shark population that is being gutted around the world.

Why does my hon. colleague feel so moved to lead this fight, and why is it so important for not just Canadians but people around the world to take ocean health seriously?

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, when I first got to this place, it was a big concern that Canada, as an ocean nation, paid a lot of attention to our fishery but did not pay as much attention to the health of our oceans. I thought it was very important, especially back in 2012, when I read a United Nations report on the state of the world's oceans that said that our top predators, globally, in all oceans, were plummeting, including sharks.

Sharks play a key role in maintaining the health of the ecosystem. There are many threats facing the ocean. A changing climate, which is impacting the oceans at a tremendous rate, is also a big part of the problem.

One of the things we need to do as a nation is play a leadership role. Banning the importation of shark fins is a way Canada can play a stewardship role and send a clear message to other countries that this is the right thing to do. It can encourage other countries, such as our neighbour to the south and the European Union, to also ban the importation of shark fins so that we can see those shark populations come back and flourish and we can have a healthy fishery and healthy oceans. I think Canada wants to see this.

I will say that 81% of Canadians, in a poll done a number of years ago, wanted to see the practice of shark finning banned. There is tremendous support across the country from individuals and organizations that want to see this practice stopped. They want to see shark populations return to a healthy balance in our ecosystem.

Canada has an opportunity. We have to act now. The government needs to act before the summer, before the House rises in June, by fast-tracking this legislation to the fisheries committee so that we can get this legislation passed and enshrined before October 21.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Sean Casey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-238, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, also known as the ban on shark fin importation and exportation act.

The Government of Canada remains strongly committed to managing shark populations worldwide, with conservation and protection goals a priority.

Shark finning refers to the practice of harvesting sharks and removing fins from the live animal, only to return the debilitated animal, alive, to the water. The maimed animal then drowns as it sinks, powerless, to the bottom of the ocean.

I hope that image causes distress. It should. Canadians have told us that they are appalled by it and that they want us to put an end to it. Bill S-238 aims to do that, and it is a good thing.

My House of Commons and Senate colleagues are probably all familiar with the film Sharkwater, which came out in 2007. This captivating documentary starring Rob Stewart and Paul Watson is at times so shocking that it is difficult to watch.

The film follows the biologist-conservationist duo who joined forces to fight the poachers who kill animals illegally for their fins. The film, which contrasts gorgeous underwater scenes with images of horrifying animal cruelty, set off a global movement against shark finning.

This past fall, Mr. Stewart was again featured in a sequel to the same documentary, entitled Sharkwater Extinction. This more recent documentary exposes the continued, rampant existence of a significant illegal shark fin industry. At the core of this documentary is, once again, the cruel treatment of sharks and their rapid decline toward extinction. Also featured are the criminal conspiracies and the violent corruption, which often put Stewart and his crew at risk, that are linked to the still very lucrative illegal shark finning industry. Sadly, Mr. Stewart died in January 2017 while he was in Florida filming Sharkwater Extinction.

The original documentary and its sequel are making their mark around the world. There is increased compassion and sympathy for the once feared and misunderstood shark and a growing concern that we are slaughtering them to extinction and governments are doing nothing to stop it.

The fact is that in Canada, shark finning has been illegal since 1994. However, and this is where much of the concern lies, importing fins from other countries that do not ban the practice is still permitted. This has made it difficult for municipalities to impose bans through bylaws. In fact, since 2011, several Canadian cities have attempted to impose bans on possessing, selling or consuming shark fin products. Notably, Brantford, Oakville, Toronto, Newmarket and Mississauga, in Ontario, and Calgary, in Alberta, all had such bans at one time. Some still do today.

There are problems with local bans, however. Some have been challenged in court and overturned. While the courts agree that shark finning is inhumane, the main problem is that municipal governments have no authority over shark fin importation. The lack of legitimate finality at the local level means there is a growing need for a federal response to this important issue.

As we heard, in 2013 a private member’s bill to ban shark fin imports in Canada failed in this House. We are now faced with another opportunity, provided to us by Senator Michael L. MacDonald, in the form of Bill S-238. I ask that we carefully consider Bill S-238 and its proposed legislative solutions to the growing global issue of shark finning.

This proposed bill to ban the importation and exportation of shark fins or parts of shark fins that are not attached to a shark carcass, or any derivatives of shark fins, has a tremendous amount of merit. It would indeed be an indication of Canada's global leadership and position against the cruel practice of shark finning to amend the Fisheries Act and enshrine the prohibition of shark finning in Canada. However, I carefully followed the debate on this bill in the other place and, as raised in the other chamber, Bill S-238's proposed amendments to the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, WAPPRIITA, prohibiting the import and export of shark fins may be problematic.

Implementing Bill S-238, as amended by the other place, has a number of implications. With respect to WAPPRIITA, the proposed amendments do not discriminate between sustainably harvested sharks and shark products, and shark fins that are the product of shark finning. This would be inconsistent with Canada's international trade law obligations because it would pose a risk of violating non-discrimination obligations. A ban on the import of shark fin products and their derivatives without banning all internal trade of the products would violate this obligation.

In fact, a study of the legal implications of an almost complete ban on the importing of shark fins by Canada, as proposed by Bill S-238, revealed that this would very likely result in the violation of our obligations to the World Trade Organization.

Trade measures can be an effective means of fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and of promoting sustainable fishing practices. However, these requirements must be consistent with Canada's international trade obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization. I am sure there is a way forward that will allow us to comply with our trade obligations and, more importantly, to put an end to shark finning.

I will take a few seconds at this time to summarize.

Shark finning has been banned in Canada since 1994 through the licence conditions administered under the Fishery (General) Regulations, a regulation made under the Fisheries act.

In 2016, Canada implemented a mandatory fins-attached management measure for all pelagic shark landings across Canada. All harvesters are required to land pelagic sharks with the fins naturally attached.

Bill S-238 proposes to add a prohibition on shark finning in the Fisheries Act that would enshrine the ban of shark finning in the Fisheries Act, as well as banning importation through WAPPRIITA.

The government is committed to ensuring that we end the practice of shark finning while ensuring we uphold our international trade commitments.

I am convinced that shark finning is a cruel practice. As a Canadian and a steward of our natural environment, I feel I have a responsibility to prevent cruelty towards any animal and the decimation of any species. That is why I look forward to a rigorous debate on this bill in committee.

Bill S-238 is a noble indication that Canadians feel the same way. Perhaps the means by which the bill proposes to achieve its ends are not perfect, but I believe it is our duty here in this place to find a way to do whatever is within our power to stop shark finning. I am confident that this is the right thing to do.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak this evening in support of Bill S-238, an act that would ban the import and export of shark fins in Canada. I will be brief because we would all like to see the bill quickly passed here and given royal assent before Parliament rises in June.

Five or more similar bills have been debated in this place over the years, and unfortunately none has passed. It would be unfortunate if we missed the opportunity once again to pass this important legislation.

I would like to thank my friend, Senator Mike MacDonald from Nova Scotia, for introducing the bill into the Senate, and I would also like to thank my colleague, the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, for sponsoring it in this place. It is very similar to a bill that he put forward as a private member's bill in 2013.

As others have said, shark finning is the practice of catching a shark, cutting off its fins and throwing it back in the ocean alive, where it dies a miserable death, usually from drowning. Sharks have to keep moving through the water to breathe, to get water moving across their gills, and without their fins, they just sink to the bottom and drown. It is barbaric and it is wasteful. Most of it is illegal, and it is fuelled by simple greed.

We might think it is not a common practice, but unfortunately that is not the case. Over 100 million sharks are killed every year to satisfy the demand for shark fin soup, and some estimates are double that, at 200 million sharks. Canada's share in this slaughter is increasing. We imported 180,000 kilograms of shark fins in 2017, up from 106,000 kilograms in 2012. We are the largest importer of shark fins outside of East Asia.

This practice is significantly impacting shark fin populations around the world, and it does not just affect the sharks: It is radically changing ocean ecosystems. Imagine 100 million bears disappearing from our forests or 100 million lions disappearing from the plains of Africa.

Also, 141 species of sharks around the world are now classified as threatened with extinction or near threatened with extinction. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has assessed six species of sharks from Canadian waters and has listed three as endangered and three as being of special concern.

Some shark species are particularly hard hit by finning. The scalloped hammerhead has declined over 90%—one study suggested a loss of 98%—over a period of 30 years off the east coast of North America. Data from the same coast indicates that the population of the oceanic whitetip shark, once one of the most abundant animals in the world's oceans, has declined by over 70% between 1992 and 2000. That is 70% in only eight years. This once abundant species is rapidly becoming functionally extinct.

Before I had the privilege to sit in this place, I was an ecologist who did a lot of work on species at risk. One thing I noticed over that career is our casual disregard for the destruction of populations of animals living in our oceans, lakes and rivers, be they fish, sharks, turtles or whales. We simply do not seem to worry about things we cannot see. Because we cannot easily see what goes on below the surface of the ocean, we too often destroy populations before we are aware of what we have really done. I can mention the impact on whale populations around the world, Atlantic salmon, northern cod, and now the sharks of the world.

I will finish by mentioning, as others have, that last October I had the honour of meeting the parents of Rob Stewart at an early screening of Rob's magnificent movie Sharkwater Extinction. Rob was a remarkable young Canadian devoted to the conservation of marine ecosystems, and especially sharks. His movie Sharkwater was hailed around the world, but tragically he drowned while filming the sequel, Sharkwater Extinction. His parents have bravely worked to finish the movie and it is now being shown across the country.

I urge everyone here and everyone across Canada to see this important documentary. It will inspire people and change their view on sharks forever.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on a couple of comments. The member who spoke just before me made a recommendation to watch a specific show.

Over the last number of years, one of the things I have found is that there has been a great deal of attention from producers to better portray sharks and the role they play in our oceans in a more fair fashion. I believe Canada has demonstrated significant leadership in terms of our oceans and showing just how important they are to the world.

That should not surprise people. Canada is surrounded by three oceans, from the east, west and north. Then we have the U.S. below us, to the south. Manitoba is not quite landlocked because of Churchill. However, provinces like Saskatchewan, Alberta and others, even though they do not necessarily have direct links to the oceans, have an understanding and an appreciation of just how important our oceans are to the world.

There is a beautiful documentary production called The Blue Planet. I have had the opportunity to watch it on several occasions. It gives a better sense of what is in our oceans. There are a number of movies or documentaries that deal with the ocean.

More and more, I have found that Canadians are becoming sympathetic and want to see a government take action to protect our oceans. What we have seen over the last couple of years is that we have a government that has been listening to what Canadians have to say about our oceans. We see that in the legislation the government has brought in to protect our oceans and in its budgetary measures. The government has invested hundreds of millions of dollars, in terms of protecting our oceans.

The parliamentary secretary for oceans was talking about that graphic visual. I, too, have seen that visual, where these boats and trawlers are out in our oceans, hauling in sharks, taking the fins off the shark and then throwing the remaining body back into the ocean. One can only imagine the impact that is having on the animal, floating to the bottom and ultimately drowning.

That is not to mention the sheer numbers. We hear a great deal about millions. The original speaker to Bill S-238 made reference to close to a billion over the last number of years. I do not know how statistically accurate that might be, but what we do know is that it is having a very profound, negative impact on our shark population. That is something that all Canadians should be concerned about.

At the end of the day, looking at this particular piece of legislation, and I know there might be others who want to contribute to this debate, the government has been fairly clear that it would be good to see the legislation sent to committee.

I know there are some concerns. It is important that we hear from some of the community members as to what their concerns might be with respect to the legislation and the impact that it might have. I can appreciate that, here in Canada, through our fisheries, in order to acquire a licence, there is a certain commitment given that it is already illegal for someone fishing to take fins off a shark and bring that commodity in.

Shark finning is already illegal because of the licensing requirement.

Having said that, it is important for us to recognize that there is importing and exporting of shark fins which have been taken from a trolley of sorts, and the carcasses of sharks are being thrown back into the water. This is in good part what the bill is trying to focus on, if I understand it correctly. It focuses on cases in which fins are being taken off a shark, the shark is being put back into the water and those fins are ultimately being brought into the country through importation for whatever use they might have. This legislation would make it illegal to import or export fins.

There are a great number of Canadians who would in fact be very sympathetic to the legislation. I have received a few emails from constituents of mine who have expressed an interest in this particular issue.

I appreciate that the Senate is the originating body that brought forward this legislation. However, as has been pointed out, it is not the first time that this type of legislation has been brought to the House, although I believe it one of the first times that we are debating it. I think there is a sense of optimism that if we can move it to the committee stage, some amendments could follow that would make the legislation even better and more acceptable for a larger percentage of the population.

I talked about the importance of the legislation, but at the end of the day, the shark is just one species that is mentioned. The government also needs to look at ways that it can improve the stock of many different species in our oceans. I am thinking of our killer whale populations. In the province of Manitoba, there has always been concern, for example, over our beluga whales in the Churchill region. There is an issue regarding the salmon run. At times, these issues all cause a great deal of concern to stakeholders and industry representatives, and there is no doubt that a great number of individuals have a vested interest when governments bring forward legislation of this nature.

That is the reason it is important that we continue to go through the process. It is with a hope that at the end of the day, we will see legislation that continues what started about 20 years ago, from what I understand, with respect to shark harvesting, which was to be conducted through our fishery licensing process.

It is not as if this is a new issue; it is an issue that has been around for many years now. In the past, governments have attempted to deal with it while working with Canadians. We have seen a desire to look at what other countries around the world are doing and at how we might be able to demonstrate some leadership on this very important issue.

I have indicated in the past that Canada often carries, I would suggest, a great deal more clout on the international scene than one would expect, given our population in comparison to the population of the world. I think one of the things we can capitalize on is the reputation that Canada has. We have oceans surrounding our nation and we have a vested interested in them. Countries around the world recognize the importance of what Canada has been able to accomplish.

The bill could, after moving to committee and passing through it with amendments, make a significant difference. I appreciate the opportunity to share a few thoughts on the record with respect to it.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill S-238, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, which is also referred to as an act on the importation and exportation of shark fins.

Bill S-238 proposes to amend the Fisheries Act, with the goal of prohibiting the practice of shark finning. It also proposes amendments to the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, which would prohibit the import and export of shark fins that are not attached to a shark carcass or any derivatives of shark fins.

Shark finning is the practice of removing fins from sharks and discarding the carcasses at sea. This practice has been effectively banned in Canada, as we have heard in this House already this evening, since 1994. It is prohibited through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' regulatory framework as a condition of licences issued under the Fisheries Act.

However, there is no doubt that shark finning and the illegal shark fin trade have had a devastating impact on global shark populations, as we have been hearing this evening. Sadly, it is more efficient for fishermen to harvest the fins and discard the carcasses at sea, given the high value of the fins. Loading a vessel with the entire carcass is burdensome and less profitable. In Canada, sharks are harvested as bycatch.

We have heard the concerns of many Canadians who signed many petitions supporting government action to ban the shark finning practice. The intent of Bill S-238 is consistent with the government's commitment to sustainable, science-based management of stocks, including sharks. In Canada, the practice of shark finning has in effect been banned since 1994 through licence conditions.

In March of this year, the government implemented a fisheries management change requiring all sharks caught in Canadian fisheries to be landed with their fins naturally attached. This means that all harvesters are required to land sharks with fins attached. Through enforcement provisions, these fisheries are also subject to 100% independent dockside monitoring to ensure compliance.

Canada represents less than 1.5% of global shark fin imports. In 2017, outside of Asia, countries such as Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States all imported more shark fin products than Canada. No shark fin products have been exported from Canada since 2015. That said, Canada has a unique opportunity to demonstrate global leadership on this very important issue.

There are provisions in the Fisheries Act and its associated regulations to provide a mechanism that can be used to address the issue of shark finning by Canadian fishing vessels. However, Bill S-238 proposes to add a prohibition against shark finning in the Fisheries Act. By enshrining the ban in legislation, Canada would strengthen its approach to protecting endangered sharks and exhibit global leadership on this very important issue. This would also shore up enforcement and penalties associated with any breach of licence with penalties for chargeable offences under the Fisheries Act.

Bill S-238 also proposes amendments to the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act that would prohibit the import and export of shark fins that are not attached to a shark carcass.

I understand that concerns were raised in the other place about the trade implications of banning the import and export of shark fins and their derivatives in this manner. In particular, the national treatment obligation of the World Trade Organization requires imported and domestic goods to be treated equally. A ban on the import of shark fins that are not attached to shark carcasses or any derivatives of shark fins without banning all international trade of the products, as heard in the other place, would likely violate this obligation.

In order for importers to bring in shark fins, the bill would require that the captured shark remains whole until the product reaches Canada. This would be a significant increase in the burden on the shark fin trade industry, including for processors, exporters and importers. Requiring that fins remain attached until a product is imported would also be a significant shift in the global standard. It would create a significant burden for foreign counterparts and disrupt trade flows for importers and exporters as shark meat and fins are often destined for separate markets.

I indeed support the intent of the legislation and I hope this unintended consequence is something the committee can further examine. Make no mistake, shark finning is a cruel practice that needs to be addressed. Bill S-238 is a step in the right direction. Similar measures have already been implemented by some of our key partners, such as the United States and the European Union. These mandate the domestic landing of entire shark carcasses with the fin attached, which is agreed upon as an effective way of preventing finning. Landing the entire shark carcass also encourages the full use of the shark and not just the fins.

That is why I look forward to the debate at committee and to hearing from witnesses so that the committee can ensure the bill meets its intent while respecting the existing trade responsibilities. I commend Senator MacDonald and, indeed, the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam for championing a cause that I know Canadians from coast to coast support.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.


John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour today to rise to speak to Bill S-238, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act with regard to importation and exportation of shark fins. As we just heard from my colleague, I am also proud to rise and speak in favour of this piece of legislation.

It is a very important piece of legislation, and I would like to thank the member of the other House who was mentioned, Senator Michael MacDonald, for raising this issue. The other House has given a lot of time and debate to the issue and has brought forward some very timely and important discussions that need to be happening concerning Canadian legislation at this point in time.

I would also like to thank the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam for bringing forward the issue. I know that he is a passionate advocate for environmental issues, and in particular aquatic issues. It is very timely that we are talking about the issue of shark finning at this point in Canada.

As we have heard others say, shark finning is essentially a cruel practice in which fins are taken off sharks and the sharks are returned to the ocean to die. Although we have had different bans on this practice through regulation and through the Fisheries Act, we know that it still happens in Canada and internationally, and it is time that we look at ways to strengthen the ban.

As a member of the environment committee, I know the important role that committees can play in debating legislation and looking at how we can improve legislation, and it would be very appropriate as we move through the debate and the legislative process to get this to a committee, probably the fisheries committee, and look at what improvements this House would like to make to the proposed legislation and look at how we can end, once and for all, a cruel practice and see how we can better control the practice of harvesting all products from sharks should they be captured.

I would also like to take a minute to talk about the ecological impacts that result from this kind of shark finning practice in Canadian waters and internationally, because it is very much a global issue.

We know that sharks play a very important role within the marine environment as a predator, and they can work on controlling undesirable species. They deserve to exist. Although they are often looked at as an evil player within the aquatic system, they play an important role within these ecosystems. Therefore, I believe we need to look at what kind of protections can be offered to sharks and therefore to the overall health of an aquatic environment. Allowing shark finning to continue simply disrupts these kinds of practices, and looking at how this legislation can help the practice of shark finning while maintaining a healthy aquatic and marine environment is very important.

We have heard about the number of shark species that are perilously close to extinction or that are endangered or approaching that status in Canada and internationally. This should be an issue of concern to all Canadians and to all persons around the globe. Canada has a real opportunity here to play a leadership role in finding the right legislative balance so that harvesting can happen humanely and in a way that is not disruptive to the marine environment.

We have received some petitions. In my riding of Cloverdale—Langley City, a number of constituents have gotten hold of me. They were surprised that the practice of shark finning is still happening, not only in Canada but internationally. As I said, although there have been measures in place since 1994 for shark finning to be prohibited, we know that there are still occurrences, and Canada can play a leadership role in making sure that we see an end to this kind of practice internationally through best practices.

This idea of taking sharks and cutting off the fins and discarding the carcass is wasteful. Some of the proposed changes of making sure that the entire carcass, when caught, is kept on board and brought to Canada for processing would ensure that the inhumane treatment in how sharks are harvested would be dealt with.

It would also allow us to look at other by-products that come from this harvesting practice. We would not tolerate it with other fish species and I do not see why we would continue to allow this to happen with sharks. Although they have been somewhat demonized, it is time to get past that and look at how we can really deal with them in a humane environment.

We have also heard that it is a commodity and shark fins are retailing for up to $400 per kilogram. There is an economic piece here and what we are really looking at is how this can be done in a way that is respectful to the environment and allows the humane harvest of sharks to happen. We have heard and seen that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans now requires that fleets land pelagic sharks with their fins naturally attached. This is a huge step forward.

However, that is not a legislative piece, so having Bill S-238 attempt to deal with this and to formalize it in a legislative manner with penalties that would go along with not respecting the law is a responsible way to go. Again, I commend the other House for identifying this issue and putting forward some very realistic solutions. As we move through the debate process, I will be in support of the legislation being sent to committee.

We have heard in the House many times recently about how our government supports the independent work of committees. I know that the fisheries and oceans committee, if that is where it lands, would be able to do some real digging into this to see how Canadian legislation could deal with this global issue that we are facing. It would be a really wise way to go.

Going back to the bill, I understand that it would prohibit the import and export of shark fins that are not attached to a shark carcass, or any derivatives of shark fins. From the petitions I was talking about that I have seen in my riding of Cloverdale—Langley City, this would really resonate with the constituents I represent in the House. We want shark finning and the illegal shark trade ended so that we can stop the devastating impacts it has on shark populations.

It is unfortunate to see that fisher people see it as being more efficient to harvest the fins and discard the carcass at sea, because there is this very high value of fins that I mentioned of $400 per kilogram. If they had to take the whole carcass, that creates, perhaps, a financial burden by making it less profitable, but we really feel that we need to see this practice dealt with. As I said, I commend both the other place and this House for bringing forward the legislation.

In Canada, we have heard that we comprise less than 1.5% of global shark fin imports, so there is always a question domestically about how much time and effort we should spend dealing with issues that are of global importance. In this case, 98.5% of the issue is actually being dealt with outside of Canada's shores and waters. We can look at examples of countries such as Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, which have all dealt with this issue in different ways. Canada has an opportunity to be part of this global solution and continue to provide global leadership.

It is important for us to have this discussion right now. It is going to be timely for us to get the legislation to committee, have the committee look at it and report back to the House to see what kinds of amendments could be proposed to strengthen Bill S-238, because it really is a step in the right direction.

With that, I will close my comments and I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to a very important piece of legislation.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before I recognize the hon. member for Avalon, I will let him know there are only about six minutes or so remaining in the time for Private Members' Business. I will give him the usual signal and he will have his remaining time when the House next takes up debate on this question at a later date.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Avalon.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.


Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity today to speak on Bill S-238, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (importation and exportation of shark fins).

I want to join colleagues who spoke earlier and thank Senator Michael MacDonald for sponsoring the bill in the Senate and my colleague across the way from Port Moody—Coquitlam for sponsoring it here in this House.

When we think about how cruel it would be to an animal to remove a vital part, such as the fin from a fish, whether it be a shark, whale or any species in the water, it is unimaginable. Can members imagine people harvesting the dorsal fin of an orca, for example, and it not being able to survive in the water once it was put back in? What an act of cruelty it would be to capture the animal, remove the fin and discard it back into the water to perish in a horrible death because it is not able to function as it was designed to.

To mention what the bill is about, it states:

Whereas in 1994 the Canadian Government banned shark finning — namely, the practice of removing the fins from live sharks and discarding the remainder of the sharks while at sea — in Canadian fisheries waters and with respect to Canadian licensed vessels fishing outside of Canada’s exclusive economic zone;

Whereas Canadians are increasingly aware of the devastating effect of the continuing practice of shark finning and the resulting decline in shark species in Canadian waters and around the world, and are in support of measures to stop this practice and ensure the responsible conservation, management and exploitation of sharks;

And whereas the importation of shark fins is not justifiable in the face of the dramatic decline in shark species and losses in shark populations worldwide;

Most people may not know this, but being from Newfoundland and Labrador, I grew up on the ocean. I still live within a few hundred feet of the ocean. We have seen an increase in the sightings of sharks in our waters around Newfoundland and Labrador, especially during the summer months. Different species of sharks seem to populate our waters. It may be because of the good feeding on the fish that also populate our waters. However, a lot of people say that it is global warming or the warming of the waters in the area in which we live that is attracting the sharks to more or less migrate to different areas and hunt for food, as of course is their natural instinct.

I believe that this government will support this bill in the House and get it to committee. I look forward to that, because I believe it will come to the committee that I chair, the fisheries and oceans committee, and give us a chance to bring witnesses forward to hear from people involved in the industry, to hear from people on all sides, and get the proper consultations done. If we have to make the necessary amendments, we can get that done, while keeping in mind the purpose of the bill, which is to do away with this horrible act of shark finning being done on a commercial basis.

I believe somebody may have mentioned it, and if not, I saw see it in print, that shark fins can be sold for a value of up to $400 per kilogram. That is a nice payday for people who can get two or three shark fins a day. However, they are not looking at what they are destroying or considering the cruelty inflicted on the animal.

Our government agrees that shark finning is a destructive and wasteful practice that contributes to the global decline of several shark species. That is why shark finning has been prohibited in Canada for over two decades. That is why our government implemented measures that require all sharks caught in Canadian fisheries to be landed with their fins naturally attached.

I think my time is up. Once again, I am thankful for the opportunity to give my short intervention today.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Avalon will have five minutes remaining in his time when the House next gets back to debate on the question.

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.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Canada Post CorporationAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise once again to recall some of the events of last fall concerning the strike by Canada's postal workers.

I am sure there are a number of members on the government benches who would be happy to forget about those events and what the strike meant for workers' rights in Canada, but we here have not forgotten. In particular, I am following up on a question that had to do with the suspension of short-term disability benefits for Canada Post workers while the rotating strike was happening.

We have had a number of exchanges in the House before, including in late shows like this one, and the government has been very unapologetic for the fact that Canada Post workers who were on short-term disability had their benefits cut off when the postal workers went out—and not for a full strike, but for a rotating strike. Those workers who were receiving short-term disability benefits did not get a rotating termination to their short-term disability benefits: They were off that benefit for the entire time.

What seems to be the subject of some dispute is the role of the government in causing that suspension of benefits to occur for those people who were already vulnerable, who were already living on a reduced income and who did not have a way to make up that income.

I would draw the attention of the House to subsection 22(1) of the Canada Post Corporation Act, which says that “In the exercise of its powers and the performance of its duties, the Corporation shall comply with such directives as the Minister may give to it.”

This establishes a very clear legal authority for the minister responsible for Canada Post to tell Canada Post management that they have the option of suspending those short-term disability benefits but that the minister thinks it is wrong, that they should not do it, and is directing them not to do it and to continue making those payments as if the collective agreement were in force.

Therefore, notwithstanding whatever was happening or not happening at the bargaining table and with the strike, what I am zeroing in on today is that I and many people across the country believe that it was a wrong and mean-spirited decision by Canada Post management to suspend those short-term disability benefit payments and that the government was at the very least complicit in that decision in not exercising its authority under the Canada Post Corporation Act to tell management to cut it out.

I would like somebody from the government side to stand tonight and explain to those workers why it was that the government was willing to stand idly by while they were not getting paid their short-term disability insurance when their co-workers were out on a rotating strike. For virtually every day on that strike, the mail got delivered in most parts of Canada. There were some service interruptions, but these people lost their benefit full time, all the time, while the rotating shrike was occurring.

Why was the government content to stand by and let that happen?

Canada Post CorporationAdjournment Proceedings

April 1st, 2019 / 7:30 p.m.

Cape Breton—Canso Nova Scotia


Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Mr. Speaker, I know that my colleague and I can certainly agree on the fact that in the best-case scenario both sides are able to sit down at the bargaining table and come out with an agreement that is of benefit to all. Unfortunately, there are instances that arise where such is not the case and an agreement is elusive. That is when governments have to take action.

As we have previously said, back-to-work legislation is a last resort solution. It is something that this government certainly did not take lightly. We did everything we could to support and encourage Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers to reach that negotiated collective agreement. Throughout the process, which was going on for well over a year, the parties were assisted by federal conciliation officers, mediators and a special mediator. Alas, despite these efforts, the parties were unable to reach a new agreement.

As a last resort, the government tabled Bill C-89 in November 22 of last year. This set out the process by which the parties were required to work with an independent mediator-arbitrator and the employees would return to work. On November 26, Bill C-89 received royal assent, the rotating strikes ended and all postal services resumed on November 27.

Since Canada Post and CUPW were unable to agree on a mediator-arbitrator as per the process outlined in the legislation, our government appointed a former chairperson of the Canadian Industrial Relations Board to serve as the mediator-arbitrator to assist the parties in reaching a new collective agreement.

It seems to me that it is worth noting that the member across has conveniently forgotten about the many changes our government has brought forward for workers because this is about workers. We have passed legislation to modernize federal labour standards in this country, which have not been updated since the 1960s. These changes stem from extensive consultations with stakeholders who have told us the same thing, time and time again: The way Canadians work has changed, but federal labour standards have not.

The modern set of labour standards we have introduced will better protect Canadian workers, especially those who are most vulnerable, such as workers who are in part-time, temporary or low-wage jobs and it will help set the stage for good-quality jobs. This modern set of standards will also help ensure employees in precarious work are paid, treated fairly and have access to labour standards by introducing equal treatment protections.

These are just some of the measures that we have taken to show respect in our approach to labour as a government and in developing the labour laws that are needed for today's workforce, but also respecting collective bargaining, making sure that Canadian workers are shown respect and that the Government of Canada is there not to put its thumb on the scale.

Canada Post CorporationAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague will know that we disagree pretty seriously about the way the government chose to handle that particular strike, but my question today is very specific. It has to do with the workers on short-term disability who had their benefits cut off for five weeks without any reprieve, break or anything else.

The fact of the matter is that the government did have the power to intervene to tell Canada Post the truth, which was that this was an underhanded bargaining technique. The government is ultimately responsible for that. That is on the government for not having done anything about it.

We still have not heard a justification for it. We have heard excuses. We have heard diversions, such as, “Well, they could have applied for EI” or “Well, you know, there was a compassionate program where we cut them off their benefits and then let them reapply later and we said yes to some and no to others.” None of those answers cut it.

This is another opportunity for somebody from the government to get up and explain why it was that it stood by for five weeks while vulnerable workers did not receive their short-term disability payments. Why was that?