House of Commons Hansard #37 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.


Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:10 p.m.


Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the official opposition and all parliamentarians, I would like to ask the House leader for the agenda for the remainder of this week and next.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Honoré-Mercier Québec


Pablo Rodriguez LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, that question was really well put, probably the best question today.

This afternoon, we will continue debate at second reading of Bill C-12 on net-zero emissions. This evening, the committee of the whole will study the votes under Department of Health. Tomorrow and Monday, we will be debating Bill C-7 on medical assistance in dying.

We hope to complete third reading of Bill C-7 on Monday to give the Senate enough time to pass the bill before the court-imposed deadline of December 18.

On Monday afternoon, at 4 p.m., the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance will deliver the fall economic statement in the House of Commons.

Tuesday and Thursday shall be allotted days.

On Wednesday, we will resume debate on Bill C-12, the net-zero legislation.

Lastly, next Friday we will resume debate on Bill C-10, concerning the Broadcasting Act, and Bill C-11, concerning personal information protection.

Bill C-214—Ways and Means Motion—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:15 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I am ready to rule on a point of order raised on November 3, 2020, by the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader concerning Bill C-214, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (qualifying environmental trust), standing in the name of the hon. member for Calgary Centre.

In his intervention, the parliamentary secretary alleged that the bill should have been preceded by a ways and means motion. He argued that the bill would expand the definition of “qualifying environmental trust” to include a trust maintained for the sole purpose of funding the reclamation of an oil and gas well. As such trusts are taxed, he argued that the bill would extend the tax to a new class of taxpayer and should therefore be ruled out of order.

The hon. member for Calgary Centre argued that his bill would not create a new class of taxpayer, but would merely allow the oil and gas industry to use an existing tax mechanism already in use by the extractive industries. He also argued that an increase in tax revenue would only be incidental and would therefore not normally require a ways and means motion.

Bill C-214 would amend the Income Tax Act to include, in the definition of “qualifying environmental trust”, trusts that are maintained for the sole purpose of funding the reclamation of an oil or gas well operated for the purpose of producing petroleum or natural gas. As the sponsor of the bill noted, such trusts may already be used to fund reclamation activities by other extractive industries, but the act currently prohibits the use in relation to oil and gas wells. The bill's sponsor has argued that such a prohibition is unfair and that his bill seeks to correct the inequity. The Chair's decision, however, must be based not on the worthiness of the bill's policy objective, on which the Chair has no views, but rather on its compliance with our rules.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states at page 906, and I quote:

The House must first adopt a Ways and means motion before a bill which imposes a tax or other charge on the taxpayer can be introduced. Charges on the people, in this context, refer to new taxes, the continuation of an expiring tax, an increase in the rate of an existing tax, or an extension of a tax to a new class of taxpayers.

The question before the Chair is whether Bill C-214 extends a tax to a new class of taxpayers. The tax treatment of qualifying environmental trusts, or QETs, is admittedly quite complex, with a series of offsetting credits and deductions between the trust and the corporation that contributes to it. Generally, such a trust is created by a corporation as it would provide a tax advantage.

However, this is not a circumstance where the bill proposes a tax reduction or a tax credit. The means by which this advantage is gained is through the creation of a separate and distinct taxpayer, the trust. The bill's sponsor argues that QETs already exist as a class of taxpayers. Indeed they do. At present, however, the Income Tax Act specifically excludes a trust relating to the reclamation of a well. This exclusion has been part of the act ever since these sorts of trusts were first introduced in Bill C-59, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act and the Income Tax Application Rules, in 1995, when they were originally known as mining reclamation trusts.

Having been renamed “qualifying environmental trusts” in 1998, the number of eligible industries was expanded to include other extractive industries in 2011 via Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget as updated on June 6, 2011 and other measures. Each of these bills was preceded by a ways and means motion. While they clearly contained other measures, the Chair believes that such a motion was necessary to expand the various types of industries able to create a QET.

Accordingly, a ways and means motion is necessary. The bill cannot proceed and should be discharged.

Pursuant to Standing Order 92.1, the hon. member for Calgary Centre may substitute a new item in the order of precedence to replace Bill C-214.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-12, An Act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada's efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.


Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, first I want to thank my colleagues from all sides of the House for giving me this opportunity to speak today. While I do plan to stick around a little while longer, the uncertainties that we are facing as a nation and, indeed, within the House mean that this could be the last chance I have to physically stand in the House to say farewell.

I must also warn members that I plan to be uncharacteristically non-partisan in my remarks today because, quite frankly, it is not about the politics here; it is about the people.

Whenever I am asked what it is like to be an MP, I always reply one thing: It is the most challenging, demanding, frustrating, worthwhile thing that I have ever done. There have been a lot of times over the last 16 years where there were ups and downs. I have lost a lot. I lost my husband, my father, my vision temporarily, my appendix and my dear neurotic cat. However, I also gained more than I ever could have imagined: amazing experiences across Canada that only deepened my love for this great country, friendships that will last a lifetime, an undying respect for this institution and for those who serve in it, and a pair of titanium hips.

For some, becoming an MP is not something they always plan to do. Sometimes, it is the issues of the day that really push someone to serve. While the issues and events in 2004 were definitely the tipping point for me, my desire to help those in my community started many years earlier. When I was about nine years old, my mother sat me down on the eve of an election to tell me what democracy was, how important it is and how very lucky we are to have it. I remember that conversation vividly, and I can say that, from then on, I dreamed of having the opportunity to fight for the people at home.

Therefore, to everyone in Haldimand—Norfolk, I cannot thank them enough for making the dreams of that little nine-year-old girl come true.

I have to say it has been a heck of a ride since 2004. From being named agriculture critic during the BSE crisis, serving in former prime minister Stephen Harper's cabinet for all 10 years, to being named the Conservative caucus party liaison and a member of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, every position has come with its own challenges and memories that I treasure.

Some of those include creating the universal child care benefit, promoting and delivering the tobacco transition support program, imposing measures to protect potential human-trafficking victims here in Canada, stickhandling numerous infrastructure projects for Haldimand and Norfolk counties through the bureaucracy, breaking down barriers faced by persons with disabilities, and finally, retiring and replacing the aging Sea King helicopter fleet with the new Cyclones.

Through it all, I have truly been blessed to have amazing people by my side, people who have challenged me to do my best, who have stuck with me through the high times and the low, and who even laugh at my sometimes warped sense of humour, and on a daily basis. While I may have been labelled the toughest bird in cabinet at one point, I am a firm believer that if a person cannot laugh at themselves, they are just not funny enough.

From the very beginning, my parents were my biggest champions. During many elections, my dad would knock on doors with me, and my mom was always working in the campaign office. Thankfully, I still have my mother today. I know Mom will be watching this; I thank her and I love her.

Of course, I also could not have done any of this without my late husband, Senator Doug Finley.

Many people knew Doug as the man who always had a plan F, who was a staunch defender of free speech, who led the Conservative Party to victory in 2006 and 2008 as the national campaign director, and who played a leading role in the 2011 election that resulted in a strong, stable, national Conservative majority government. He was also one of my biggest supporters, both professionally and personally. As far as we can tell, we were the first married couple to sit in both Houses of the Canadian Parliament at the same time.

I would like to thank those in my life who have made it possible for me to still be here today. In no particular order, I thank Marlene and Tom Stackhouse, Sharlene, George Santos, Howard Goode, Wally and Jan Butts, Jeremy and Chelsea McIntee, Frank Parker, Karly Wittet, The Amazing Ali, and the Johns in my life: Nieuwenhuis, Wehrstein, Bracken and Weissenberger.

To those who made my life easier every day, Denis, Jojo, Ann, Jimmy, Mike Fraser, Michou and the indomitable Lynette, they have my heartfelt thanks.

To my former cabinet colleagues, Gerry, Rob, Lisa, Bev and Carol, and to Senator Plett, Ian and Vida, Karen Kinsley, Aly Q., Koolsie, Spiro and Dustin, I am so grateful we are still in touch.

To my former deputy ministers, Dick, Ian and Janice, I thank them for their patience and wisdom.

To my favourite former prime minister, I thank him for the trust he kept placing in me, and placing and placing and placing.

To my current colleagues, Karen, Raquel and John N., it is a great relief to know that they are taking on my pet projects going forward.

Of course, I would not be here today if it were not for the thousands of volunteers and donors over the years who generously supported me and my efforts. I thank them.

To my Conservative family, it has been an absolute pleasure getting to know all of them and working hard with them to help Canadians. It is the values that have kept me blue through and through, the values of hard work, showing respect for other people, looking after one's family, smaller government and lower taxes. That is why I am so excited for the future of the Conservative Party under our new leader and for what my colleagues will continue to do for Canadians.

Most importantly, to the residents of Haldimand—Norfolk, I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I know I am not at all biased when I say that Haldimand—Norfolk truly is the best place to grow up and live. As part of Ontario’s south coast, yes, Canada’s fourth coast, we have some of the most hard-working, friendly, salt of the earth people, people who know what it means to pull up their socks to get a job done or to help a neighbour. It has been an absolute privilege to be the MP for these amazing people.

It is time for me to turn a new page. It is time to hit the refresh button. It will soon be time for me to indulge my creative side; to travel, hopefully; to take some courses; and to finally get to my “want to do” list. I am looking forward to this new chapter of my life and what it will bring.

To all those young people out there who have a dream like I had, I urge them to go after it, chase it, pursue it, live it. It might not be easy, but I assure them it is worth it.

I would like to close today with a quote from the hero of that little nine-year-old girl I used to be, Winnie-the-Pooh, who said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Durham Ontario


Erin O'Toole ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, this time is normally for questions and comments. I will only comment in this case.

What an honour it is for me, on behalf of my colleagues and on behalf of the Conservative caucus, present and past, to thank the hon. member of Parliament for Haldimand—Norfolk for her tremendous public service and her touching remarks today, which cap her incredible service not just to Haldimand—Norfolk, but to all of Canada.

What an honour it is for me to be a colleague of and to pay tribute to someone I have admired for a great time. As a party activist, as many of us volunteer and take part in politics, I watched her incredible work helping merge the parties. The hon. member was, by half an hour only, I have learned, the second candidate nominated for the newly created modern Conservative Party of Canada.

With her background, not only professionally, with an MBA from Western, but also being bilingual and running a French immersion program for a time and working in the private sector, it was known that, with the hard work of merging the parties and preparing the government in waiting at the time, she would be an important, literally a critical part, of a Conservative government. This was after more than 15 years of Conservatives being in the wilderness, politically, in Canada.

What an incredible record this hon. member had as minister of citizenship and immigration, minister of human resources and skills development, and minister of public works and government services. I am glad she mentioned, after a generation, she gave the RCAF a new Maritime helicopter. I love her even more because of that.

I was a young cadet when that program was cancelled. It had languished and hung out there, and then a strong minister, who always had the service of our men and women and their best interests at heart, finally got that major procurement done and bought the Cyclone. I have been able to fly it. It is a testament to her service to our country and our interests around the world.

She is the last of the titans, the last member of Parliament in our caucus who has served as a member of the government and a member of cabinet at senior levels for every single year in the period of the Harper government. That corporate memory, that knowledge is something I do not want to lose, and I am in awe of her tremendous contribution to our country.

Her presence on our team is thoughtful, connecting our caucus to our grassroots, and always making people feel welcome. The Christmas lights in her Parliament Hill office often showed how welcoming she is to new people, and her mentoring of many of young members, especially some of our women joining a political career, who are able to look up to someone who had had tremendous success and learn from that.

Then, of course, there is the great love story of the upper and lower houses of Parliament in Canada, which includes a meeting at Rolls-Royce in the private sector. I love that part of it, too.

Doug was in the private sector at Rolls-Royce. They met, and obviously shared a love for Parliament. Then, I, too, think they are the only, or at least the first, husband and wife to serve at the same time in the upper and lower chambers of this great Parliament, and at senior levels, I might add, throughout that period.

That is a legacy. We lost our friend, Senator Doug Finley, but they created a legacy together in the scholarship fund for young people. Once a year, even virtually, the event brings people together to celebrate public service, which we saw today can often be fractious. We need to celebrate and instill that in young people.

The good people of Haldimand—Norfolk have been well served. Her advocacy, to the point of bragging about that region of Ontario being the bread basket and the greenhouse of our province and our country, is something that all MPs should strive to do as champions for their community. When she informed me of her news, she said, right up to the last day, she is going to be working with people in her riding on grassroots petitions and on issues until her last moment.

That exemplifies the type of service the member has given. When we look at the book of wisdom that she is handing on to the next generation, many of them here in the chamber with us, that is a legacy of service that will last for many years.

I am very happy that she has already provided much of that wisdom, introduction and mentoring to Leslyn Lewis, who we hope will join our team from Haldiman—Norfolk, showing that the continuity of public service, of Conservative ideals and principles, will be the hallmark of the hon. member for Haldimand—Norfolk's career, from the first moment she was elected through to the last day she will spend as an MP.

I will end on this note: As the last of the titans, as someone who was in cabinet and had to defend a Conservative government, often in front of a somewhat hostile press gallery, the member's motto was “brave in difficulties”. At least that is one of the member's mottos, and she wore it with pride and vigour.

She was not only brave, she was noble and resolute throughout challenging times, the great recession and the transformation of government. It is a legacy I think all Canadians of all political stripes can be thankful for. I ask all colleagues to show tribute to the member today for her public service.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Don Valley West Ontario


Rob Oliphant LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, it is a tremendous privilege to rise today in the House and speak on behalf of the Liberal caucus and this side of the House. If I may begin by saying that, for the last 16 years, this House has been more thoughtful, richer, more compassionate and more competent because of the member for Haldimand—Norfolk's presence here. It has also been a bit more feisty and fun.

I want to really express the gratitude we have on this side of the House for her collegiality and sense of engagement. Whether she was on this side of the House or that side of the House, one knew they could depend on that member to be fair, to be thorough and to always stand up for what is best in this country.

Six elections are no small feat. If we call a 20% or 25% margin a squeaker, she has had some pretty rough rides. It has been fascinating to watch both her parliamentary career, as well as her government career, and we are richer in Canada because of her time in those people departments, especially. Of course, Public Works and Government Services was important, but the member shone as a minister for people, whether it was at Human Resources and Skills Development, or Citizenship and Immigration. It was in these kinds of places where people's lives changed because of her care and compassion. It was noted.

Sometimes I hated being on that side of the House watching her on this side of the House exercising that care with such grace, competence and love. That really has been an important part of what we need to do in this place and to remember her.

The actions she has made have really made the people of Haldimand—Norfolk know that they were well represented in this place. It is all about bigness in that riding, from the Grand River on one side to Big Creek on the other side and to Long Point on the fourth coast. In Simcoe, Delhi or Port Dover, the people knew they were well represented.

Just this last February the member, whom I want to call by name but I am not going to, for Haldimand—Norfolk called about two of her constituents from Port Dover. They were on the Diamond Princess and needed help getting home. She knew all the details, and showed all the care. It was such a moment of good constituency care.

As a minister, as a member, as a human being and as a sister in this place, we can only wish her the very best of luck and best wishes as she undertakes this next chapter of her life. I am interested to know what she is going to do with it. I have already told her privately a number of goals I thought she should have.

To the little Girl Guide in Port Dover, who became, through an MBA, a successful business person, and on to be a passionate parliamentarian, competent minister and gracious human being, Godspeed, best wishes and much love.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, I am also pleased to recognize the work and accomplishments of the member for Haldimand—Norfolk.

She has been a member of the House since June 2004. Today, I understand her decision to leave us. She has served the public, served others, for over 16 years. She can be proud of what she has accomplished. If I were her, I would be proud too.

I met my colleague in 2006, when I was the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry and she was a minister. As members have said, she has held a number of cabinet positions. What stands out about her to me is her kindness. She was the kind of minister who was not intimidating at all, so opposition members were not too shy to cross the floor of the House to talk to her about specific files. She was always friendly and attentive to all members who had things they wanted to ask her about.

Today, she gave her speech mostly in English, but I know that Diane, if you will allow me to call her by her name, Madam Speaker, also speaks French and made every effort to do so. Every time I went over to talk to her, she made an effort to listen to me and answer me in my own language, both orally and in writing.

The public does not know that we exchange notes, that is, messages that the pages deliver to ministers. Every time that I, or any of my Bloc colleagues, sent her a written message about a specific matter, she always made sure to answer in French and, above all, to follow up the next day during question period. That is an admirable quality. She was an approachable, empathetic minister. She devoted herself to serving the people we represent. Being a government minister means being the minister of all citizens. She certainly took that to heart.

I also knew her during the period when she sat just over there and her eyes were hurting. She mentioned this in her speech. She stayed on, sitting there. Someone else might have gone on sick leave, but this MP and minister stayed on to carry out her duties while fighting an illness that I am happy to say she overcame.

I know that she never held a grudge against me for the time, right after I was elected in January 2006, when I showed up unannounced at her office with piles of shirts from textile workers. I had organized a big rally for textile workers, and Paul Crête and I went to her office to give her five or six garbage bags full of workers' shirts. She thought it was pretty strange that a young MP would come barging into her office like that to deliver shirts. However, she never held it against me, quite the contrary, in fact. As someone said before, she has a great sense of humour.

It means a lot to me that the person in the Chair today is a woman, because we welcomed two new female MPs yesterday, which enabled us to reach the magic number of 100 women in the House, out of 338 MPs. It is a magic number. I am sad to see Diane leaving us, because now the number could drop back to 99. I apologize, Madam Speaker. That said, I understand that she needs to take care of herself, her family and her children and take some time to just enjoy life, because it must be said that serving others and being an MP and minister for so long takes up a lot of time.

On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I hope the next chapter of her life is filled with fun, love and success, and I hope she gets a chance to live life to the fullest.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise and pay tribute to the member for Haldimand—Norfolk. We are both from the class of 2004. That was six elections ago. Anyone who can hold a riding through six elections, through the ups and downs, shows an extraordinary commitment not just to Parliament, but to their constituents. That is something the member always showed: her dedication to where she came from.

I was thinking back to 2004. In some ways, it seems like such a long time ago. Some things have changed, and some things seem to be similar. In 2004, my hair was dark brown. I notice that the member's hair has not changed at all, so that is extraordinary. I am very, very impressed.

In 2004, the EU was all over the media because it was welcoming new members, not because people were leaving.

We had a pandemic in 2004, but it was the bird flu. I do not even remember what bird flu was. It sounds a lot less threatening than COVID-19, but we survived that.

Also, in 2004, the member and I came in as newbies to Parliament, where the Liberal government was announcing that finally, for the first time, we would have strong, firm commitments on environmental targets and we would meet those targets, so plus ça change: We are back at it.

There was another element, though, in 2004, and that was the BSE crisis. Both the member and I were opposition critics for agriculture, and I remember that crisis. It was an all-hands-on-deck moment. The beef industry and so many families were in such crisis and the member showed a real dedication then. Of course, she went on to government and I did not, but that is all water under the bridge. Somebody will write a biography about what happened to the New Democratic Party someday, but it will not be me.

In that time, I dealt with her on a number of big files because she was the minister of human resources and skills development; she was minister of public works and government services; she had CMHC, I think, and she had citizenship and immigration. Those are all files that really touch people's lives, and they were not necessarily easy files to handle at the time.

I have to say that the member was a pretty tough opponent. She talks about how nice people are from Haldimand—Norfolk. They do not strike me as tough, but if someone were to get too close into the boards with her, they would get knocked. She would hold her turf. Then I learned that she was from the Hammer. She was born in Hamilton, so now I understand it. I want to pay tribute to the Hamilton side of her because in times of toughness it showed.

One thing also really struck me. When we live our lives in politics in the public eye, our privacy disappears very quickly. The member survived real personal tragedy. She survived difficult health conditions and she came in time and time again, showing incredible dignity and determination. She held her seat and she held her files through all those difficulties. That was an extremely admirable thing to witness as a colleague.

I want to thank her for her service because, at the end of the day, public life should be an honourable profession. It should be something that we aspire to. She aspired to it, she said, as a little girl. I think that is really, really powerful. I remember as a little boy hearing my grandparents argue about politics: about Stanfield, Joe Clark, Ed Broadbent, David Lewis and Pierre Trudeau. The respect that generation had for political leaders of all stripes was really impressive. I worry, in the rising world of toxic politics and the blame game, that we are losing that old-school sense of the dignity of the office, the dignity of the person who comes forward to represent her people. The member always carried her office with incredible dignity. She never reached down. She never used cheap shots. She always presented the facts as she saw them. Sometimes those facts were pretty blunt, but she said them as they had to be said. Also, she went to bat when things needed to be fought for.

On behalf of the New Democratic Party, I want to thank the member for her service to Parliament, to her party, to her constituents and to our nation. I wish her the best. I am not sure, but I am told there is life after Parliament and it is a very great life. I am sure she is going to prove that for us, so I will continue to follow her to see how she charts a new course of life. Thanks very much on behalf of the New Democratic Party.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, what an honour it is for me to be able to add a few words for my dear friend from Haldimand—Norfolk. I am wondering if she knows something that none of the rest of us knows. Her decision that it would be maybe the last time that she could stand in her place to say goodbye makes me wonder what she knows about COVID. What does she know about an election? Maybe it is just better to be safe than sorry, but I really hope this is not the last time she is standing in her place in the House.

I want to add my voice to those of so many friends who say the obvious, which is that the member for Haldimand—Norfolk is an extraordinary human being. She exhibits real kindness. When I was newly elected in 2011 as an opposition MP and she was a powerful minister, there was never any question that I brought forward that was treated as a partisan matter. It was treated in the spirit in which it was raised, as something important for constituents, something important to answer openly and honestly. She was never one, in question period, to duck or to take a partisan shot when a member asked her something about her portfolio.

Somehow over the years we got to be friends. I want to say publicly, and to the hon. member, she may not know how much I admire her, but I think of how she has overcome things that are heartbreaking, such as losing Doug and various health challenges. She really knows how to tough it out, do her job and constantly show a measure of compassion and kindness to the others around her.

I have memories of the all-party support for measures she took to help people who are visually impaired to access all of our parliamentary documents. We had fun with that one, did we not? I want to say from the bottom of my heart, I hope we do see each other again and not before a great long time passes. I hope we are able, post-COVID, to raise a glass and celebrate an extraordinary career. I thank the hon. member for Haldimand—Norfolk. I thank her for such kindness. I thank her for her friendship. I thank her for an extraordinary career of public service, and God bless her.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Madam Speaker, it does not very often happen that I am at a loss for words as you well know, because you get to hear me mumble here all the time.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank all of the members and speakers today. They have been most generous. I am not sure where the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands got this thing about how I never took partisan shots. Maybe she is mixing me up with someone else.

As I said in my remarks, the most gratifying, worthwhile thing I have ever had the opportunity to do has been to share the lives of my constituents and their concerns with so many members who always stepped up to the plate to help. We have had some challenges, and we still do in the riding. Whenever I was having a tough go, every time I could turn to someone, including my colleague from the Liberals who spoke. Right at the beginning of COVID, I remember the Diamond cruise ship was there, and we were working with a couple who were from my home town. The member was such a treat to work with, and his office made sure they took good care of us to do everything we could to help that couple get home safely and soundly.

That is the kind of spirit that we have had here. When push comes to shove, yes we bicker back and forth. Part of that is showtime, right? Then afterwards we meet out back and ask someone if they heard the latest joke, so it is not personal. It is professional. I am going to miss the friendship and fellowship that I have enjoyed here. I am going to miss that and miss members. I am going to miss the fun. I am going to miss the fights, but I am looking forward to the next chapter.

I thank everyone for the kind words. I am overwhelmed by it. Be well. Be well.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

All the best.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, it feels funny taking the floor after such an emotional moment.

I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Saint-Jean.

Bill C-12 talks about an action plan. That is the term used. To us, an action plan means measures, tasks, activities, deadlines and the assignment of responsibility in order to carry out a project. Given the importance of the issue it addresses, although we agree with the principle, we feel Bill C-12 needs some work. Members can count on the Bloc Québécois to propose improvements.

We are on the cusp of the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement on December 12, and we are discussing Bill C-12. I just had to point out the coincidental numbering that makes me laugh.

Canada can no longer say that it is preparing for a transition. The transition should have started a long time ago, long before the pandemic brought all the world's economies to their knees, long before capitalism was forcibly subdued by the cessation of all commercial activity, long before people finally realized how essential the people, mainly women, who work in health care and education are.

Today we can no longer call it a transition. We need to call it a leap, as Naomi Klein would say. This bill must be able to evolve in order to play the role it should be designed to fill, namely a permanent tool that includes all of the necessary accountability mechanisms in order to guide this government and future governments toward a new economy and a future that all generations can look to with hope.

Bill C-12 appears to have gloss over one element that is central to the democratic process, and that is the sacred principle of the separation of the legislative and executive branches. This issue crops up in several clauses.

First, in clause 20, there is no independent assessment. The minister will be assessing his own government's work. The bill mentions an advisory body. Why not? It is a good idea, except that we soon realize that it will not be playing the role we would expect. The members, who are appointed by the minister, do not have a mandate to advise on short-term goals or interim targets. Their mandate is simply to provide advice with respect to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

The advisory body needs to be independent so it can make recommendations and be heard. As the people who drafted Bill C-12 say, notwithstanding the terminology used at the press conference, an advisory body is not an independent authority.

In our opinion, it is crucial that a real advisory body be set up. It must be made up of independent experts with the powers, abilities and resources to conduct detailed analyses, advise the government on its targets and plans, collaborate on follow-ups and monitor progress.

The other issue is that nothing is binding. There are no consequences for not achieving the targets. If the minister thinks things are not going well, Bill C-12 gives him free rein to change the previously established targets. According to the bill, “The Governor in Council may make regulations for the purposes of this Act, including regulations...amending or specifying the methodology to be used to report”. The targets will be changed and the methodology will stay the same, and Canada will once again present itself as a leader in the fight against climate change.

I would like to talk about clause 24 and the role of the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development. Bill C-12 recommends that the commissioner examine the implementation of the measures aimed at mitigating climate change at least once every five years. I would like to remind the House that the recommendations made by the experts in the commissioner's office are not binding, so the wording seems a little wishy-washy to us.

Currently, the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development is playing the role he is meant to play, and the members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development know what I am talking about. What I mean is that his office deserves respect. He should be commended for the invaluable work he is capable of doing. He should be given powers commensurate with the gravity of the offences, the gravity of the shortfalls and the inaction that his team has noted in many of its investigations.

These experts' recommendations are too often ignored by the government departments and agencies in question. That is why his role needs to be strengthened.

The current state of affairs is nothing less than a hindrance to the application of corrective measures and adjustments to the government's actions on climate, pollution and environmental protection.

Once amended, this bill will be crucial for the future. It is therefore important to genuinely involve the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development by giving him powers that will ensure that follow-up is done properly and that independent experts can contribute to the goals.

The Bloc Québécois has nothing against economic prosperity. I am digressing a little, but I am saying this because many members said in their speeches that the most polluting resource is our hope for future prosperity.

In our opinion, all we have to do is not open the door to lobbyists for a while and instead learn about the current movement. This is not just the Bloc Québécois talking. Big investors unequivocally stated in the New York Times this summer that climate change is the greatest systemic threat to the economy.

It is not a trivial matter when investment companies start taking $1 trillion in assets out of companies associated with fossil fuels. The leader of the Bloc Québécois mentioned the possibility of taking the more than $12 billion sunk into Trans Mountain and redirecting it to industry in Alberta, because we think that a green shift can mean prosperity for all.

It would be sad if we were to choose, willingly or under some influence, to spend public funds to enrich private companies, like oil and gas companies, which are often foreign owned, to the detriment of the renewable energy sources of the future and innovative projects like the ones under way in Quebec.

Right now, the government is subsidizing polluting industries that are making us sick. Quebec and the provinces then have to use health care funding to heal their residents. Incidentally, we still have not seen an increase in health transfers.

In another vein, why does the government not work with indigenous communities on clean energy infrastructure projects? On November 13, it said that it was going to extend funding for indigenous participation by investing in oil and gas, not in clean energy.

I have a bit of time left, but not enough to quickly list all the measures, practices, subsidies, policies and allocations that are literally undermining the progress we could be making together.

Is there anyone here, whether physically or virtually, who does not believe what the science is telling us about climate change? Is there anyone here who does not see the crystal clear link between the environment and human health? I am reaching out to all members, especially my fellow members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, who are concerned by this worrisome situation. Let us not be divided on this issue.

Bill C-215, tabled by the Bloc Québécois, contains the elements needed to produce solid legislation. The legislation needs to be tangible, with clear accountability and targets.

Canada is now touting multiculturalism and the importance of multilateralism, so it should quickly rectify the embarrassing lack of reference to the Paris Agreement. I say “embarrassing” because the Paris Agreement was signed five years ago. This will force Canada to set a target under that agreement for 2030, which should be included in the bill.

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4:05 p.m.

Laurier—Sainte-Marie Québec


Steven Guilbeault LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her speech.

I am in complete agreement with her. The transition should have started a long time ago. We did start it, but that was followed by 10 years of inaction under the Conservatives.

She is right to say that this bill is not an action plan. It is a framework bill. We presented the first component of the action plan in 2016. It was the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, which all of the provinces and territories adopted. The minister also announced that this plan will be updated very soon.

I would like to address two points raised by my colleague. She believes the advisory body is insufficient. However, before entering politics, I co-chaired an advisory council on climate change for this government. The council proposed a series of measures, including purchase incentives for electric vehicles and investments in energy efficiency retrofits. A few months after our report was released, those measures were incorporated into the 2019 budget.

The hon. member also said that there is no external evaluation, yet there is an entire section on the role of the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development. This is right in his wheelhouse, since he is responsible for making sure that the government meets its objectives in various areas. Consequently, I am having a bit of difficulty understanding my colleague's questions in this respect.

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4:05 p.m.


Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I agree with some of the things my colleague said. An act is not an action plan, but it needs a binding reduction target. That is the whole purpose of a climate act.

The commissioner of the environment and sustainable development told the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development that the situation is dismal. In 2011, the Department of Transport received a damning report on the safety of hazardous materials. Two years later, in 2013, a train exploded in Lac-Mégantic. It is now 2020, and nothing has been done. The commissioner needs more powers so he can force government departments to follow up on his audits.

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4:05 p.m.


Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, first, the member's own party has a bill, I believe it is Bill C-215, that seeks many of the same things as this bill. Why is the Bloc supporting the Liberal bill over their own member's bill?

Second, it seems strange to me that, in a bill that Liberals like to trumpet as, somehow, being an accountability and transparency bill, there is very little transparency or accountability for the government. In fact, the initial target at 2030 will be the first opportunity. That is more than two majority governments away from today.

I would like to hear her thoughts on both of those themes.

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4:05 p.m.


Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. He sits with me on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

We obviously support Bill C-215, and we tabled it before Bill C-12. Our bill contains targets, including interim targets, as well as measures for achieving them, and it ensures transparency with respect to the method of calculating greenhouse gas emissions. These are all proposals that we will make to ensure that Bill C-12 becomes a real climate act.

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4:10 p.m.


Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent speech, which showed that you cannot build strength if you do not walk the talk.

Does the member think that the infamous Paris conference was the benchmark for this bill? What is the point of signing that damn document if, at the end of the day, nothing even happens?

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4:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

I remind the member to watch his language.

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4:10 p.m.


Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

The Paris Agreement was signed on December 12, 2015. All of the countries were required to review their targets after five years. The targets agreed to in 2015 will allow the planet's temperature to rise by 3° or 4° by the end of the century. We were not supposed to pass 1.5°.

Obviously, the countries had to review their targets. With every passing minute that we fail to properly react to the climate crisis, it becomes even more difficult to achieve the Paris targets. That is why I am saying that we do not need a transition. We need to leap. We need to move more quickly.

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4:10 p.m.


Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the government's new bill, Bill C-12, on achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Fortunately, this is a subject that brings people together more than it divides them.

When it come to climate change, most people agree that we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions if we, and especially future generations, do not want to hit a wall. We all agree that it is our moral obligation to leave behind a planet that is still habitable for future generations.

Since climate change is an issue that affects everyone, it has brought together many people who would normally not work together. We all have one thing in common, the earth, and we know that there is no planet B. That is what brought about half a million people together to march in the streets of Montreal on September 27, 2019. That is what motivated a large number of women who did not have much in common aside from the fact that they are mothers, to come together and form Mothers Step In, a group that I had the pleasure of meeting with on Monday.

The goal of reducing greenhouse gas production has even gained widespread acceptance among big oil companies like Shell, which announced a program called “drive carbon neutral” two weeks ago. In short, reducing greenhouse gases is such a worthy goal that it is not surprising that there is such a consensus. However, here is the problem: Too often, when we talk about greenhouse gas reduction and net-zero goals, that is all it is—a goal. As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said, a goal without a plan is just a wish.

Let's be clear: We are not against Bill C-12, far from it. Every step in the right direction is welcome. However, we do regret that this bill takes only baby steps and that time is running out. The climate emergency is very real and is a major concern among Canadians. Although Bill C-12 was intended to be resolutely green, we regret that it is actually a little too dangerously beige.

When it comes time to demonstrate political realism, people like to quote Montesquieu, who said that perfect is the enemy of the good. However, climate change is an exception to that quote. We do not have the luxury to be good. We have to be impeccable. We have a duty to succeed. To use the classic expression, we are doomed to nothing short of excellence if we do not want to be doomed at all.

Bill C-12 has good intentions. On the eve of election 2019, the Liberal Party said in their platform that they would “set legally-binding, five-year milestones, based on the advice of the experts and consultations with Canadians, to reach net-zero emissions”. The Liberal Party also said it would “appoint a group of scientists, economists, and experts to recommend the best path to get to net-zero”. Then comes Bill C-12: gone are the binding targets, gone are the follow-up and rigorous evaluation by an independent body.

If between the promise and the bill the commitments have diminished, there is genuine concern that the measures that should result from enforcing the law will also diminish if they are not adequately entrenched in the bill in advance. That is why it is important to point out the flaws of Bill C-12, and I am going to speak about at least four of them.

First, Bill C-12 does not include targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions. The only constraint found in the bill is that the government is required to set new targets every five years. The government can move ahead haphazardly and change its game plan as it goes and as it sees fit. That is concerning because we have seen in the past that this way of doing things does not work.

From the beginning of its mandate, the government has set greenhouse gas reduction targets, but has never managed to meet them. The development of a plan requires anticipating from the beginning the steps required to carry it out. Moreover, to ensure that the plan works, the government must include benchmarks that cannot continually be lowered.

Second, Bill C-12 is essentially a commitment from the government to assess its own performance. This is also not very promising and it shows that the government does not take this seriously. Pursuant to clause 16 of the bill, the minister himself will write a report detailing the reasons why Canada failed to meet its targets, if applicable, and the actions Canada will take to address this failure. I remember, way back when, we used to correct our own or a peer's schoolwork. We were usually asked to give ourselves or our friends a grade. I do not recall anyone ever failing an assignment under this system. It may be a worthwhile exercise for developing skills to critique one's own work, but it would be a very inappropriate way to grade a final exam before graduation, for example.

I am glad to see that Bill C-12 requires that the reports on the targets, regardless of whether they are met, be tabled in Parliament and made public. This transparency is not inherently bad, but without an independent authority to assess the progress, we can unfortunately expect to see some self-congratulatory grandstanding.

Third, as I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, most people are of a same mind on climate. Quebeckers and many Canadians agree on the notion of an emergency. Everyone knows that tomorrow is already too late and that even today is almost too late

In recent months, governments, cities and universities in Quebec and Canada have declared a climate emergency. This is not the time to procrastinate. As the saying goes, never leave for tomorrow what you can do today. If we agree on the definition of the term “emergency”, then we must take concrete action very quickly to avoid the serious consequences of climate change. For that reason the government must require that the state respect its own commitments. The law should include a mechanism that will make the government accountable as well as a reporting mechanism.

Fourth, the Liberals unfortunately seem to want to always postpone their targets. Not so long ago, in the throne speech, the government said it was going to introduce a plan that would help Canada exceed its climate targets for 2030. Promises were being made for 2030, but the problem is that 2050 is all they are talking about now.

They promised to raise the target for 2030, but this is not even enshrined in their climate bill. As they say, those who can do more can also do less. If the government is so confident it can achieve net zero by 2050, it should be just as confident it can achieve one of the milestones needed to reach that final goal, namely reducing emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Therefore, it should not shy away from enshrining this objective in Bill C-12.

The environment no longer has the luxury of waiting for the government to show its goodwill and fight global warming. It is with this sense of urgency in mind that the Bloc Québécois has introduced a bill on climate accountability. We need legislation that will pave the way towards achieving the objectives that will let us face future generations without feelings of shame or failure. This plan must not be open to change at the whim of the current or future governments.

That element of accountability and predictability is the very purpose of Bill C-215, which was introduced by my colleague from Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia. I would like to go over the highlights. First, it will integrate Canada's Paris Agreement commitments into domestic law to make them mandatory. It will require the federal government to raise its greenhouse gas reduction targets to the same level as the Paris targets. It will also require Ottawa to lay out a detailed action plan to achieve its targets. It will task the environment commissioner with determining whether the government's efforts will enable it to achieve its targets and with telling the government how to achieve them. Lastly, it will hold the federal government to account in the House if it fails to keep its promises.

Despite its shortcomings, we will support Bill C-12 because we do not want future Canadians to be disappointed in us or to feel that we failed them. We hope the federal government will support our bill in return.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2020 / 4:20 p.m.

Laurier—Sainte-Marie Québec


Steven Guilbeault LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

We are both concerned about climate change, which has been my pet cause for many years. I attended the first UN Conference of the Parties in 1995. All I am missing is a cane.

I am a little confused. I will quickly read out a few excerpts from the bill, including part of the preamble:

...the Government of Canada is committed to achieving and exceeding the target for 2030 set out in its nationally determined contribution communicated in accordance with the Paris Agreement....

It also mentions the commissioner of the environment in subclause 24(2), which I will read out:

The [commissioner's] report may include recommendations related to improving the effectiveness of the Government of Canada's implementation of the measures with respect to climate change mitigation that it has committed to undertake....

If I understood what my colleague said, she would like to force future governments to meet targets. In a democracy, I do not see how we can force a government that has been duly elected by the people to not change its mind. As an environmentalist, I want all governments to meet the targets, and I believe that we have a collective responsibility to ensure that that happens.

However, how can we enact a law that forces something on people who have a perfectly legitimate democratic right to change their minds?

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4:20 p.m.


Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, that is exactly what we are hoping for, that this bill will be binding for future governments.

If they decide to amend the bill, they will be the ones to blame. The plan that is presented can be changed at the government's discretion. The commissioner of the environment can make recommendations. What we want is for the commissioner to tell the government whether the targets that will be included in the bill are realistic. That is exactly what we are asking for, and that is what is missing from Bill C-12 right now.

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4:20 p.m.


Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her excellent speech. We all have the same objective, which is to save our planet.

I would like my colleague to talk about the current situation. The government opposite has been in office for five years. I remember that when Parliament was shut down during the first Parliament, when I was the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, we were already talking about the climate emergency.

Today, we are discussing Bill C-12. There is also the Bloc Québécois's Bill C-215. The government is putting things off.

I would like to ask my colleague what she thinks about this inaction. Urgent action is needed. We need to act. Nothing concrete is being done to save our planet.

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4:20 p.m.


Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, past inaction is making it increasingly difficult to reach our targets.

That is why these targets need to be enshrined in legislation and set in advance so we can have a plan for achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

If we fail to do this, we run the risk of making the same mistakes and missing our targets because they were not enshrined in law. Once the targets are enshrined in law, successive governments that want to get around them will bear the odious responsibility of having amended the legislation to do so.