House of Commons Hansard #13 of the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nafta.

Topics

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

Madam Speaker, it took the Liberals until this past Saturday to include more than three airports as part of this travel advisory: airports in Calgary and Edmonton, and Billy Bishop airport. Why did it take so long for them to include those airports?

More specifically, when can we expect the plane to land in China?

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, as I stated at the outset, the health and safety of all Canadians, both those in Canada and those we are bringing home, is our top priority.

We are taking action to return Canadians home from Hubei province, China, while ensuring that appropriate measures are in place to prevent and limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Canadians can be confident that their government, working hand in hand with our international and domestic partners and stakeholders, is monitoring this public health event both globally and here at home. We stand ready to respond efficiently and effectively to any change in the situation in order to protect the health and well-being of all Canadians.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, Volkswagen was caught lying about illegal levels of emissions. Volkswagen Canada has finally formally pleaded guilty to 60 offences under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and was ordered to pay a fine, a fine that is $70 million short of the maximum that could have been sought. The government keeps bragging that it is the largest fine ever awarded. If letting big polluters of the hook for $70 million is the best ever, we have a bigger problem.

Last week, I asked the Prime Minister to explain why it took years to charge Volkswagen for illegally cheating emissions testing, especially when the U.S. quickly charged VW and made the company pay $20 billion.

Let us look at the facts. The company has admitted to using so-called defeat devices that allowed them to pass emissions tests while actually emitting far more nitrogen oxide than legally permissible, putting the health of Canadians and the planet at risk. Their cheating was initially discovered by U.S. scientists, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of violation in 2015. Volkswagen attempted to cover up the scandal, but eventually caved under legal pressure in the U.S. and pleaded guilty, just over a year later, to three criminal felonies and agreed to pay $20 billion. They also entered an agreed statement of fact about those felonies that would have been admissible in Canadian court.

According to internal documents, Environment Canada worked closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during their respective investigations, which began in Canada in September 2015. However, charges were not filed until December 2019, four years later, despite the legally admissible statement of fact existing from the U.S. for the last three of those years.

There has been no public accounting for the length of the investigation. Environment and Climate Change Canada's investigators are not independent law enforcement officers. They are designated by and responsible to the minister. The charges appear to have been laid only after a plea agreement was reached, and the Canadian charges don't go as far as U.S. charges, despite the fact that we have the same emissions laws. Volkswagen has not been charged under the Criminal Code, and there is no evidence that investigators referred the matter to the RCMP, even though VW admitted to criminal wrongdoing in the U.S.

Canadian emissions laws are the same as those in the U.S., so why did it take years to charge Volkswagen in Canada while the U.S. quickly charged VW? Why did Canada wait so long, and why did VW get a fine that is well below the maximum? We do not know. What we do know is that ministers' offices and officials from the PMO, including Mathieu Bouchard, who some may remember from his involvement in the SNC scandal, started meeting with Volkswagen lobbyists during this time. It looks a lot like a corporation that was found guilty of committing what amounts to environmental fraud got a backroom deal.

We are facing a climate crisis, so why do the Liberals keep letting big polluters off the hook, and why do they keep putting corporate profits ahead of Canadians and the planet?

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

February 3rd, 2020 / 6:50 p.m.

Vaudreuil—Soulanges Québec

Liberal

Peter Schiefke LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Victoria and congratulate her again on having won her election.

Our government takes the health and safety of Canadians and our environment incredibly seriously. We are committed to clean transportation and to working to make sure Canadians have clean air and healthier communities. We are also committed to enforcing the laws that protect Canada's environment and the health of Canadians.

On January 22, 2020, Volkswagen AG, a German-based car manufacturer, was ordered to pay an unprecedented $196.5-million fine after pleading guilty to 60 charges for offences under federal environmental regulations. This fine is the largest penalty ever levied in Canada against a company for an environmental violation. In fact, it is 20 times higher than the next-largest fine, which reflects the gravity of the offence.

The charges relate to unlawfully importing nearly 128,000 vehicles that used defeat devices. A defeat device, as mentioned by my hon. colleague, consists of software that reduces the effectiveness of the emission control system during normal vehicle operations and use. Volkswagen AG was also charged with providing misleading information to Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The $196.5-million fine is on top of the class action settlement by VW AG that compensated Canadian consumers of the non-compliant vehicles and provided benefits and buyback options to them up to a maximum of nearly $2.7 billion.

As well, VW AG paid a civil administrative penalty of $17.5 million under the Competition Act for misleading advertising related to the sale of those vehicles.

It is important to note that penalties are based on precedents. This result has raised the bar on environmental fines in Canada.

It is difficult to compare the situation in the U.S. with that in Canada. They are different jurisdictions with different legislative and legal processes.

Environment and Climate Change Canada's investigation was thorough, comprehensive and methodical. This was a complex case involving a number of domestic and foreign organizations and a number of potential offences under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Investigators needed to take the necessary time to gather sufficient evidence, both domestically and internationally, and time was needed to analyze the massive amount of information and gather relevant evidence.

The $196.5-million unprecedented fine will go to the environmental damages fund. It will be used to pay for projects that focus on improving Canada's environment across the country. The environmental damages fund was created in 1995 to create a mechanism for directing funds received as a result of fines, court orders and voluntary payments to priority projects that will benefit our natural environment.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, we still do not have an answer to why Environment Canada investigators that were responsible to the minister took so long in their investigation and why the matter was not referred to the RCMP to pursue criminal charges, despite legally admissible statements of fact and admission of criminal wrongdoing in the U.S.

While Volkswagen was found criminally responsible in the U.S., here in Canada it was ordered to pay $196 million, which is $70 million less than the maximum fine. That is $70 million off. That sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me for a foreign company that was found guilty of committing what amounts to environmental fraud, a company that purposely put the health of Canadians and the planet at risk.

The Liberal government claims to be serious about climate change, so when will it stop making backroom deals with corporate lobbyists? When will it start standing up for Canadians and the planet?

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Schiefke Liberal Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Madam Speaker, just to reiterate. In September 2015, Environment and Climate Change Canada launched an investigation regarding the importation into Canada of certain vehicle models that were allegedly equipped with a prohibited defeat device.

To answer my hon. colleague's question, investigators needed to take the necessary time to gather sufficient evidence and because of the international elements to this investigation, time was needed to analyze a massive amount of information, which in some cases required international information-sharing agreements.

The investigation revealed that between January 2008 and December 2015, the company imported into Canada nearly 128,000 two- and three-litre diesel engines and Audi vehicles equipped with defeat devices, so we put in place the largest fine in Canadian history.

We are proud of those results. It shows that in Canada, if a company does not follow the rules, that company will face stiff penalties and consequences.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stand adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:57 p.m.)