House of Commons Hansard #59 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was expropriation.


Language Interpretation ResourcesPrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the time I have been privileged to serve the people of Vancouver Kingsway, two very fundamental concepts have been rendered very apparent to me. The first is time is one of the most important currencies in Parliament. The second is that majority rule is the cornerstone of our democracy. I believe the current motion before us on privilege engages both of those very important principles and I stand in support of the question of privilege that has been made.

I had the privilege also of being present throughout the whole health committee meeting in question and I witnessed everything that happened from beginning to end. I am not going to repeat the basic facts, as I think they have been well stated by the member for Banff—Airdrie.

As members know, the meeting started at 11 a.m. eastern time. It is typically a two-hour meeting, but because of the number of motions and the number of members wanting to speak, the meeting was extended beyond that time period.

It was also the case that about halfway through the meeting, the chair let it be known, in advance, that the meeting would end at 4:30 p.m. eastern time because there would be a lack of technical support at that time. When we approached 4:30 p.m. and the chair acted according to the warning he made, there were still a number of speakers who wanted to speak to the motion on the floor and there was no motion to adjourn on the floor. As you deliberate on this matter, I would think it important for you to note that at no time did any member of the committee, including on the Liberal side, make a motion to adjourn, and I can tell you why: It was because it was clear that the majority on that committee wanted the meeting to continue. It would have been a simple matter to adjourn the meeting at any time.

The nub of the matter, to speak to the real essence of what is before you, might require you to resolve what I think is a very pointed claim made by the previous speaker, the hon. parliamentary secretary to the House leader, when he said that a chair can adjourn a meeting at any time the chair wants, for any reason he or she wants. With great respect, I am going to suggest that this is false. I do not believe that is the case at all, and I leave it to your great research to determine what the proper circumstances are.

The reason I say that is that as my hon. colleague from Calgary Nose Hill very appropriately stated, because when one is in opposition and members want to speak, using the currency of time in a political sense to continue debate for whatever reason is appropriate. It is equally appropriate for members on the opposite side to filibuster. That is what was going on at this meeting. The opposition and the government members were all acting completely appropriately.

The issue is, when does that end? I would respectfully submit that it ends when a proper motion to suspend or adjourn the meeting is passed by a majority. Until that is done, the meeting continues until there are no speakers who wish to have the floor.

I want to say as well that at the very end, there was a motion to challenge the chair's ruling on privilege. I think this point has been made too, but what is troubling to me and my fellow New Democrat colleagues is that during that very vote, a Bloc Québécois member, a colleague on the committee, was deprived of her right to cast her ballot because she had no translation during the vote. Therefore, the very vote that the chair relied on to end the meeting was flawed because it was interrupted by a lack of translation. If you review the record, which I ask you to do, you will see that this was the case.

I also want to raise a point that has not been made by anybody up to this point. It is with respect to the consequences of suspending a meeting. As we sit here today, days after that meeting, it is not possible to go to ParlVu to see or listen to that meeting. The minutes are not public yet, so right now the public is prevented from seeing the proceedings. That is another detrimental consequence of a chair's unilateral suspension of a meeting without the democratic mandate of the committee to do so. Not only is it a breach of our privilege as members, but I believe the Canadian public has been unable to see what happened at that meeting because of that as well.

The point has already been made, so I will not dwell on the fact that this was a Friday afternoon. It was not the case of another committee needing to use the room. I appreciate and understand that given these virtual meetings, there are some atypical considerations that may go into a committee's engaging in debate after the time of expiry. However, that contingency can be safely eliminated in this case, because on the Friday afternoon there was no other committee that needed that room and it would have been a simple matter for us to adjourn for a few minutes to get other interpreters and further tech support.

I would also point out that the chair never explained what the technical support problems were, so we were left wondering what technical support issues prevented us from continuing the meeting. In my mind, those could have been easily remedied with perhaps a five-, 10- or 15-minute adjournment.

In my respectful submission, the way that political conflict is resolved in our system is by a democratic vote that happens in the House and at committee. I believe the chair of the health committee was well-intentioned but mistaken when he chose to unilaterally end that meeting and deprive the member for Calgary Nose Hill

Language Interpretation ResourcesPrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

There is a problem with the translation.

It is now working. I would ask the member forVancouver Kingsway to wrap up.

Language Interpretation ResourcesPrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the hon. chair of the committee was well-intentioned, but simply mistaken when he thought it was his duty to arbitrarily end the meeting at 4:30 when it was the clear will of the majority of the members of that committee to continue.

It is uncomfortable sometimes in those situations because some people want to end the meetings and some do not, but the idea of a filibuster and the use by different parties of that currency of time as political pressure is valuable, and I hope the Speaker would support not only the question of privilege, but also the time-honoured parliamentary traditions of using time and majority support to resolve differences, not unilateral, autocratic action by a chair.

Language Interpretation ResourcesPrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am, of course, the chair of the Standing Committee on Health, and I was presiding during the meeting of February 12.

Much has been made in this discussion about an arbitrary ending of the meeting and cutting off debate unfairly. The member for Vancouver Kingsway spoke equivalently regarding adjournments and suspensions, but I would like to emphasize to you, Mr. Speaker, that this meeting was not in fact adjourned erroneously or otherwise; it was suspended. It was suspended and the debate has not been terminated. The debate will resume when the committee next meets. The meeting is not over; it is only suspended, which is perhaps why the minutes are not available at this time.

Much of what has been said focuses on the problem of the lack of interpreters. This overemphasizes the matter of the interpreters. The problem on this particular occasion was that I was informed that there were no facilities available after a certain time, that staff, the technical staff and interpreters were only going to be available until 4:30 eastern time. It was my duty, as I see it, to respect the committee staff and workers and honour their circumstances.

The member of the Bloc Québécois at the meeting did express the problems she was having with translation during the meeting. I advised her at that time, as I advise everyone all the time and the committee as well, that if there is ever any problem with translation, they should proactively and instantly inform the chair so that we can take appropriate action.

In the case of the matter raised in this particular discussion today by the Bloc Québécois member, she alleges that I ruled on a question of privilege. In fact, I informed the committee that the chair of a committee does not have the power to rule on questions of privilege and I declined to do so. I did rule on whether the question raised by the member for Calgary Nose Hill related to parliamentary privilege. In my opinion, it did not. This was the decision that was under appeal by the committee, and it was on that particular decision that the member from the Bloc was unable to vote. However, once I was informed of that fact, I made an effort to make sure that she was able to give her vote and that the tally of the vote kept by the clerk was updated accordingly.

I forget which member it was, but either the member for Vancouver Kingsway or perhaps the member from the Bloc suggested that I had used this decision on whether a question of privilege was relevant in this case as a pretext to end the meeting. It had absolutely nothing to do with what was, in fact, not the end of the meeting but a suspension of it. The meeting was suspended strictly and only because it was my understanding that the facilities of the House were not available and that we were actually overstaying our access to them.

In terms of explaining why we could no longer carry on, I did explain that it was because of the availability and—

Language Interpretation ResourcesPrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I will just interrupt the hon. member. It sounds like we are starting to repeat ourselves. If I can ask him to be concise and maybe just wrap up, that would be appreciated.

Language Interpretation ResourcesPrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.


Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is good timing, and I appreciate the notice. I am, in fact, done.

Language Interpretation ResourcesPrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.


Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have another point I would like to raise on this.

I am a member of the health committee, and I was there when this filibuster did take place on Friday afternoon, no doubt about that, and I will just raise a couple of points.

The deputy government House leader commented that the Chair could suspend a meeting whenever, which is not true. My colleague from Banff—Airdrie, our party whip, certainly pointed that out in his remarks about why you need to look into this, Mr. Speaker. Very clearly, my colleague for Calgary Nose Hill tried to raise a point of order, and the Chair did shut down the meeting. She was cut off, her privileges were revoked in that area, and so you still need to deal with this, Mr. Speaker.

The job of the Chair is to make sure that there are resources available. My party whip also announced that there were no other meetings taking place on Parliament Hill at all that day at that point. I think a decision needs to be made, as my colleague for Calgary Nose Hill pointed out earlier, about the type of meetings that we are going to continue to have. If the government cannot provide resources for the meetings that are going to take place, particularly when those members know they are going to filibuster, then I think there is a great question and concern here about not just the integrity of the whole process but also the process itself.

It is up to the Chair, and he was told the other day that if there are resources, he should be able get those resources and make them available. The meeting was certainly not over, not anywhere near that, and all of the opposition parties were still there debating these issues. I do not think that the Chair had the right to end the meeting for that particular reason. I heard him say that the resources would not be available, as my colleague from the NDP mentioned, part way through the meeting. It was quite disturbing to note that we got to a time that someone chose to end the meeting, and it was suspended because we did not have enough resources, which is against members' privileges of the House.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I just want to make sure that is taken into consideration.

Language Interpretation ResourcesPrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I want to thank the hon. member.

I will take all the comments under advisement and return to the House with a ruling.

Message from the SenateGovernment Orders

February 16th, 2021 / 5:50 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bill, to which the concurrence of the House is desired: Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Offshore Health and Safety Act.

It being 6:52 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business, as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from November 17, 2020, consideration of the motion that Bill C-222, An Act to amend the Expropriation Act (protection of private property), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Expropriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Gatineau Québec


Steven MacKinnon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Mr. Speaker, I salute you and thank all the staff, especially the interpreters, for continuing to serve us so well.

I am pleased to take part in today's debate on BillC-222, an act to amend the Expropriation Act. The member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke tabled this bill, apparently with the goal of promoting the protection of Canadians' private property. The member stated that her intention with this bill was to “remove some uncertainty from the existing legislation as to whether owners can be compensated” and “protect the private property rights of average Canadians” in the event of federal expropriation.

However, the amendments proposed in Bill C-222 do nothing to protect private property. They only result in the uneven application of key legislation and restrict the government's ability to act in the interests of Canadians in certain emergency situations. Consequently, this is a deeply flawed bill for several important reasons that I will explain in the next few minutes.

At the heart of this debate is the issue of expropriation, a rare occurrence indeed, driven by urgent need that takes place only if and when a negotiated process is not feasible.

Although rarely used, expropriation can play a critical role in dealing with emergencies or incidents in areas such as defence, transportation and the environment.

In its current form, the Expropriation Act is an important piece of legislation that details the process the Government of Canada is required to follow when private property must be expropriated to serve the public interest. Under this process, a public hearing must be held if there is an objection to a notice of expropriation.

As it stands, the act contains provisions so that in an emergency, when a delay would be prejudicial to the public interest, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement may step in and set aside certain requirements. As an example, the minister is permitted, in the case of an emergency, to waive the holding of a public hearing to allow the government to move more quickly to expropriate a crucial piece of land or property.

This exemption applies exclusively to pressing cases in which emergency measures are necessary. It could have to do with the urgent need to acquire material or a good, including to ensure the protection of essential transportation infrastructure, or with national security.

The government is cautious and uses due diligence in every aspect of the expropriation process. Nonetheless, the need to act quickly, especially in emergencies, can be a determining factor in the process. If the proposed changes were made to this legislation, it would not be possible to speed up the expropriation process in a pressing manner in case of an emergency.

Having flexibility in the expropriation process is potentially critical to dealing with emergencies when timelines are paramount. We simply cannot accept amendments that hinder the government's ability to act quickly in the interests of Canadians when faced with defence, transportation or environmental emergencies.

Bill C-222 proposes to amend the Expropriation Act to limit the power to exercise the right under subsection 10(11) to forego a public hearing before registering the notice of intention to expropriate lands. It also seeks to limit the power provided for under subsection 19(2) to substitute a period lesser than the waiting period for taking material possession of land or the immovable real right.

However, the hon. member's bill seeks to impose these limits only in specific cases. More specifically, the bill states that subsections 10(11) and 19(2) would not apply in cases where the purpose of expropriation is for “restoring historical natural habitats or addressing, directly or indirectly, climate variability”. Ultimately, these changes create a two-tier system by retaining certain factors, but setting others aside.

When deemed necessary, our government believes all expropriations are deserving of equal treatment regardless of their purpose, whether it is environmental protection or accommodation for public infrastructure. It is counterproductive to establish a tiered system by creating exceptions limiting the minister's ability to act swiftly in cases of real environmental emergencies over others. It just does not make sense.

The government is firmly committed to defending the private property rights of Canadians. We recognize the importance of protecting private property rights by ensuring that the regular procedure is followed pursuant to the existing Expropriation Act, which sets out the rigorous hearing process that must precede any planned expropriation.

Currently, the act allows the minister to waive holding a public hearing if, by reason of special circumstances, the physical possession or use by the Crown is

urgently required and that to order that a public hearing be conducted with respect to it would occasion a delay prejudicial to the public interest

I will now indicate how often a hearing has been waived.

In reality, there has never been an accelerated process where the minister had to use the provisions under the subsections in question of the current act. However, these are important provisions to have if they were required. The member did not provide any compelling argument that would justify curtailing the minister's powers in this manner, and only in certain situations.

It would seem that the only thing the bill and its amendments would truly achieve is to apply new impediments to the Government of Canada's ability to respond to emergency situations and, again, only in certain circumstances. Putting aside those emergency provisions, the Expropriation Act already ensures that property owners are treated fairly and compensated appropriately in situations where expropriation is considered necessary.

The act also clearly indicates how the market value must be determined and paid. I want to point out that Public Services and Procurement Canada has completed just 12 expropriations in the past 30 years. In these cases, the government abided by the act and ensured that property owners were treated fairly and were offered appropriate compensation. There has never been a situation, under the current Expropriation Act, in which the government has waived public hearings related to a proposed expropriation of property for any reason whatsoever.

Bill C-222 is essentially an ineffective solution to a non-existent problem. Simply put, this bill is unnecessary, and Canadians have nothing to gain from it. Expropriation is rare. I repeat that Public Services and Procurement Canada has completed approximately 12 expropriations in the past 30 years, and there has never been a situation, under the current Expropriation Act, in which the government has waived public hearings related to a proposed expropriation of property.

Frankly, our position is that expropriations deemed necessary deserve equal treatment, regardless of their purpose, whether it is environmental protection or accommodation for public infrastructure.

Nevertheless, the bill, as introduced, would simply undermine the government's ability to act in emergencies and provides no added benefit for property owners.

For all of the reasons stated above, our government does not support this bill, and I urge my colleagues to reject it.

Expropriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke for introducing this bill. I know that it is an extremely rewarding experience since I recently introduced a private member's bill myself. I thank her and commend her for her work.

I want to begin by indicating where the Bloc Québécois stands on this bill on expropriation. I must say that it is a very unusual bill. Unfortunately, the Bloc Québécois will be voting against Bill C-222, and I will explain why.

Contrary to what is being proposed, Bill C-222 is not a way to protect owners from arbitrary and abusive expropriation. In reality, all it seems to do is deny the fact that climate change can lead to disasters that require emergency action. In some cases, that unfortunately may require expropriation. I say unfortunately because expropriation is always a loss for those whose property is being expropriated, even if such action is justified.

Section 11 of the current Expropriation Act states that the government has the authority to carry out rapid expropriation when urgently required under certain special circumstances. If Bill C-222 passes, the government will never be able to categorize an expropriation as urgent if its purpose is to restore historical natural habitats or address, directly or indirectly, climate variability. As we all know, climate change affects natural phenomena. Climate change has caused, is causing and will cause disasters.

The spring floods we used to get every 100 years are happening more and more often. These floods have become more sudden and severe and require more and more urgent intervention. Last December in Gaspé, the Matane river flow was recorded at over 300 cubic metres per second, which is almost 10 times its average annual flow.

Laval University researchers studied the effects of climate change on floods caused by ice jams. They found that damage could increase by 30% on average because of climate change.

My riding in the Lower St. Lawrence has two rivers. Over the next 50 years, flood damage could increase by 50% along the Matane river and by 75% along the Matapédia river. That is not only cause for concern, it is a fact we need to consider when discussion the topic of expropriation.

Many people will never forget the spring of 2019 in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, a municipality in the Lower Laurentians built largely in a flood zone and protected by a dike. The dike, which was poorly adapted to the high volume of flood waters in the context of climate change, collapsed and the municipality was flooded by the icy waters of the Lake of Two Mountains. A third of the municipality, in other words 6,000 people, were under emergency evacuation orders. Some 800 houses were flooded. We heard the testimonies of desperate residents who, in some cases, lost everything. The Quebec government had to act quickly, in just a few months, to raise and reinforce the dike to prevent this tragedy from happening again the following year. This operation involved encroaching on certain private properties and probably decreased the value of several waterfront homes by obstructing their view of the lake. The matter is currently before the courts to determine the amount of compensation to which the shoreline residents are entitled.

I mention all of this to highlight the fact that, if the provisions of Bill C-222 had been incorporated into Quebec law at the time, local residents could have prevented the Quebec government from taking action to avoid losing parcels of land or losing their views. By doing so, they would have put the entire municipality at risk of another flood.

Expropriation for the common good is nothing new. It can be found in the Old Testament, ancient Greece, Roman law. It was born out of the necessity to create major public works for the good of all. Even in societies that recognize and protect private property, it is legitimate for the public interest to give way when required by public utility or general interest.

However, the current Expropriation Act allows for objections to expropriation. The property owner can object to the expropriation within 30 days of receiving the expropriation notice. The government appoints a hearing officer, who will hold a public hearing at which the owner will present the reasons why they believe that the expropriation is not justified or illegal. The owner in question can then argue that the reason why the government wishes to expropriate has nothing to do with the public interest or that the expropriation notice does not comply with the law. The hearing officer submits a report to the government, which can amend the notice, abandon the expropriation or simply ignore the officer's opinion. We can see that the process for objecting to the expropriation is more symbolic than real, because the government can unilaterally reject the owner's arguments. We can also see that this objection process ends up delaying the expropriation.

Subsection 10(11) of the current Expropriation Act allows the government to skip the appointment of a hearing officer and a public hearing if it is of the opinion that the expropriation is, by reason of special circumstances, urgently required and that to order a public hearing would occasion delay prejudicial to the public interest.

However, the bill before us this evening, Bill C-222, adds a paragraph stating that subsection 10(11) “does not apply if the interest or intended to be expropriated by the Crown for the purpose of restoring historical natural habitats”, as I was saying earlier, “or addressing, directly or indirectly, climate variability”.

This addition would prevent the government from categorizing an expropriation as urgent if it is related to environmental protection or climate change. In a way, this bill is saying that climate change cannot cause disasters requiring an urgent response, such as expropriation or even partial expropriation.

If Bill C-222 is adopted, the people affected will have the luxury of objecting to an emergency measure related to climate change that affects the value of their property, which will limit the government's ability to deal with it. The Bloc Québécois cannot abide by the government being limited to that extent in dealing with climate disasters. That is why we will not support Bill C-222.

Let us not forget that the Expropriation Act is essentially procedural legislation. It determines the procedures the government must take when it proceeds with an expropriation, the deadlines it must respect and the recourse the expropriated has in the case of an objection. Under the Expropriation Act, a person who is the subject of the expropriation has two rights. They can challenge the amount of compensation or they can challenge the expropriation itself.

Last February, when she introduced her bill, the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke issued a press release to explain the scope of the bill. On reading the bill, we saw a few discrepancies with her explanations, which is rather unusual.

First, Bill C-222 was explained in such a way as to suggest that expanding environmental regulations were tantamount to disguised expropriations. To the hon. member, the protection of private property is compromised by this trend, which would justify the bill. With all due respect, I tend to disagree.

Public authorities do pass regulations that prevent a landowner from enjoying or disposing of private property as they wish. For example, when a municipality that passes a by-law preventing the construction of buildings on a flood plain for environmental reasons, it is considered an indirect or disguised expropriation. The owner can then turn to the courts to be compensated for the loss of the asset.

However, the proceedings do not stem from the Expropriation Act but from Quebec's Civil Code or, if the owner lives in English Canada, from common law. It is not covered by the Expropriation Act or by Bill C-222. That is why we wonder about the real reason behind the tabling of this bill.

The member also said that her bill would give Canadian property owners the same rights that foreign investors are afforded under NAFTA. I am referring to the investor's right to oppose environmental regulations that diminish the value of their investments. My colleague may have missed the fact that the Expropriation Act deals only with the expropriation of property by the state. It has nothing to do with environmental regulations.

I also remind members that the chapter of NAFTA that allowed an American investor to sue the government when an act or regulation diminished the value of their investment does not exist in the new agreement, CUSMA.

Lastly, the member said that, because the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not protect property rights, these rights are covered by the Expropriation Act. However, private property is protected by the Civil Code, not federal legislation. Section 92.13 of the Constitution states that property rights are a provincial jurisdiction. The Expropriation Act does not protect private property. Rather, it stipulates how the government must proceed for any expropriations of property.

Bill C-222, which would amend the existing Expropriation Act, will not protect private property and will only prevent the government from dealing with climate-related emergencies. Climate change is exacerbating the natural phenomena that pose a danger to the health and safety of Canadians and Quebeckers, so the Bloc Québécois cannot agree with restricting the government's ability to deal with environmental disasters.

Expropriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise today in response to private member's bill, Bill C-222, an act to amend the Expropriation Act, which is a protection of private property, and was prepared and presented by the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. Contained within and for the purpose of restating the bill's intention, it adds specific exemptions to the Expropriation Act under sections 10(11) and 19(3) and reads that the Expropriations Act:

—does not apply if the interest or right to which the notice of intention relates is intended to be expropriated by the Crown for the purpose of restoring historical natural habitats or addressing, directly or indirectly, climate variability, regardless of whether or not that purpose is referred to in the notice or described in the notice as the primary purpose of the intended expropriation.

The members of the House may recall that in moving the bill to the second reading in November, the hon. member began her intervention with a land acknowledgement that Parliament was on Algonquin Anishinabe territory, which is subject to an ongoing land claim process. The hon. member then proceeded to suggest that the current movement to protect private property landowners' rights in Ontario started in her riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.

If the landowners association in her constituency is upset about the expropriation of private property in response to catastrophic climate change, wait until it finds out about the ongoing and generational dispossession of indigenous lands by the Crown. Wait until they learn about Oka, Ipperwash, Unist'ot'en, 1492 and Wet'suwet'in.

It would appear, based on the private member's last intervention, that she would seek to elevate the property rights to a constitutional consideration on parity with our charter rights. That is a reference to the fifth amendment of the United States that she would seek to enshrine the rights of private property above all societal considerations and specifically as they relate to what appears to be a form of the denial of climate change.

I would suggest that before we could in good faith consider this request that we have a moral and indeed a legal obligation to first address the unceded territorial claims of indigenous first nations, Métis and Inuit.

The hon. member's underlying intention in the bill seems, at least to us, to force the federal government to recognize that the plan in 2014 is in fact responsible for the flooding of the Ottawa Valley in 2017 and 2019, which is denying the real reason for flooding, which is climate change, and to hold public consultations under the Expropriation Act. In addition, it would appear as though the hon. member wants the federal government to compensate residents affected by the flooding. Therefore, Bill C-222 contains no provisions of compensation.

I want to acknowledge the very real and devastating impacts on those members in her riding who may have been owners of one of the 900 buildings affected by the flooding. However, how can we even begin to further enshrine settler rights in response to these 900 buildings impacted by climate change when there are currently 900 unsettled first nation land claims that are historically based on the racist doctrine of discovery and the British colonial legal fiction called Terra Nullius, which effectively erased a millennia of indigenous inhabitations of these lands pre-European contract?

While I am no expert in the Robinson-Huron Treaty for incidents of clear and intentional treaties by the Crown, such as the Haldimand Treaty of October 25, 1784, for the purpose of this debate, I would like to remind members of the House who may not know or may have forgotten the text of this treaty, which states:

Whereas His Majesty having been pleased to direct that in consideration of the early attachment to his cause manifested by the Mohawk Indians and of the loss of their settlement which they thereby sustained—that a convenient tract of land under his protection should be chosen as a safe and comfortable retreat for them and others of the Six Nations, who have either lost their settlements within the Territory of the American States, or wish to retire from them to the British—I have at the earnest desire of many of these His Majesty's faithful Allies purchased a tract of land from the Indians situated between the Lakes Ontario, Erie and Huron, and I do hereby in His Majesty's name authorize and permit the said Mohawk Nation and such others of the Six Nation Indians as wish to settle in that quarter to take possession of and settle upon the Banks of the River commonly called Ouse or Grand River, running into Lake Erie, allotting to them for that purpose six miles deep from each side of the river beginning at Lake Erie and extending in that proportion to the head of the said river, which them and their posterity are to enjoy for ever.

Given under my hand and seal at arms at the Castle of St. Lewis at Quebec this twenty-fifth day of October one thousand seven hundred and eighty-four and in the twenty-fifth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord George The Third by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King Defender of the Faith and so forth.

Frederick Haldimand

By His Excellency's Command

More specifically, given the act of reclamation of unceded Haudenosaunee Confederacy territories, and to underscore the importance of the point, I shall add to this debate, for the good and welfare of the House, that an excerpt from the document entitled, “Land Rights of the Six Nations of the Grand River”, submitted by the Six Nations Elected Council, states that the promising of their tract consisted of 950,000 acres within their Beaver Hunting Grounds along the Grand River to the “Mohawk Nation and such others of the Six Nations Indians as wish to settle in that Quarter”.

In the application of their allegiance to the King, and for the loss of their settlements to the American States, they were to take possession and settle upon the banks of the river commonly called the Grand River, running from Lake Erie and allotting for that purpose six miles on either side of the Grand.

Therefore, although the Haldimand Treaty was unequivocally promised to the Six Nations, this tract, approximately 275,000 acres of land up to the source of the Grand River, remains outstanding to the present date as treaty land entitlement to the Six Nations people.

In contrast to the private property rights of settlers, as expressed in Bill C-222, Six Nations of the Grand River's experiences of Canada's specific and comprehensive land claims policies, which have been unsuccessful as existing policy, cannot provide proper restitution or compensation for Six Nations' validated claims and others yet to be determined. Previous negotiations have proved unsuccessful, as the extinguishment requirement is unacceptable and non-negotiable. Six Nations of the Grand River has previously lobbied MPs from all parties, and is looking for justice in its land rights issues. As the group realizes, Canada does not have enough money to bring historic land issues to resolution under existing policies.

Six Nations has also taken its land rights issues to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and to the Canadian courts commencing in 1995. This juxtaposition of the Crown's legislative protections for those deemed to be holding private property versus the original inhabitants of these lands is a grave admission to the ongoing colonialism of Canada with respect to first nations, Métis and Inuit.

Perhaps it would be more appropriate and timely, given the current government's new-found commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, that prior to further entrenching private property rights for Canadian citizens we first acknowledge the problematic nature of the failure to adequately address the first nations' land claims with negotiated cash settlements, and instead recognize their legitimate calls for land back.

Allow me to conclude in the same spirit in which we began this debate around Bill C-222, with a reminder that Parliament is on Algonquin Anishinabe territory, which is subject to an ongoing land claim process. If we are to have any newly introduced legislation around property rights, let us begin there.

Expropriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Alex Ruff Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my privilege today to speak to Bill C-222, a private member's bill by the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, an area that I know very well from my multiple years in Petawawa during my time in the military.

As previous speakers have highlighted, Canada does not have an inherent constitutional protection for private property. It is only done through the Expropriation Act at the federal level.

I fully acknowledge, as a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces and having served on bases in Gagetown and even having Meaford in my riding, that there are unique circumstances where expropriation is necessary. However, at all times, we need to pay fair market compensation to those owners. In my view, this bill simply does that. It intends to provide some clarity and protection for private property owners.

I am sure that my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound is very similar to a lot of rural ridings across Canada, where constituents have been living on some properties and farms held through generations. Unfortunately in some cases, these properties are the only things of substantial value, both personally and financially, for these Canadians. They are some of the most hard-working, honest and proud Canadians our nation produces. I have personally met many of them since deciding to get involved in federal politics. They have lots of concerns, and not just at the federal level but at all levels of government, with having their private property appropriately protected. It is really all they have.

That consistent message that I keep hearing from them, time and time again, is one of anxiety, concern and a lack of trust in governments. When their way of living is solely based on their property, whether it is farming or running a small business, it seems that every year there are more regulations, regardless of the level of government bringing them in and constantly challenging or limiting their way of making a living. In my view, in these circumstances, it is very easy to understand why these private property owners are frustrated.

Why is providing some level of clarity and certainty to these private property owners a bad thing? I know that previous speakers on this who may not be supporting this bill have noted the inadequate protection, and also that in some provinces there may be protection under either civil or common law. As well, they were asking for specific examples of where the bill may be appropriate.

I do not have a specific example, but I can mention some very similar situations. To go back to a previous speaker in the first hour of debate in November, the member for Red Deer—Mountain View said that we are seeing a “disturbing trend in Canada toward what is referred to as regulatory, de facto or constructive taking of private property.”

This happens when governments use those statutory powers to regulate or restrict the property rights of an owner without acquiring the title to the land that is being adversely affected. The landowner feels the impact of these regulations as if the land had been expropriated. Put another way, the government can strictly regulate the land, and limit its value and what a landowner can do with it, without triggering procedures in the legislation.

Let us go to specific examples in my riding where a comparison could be made. In one case I have a farmer whose land has not been expropriated yet, but who has been restricted in what he is allowed to do on his family farm due to its proximity to the watershed. There has been no history or circumstances where that farming operation has ever interfered with the watershed. There has been no run-off or problems historically.

The farmer accepted that. He had no problem and accepted that they had to change their way of doing business. However, when they then tried to utilize or take the private property and use it for a different business endeavour that would not compromise the environment or have any environmental concerns, they were informed that they could not do that either because the farm was agricultural land.

Again, it is the issue of the lack of certainty and clarity that private property owners are looking for because, again, what they can do to make a living and get by has been restricted by these regulatory changes. As such, these de facto or regulatory takings of property mean that the property owners are not entitled to compensation.

I know that one of the previous speakers indicated there is another method where they could raise this through a lower court at the provincial level. However, what this bill does is it just provides a little greater clarity.

One of the previous speakers this evening spoke about the requirement that a government, especially at the federal level, may be required to talk about defence, public safety and climate emergencies, and not hindering the government's ability for expropriation and cutting back the need for due process.

At the same time, that speaker indicated there has not been an example in the last 30 years where this has actually occurred. To counter that, my question is, if this has never actually occurred in an emergency, why are we worrying about it? Putting in the extra level of clarity and due process that Bill C-222 asks for is a good thing.

I admit that, as with any piece of legislation, this bill has room for improvement. All members of the House can support this bill and let it go to committee where those amendments could make this bill better and adequately protect the rights of our private property owners.

In my view, this bill is simple. It seeks to remove the uncertainty from the existing legislation by allowing due process to be followed. Private property owners should not be forced to give up their land without notice, without hearing and without fair compensation. Canadians deserve clarity, certainty and fair compensation. Bill C-222 would help achieve this.

Expropriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, introducing legislation is an important step in the life of a member of Parliament. I want to recognize the member for her work, but I have to say that the Bloc Québécois will not be supporting Bill C-222 because we are in a climate crisis, because it threatens diversity and because the destruction of natural environments causes flooding. What we should be talking about today is the climate commitment that is needed.

We are debating Bill C-222 today. The member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke has introduced a bill that reflects an ideology involving climate change denial. In our view, the bill is somewhat out of touch with reality. It seeks to eliminate any potential expropriation, even if reality and environmental emergencies were to require it.

This is an attempt to deny reality. Climate change is having geographic repercussions on populated areas. In these circumstances, this bill aims to eliminate the flexibility of the current legislation when it comes to acting in cases of emergency.

The appropriation phenomenon is legally guided by the federal and provincial governments. Not only would Bill C-222 undermine Quebec's civil law, but it would also put the private good above the common good. What is worse, it denies the existence of climate-related disasters. I will not repeat the examples that were given at first reading and that my colleague from Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia also raised earlier today regarding the people of Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac and Rigaud, Quebec. Obviously, some properties were built on flood planes and they will flood again in the coming years.

Let us look at the facts. A study by Nature Communications projects that rising sea levels will threaten the homes of over 300 million people in the next 30 years. Quebec and Canada will be no exception, like it or not.

How can we deliberately turn a blind eye to the common good when action must be taken to protect the population or because of a climate or environmental emergency?

In passing, I want to speak out against something that a Conservative member said at first reading, when he went so far as compare the ability to take action under extraordinary circumstances related to environmental protection and climate change to 20th-century communism. It is rather unbelievable to hear that sort of thing in the House.

Although the right to property is not enshrined in the Canadian Constitution as it is in the United States, it is in no way compromised, inadequately protected, weakened or challenged, as Bill C-222 suggested. Whether it is the Civil Code of Quebec or the common law tradition in force in the provinces, expropriation takes place in accordance with the level of jurisdiction. In Quebec, the right to property is clearly enshrined in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and in section 147 of the Quebec Civil Code.

Preventing the government from categorizing a situation as urgent and ordering an expropriation related to environmental protection or climate change is incomprehensible in this day and age. A balance must be struck between individual rights and the protection of citizens and the common good because there must be protection for both the public interest and the people.

In this vast country, could our geographic reality be any different? Let us consider that. If we were experiencing more tsunamis, if cliffs were crumbling, if landslides were burying homes and creating climate refugees, would Bill C-222 have been introduced in the House? Simply put, this bill suggests that climate change cannot cause disasters that justify an urgent response. We have to be clear about what we mean by “urgent”.

I urge some members of the official opposition to take a closer look at the work of experts who have been documenting the coastal risks associated with climate disturbances for decades.

Will they keep up that rhetoric when the residents of the Pacific coast and the Atlantic coast are experiencing serious consequences? We oppose the bill not out of any desire to please environmentalists, as some have suggested, but rather because we recognize the climate reality that has been rigorously documented by scientists around the world.

Lastly, I would like to add my voice to that of my colleague and really emphasize that when it comes to possible disguised expropriations and claims related to a trade agreement, the Expropriation Act deals only with the acquisition of property by the state and has nothing to do with environmental regulations. In CUSMA, or NAFTA 2.0 as it is sometimes called, the chapter that would have allowed an American investor to sue the government no longer exists.

In closing, I would like to ask the following questions: How is removing climate-related elements from the special circumstances category in the Expropriation Act an act of modernization? How is denying scientific discoveries an act of modernization? How is creating a conflict between property owners and the federal government on the issue of expropriation in the event of an environmental emergency an act of modernization?

The Bloc Québécois works to defend the interests of Quebeckers, our areas of jurisdiction and the robustness of our legislation. We will always work to protect our own.

The day when the Pacific and Atlantic coastal regions suffer the geographic and meteorological impacts of climate change, the public will be happy and reassured to have government help. Will they have federal representatives to look after them? I hope so.

Expropriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the members of Parliament who have participated in the debate on Bill C-222. Property rights are important to Canadians. Home ownership and property rights go hand in hand. One needs look no further than the recent surge in home ownership since the start of the pandemic to see that owning property is a priority for average Canadians.

In Canada, real estate transactions are up over the previous year. There is a record high demand and short supply. For 2020 as a whole, over half a million homes traded hands over the Canadian multiple listing service systems, which is a new annual record. Home ownership remains a goal for a great many Canadians. Buying a home will be the single largest purchase many will make in their lifetimes. Property rights protect their investment.

There has been a disturbing trend in Canada toward what is referred to as regulatory or constructive taking of property. This happens when a government uses its statutory powers to regulate or restrict the property rights of an owner without acquiring the title to the land being adversely affected. The ownership of private property is not constitutionally protected in Canada. The Crown can take private land, either an entire parcel, an estate or interest in a parcel, such as an easement, for the public good. This is called expropriation.

It is a general principle of expropriation law that the Crown must compensate landowners when it takes their land, although, in reality, this does not always occur. While the act provides some procedural protections for private landowners during the expropriation process, they are not absolute. In particular, the government can shorten the 90-day notice period alerting landowners to the Crown's intention to expropriate, dispense with the requirement for a public hearing into objections raised by landowners and take physical possession of the land before an offer of compensation is offered.

To do so, the government must believe that the land is urgently required due to special circumstances. The act does not explain what is meant by urgent or special circumstances, so Bill C-222 would clarify that restoring natural habitat and addressing the consequences of climate variability do not constitute those special circumstances. Bill C-222 recognizes that expropriation may be desired for these purposes, but that due process must be followed. Private landowners should not be forced to give up their land without at least a 90-day notice, a public hearing if they object to the expropriation and an offer of compensation.

Since I introduced Bill C-222, I have been made aware of too many examples of individuals being mistreated when it came to property rights. Long-time property rights activist, Ontario turkey farmer David Core, has been involved in private property rights for years, having been the president of the Canadian Association of Energy and Pipeline Landowner Associations. He recently made this observation in the Pipeline Observer, “I began to see that a healthy respect for property rights was the missing link — the real key to securing personal liberty, economic prosperity and environmental protection for all Canadians.”

Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek once said that the power a multi-millionaire might have over an individual and their property, whether they are a neighbour or an employer, is very much less than what is held by the smallest government bureaucrat or agent, who wields coercive power of the state, and upon whose discretion it depends whether and how one is able to live, work or make decisions.

With this legislation, my goal is to protect the private property rights of average Canadians. Climate change is not the subject of this amendment to the Expropriation Act. In fact, this legislation has the effect of recognizing climate change. This bill in no way inhibits the federal government from responding to a climate emergency. What it would do is provide legal recourse for private property owners who are adversely affected by any such actions.

I ask members to please support property rights and send Bill C-222 to committee for further study.

Expropriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


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

The question is on the motion.

If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes to request a recorded division or that the motion be adopted on division, I invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

Expropriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to have a recorded division.

Expropriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


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

Pursuant to order made on Monday, January 25, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 17, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

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

Government AppointmentsAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to come back to a situation that concerns many Canadians, namely the whole saga of the resignation of the Governor General, Julie Payette.

On January 27, I had the opportunity to ask the Prime Minister some questions about his decision to appoint Julie Payette to the position of Governor General without using the process introduced by the previous government for viceregal appointments like that of Governor General.

At the time, the Prime Minister chose to go it alone and likely did not take the time to do all the necessary vetting, and proceeded to appoint a star that fit the glamorous image he likes to convey.

It was in order to avoid the type of fiasco that we recently saw with Ms. Payette's resignation and everything that goes with it, including some allegations, that the previous government brought in the advisory committee on viceregal appointments.

The Prime Minister chose instead to indulge in theatrics and to put on a show. By acting unilaterally on this appointment, he managed to end up with a governor general who resigned, as well as all sorts of allegations about a toxic work environment, no background checks and an inadequate effort to find the right person for this very important position for Canada.

We subsequently learned that despite resigning, the former governor general would be able to collect significant sums, including expense reimbursements and a $150,000 annual pension for life, even though she held the position for less than three years, which is a very short time.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of dollars will go from Canadians' pockets to the pockets of the former governor general, all because the Prime Minister made the mistake of not using the committee that, I will repeat, was established by the former government to make important appointments, such as that of the governor general.

On January 27, the Prime Minister said that he would look at the existing processes, which he had already announced he would do. Will the Prime Minister commit right now to do the right thing and strip the former governor general, who resigned from her position, of her pension for life? Will the Prime Minister acknowledge that it was a mistake to proceed unilaterally, without consultation or vetting, and fix this mistake—

Government AppointmentsAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


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

Order. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House.

Government AppointmentsAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, it is important to give a bit of a wider perspective of the situation. The office of the Governor General is considered one of the oldest public offices in Canada and is absolutely fundamental to our democracy, our institution. Her Majesty's representative fulfills essential functions in our system of government and is rightfully held to a high standard.

All Canadians deserve a safe and healthy workplace. We have recognized that and stated it. I have personally stated that in responses to opposition members in the past. The government takes the issue of a safe and healthy workplace very seriously, and we have demonstrated a commitment to achieving that goal by strengthening legislation and regulations that protect employees.

As soon as we were made aware of the allegations in this particular situation in the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, we launched a rigorous and independent process to review the workplace conditions at Rideau Hall. The review provided an opportunity for those who work there or who work closely with Rideau Hall to share their concerns in a confidential manner. Upon the completion of the report, the Governor General informed the Prime Minister of her decision to resign.

We appreciate the dedication of the employees of the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General. We acknowledge the impact the state of workplace health has had on all the employees there. This has been a very difficult time and we are committed to restoring a healthy workplace.

In addition to the workplace review, a highly experienced and well-respected senior public servant, Ian McCowan, was appointed Secretary to the Governor General. He has already begun to engage employees to chart a new course toward a better environment at Rideau Hall, foster a culture of respect and ensure a healthy workplace.

The chief justice is currently filling in as administrator of the Government of Canada until a new Governor General is appointed. I know I speak for everyone in the House when I say it is comforting to have someone of his wisdom and experience in the role at this time. Many exceptional men and women have occupied this important office. They are Canadians of incredible integrity and talent. Let me assure the House that this tradition will continue.

In this context, the Prime Minister has committed to strengthening and improving processes whereby potential candidates are vetted. We will ensure that Rideau Hall is a safe and healthy work environment, as all Canadians deserve, and that those who serve Canadians do so with dignity.

Government AppointmentsAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, with all due respect to my colleagues, that was not the question. The question was about the retirement annuity that the former Governor General will receive for the rest of her life.

The typical worker who resigns from his job is not even entitled to employment insurance for 52 weeks. The former governor general will receive a $150,000 annual pension for life because the Prime Minister made a mistake, did not choose the right person and ignored the procedures in place. The former governor general, who resigned, will receive royal treatment, whereas a Canadian who resigns is entitled to nothing. That is the issue.

Will the Prime Minister take action to prevent the former governor general from receiving these huge amounts of money from Canadian taxpayers' pockets, yes or no?

Government AppointmentsAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I wanted the answer to give the member and those others who may be following the debate a little bit of a background in terms of the role of the Governor General and so forth.

With regard to the question that the member asked, the former Governor General's annuity will be dealt with in accordance with the Governor General's Act, which is the legislation or the law that is currently there. The reimbursement of expenditures to the former Governor General is the responsibility of the office of the secretary to the Governor General. There is new leadership at Rideau Hall, and they will be able to address the serious concerns that were raised in respect to that issue.

Hopefully that helps my colleague a little more in getting a better understanding of what it is he would actually be required to do to go forward.