House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was liberals.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Conservative MP for Newton—North Delta (B.C.)

Won his last election, in 2004, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act February 2nd, 2005

moved, seconded by the Hon. Andrew Telegdi, that Bill C-283, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker,I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Newton—North Delta to lead off the debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-283, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the regulations.

I would like to commend the Liberal member for Kitchener—Waterloo for seconding my bill as well as the official opposition senior immigration critic, the hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill, for her support, guidance and advice on this issue. She will be speaking later on the bill.

This enactment amends the act and regulations to provide for the sponsorship of foreign nationals who apply for temporary resident visas, commonly referred to as visitor visas. This bill would provide options and extra measures to allow higher acceptance rates for family visits while protecting the integrity of the system from queue jumping.

The sponsorship will enable visitor applicants who have difficulty establishing their bona fides to provide immigration officials with stronger evidence of their intention to return home before their visas expire.

Under my bill, a foreign national who has been issued a temporary resident visa as a member of the visitor class pursuant to sponsorship under proposed section 193.1 shall not: work or study while in Canada; apply for an extension of their authorization to remain in Canada; apply for permanent resident status while in Canada; or remain in Canada beyond the period authorized by their stay, even if the foreign national marries or applies for refugee status while in Canada.

Bill C-283 does not override the other requirements of the act. Let me make it clear that this suggested enforceable guarantee or the posting of a bond is not a prerequisite for a visitor visa. It is only an option or a last hope once a visa under the normal process has been denied. It is a solution to the current dead end which potential visitors face.

A Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant may apply to sponsor a foreign national to visit Canada if in the previous 12 months the foreign national made an application for a visa which was denied. Since we do not have any exit recording system in Canada, the visitor, upon returning to the country of origin, must, according to proposed subsection 193.1(5), report to an immigration officer or other representative of the Government of Canada within 30 days after leaving Canada in order to prove that he or she has left the country and so the guarantee or bond is nullified and void.

If the visitor fails to report, he or she will not be permitted to re-enter Canada and the sum of money deposited shall be forfeited or the guarantee posted shall become enforceable. The amount of the deposit or guarantee shall be fixed on the basis of the criteria set out in subsection 45(2), or it can be a percentage of the assets or net worth, for example, so that the amount is not punitive to the sponsors, who may be financially weak. This will prevent discrimination against poor sponsors and yet will be effective in preventing the abuse of the system.

Such a system is in place and working effectively elsewhere. Australia, for example, introduced a sponsored visitor visa class in July 2000. The new visa, in lieu of MPs' support letters, et cetera, provides decision makers with stronger evidence of a visitor's intention to return home before the visa expires.

The Australian government claims its sponsored visitor visa category allows the country to receive more family and business visitors while at the same time enhancing border integrity. Australia's global approval rates have increased and they are now roughly 20% higher than Canada's rates.

The increased international flow of goods, services and people means Canada must have an efficient and effective visa system able to handle millions of temporary visitors.

Each year the Department of Citizenship and Immigration issues over 600,000 visitor visas to people in over 130 countries. Under the Immigration Act, the burden of proof, or the onus, rests entirely on the applicant to satisfy the visa officer that he or she is coming for a temporary purpose as a visitor.

An immigration officer must make decisions quickly and be fair and careful. We know the challenges are well understood. Before deciding, immigration officers look at many factors, such as: the purpose of the visit; the applicant's ties to his or her home country; family ties; employment, financial and economic situation; and political stability of the home country, et cetera. The invitations or assurances from Canadian hosts or letters from their members of Parliament carry little weight.

The black and white rules of the immigration act result in a lack of compassion shown for applicants who may want to travel to Canada for legitimate reasons but who are barred due to the heartless consideration of the law.

For example, the only son of a seriously sick Canadian mother was denied a visa to visit her, but upon his mother's death after two weeks, he was given a visa to attend her funeral. How good it would have been if he would have seen his mother when she was alive.

In many cases, visitor visas are refused even to very close immediate family members or relatives wishing to attend funerals, marriages or social events in the family. Recently a young lady died in an accident. She did not have any close relatives in Canada. Her widowed mother was refused a visitor visa to attend her funeral.

Businessman Darmohan Gill in my riding needed a live-saving kidney transplant. A matching donor could not be found in Canada, but one was found in India. Mr. Gill was advised by doctors not to travel because of health considerations and the donor was repeatedly denied a visa.

There are cases of grandparents dying without ever being able to see their grandchildren. This leads to a permanent separation of families.

An applicant qualifies under the investor or entrepreneur categories but does not qualify for an exploratory visit for just two weeks due to lack of funds. That was the reason given. Can members believe that?

Almost every week numerous cases of frustrated constituents come across my desk. I am sure most members experience this too, where relatives of constituents are refused visitor visas. The truly sad part is that these applicants have little recourse once a decision has been made, and MPs can do nothing to help their constituents.

There is no appeal mechanism as there is in other countries like Australia. Sure, they can reapply, but seldom does the decision differ. In the end they just become a cash cow for the immigration department and the application fee goes directly into general revenues as an illegal tax.

According to CIC data, only about 23% of the people who apply for visitor visas are turned down, but I doubt those figures. Although the department boasts the success rate to be over 75%, one can just stand outside our High Commission in New Delhi any single day and check for oneself. No more than 20% are successful. I have seen this myself and our constituents repeatedly tell us that this is the case.

The reality facing applicants in countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Fiji or the Philippines, and many more, is much worse. The immigration officers are overburdened. They need to be better trained and more culturally sensitive to environment in which they work. To be fair and non-discriminatory, the case processing time should be the same at all our foreign missions.

The Conservative Party of Canada supports a well-managed immigration system to serve the best interests of Canada: a system that is fair, transparent, effective, efficient, compassionate, and sensitive to the needs of family reunification, skilled workers, economic migrants, genuine refugees and visitors.

Canada is a country built by immigrants. Immigration was and continues to be,at the heart of what Canada is all about and is accordingly of central importance to all Canadian citizens.

In the last few years, however, our immigration system has become sick. It is rife with systemic problems. It is a Gordian knot. And there is mounting evidence of abuse, fraud, corruption and incompetence in the immigration department.

There is currently a widespread consensus on both sides of the House and among the general public that our ailing immigration system must be reformed. My party, the Conservative Party of Canada, will be conducting round table discussions with people across the country and making recommendations on how to improve the immigration system and ensure that it is open, fair, efficient, effective and beyond political interference.

The Liberals over a period of time have given Canadians and immigrants bitter medicine by sugar-coating it. They have been fearmongering about my party and have literally abused the immigration system for political and electoral gains, but Canadians and immigrants will not be fooled anymore.

Due to major resource cuts by this government, there is not enough personnel to process the backlog of applications, and let us keep in mind that the first line of Canada's security is our immigration system. Sponsors' income checks and applicants' medical and security checks are not done in a coordinated manner. Sometimes one expires and the other is valid; the other expires and the first one is valid. These are people's lives the government is playing with and quite frankly it is treating them shabbily.

When I was first elected in June 1997, it took 22 months to process a family class immigrant from New Delhi. The former minister testified before the citizenship and immigration committee last fall that it now takes 58 months for family reunification, that is, 22 months then versus 58 months now. It is unbelievable. How dare the Liberals claim to be “immigrant-friendly”?

Immigration targets for Canadian missions do not come close to meeting the demand in high volume countries like China and India. The resulting bottlenecks lead to unnecessary delays, not only causing inconvenience but also creating incentives for people to cheat the system. By closing the front door, the government is encouraging people to try the back door.

Corruption at our overseas missions seems to be an inevitable result. I have personally uncovered three instances of corruption in our foreign missions and this is only the tip of the iceberg. Despite my pleas for action in this chamber, the systemic problem continues. There is evidence of immigration being used as a political tool for the government. Minister's permits often appear to be used for partisan purposes. In the immigration system it should not matter who one knows or whose campaign one volunteers for.

Arbitrary criteria are used to evaluate immigration cases. Staff receive inadequate training in local customs and traditions and they reject spousal cases based on outdated traditions and norms. Many of those cases go to the courts, where they win on appeal, but there are some unscrupulous lawyers and unregulated consultants who milk potential immigrants and visitors of their money without offering real service or value and thus add to the mess.

The Liberal government is absolutely disillusioned. I do not blame people who are frustrated as a result and go to MPs' offices. My office is overwhelmed with immigration cases. Eighty-five per cent of my resources and time is used for immigration work. I commend my staff for working so hard, particularly Sasha G, who works very hard on immigration cases. Her work is exhaustive and it is very stressful, but she still gives excellent service to my constituents. I applaud her efforts as well as those of other staff.

It is equally frustrating for constituents as well as members of Parliament when MPs can do nothing to secure visitor visas or to deal with the delay when we cannot do anything. Potential visitors who have not even visited this country always get a negative impression about it.

In conclusion, my bill will not cure all the problems that ail the immigration system. It will, however, be a positive step. Rather than only criticizing, I have come up with a solution-oriented approach, as I have done in the past for recognizing foreign credentials. Now everyone is on board to get the credentials recognized.

Foreign visitors are our emissaries. They help to create goodwill and they strengthen family bonds. Encouraging visitors to come to our country strengthens people to people ties.

In conclusion, Bill C-283 is certainly solution oriented. It is an improved approach that would minimize minister's permits and other political interferences and manipulations. It would make the system accessible, transparent and fair. It would tackle arbitrary subjective judgment, discrimination or weakness in the system. It would help to check the abuse of the system.

I will be interested in listening to the comments by other members. I hope that members will support my bill.

Tsunami Relief January 31st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, in watching the scenes of death and destruction resulting from the devastating tsunami that hit South Asia, our hearts immediately went out to the more than 220,000 victims and the millions left homeless. This catastrophe made us realize that even with all our scientific and technological advances, we remain vulnerable to the power of nature.

As the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, “The tsunami was an unprecedented global natural disaster” and it deserved “an unprecedented, global response”.

Governments, NGOs and ordinary people have contributed billions of dollars to the devastated countries.

In my constituency, people are doing all they can for the victims. Musicians have held concerts. Students have raised thousands through loonie drives. Maninder Gill of Radio India raised over $700,000 for the Red Cross; I personally spent eight hours on the air as part of his fundraiser.

British Columbians are vulnerable. Our government should learn some lessons from this disaster, including improving response times for our DART and better emergency preparedness.

On behalf of my constituents, I want to thank--

Food and Drugs Act December 14th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, in the first instance, I think it is a serious concern for all members in the House when some regulations are contradicting the authority given by legislation. Second, safety and security are at risk in many issues when the departments are dragging their heels and not dealing with the issue.

In general, I think we have to work a lot in this place on regulatory reform. There are many regulations that overlap and duplicate. In various departments, some of the regulations completely contradict each other. They need to be taken care of, and as well, I think harmonization of regulations is a serious issue.

The government has been dragging its heels on the harmonization of regulations, even with our largest trading partner, and even in east-west trade that is taking place in our country from province to province. There is a lot of overlap and duplication. Harmonization is needed to correct those mistakes.

I will say that as a first step we could identify the regulations and put them in three categories: good, bad and ugly. We need to keep some good regulations, which ensure safety of food, protection of the environment and provide us with security, but we need to get rid of the ugly regulations, which should not be in place.

I think regulatory reform becomes an integral part of parliamentary reform, about which there has been a lot of talk but little action.

I take some credit for this for having my bill, Bill C-205, pass in the House. That is not a very common occurrence. It is very rare that a private member's bill becomes law. It brought various regulations by various quasi-government agencies and organizations under the umbrella of Parliament. It restored parliamentary democracy and accountability to a great extent. It did plug the regulatory accountability black hole that had existed for so long.

I believe that Parliament should take the direction of bringing about regulatory reform as an integral part of parliamentary reform so that such issues are dealt with more effectively and efficiently.

Food and Drugs Act December 14th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Newton—North Delta and the official opposition of Canada to participate in the debate on Bill C-28, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

This enactment would amend the Food and Drugs Act to provide the Minister of Health with the authority to issue interim marketing authorization for foods that contain substances at specified levels, and to exempt those foods from the applicable requirement of the act and its regulation relating to their sale.

The proposed amendments are in response to concerns raised by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations regarding an administrative process put in place by Health Canada under the regulations of the Food and Drugs Act to allow Canadians faster access to food products under specific circumstances. All members of the House want our food supply to be safe, efficient and effective.

The bill proposes to amend the Food and Drugs Act to achieve two purposes. First, to provide the Minister of Health with the authority to issue an interim marketing authorization for the early sale of safe food and safe food products that contain certain substances; and second, exempt any food that contains an agricultural chemical, at or below the maximum residue limit specified by the minister under the new Pest Control Products Act, from the prohibition in the Food and Drugs Act of the sale of foods containing these residues because the sale of these foods would not pose harm to consumers. We are talking about safety.

The bill would give the minister authority to issue interim marketing authorization for food products wishing to enter the market earlier or that have previously entered the market and have added or modified contents since initially approved by Health Canada.

Currently, the deputy minister of health responsible for health products has the authority to issue interim marketing authorization, IMA. The minister is arguing that the authority to issue the IMA is a power of Parliament granted by the Crown and therefore the responsibility for the IMA should rest with the minister.

The bill would also allow for food products which contain pesticides, veterinary pharmaceuticals or added vitamins, minerals or amino acids at or below the maximum residue limit to be exempt from the FDA regulations while in the approval process.

Briefing material provided by Health Canada argues that Canadian companies are currently at a great disadvantage because of the lengthy approval time for new or modified food products. Canadian companies are not on a level playing field with their trading partners, particularly in the American market. This is because the U.S. government allows food products in the approval stage to be marketed, given that they are not harmful and not restricted by any other law or legislation.

The amendment that we are debating would put Canada on a par with the United States and give our food producers a level playing field when it comes to new products entering the market.

We would not be here today were it not for the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. Bill C-28 is a direct consequence of concerns first raised by that committee in April 1999. At that time, over five years ago, the committee identified the regulations of the Food and Drugs Act permitting interim marketing authorization as illegal. In other words, it was not supported by legislation.

Much of the law that affects Canadians is not found in the statutes of Canada, but in the thousands of regulations made pursuant to powers granted by acts of Parliament. Each year the federal government introduces about 1,200 new regulations. Since 1975 the federal government introduced over 28,000 regulations. That is 122,000 pages of regulations. About 20% of the laws in the country stem from legislation debated and passed in this legislature. The remaining 80% of the laws that we see are made up of regulations; just 20% is what we passionately debate in the House.

After a debate, we vote yea or nay, depending on the merit of the proposed law. The media and the general public focus on the 20% component. However, the 80%, which is coming through the back door by way of regulations, is not debated nor are other parliamentary democracy principles applied to those regulations.

Regulations on the other hand, receive virtually no debate in the House or even the other place, no public policy input, no studies or media scrutiny. This is an affront to democracy. Under parliamentary reform, this is the one the main issues at which we must look.

My private member's Bill C-205 passed in the House. I thank all members for their support. What will the bill do? We all know the government rules, but does not govern through the complete parliamentary democracy and practice. Some 80% of the regulations, which comprise the law, are made under the authority of Parliament. Various agencies, bodies or quasi-government organizations are delegated the authority to make regulations. However, when they make regulations, Parliament does not have the authority to scrutinize or review those regulations.

Therefore, a big chunk of our laws have been completely ignored. There is a big black hole in accountability and democracy which has been ignored for so long until Bill C-205 passed. With the passing of the bill, Parliament now has the authority to review regulations of those agencies through the Standing Joint Committee for Scrutiny of Regulations. They will now be scrutinized and if need be, disallowed.

My bill restored some of that democracy. It was a huge step in parliamentary reform. We talk a lot about reform, but little action is taken.

The Standing Joint Committee for Scrutiny of Regulations does the only scrutiny. Very limited scrutiny of regulations is done in Parliament. Our new regulations are permanently referred to the committee pursuant to the provisions of section 26 of the Statutory Instruments Act. Members of Parliament and Senators are on the committee. Legal counsel and staff work diligently, scouring through thousands of papers on dry, technical, legal subject matter as part of their thankless task of reviewing regulations.

This committee is generally misunderstood and ignored. This committee is considered to be not a very high profile committee, despite the hard work it does. In fact, talking about parliamentary democracy, this committee should be considered a very important one. It is an essential watchdog, protecting democracy, controlling bureaucracy and holding the government to account.

The standing joint committee does not judge regulations on the basis of policy measures, general merit, or necessity. Its study of regulations is instead limited to the questions of validity and legality. Members follow uniform and clearly defined criteria in their examinations. Compared to most committees, this committee is non-partisan and we build consensus in the committee.

The committee judges whether or not an statutory instrument: is not authorized by the enbabling legislation or is not in compliance with the conditions set forth in the legislation; does not conform with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the Canadian Bill of Rights; purports to have retroactive effect without express authority being provided by the enabling legislation; imposes a charge on public revenues, imposes a fine or imprisonment without express authority; excludes the jurisdiction of courts; has not complied with the Statutory Instruments Act with respect to transmission, registration or publication; appears to infringe on the rule of law, trespasses unduly on rights and liberties, make rights and liberties unduly dependent on legislative discretion, makes some unusual or unexpected use of powers conferred by the enabling legislation; amounts to the exercise of power that should properly be the subject of parliamentary enactment; and is defective in its drafting, including the translation.

These criteria deal with matters of legality and procedural aspects of regulation, not the merits of the regulations or policy.

The committee works meticulously, and with the complex nature of its undertaking, work proceeds at a slow pace. The long delays in dealing with particular items are largely related to the large number of regulations which the committee has to review relative to the number of meetings it can hold each year. All this considered, the committee, with the able assistance of its long-time legal counsel, Mr. Francois Bernier, is remarkably productive. Consider that over the period from November 7, 1997 to December 6, 2001, the committee dealt with 1,133 pieces of subordinate legislation in the course of 45 meetings.

I am a seven term co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations, representing all members of the House and I speak from personal experience. The work of the committee members can be extremely frustrating. We in effect hold ministers accountable for the legality of subordinate legislation, primarily regulations, sponsored by their departments.

However, this task is at times almost impossible. When the scrutiny of regulations committee finds a regulation that it deems in conflict with the legislation, our first step is to inform the respective department in writing. It should be a simple process. We identify a problem regulation, inform the department and then it fixes it. Instead, what we usually encounter is foot-dragging that can carry on for years or even decades.

The Food and Drugs Act regulations are an example of this foot-dragging. For five years, the department argued that there was nothing wrong with the regulations concerning the notice for interim marketing authorization. We are debating this today. Finally, after so many years, the department abruptly informed the committee last April that it was proceeding with the legislation before the House today. For over five years, the department has been using illegal regulations. Those are the regulations we are trying to correct today.

In a democracy that prides itself in the rule of law, this is unpardonable, but it is not the least bit unusual. Recently, my committee finally closed another file that had been opened for 27 years, more than a quarter of a century.

The committee's usual practice is to deal with a problem regulations informally by letter to the relevant officials. This allows the minister involved to amend the regulation with minimum fuss. The committee can also prepare and issue a disallowance report, but this is usually done only after the department has failed to address our previously identified concerns. Disallowance reports are very rare.

Let us consider the sequence of events surrounding the Food and Drugs Act regulations concerning interim marketing authorizations. I want to give this example so that the members in the House, the public in general, and our media scrutiny can also understand and comprehend the problems facing this committee.

On April 7, 1999 counsel for the scrutiny of regulations committee wrote to the DIO and questioned the legality of provisions of food and drug regulations that provided for notices of interim marketing authorization. The objection was that these provisions provided for unauthorized exemptions and also involved an illegal sub-delegation of powers.

On November 25, 1999, 232 days later, the department responded that it considered the provisions to be a valid exercise of regulation-making powers conferred by the Food and Drugs Act.

On December 23, 1999, the committee counsel reviewed the arguments put forward by the department and sent a letter countering those arguments, asking for reconsideration.

On March 8, 2000, now 355 days, almost a year after the initial correspondence and over three months since the last letter, the department replied indicating that generally it was committed to the policy, but that it might review the regulatory provisions in question with a view to making a “clarifying amendment.”

Exactly seven months later, on September 28, 2000, the committee was forced to again write to the department to inform it that it wished a detailed response to its letter of December 23, 1999.

Nothing more was heard from the department until October 17, 2001, over one year since the last correspondence, when a comprehensive reply to the letter of December 23, 1999 was finally received by the committee.

On December 12, 2002, the file was re-submitted to the joint committee with a 13 page note on the October 17, 2001 response.

On March 3, 2003, myself, as co-chair of the standing joint committee, wrote to the Minister of Health to restate the committee's position and explain why the response from the department was not accepted.

Over a year later, on June 24, 2004, the committee was informed that:

It is the intention of the Department to bring forward legislation in the early Fall 2004 that will amend the Food and Drugs Act to allow the Minister of Health to issue NIMAs and provide for a limited power to exempt food products from the application of the Food and Drug Regulations and paragraph 4(d) of the Act.

Finally, on November 29 Bill C-28 was introduced. There was a little over five years between the time the issue was first raised with the department and the introduction of remedial legislation. As I said earlier, when compared to other files that stretch on for decades, this issue was resolved rather quickly. However, five years is still five years. That is far too long for illegal regulations to remain in place.

Departments and their ministers take far too long to respond to concerns of the committee. There is no good reason for the department to go over a year without responding to a letter from the committee. It is an affront to the rule of law, it is an affront to Parliament and it is an affront to democracy. That is why we need Parliament to be reformed, including scrutiny of regulations issues.

I support Bill C-28. The amendments to the Food and Drugs Act are years overdue. I give full credit to the members, the staff and the counsel of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations for identifying the drawbacks in the system, bringing that to the fore, and following and chasing it through until remedial action is taken by the department to correct this parliamentary affront that has been going on so long.

I will conclude by asking members of Parliament to look into the regulatory process so that the regulatory process in this country is fair, efficient and effective.

Citizenship and Immigrations December 13th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the immigration minister has shown her complete contempt for the hundreds of thousands of legitimate refugees and immigrants waiting in the immigration backlog. Rather than fast tracking skilled immigrants, the minister expedites the applications for strippers and campaign workers.

The minister should spend less time dishing out political favours and more time on fixing the visitor visa mess, cleaning up fraud at our overseas missions, and reducing family class waiting times.

When will she admit that the jig is up and resign?

Christmas List December 13th, 2004

Madam Speaker, the holiday season is upon us, and in that spirit my constituents have a Christmas list.

They want a government that recognizes the supremacy of Parliament and lets parliamentarians, not judges, decide issues that matter most to Canadians. They want resources for law enforcement agencies to put a stop to gang violence, grow ops, break and enters, and auto theft. They want a justice system that works with police instead of against them. They want federal funds for vital infrastructure projects such as the South Fraser perimeter road, the Port Mann bridge, and the Fraser port. They want the final 422 acres of Burns Bog bought and protected. They want improved services at Surrey Memorial and Delta Hospitals and an end to waiting lists. They want open borders for the free flow of softwood lumber and beef. They want an efficient immigration system free from political interference. They want jobs and affordable housing for the homeless. They want an end to absurd political correctness that robs Christian holidays of their true meaning.

Merry Christmas, and may everyone's Christmas wishes come true.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement Act December 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Newton—North Delta to participate in the debate on Bill C-27, which is an act to regulate and prohibit certain activities related to food and other products to which the acts under the administration of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency apply, and to provide for the administration and enforcement of those acts and to amend other acts in consequence. The short title of the bill is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement Act.

The intent of this proposed legislation is to consolidate, modernize and enhance the inspection and enforcement powers of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The bill seeks to provide the CFIA with the basic inspection and enforcement tools that it needs to continue protecting Canada's food supply and animal and plant resource base. It is intended to allow CFIA inspectors to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently and to provide Canada with modern border enforcement tools that will be more consistent with recent American legislation.

Bill C-27 consolidates inspection and enforcement provisions from the eight acts that form the current legislative base for the CFIA. Those eight acts are: the Canada Agriculture Products Act; the Fish Inspection Act; the Meat Inspection Act; the Seeds Act; the Feeds Act; the Fertilizers Act; the Health of Animals Act; and the Plant Protection Act. These acts were introduced by different departments over the course of many years. Some date back as far as the 1940s and 1950s. These acts have been around for a long time, and the department thought it would try to integrate, consolidate and modernize the food inspection legislation.

Government responsibility for food in Canada is divided among the federal, 10 provincial, three territorial and numerous municipal governments. Some 77 pieces of legislation govern Canada's food inspection among the three levels of government.

Federal responsibility centres on export and interprovincial trade, protecting and expanding export markets for Canadian food products and facilitating interprovincial trade. In addition, the federal government sets food safety, quality and grading standards for products sold interprovincially and internationally. It administers regulations aimed at preventing the production or sale in Canada of dangerous, adulterated or misbranded products.

Provinces and municipalities are responsible for the intra-provincial aspects of the food industry, including local food processing, the food service industry and the food retail industry. They decide whether and how to inspect local operations, including restaurants and grocery stores, as well as dairies and meat plants whose products are sold within the province.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is the result of the amalgamation in 1997 of food safety and inspection programs from three federal departments: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Health Canada and the Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The establishment of a single agency followed a long history of discussions about the benefits of consolidating the federal food inspection system.

Following are some of the reasons for creating the CFIA. Industry and government favoured harmonized standards and streamlined inspection to ensure the competitiveness of the Canadian food industry domestically, as well as internationally. Canadian producers and processors were vulnerable to trade challenges in a fragmented system. Closer integration of the U.S. and Canadian markets under free trade agreements made the industry anxious to reduce the costs and inefficiencies resulting from differing provincial standards. Canadian exporters were concerned about being denied access to external markets on the grounds that Canadian food safety standards and inspection systems were not equivalent to those of the markets into which they were shipping.

The agency's main activities focus on inspecting the food supply, but it also conducts activities related to animal health and plant protection. The agency is responsible for delivering federal inspection programs that enforce these policies and standards. Bill C-27 is basically a housekeeping bill, but that does not mean it is without fault. It has flaws.

My main concern is that the bill does not incorporate any aspect of accountability for fair and effective enforcement on the part of the CFIA.

Food inspection is absolutely essential to Canadians. We want to have faith in the food we eat.

Large quantities of foodstuffs, for example, rice or some indigenous foods, are imported into Canada by Canadian firms from China, India and many other countries. Many of the foods are from different communities in their country of origin.

Some of these foods are accepted into the United States but normally they are not accepted into Canada. The criteria used in decisions often appear to be arbitrary and unfair. The importers or business people are catering to a huge multicultural market in Canada and are unable to import foods which are easily imported into the United States of America, our neighbour and largest trading partner. We need to look into that aspect.

The root cause is the regulatory process. Since my election to this chamber in 1997, I have taken a particular interest in regulatory reform and in reducing red tape. I have been the co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations and have succeeded in passing a private member's bill, of course with the cooperation of all members in the House.

That bill provides parliamentarians with an opportunity to disallow any federal statutory instruments that are illegal, redundant or that are not supposed to be there, even ones that originate from government agencies like the CFIA which we are talking about today. I also organized a conference on regulatory reform and have authored numerous op-eds on the issue.

Let me talk about Bill C-205 which was one of, I think, 1,700 bills that have been introduced in the House since I was elected. I was lucky to have the cooperation of some members from the opposite side as well.

Prior to the passage of my bill, Parliament was powerless to revoke hundreds of regulations written by government agencies like the CFIA, the CRTC and many other agencies. In other words, the quasi-government organizations or agencies have been delegated the power to make regulations. When Parliament delegated the power to them to make the regulations, parliamentarians did not have the power to review, scrutinize or disallow the regulations which many times contradicted the original intent of the legislation.

There was a big black hole in the accountability for many years before the passage of this most important private member's bill. As a result of the passage of that bill, all the regulations that are made in Canada by different agencies now come under the purview of Parliament. The Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations has demanded to review and scrutinize some of those.

I am therefore interested to see that Bill C-27 seeks to support the government's so-called smart regulation strategy by providing more consistent inspection and enforcement powers; providing a wider range of regulatory instruments; simplifying and streamlining the regulatory process; and contributing to the increased harmonization of legislation and regulations, to reduce overlap. Sometimes regulations are not consistent with those of our largest trading partner. The bill seeks to contribute to the regulatory cooperation with the United States, our largest trading partner.

This bill is long overdue. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency was created in 1997 to combine all federal food inspection, animal, plant and health services into a single inspection agency. The legislative basis for the agency should have been updated at that time or shortly thereafter, not after seven years.

Even though the government has had more than ample time to prepare the legislation, it is still not without flaws. Therefore, I am concerned that the bill does not incorporate any aspect of accountability for fair and effective enforcement. It fails to address accountability for frivolous or false detainment and destruction of products and materials. Without such accountability, I will not be able to support the bill. I look forward to meaningful amendments to the bill.

Supply December 9th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Newton—North Delta to participate in our supply day motion debate on the Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery.

For the benefit of those who are watching, the Conservative Party motion states:

That the House recognize that the maintenance of the sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River is crucial for conservation and for commercial, recreational and aboriginal users; that the Government's investigation into the collapse of this resource cannot be considered independent; that this resource has been mismanaged; that past decisions have been made without the proper science; and that, as a consequence, the House call on the Government to establish an independent judicial enquiry to determine the cause of the collapse of the sockeye salmon stocks on the Fraser River.

Let us consider for a moment what is at stake here. Salmon are an integral part of life for British Columbians. Not only are salmon a symbol of the province, but they have an important economic value as well, both in a commercial sense and a recreational sense.

Due to its superior taste, the sockeye is the most valuable species of the salmon harvest. The sockeye is the third most abundant salmon species and ranks second in commercial landings.

Last year the sockeye harvest totalled 6,300 tonnes, a total landed value of $24 million, representing 16% by weight and 50% by landed value of the wild salmon harvest in British Columbia. Last year sockeye generated close to $72 million in wholesale value, followed by chum at $43 million, pinks at $33 million, chinook at $17 million and coho at about $14 million.

The main spawning grounds of the sockeye are in the Fraser River system. As a result, this is where salmon fishermen gather each year, including commercial fishermen, aboriginals and recreational fishermen.

The loss of the sockeye in British Columbia equates to the loss of the cod for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The counts of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans show that only a small fraction of the predicted number of sockeye salmon reached their spawning grounds this summer. DFO officials predicted earlier this year a run of 4.5 million sockeye, of which about 2.25 million would survive to spawn. Now fewer than 400,000 are expected to make it to the spawning grounds. The failure of these salmon to reach their spawning grounds is a disaster that will likely result in no commercial sockeye fishery in four years from now.

Preliminary observations by fisheries officials found that the number of salmon arriving at the mouth of the Fraser corresponded to expectations. However, for some reason, huge numbers, much greater than expected, failed to reach their spawning grounds.

Federal fisheries scientists claim that record high water temperatures in the river, which weaken sockeye and make them susceptible to a number of diseases and parasites, were probably responsible for massive in-river mortality.

If it is true that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans knew by early July that high water temperatures and low water levels in the Fraser River could be lethal, then why did it allow the fishery to open despite those warning signs?

Warm water was blamed when populations crashed in 1992 and 1994, but subsequent inquiries indicated that nets in the river were really to blame.

There are also unanswered questions about the impact of legal and illegal net fisheries in the river this year. We know that illegal fishing is taking place on the river, but the impact on salmon stocks is unknown.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, under the auspices of the Fisheries Act, has the senior responsibility for managing all wild salmon, including allocation, inventories, escapement and habitat management.

The federal government is failing to meet its obligations to conserve and scientifically manage this fisheries resource. Attention to wild salmon is diminishing and it appears that the fisheries department as a whole is lacking in direction. The fisheries department failed to provide enforcement. In fact, it has reduced the number of enforcement officials and the equipment available for that purpose, and the illegal net fishing is continuing.

The Auditor General of Canada has conducted three reports dealing with the B.C. salmon industry: in 1997, 1999 and 2000.

In 1997, the Auditor General's office reported that Pacific salmon stocks and habitat were under stress. In 1999, it reported that the Pacific salmon fisheries were in trouble and their long term sustainability was also at risk because of overfishing, habitat loss and many other factors. In 2000, it reported that the fisheries department was not fully meeting its legislative obligations to protect wild salmon stocks.

After each report the fisheries department promised action, but little or nothing was done. Notably, the fisheries department has failed to finalize its wild salmon policy.

The Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery suffers from no clear objectives for the conservation of wild salmon. There are no goals for escapements and acceptable risks for managing the fishery. Concerns have been raised about the transparency, participation in and timeliness of consultations on pre-season management plans and in-season decision making.

There is also a lack of comprehensive information, which prevents a complete assessment of the status of Pacific salmon stocks. There are no formal assessments for the majority of Fraser River sockeye stocks. In addition, there are concerns about whether the in-season estimates of abundance, migration timing, route, stock composition and catch reporting of Fraser River sockeye are timely, adequate or accurate.

The fisheries department needs to develop a clear vision with goals and objectives for sustaining wild salmon and to provide public policy direction about what is an acceptable risk to salmon habitat and what is an acceptable loss of salmon run. Is there a plan to maintain our salmon stocks? I do not think so. Is it to rebuild to previous levels or is it to allow depletion?

That vision needs to be set out clearly to guide our actions, policies and programs. For too long, British Columbians have been waiting for this department to finalize a policy to clarify how conservation should be implemented and how the fisheries should be managed. Today we may be seeing the consequence of this department's and this weak government's inaction.

Following the 1994 salmon disaster, the fisheries department launched an investigation to uncover answers. The Hon. John Fraser, a former fisheries minister, headed the investigation. He warned the fisheries committee earlier this month that he was unable to get the whole story of what happened because he and his colleagues could not compel people to testify. Mr. Fraser thought the work of the commission was hindered as it was unable to obtain evidence to confirm strong suspicions.

The investigation announced last month by the fisheries minister is headed by a former B.C. chief justice with strong ties to the federal Liberal Party. It is not a judicial inquiry and it does not appear to be independent.

As I said in this House two weeks ago, we need a judicial inquiry to get to the bottom of what happened during the 2004 sockeye salmon harvest. Such an inquiry is essential to get to the real reasons for why salmon stocks are in such bad shape and to get the recommendations we need to deal with this disaster.

We need to discover what really happened on the Fraser River this summer. If we do not come up with answers, it will be almost impossible, even with appropriate resources and even with a proper management plan and strategy--if we ever get it--to come up with an effective response to ensure this disaster is not repeated.

The Fraser River sockeye salmon are in danger of being mismanaged into extinction. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been asleep at the wheel. It lacks a proper management plan for Pacific salmon. It knew by early July that high water temperatures and low water levels could be lethal but allowed the fisheries to open, particularly the illegal nets. Officials have done little to stop illegal net fisheries on the river, even returning confiscated nets to their owners.

Let us imagine this: enforcement officers going to the river, catching the illegal nets and in the evening returning those nets to the illegal fishermen so they can go back again the next day. It is shameful. It shows that the government does not have the backbone to control the illegal fisheries on the Fraser River. The enforcement officers were not doing their job and there were not enough enforcement officers because the government reduced the number of enforcement officers and even the number of helicopters, which were supposed to monitor to stop this theft. The more we need, the less we get.

To conclude, it is time to question how the Department of Fisheries and Oceans manages this vital public resource. My constituents want to avoid the disaster they saw in Atlantic Canada. They want solid and truthful information. They demand a full judicial inquiry into the mismanagement of the fishery by this weak--

Question No. 23 December 8th, 2004

With regard to temporary resident visas, for each year from 1997 through 2003: ( a ) what is the global approval rate for applicants to Canada; and ( b ) what are the ten countries from which Canada has received the largest number of applications and, for each country, identify by year: (i) the total number of applications received; (ii) the total number of applications that were rejected; and (iii) the non-return rate for people granted temporary residence visas?

(Return tabled)

Credit Cards December 7th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, my point was not simply to focus on the gun registry. I was making a comparison, going after the duck hunters or going after the criminals working within credit card fraud and other organized criminals. What should be the priority between those two was the question.

On the other hand I am a member of the subcommittee on organized crime, which I mentioned earlier. The Canadian Police Association, the RCMP, and various other police and law enforcement agencies are pleading to the lawmakers that they should be provided with enough resources so that they can chase the organized criminals.

In Surrey marijuana grow ops are a serious problem. Auto theft is a serious problem. Other various organized crimes, such as credit card fraud, are very serious problems.

Currently our law enforcement agencies are saying that if we give them 10 leads on organized crime, they do not have enough resources even to follow up with one of those leads, keeping those other nine leads out of the investigating pipeline. Is that fair? Is that the way to combat organized crime, by not providing the police with the necessary resources?

My question was about choosing between choice A, investing all of the scarce resources in going after the duck hunters, or choice B, going after the organized criminals to combat crime. What would be his preference? That was the question.