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ENVI Committee Meeting

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[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Tuesday, March 28, 2000

• 0924


The Chairman (Mr. Charles Caccia (Davenport, Lib.)): Good morning.

I'm grateful for the arrival of members so that we can form a quorum and start. This quorum is posing enormous difficulties. It would be nice if we could reduce it in order to continue and complete our work. Unfortunately, that is not possible. It is a rule set by the House: a quorum is a quorum. In our case it is nine. There is no way around it, I'm told, that can be found in order to start on time. As you can see, we've already lost half an hour.

• 0925

It would be very helpful in subsequent meetings if people were to keep in mind that their absence or delay has a consequence on the time available to do our work and on those who are here punctually at 8:55. I know you all have many other things to watch and to attend and that it's not an easy life, but just keep in mind that there is an impact on each other's agenda when we have to wait for a quorum.

We have almost completed the chapter on the public, and we should actually complete it. But before completing the work on that chapter—which is chapter 14 and not 15, as I mentioned earlier, and I apologize—we have a motion by Mr. Grewal that requires attention. He has given the necessary notice, and it is before you. It is self-explanatory. I would like to draw to the attention of the committee the fact that another committee, namely the committee in charge of foreign affairs, produced a report that also included a chapter on the EDC and a recommendation. It was in December. No, sorry, it was not in December. When was it?

The Clerk of the Committee: It was in December, Mr. Chairman, and they are still awaiting the government reply.

The Chairman: I will read slowly the recommendation, because it has some bearing on this motion. a public institution wholly owned by the Government of Canada, EDC must operate, and be seen to be operating, within a policy and legislative framework that is transparent, publicly accountable, and meets reasonable standards of environmental and social responsibility consistent with Canadian values and Canada's overall international objectives and obligations.

The government has to reply to this recommendation. As you know, according to a certain rule, the government has 150 days to do that. Those 150 days ought to expire in May. So I wonder if the mover of the motion and the committee would see merit in waiting for the response by the government, when it is tabled in May, before deciding whether or not to adopt this motion.

With that background, I will now open the floor for a brief discussion and deliberation. Mr. Grewal, please.

Mr. Gurmant Grewal (Surrey Central, Canadian Alliance): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I appreciate that this matter is before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, but they will be looking at EDC's role with regard to sustainable development and the environment from a foreign affairs point of view. This is the committee that deals only with the environment, and from that point of view I think you and the members of the committee will agree with me that countries have geographical boundaries but environment doesn't.

Because of some questionable transactions by EDC, particularly in China, in all the areas I have listed here, such as CANDU reactors, it is of the utmost importance that we hear from the Minister for International Trade and at the same time the chairman and president of EDC.

• 0930

Maybe in the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade all these people will not appear, because it will be different from the environment. So I think if we really care about the environment, we should go ahead and invite these people to the committee so that we can hear from them firsthand and make our judgment and let Canadians know and find out and probably take some corrective action if we find out that something is to be done in the future.

I think this motion is of utmost importance for our committee.

The Chairman: All right. Thank you, Mr. Grewal.

I take it that you wish to move that motion this morning.

Mr. Gurmant Grewal: Yes, Mr. Chair. I already did.

The Chairman: Would you like to formally move that motion?

Mr. Gurmant Grewal: Yes, Mr. Chair. I formally move the motion, which has been circulated to everyone in both English and French.

The Chairman: Thank you.

Now the motion is before the committee. I invite comments, and then we will take a vote.

Madame Catterall, please.

Ms. Marlene Catterall (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.): I agree with Mr. Grewal. It's an important issue, and one I've been concerned about as well, Mr. Chair.

However, I'm also aware that within a very short timeframe we will have the endangered species legislation before this committee, and that's going to take some very intense hearings and clause-by-clause consideration. I'm also aware that we've got a report in front of us that we haven't completed yet, and we're going to have to really push to get that done before we have to deal with endangered species legislation. So I don't see an opportunity for the committee to deal with it, in any case, before the response of the government is tabled to the other report.

I would like very much, in the context of that report and how the government responds to it—they may have taken care of the concerns of this committee—move that we defer this motion until that time.

The Chairman: Thank you, Madame Catterall.

Are there any further comments? Mr. Reed.

Mr. Julian Reed (Halton, Lib.): I agree, Mr. Chairman, that we are already committed in these other areas. I just don't know how, physically, we can do it at this time. I don't see it. If Mr. Grewal has some solution to allow us to do it, I'd consider it, but I just don't see how.

The Chairman: Thank you.

Anyone else?

Mr. Grewal, would you like to conclude the debate, please?

Mr. Gurmant Grewal: Yes, Mr. Chairman.

I think all the committee members agree that there's a consensus that this is important and that we deal with this. On the other hand, when Mr. Reed has mentioned that we don't have time or something like that, we have spent lots of time, Mr. Chairman, morning and evening meetings and we've scheduled extra meetings to look into the report we have been dealing with—probably 15 or 18 so far. We have spent so much time in looking at that report. I think this hearing will need probably only one committee meeting.

I'm sure if we had spent probably 25 on the others, we can spend one more committee meeting on this important issue. We can definitely squeeze it in. The only thing is we need the will to do it, Mr. Chairman. It's an important issue.

What will I answer when my constituents or Canadians ask me, “What did the environment committee do about it?” I don't have any answer. I think we need to take some action, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Grewal.

Any further comments? Madame Catterall.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: I must most respectfully disagree with Mr. Grewal.

If we get into this issue, it is a major issue. It is not something that can be dealt with in one, two, three, or four meetings. It's precisely because of the seriousness with which I consider the motion that I think we'd be wiser to defer it and consider whether we want to get into that when we've seen the response of the government and when we know what other issues this committee might want to give some priority to.

I don't think it's a quick and dirty look at the situation. I think it deserves much more serious attention than that.

The Chairman: Thank you.

Are you ready for the question? I will put the motion to a vote.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Are we voting on the motion, or my motion to defer?

The Chairman: I did not hear anyone moving a motion of deferral.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: I did.

The Chairman: You now move a motion to defer.

Does that take precedence?

• 0935

The Clerk: The committee making an examination in the fall, or something like that? We can't—

The Chairman: There's a motion to hoist this motion. It's a motion that would suspend this motion.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Is the clerk telling me it's out of order to move either deferral or tabling of the motion?

The Chairman: The tabling of the motion would probably be....

The Clerk: The motion you have before the committee is this. You can presumably amend the motion, Mr. Chairman, to specify that it be taken up at a particular time. I have a feeling the equivalent of a six-month hoist in the committee is not completely in order. I think the appropriate way would be for the committee—

The Chairman: I think it would be better to vote on Mr. Grewal's motion, and then after the report of the foreign affairs committee has been responded to, anyone who wishes to bring forward this motion can do so again.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: It's a motion I hate to vote against. I'm sorry there's not another procedural way of dealing with it, Mr. Chair.

The Chairman: That seems to be the case.

The Clerk: Mr. Chairman, if the motion is clearly defeated, of course, the committee would not return and deal with something that has been defeated. That principle comes forward if the motion is withdrawn, which would take unanimous consent, of course. Then it could be brought to the committee again.

The Chairman: Are we ready to vote? Mr. Grewal.

Mr. Gurmant Grewal: I think, Mr. Chairman, I understand the concerns of everyone. Why don't we vote on this motion, and if this motion passes then we are looking for the timeframe in which we can work together to see if we have the time to.... Maybe we can see after one or two meetings whether we need more time or not. Then we can take appropriate action down the road. Probably it can be arranged in one or two meetings and I think we will have the opportunity to deal with this issue. As Ms. Catterall has said, it is an important issue, and she hates to vote against the issue.

I think we should vote on the motion, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Grewal.

Ms. Catterall has already given an assessment that is quite realistic, so the time this motion would take up should not be underestimated.

I'm now going to put Mr. Grewal's question to a vote.

Mr. Gurmant Grewal: Can we have a recorded vote, Mr. Chairman?

The Chairman: Yes, we can have a recorded vote.

(Motion negatived: nays 5; yeas 2) [See Minutes of Proceedings]

[Proceedings continue in camera]