Skip to main content Start of content

House Publications

The Debates are the report—transcribed, edited, and corrected—of what is said in the House. The Journals are the official record of the decisions and other transactions of the House. The Order Paper and Notice Paper contains the listing of all items that may be brought forward on a particular sitting day, and notices for upcoming items.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the accessibility of this publication, please contact us at accessible@parl.gc.ca.

Previous day publication Next day publication
PDF

37th Parliament, 1st Session

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 055

CONTENTS

Friday, May 4, 2001

. 1000

VBUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
VMr. Derek Lee
VGOVERNMENT ORDERS

. 1005

VBLUE WATER BRIDGE AUTHORITY ACT
VBill S-5. Second reading
VHon. Anne McLellan
VMr. Brent St. Denis

. 1010

VMr. Roger Gallaway

. 1015

VMr. Jay Hill

. 1020

VMr. Norman Doyle

. 1025

VMARINE LIABILITY ACT
VBill S-2. Report stage
VSpeaker's Ruling
VThe Speaker
VMotions in Amendment
VMr. Jay Hill
VMotion No. 1
VMr. Joe Comartin
VMotion No. 2
VMr. Jay Hill

. 1030

. 1035

VMr. Brent St. Denis

. 1040

. 1045

VMr. Joe Comartin

. 1050

VMr. Marcel Gagnon

. 1055

VSTATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
VCANADIAN INSTITUTES OF HEALTH RESEARCH
VMr. Peter Adams

. 1100

VPRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
VMr. James Moore
VBATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC
VMrs. Judi Longfield
VCOMPOSTING WEEK
VHon. Charles Caccia
VATLANTIC JOURNALISM AWARDS
VMr. Shawn Murphy
VCANADIAN AIRLINES EMPLOYEES
VMr. Jay Hill

. 1105

VYOUTH OUTLOOKS
VMr. Marcel Proulx
VCHEESE IMPORTS
VMr. Marcel Gagnon
VMENTAL HEALTH WEEK
VMr. Yvon Charbonneau
VJUSTICE
VMr. Chuck Cadman
VOSLO ACCORDS
VMr. Irwin Cotler

. 1110

VSUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS
VMr. Joe Comartin
VLUMBER
VMr. Jean-Yves Roy
VINFORMATION TECHNOLOGY WEEK
VMr. John Cannis
VATLANTIC CANADA
VMr. Peter MacKay
VATLANTIC TECHNOLOGY CENTRE
VMr. Lawrence O'Brien

. 1115

VAGRICULTURE
VMr. Rick Casson
VORAL QUESTION PERIOD
VTHE ECONOMY
VMr. Grant Hill
VMr. Roy Cullen
VMr. Grant Hill
VMr. Roy Cullen
VMr. Grant Hill
VMr. Roy Cullen

. 1120

VMs. Cheryl Gallant
VMr. Roy Cullen
VMs. Cheryl Gallant
VMr. Roy Cullen
VPARENTAL LEAVE
VMs. Caroline St-Hilaire
VHon. Ralph Goodale
VMs. Caroline St-Hilaire
VHon. Ralph Goodale

. 1125

VMr. Yvan Loubier
VHon. Ralph Goodale
VMr. Yvan Loubier
VHon. Ralph Goodale
VTHE ENVIRONMENT
VMs. Alexa McDonough
VMr. Pat O'Brien
VMs. Alexa McDonough
VMr. Pat O'Brien

. 1130

VFISHERIES
VMr. Loyola Hearn
VHon. Herb Dhaliwal
VMr. Loyola Hearn
VHon. Herb Dhaliwal
VHEALTH
VMr. Keith Martin
VMr. Yvon Charbonneau
VMr. Keith Martin
VMr. Yvon Charbonneau
VEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
VMs. Monique Guay
VHon. Ralph Goodale

. 1135

VMs. Monique Guay
VHon. Ralph Goodale
VCANADIAN WHEAT BOARD
VMr. Garry Breitkreuz
VHon. Ralph Goodale
VMr. Garry Breitkreuz
VHon. Ralph Goodale
VFOREIGN AFFAIRS
VMs. Francine Lalonde
VHon. John Manley

. 1140

VMs. Francine Lalonde
VHon. John Manley
VHIGHWAYS
VMr. Rob Merrifield
VHon. David Collenette
VMr. Rob Merrifield
VHon. David Collenette
VTHE ENVIRONMENT
VMr. Tony Tirabassi
VMrs. Karen Redman

. 1145

VHon. Lorne Nystrom
VHon. David Collenette
VFOREIGN AFFAIRS
VMr. Svend Robinson
VHon. John Manley
VAGRICULTURE
VMr. Rick Borotsik
VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VNATIONAL DEFENCE
VMr. Greg Thompson
VMr. Paul Szabo

. 1150

VIMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE BOARD
VMr. Deepak Obhrai
VHon. Elinor Caplan
VMr. Deepak Obhrai
VHon. Elinor Caplan
VCONTAMINATED SITES
VMr. Réal Ménard
VHon. Art Eggleton
VMr. Réal Ménard
VHon. Art Eggleton
VNATIONAL DEFENCE
VMr. Peter Goldring
VHon. Art Eggleton

. 1155

VMr. Peter Goldring
VHon. Art Eggleton
VATLANTIC TRADE MISSION
VMr. Dominic LeBlanc
VHon. Robert Thibault
VMULTICULTURALISM
VMr. Ken Epp
VHon. David Collenette
VMr. Ken Epp
VHon. David Collenette
VSENIORS

. 1200

VHon. Ralph Goodale
VHOUSING
VMs. Carole-Marie Allard
VMr. Paul Szabo
VPOINTS OF ORDER
VTabling of Documents
VROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
VSAHTU DENE AND METIS LAND CLAIMS AGREEMENT REPORT
VHon. Robert Nault

. 1205

VGWICH'IN LAND CLAIMS AGREEMENT REPORT
VHon. Robert Nault
VYUKON LAND CLAIMS AGREEMENT REPORT
VHon. Robert Nault
VINUVIALUIT FINAL AGREEMENT REPORT
VHon. Robert Nault
VGOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO PETITIONS
VMr. Derek Lee
VCOMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE
VAboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural
VMr. John Godfrey
VFinance
VMr. Maurizio Bevilacqua
VProcedure and House Affairs
VMr. Derek Lee
VCRIMINAL CODE
VBill C-343. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Keith Martin
VCONTRAVENTIONS ACT
VBill C-344. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Keith Martin

. 1210

VIMMIGRATION ACT
VBill C-345. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Keith Martin
VENDANGERED SPECIES SANCTUARIES ACT
VBill C-346. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Keith Martin
VBLOOD SAMPLES ACT
VBill C-347. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Keith Martin

. 1215

VCANADA BUSINESS CORPORATIONS ACT
VBill S-11. First reading
VHon. Lucienne Robillard
VCOMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE
VProcedure and House Affairs
VMotion for concurrence
VMr. Derek Lee
VPETITIONS
VKidney Disease
VMr. Peter Adams
VVIA Rail
VMr. Peter Adams
VPesticides
VMs. Alexa McDonough
VGenetically Modified Food
VMr. Gar Knutson
VQUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER
VMr. Derek Lee

. 1220

VMr. Greg Thompson
VGOVERNMENT ORDERS
VMARINE LIABILITY ACT
VBill S-2. Report stage
VMr. Rick Borotsik

. 1225

VMr. Ken Epp

. 1230

. 1235

VDivision on Motion No. 1 deferred

. 1240

VPRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
VCRIMINAL CODE
VBill C-245. Second reading
VMr. Leon Benoit

. 1245

. 1250

. 1255

VMr. John Maloney

. 1300

VMr. Peter MacKay

. 1305

. 1310

VMr. Rick Casson

. 1315

VMr. Leon Benoit

. 1320

VAppendix

(Official Version)

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 055


HOUSE OF COMMONS

Friday, May 4, 2001

The House met at 10 a.m.



Prayers


 

. 1000 +

[English]

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions between parties in the House and I believe you would find unanimous consent that Bill S-5 be considered at all stages today, that is second reading, committee of the whole, report stage and third reading.

The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.



GOVERNMENT ORDERS

 

. 1005 + -

[English]

BLUE WATER BRIDGE AUTHORITY ACT

 

Hon. Anne McLellan (for the Minister of Transport) moved that Bill S-5, an act to amend the Blue Water Bridge Authority Act, be read the second time and, by unanimous consent, referred to a committee of the whole.

Mr. Brent St. Denis (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, at the outset I would like to ask for consent to share my time with the member for Sarnia—Lambton.

The Speaker: Is it agreed that the hon. member split his time with the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Mr. Brent St. Denis: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak at second reading on the proposed legislation, an act to amend the Blue Water Bridge Authority Act.

The proposed legislation amends the Blue Water Bridge Act of 1964 by updating the ability of the Blue Water Bridge Authority to borrow funds.

For those members who may not know, the Blue Water Bridge connects Point Edward, which is near Sarnia, Ontario, with Port Huron, Michigan. It joins Ontario Highway 402 to Michigan Highway Interstates 69 and 94 on the U.S. side.

The Blue Water Bridge is the second largest Canada-U.S. gateway in terms of exports and the second busiest crossing for trucks. An average of 14,000 vehicles per day cross the Blue Water Bridge and on a busy day as many as 20,000 vehicles, including well over 6,000 trucks, may cross this international bridge.

The Blue Water Bridge is Canada's fastest growing crossing with traffic increases of about 8% per year. The bridge is primarily a long distance crossing. I am told that approximately 250,000 to 300,000 trucks per month from the province of Quebec alone cross this bridge heading to the United States. Obviously this crossing is important to many of our provinces, not just Ontario.

In 1992, 50 years after the bridge was first opened for traffic, an international task force studying the Blue Water Bridge crossing concluded that the existing bridge was operating in excess of its designed capacity and that a second bridge should be built.

On July 22, 1997, a second Blue Water Bridge span was open to traffic. Once the new bridge was opened, the original 60 year old bridge was temporarily closed for much needed rehabilitation.

The Blue Water Bridge Authority has owned and operated the Canadian half of the bridge since the early 1960s. The authority was created by the federal government by an act respecting the international bridge over the St. Clair river known as the Blue Water Bridge. This act was proclaimed on May 21, 1964.

The Blue Water Bridge Authority is a public body basically independent of the crown operating at arm's length. It is not an agent or employee of the crown and the crown is therefore not liable for its debt. It receives no federal funding.

The governor in council appoints the directors of the authority and the reporting mechanism is through Transport Canada.

As I previously indicated, the purpose of the amendment to the Blue Water Bridge Act of 1964 is to update the ability of the Blue Water Bridge Authority to borrow funds. The current act limits the authority to borrow funds when the bond interest rate is less than or equal to 6.5%. This restriction is not in keeping with current practice.

Other international bridges have an established maximum borrowing limit. The amendment proposes a maximum borrowing limit of $125 million which would be adequate to handle its long term debt, currently totalling approximately $60 million, and its multiyear capital plan totalling an additional $55 million.

The Blue Water Bridge Authority is continually looking for ways to improve its operation and to make its crossing as efficient and as safe as possible. Its capital plan identifies major modifications to the terminal layout to improve the flow of traffic and to address the safety concerns identified by independent consultants.

Without the passage of the legislation, the authority will be unable to borrow the necessary funds to make these improvements. The proposed legislation stipulates that all borrowing transactions are subject to the approval of the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transport. The bill also reinforces that the federal government is not liable for any borrowing by the authority.

The authority is not for profit. Its revenues come primarily from bridge tolls but it also has rental income from things like the duty free shop and from broker establishments at the crossing.

The proposed legislation to amend the Blue Water Bridge Authority Act is important for Canada's economic viability and competitiveness. With the Canada-U.S. trade growing at an average annual pace of more than 10%, we cannot afford to ignore the crucial economic role that our international border crossings play in facilitating the movement of this trade.

 

. 1010 + -

I hope all members will join me in giving expeditious consideration to this important initiative. The Blue Water Bridge Authority needs the legislation in order to continue to operate and to maintain this important transportation link efficiently and to make capital improvements in the most cost effective manner possible.

Mr. Roger Gallaway (Sarnia—Lambton, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to speak to Bill S-5 and to urge its speedy passage.

The bill is in essence a private bill in that it affects one operation, in this case the powers of the board of directors consisting of four people who are the overseers or managers of the Canadian half of the international crossing known as the Blue Water Bridge, which is located in my riding of Sarnia—Lambton.

In 1937, after 20 years of study between the Canadian government and American interests, agreement was reached to construct a bridge over the St. Clair river at its narrowest juncture which is at the base of Lake Huron in the village of Point Edward.

For close to 60 years the original structure served as the crossing point between Canada and the United States, Ontario and Michigan, and the communities of Sarnia and Port Huron. For almost 60 years the first bridge served the interests of business, family and tourism well by providing a fast and efficient place to exit and enter Canada.

However, in 1964 parliament enacted legislation, known as the Blue Water Bridge Act, which created a board of directors of four people with certain powers, authority and obligations to operate the facility. The reason for that was twofold. First, the automobile in the post-war years resulted in a much greater volume of traffic: business, commercial, tourism, as well as personal use.

Second, the operations of the bridge needed to be self-sustaining and fulfil the expectations of the local, regional as well as national interests. With the passage in 1964 of the Blue Water Bridge Authority Act, control over operations was vested in the authority subject to certain provisions in terms of reporting to Transport Canada.

The legislation has served us well locally and nationally. The authority under the 1964 legislation provided the buildings for Canada customs, immigration and agriculture Canada free of charge. This was part of the 1964 act and continues and will continue to be the case.

Over the period from 1964 to 1992, the volume of traffic grew. This was a three lane bridge located some 50 minutes from Detroit. As both Canada and the U.S. became greater trading partners, as the method of moving goods shifted toward trucks and as the 400 series highways blossomed in Ontario and their interstate counterparts were built in the U.S., something quite startling happened.

Ontario Highway 402 was built in the mid-seventies connecting the Blue Water Bridge to Highway 401 some 100 kilometres away. On the American side, Interstate Highways 94 and 69 connected the bridge to Detroit and Chicago. As trade between our countries blossomed and traffic volume skyrocketed from a few trucks daily in 1938 to well over 7,000 18-wheelers daily today, the Blue Water Bridge is now the second busiest land commercial crossing on the Canada—U.S. border.

In 1992 the Blue Water Bridge Authority, responding to both local and national needs, conducted a feasibility study in concert with its American counterpart operators, the Michigan Department of Transport, and embarked on a bridge twinning project. On July 12, 1997, that second parallel Blue Water Bridge, the new one, was officially opened: a new structure abutting and running parallel to the 1938 structure. The bridge now offered six lanes to facilitate the crossing of goods and people. After the opening of the new span, a commitment of more than $75 million by the Blue Water Bridge Authority, the original span was closed to be re-decked and refurbished, a further commitment of about $25 million.

Since 1997 the volume of truck traffic has continued to grow somewhere in the neighbourhood of 12% per annum. The opening of a casino abutting the Canadian plaza of the bridge, literally almost under the bridge, and the favourable position of the Canadian dollar vis-à-vis U.S. residents, has resulted in an explosion of traffic. Some 20,000 vehicles are crossing daily and more than 1.6 million annually. Each and every month the revenues of the bridge authority have increased, despite the talk that there is a slowdown in the economy.

 

. 1015 + -

This means a number of things, reflected in Bill S-5. The bridge authority, through studies commissioned by it, has identified further capital projects to disentangle truck traffic from regular motor vehicle traffic. It must, for safety reasons and to facilitate the just in time delivery of goods, make major changes to its plaza at the base of the bridge. Without the passage of this legislation, Bill S-5, the Blue Water Bridge Authority will be unable to borrow the necessary funds to make these improvements as well as handle its long term debt load and multi-year capital plan.

The 1964 act has worked for 37 years, but in this era of increased trade and tourism this new legislation will allow the Blue Water Bridge Authority to continue to meet our national, regional and local interests. It is a sign and a symptom of success.

In closing I would like to thank the bridge authority and its chair, Mr. Doug Keddy, and the mayor of the village of Point Edward, Dick Kirkland, who have in recent years worked so diligently to ensure the success of this facility. As well, in anticipation I would like to thank the members of the House for their support in the adoption of this bill.

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I am also pleased to rise today to address at second reading Bill S-5, which seeks to amend the Blue Water Bridge Authority Act.

Although most Canadians have probably not even heard of the Blue Water bridges, the parallel spans connecting Port Huron, Michigan to Sarnia, Ontario, we have all felt the effects of their presence. As the second busiest commercial vehicle corridor between Canada and the United States, the Blue Water bridges are an integral part of the Canadian economy, providing us with access not only to the U.S. market but to Mexico as well.

The modernization of this act would give the Blue Water Bridge Authority the means and capability of conducting its business affairs in a manner similar to that of any other private corporation in Canada. As a result of these changes, the authority will be able to borrow money to invest in infrastructure improvements on an as needed basis up to a limit of $125 million. The act will also ensure that the borrowing activities are overseen by the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transportation.

While I have some reservations about placing control for approval of borrowing in the hands of only two members of the House, I am hopeful that this arrangement may actually encourage some dialogue between the ministers on infrastructure investment for the rest of Canada's transportation system.

I am pleased to see the Minister of Transport in the House today. Earlier this week Canadians heard the minister defend his inaction on highways by once again reiterating that he could not possibly spend money on roads since they are a provincial responsibility.

If that is the case, then the question is this: why is the federal government collecting taxes that clearly belong to the party responsible for the roads, namely the provinces? It seems simple. If the government will not take responsibility for the roads then it should stop taking the money.

Fortunately we also had the Minister of Finance around to try to defend the paltry $600 million that the government intends to distribute to the provinces for road improvements over the next four years. He reminded us of all the wonderful things that the remaining $4 billion, yes, $4 billion, of fuel tax buys us.

Given the state of our highways it is unconscionable that the finance minister would defend spending 95% of fuel tax revenues on projects other than roads. As the Blue Water Bridge Authority has proven over the past 37 years, reinvesting revenues from operations means that we can afford to maintain infrastructure to impeccable standards.

Imagine for a moment that an American tourist is heading for a vacation in Canada. The American side of the journey is on interstate highways that receive funding to the tune of 95% of all fuel taxes collected by the state. The American tourist gets to the Blue Water Bridge, maintained fully by the revenue it generates, and enjoys a very pleasant crossing.

Then the American tourist arrives in Canada and continues the trip on highways that receive funding of less than 5% of total fuel tax revenues. The pathetic condition of our highways has the American checking his map furiously to make sure that he did not somehow make a wrong turn and is actually heading to Mexico.

 

. 1020 + -

I mention Mexico again because it brings up yet another compelling reason for renewed investment in our highway infrastructure, and that is trade corridors. The government has gone to great lengths to ensure that we have free trade with Mexico, yet it has spent no time considering how we will get there.

Access to and from the growing Mexican economy involves more than ensuring that we have enough bridges to the United States. Importers and exporters need to have confidence that the Canadian government is committed to ensuring that our transportation infrastructure will exist long enough for trading relations to fully develop.

We need to invest in developing and maintaining trade corridors to the south and national highways to the east and west to sustain access to the infrastructure such as the Blue Water bridges.

In conclusion, I am pleased to confirm that the Canadian Alliance supports the speedy passage today of all stages of amendments to the Blue Water Bridge Authority Act, Bill S-5, with the hope and the proviso that it may encourage further improvements to our national transportation network.

Mr. Norman Doyle (St. John's East, PC): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say a word or two on Bill S-5 simply to get on the record, because it is not a very controversial piece of legislation. It is quite mundane, as a matter of fact, and I want to say on behalf of our party that we support the bill.

The bill will simply update the borrowing rules that apply to the Blue Water Bridge Authority. The current and complex rules for borrowing money are replaced by a requirement that the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transport approve the authority's borrowing. A cap of $125 million is placed on all borrowing by the authority and the government will not be responsible for repayment of the authority's debt, so there no reason why anyone would not support the bill.

The bridges are operated by the Blue Water Bridge Authority, which includes Canadian and U.S. representatives. The authority operates at arm's length from government and receives no appropriations. It is not an agent of the crown and the government assumes no responsibility for debt incurred by the authority. As I said a moment ago, there is no reason not to support and approve the appropriations outlined in the bill.

The Canadian law governing the authority's ability to borrow money sets out a complex and antiquated set of rules and restrictions such as the maximum rate of interest to be paid, the maximum length of time to maturity for bonds issued in the authority's name, and the maximum rate to be paid on bonds redeemed early by the authority.

The borrowing authority sought under the bill is about $125 million. It is more than double the current outstanding debt of $60 million. The government says that is adequate to handle planned multi-year capital spending of $55 million. That is all we have to say on the bill. We support it.

The Speaker: Is the House ready for the question?

Some hon. members: Question.

The Speaker: The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time, considered in committee, reported, concurred in, read the third time and passed)

*  *  *

 

. 1025 + -

MARINE LIABILITY ACT

 

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-2, an act respecting marine liability, and to validate certain by-laws and regulations, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

SPEAKER'S RULING

The Speaker: There are two motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill S-2, an act respecting marine liability, and to validate certain by-laws and regulations.

Motions Nos. 1 and 2 will be grouped for debate and voted on as follows. An affirmative vote on Motion No. 1 obviates the necessity of the question being put on Motion No. 2. On the other hand, a negative vote on Motion No. 1 necessitates the question being put on Motion No. 2.

MOTIONS IN AMENDMENT

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Canadian Alliance) moved:  

    Motion No. 1

    That Bill S-2, in Clause 39, be amended by replacing lines 35 to 38 on page 14 with the following:

    “39. The Governor in Council shall make regulations by January 1, 2003, requiring insurance or evidence of financial security be maintained to cover liability under this Part.”

Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—St. Clair, NDP) moved:  

    Motion No. 2

    That Bill S-2, in Clause 39, be amended by replacing lines 35 to 38 on page 14 with the following:

    “39. (1) The Governor in Council may make regulations requiring insurance or other financial security to be maintained to cover liability to passengers under this Part.

    (2) Until regulations are made under subsection (1), vessel operators who do not have insurance or other financial security to cover liability to passengers must clearly and visibly post this fact in the appropriate location so that passengers, or potential passengers, are made aware of such absence of insurance.”

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak in debate to Bill S-2 and specifically to both motions put forward to amend clause 39.

It would perhaps be helpful if I run through the chronological order of how this amendment came about. We submitted the amendment to clause 39 in Bill S-2, the Marine Liability Act, to the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations during clause by clause consideration of the bill.

 

. 1030 + -

The amendment relates to the establishment of a date by which the government would establish regulations for compulsory insurance for commercial passenger vessels. These are vessels that are making a business of carrying people. It would bring them in line with all other modes of transportation. Commercial shipping is the only area which does not have compulsory insurance requirements.

The bill establishes the shipowner's liability for passengers but does not require them to prove that they have the financial means to pay any potential injured passengers.

The committee heard contradictory testimony from departmental officials. On one hand they stated that it could not be done without a detailed examination of the impact on the insurance industry. On the other hand marine insurance professionals stated that compulsory insurance was already part of their business and the industry could respond immediately to comply with the requirement.

During clause by clause analysis there was considerable debate on the amendment to clause 39. All four opposition parties were united in their support for the amendment that I had drafted and introduced. The amendment required the government to make insurance compulsory by January 1, 2002, a date chosen to allow the government the time it stated was required to implement an adequate administration scheme.

Liberal members of the committee agreed that the bill without compulsory insurance would not accomplish the objective of protecting passengers travelling by ship. Assurances were given by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport that the government would act on a commitment. It shall make regulations as soon as it is able. That is really what the amendment is all about, because it says it shall in the future perhaps. However the government was not prepared to amend the bill at that time. I made an offer to extend the implementation date by a full year and was summarily dismissed.

It became clear in committee that despite acknowledging that the bill was deficient with respect to the compulsory insurance provisions, Liberal members were supporting the bill as drafted on a purely partisan basis. They were concerned that any amendment would require the bill to return to the Senate and thus delay royal assent. It was pointed out that the bill passed through the Senate in a single day. We all know that Bill S-2 originated in the Senate. Liberal members agreed that any delay would not be significant.

Approval of deficient legislation on partisan grounds or on the basis that it would require the bill to follow its prescribed course to the Senate constitutes special circumstances. That is why the amendment we are discussing today was allowed to stand at report stage as well as in committee. That is why I have amended our motion to reflect the compromise offered by the four opposition parties in committee. It now reads:

    The Governor in Council shall make regulations by January 1, 2003, requiring insurance or evidence of financial security be maintained to cover liability under this Part.

The amendment is in addition to those put forward by my hon. colleagues in the New Democratic Party. Although they support the motion I put forward in committee, and I believe they will support it in the House, once it is defeated we need to have a fallback position. We need to ensure that passengers travelling on commercial vessels have some assurance they are protected, and if they are not protected that they are made aware of that.

I support the intent of Motion No. 2. I believe very strongly there is no legitimate reason, and there were no compelling reasons presented in committee, why commercial shipping vessels are not required to have compulsory insurance to protect passengers who are travelling by boat.

 

. 1035 + -

Failing that and if Motion No. 1 is defeated, the Canadian Alliance would support Motion No. 2 because it would provide some protection. If there is a requirement that a visible sign or some other form of communication has to be posted by shipowners, a warning sign, passengers would know the particular vessel does not have an adequate insurance policy or the financial means in the event the boat were to sink or some other mishap befalls passengers. They would not have reasonable assurance that their injuries or the injuries of their loved ones would be covered.

I am speaking in favour of my motion which would require compulsory insurance by January 1, 2003, so that all passengers travelling in Canada on water vessels would have the assurance and be well aware that all shipping companies in the business of transporting people have adequate insurance to protect them.

It would be similar to what airlines, bus companies and other modes of transportation have. They are required to have third party liability insurance to make sure passengers are adequately covered. Passengers boarding those forms of transportation have that assurance, yet we do not see the same requirement of shipowners. I speak in favour of Motion No. 1 for those reasons.

If Motion No. 1 is defeated, our party would support Motion No. 2 as a fallback position so that passengers understand when they board a particular vessel which does not have adequate insurance coverage they are accepting some personal risk with their decision.

Mr. Brent St. Denis (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to address the amendment of thee hon. member for Prince George—Peace River. My comments could be taken as applying to the amendment of the hon. member for Windsor—St. Clair.

These motions seek to amend clause 39 of Bill S-2 by putting an obligation on the governor in council to make regulations requiring shipowners to provide evidence of insurance or other financial security covering their liability to passengers under part 4 of the bill.

During the hearings held by the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations concerns were raised regarding the absence of compulsory insurance provisions in the bill. Reference was made to systems of compulsory insurance in respect of passengers in other modes of transport and to those currently in place in the United States.

I would like to stress that the introduction of a passenger liability regime in Canadian law is the first and essential step for the introduction of compulsory insurance for passenger ships. Bill S-2 makes a quantum leap toward this objective as it establishes for the first time in Canadian law the liability of the shipowner for loss of life or personal injury to passengers. The bill provides specific levels of compensation to which each passenger would be entitled in the event of an accident.

Unlike other modes of transportation there continues to be no international agreement mandating insurance coverage for passenger ships. The International Maritime Organization is currently working on a compulsory insurance regime for passengers and Bill S-2 recognizes this in clause 39.

Clause 39 provides for governor in council authority to adopt regulations on compulsory insurance and thus enables Canada to adhere to a uniform regime supported by international insurance markets.

 

. 1040 + -

However Canada can act on clause 39 as soon as the bill is passed and unilaterally introduce a regime of compulsory insurance for all ships operating in Canadian waters.

There are some provisions in the United States on compulsory insurance, but its system does not provide the benefits that Bill S-2 is trying to achieve. The U.S. compulsory insurance scheme is not comprehensive as it only deals with ships that have overnight accommodation for 50 or more passengers. In addition, the amount of compensation provided depends on the capacity of the ship which generates different treatments of passengers.

For example, in respect of ships with overnight accommodation capacity of between 50 and 500, the U.S. regime requires insurance of $20,000 U.S. per passenger accommodation. This amount decreases with higher capacity ships so that a ship with a capacity of 2,000 the required insurance is only $12,500 U.S. per passenger accommodation.

In addition to these variations in the treatment of passengers, all types of day trip ferries, sightseeing ships, tour boats, et cetera, are not covered by the compulsory insurance scheme of the U.S.

The Canadian regime provides compensation of $350,000 per passenger. Large shipowners, particularly in the coastal ferry and cruise ship markets, are generally well insured with established insurers and have full coverage against liability as set out in the bill. Hence these shipowners should have no difficulty to obtain and maintain adequate insurance.

Similarly the vast majority of small shipowners and operators should not encounter any problems in the Canadian insurance market to secure insurance against the obligations under Bill S-2.

I am also aware that as the insurers would not be compelled to insure every ship, it is possible that some operators, particularly in the whale watching or white water rafting market, may find their premiums substantially increased. Under the new liability regime they may be considered uninsurable and forced out of business. Others may lose some competitive advantage against U.S. operators who are not required to have insurance.

As in the case of compulsory insurance and in the current insurance regime for oil pollution, the establishment of compulsory insurance for passenger ships may require the establishment of some safety net for claims arising from uninsured ships or from the failure of the insurers to meet their obligations. Thus a necessary part of any compulsory insurance regime would be the responsibility of the government to approve insurers as is currently done under the oil pollution regime.

I believe that shipowners would voluntarily act responsibly. The government would act as soon as possible following the passage of the bill on the development of appropriate regulations to give effect to clause 39. In fact government testimony in committee repeated that commitment.

This would ensure that all shipowners obtain and provide evidence of adequate insurance against their liability to passengers under part 4. The government's serious commitment to this objective was already demonstrated in our efforts in the field of oil pollution.

In part 6 of the bill there is a regime of liability for oil pollution damage caused by oil tankers. The regime includes provisions on compulsory insurance that shipowners must have before they are permitted to navigate in Canadian waters. The oil pollution regime is based on international conventions which Canada adopted in 1999. As a result, Canadian interests such as our environment are protected by a well established regime that has the full co-operation of international insurance markets.

This co-operation was essential since our domestic insurance markets do not have the capacity to provide coverage against the levels of liability for oil pollution established in the international convention. This example of our dedication to protect Canadians in the marine transportation field speaks for itself. While there is no equivalent international agreement on compulsory insurance for passenger ships, this would not prevent Canada from introducing such a regime at the national level.

In this instance, the emphasis would be primarily on smaller vessels which to a large degree can be insured in the domestic insurance market as was reported by some of the industry witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations. We would take their advice and that of others potentially affected by the compulsory insurance system to make sure that we have examined every aspect of it and that we have put together a viable and workable regime.

 

. 1045 + -

Our goal is to ensure, first, that we have taken into account all interests involved and, second, that we have at the end a compulsory insurance system which is effective in its impact and efficient in its application.

As I have mentioned, the bill takes a giant step forward in addressing passenger ship liability and provides for an eventual solution to the concern raised by the opposition member. However, acting on clause 39 at this stage would be premature. The government will therefore not support either of the two proposed amendments.

The amendments could be detrimental to small passenger ship operators or unfair to the insurance industry. Measures will be taken as soon as the bill is passed to address this very important aspect of it. Given all that has been said, I reiterate that we will not be supporting the motion.

Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—St. Clair, NDP): Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Churchill is on the committee reviewing the bill. When I became aware of the legislation it drew to mind an incident that took place in Lake Huron about a year ago. As a parent it is one of those scary nightmares we all have.

Students from one of the local high schools were out on a ferry on Lake Huron. There was a sudden storm, the ferry sank and two lives were lost. Two of the students drowned. It subsequently was learned that the ferry had no insurance. As a result the parents must not only cope with the tragic loss of their child. They must also deal with the financial consequences such as funeral expenses, et cetera, with no ability to look to the ferry operator for compensation.

The NDP is quite prepared to support the first motion before the House today because we believe insurance is the answer. I know from my experience in the civil litigation field that the second motion, my motion, is a far distant second preference. Putting up notices would not be nearly as effective as compulsory insurance in dealing with the issue.

The advantage of compulsory insurance is that it is not only available for parties who have suffered injury, death or other losses. It also acts as a check on the practices of the operators of the industry or service. If their practices are not conducted in a proper and safe fashion the insurance industry acts as an enforcement mechanism. It is therefore far preferable to have insurance than to rely simply on putting up notices.

If the government is absolute in its position that it will not make insurance compulsory then notices may still have some effect. If notices had been posted that the Lake Huron ferry had no insurance then the school that organized the day trip, being concerned for the safety of its charges, may not have used it.

There is not much more I can say. The comments of my Alliance colleague summarize the issue. I simply add these points and ask the government to rethink its position and move to compulsory insurance. If not, it should consider the fallback position of making it compulsory to post notices.

 

. 1050 + -

[Translation]

Mr. Marcel Gagnon (Champlain, BQ): Mr. Speaker, it is difficult to be against a bill making shipowners liable.

The amendments to the act strike me as logical. Making shipowners liable and giving passengers and owners of luggage an opportunity to recover their belongings and sue a shipowner after an incident is, in my opinion, extremely worthwhile.

However, it is not a question of making shipowners liable but of being able to give them the tools to assume that liability.

In clause 39, when it says that the government may require insurance, the way we see this is that by giving them responsibilities, the government must require shipowners to be responsible financially by having liability insurance.

I remember, in the days before car insurance was required in Quebec, if we draw a comparison, people were sued following an accident because they were responsible for the accident, but not financially responsible. I can remember defending families, for example, who had lost everything as the result of an accident, because the person who was responsible was unable to assume his responsibilities.

The Automobile Insurance Act was passed, forcing owners of cars, trucks and any other road vehicles to carry the necessary insurance.

In this regard, when the government says it will see that shipowners get insurance once the bill is passed, that is too late. We have to fix this situation now, while we have the opportunity to do so, and we strongly support the motion that vessel operators be required to get liability insurance immediately.

Some Department of Transport officials have said that the industry was not ready right now to take on such a risk. However members of the insurance industry assure us of the contrary. They say they are perfectly prepared to take such risks.

As for liability with respect to pollution, this is a topic of particular interest to me. It is true that we must do everything possible to force shipowners to respect the waters they navigate on, among others the St. Lawrence. There are regular spills, perhaps not major ones, but there is a certain laxness as far as the environment is concerned.

I applaud this bill, which will require shipowners to be more responsible for the waters of the St. Lawrence, as well as to enable those who have sustained damages, whether fishers, farmers, marine algae producers or anyone sustaining damages as the result of an oil spill for instance, to sue shipowners in order to be compensated for the losses incurred. Plant workers are also entitled to do the same.

 

. 1055 + -

I would caution the government against a temptation that seems to have existed for a number of years. The St. Lawrence pilots and the specialized pilots, all associations of pilots with the responsibility of taking control of a ship and guiding it through the St. Lawrence to the Lakehead, tell us that attempts are being made, or at the very least pressures, to exclude them from this work some day.

I must say that we owe the condition in which the St. Lawrence is today, claims of its pollution notwithstanding, to the quality of the St. Lawrence pilots. Without the skill and calibre of these pilots, even their interest, and because of the fact that St. Lawrence River pilots know the river like the back of their hand—they know it so well they avoid the reefs, as is true as well in the Great Lakes—there would be major incidents.

I warn the government to avoid the temptation to take away pilots' responsibility for guiding ships to the Great Lakes. The pilots are afraid for their status as St. Lawrence pilots, and I hope this fear is unjustified. For 30 years, they have felt there has been a temptation to take this responsibility away from them.

I am saying that, on the contrary, they must be assured that responsibility for safe navigation on the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes is theirs. Given their calibre and skill, I think they require assurance that they will continue to do this work.

In short, we agree with most of the conclusions of this report and everything relating to the protection of the environment and the individual. Once again, I ask the government to act on its intention and ensure there is an obligation for shipowners to carry insurance in keeping with their responsibilities.

I will add one other small point, which I do not find here, and that is that it seems to me there should be a requirement to inspect vessels moving from the sea into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This would avoid damage caused by aging vessels, which could pollute the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes, in the event of an incident.



STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[English]

CANADIAN INSTITUTES OF HEALTH RESEARCH

Mr. Peter Adams (Peterborough, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, one year ago the CIHR, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, officially opened for business. The result has been a banner year for health research.

Under the guidance of renowned geneticist Alan Bernstein, the 13 virtual institutes were named last July. These bring together spectra of research including basic biomedical, clinical science, health systems and services, and population health.

Scientists who work in hospitals, universities and research centres from coast to coast to coast are now linked through this network of institutes. In December directors were appointed to guide the institutes. This year 218 volunteers were selected from across Canada to serve on its advisory boards, creating a two way flow of information between researchers and communities.

Results of the CIHR's first funding competition were announced in April, ensuring that our best and brightest scientists are performing the best health research in Canada. The virtual dream has become a reality.

I am proud to be a member of a government that had the foresight to create an organization like CIHR and which committed in the Speech from the Throne to providing it with major increases in funding. By investing in research today all Canadians will benefit tomorrow.

*  *  *

 

. 1100 + -

PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

Mr. James Moore (Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, backbench government and opposition MPs have few legislative tools at our disposal to raise issues of private or local concern here on the national stage.

One legislative mechanism we do have is the ability to draft private members' bills and motions to be drawn by a lottery and brought to the House.

By pure luck, my first ever private member's bill, to take the GST off the repairs of leaky condos in British Columbia, was drawn.

Unfortunately my one legislative avenue to have this issue of dominant importance in my constituency brought to the House for a vote will not happen. Like dozens of other private members' bills and motions, it will see the light of day in this House for 60 short minutes and die on the order paper.

All private members' bills and motions should be deemed automatically votable unless and only if the bill's sponsor deems it otherwise. There are no credible arguments for this to not be the case.

Each and every one of our constituents, the 30 million Canadians who we collectively represent, deserves an open and democratic system that respects their concerns first and treats those concerns with respect. Anything short of this is a defamation of this place and of the nature of true democracy that all Canadians deserve.

*  *  *

BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC

Mrs. Judi Longfield (Whitby—Ajax, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this Sunday Canadians will remember and salute those who lost their lives in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Ceremonies will take place across the country, including at the National War Memorial, where more than 500 veterans and members of the Canadian forces will be in attendance.

The Battle of the Atlantic took place from September 1939 to the end of the second world war in 1945. It pitted the naval forces of the allies, including the Royal Canadian Navy, against the notorious German U-boats. The battle swung the tide of the war in favour of the allies.

Today we remember all those who lost their lives and we salute the veterans. We also pay tribute to all those men and women who are currently serving in our Canadian armed forces.

*  *  *

[Translation]

COMPOSTING WEEK

Hon. Charles Caccia (Davenport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this week was composting week. The activities that took place definitely helped Canadians develop an awareness of the benefits of composting for our environment.

Composting is an excellent way to recycle. We can compost about 50% of the waste that we produce. It is a good way to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill sites. Composting is also an excellent fertilizer that helps improve soil texture and fertility.

Composting is being used increasingly by Canadians. I invite them to continue to do so, because it is one of many ways to protect our environment.

*  *  *

[English]

ATLANTIC JOURNALISM AWARDS

Mr. Shawn Murphy (Hillsborough, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour the hard work and dedication of five journalists from CBC in Charlottetown.

Last week they each received Atlantic Journalism Awards for their outstanding achievements in their profession.

Roger Younker was the unanimous choice of the judges for a special journalistic achievement award honouring Roger's many years as host of our evening television news program CBC Compass, a show that is rarely missed by any Islander.

Sally Pitt, a CBC television reporter, received a gold award for her report concerning a local couple's struggle with Alzheimer's.

Sheila Taylor, a CBC radio reporter, along with her producer, Donna Allen, also won a gold award for their story involving a dispute among 54 P.E.I. shell fishers and Revenue Canada.

John Jeffery, one of Atlantic Canada's better known television reporters, received a silver award for his coverage of our Prime Minister's tour while in Prince Edward Island last summer.

On behalf of all residents of Prince Edward Island, I am proud to pay tribute to those five journalists. Thanks to their commitment and dedication, the history and culture of our province continues to be recorded.

*  *  *

CANADIAN AIRLINES EMPLOYEES

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, while Air Canada celebrates the takeover of yet another competitor, Roots Air, the former employees of Canadian Airlines are still waiting for Air Canada to live up to its promise of fair and equitable treatment.

Several weeks ago the pilots of Canadian Airlines learned that as a result of the Mitchnick award their seniority would be determined by a ratio formula that heavily favoured Air Canada pilots. In some cases 20 years of experience and seniority was lost.

For these professionals seniority is not about money. It affects every aspect of their lives, from the type of aircraft and which routes they fly, their position on the aircraft and subsequent promotions, to pensions, vacation and even the location of their home base.

 

. 1105 + -

The Minister of Transport promised Canadian Airlines employees that they would be treated fairly and it is time he lived up to that commitment.

I would call on the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Labour to intervene and ensure that the award is amended to reflect the years of experience and dedication of Canadian airline pilots.

This is a merger without precedent. If this decision is allowed to stand, it will only lead to continued disharmony.

*  *  *

[Translation]

YOUTH OUTLOOKS

Mr. Marcel Proulx (Hull—Aylmer, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada just launched another career planning tool for youth called Youth Outlooks and designed to meet the needs of young people aged 15 to 24.

This tool is a kit that contains information products on the labour market, qualifications, standards, employment and wages. Young people will be able to use this information to make better educational and career choices.

The future of our young people is a priority of the Government of Canada. Since it took office, the government has taken a number of measures to help young people gain the skills and experience they need to enter the labour market.

I invite young people to use this tool, in addition to all the other ones put at their disposal under the youth employment strategy.

*  *  *

CHEESE IMPORTS

Mr. Marcel Gagnon (Champlain, BQ): Mr. Speaker, in response to our questions concerning the federal government's issue of special permits to import cheese sticks and the risk this represents to our industry, the Minister for International Trade has made light of the situation and said any old thing.

Contrary to what the minister has said, there is no shortage of the product manufactured here. We have a surplus. Contrary to what he has said, we do not have to issue these permits in connection with our international obligations, because we are well beyond them.

One thing is true, however, because of his incompetence, the Minister for International Trade is causing one of Quebec's largest industries to lose revenues, something it could avoid if the minister were to stop being smug and believing that he alone knows the truth of the matter.

*  *  *

[English]

MENTAL HEALTH WEEK

Mr. Yvon Charbonneau (Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to inform the House and all Canadians that the week of May 7 to 13 marks the 50th anniversary of Mental Health Week in Canada.

[Translation]

In the past 50 years, the focus has been on informing the public on the issues of mental health and mental illness.

A survey in 1997, conducted for the Canadian Mental Health Association, revealed that 82% of Canadians consider it very important to maintain their mental health.

[English]

Today mental health is described by many as a top priority and it has been recognized as such by the government in the Speech from the Throne.

[Translation]

Please join with me in wishing all those working in the field of mental health a successful week.

*  *  *

[English]

JUSTICE

Mr. Chuck Cadman (Surrey North, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, we have been woefully deprived of initiative from the Minister of Justice.

As the country's chief attorney general and legal counsel, it is her duty to ensure that the government's actions are above board and compliant with laws and policies. She was noticeably quiet on the Shawinigan affair.

She has failed to bring forth effective youth criminal justice legislation. She has merely off-loaded the problem on to the provinces. It is complicated and riddled with loopholes.

The minister will be responsible for at least doubling law faculties with the increased demand for lawyers to handle all the legal arguments she will cause in our courts. All Canadians will get is new legislation together with a whole host of new problems and difficulties.

The minister was virtually invisible when we discussed the need for a national sex offender registry. It is her department that would devise the scheme, but she has hidden behind the solicitor general, who continues to stick his head in the sand and maintain that CPIC will do the job. How ridiculous.

Then there is the child custody issue. In spite of an extensive subcommittee review and report, she seems afraid to do anything. She wants to study it more.

Perhaps it is time for the minister to move on.

*  *  *

OSLO ACCORDS

Mr. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are approaching the seventh anniversary of the Oslo accords, the historic Israeli-Palestinian agreement that heralded the hope of an end to war, and the beginning of a process that would culminate in an enduring peace.

Seven to eight years later, many Palestinians and Israelis see the Oslo accords as a failure or worse and pronounce them dead and buried. Accordingly, it is important that we reaffirm the basic principles, pillars of these accords, which are no less valid today and even more compelling than ever before.

 

. 1110 + -

These include: mutual respect for, and acknowledgement of, the legitimacy of the Jewish and Palestinian peoples' right to self-determination; renunciation of all acts of terrorism and violence; direct negotiations in good faith to resolve all outstanding issues between the parties; and, respect for human rights, the rule of law and the general principles of law recognized by the community of nations.

*  *  *

SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS

Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—St. Clair, NDP): Mr. Speaker, there are growing concerns among the peaceful demonstrators who attended the Quebec summit and among area residents about what exactly people were exposed to and what the long term effects will be.

We are now told by the security forces that 5,148 canisters were released that weekend. The use of these chemicals was not localized to the targets. In fact, the effects and residue were evident for several kilometres from the site of the spraying. Area residents and their children were all exposed to whatever the police were spraying. Many rumours and questions persist about what exactly was used.

We are calling now on the government to release to the public the exact chemical composition of all chemical agents used that weekend.

*  *  *

[Translation]

LUMBER

Mr. Jean-Yves Roy (Matapédia-Matane, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the termination of the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber agreement is likely to result in considerable job losses, particularly if the Americans follow through with their threats to, among other things, slap a countervailing duty on our exports ranging from 44% to 100%.

These measures could have a devastating effect on entire regions, such as the lower St. Lawrence and the Gaspé, which account for 22% of Quebec workers in this sector: 3,000 in mills and 2,000 in the woods.

This threat over Quebec industry is both real and unjust. The federal government has a responsibility to put a set of measures in place to alleviate the effects of the present and potential crisis, starting specifically with more flexible employment insurance and the implementation of special tax measures for the resource regions.

This is not just a matter of defending our position in this matter against the Americans; thought must also be given to helping the industry and its workers, who are greatly in need of such help.

*  *  *

[English]

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY WEEK

Mr. John Cannis (Scarborough Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I wish to bring to the attention of the hon. members of the House the fact that today marks the inauguration of Canada's first Information Technology Week, a national celebration of Canadian skills and achievements in information and communications technology.

The week is organized by Industry Canada in collaboration with the Information Technology Association of Canada. The week will run for 10 days, from May 4 to May 13.

Canadians from all over our country are invited to participate in the following: technology conferences; open houses; award ceremonies for local IT heroes; IT seminars for seniors; and IT workshops for young men and women and Canadians of all ages. Business and IT presentations will take place, including some in regard to careers in IT. Online quizzes and many more activities are planned.

This is just one way of saying that Canada is indeed at the forefront of information technology.

*  *  *

ATLANTIC CANADA

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, capping the equalization program and ignoring the concerns of Atlantic Canadian provincial ministers will result in two different Canadas, those parts of the country that can afford services and others that cannot.

As the Liberal government sits on a $17 billion surplus, their grinch-like attitude toward less prosperous provinces will result in the decline of health care, education and roadways in Atlantic Canada.

Nova Scotia premier John Hamm has continued his campaign for fairness to gain more control of the province's offshore oil and natural gas reserves and to move the province away from being an equalization recipient.

The Minister of Industry made election promises to change the equalization system, but just like Nova Scotia's equalization, the minister's promises have been clawed back.

The current equalization system can actually inhibit growth in the recipient provinces.

The PC Party calls upon the government to introduce a five year break on the reduction of equalization benefits, providing provinces with an opportunity to utilize these new sources of revenue to reduce dependency and create a more favourable business environment with higher levels of growth.

*  *  *

ATLANTIC TECHNOLOGY CENTRE

Mr. Lawrence O'Brien (Labrador, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this week is Canada's Information Technology Week. The purpose of Information Technology Week is the celebration of achievements in information and communications technology.

It is vital in today's economy to provide opportunities for the development of skills for a knowledge based economy and to provide the infrastructure to attract information technology investment.

I am pleased to announce that with partial funding from federal programs, construction will begin this spring on the Atlantic Technology Centre in Charlottetown.

 

. 1115 + -

This new centre will house office space, an information technology education and training academy, a business incubator, research labs, multimedia facilities, smart boardrooms and an exhibition area. It is an innovative new approach that will attract investment and encourage growth in the emerging information technology sector.

The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that Canada remains a leader in information technology.

*  *  *

AGRICULTURE

Mr. Rick Casson (Lethbridge, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the opportunity for the government to aggressively attack European Union and United States agricultural subsidy policies has never been better. The Bush administration will soon be bringing forward its new farm bill. The Americans have indicated a willingness to continue the present level of market distorting support.

The European Union is also facing a number of issues. The EU spends half its total annual budget, $50 billion, on farm support. It is under pressure from within to reduce this amount. The proposed enlargement of the EU will put additional pressures on its budgets. The WTO peace clause expires at the end of 2003 and critical elections in Europe will be over by then as well.

Worldwide a billion dollars is spent everyday on some form of agricultural support. It is imperative that the government act now to pressure the European Union and the United States to stop subsidies that continue to critically harm Canadian producers.



ORAL QUESTION PERIOD

[English]

THE ECONOMY

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the economic news from the U.S. is not all that great this month. I see record layoffs. I see employment has fallen. In fact growth expectations are down.

Canada could well be right behind. In the upcoming economic statement will we find new, and I stress the word new, tax cuts and cuts to job killing red tape?

Mr. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government and the Minister of Finance have always said that we will do the right thing at the right time. We cut taxes by $100 billion last fall. That is working its way through the economy. The minister is monitoring the situation. Of course we are concerned.

We are getting mixed messages, but I should point out that both the OECD and the IMF expect Canada's economy to grow 2.3% this year compared with 4.7% last year. At the same time the OECD and the IMF know that the finance minister's tax cut strategy has been well timed to provide further strength to the economy.

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary missed that right at the end of those comments he said that these guys were likely to spend too much and that could make a mess of the whole situation.

This is what my constituents are saying to me. They are saying that they are losing jobs. They are saying they are having trouble looking to their financial future. Will we see new tax cuts in the upcoming economic statement?

Mr. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I said before, the tax cuts are the largest in Canadian history. Combined with provincial tax cuts, it is approximating 2% of GDP and most economists agree that this is hugely stimulating.

The finance minister will be meeting with Canada's leading economists in the very near term. After that he will be presenting an economic and fiscal update to the finance committee.

Of course we are concerned about Canadians who might be losing jobs. I should point out that by combining provincial tax cuts with the tax cuts that are in place, personal disposable income will increase 5.6%.

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, earlier this week a leading expert in Canada on competitiveness, John Porter, said that Canada was sliding. That is a shame. I think it is because of the fiscal policies of the government, but one reason for that is job killing red tape.

It is easier to cross the border to work in the U.S. than it is to cross provincial boundaries and find a job. Will we see an end to job killing red tape in the upcoming economic statement?

Mr. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have read the report as well and the member opposite is very selective in his quotes. In fact what John Porter said was that Canada's positioning on macroeconomic policy had shown tremendous progress on the macroeconomic front.

What he did say was that at the microeconomic level, which includes local governments, provincial governments and businesses, we need to have smarter business strategies. We need to take advantage of the strong economic position in Canada.

We have low unemployment. We have low inflation. We have low interest rates. We have eliminated the deficit. We are paying down debts and we are cutting taxes.

 

. 1120 + -

Ms. Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, paying down the debt with budget leftovers is no plan at all. Taxpayers need more assurance than the whim of the finance minister that the debt will be repaid. After all, debt represents nothing more than future taxes on our children.

When will the government commit to following the lead of the provinces of Alberta and Ontario and putting in place a legislated repayment plan of the debt so that Canadians will have a guarantee in law that our debt will be repaid?

Mr. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, that is very characteristic of the party opposite. It wants its cake and to eat it too. It wants investments in Chalk River and it wants to pay down the debt.

The government is paying down the debt. In fact we have exceeded the targets that were set by the Alliance Party. We are paying down debts faster than any G-7 country, and we will continue to do so.

The member opposite did not listen to the finance minister last year when he said that every fall he would proactively decide whether we would pay down the debt. We will have paid down more than $30 billion by the end of this fiscal year.

Ms. Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the government could learn from the provinces. It was our leader, as the finance minister of Alberta, who changed the debt repayment legislation to raise the bar, to increase the debt repayment target.

For our children, why will the government not commit that the $10 billion it says will go to debt repayment will become a yearly minimum amount of debt reduction for the rest of its mandate?

Mr. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the standard accounting principle is that any surpluses left at the end of the year automatically go to pay down the debt, but last fall in an economic update the Minister of Finance said he would proactively decide what would be paid down on the debt. This year he announced a minimum of $10 billion against the debt.

As a result of the actions of the government we have reduced the amount of revenue dollars from 36 cents per revenue dollar down to about 25 cents per revenue dollar on servicing the debt, and we will go further, faster.

*  *  *

[Translation]

PARENTAL LEAVE

Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire (Longueuil, BQ): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Ministre de la Famille du Québec announced that the Quebec parental leave program might have to be deferred until January 2003, because of the federal government's refusal to transfer to it the sum of $500 million pursuant to section 69 of the Employment Insurance Act.

What explanation is the federal government going to give to the Quebec families forced by its stubbornness and confrontational policies to wait yet another year before being able to benefit from a parental leave program tailored to their needs?

[English]

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada has been providing maternity benefits to Canadians for more than 30 years and parental benefits for the last decade. The initiative builds on a very longstanding foundation. The extension of maternity and parental benefits has been provided to Canadians at no additional cost. In fact for the last seven years premiums have gone down under the government.

Currently there are employers and provincial governments that provide some top ups, and the province of Quebec is perfectly at liberty to do that, building upon the very sound foundation that the Canadian system provides.

[Translation]

Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire (Longueuil, BQ): Mr. Speaker, there is a broad consensus in Quebec on this matter. Even the Quebec national assembly has unanimously supported a motion demanding that the federal government transfer the necessary funds to create its own parental leave program.

When is the federal government finally going to respect Quebec consensus, which it seems to take an unhealthy delight in systematically ignoring?

[English]

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada has obligations to all Canadian workers. That is why we have established a very sound system that has served well over time. As I indicated earlier, in the case of maternity benefits they have been there for 30 years. In the case of parental benefits they have been there for 10 years. It provides a very sound system, at no additional cost.

Where provinces or employers wish to build upon that, they are certainly at liberty to do so, based upon that very solid foundation put in place by the national government for all Canadians.

 

. 1125 + -

[Translation]

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ): Mr. Speaker, it is unbelievable that the Minister of Natural Resources should be answering questions dealing with family issues, while the President of the Treasury Board, who is from Quebec and who should understand these issues, remains silent.

The federal government does not understand that the Quebec parental leave plan fits the Quebec reality.

I am asking the government, and more specifically the President of the Treasury Board, if the federal government will finally recognize, as the Quebec government did, that a parental leave program must be part of a family policy rather than part of an employment insurance program, and must certainly not be connected to the Department of Natural Resources.

[English]

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman shows a surprising lack of knowledge about the parliamentary system. Today I have the privilege of answering questions in the House on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of Human Resources Development, and I am proud to do so.

I am proud to explain to him once again that the Government of Canada through the employment insurance system makes enormous provision for dealing with the needs of families raising children. Maternity benefits and parental benefits are part of that.

In the last year we have taken a major step to extend those benefits to the advantage of all Canadians everywhere, in every corner of the country, and where provinces and private sector employers wish to—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

[Translation]

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ): Mr. Speaker, it is simply unbelievable that the Minister of Natural Resources should be answering these questions.

Is the federal government saying that the family is not important, that it is not important to have children? Is it also saying that Quebec will have to wait until it is sovereign before it can have a family policy? It will happen and we will help make it happen.

[English]

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government has demonstrated by its actions an enormous commitment to all Canadian families.

I think, for example, of the child tax benefit which was initiated by the government. In every budget since it was introduced it has been increased by the government to the advantage of Canadian children. It will accumulate to something in the order of $9 billion worth of benefits to Canadian children over the course of the next number of years.

On top of that were the maternity benefit extension, the parental benefit extension, and the early childhood development provided for in the last budget was at $2.1 billion. This government—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Halifax.

*  *  *

THE ENVIRONMENT

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Mr. Speaker, yesterday Canada lost the Metalclad decision in the British Columbia supreme court. So did Mexico but, more important, so did the environment.

A U.S. corporation circumvented environmental legislation so that it could foist a toxic waste dump on an unwilling community. Is the government now prepared to admit chapter 11 of NAFTA is not working well, is not a good clause as the Prime Minister insists but instead constitutes a hazard to our environment?

Mr. Pat O'Brien (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, once again the leader of the NDP misquotes the Prime Minister. What he said in his press conference following the summit was that the clause works reasonably well.

The minister had given the full context of our trade with the United States. The Minister of International Trade has said the same thing.

There have been attempts to misrepresent the statements of both gentlemen but they do not bear scrutiny. The government has been very clear. It wants to seek clarification of the clause but it is not prepared to see a reopening of that clause.

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the clarification of the clause came yesterday from the B.C. supreme court. It is a threat to our environment.

The government is so exclusively preoccupied with protecting the commercial interests of corporations it ignores the fact that yesterday's Metalclad decision increases the cost of protecting our environment, in this case by over $16 billion U.S. to ban a toxic waste dump.

How could the government maintain the myth that NAFTA chapter 11 is not a threat to our environment?

Mr. Pat O'Brien (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the leader of the NDP may be of the mind that nothing is being done but she is simply misinformed if that is the case.

There are ongoing meetings with officials. The minister is taking up the matter of chapter 11 with his counterpart ministers. I repeat, the minister and the Prime Minister have been very clear. The government feels that in certain cases chapter 11 has been expanded beyond the original intention of the signers. It seeks clarification and that there is the wherewithal within NAFTA to achieve that clarification.

*  *  *

 

. 1130 + -

FISHERIES

Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's West, PC): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Last year the minister issued a quota of 1,500 metric tonnes of Newfoundland northern shrimp to P.E.I.

Will the minister tell us whether he has or is about to issue the same amount, perhaps with an increase, and if that temporary measure as he said last year has now been made permanent?

Hon. Herb Dhaliwal (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have seen a tremendous amount of growth in the northern shrimp resource. We have gone from 37,000 tonnes some five or six years ago to 112,000 tonnes.

We need to make sure that conservation is a priority. I am still looking at the plan and no final decision has been made. I can assure the hon. member that conservation will be our number one priority to make sure we harvest the resource in a sustainable way for all Canadians.

Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's West, PC): Mr. Speaker, that is the same answer as last year. I would like to ask the minister about the recreational fishery.

Newfoundland over the last few years has been limited to a fishery on a couple of weekends. This year the member for Gander—Grand Falls told Newfoundlanders that the minister would allow a lengthy fishery where each individual would be able to buy 40 or 50 tags for the recreational fishery in the province.

Will the minister explain what type of recreational fishery he plans for the province of Newfoundland this year?

Hon. Herb Dhaliwal (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question because when I first became Minister of Fisheries and Oceans there were representations from the Newfoundland government. It did not want to have a recreational fishery only on a two weekend basis. It wanted the fishery ongoing throughout the season with proper tags, control and management.

This year we will be doing that on a pilot project basis, as the representation from the Newfoundland government. We will ensure there are proper tags and proper licensing so that we have better management and control of the recreational fishery. It will be done on a pilot project basis. It was done as a result of the request by Newfoundland government. We will be watching closely how it works.

*  *  *

HEALTH

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, 15 year old Vanessa Young's tragic death could have been prevented if she had all the relevant information about her medication.

The health minister wants to simply warn people through his website. That is feeble. How could the health minister offer such a feeble solution to such a life and death problem?

[Translation]

Mr. Yvon Charbonneau (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health has answered these questions over the past several days.

He said that he wanted to implement all the recommendations of the coroner's jury regarding this tragic case. Some of these recommendations will seek to improve the public information system on drugs.

[English]

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the problem is the answers we are getting are simply not good enough. This is a life and death problem and we need to prevent these problems from occurring in the future. There are solutions available.

Sana Sukkari is a pharmacist at Brant Memorial Hospital. She has put forth a very important solution. Her research shows that Health Canada could prevent deaths such as Vanessa's by standardizing drug information leaflets so patients get the vital information they require.

My question is simple. When will the health minister implement this common sense, life saving solution?

[Translation]

Mr. Yvon Charbonneau (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Health indicated, he is open to examining all the suggestions made, particularly those that seek to improve the system. He will certainly take heed of the hon. member's suggestion.

*  *  *

EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

Ms. Monique Guay (Laurentides, BQ): Mr. Speaker, rather than improving matters, the federal government is stubbornly refusing to transfer funds to Quebec, preferring to go after young people, which is no help at all to parents wishing to have children.

Again today, it is attacking women by appealing a Winnipeg umpire's ruling that the EI plan was unfair and discriminatory toward women.

When is the government going to change its attitude and give up this policy of systematic confrontation?

[English]

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in this case the Canada Employment Insurance Commission made a unanimous decision to pursue a judicial review of the umpire's ruling. The scope of the umpire's ruling went beyond the particular case under consideration. Therefore the commission felt that it was important to seek that verification from the courts with respect to that ruling.

 

. 1135 + -

However the hon. member should note that we have taken a number of steps in the House to ensure that the employment insurance program is more responsive to the needs of Canadians. I think of Bill C-2 which the Bloc voted against.

[Translation]

Ms. Monique Guay (Laurentides, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the President of the Treasury Board, who comes from Quebec.

Are attacking unemployed workers, women and young people, ignoring self-employed workers and making life hard for young Quebec families, the values that the Prime Minister of Canada was talking about yesterday in Montreal? Was that what he really meant to say?

[English]

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, again I point out that the hon. member is referring to a specific case that was subject to a ruling by the Canada Employment Insurance Commission. It was the commission that made the unanimous decision to pursue a judicial review of the umpire's ruling because it appeared to go beyond the specifics of that particular case. It is important to seek clarification on that point.

I remind the House that the government has moved to improve the employment insurance system to make it more sensitive to the very concerns the hon. member has referred to, some of the concerns that were reflected in the particular—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Yorkton—Melville.

*  *  *

CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board has no idea what is happening in western Canada. Nor does he know what is happening in his own portfolio.

Yesterday in question period he invited organic growers to apply for the freedom to market their own grain. They have repeatedly done this, only to be ignored by the minister. When will the minister introduce legislation that gives Canadian organic growers the right to process and market their own grain?

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I ask the hon. gentleman what part of the word democracy he does not understand.

The Canadian Wheat Board is governed by a board of directors that is two-thirds controlled by farmers who are elected by farmers. The debate we had in the House two years ago was to democratize the Canadian Wheat Board, to get rid of the old commissioner system, and to put decision making and accountability in the hands of farmers. It is up to the board of directors to make those decisions. I encourage it to be pro-active in doing so.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, 52% of voters in the election wanted freedom to market. Surely the minister knows that the Canadian Wheat Board cannot change the legislation. It can only apply the law as it is written, and the law prevents organic growers from developing the niche markets that will allow them to flourish.

Clearly the Canadian Wheat Board does not represent organic producers in western Canada. Nor is it marketing their product. Why is blindly protecting the power of the Canadian Wheat Board more important than the economic health of organic growers?

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, just to refresh the hon. gentleman's memory about the course of that legislation which went through the House of Commons a couple of years ago, in the original draft of that legislation proposed by the government we laid out a proposed procedure for changing the mandate of the Canadian Wheat Board one direction or the other. It was the opposition that insisted that be removed from the legislation.

*  *  *

[Translation]

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Ms. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ): Mr. Speaker, although the Minister of Foreign Affairs acknowledges the presence of Talisman in Sudan will fuel a civil war, which looks more like genocide, he said yesterday there must be proof that Talisman's airport in the Sudan is being used for offensive purposes before he considers taking action.

Sudan's military budget has more than doubled since the arrival of petrodollars. Talisman's airstrip is being used as a base for the Sudanese army and most of its helicopters are around the oil wells.

What will it take for the minister to act?

Hon. John Manley (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have acted. I do not know exactly what the hon. member wants to do other than to try to get Talisman to leave Canada.

Perhaps that is a solution, but I do not understand why the member thinks it would serve the interests of the people of Sudan.

Yesterday, in committee, we debated the matter, and I think she understands very well why we are very concerned about the situation in Sudan. This is why CIDA is involved as well in helping the Sudanese in southern Sudan.

 

. 1140 + -

Ms. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ): Mr. Speaker, a year ago, in the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, minister Axworthy said he was considering amending the Special Economic Measures Act. Nearly two months ago, the Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa vigorously called for it. Time is passing, and thousands of people will be killed.

Why is the minister not proposing amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act and giving his government the power to prevent a Canadian company from becoming the financial arm of the war in Sudan and elsewhere?

Hon. John Manley (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I continue to believe that the best way for Canada to implement such measures is in a multilateral rather than a unilateral context. There is disagreement.

Mr. Yvan Loubier: In the meantime, people are dying because of Talisman and such action.

Hon. John Manley: Mr. Speaker, I also think it important to understand that the situation in Sudan is very grave; it is a civil war.

Mr. Yvan Loubier: Fuelled by Talisman.

The Speaker: I think time has run out. The member for Yellowhead.

*  *  *

[English]

HIGHWAYS

Mr. Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, 25,000 kilometres of highways criss-cross Canada and are in a sad state of repair.

Canada is the only G-7 country without a long term national investment strategy for highways. Just last week the transportation minister told the Yellowhead Highways Association that he knew there was a problem but there was nothing he could do about it.

If the minister's voice is so weak at the cabinet table, will he step aside and let the heritage minister take his place because she seems to get everything she wants?

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I could say a thing or two about that last remark, but I think I had better stick to the facts.

When I was in Edmonton last week I said unequivocally that we know there needs to be investment in Canada's highways. That is why the Minister of Finance allocated $600 million in the budget last year.

We all know we need more money but we also know there are other priorities facing the treasury. Hon. members opposite and the provinces want money spent on health care and many other worthy things, so obviously it is a question of priorities. I am hopeful we will get more money soon.

Mr. Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I am hoping so too. If the minister is truly concerned about strengthening our country, we need to commit to an east-west transportation system.

I travel the Yellowhead Highway each week, one of the nation's primary transportation links, and I have seen what the years of neglect by the federal government have done to that highway.

The minister knows it will take $17 billion to fix the years of neglect. Those numbers will only get larger. Will the minister get serious about fixing the national highway system for the sake of all Canadians?

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member does not admit the fact that highways are a provincial responsibility. If he has a question about the quality of the surface of those highways in his province, he should go to the provincial ministers and asking them why they are not doing their job.

The federal government obviously wishes to assist with highways. We have done it for 80 years. We are doing it now, and we will put more money in as well in the future.

*  *  *

THE ENVIRONMENT

Mr. Tony Tirabassi (Niagara Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment.

Many cities in Canada have been surprised by early smog days. Could the parliamentary secretary tell the House what the government is doing to ensure Canadians will be breathing clean air in the future?

Mrs. Karen Redman (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, clean air is a priority for the Minister of the Environment and the government. As a matter of fact, our clean air agenda consists of an integrated strategy of actions in the area of vehicles and fuels, industrial emissions, the reduction of transporter air pollution and engaging Canadians in these solutions.

On February 19 the minister announced a $120 million strategy of new funding over four years. It will take strong action on vehicles and fuels and will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides in new vehicles by 90%. We are acting on behalf of Canadians.

 

. 1145 + -

Hon. Lorne Nystrom (Regina—Qu'Appelle, NDP): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the acting Prime Minister. We all know there has been another tragedy with contaminated water, this time in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. In 1997 the government introduced a bill on national water standards, Bill C-14, which died at committee stage at that time.

Why has the government not introduced an updated version of that bill so that the country can have a comprehensive water program as well as a program where we can put more money into national infrastructure specifically targeted for water treatment?

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we obviously share the grief for those people affected in North Battleford. This is becoming an occurrence that is all too common in Canada. It happened a year or so ago in Walkerton, Ontario.

The government believes that the improvement of our drinking water supply and sewage treatment is of utmost priority. That is why we have allocated $2 billion for infrastructure. In many of the provinces much of that money is being used for water purification. Hopefully we can use this kind of approach, working with the provinces, to have a long term solution to the problem.

*  *  *

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Mr. Svend Robinson (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs and it concerns Sudan and Talisman Energy.

Earlier this week the minister said that he had no evidence that the Sudanese government was using Talisman's air fields for offensive purposes in south Sudan. He relied on a document from his own assistant in Sudan, Nick Coghlan, and whited out substantial portions. That document states:

    For the past month there have been two Hind gunships stationed at Unity Field, and interlocutors told me they had been flying sorties almost every day, taking on large amounts of ammunition, “and unloading none...”.

Why did the minister's staff white out that section? Why did the minister's staff say that was to protect Canadians when in fact it was a deliberate cover up of the operations of Talisman in allowing the Sudanese government to use its air fields for offensive purposes in Sudan? Why the cover up?

Hon. John Manley (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows there is a procedure for determining whether matters are properly withheld under access to information.

A proper reading of the document will disclose that the presence of Canadians at various sites in Sudan would have been disclosed. I think those who were conducting the response to the access to information request took the view that disclosing their whereabouts would put them at risk and that is why they withheld that information.

*  *  *

AGRICULTURE

Mr. Rick Borotsik (Brandon—Souris, PC): Mr. Speaker, just recently I obtained a ministerial briefing note that went from the deputy minister to the minister of agriculture. Effectively what it said was that agriculture was just rosy and we should not worry. I quote reads “Despite perceptions, indicators suggest the average producer is in reasonably good shape”.

I ask the minister of agriculture, is this the information he takes to the cabinet table? Is this why he fails miserably when he tries to find funding for agriculture? Will he stop listening to his bureaucrats?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we had this discussion at the standing committee the other day and I outlined very clearly to the hon. member and others that there are sectors of our agriculture industry that are financially in better situations than others. There are some sectors, such as the grains and oilseed sectors that have been greatly affected by a number of issues and situations in the world which is why we target the support that we do. Obviously the hon. member did not listen to the answer then and I hope he does today.

*  *  *

NATIONAL DEFENCE

Mr. Greg Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest, PC): Mr. Speaker, DND has $70 million of inventory sitting in a Florida warehouse owned by a convicted felon currently awaiting sentencing, including heavy fines, incarceration and possible seizure of assets. What specific measures has the minister taken to protect Canadian property now in the hands of an international drug dealer?

Mr. Paul Szabo (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada has a competitive contract arrangement with Lancaster Aviation. This is not the company to which the member referred. Lancaster has been paid a fair commission to market and sell these assets. Lancaster Aviation is solely responsible for the marketing and sale of these assets. Those assets are only being warehoused in Florida because that is exactly where the market is.

*  *  *

 

. 1150 + -

IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE BOARD

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, thousands of Liberals are appointed every year by the great patronage machine of the Liberal government. Over half of the Immigration and Refugee Board is made up of Liberals. Now we find that two Liberal appointees have been convicted of theft and found guilty of professional misconduct.

Why did the government appoint Liberals with records of misconduct instead of appointing the best people for the job?

Hon. Elinor Caplan (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the first criteria for appointment to the Immigration and Refugee Board is qualifications and competence.

The member is attacking a board which has an international reputation second to none. He should know that within that process, in 1995, a ministerial advisory committee was established. Individuals apply and only 30% of those who apply are recommended. Those who are recommended have written a test, have had their references checked and are qualified to serve.

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, there is something wrong. We are talking about two Liberal appointees who have been convicted of theft and found guilty of professional misconduct. We are not even surprised to find that one of these appointees comes from the Prime Minister's riding.

Will the minister remove these two Liberals from their jobs on the board?

Hon. Elinor Caplan (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if anyone has a concern about competence of a member, the appropriate route to take is to discuss that with the chair of the IRB who has the tools. Under Bill C-11 the provisions are there for him to make recommendations if he has concerns about the competence of a member.

However, I will say that anyone is welcome to apply, whether they are Liberals or members of the other parties. In fact, given the fact that so many people supported the Liberal Party it would not be unusual to see people with Liberal connections appointed. That is appropriate.

I do not know whether the hon. member would qualify but he is certainly welcome to apply.

*  *  *

[Translation]

CONTAMINATED SITES

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois has obtained National Defence documents indicating that the Jacques Cartier River is contaminated by exploded and unexploded munitions and shells.

The federal government is directly responsible for this contamination, which is likely to have harmful effects on the people of the region, particularly because this is a recreational area.

Could the minister tell us what concrete measures he has planned for decontaminating this site as promptly as possible?

[English]

Hon. Art Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, between 1995 and 2000 the segment of the Jacques Cartier River that is located within the limits of CFB Valcartier was completely decontaminated through a program involving several phases. There is no longer a threat that ordnance will migrate outside the perimeter of the base.

Last summer the portion of the river located in Shannon was successfully decontaminated. The department will continue to take these matters seriously and ensure that we clean up these situations.

[Translation]

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): Mr. Speaker, let us understand each other properly here. According to his own department's documents, steps must be taken on an urgent basis in light of the immediate risk to human health and to the environment.

My question is the following: What does the minister intend to do? When? What is he going to do, concretely, to ensure the complete decontamination of this site?

[English]

Hon. Art Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I have said, we have taken action in this regard. We have done so in consultation with both Environment Canada and environment Quebec. We have been communicating with the local municipalities.

We will continue to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that decontamination programs are carried out and that we keep the area safe.

*  *  *

NATIONAL DEFENCE

Mr. Peter Goldring (Edmonton Centre-East, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, 40 years ago Cuba aimed its missiles at North America. Canada and the United States together went on full military alert to deal with the crisis.

Forty years later, the United States has the technology to defend against the missile threat of rogue nations and wants to build a North American protective shield against these threats.

Will parliament be fully involved in the decision making process?

Hon. Art Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, yes.

 

. 1155 + -

Mr. Peter Goldring (Edmonton Centre-East, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, yesterday, before the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, General Baril said that Canada's participation in missile defence would be a political, not a military decision.

Yesterday the Liberal member for Oshawa's statement indicated that a political decision had already been made, quote, “we're not going to support it”.

Why was parliament not consulted before this decision was made?

Hon. Art Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I guess one member of parliament has made up his mind about the issue. However, the government has indicated many times that we are in a consultation process now with the United States, as it is with other allies, with Russia and with China. It has not designed the parameters of its program. It has not made a decision on that specific program. We are in the consultation phase and we will continue in that phase.

*  *  *

ATLANTIC TRADE MISSION

Mr. Dominic LeBlanc (Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, along with the Prime Minister and the four Atlantic premiers, will be leading a delegation of Atlantic Canadian companies on the first ever Team Canada Atlantic trade mission to Atlanta.

Could the minister for ACOA tell us what precisely this trade mission will contribute to economic development in Atlantic Canada?

Hon. Robert Thibault (Minister of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it will be a great pleasure for me to lead a delegation of 40 companies to the fastest growing segment of the American market. We will get a strong foothold in the southern United States. We have had great success in the northeastern United States. Our last three missions contributed $7 million in direct sales and $70 million in anticipated sales over the next three years.

I look forward to our participation with the collaboration of the four Atlantic provinces and all private industry to a successful mission.

*  *  *

MULTICULTURALISM

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the junior minister of multiculturalism shamelessly slandered the people of Prince George in her now infamous accusation of cross burnings. To add insult to injury, she claimed to have a letter from the mayor, but she has been unable to produce the letter because it does not exist.

In most previous parliaments such blatant behaviour would have resulted in the immediate firing of the guilty minister. Will the Prime Minister fire her immediately or is he planning to wait until summer?

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. secretary of state admitted to a mistake. She made an apology and that apology was accepted by members of the House.

I would ask the hon. member to show some parliamentary decency and accept the secretary of state's apology.

We all make mistakes. Even the leader of the member's party has made mistakes. We have accepted the apology of the hon. secretary of state. I hope members of his party will accept the apology of his own leader.

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, all she did was express regret for being caught. She said there were cross burnings, but there were not. She said she had a letter, but there was no letter. Access to information requests now give positive proof that the mayor of Prince George was accurate when he denied its existence.

For a minister in her position to make up such a damning and false accusation is in and of itself sufficient grounds for dismissal. However, to deny and cover up exposes an inherent character flaw and total unsuitability for this position.

Will the Prime Minister show that he has some small semblance of ethics left and just get rid of her?

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I believe I have answered the question. If the hon. member is so persistent and wants to talk about character flaws, and his colleague says that we should show some leadership, I would ask the members opposite to look at the character flaws of their own leader who has not had the decency to make an apology to a Quebec judge.

*  *  *

[Translation]

SENIORS

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ): Mr. Speaker, our seniors, many of them with low incomes, are seeing their purchasing power continually dwindle away.

Seniors' average income has not kept step with the cost of living increases. They are even 10% poorer. What is more, older women living alone experience an ever greater shortfall, and their average income has also dropped since 1997.

My question is for the President of the Treasury Board, unless the presence of the Minister of Transport has rendered her speechless.

Is she aware that our seniors, after a lifetime of work, deserve better than the treatment they are getting from the government? When does she intend to raise the budget for the old age security program—

The Speaker: The Minister of Natural Resources.

 

. 1200 + -

[English]

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Human Resources Development, obviously the situation of elderly people is a matter of importance to all Canadians.

We have over the years in Canada developed a system including the OAS and the GIS which provides for senior citizens. It is one of the most comprehensive and generous in the world. We are always looking for ways to improve upon it. The commitment to the elderly in Canada will continue to be a characteristic of the government.

*  *  *

[Translation]

HOUSING

Ms. Carole-Marie Allard (Laval East, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, recently, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation helped Russia develop a new building code that is based on Canada's national housing code.

This was done in partnership with CIDA, the Departments of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the NRC and Underwriters Laboratories of Canada.

Could the minister tell us how this initiative may help Canada?

[English]

Mr. Paul Szabo (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to advise the House that a new Russian building code will open the doors to goods in the vast Russian market, thanks in large part to the respected expertise of CMHC.

Canada's housing exporters could reach a housing market of up to 400,000 units, and a potential of 700,000 housing units if the code is adopted by other former Soviet Union countries. This is very good news for Canada's housing related industries. Let me assure hon. members that CMHC will continue to promote Canada's housing expertise around the world.

*  *  *

[Translation]

POINTS OF ORDER

TABLING OF DOCUMENTS

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ): Madam Speaker, about ten days ago, I asked the Prime Minister a question in which I alluded to a lease signed by the Auberge Grand-Mère and the Grand-Mère golf club. The Prime Minister replied by making unrelated comments and denied the existence of such a lease.

Consequently, I am asking for the unanimous consent of the House to table a lease signed by the Auberge Grand-Mère and the Grand-Mère golf course.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): Is there unanimous consent of the House?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: No.



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[English]

SAHTU DENE AND METIS LAND CLAIMS AGREEMENT REPORT

Hon. Robert Nault (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Lib.): Madam Speaker, under provisions of Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the 1999-2000 annual report of the implementation committee on the Sahtu Dene and Metis comprehensive land claims agreement.

*  *  *

 

. 1205 + -

GWICH'IN LAND CLAIMS AGREEMENT REPORT

Hon. Robert Nault (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Lib.): Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the 1998-99 annual report of the implementation committee on the Gwich'in comprehensive land claims agreement.

*  *  *

YUKON LAND CLAIMS AGREEMENT REPORT

Hon. Robert Nault (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Lib.): Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the 1998-99 annual report of the implementation of the Yukon land claims agreement.

As you can tell, Madam Speaker, we are cleaning house. It is necessary to table these reports and I apologize that they are a little late.

*  *  *

INUVIALUIT FINAL AGREEMENT REPORT

Hon. Robert Nault (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Lib.): Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the 1998-99 annual report of the implementation of the Inuvialuit final agreement.

*  *  *

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO PETITIONS

Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to five petitions.

*  *  *

[Translation]

COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE

ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS, NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES

Mr. John Godfrey (Don Valley West, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources on the Main Estimates, 2001-02.

[English]

FINANCE

Mr. Maurizio Bevilacqua (Vaughan—King—Aurora, Lib.): Madam Speaker, during the last parliament the Standing Committee on Finance tabled a report entitled “Challenge for Change. A Study of Cost Recovery”.

Parliament was dissolved before the government was able to provide a comprehensive response to that committee pursuant to Standing Order 109. For that reason I have the honour to present the fourth report which restates the committee's request.

I also have the honour to present the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Finance regarding its order of reference of Monday, April 23, in relation to Bill C-17, an act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997, and the Financial Administration Act.

The committee has considered Bill C-17 and reports the bill without amendment.

PROCEDURE AND HOUSE AFFAIRS

Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the membership of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs.

If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 12th report later this day.

*  *  *

CRIMINAL CODE

 

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Canadian Alliance) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-343, an act to amend the Criminal Code (violent crimes).

He said: Madam Speaker, the bill comes out of a desire to halt violent crimes and to protect society. It applies only to individuals who have been convicted on three separate occasions of a violent offence, for example murder, rape or sexual abuse.

A person who has demonstrated a wilful neglect for the basic respect of human life and human dignity will be met with an obligatory 25 year jail term.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

*  *  *

CONTRAVENTIONS ACT

 

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Canadian Alliance) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-344, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (marijuana).

He said: Madam Speaker, the bill deals with the simple possession of marijuana.

 

. 1210 + -

Our courts are clogged today and the purpose of my bill is to unclog them. It would decriminalize, not legalize, the simple possession of marijuana. It would provide penalties, unclog our courts and save huge amounts of money for the court system. It would also allow police officers to do more important things, such as going after rapists, murderers, robbers and people involved in organized crime.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

*  *  *

IMMIGRATION ACT

 

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Canadian Alliance) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-345, an act to amend the Immigration Act (requirement to show evidence of identity).

He said: Madam Speaker, the bill obligates individuals entering Canada to have identification with them. The small proviso is that individuals claiming refugee status where no identification can be produced would be exempt.

However, by and large, all individuals entering Canada who claim refugee status would be obliged to provide identification. If they want to appeal a decision they would have seven days to do so. The appeal would be heard by a senior immigration officer whose decision would be final.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

*  *  *

ENDANGERED SPECIES SANCTUARIES ACT

 

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Canadian Alliance) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-346, an act respecting the creation of sanctuaries for endangered species of wildlife.

He said: Madam Speaker, one of the challenges facing our country is the identification of critical habitat based on scientific means. The bill would enable critical habitat, habitat essential to the preservation of endangered species, to be protected. The designation of a species would be done on scientific grounds based on COSEWIC.

The bill would obligate the federal government to enter into agreements not only with provinces but with private landowners. Under extenuating circumstances where no agreement can be reached the bill would enable the federal government to impose minimal expropriation. Individuals would be remunerated at fair market value for whatever is expropriated.

The bill would strike a balance between private and public interests for species deemed endangered.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

*  *  *

BLOOD SAMPLES ACT

 

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Canadian Alliance) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-347, an act to provide for the taking of samples of blood to detect the presence of certain viruses.

He said: Madam Speaker, the bill pertains to individuals, such as police officers, firefighters, good Samaritans and hospital workers, who, in the line of duty, are exposed to blood and blood products that may contain hepatitis B, C or the HIV virus. The bill would give them the right to know the contents of the blood to see if it contained substances that could kill them.

The bill would strike a reasonable balance to enable the individual exposed to blood or blood products in an unfortunate manner to have immediate knowledge of its contents.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

*  *  *

 

. 1215 + -

[Translation]

CANADA BUSINESS CORPORATIONS ACT

 

Hon. Lucienne Robillard (for the Minister of Industry) moved that Bill S-11, an act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Canada Cooperatives Act and to amend other acts, be read the first time. (Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

*  *  *

[English]

COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE

PROCEDURE AND HOUSE AFFAIRS

 

Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Madam Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented to the House earlier this day be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

*  *  *

PETITIONS

KIDNEY DISEASE

Mr. Peter Adams (Peterborough, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I rise to present a petition from citizens of the Peterborough area who support the development of a bioartificial kidney.

The bioartificial kidney is an experimental implant device which would be an alternative to kidney dialysis or kidney transplants, which at present are the only treatments available to those with end stage kidney disease.

I present a petition involving tens of thousands of signatures which was developed by Ken Sharp in my riding. I am pleased to say that next week there will be a meeting between leading researchers on this topic in the United States and Canada.

VIA RAIL

Mr. Peter Adams (Peterborough, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I would also like to present a petition from citizens of the Peterborough area who want a re-establishment of VIA Rail commuter service between Toronto and Peterborough.

They point to the environmental advantages, such as a reduction in greenhouse emissions and a reduction in accidents on the highways, and that it would help Peterborough become even stronger as a business, tourist and educational centre.

The petition has the support from the federal ridings of Haliburton—Victoria—Brock, Durham, Whitby—Ajax, Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, Markham and even Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington.

PESTICIDES

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to table a petition on behalf of the residents of Halifax, the riding that I have the privilege to represent. It is a petition that calls upon parliament to enact an immediate moratorium on the cosmetic use of chemical pesticides.

There are two principles that underlie the petition. First is the precautionary principle, the concept that we should not allow the use of chemicals that have not been proven to be safe for human consumption and for our planet.

Second, the very principle that if we have neighbours who are suffering ill-health effects from a chemical being used for cosmetic purposes, surely the health considerations of citizens should come ahead of our aspirations to have lawns that are free of weeds.

I am pleased to table the petition and hope that the government would take it under serious consideration.

GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD

Mr. Gar Knutson (Elgin—Middlesex—London, Lib.): Madam Speaker, it is my honour to present two identical petitions signed by over 200 constituents.

The petitioners are requesting that parliament enact the necessary legislation to make it mandatory for all products containing genetically altered foods to be clearly labelled as such, regardless of percentage of content, that may prove harmful to consumers.

*  *  *

[Translation]

QUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER

Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): Is that agreed?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

 

. 1220 + -

[English]

Mr. Greg Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest, PC): Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order respecting questions on the order paper.

I have a complaint that is a weekly sort of rant. Under the provisions of Standing Order 39 members are allowed to put up to four questions on the order paper. I wish to remind the House and the Canadian public that those questions are put on the order paper for a very specific purpose. The House allows that provision in the standing orders in order to allow members of parliament to do their job.

I have had two questions on the order paper well in excess of 60 days with no response from the government. Madam Speaker, with the generosity that you exercise from the chair, could you imagine any government minister putting questions to the government and having to wait more than 24 hours for those answers? The fact is the government has the resources to answer those questions today if it wants to.

There is such a thing as transparency. In the business of politics there should be transparency. This restricts my ability to represent my constituents.

To conclude, this is a very important topic dealing with the Department of Human Resources Development, the abuse of shellfishers in eastern Canada and the violation of the code of ethics of government employees.

It is important that the Canadian public and members of parliament know the answers to those questions. It is inexcusable that we have to wait in excess of 60 days for answers to very important questions.

Mr. Derek Lee: Madam Speaker, the hon. member is assiduous in pursuing answers to his written questions.

The government makes every effort to provide answers on a timely basis. It is worth noting that oftentimes the way the questions are prepared involve many person hours taking into due regard the amount of resources and the amount of research that must be put into obtaining an answer. We have often seen replies in the House in the form of documentation that is a half-inch to an inch thick and involving more than one ministry.

Regrettably sometimes these answers take more than the presumed reasonable amount of time. I realize that the hon. member has two specific questions on the order paper. In light of his representation today he can be sure that I and others who are involved in the preparation of these answers will look for a reply very soon.



GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[English]

MARINE LIABILITY ACT

 

The House resumed consideration of Bill S-2, an act respecting marine liability, and to validate certain by-laws and regulations, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of Motions Nos. 1 and 2.

Mr. Rick Borotsik (Brandon—Souris, PC): Madam Speaker, I would like to make some brief comments on behalf of my colleague, the member for St. John's East, who has carriage of the legislation. Coming from St. John's he obviously understands the necessity for requirements with respect to marine liability.

As I understand it there are two amendments. One was put forward by the member for Prince George—Peace River. It calls upon the House to amend clause 39 of the bill to make liability insurance for passenger vessels mandatory as of January 1, 2003. Our party agrees with it. We believe that anyone who is carrying passengers should have mandatory liability insurance.

The other one comes from the member for Windsor—St. Clair. It keeps the current wording of clause 39 that allows the government to introduce compulsory liability insurance by regulation if it sees fit. However the amendment adds a second part requiring vessel operators without insurance to post a notice to that effect until such time as liability insurance becomes compulsory.

 

. 1225 + -

We agree that if there is no liability insurance covered by the carrier of that particular vessel it should be posted for customers to see. Customers would then have the opportunity of deciding whether or not to use the carrier.

The bill consolidates Canada's marine liability law and incorporates into Canadian law a number of international conventions to which we are a signatory. However, nowhere in the 117 pages of the bill does it say a vessel owner must have the kind of liability insurance that the bill endlessly talks about throughout the whole document. That in itself is absolutely astounding. We would never think of taking to the roads without liability insurance. When we drive on roads we not only have collision but also liability coverage should we be at fault or be involved in the injury or death of other parties.

That is what we are suggesting should happen here. It should apply not only to ocean going vessels but to those vessels that may carry passengers and operate inland. There are a lot of lakes and waterways in Canada. We believe that any Canadian passenger vessel should have the mandatory requirement of carrying liability insurance.

That is not asking very much because there is not a huge cost associated with it. It is just good business. Whether or not it is the law the carriers should carry such insurance, but we know that some carriers feel for whatever reasons that if they do not want to they should not be forced to.

That is why we are suggesting the amendments put forward by the members for Prince George—Peace River and Windsor—St. Clair should be accepted by the government so that the changed legislation would serve Canadians better. I put that on the record on behalf of my colleague from St. John's East.

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I would like to address a few items in Bill S-2. I cannot resist the temptation to draw attention once again to the fact that Bill S-2 comes from the Senate. I would ordinarily have no objection to a bill coming from the Senate. I know some members of the Senate. Some are very honourable people and they work very hard. That is fine, but I really wish they were elected.

There is something wrong in a modern day democracy when members can actually introduce bills which affect our lives and they are not even elected. It is like reverting to a time when kings used to tell people what to do. If the people did not obey they were clubbed with a mace, similar to the one we have in the House. That was the original purpose of the mace, to enforce the law of government or the law of the king.

I object that the bill comes from the Senate. It should have been introduced in this elected House. We will not flag in our zeal to have an elected Senate. I have had several conversations with some senators and have urged them to push for an elected Senate. As I told them, I am sure that with their popularity they would probably be elected anyway. They have nothing to worry about. It would give the position a lot more legitimacy.

Today we are dealing with the liability insurance of shipowners. It is curious to me that shipowners of the few ships registered in this country are not required by law to actually carry liability insurance. It is very strange.

 

. 1230 + -

I have a couple of vehicles. I am required by law to carry liability insurance, not only for someone who happens to be in my vehicle but if I happen to injure someone in another vehicle.

As a matter of fact, I had a conversation with someone just a few weeks ago about the required liability insurance on my motorcycle. I said it was really unfair that the liability insurance on my motorcycle was almost as high as it was on my car. I said that was really wrong because if I was in an accident, although I am well padded, it would still result most certainly in serious injuries. Yet I had this huge liability. I said my little 400 pound vehicle with a 400 pound rider was not going to cause nearly as much damage as if I had hit somebody with my 6,000 pound Suburban. So that insurance was very unfair.

The point I am making is that I am required to carry liability insurance in the event that something happens, so I comply with that law.

It is beyond me why the government would choose not to include such a provision for shipowners and the protection of their passengers. It really boggles the mind. Every provincial government has required public liability insurance. Taxis have to. Buses have to. Airlines have to. Who does not have to? The shipowners. Again, s stands for senate and s also stands for ships.

I have to digress. I am on the finance committee and so I have great interest in taxes and things like that. It is a curiosity to me that there are some Canadians who actually own ships who do not even register them in our own country. I suppose they think that the tax regime here is unfavourable to them, so they fly flags of convenience, as they are called, registering their ships in some other country where either the taxes are lower or do not exist at all. I am not aware of this, but it seems to me that this particular bill would possibly not even apply to ships which are not registered in Canada. That is a whole other question which ought to be addressed.

There is an amendment put forward by our transportation critic which is a very fine amendment. During the committee hearings on the bill, there were representatives who said we should have compulsory insurance. There were representatives from the insurance industry who said they were ready to provide it, that they would write it up and that everything would be in place. Notwithstanding that, government officials said there was some barrier and that they could not do it. However the insurance people said “Yes we can. What is the impediment?” They said it was all ready to go. The government said in those committee meetings that it would introduce regulations which would make insurance compulsory.

Listen to this very fine amendment. I know it has already been read into the record but it is such a fine one. The motion that our party is putting forward, which must be passed, is just common sense. It says “The Governor in Council”, that is the Cabinet, “shall make regulations by January 1, 2003”, that is over a year and a half from now, “requiring insurance or evidence of financial security be maintained to cover liability under this part”.

I do not see a person in the House rising to speak against the amendment. There has not yet been one. That is because there is no rational argument against the amendment.

My big task then is to persuade the 172 Liberals over there to support the amendment. That is the challenge. I feel that I am doubly offended. First, the bill came into here from the Senate and not from this elected place.

 

. 1235 + -

The second way in which I am offended is that I do not know if the Liberal members, who are in the majority in the House, all 172 of them over there, are even hearing my arguments. I am telling them there is no rational reason to reject this amendment. If they would only show that they have an ability to hear an argument, to understand it and show some wisdom when the vote is called and rise unison say that yes, it is a great amendment, it makes sense and is consistent with all other transportation facilities in the country, therefore we will support that amendment. There is just no other way.

In a way I am wasting my time putting forward this argument. Anybody who would read it and think for about .38 milliseconds, because that is how long it would take, could compute that is the only reasonable response.

Will they do it? Dare I express my pessimism about it. It seems to me that for the sole reason that this amendment came from the opposition rather than from the government the members will be told “No, we want to be agin this one”. In unison they will stand up and say that they will not vote for common sense, that they will not vote for a rational argument and that they will not vote for the protection of passengers embarking on trips on ships which originate in Canadian ports. They will do as they are told and vote against the amendment.

That is what I cannot understand. That is where I suddenly have difficulty understanding what goes on here.

I have stated the case as strongly as I can on that amendment. It is absolutely mandatory, it makes sense and it is for the protection of passengers. Furthermore, it is totally doable. The insurance people have told us it is. There is no loss to the government. All it is is a requirement that these shipowners who take passengers on will have the ability to cover a possible loss. That is so standard in the industry all over the world. It is unbelievable that in this country we even hesitate on that.

I have about two seconds to say that the NDP motion is the backup one. It says that in the event that these Liberals do not think on the Canadian Alliance amendment, they have an opportunity to bail themselves out partially by requiring that these shipowners post a notice clearly visible to passengers boarding their ships that there is no insurance on their ships. That also makes sense. We insist nowadays that consumers be informed of what their food contains, so they should be informed of what coverage they have when they go on a ship.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): Is the House ready for the question.

Some hon. members: Question.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: No.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Some hon. members: Yea.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): All those opposed will please say nay.

Some hon. members: Nay.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:  

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): Normally at this time the House would proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division at report stage of the bill. However the recorded division stands deferred until Monday, May 7, at 6.30 p.m.

 

. 1240 + -

Mr. Derek Lee: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions between the parties and I think you would find agreement in the House to further defer the recorded division requested on report stage of Bill S-2 until the end of government orders on Tuesday, May 8.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): Is there agreement?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Mr. Derek Lee: Madam Speaker, in view of the expeditious passage of that stage of that bill, the House might have a disposition to see the clock as 1.30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): Is it agreed?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): It being 1.30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.


PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

[English]

CRIMINAL CODE

 

Mr. Leon Benoit (Lakeland, Canadian Alliance) moved that Bill C-245, an act to amend the Criminal Code (search and seizure without warrant) be read the second time and referred to a committee.

He said: Madam Speaker, I am delighted to speak on my private member's bill, Bill C-245, which is an act to amend the criminal code regarding search and seizure without warrant. The act is directed specifically at the Firearms Act, the part of the criminal code that was implemented with the passing of Bill C-68, the infamous gun bill.

First, what I will do in my presentation is talk a little about what the bill does, why it is here, why I think it is very important and why a lot of people in my constituency and across the country feel it is important.

Second, I will talk about my specific concerns with the part of the criminal code which allows search and seizure without warrant and what I propose we should do about it.

Third, I will look at one or two cases, as time will allow, and work through them. One is a very recent case of a newspaper reporting an incident where a gentleman, actually a neighbour of mine on the farm where I was raised, had his house broken into, and what led up to that. That demonstrates probably better than any other way what some of the problems with the current act are.

That is what I will do with my presentation. I am looking forward to getting into this issue.

First, Bill C-245 deals with Part III of the criminal code as enacted by section 139 of the Firearms Act. It was implemented with the passing of Bill C-68 several years ago. The purpose is to remove the power in subsection 117.04(2) to search and seize without a warrant in cases where no offence has been committed.

I encourage people listening to the debate on the bill to look at this. It deals with search and seizure without a warrant in cases where no offence has been committed or is suspected to have been committed. It is really important to know that.

My bill, if passed, would end the unusual search and seizure provisions as put forth by Bill C-68 and bring them more in line with search and seizures in the rest of the criminal code. This is something for which Canadians have been asking, especially gun owners and those who understand that the whole so-called issue of the gun bill really goes way beyond guns. It speaks to our civil liberties, and constitutional implications are involved. I will get to some of those later.

The second part of the bill also makes provision for the restitution for unnecessary loss or damage in a case where a search has taken place. The way it is worded it takes into account whether the loss or damage was reasonably necessary in light of the evidence collected and in light of the behaviour of the person or persons on the premises. I am not saying there is no reason to cause damage in the case of a search process. I want this to be very reasonable.

 

. 1245 + -

What I am saying in my bill is that in cases where it is demonstrated that the damage done was unreasonable and unnecessary there would be restitution for the damage done. I think that will cause police officers to be very cautious in their search process, as well as peace officers, because of course under this act it does not even have to be police officers that break into a house without a warrant. It can be any peace officer, which broadens it considerably. That is what I am asking for in the second part of the bill. I would add a section which would ensure that if unnecessary damage is done there would be restitution. That in a nutshell is what the bill is about.

In regard to my concerns, subsection 117.04(2) allows a peace officer to enter the premises to search for and to seize weapons without a warrant. Removal of this section means that a warrant must be obtained for search and seizure except in cases of fresh pursuit, so again I am not being unreasonable. I think most members would agree that this is completely reasonable in a case of fresh pursuit where the police officers strongly believe that there could be some danger to someone and they want to be able to continue the pursuit. Of course I think the court would determine whether it was reasonable. I trust that process. Certainly it would end the measure put in place under Bill C-68 which allows search and seizure without a warrant at all. That is what is of great concern to me.

Under section 8 of the charter it says that Canadians have the right “to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure”. That is in our constitution. Does that sound unreasonable to anyone here? I do not think so. I have some problems with the charter in a broad sense, but I, and I believe many Canadians, would not have a problem with saying that Canadians have the right to feel secure and be secure against unreasonable search and seizure.

I argue and many Canadians have argued very vigorously that the changes put in the criminal code as a result of the passage of Bill C-68, the so-called gun bill, really take away that right that is guaranteed under the charter. Whether the courts would or not I cannot say. However, I know many Canadians feel that it is a problem, a problem put in place with the passage of Bill C-68.

I would like to speak to the issue of compensation for unnecessary damage done. I may get to two examples, but I probably only have time for one. I will work through that example and talk about damage done to private property to a great degree in that case, damage which seems to be completely unnecessary and excessive and in my view unacceptable. When I get into the case I think that will be better understood.

The second part of the bill ensures that the damage and the confiscation of property without compensation violates a fundamental right of Canadian citizens, the right to own property. A problem we have as Canadians is that the right to own property is not enshrined in our constitution. Many thought that it should have been part of the charter. I certainly think it should be in our constitution. So far politicians have chosen not to put it there, but certainly common law and most Canadians would agree that we do have a right to own property in this country and that this right should be respected.

How could one argue that this right is being respected in cases where we have peace officers breaking into someone's house without a warrant and doing unnecessary damage to property or removing property unnecessarily? We are not talking about interfering in the actions of police officers where such actions are necessary. We are talking about unreasonable actions.

Bill C-245 adds a provision to the criminal code that enables a person to apply for restitution to the justice who issued the warrant, warrants being issued in all cases except those where there is fresh pursuit. In these cases they would have a right to apply to the justice for restitution of the property that has been the subject of entry and search under the authority of a warrant pursuant to the Firearms Act and if their property has been lost or damaged as a result of this entry and search.

 

. 1250 + -

The bill also adds that the justice will fix a date for a hearing on the matter. The justice will notify the applicant, the officer or officers involved and the officer who applied for the warrant as well as anyone else the justice sees fit to notify. After the hearing, the justice may order restitution to the person whose property has been damaged.

I ask members to think of the practical benefit of this. I have heard numerous complaints, as I am sure many of my colleagues have, about searches conducted by peace officers which have caused incredible damage, way beyond anything that makes sense.

Part of the reason for that is that police officers have become so frustrated because their hands are tied under laws which, quite frankly, have been protected by the government. They feel their hands are so tied that even if they get a case to court and have a lot of evidence, quite frequently the case is thrown out. They are frustrated by that. I have actually heard the thinking on this from some police officers, although I do not think it is justifiable. I think it is wrong, but the thinking on the part of police officers is that they know this person is a law breaker so they will make him pay in this way. They will do considerable damage in the search and that will be justice in itself. Any of us in the House would agree that is not proper and not right. I think this change would only give reasonable protection to that type of action.

In the bill there are exceptions to compensation. The bill does list several situations where compensation is not warranted. According to Bill C-245, no person is entitled to restitution for loss or damage resulting from entry or search “if the person is convicted of an offence on the basis of the evidence discovered during the search”. Even in this situation, the justice must conclude that the loss or damage was not excessive in light of the nature of the offence.

Second, if the applicant lost something he or she did not have the right to possess, then of course the applicant would not be compensated. For example, if someone had stolen some property, in this case guns, ammunition or other property that was discovered in the search, then of course the person should not be compensated for the loss of that property. It does cover that kind of thing. It also covers loss or damage if it was a result of the applicant and/or another person on the premises refusing to co-operate with the police officer. It recognizes that in cases where the occupants refuse to co-operate, there may be more damage done than there would be in another type of search. It covers that kind of thing.

With regard to the limits of restitution for loss or damage, Bill C-245 states that there are no limits to restitution for loss or damage if the damage was not necessary. That is only reasonable. Again, it goes to the very right to own property and to the expectation that police officers will conduct themselves properly in the case of a search.

It is recognized in the bill that speed in a search may be necessary because of the circumstances and the loss or damage may be reasonable where speed is necessary. There may be more damage in a case like that. The justice can also take into account the behaviour of the applicant and other persons during entry and search.

I will now go through a case. I will start by reading, if I may, a short article from the Edmonton Journal. I also have one from the Edmonton Sun. They are very short articles which will not take a lot of time to read. I will then go through them and talk about the case. This article is entitled “Machine guns, ammo found in Lloyd home”. This is an article from March 23. It says:

    More than 100 firearms, including machine guns, and thousands of rounds of ammunition were seized during the search of a home about 20 kilometres southwest of Lloydminster on Wednesday.

    “RCMP received a tip in February about the weapons, many of which were unlicensed and illegal”, said Const. Jason Simpson of the Kitscoty RCMP detachment.

It continues:

    A firearms expert is sorting through the prohibited and unregistered restricted weapons to make sure proper charges are laid. Simpson said the machine guns were found among a large quantity of hunting rifles.

 

. 1255 + -

The article goes on to say the man would not be named and that the police declined to give details about the suspect because of the small population. Of course everybody in the country knows who it is just as a result of this article.

There was a reference to more than 100 firearms. Immediately I can see the reaction: that there was no reason the guy would need 100 firearms and so of course he deserved what he got. However, he is a gun collector. He has been collecting guns for years. In regard to the machine guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition, people would think that there was no good reason for him to have them. All of the weapons could well have been legally obtained and may have been legal to own when he came into possession of the weapons. Since that time the laws have changed, making them illegal.

People would then argue that he should have registered them, that he should have done what was necessary. I will not argue that it is the law. However, the individual knew that if he had registered the weapons, if he had done what was proper, they would have been taken away from him without compensation. Consider how that could change how one would think about the situation. It is important to consider that.

I am being given the signal to wrap up, but I look forward to the opportunity to talk more about this at the end of the hour.

Mr. John Maloney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-245, an act to amend the Criminal Code (search and seizure without warrant).

The proposed amendments to the criminal code would prohibit a peace officer who was aware that a danger to public safety existed from searching for and seizing, without first having to obtain a warrant, firearms from people who pose a potential danger to themselves or to the public.

Regardless of the existence of exigent circumstances, that is, circumstances that have been examined by the courts in the past and found to be constitutional, the amendment would prohibit police from quelling an imminent danger to public safety. It is conceivable that the police would be powerless to act while life is at risk.

In many situations where time is of the essence, this could result in the loss of life. The provisions of Bill C-245 are inconsistent with the powers police need to effectively perform their duties. They are inconsistent with the principles of firearms control in Canada and inconsistent with the interest of public safety.

The proposed amendments by the hon. member for Lakeland would endanger public safety. The Minister of Justice cannot support the amendments to the criminal code put forth by the hon. member.

The existing provisions of the criminal code are a valuable part of Canada's firearms control legislation and important for ensuring public safety. The controls on the possession and use of firearms set out in the Firearms Act are justified in a free and democratic society by the need for safety and security for our society.

While it is recognized that most Canadians who own and use firearms do so prudently and responsibly, the presence of firearms under some circumstances carries with it a risk for the safety of all. In those circumstances, the police must be empowered to adequately respond to the danger present. The current provisions of the criminal code permit them to do that. Bill C-245 would not.

The current provisions of the criminal code were devised to reach a middle ground, balancing an individual's need for privacy with the public's right for safety and security. They have been refined over the years to ensure that the parameters are clearly understood. They have been in place in one form or another for over 25 years and have not been the subject of misuse.

As a rule, a peace officer requires a warrant to search for and seize firearms or firearms related items from individuals where it is not in the interest of safety that the person possess firearms.

Where public safety is at risk and exigent circumstances are present, the criminal code permits peace officers, provided that they have reasonable grounds to obtain a warrant, to search for and seize firearms and firearms related items without a warrant.

While the existing provisions of the criminal code permit searches and seizures of firearms and firearms related items in exigent circumstances, such searches are not without limits or exempt from judicial scrutiny. A peace officer who conducts a search without a warrant must nonetheless forthwith make a return to a justice indicating the items seized and the grounds on which the search was conducted. Thus, judicial scrutiny is maintained even over exceptional searches.

 

. 1300 + -

The proposed legislation put forward by the hon. member for Lakeland would allow a person whose property is lost or damaged as a result of entry and search to apply for restitution to the justice who issued the warrant.

The criminal code does not provide immunity from civil liability for damage to property. While peace officers are in some instances offered protection from criminal liability they remain accountable to the courts in both a criminal and civil context for their actions.

In civil courts crown liability exists by virtue of the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act. The liability of provincial or municipal peace officers is addressed by provincial police acts or other acts.

In the same manner as a private person, the crown is liable in tort for damages caused by its agents. Capricious or careless actions on behalf of peace officers in conducting search and seizure for firearms or firearms related items, either with or without a warrant, remain actionable.

The provisions authorizing warrantless searches do not confer untrammelled powers to peace officers. People who suffer property loss or damage as a result of a search and seizure by peace officers, either with or without a warrant, already have a means to seek redress if they have been wronged or have suffered damages.

The issue of restitution for lost or damaged property is complex. The hon. member for Lakeland proposes that matters of civil liability be dealt with in criminal courts by justices who are trained to deal with criminal matters. Justices who hear applications for warrants to search and seize are not experienced in issues of civil liability. Those matters are best left to the civil courts.

Civil courts are in a better position to adequately deal with issues of liability, value and quantum of damages. They have the expertise and experience and they deal with such issues day to day.

The current provisions of the criminal code strike the proper balance between an individual's need for privacy and the public's right to safety. They establish proper limits and judicial safeguards while empowering police to adequately respond to situations that endanger public safety. The provisions are responsive and fair.

An individual's right to compensation for lost or damaged property is protected by the civil courts and there is no need to change the present provisions of the criminal code.

For these reasons the Minister of Justice does not support these amendments to the criminal code.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to put some comments on record with respect to Bill C-245.

I am not at all surprised that the Minister of Justice does not favour the legislation. That stands to reason given the almost pathological pursuit of the gun registry which has now escalated into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

In speaking to police officers and those around the country who have the task of applying and enforcing the legislation, we are told time and again that it will have no impact on public safety. It is nevertheless a white elephant to which everyone in government seems to be clinging.

I commend the hon. member for Lakeland for bringing the issue forward to try to improve the ineffective, expensive and discriminatory registry scheme in Canada. It is a bit like trying to polish a rotten apple, if I could put it that way.

The law of the land is such that Canadians are, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, forced to enter into the registry and yet some elements of it are particularly unfair. The search and seizure aspect which the hon. member for Lakeland has seized on should be of great concern to Canadians.

The Conservative Party very much supports the premise of the hon. member's bill. It is necessary to protect gun owners who have never committed any offence, been suspected of a crime or used a firearm in an irresponsible fashion. Such individuals are subject to search and seizure without a warrant under the new provisions of the Firearms Act.

Accepting these amendments would prevent searches based on hearsay or rumour and avoid developing a system akin to the former Soviet Union where the KGB had neighbours watching neighbours. Heaven forbid we adopt that type of paranoid justice system. However that is what the current gun registry seems to be leading toward.

 

. 1305 + -

The bill would not hinder police forces in any way from protecting the public. If they have hard evidence they can simply get a warrant. I fully support the efforts of police in protecting the public. However I have no difficulty in making the standard higher when it comes to invading a person's home in search of an obsolete gun from the second world war, a family heirloom or a gun with sentimental value that someone has tucked away in a trunk and not registered. That is the type of legislation before the Canadian public today. It would be intrusive into the lives of Canadians.

The enactment would affect part III of the criminal code as enacted by section 139 of the Firearms Act. The purpose is to remove the power in subsection 117.04(2) to enter, search and seize without a warrant in cases where no offence has been committed or is suspected to have been committed. It is a very common sense, pragmatic provision that would do away with potential abuses under the regulatory firearms scheme.

Provision is made for restitution for loss or damage resulting from entry and search. The bill takes into account whether such loss or damage was reasonable and necessary in light of evidence collected and in light of the behaviour of the person on the premises.

The bill is drafted to allow police officers to exercise their duties responsibly and reasonably. Who in their right mind could take issue with that? Why in any stretch of the imagination would we not expect that reasonable standard to apply?

Subsection 117.04(2) of the act deals with search and seizure without a warrant. For all intents and purposes the bill would remove and repeal that subsection.

The bill would make other amendments. Subsection 117.04(4) of the act would be amended to ensure that a peace officer who executes a warrant returns to the judge who issued it and shows the date it was executed, a description of items and documents seized, the extent of the search and any property damage that might have resulted.

Again these safeguards are aimed quite rightly at ensuring police officers do not abuse their powers and simply stick to the letter of the law and follow the warrant to its natural conclusion.

The parliamentary secretary said civil courts are the proper route for pursuing matters of property damage. That is nothing short of ridiculous. The powers of the state and of the Department of Justice would be brought to bear upon any individual who made such a complaint.

Any time a person comes into conflict with a government the result is delay. An army of lawyers and litigators would go to great lengths to ensure the matter was not brought to court for months if not years. The average citizen simply does not have the resources for such a battle. The suggestion of the parliamentary secretary is therefore bunk.

The gun registry is doomed, although it may take another five or ten years to finally collapse under its own weight of costs and regulatory red tape. The public, in its wisdom, will eventually recognize that the scheme was cumbersome, costly, unworkable and unwieldy.

Provisions to improve the legislation such as the one before us are laudable. They are encouraging to members of the House who see the legislation for what it is. However the reality is that the government will not accept them. Its pathological pursuit of this particular registry scheme is becoming increasingly recognizable. This cumbersome, useless registry is going to be with us until the government changes. That message is becoming clear. Let us call it for what it is.

 

. 1310 + -

The registry is not about safety nor crime control. As has been stated time and time again, members of the Hell's Angels and those who engage in crimes using firearms are not going to participate.

What is this legislation all about? It is aimed at collectors, duck hunters, farmers and fishermen who use firearms as part of their trade or occupation to control pests or to destroy an animal which may have been injured in a humane fashion. Those are the individuals who will be affected.

There is a document in circulation entitled “Self-Defence in Canada”. The Department of Justice acknowledges in that document that firearms are used about 32,000 times a year for self-protection from criminal activity. A 1997 a study by Gary Mauser said, when animal attacks which had been prevented with guns were added in, the annual self-defence numbers actually doubled to 64,000 incidents where guns where used to save lives. If suicides were removed, which are sadly generally considered to be non-preventable, approximately 40 lives were saved for every life lost by a firearm. These figures were based on the government's own statistics.

In stating government statistics, it is important to recall that seven out of ten statistics are wrong. However 44% of rural households in Canada own firearms compared with 11% in Canadian cities. Yet the violent crime rate in cities is 40% higher than it is in rural Canada. We know that this legislation is aimed almost entirely, or will have its effect played out, in rural Canada.

In 1993 the RCMP commissioner at the time Philip Murray complained in a letter to the minister that her department had greatly overstated the number of gun crimes in Canada for that year. Department figures showed that 623 gun related crimes had occurred. Murray stated that the real number was actually 73.

These statistics have been used sadly to misinform Canadians about the use of guns in Canada.

I commend the hon. member for Lakeland for bringing this matter forward. It gives us another opportunity to put on the record just how inane this legislation really is.

Mr. Rick Casson (Lethbridge, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I want to add a couple of comments in support of the member for Lakeland who has brought this bill forward. He has brought a couple of good private member's bills forward in the past. The one I particularly liked sought to get expensive tools for mechanics deductible. I applaud him for doing that. This bill is another example of a good bill that has been well researched.

However the problem is that this bill is not votable. After debate today it will be dropped from the order paper and nothing will be done with it. All the work that has gone into preparing this to bring it forward, all the legal angles that have been looked at, goes for naught because it will not be voted on. Any private member's initiative should be. As members of parliament this is one tool we have to bring forward our issues.

The bill refers to Bill C-68 concerning gun laws. I want to make sure people understand that a Canadian Alliance government would repeal this law and replace it with a law that would respect private property rights and target the criminal use of firearms, not the lifestyles of law-abiding citizens.

The idea of a peace officer going into a person's home without cause or without provocation to search the premises without a warrant is something we should not have to discuss. The criminal code does allow for such entry but it should not be allowed on a routine basis.

 

. 1315 + -

The most intrusive part of Bill C-68, which people feared and opposed the most, was that a peace officer could enter into their home and take their private property without reason. People brought this issue to our attention time and time again. I am glad this was brought forward for discussion because it should not be a part of Canadian law. We only expect to hear things like that happening in the Soviet Union or some place with a dictatorship or a communist state.

If peace officers do enter our premises and, in the process of their search, damage our property, whether it is the property they are looking for or collateral property, they should provide compensation. The member for Lakeland had examples of where this has happened and where the people suffering the damage had no recourse.

Those two issues, the unwarranted search of private property and the lack of compensation for damage done during a search, needed to be addressed in Bill C-68. Bill C-245 would do that. However, the bill was not made votable so we will not be standing in the House to show our support.

The only way we can show our support for the bill is to say a few comments and get them on the record. We must also say again that hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the gun registry system and we see no end in sight to the cost of registering every firearm in Canada. Nobody knows how many there are. To intrude into the lives of private, law-abiding citizens and not specifically target the criminal use of firearms is wrong.

Bill C-68 needs to be repealed and replaced with comprehensive legislation that deals with those issues.

Mr. Leon Benoit (Lakeland, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take my last five minutes.

I will begin by quoting Martin Niemoller, a famous German theologian who lived from 1892 to 1984. It is a very famous quote that we have all heard, but I ask every member in the House to listen to it again. It reads:

    When Hitler attacked the Jews I was not a Jew, therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the Catholics, I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists, I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned. Then, Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church—and there was nobody left to be concerned.

I would argue that many of the people who looked at this so-called gun bill, Bill C-68, and its implementation, fought the bill not because they cared about guns. Many people do not own guns and do not care about guns. They fought what was implemented with the bill. They knew it would be just one step in a process that would lead to exactly what the theologian Martin Niemoller said in his quote. If we do not protect the rights of others, even if it is an issue that does not directly affect us, the time will come when it is not possible under the system in place to protect ourselves and our families.

I would argue that the changes to our law that were put in place with the implementation of Bill C-68, the so-called gun bill, were a dangerous step down the road to allowing that to happen.

 

. 1320 + -

My bill, Bill C-245, would just take a part of Bill C-68, the part dealing with unusual search and seizure, and say no, that is dangerous, we are allowing unusual search and seizure here, and for what? What is wrong with the provisions already in the criminal code that deal with search and seizure?

It is a real threat to the individual. It is truly an issue that does lead down that path. I argue that such is the case and that is why I brought the bill forward.

The Canadian Alliance, when we become the government, would revoke all those changes that were put in place with Bill C-68. That includes the registry. That includes the need for a person to register guns. Even if a person is a collector, the law requires a person to register every gun. That also includes the section on search and seizure, which we believe is unreasonable, as we have argued all along.

All we want to do is put in place reasonable measures to ensure that we are not going to move one step further down the road to a point where we no longer have the power to stop government from infringing on our rights. I would argue that for that reason, that reason alone, even members of the government who implemented Bill C-68, the gun bill, should start working with the members on this side of the House and with Canadians across the country to change that bill. It was bad law when it was implemented and it is bad law now. I believe that quite a large majority of Canadians no longer support it. I would argue that a majority did not support it at the time it was implemented. There are some good studies to back that up. The Conservative member who spoke referred to one of those studies.

Unfortunately, my bill never will go to a vote because of our private members' procedures in the House. That has to be changed. Every private member's bill should be votable. I have done a lot of work on the bill and taxpayers have paid a lot of money to hire legal counsel to help me draft it. I believe the action in the bill is supported by a majority of people across the country, certainly by a large number of people. We could debate it and talk about that. We could have a vote in the House.

Madam Speaker, that is what should have happened. The best I can do is bring this to the attention of the public in this way. I think it does have an impact.

I thank the House for this time and I look forward to some action in the future to help fix the bad law that was put in place with the enactment of Bill C-68.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has not been designated a votable item, the order is dropped from the order paper.

[Translation]

It being 1.25 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1.23 p.m.)