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44th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • No. 190

CONTENTS

Wednesday, May 3, 2023




Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates

Volume 151
No. 190
1st SESSION
44th PARLIAMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Speaker: The Honourable Anthony Rota

    The House met at 2 p.m.

Prayer


[Statements by Members]

  (1405)  

[English]

    It being Wednesday, we will now have the singing of the national anthem led by the hon. member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay.
    [Members sang the national anthem]

Statements by Members

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Canadian Naval Tribute Project

    Mr. Speaker, on April 29, I proudly attended the unveiling of the Canadian naval tribute project. The monument honours 14 Canadian heroes who put service before self, with some making the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of Canada.
    Thanks to the leadership of honorary naval captain Mark McQueen, navy lieutenant Sean Livingston, navy lieutenant Mark Phillips and my former commanding officer, Commander Walter Moniz, Spadina—Fort York is now home to our nation's largest flagpole, which flies the largest naval ensign in Canada. At its base, 14 panels recognize a diverse but previously uncelebrated group of people for their contributions and impact on the Royal Canadian Navy. These are heroes like Lieutenant-Commander Margaret Brooke, who bravely worked to save a nursing sister even though her own life was at risk; Quartermaster William Hall, the first Nova Scotian and Black recipient of the Victoria Cross; and trailblazers like Lieutenant-Commander William King Lowd “Lo” Lore, who was thrice rejected for the navy until the chief of naval staff intervened. A personal hero of mine, Lore was the first Chinese Canadian officer and the first naval officer of Chinese heritage to serve in any Commonwealth navy.
     I am proud to be a member of the ship's company and serve at His Majesty's Canadian Ship York. I invite all Canadians to learn about this incredible naval project.

Youth in Brampton

    Mr. Speaker, to kick off National Youth Week, I was proud to celebrate the grand opening of the Susan Fennell Sportsplex Youth Hub in Brampton South. Supported by more than half a million dollars in federal funding, the hub will provide young people in Brampton with a safe and accessible space to connect, learn and grow. It is in addition to more than $15 million in federal funding for green energy retrofits.
    I want to thank the youth of Brampton for inspiring us with their energy and creativity. They are the driving force behind this project, and we are committed to supporting them as they follow their dreams and build a bright future for themselves and our community.
    This National Youth Week, let us continue to reflect on the value of empowering and supporting the next generation, because they are our true leaders of today.

Firearms

    Mr. Speaker, I represent thousands of law-abiding firearm owners, each of whom was approved by the RCMP to legally purchase, own and use a long gun in Canada. They follow the law, pay their taxes and enjoy time at the range and hunting in the woods. Earlier this week, the Liberal government introduced another backdoor hunting rifle ban that again targets law-abiding Canadians. This ban will not improve public safety, because criminals do not acquire their firearms legally.
    Over the past eight years under the Liberals, why has violent crime increased by 32% and gang-related murders doubled? It is because the Liberals often help offenders avoid mandatory jail time for gun crimes. Why do criminals selling fentanyl and crystal meth stay in business? It is because Liberals give dealers house arrest for dealing death sentences. Why are all 13 of Canada’s premiers demanding bail reform? It is because the Liberals are soft on crime.
    Ottawa’s priority must be to go after gun smugglers and criminals using illegal firearms. It is hard work but it will make Canada's cities safer.

Multiple Sclerosis

    Mr. Speaker, approximately one in 400 Canadians lives with multiple sclerosis. MS can happen to anyone, without warning. Canada is home to many world-leading MS researchers. New scientific discoveries, like the research that identified the Epstein-Barr virus as the leading risk factor for developing MS, are within our grasp and can change the outcome of the disease. Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world. Let us prioritize and fund the research that shows so much promise. Families living with MS are eagerly awaiting the passage and implementation of the Canada disability benefit and an El sickness benefit that takes episodic illness into account.
    Today, in honour of MS Awareness Month, I am wearing a carnation to show my solidarity with the MS community. I ask my fellow parliamentarians to join me to support MS Canada's quest to accelerate MS research and legislation that will have a life-changing impact on those living with multiple sclerosis.

[Translation]

Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month

    Mr. Speaker, multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a disease that affects thousands of Canadians.
    On average, every day, 12 people are diagnosed with MS. This disease usually occurs in people aged 20 to 49, in the prime of their working lives.
    Struggling to keep a job while living with an episodic disease like MS can be a terrifying and exhausting ordeal for many people. Therefore, it is essential that employment supports be put in place to help all those who are living with MS.
    Today, I am wearing a carnation in recognition of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, and I urge each and everyone of us to continue showing our commitment to all those affected by multiple sclerosis during this month of awareness and throughout the year.

  (1410)  

Sashbear Foundation

    Mr. Speaker, as part of Mental Health Week, I am paying tribute to the Sashbear Foundation. It was created in 2012, shortly after the suicide of Sasha Menu Courey, the daughter of its founders, who lost her fight against borderline personality disorder, or BPD.
    Since 2012, the Sashbear Foundation has offered free mental health and suicide prevention programs in English and French to more than 14,000 people. Its mission is to lead a reform of mental health services by making people aware of the need for early prevention, recognition and access to affordable treatment.
    I would like to thank the co-founders of the Sashbear Foundation, Lynn Courey and Mike Menu, and their team of more than 150 volunteers for their dedication and commitment to dispelling myths about mental illness, creating a community and building relationships, as well as giving hope back to families affected by BPD and emotional dysregulation.
    In the Sashbear family, no one is left behind.

[English]

Edmonton Oilers

    Mr. Speaker, it is an exciting time in oil country, as our hometown Oilers are second round bound.
    Round two starts tonight in Las Vegas, but I know that ICE District Plaza and Joey Moss pit will be packed with fans in Edmonton. This is a big deal. The Oilers, rather fittingly, during the week of His Majesty's coronation, have first knocked off the Kings and now are going after all his Knights. We have 97, 29 or 93 reasons, and we can take our pick, to get excited about this round, and I can assure everyone that all of Edmonton is behind what many in our country are now referring to as “Canada's team”.
    It is time to “leaf” the other teams in our dust as we quest toward the cup. Game one starts tonight, and I know I speak for nearly everyone in the chamber when I say, “Go, Oilers, go.”

Polish Constitution Day

    Mr. Speaker, today is a special day for the over one million Polish Canadians celebrating Polish Constitution Day.
    Known as the constitution of May 3, the Polish constitution is the first written constitution in modern Europe and the second constitution in the world after the United States. The Polish constitution introduced progressive democratic reforms that included a constitutional monarchy and the separation of powers.
    Here in Canada, Polish Canadians celebrate Constitution Day by gathering in Polish halls and church basements to sing hymns and act plays, recite poems and reflect on Poland's legacy of fighting for freedom and democracy.
    To all Polish Canadians across Canada, I wish a happy Constitution Day and a happy Polish Heritage Month in Ontario. I join all Polish Canadians in reciting the beautiful words witaj maj, trzeci maj, dla Polaków błogi raj.

Mental Health

    Mr. Speaker, mental health must be a standard part of all perinatal medical checkups. Today, I join the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative, along with the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, fellow MPs and community members, for the second annual Flora's Walk to raise awareness in ensuring that postpartum psychosis and perinatal mental health are identified quickly and treated seriously.
    I am proud that the minister today announced close to $857,000 to support perinatal mental health.
    Although a number of Canadians have a perinatal mental illness, it is, sadly, not often talked about. When it is, many support and mental health services may not be there, and there are gaps.
    I thank Jaime, Patricia and all of those who have been a part of bridging the gap and working to make sure that perinatal mental care includes mental health care. Let us continue to support Canadian women and their babies.

Cost of Living

    Mr. Speaker, when my family came to Canada, we chose this country because it was the land of hopes and dreams. That Canadian dream was a promise to the common people. If one worked hard, one could achieve anything. That is what my parents did, and so did many newcomers to this country.
    Today, after eight years of the Prime Minister, that Canadian dream is broken. One in five people is skipping meals, and one in five newcomers wants to pack up and leave because of the high cost of living.
    However, there is hope on the horizon. Conservatives are ready to step in and restore the promise of a better tomorrow. We are ready to restore common-sense policies for the common people. We will bring home powerful paycheques so that it pays to work again in this country. We will bring home lower prices by scrapping the failed carbon tax scam. We will bring home more affordable homes by firing the government gatekeepers. There is a big mess to clean up, but Conservatives, under the leadership of Canada's next prime minister, are ready to turn the hurt into hope and restore the Canadian dream for the common people once again.
    Now, let us bring it home.

  (1415)  

Opioids

    Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago, four more Yukoners in three different communities died from toxic drug overdose. Old Crow is the latest remote Yukon community to declare a substance use emergency. Families and communities everywhere in Canada are grieving, and chances are that everyone is part of at least one.
    In recent years, we have made progress and saved lives, but we are not where we should be. Our approach is incremental; the epidemic is a tidal wave.
    In the pandemic, we made bold decisions based on the best available evidence. We took risks because we had to. All parties and all levels of government worked together. This toxic drug crisis requires no less of us.
    We must end the criminalization of those who use drugs. We need investments in prevention, treatment, social supports, and yes, accessible safe supply for those who need it. Every drug death is another toll of a dark bell that tells us there is more we can do. I know my colleagues will stand with me as we contemplate all options to overcome this terrible crisis.
    As we showed in the pandemic, by working together, we can overcome. We can and will do better.

Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, after eight years, Liberals are out of touch, Canadians are out of money, and everything feels broken. Out-of-control Liberal taxes and spending mean Canadians pay more for gas, groceries and heating. There is more taken from their paycheques, making it impossible to get ahead.
    Criminals and gangsters terrorize neighbourhoods because Liberals give bail, not jail, for serious crimes. Hostile states threaten Canadians and their families, buy up resources and influence elections. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister turns a blind eye to the basic dictatorship he admires. He jets off to fancy mansions, where his fancy vacations are paid for by taxpayers. At the same time, housing costs for everyday Canadians have doubled, and they cannot afford the basics.
    However, Conservatives have a plan to turn hurt into hope. We will cut taxes and axe the carbon tax to bring home powerful paycheques and make sure hard work pays again. We will keep violent criminals behind bars and combat foreign threats. We will end the costly coalition’s inflationary spending to make life more affordable, and we will fire the gatekeepers so businesses can build more homes and Canadians can afford a roof over their heads again.
    Conservatives are ready. Let us bring it home.

Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians from across the country continue to be failed by the Prime Minister, who has only made their lives more difficult and more expensive. It is time for a change.
    As Conservatives, we stand for the common sense of the common people, united for our common home: Canada. Our leader is committed to bringing home a country for those who have done the hard work. He will bring home lower prices by ending inflationary deficits and scrapping the carbon tax on heat, gas and groceries. He will bring home powerful paycheques by lowering taxes and clawbacks to reward hard work. He will bring home housing that workers can afford by firing the gatekeepers and freeing up land to build. He will bring home safety by ending the catch-and-release of repeat violent criminals. He will bring home freedom from foreign interference and woke government censorship.
    It is time to make Canada honoured and respected once again. It is time for a new Conservative government that will bring home a country we can all be proud of.

[Translation]

World Press Freedom Day

    Mr. Speaker, on this day, May 3, various countries around the world are celebrating the 30th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day. This is a special opportunity to celebrate the principles of press freedom and to pay tribute to the journalists who have been killed or imprisoned for doing their job.

[English]

    The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of the press. Unfortunately, even in Canada, the safety of freedom of the press is increasingly under threat. Many members of the press are regularly subjected to hate and racist, sexist and otherwise abusive messages. This is unacceptable.
    According to Reporters Without Borders, in 2022, 533 journalists were detained, making a new world record. Our thoughts are, of course, with American reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been imprisoned in Russia since late March for carrying out his work. That is unacceptable; journalism is not a crime.
    I thank Canadian journalists for their hard work, transparency, accountability and dedication to the truth.

  (1420)  

My Voice, My Choice

     Mr. Speaker, I rise today to highlight the phenomenal work of My Voice, My Choice. The women of My Voice, My Choice have courageously sought justice through a system that we know is retraumatizing. They have continued to courageously advocate to make sure other survivors have a choice when it comes to publication bans.
    Currently, there is no obligation to inform or get consent from a victim-complainant when a ban has been placed on their name. If they choose to speak out about their own experiences, they can face criminal charges. This is outrageous.
    I stand with them today as a sexual assault survivor who chose not to go through the legal system, knowing that this system is not kind to victims. As MPs, we have a responsibility to listen to survivors and to reform these systems. My Voice, My Choice advocates have fought tirelessly, and their work has led to the introduction of Bill S-12.
    They are here in Ottawa with a clear message that we must amend and strengthen this bill to ensure that survivors never face criminal charges for sharing their own story and that they are always given the choice.

[Translation]

Michel Rochefort

    Mr. Speaker, today, I have the pleasure of paying tribute to Michel Rochefort, an extraordinary man from Salaberry—Suroît. He is so extraordinary that his town recently decided to name an arena in his honour.
    Well known as a physical education teacher, Mr. Rochefort has dedicated his life to athletic development. Who would have thought that all those hours at the hockey rink, the baseball field or the Quebec Games would get Mr. Rochefort an arena named after him?
    Little did he know in 1982, when he was a key player in the civic centre construction project, that the building would one day bear his name. I hope he takes this as a well-deserved mark of recognition for his contributions over the last 50 years. Every day, families from Salaberry-de-Valleyfield will go to the Michel-Rochefort arena to play.
    We thank Michel for everything he has done.

[English]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday Morris Rosenberg, the former deputy minister of foreign affairs and ex-CEO of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, stated that Alexandre Trudeau, the Prime Minister's brother, was only involved in the signing of one donation. To no one’s surprise, it was the infamous $200,000 donation from two wealthy Chinese nationals with direct links to the Communist regime in Beijing. He then signed the tax receipts not to the actual donors, but rather to an address in China. In his former role, he was briefed daily on foreign interference, yet saw no red flags and found it acceptable by his own standards to send the tax receipts abroad.
    This is the same so-called ethical and independent professional whom the Prime Minister appointed to produce a report on foreign interference in the last election. It begs the question, what else has this individual swept under the rug?

Sashbear Walk

    Mr. Speaker, this year marks the 11th anniversary of the Sashbear Foundation's Sashbear Walk for mental health and suicide prevention. Starting on May 13 and running through the month of June, the Sashbear Walk will be held virtually and in five in-person locations in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland.
    The foundation and annual community fundraiser were inspired by Sasha Menu Courey. She was a champion swimmer and Olympic hopeful who lost her battle with borderline personality disorder because she and her family could not get the services and support they needed.
    Funds raised from the Sashbear Walk go toward the Sashbear family connections program, which provides skills support for family members to regain balance in their lives and be more effectively involved in the lives of loved ones who have emotional dysregulation. The walk also supports Sashbear's free educational webinars, which are presented by scientific and clinical experts to provide information and skills to families coping with self-harm, suicidality, trauma and more.
    I encourage all members of the House of Commons to visit sashbear.org, attend a Sashbear Walk in their community and work together to provide more mental health resources to those who are struggling. Let us all make waves for emotional dysregulation support and suicide prevention.

Oral Questions

[Oral Questions]

[Translation]

Democratic Institutions

    Mr. Speaker, two years ago, our intelligence agencies indicated in a report that a member of Parliament and a member of Parliament's family were threatened by an agent for Beijing in response to a vote in the House of Commons.
    The Prime Minister is saying that he did not know about this, even though the former head of CSIS has stated that the Prime Minister's advisers were informed. Even the Prime Minister's chief of staff has said that nothing is ever kept hidden from the Prime Minister.
    How is it possible that the Prime Minister did not know that such a risk existed here in Canada?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, as the leader of the Conservative Party knows, this government takes any threats of foreign interference very seriously.
    As soon as we were informed of the matter concerning the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, we contacted him and offered him a briefing. We gave him that briefing yesterday. It was not the first briefing that the member opposite received.
    We will continue to do good work to protect everyone who works in the House and to protect our democratic institutions.
    Mr. Speaker, it is hard to imagine what information would have qualified as important enough to pass on to the Prime Minister, if information about threats against a member and his family failed to make the cut.
    It is impossible to believe that the Prime Minister did not receive this information. Either he was unaware and is incompetent, or he was aware and is dishonest. Which one is it?
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills was briefed by CSIS yesterday, and it was not the first briefing he received.
    This is one example of how the government is taking concrete action to fight foreign interference. On this side of the House, on the government side, I mean, we are going to keep taking action to protect all the members who work in our democratic institutions.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the question was for the Prime Minister, not for his incompetent minister.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    I just want to remind all members in the House, when they are asking questions, or answering them, to try to be respectful to each other.
    The hon. Leader of the Opposition.
    Mr. Speaker, the question was for the Prime Minister, and he should have the courage to stand up and answer it.
    The former head of CSIS indicates that a briefing note with explosive revelations about a threat against the family of a member of Parliament would have been brought to the Prime Minister's top advisers. His top adviser says everything is brought to the Prime Minister. It is impossible to believe that he was not made aware of these threats two years ago when they were documented by his own intelligence services.
    How does the Prime Minister expect us to believe such a ridiculous claim?
    Mr. Speaker, does the member opposite really think that by exaggerating his rhetoric and lobbing attacks at the government, he is doing any service to the member for Wellington—Halton Hills?
    Of course the members of this government care about the safety and security of the member for Wellington—Halton Hills and his family. That is why we provided a briefing for him yesterday. It was not the first briefing that he received. We will continue to do the work to protect the members that work in this space and our democratic institutions.
    Mr. Speaker, if intelligence services would not tell the Prime Minister about this, what would they tell him about?
    It is hard to imagine a threat to the security of our democracy that is more grave than members of Parliament having their families threatened because of how they voted on the floor of the House of Commons. If the intelligence agency is not telling the Prime Minister these things, it is because he is not competent enough to ask for them.
    There are two options. Either he did not know and he is incompetent, or he did know and he is dishonest. Which is it?
    Mr. Speaker, we put confidence in our intelligence agencies to take the actions that are necessary when threats are posed against members in this chamber.
    As we heard, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills was briefed yesterday. He has been briefed on a number of occasions. The Liberal government will continue to ensure that parliamentarians are getting timely and concrete briefings. We have issued fresh instructions to CSIS on this point, so that we can protect the people and the families that work in this space, as well as our democratic institutions.

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, they are not protecting anybody but themselves. The same agent for Beijing who carried out the threats against the family of a member of Parliament is able to do so because he has diplomatic immunity from Canadian laws. If any other Canadian had done this, they would be charged and in jail, but because the Prime Minister has given diplomatic immunity and credentials to this agent, he is able to act with impunity right here on Canadian soil. Even if they believe the Prime Minister's far-fetched claim that he did not know about this until Monday, since Monday he has not kicked that agent out. Why is that?
    Mr. Speaker, I am afraid the Conservative leader is inventing the laws around diplomatic immunity.
     More important, it is this government that has introduced new laws to provide CSIS with the powers necessary to protect parliamentarians and Canadians from foreign interference. It is this government that has raised the bar on transparency by creating NSICOP and NSIRA. We will continue to work with all members of Parliament so we can ensure they are able to represent their constituencies in a way that is safe and secure from foreign interference.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I find it irresponsible at best, and perhaps imprudent, for the Prime Minister to say he knew nothing and to systematically attack the quality, integrity and service of Canada's intelligence officers. Heaven knows that coming from a sovereignist, this is no trivial statement.
    I would like to hear, from whoever wants to answer, if we are really sure that Mr. Trudeau, the PM's brother, Mr. Johnston and Mr. Rosenberg are above reproach.
    Mr. Speaker, the government appointed Mr. Johnston, a distinguished Canadian, as a national security adviser.
    Mr. Johnston will make recommendations, which may include holding a public inquiry if necessary. That is another tangible example of how this government has put in place policies and resources to counter foreign interference.
    Mr. Speaker, that is fine, but let me try to clarify something.
    Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that he has had no contact with the foundation for 10 years. Let us assume we are a naive bunch and say that is true.
    That is not what I was asking yesterday. It was a supplementary question. If the Prime Minister's brother were to be implicated by the Canada Revenue Agency, by another authority or even by the committee, would the Prime Minister acknowledge that he is not qualified to be involved in appointing the chair of a public commission of inquiry?
    Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister has said several times, there is no connection between him and the Trudeau Foundation, either direct or indirect. It is very clear.
    The foundation is responsible for granting scholarships. I think it is entirely irresponsible to attack an independent foundation.
    If the leader of the Bloc Québécois has any questions, he should ask the foundation.
    Mr. Speaker, the revelations about threats made against a member of Parliament and his family are disturbing.
    It is also disturbing that the Minister of Public Safety cannot say when he was informed of these threats.
    The minister has had 24 hours for someone to jog his memory, so now can he tell us when he was informed of these threats?
    Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that we have laws to protect information that is classified as “top secret”.
    We rely on the advice of our independent, non-partisan public servants to guide us in decisions about disclosing information. CSIS briefed the member for Wellington—Halton Hills yesterday.
    We will continue to work with all members of Parliament to protect the people who work in our democratic institutions.

  (1435)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I do not think the government understands how serious this is. We have a member of Parliament, and his family, being threatened by a foreign government for the work he does in Parliament. That is a problem. That is something serious. The government is not taking it seriously. I have written a letter to the Prime Minister to call all party leaders to deal with this really serious matter.
    In the meantime, could the government and the Prime Minister inform the House of whether there are any other members of Parliament who are currently the subject of similar threats?
    Mr. Speaker, of course we care for the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, which is why we have been providing him support through multiple briefings from CSIS, as we care for the safety and security of all members in the chamber, the people who support them and their families. That is why the government, since day one, has been giving additional powers to CSIS to address concerns about foreign interference.
    I would just pause to note that we are in a different era. This threat landscape has become much more complex. The government will continue to be vigilant when it comes to protecting our democratic institutions and the people who work within them.
    Mr. Speaker, in reference to the July 2021 intelligence assessment, this morning, the Prime Minister said, “CSIS made the determination that it wasn't something that needed be raised to a higher level”, but former CSIS director Dick Fadden said that the assessment would certainly have been sent to the Department of Public Safety, the Department Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister's national security adviser, who appears to have been David Morrison, the current deputy minister of foreign affairs.
    Will the government confirm the Prime Minister's assertion this morning that the intelligence assessment never made it out of CSIS?
    Mr. Speaker, I can certainly confirm that we are guided by the advice we get from our intelligence agencies, which is strictly governed under the Security of Information Act, as my colleague across the aisle knows.
    It is important that we navigate this very carefully because when we talk about matters that relate to national security, it is people's lives that are at stake: the people who work for CSIS, within the law enforcement community and in this chamber, including the member for Wellington—Halton Hills. That is why we briefed him numerous times. We will continue to ensure his safety and security so we can protect the people who work within these institutions.
    Mr. Speaker, again, Dick Fadden said today the assessment would certainly have been sent to the departments of foreign affairs and public safety and to the Prime Minister's national security adviser. Cherie Henderson, a CSIS assistant director, recently testified, “I can say that we definitely have seen specific cases of hostile activities of states against politicians. In those specific cases, we definitely brief our government on the challenges that are being faced.”
    How are we supposed to reconcile these differing and conflicting accounts?
    Mr. Speaker, I would hope that the member opposite would be able to reconcile that with his own personal experience, which was that, within the last 24 hours, he not only received a briefing, but also, on a number of occasions, received support from CSIS—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    I am having a hard time hearing the hon. minister. The hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills has asked a question, for which he deserves to hear the response, so I am going to ask everyone to bring it down a notch to listen to what the hon. minister has to say.
    The hon. Minister of Public Safety can begin from the top, please.
    Mr. Speaker, as I was saying before I was interrupted by the Conservatives across the aisle, the member opposite has received briefings from CSIS on a number of occasions. That is one of the ways in which we are attempting to address the concerns that have been raised around foreign interference.
    More importantly than that, we have put in place people, resources, new laws and transparency mechanisms to shine a light on the way in which we are combatting foreign interference, so we can protect the people in this chamber, as well as their loved ones. That is our paramount objective.
    Mr. Speaker, the only light that is being shone is by the Globe and Mail on the government's failure to keep parliamentarians informed and safe when foreign actors are threatening them.
    We heard very clearly from CSIS officials at committee who said, “In those specific cases, we definitely brief our government on the challenges that are being faced.” We heard from the Prime Minister's own chief of staff that the Prime Minister is a voracious reader of all the briefing notes that come across his desk. Are we supposed to believe that the Globe and Mail gets briefed by CSIS before the Prime Minister?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, those types of absurd suggestions do not advance this debate, neither does the suggestion that we do not care about the members opposite or their safety and security.
    As I said yesterday, there are intense debates in the chamber about both foreign and domestic policy, but rest assured that the members of this government will do everything in their power to fight against foreign interference to protect the members who work in the chamber, and their families, so we can defend our democratic institutions. That is something we should all be united behind.
    Mr. Speaker, the exact opposite has proven to be true. For two years, they failed to inform the member for Wellington—Halton Hills about these threats against his family. This is an attack on all parliamentarians. We have now known, based on the reports in the Globe and Mail, that the government knew two years ago.
    The question is very simple, and instead of the minister carrying on with non-answers, he needs to be very direct. When did the minister's office become aware of this specific instance?
    Mr. Speaker, we have been very clear that, as soon as we became aware of this specific issue regarding the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, we took decisive action.
    We reached out. We spoke to the member opposite. We offered him a briefing. We made sure that the briefing occurred. It occurred yesterday. It was not the only briefing the member opposite received, which is because we want to be sure we can protect him, his family and, indeed, all members in this chamber, so they can do their job, represent their constituencies and defend our sworn obligation to uphold this democracy.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, words are just that, simply words.
    On March 7 in a parliamentary committee, the Minister of Foreign Affairs stated, “let me tell you, if we have any form of clear evidence of any wrongdoing, we will send diplomats packing very quickly.”
    The Liberals have known for two years that a diplomat from Beijing targeted a Conservative MP and his family after a vote in the House. As of Monday, every Canadian knows about this secret that the Prime Minister had hoped to keep to himself.
    Was it because it is a Conservative MP that the Prime Minister did not consider this diplomat's actions reprehensible and send him packing very quickly?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, that assertion is utterly false and below the dignity of this chamber.
    Let me be very clear. Our government has repeatedly stated that we follow the Vienna Convention. If there is any evidence that is brought to our attention that a diplomat is acting outside of the Vienna Convention, we will act upon it because we take the rule of law seriously, and we take the rule of law to the core.
     We will continue to fight to ensure that not just members of Parliament are protected, but every Canadian is protected from foreign interference.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Vienna Convention is very clear. They do not need a reason to expel a diplomat. They could do it right now, immediately, if they wanted to. However, they will not, because the reality is that they were the ones who benefited from what was happening.
    What does the Prime Minister have that is so important to protect? We want to know. The government has known for two years. The public has known since Monday. When will the Prime Minister finally do the right thing and expel the bully diplomat from Beijing?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, let us dial down the rhetoric on this a little bit. Let us dial down the temperature a little bit.
     I will state very clearly that their government might have operated in their best interest, but this government will always operate in the best interest of all Canadians, every member of Parliament and all people of every persuasion.
    We will act with due diligence, following the rule of law and following the conventions that we have signed. We will take our time and always do it appropriately to ensure that Canadians are protected and members of the chamber can do their work as well.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the government, the Prime Minister's Office and therefore the Prime Minister himself were aware of the threats against the member for Wellington—Halton Hills.
    The threats were directed at the member and his family, yet they said nothing and did nothing. No matter how we ask him the question, the Prime Minister gives us no valid reason. If parliamentarians and their family members can be targeted by threats because of votes or positions taken in the House, none of us are safe.
    Will the Prime Minister apologize right now in the House to the member for Wellington—Halton Hills?

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, I share the concerns of my hon. colleague. That is why we offered the member for Wellington—Halton Hills a briefing.
    We have a strong track record when it comes to fighting foreign interference by giving new powers to our intelligence services and to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. We also have new committees to enhance transparency. In co-operation with the Bloc Québécois and all members of the House, we are going to build on this track record.
    Mr. Speaker, that was not an apology.
    A member of Parliament and his family are threatened. The government is informed, but keeps that information to itself for two years. Let us pause for a moment and think about the gravity of the situation. On top of that, according to The Globe and Mail, other MPs might also have been targeted.
    Three questions come to mind. First, has the government been informed of any other MPs who have been or are being threatened? Second, has it notified the MPs in question? Third, if not, is it because the MPs in question are not part of its political party?
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order.
    The hon. Minister of Public Safety.
    Mr. Speaker, there are many questions. The short answer is that the government will continue to take concrete action in the fight against foreign interference with resources, new powers, consultations and commitments to all Canadians, including new registries, for example. We must continue to be vigilant, working closely with all members and parliamentarians, to protect our democratic institutions.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, CSIS says that Beijing sees Canada as a “high-priority target” and that its agents are “unconcerned about repercussions”. No wonder, because under the Prime Minister's watch, Beijing diplomats with impunity have been interfering in our elections and setting up illegal police stations.
    We now learned that a diplomat at Beijing's Toronto consulate tried to punish the family of a sitting member of Parliament. On what date did the Minister of Public Safety's office first learn of this serious incident?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague opposite raised a number of concerns, one of which is how it is that we are protecting our democratic institutions, including our elections. As he knows, we have set up independent panels, including with protocols, to make sure that we inform Canadians when there are threats, but also making sure that we are vigilant about the threats that occur today, which is why in budget 2023, there is $49 million for the law enforcement community to protect Canadians from foreign interference.
    I sincerely hope that the Conservatives will see fit to support that budget because that is the way we will protect Canadians from foreign interference.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister's non-answer is an absolute disgrace. The seriousness of this cannot be understated. We are talking about a hostile foreign state that targeted a sitting member of Parliament to intimidate him from doing his job, from being able to vote freely in this place, free of Beijing's coercion. CSIS told committee that it definitely briefs the government when it learns of foreign states targeting politicians.
    Again to the minister, on what date did his office learn of this most serious incident?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, as we have said before, the idea that somehow we are not concerned about the safety and security of the member for Wellington—Halton Hills is outrageous. That is why we took decisive, concrete action to ensure that he was provided with a briefing yesterday. We will continue to be vigilant on this front, putting in place the resources, the personnel and the authorities to protect the people who work in this chamber so that we can uphold our democracy.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, our country is a country of law and order that respects international agreements. Article 9 of the Vienna Convention states that a country may without having to explain its decision expel a person declared persona non grata.
    The question is very simple. Since at least Monday, Canadians have been aware that there is a so-called Chinese diplomat here who should be expelled. Why has the government not done that yet?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as you heard, my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary for Global Affairs informed this chamber that we will leave all options on the table for any agents who may be engaging in conduct which goes beyond—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, order.
    The hon. minister can continue.
    Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary for Global Affairs, informed this chamber that if any agent representing a foreign government exceeds their lawful authorities and activities here, we will take whatever appropriate steps are necessary.
    Canada's record in condemning the actions of foreign and hostile actors is universally well known. We will continue to take the steps that are necessary to protect our institutions.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, if the minister does not have the honour or dignity to provide a clear answer to a very precise question, then we will need to default to the parliamentary secretary. The Vienna Convention is very clear. Article 9 gives a country the full authority to expel any diplomat it wants. Since Monday, Canadians have been aware that a diplomat from Beijing acted in an unacceptable manner toward an MP. To attack an MP is to attack all MPs and Canadian democracy as a whole. When will the government send him packing?
    Mr. Speaker, the government is focusing on an issue that affects everyone in the House. That is why we supported the opposition member who works for the community of Wellington—Halton Hills. That is why we created new powers for our intelligence service. That is why we will work around the clock, seven days a week, to protect all MPs in the House and their families so that they can do their work.

[English]

Indigenous Affairs

    Uqaqtittiji, Canada's failure and neglect is so evident in Grassy Narrows First Nation with the decades of mercury poisoning. Governments knew and did nothing, so Chief Turtle and his nation fought back. Three years ago, the Liberals finally announced they would build a mercury treatment centre. Three years later, nothing has been built. It is neglect once more.
    Grassy Narrows is doing its part. Why are the Liberals continuing to fail Chief Turtle and his nation?
    Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member opposite that what has happened in Grassy Narrows is a national tragedy. In fact, we have to do better to protect waterways across this country from the kind of toxic poisoning that Grassy Narrows now lives with. That is why this government has worked with Grassy Narrows and Chief Turtle to build a recovery centre, but we have to do more to prevent these kinds of tragedies in the future.
    I will be meeting with Chief Turtle and council this afternoon.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians pay the third-highest prices in the world for prescription medicines. Since 2015, the Liberals have been promising to lower costs, but failed to deliver. Now officials from Canada's drug price regulator confirm the Minister of Health stopped them from lowering drug prices for Canadians by billions of dollars. Former board member Matthew Herder testified that big pharma knows it can get the minister to do its bidding.
    Why are the Liberals putting big pharma's profits ahead of Canadians' health?

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, our government and the Minister of Health appreciate the leadership and contributions of the PMPRB as an independent quasi-judicial body. The minister does not provide direction to the PMPRB and, as stated in section 96(5) of the Patent Act, the PMPRB must consult with various parties, which include the minister, before issuing any new guidelines.
    In this context, on November 28, 2022, the Minister of Health sent a letter to the PMPRB, which is available online for everybody who would like to see it.

Democratic Institutions

    Mr. Speaker, my question is to the chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
    Yesterday, Conservative MPs in the finance committee held the committee hostage, blocking supports to countless middle-class Canadians. Not only is that shameful, but this obstruction caused our PROC committee meeting to be cancelled. It is at that same committee meeting that we were set to hear from high-level Conservative Party staffer, Jenni Byrne, as part of our study on foreign interference.
    Does the chair not find this highly suspicious? Will the committee address these avoidance tactics by the Conservatives?
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Whitby is correct. It is very concerning that Conservative members are filibustering at finance committee to avoid Jenni Byrne's testimony.
    It is essential that Canadians be able to have confidence in our democratic institutions, and that is why all parties agreed—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, order. There seems to be some confusion here. I just want to remind the hon. members to just get up when it is their turn to speak, just a few seconds before, maybe five or 10 seconds before. It just makes the job for the Speaker a lot easier, so that we do not have confusion.
    Please, I know everybody is trying to help each other, but offering advice across the floor is not a good idea. Maybe just help yourselves out.
    The hon. member for Waterloo, from the top, please.
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Whitby is correct. It is very concerning that Conservative members are filibustering at finance committee to avoid Jenni Byrne's testimony.
    It is essential that Canadians be able to have confidence in our democratic institutions, and that is why all parties agreed to prioritize the study on foreign election interference. Canadians now know that the previous Conservative government knew of foreign interference in our elections. Jenni Byrne served in senior roles to both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party. She was to appear yesterday evening, yet the Conservatives chose, using dirty tricks, to avoid accountability.
    They say this is a serious matter, but they sure—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    I understand that there may have been something offensive said, but I have no idea what the hell it was, because I could not hear it.
    I apologize for using unparliamentary language.
    The hon. member for Brantford—Brant.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, once again, the public safety minister is misleading the House.
    He claimed that the RCMP had taken decisive actions to shut down all Beijing-funded police stations, yet contrary to this claim, two Montreal community groups under investigation for holding secret Chinese government police stations say they continue to operate normally, with no closure requests from the RCMP.
    Why is this minister misleading Canadians? Why would he not shut these stations down?

  (1500)  

    Mr. Speaker, with respect, it is the quality of that question that betrays the member opposite's understanding of what we do in elected government and what our police agencies do, which is operationally independent.
    It is astonishing to me that the member opposite does not understand that. The RCMP have been clear that when there have been activities associated with police stations they have taken concrete action. If more pop up, our expectation is that they will do so, backed by the record investments that the government has put into keeping our communities safe.
    Mr. Speaker, our democracy is at stake.
    The public safety minister looked Canadians in the eyes and claimed that decisive action had been taken to shut all of these stations down. This minister has a significant credibility deficit. He has misled Canadians in the past and continues to do so today.
    When will the minister finally stand up, prioritize the safety of Canadians, stop mocking the Conservatives and shut these stations down?
    Mr. Speaker, we take this issue very seriously, which is why the RCMP have been on top of it, providing public updates to everyone around the actions they are taking to disrupt any foreign interference that may be affiliated with these so-called police stations.
    Obviously if there are more threats along these lines, our expectation is that they will do so, but they will do so in a manner that is respectful of operational independence. It is quite shocking to me that at this stage in the member opposite's career he does not understand that important democratic principle.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, on our side, we are simply talking about the facts.
    Fact one: Two months ago, the RCMP announced that there were two police stations being run by Beijing, one in Brossard and one in Montreal.
    Fact two: The Prime Minister has already clearly stated that he would take any action possible to stop hostile operations in Canada.
    Fact three: Last Thursday, the Minister of Public Safety stated in committee that the police stations run by Beijing were closed.
    Why is the Minister of Public Safety misleading Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, with respect, my colleague must read the RCMP's updates.
    The RCMP indicated that it is taking concrete action on activities of the so-called police stations run by Beijing. With the help of our government's investments, it will remain vigilant on this issue.
    That is the problem, Mr. Speaker.
    The Minister of Public Safety is there to give an account of what is happening in terms of public safety in Canada. The RCMP is saying one thing and the minister is saying another. Then, the minister comes back and says that he is not the one in charge of RCMP operations. However, he is the minister responsible for public safety.
    Canadians need to know the truth. Have the police stations run by Beijing in Canada really been shut down, yes or no? Are they still open, as we learned on Monday? What is the real answer?
    Mr. Speaker, as I already explained plenty of times, the RCMP has taken decisive action in connection with the activities of the so-called police stations run by Beijing.
    We are seeking to address this issue with existing investments and resources and with investments and resources that are set out in budget 2023.
    I hope that the Conservatives will support this budget. It is very important for protecting Canadians.

Democratic Institutions

    Mr. Speaker, when the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS, informed the Prime Minister in 2019 that a prospective Liberal MP was receiving support from China, he kept it secret and did nothing.
    When CSIS informed him in 2021 that an opposition MP and his family were being threatened by China, he kept it secret and did nothing.
    The Prime Minister keeps things secret when it serves the Liberals and when it does a disservice to the opposition. After all that, this same Prime Minister tells us to trust his investigation, to trust his rapporteur, whom he appointed and who reports to him.
    When will there be an independent public inquiry?
    Mr. Speaker, the reason we have confidence in Mr. Johnston is that he is an individual with a remarkable track record. What is more, he served as governor general, having been appointed by a former Conservative prime minister.
    This is not a partisan issue. We are always willing to work with Mr. Johnston. When the recommendations are made, the government will respect them.

  (1505)  

    Mr. Speaker, we are two days away from the coronation of Charles III and the Liberal convention, and Liberal MPs are starting to be heard. They are telling us that the oath to the King is outdated and it is time to make it optional.
    Members of the House should be loyal only to the public. There should not be two loyalties: one to the Crown and one to the citizens. There should be only one loyalty, and that is to the people.
    People no longer want oaths to the King, nor God Save the King. The time has come for change. This is a good opportunity.
    Why not finally cut ties with the British monarchy once and for all?
    Mr. Speaker, I get the feeling from the other side of the House that there is a lot of enthusiasm for the response.
    While Quebeckers and Canadians are concerned about affordability, health care, dental care, building the economy of tomorrow and talking about investments, the Bloc Québécois is talking to us about the monarchy.
    That is quite something, in 2023, to be talking about the monarchy while Canadians' minds are on affordability.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety knew two years ago that a foreign agent participated in threats to a member of Parliament's family because of his vote in this House. Aside from the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, any evidence of any threat against any member in this House should have resulted in expulsion of that agent.
    Who was asleep at the switch two years ago, and who is still asleep this week?
    Mr. Speaker, by now, given the repeated nature of the questions we are receiving from Conservatives, they will know that we have taken decisive and concrete action in supporting the member for Wellington—Halton Hills.
    It was the Conservatives who were asleep at the switch, respectfully. They were asleep at the switch for 10 years when they had the reins of government. They could have introduced new powers for CSIS; they did not do it. They could have introduced an NSICOP; they did not do it. They could have introduced NSIRA; they did not do it. It was their incompetence and their being asleep at the switch that allowed us the opportunity to do that work, and we will continue to build on it so we can protect the people in our institutions.
    Mr. Speaker, the government is now trying to hide behind the Vienna Convention to explain its inaction with regard to an agent from Beijing harassing a member of Parliament's family. Let me read it. Article 9 states, “The receiving State may at any time and without having to explain its decision, notify the sending State that...any member of the diplomatic staff of the mission is persona non-grata.... In any such case, the sending State shall...either recall the person concerned or terminate his functions”.
    Why is that agent from Beijing still in Canada?
     Mr. Speaker, it is increasingly clear, and it has been for several years, that China is a disruptive power. China is interfering in our society. We are very aware of that and we are fighting it every day. We are also very aware of the Vienna Convention. We are very aware of our abilities and our responsibilities.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    I am going to have to interrupt. Part of my job is listening to find out what is being said, and if I cannot hear it, I cannot do my job, so I am going to ask everyone to take a deep breath and let the hon. parliamentary secretary finish his response, and then we can go from there.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary, from the top, please.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to be extra clear: Our Minister of Foreign Affairs has been clear to her Chinese counterpart, as recently as a few weeks ago, when she was absolutely clear that any interference in Canada by any agency of the Chinese government is inappropriate and we will deal with it.
    Mr. Speaker, for almost two years, the current government has known that an agent from the Communist regime in Beijing has been operating in Toronto. That agent orchestrated a harassment campaign against a member of Parliament because of a vote taken in this House. The government does not need to explain itself. If this does not rise to the level of expelling a diplomat, what on earth would? Why is the government more worried about the feelings of a Communist agent from Beijing than the very foundations of our democracy?

  (1510)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is the foundations of democracy that are being well served by the authorities and the investments that this government has made in our intelligence community, which the Conservatives never did. They brag about their record when it comes to national security. They talk tough, but they never back it up with concrete action. It is the members on this side of the chamber who are rolling up our sleeves, doing the heavy work and protecting the people who work in this chamber so that we can protect our democracy.

[Translation]

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, there are still too many victims of sexual violence.
    We know how important it is for police forces to have access to tools such as the national sex offender registry, to investigate and prevent sexual violence. We also know that the criminal justice process can be daunting for victims.
    Could the Minister of Justice tell us more about the bill we introduced to protect Canadians and empower victims?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Vancouver Granville for his question and his French.
    We recently introduced Bill S-12 in the Senate to strengthen the national sex offender registry. Offenders will have to register, unless they can prove that they do not pose a risk to public safety.
    Bill S‑12 also gives victims more choice over publication bans by clarifying the process. Some victims want to protect their identity, others want to tell their stories. It is their voice and it should be their choice.

Democratic Institutions

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister expects us to believe that the dictatorship in Beijing donated $140,000 to the Trudeau Foundation to influence him but he knew nothing about it, even though it was his brother who arranged it. He would have us believe that Trudeau Foundation donors paid for the Prime Minister's vacations but he knew nothing about it. He would have us believe that intelligence officers knew two years ago that a member of Parliament and his family were being harassed, but the PM knew nothing about that either.
    If the Prime Minister knows nothing, how is he supposed to protect us?
    Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister has confirmed on a number of occasions, he has no relationship with the Trudeau Foundation, which is responsible for scholarships.
    It is irresponsible to engage in such partisan attacks against a non-profit organization. The opposition is doing so without any evidence to prove such a relationship, because it does not exist.
    The member should direct his questions to the foundation.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we might disagree on some things, but here are the facts on which we all agree. We all agree that a foreign dictatorship had an agent organize threats against the family of an MP because of how he voted in the House. We all agree on that. We all agree that the government knew about this two years ago. We all agree, whether we like it or not, that the Prime Minister is the head of government. In other words, he is responsible for the action or inaction of his own government. In other words, he should have known and he should have taken action.
    When will he finally show up for work, take responsibility and do his job?
    Mr. Speaker, that is precisely what this government has been doing since we took the reins of government in 2015. We have put in place the authorities, the personnel and all the technology to protect our institutions from foreign interference.
    We will continue to work with the members opposite, despite all of the chicanery, despite all the lobbing of insults, despite all of the distraction, and despite their incompetence of 10 years when they had the opportunity to do this work. We are doing this work and we will do it regardless of partisanship to make sure that all the MPs in this chamber can do their job.

  (1515)  

    Mr. Speaker, this is actually not about one member of Parliament. This is not about all members of Parliament. This is about millions of patriotic Canadians of Chinese descent who face this kind of abuse and harassment every single day. We hear stories of Chinese Canadians in tears because they are being intimidated by agents just like the one who attacked this member's family. These are our people. This is our home.
    When will the Prime Minister finally do his job and protect us?
    Mr. Speaker, it is finally some measure of relief to hear that from the Conservative leader, who, for weeks and months, has been trying to politicize an issue that touches not only all members in this chamber, but all Canadians. One can only hope that now the Conservatives will abandon their hopped-up rhetoric and their counterproductive insults and work with the government to protect all members and all Canadians from foreign interference. That is our sworn obligation. We will continue to do that to defend our democracy.

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, while the leader of the official opposition blames local mayors and councillors for a lack of housing supply, our government has taken a different approach. Can the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion inform this House as to the level—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    As important as it is to hear the answers, I would like to hear the questions as well.
    The hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, from the top.
    Mr. Speaker, while the leader of the official opposition blames local mayors and councillors for a lack of housing supply, our government has taken a different approach.
    Could the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion inform the House as to the level of support our housing accelerator fund will provide to municipalities that expedite the planning and approval process for new developments, which increase housing supply for all Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, that is a great question, and I want to thank the hon. member for his attention to this important issue.
    To get more housing supply built we need everyone at the table. The Conservatives are just not serious about this. They want to pick fights with mayors and cut funding to cities. Just yesterday, the leader of the official opposition stood in the House and attacked what he called Canada's “woke mayors”—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    There is some noise in the chamber that is really making it difficult for people to understand or hear the minister's answer. I will have him start right from the top, please.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his attention to this important issue.
    We know, on this side of the House, that to get more housing supply built, we need everyone at the table, but the Conservatives are not serious about this. The leader of the official opposition has picked fights with mayors and cut funding to cities. Yesterday, he stood in the House and attacked what he called Canada's “woke mayors”.
    Conservative cuts and that type of far right rhetoric will not build one affordable housing unit. Unlike the Conservatives, we know that we need to work with our municipalities to get more homes—
    The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

[Translation]

Disaster Assistance

    Mr. Speaker, Quebec is on high alert. Just about everywhere, rivers are exceeding major flooding thresholds. Several families have had to evacuate their homes.
    In Charlevoix, two firefighters were swept away by the waters of the Gouffre River while trying to rescue a family whose home was in danger. The body of one of those firefighters has now been found. Our thoughts are with their families, but also with all Quebeckers who are facing these floodwaters.
    Will the federal government deploy all available aid to help citizens in the face of this disaster?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, first of all, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has a very important question. I want to join him, as I believe does every member of the House, when expressing my concern and thoughts for all of the communities of Quebec that have been impacted. In particular, we extend our sincere condolences to the families of Christopher Lavoie and Regis Lavoie, the firefighters who rushed to save lives and appear to have lost their own lives.
    We immediately deployed Canadian air force aircraft to search and engage in the initial search, and I have reached out to Mr. Bonnardel of the Quebec government to offer all federal support as required, and to assure him that our government will be there for the people of Quebec—

  (1520)  

    The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, I extend my condolences for the loss of the people and the firefighters in this climate event.
    My question is for the Prime Minister. In relation to the business that we will take up later today, the amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, known as Bill S-5, there is still time to improve this act by increasing the opportunities for public participation for science and indigenous knowledge to inform the act.
    The amendments by the hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby and myself need to be supported by the government. Will it stand for public participation and indigenous knowledge?
    Mr. Speaker, the last time CEPA was reformed was more than 20 years ago. What our government did was introduce strong amendments to CEPA, which were applauded by environmental organizations, scientists and industry alike.
    The parliamentary process was a clear success. Both Senate and House committees worked on this bill, and they have spent 50 hours studying it. They heard testimony from over 80 witnesses representing civil society, academia, industry and indigenous organizations. We received more than a hundred written briefs. It is now time to pass the bill as reported by the environment committee and send it back to the Senate.
    That is all the time we have for question period today.
    The hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton is rising on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, in question period, the Minister of Housing claimed that I had praised the housing accelerator program, so I reviewed the 479 interventions I have made on Hansard here and in committee, and I have been consistent in claiming that the government has been inadequate in their approach to affordable housing. I just wanted to correct the record.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

[Translation]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Home Ownership and Renting Affordability 

    The House resumed from May 2 consideration of the motion.
     It being 3:22 p.m., pursuant to order made on Thursday, June 23, 2022, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion of the member for Carleton relating to the business of supply.
    Call in the members.

  (1535)  

[English]

    (The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 309)

YEAS

Members

Aboultaif
Aitchison
Albas
Allison
Arnold
Baldinelli
Barlow
Barrett
Berthold
Bezan
Block
Bragdon
Brassard
Brock
Calkins
Caputo
Carrie
Chambers
Chong
Cooper
Dalton
Dancho
Davidson
Deltell
d'Entremont
Doherty
Dowdall
Dreeshen
Duncan (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry)
Ellis
Epp
Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster)
Falk (Provencher)
Fast
Ferreri
Findlay
Gallant
Généreux
Genuis
Gladu
Godin
Goodridge
Gourde
Gray
Hallan
Hoback
Jeneroux
Kelly
Kitchen
Kmiec
Kram
Kramp-Neuman
Kurek
Kusie
Lake
Lantsman
Lawrence
Lehoux
Lewis (Essex)
Lewis (Haldimand—Norfolk)
Liepert
Lloyd
Lobb
Maguire
Martel
Mazier
McCauley (Edmonton West)
McLean
Melillo
Moore
Morantz
Morrison
Motz
Muys
Nater
O'Toole
Patzer
Paul-Hus
Perkins
Poilievre
Redekopp
Reid
Rempel Garner
Richards
Roberts
Rood
Ruff
Scheer
Schmale
Seeback
Shields
Shipley
Small
Soroka
Steinley
Stewart
Strahl
Stubbs
Thomas
Tochor
Tolmie
Uppal
Van Popta
Vecchio
Vidal
Vien
Viersen
Vis
Vuong
Wagantall
Warkentin
Waugh
Webber
Williams
Williamson
Zimmer

Total: -- 116


NAYS

Members

Aldag
Alghabra
Ali
Anand
Anandasangaree
Angus
Arseneault
Arya
Ashton
Atwin
Bachrach
Badawey
Bains
Baker
Barron
Barsalou-Duval
Battiste
Beaulieu
Beech
Bendayan
Bennett
Bérubé
Bibeau
Bittle
Blaikie
Blair
Blanchet
Blanchette-Joncas
Blaney
Blois
Boissonnault
Boulerice
Bradford
Brière
Brunelle-Duceppe
Cannings
Casey
Chabot
Chagger
Chahal
Champagne
Champoux
Chatel
Chen
Chiang
Collins (Hamilton East—Stoney Creek)
Collins (Victoria)
Cormier
Coteau
Dabrusin
Damoff
Davies
DeBellefeuille
Desilets
Desjarlais
Dhaliwal
Dhillon
Diab
Dong
Drouin
Dubourg
Duclos
Duguid
Dzerowicz
Ehsassi
El-Khoury
Erskine-Smith
Fergus
Fillmore
Fisher
Fonseca
Fortier
Fortin
Fragiskatos
Fraser
Freeland
Fry
Gaheer
Garon
Garrison
Gaudreau
Gazan
Gerretsen
Gill
Gould
Green
Guilbeault
Hajdu
Hanley
Hardie
Hepfner
Holland
Housefather
Hughes
Hussen
Hutchings
Iacono
Idlout
Ien
Jaczek
Johns
Joly
Jowhari
Julian
Kayabaga
Kelloway
Khalid
Khera
Koutrakis
Kusmierczyk
Kwan
Lalonde
Lambropoulos
Lametti
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Larouche
Lattanzio
Lauzon
LeBlanc
Lebouthillier
Lemire
Lightbound
Long
Longfield
Louis (Kitchener—Conestoga)
MacAulay (Cardigan)
MacDonald (Malpeque)
MacGregor
MacKinnon (Gatineau)
Maloney
Martinez Ferrada
Masse
Mathyssen
May (Cambridge)
May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
McDonald (Avalon)
McGuinty
McKay
McKinnon (Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam)
McLeod
McPherson
Mendès
Mendicino
Miao
Michaud
Miller
Morrice
Morrissey
Murray
Naqvi
Ng
Noormohamed
Normandin
O'Connell
Oliphant
O'Regan
Pauzé
Perron
Petitpas Taylor
Plamondon
Powlowski
Qualtrough
Rayes
Robillard
Rogers
Romanado
Sahota
Sajjan
Saks
Samson
Sarai
Savard-Tremblay
Scarpaleggia
Schiefke
Serré
Sgro
Shanahan
Sheehan
Sidhu (Brampton East)
Sidhu (Brampton South)
Simard
Sinclair-Desgagné
Singh
Sorbara
Sousa
Ste-Marie
St-Onge
Sudds
Tassi
Taylor Roy
Thériault
Therrien
Thompson
Trudeau
Trudel
Turnbull
Valdez
Van Bynen
van Koeverden
Vandal
Vandenbeld
Vignola
Villemure
Virani
Weiler
Wilkinson
Yip
Zahid
Zarrillo
Zuberi

Total: -- 211


PAIRED

Nil

    I declared the motion defeated.

Private Members' Business

[Private Members' Business]

  (1540)  

[Translation]

Fighting Against Forced Labour and Child Labour in Supply Chains Act

     The House resumed from April 26 consideration of the motion that Bill S-211, An Act to enact the Fighting Against Forced Labour and Child Labour in Supply Chains Act and to amend the Customs Tariff, be read the third time and passed.
    Pursuant to order made on Thursday, June 23, 2022, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill S-211 under Private Members' Business.

  (1550)  

[English]

    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 310)

YEAS

Members

Aboultaif
Aitchison
Albas
Aldag
Alghabra
Ali
Allison
Anand
Anandasangaree
Arnold
Arseneault
Arya
Atwin
Badawey
Bains
Baker
Baldinelli
Barlow
Barrett
Battiste
Beech
Bendayan
Bennett
Berthold
Bezan
Bibeau
Bittle
Blair
Block
Blois
Boissonnault
Bradford
Bragdon
Brassard
Brière
Brock
Calkins
Caputo
Carrie
Casey
Chagger
Chahal
Chambers
Champagne
Chatel
Chen
Chiang
Chong
Collins (Hamilton East—Stoney Creek)
Cooper
Cormier
Coteau
Dabrusin
Dalton
Damoff
Dancho
Davidson
Deltell
d'Entremont
Dhaliwal
Dhillon
Diab
Doherty
Dong
Dowdall
Dreeshen
Drouin
Dubourg
Duclos
Duguid
Duncan (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry)
Dzerowicz
Ehsassi
El-Khoury
Ellis
Epp
Erskine-Smith
Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster)
Falk (Provencher)
Fast
Fergus
Ferreri
Fillmore
Findlay
Fisher
Fonseca
Fortier
Fragiskatos
Fraser
Freeland
Fry
Gaheer
Gallant
Généreux
Genuis
Gerretsen
Gladu
Godin
Goodridge
Gould
Gourde
Gray
Guilbeault
Hajdu
Hallan
Hanley
Hardie
Hepfner
Hoback
Holland
Housefather
Hussen
Hutchings
Iacono
Ien
Jaczek
Jeneroux
Joly
Jowhari
Kayabaga
Kelloway
Kelly
Khalid
Khera
Kitchen
Kmiec
Koutrakis
Kram
Kramp-Neuman
Kurek
Kusie
Kusmierczyk
Lake
Lalonde
Lambropoulos
Lametti
Lamoureux
Lantsman
Lapointe
Lattanzio
Lauzon
Lawrence
LeBlanc
Lebouthillier
Lehoux
Lewis (Essex)
Lewis (Haldimand—Norfolk)
Liepert
Lightbound
Lloyd
Lobb
Long
Longfield
Louis (Kitchener—Conestoga)
MacAulay (Cardigan)
MacDonald (Malpeque)
MacKinnon (Gatineau)
Maguire
Maloney
Martel
Martinez Ferrada
May (Cambridge)
May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
Mazier
McCauley (Edmonton West)
McDonald (Avalon)
McGuinty
McKay
McKinnon (Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam)
McLean
McLeod
Melillo
Mendès
Mendicino
Miao
Miller
Moore
Morantz
Morrison
Morrissey
Motz
Murray
Muys
Naqvi
Nater
Ng
Noormohamed
O'Connell
Oliphant
O'Regan
O'Toole
Patzer
Paul-Hus
Perkins
Petitpas Taylor
Poilievre
Powlowski
Qualtrough
Rayes
Redekopp
Reid
Rempel Garner
Richards
Roberts
Robillard
Rogers
Romanado
Rood
Ruff
Sahota
Sajjan
Saks
Samson
Sarai
Scarpaleggia
Scheer
Schiefke
Schmale
Seeback
Serré
Sgro
Shanahan
Sheehan
Shields
Shipley
Sidhu (Brampton East)
Sidhu (Brampton South)
Small
Sorbara
Soroka
Sousa
Steinley
Stewart
St-Onge
Strahl
Stubbs
Sudds
Tassi
Taylor Roy
Thomas
Thompson
Tochor
Tolmie
Trudeau
Turnbull
Uppal
Valdez
Van Bynen
van Koeverden
Van Popta
Vandal
Vandenbeld
Vecchio
Vidal
Vien
Viersen
Virani
Vis
Vuong
Wagantall
Warkentin
Waugh
Webber
Weiler
Wilkinson
Williams
Williamson
Yip
Zahid
Zimmer
Zuberi

Total: -- 271


NAYS

Members

Angus
Ashton
Bachrach
Barron
Barsalou-Duval
Beaulieu
Bérubé
Blaikie
Blanchet
Blanchette-Joncas
Blaney
Boulerice
Brunelle-Duceppe
Cannings
Chabot
Champoux
Collins (Victoria)
Davies
DeBellefeuille
Desbiens
Desilets
Desjarlais
Fortin
Garon
Garrison
Gaudreau
Gazan
Gill
Green
Hughes
Idlout
Johns
Julian
Kwan
Larouche
Lemire
MacGregor
Masse
Mathyssen
McPherson
Michaud
Morrice
Normandin
Pauzé
Perron
Plamondon
Savard-Tremblay
Simard
Sinclair-Desgagné
Singh
Ste-Marie
Thériault
Therrien
Trudel
Vignola
Villemure
Zarrillo

Total: -- 57


PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.

    (Bill read the third time and passed)


Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

First Nations Fiscal Management Act

    (Bill C-45. On the Order: Government Orders:)

    March 23, 2023—The Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations — Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs of Bill C-45, An Act to amend the First Nations Fiscal Management Act, to make consequential amendments to other Acts, and to make a clarification relating to another Act.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
    There have been consultations, and I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:
    That, notwithstanding any Standing Order, special order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-45, An Act to amend the First Nations Fiscal Management Act, to make consequential amendments to other Acts, and to make a clarification relating to another Act, be deemed read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs.
    All those opposed to the hon. member's moving the motion will please say nay.
    Agreed.
    The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.

    (Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)


ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

[English]

Government Response to Petitions

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8)(a), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to five petitions. These returns will be tabled in an electronic format.

[Translation]

Committees of the House

Foreign Affairs and International Development  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 15th report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, entitled “The Human Rights Situation in Haiti”.

[English]

    Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

[Translation]

Transport, Infrastructure and Communities  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, entitled “Main Estimates 2023-24”.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

[English]

Petitions

Publication Bans  

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present, in both official languages, two petitions, which collectively have over 5,000 signatures. The subject of these petitions is publication bans.
    The petitioners note that these restrictions, when unwanted, are paternalistic and prevent a victim complainant from exercising freedom of expression. They reinforce shame and the notion that anonymity always equals protection. Unwanted publication bans can give the impression that abusers are protected and benefit from the restrictions on the victim complainants, as they prevent open communication about the offence and harm experienced.
    The petitioners are calling on the government to allow victim complainants to attribute their own experience of sexual offences without being charged; to grant adult victim complainants of sexual offences a choice in the application of publication bans; to produce comprehensive, accessible, multilingual and public information on these bans on government websites; to simplify the process to lift a ban without the services of a lawyer; and to allow victim complainants to opt out of these bans on their victim impact statement forms.

  (1555)  

Hazaras  

    Mr. Speaker, as I have done before, I am tabling another petition on behalf the minority ethnic Hazara community from my riding specifically.
    They are again drawing the attention of the House to the ongoing genocide of the Hazaras by the Taliban regime, something that has been ongoing for many decades now.
    The petitioners are calling on the government to recognize the genocide of the Hazaras by the Taliban and to include the Hazara ethnic minority from Afghanistan within the 40,000 Afghan refugees that the Canadian government is trying to resettle by the end of this year.

Human Rights  

    Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition today on behalf of many constituents across the country who have asked that the government acknowledge the important contributions that German Canadians have made to this country, and recognize that during World War I and World War II, innocent German Canadians and Austrian Canadians were interned, alongside enemy combatants.
    They recognize that Ukrainian Canadians, Japanese Canadians and Italian Canadians were apologized to, and the petitioners would like the government to apologize for their unlawful internment.

Public Safety  

    Mr. Speaker, your home, my home, our home, let us bring it home and stand with petitioners in Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon who want federal action to combat the vandalism and theft of telecommunications infrastructure.
    While these crimes are not considered to cause actual danger to life in the context of the Criminal Code, and thus are not prosecuted as severely as they otherwise would be, they can in fact be life-threatening. Damaged and stolen cables could lead to local residents being unable to call 911 in the event of an emergency, or keep up to date on emergency weather situations in ridings like mine.
    The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to enact tougher penalties for vandalizing or stealing telecommunications infrastructure. When seconds matter, Canadians must be able to contact emergency services without delay.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to present a petition signed by 141 people in my area of Hamilton, who are concerned about the Ford government's proposal to build Highway 413 and pave over more than 2,400 acres of land, including protected greenbelt, farmlands, forests, wetlands and the traditional indigenous lands of the Mississauga, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Chippewa and Six Nations.
    This petition calls upon the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to commence a complete and thorough federal environmental impact assessment to identify, predict and evaluate the environmental effects of the Highway 413 project, and conduct public hearings prior to the start of any construction.

Syria  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to present a second petition that highlights the need for greater action to address the humanitarian crisis in Syria, particularly in light of the earthquakes that devastated the region earlier this year.
    The petition highlights the call from the UN Special Rapporteur, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and member of the European Parliament Clare Daly to take immediate action to ensure greater aid could reach the most in need.
    The petitioners calls for the Government of Canada to immediately end sanctions against Syria and urge other states to follow suit, and amplify its aid and rescue efforts in all areas of the region.

  (1600)  

Climate Change  

    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this place today to speak. I want to let people watching know that the reason we are all wearing red carnations is for multiple sclerosis awareness.
    The petition I am honoured to present today is from a rather specific and unusual group of petitioners, medical doctors who are also mothers. The Physician Mothers of Canada are calling on the Government of Canada to recognize that the World Health Organization has identified climate change as “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.”
    They are calling upon the Government of Canada to view the advice from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the special report on 1.5° as the call for urgent and transformative change.
    In short, the petitioners, being the Physician Mothers of Canada, call on the Government of Canada to act on the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment's calls for action to decarbonize our economy rapidly and to recognize that we must ensure green energy policies at every level. Every minister in the Government of Canada should view their actions through the climate lens.
    There are other elements of this petition. I am summarizing a really important work rather quickly.

Criminal Code  

    Mr. Speaker, as always it is an honour to be able to rise in this place and share a petition on the matters that are so important to Canadians and specifically one today that references Bill C-311, an important bill that protects pregnant women and the unborn.
    These petitioners establish that there is an increased risk of violence against women who are pregnant and that there needs to be action taken to ensure that violence against pregnant women is addressed accordingly. These petitioners call upon the House of Commons to pass legislation that the abuse or infliction of harm on a pregnant woman and her preborn child is an aggravating circumstance in the sentencing of those crimes.
    Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased to stand today to bring a number of petitions forward all on the same topic, again in regard to Bill C-311. It is well established that the risk of violence against women increases when they are pregnant. We all agree on that in this House and we know that to be the case.
    Currently, in the injury or death of a woman and the child that she is carrying as victims of crime, pregnancy is not considered an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes in the Criminal Code of Canada. It is true Canada has no abortion law and it is still a huge discussion in our country. However, the majority of Canadians, crossing all those boundaries, agree that this legal void is extreme and we must protect pregnant women from abuse and from murder that impacts their lives and the lives of the children they are choosing to carry.
    Mr. Speaker, regarding Bill C-311, Canadians are very concerned that there is no law protecting the unborn from injury or death, and that it is not considered an aggravating circumstance for the purposes of the Criminal Code of Canada. The petitioners feel that justice requires that an attacker who abuses a pregnant woman and her preborn child be sentenced accordingly. The sentence should match the crime.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed here by many Canadians that is similar to the ones we have just heard about.
    The petitioners recognized that there is a legal void in our legislation that does not recognize preborn children as victims of crime in the event of violence against a pregnant woman. There is recognition that pregnant women are more prone to violent attacks. What these petitioners would like is recognition, in the case of a pregnant woman being attacked, that there be an aggravating circumstance in the sentencing of the perpetrator.

  (1605)  

Seniors  

    Mr. Speaker, the petition I would like to table today is in regard to the growing retiree population in Canada that is increasingly becoming a target of fraud. They have built up wealth over their lifetime to help them support their retirement years and they are vulnerable due to lack of controls and protection in the transmission of money within the Canadian banking system. Seniors are seeing their savings, built up over years, removed in many cases through sophistication and deceit and trickery.
    They are calling upon the House of Commons to undertake a serious and comprehensive review of the current transit system of Canadian citizens' money in this country, with the aim of putting more stringent procedures, protocols and safeguards in place to protect our seniors.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 1319, 1320 and 1325.

[Text]

Question No. 1319—
Mr. Michael Barrett:
    With regard to foreign affairs, as of March 16, 2023: (a) how many diplomats and diplomatic staff does the People's Republic of China currently have accredited in Canada; and (b) how many diplomats and diplomatic staff does Canada currently have accredited in the People's Republic of China?
Mr. Robert Oliphant (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.):
    Mr. Speaker, the following reflects a consolidated response approved on behalf of Global Affairs Canada ministers.
    Diplomatic representation varies considerably by country and depends on a host of factors, such as foreign policy objectives, the size of the diaspora community requiring consular services, and the need for specialized technical and language services.
    With regard to part (a), based upon these aforementioned considerations and the fact that that there are ongoing rotations of officers, the number of diplomats currently registered in the country does tend to fluctuate. The most recently available figure is that China has 178 registered diplomats accredited to the embassy and consulates in Canada plus an additional five accredited to the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal. This information is updated daily by the office of protocol. For the most up-to-date information, which includes a breakdown of the numbers by city, please consult the following website: https://w05.international.gc.ca/Protocol-Protocole/Detail.aspx?lang=eng&_ga=2.253317963.333778327.1681259541-16336162.1620220341.
    With regard to part (b), as noted above, Canada’s numbers in China also tend to fluctuate given changing circumstances. It should also be stated that Canada relies quite heavily across its entire global mission network on locally engaged staff to support accredited Canadian diplomats in-country. These staff are not formally accredited and thus do not count towards Canadian numbers, but often assist with important, although not commercially or politically sensitive, issues and provide administrative and logistical support.
    China does not employ locally hired staff and brings in all personnel from China. This is a practice also maintained by other countries.
    For Canada’s presence in China, the latest figure is 147 accredited personnel. This includes 81 positions at the embassy in Beijing, of which 10 are currently unstaffed, and the following at Canada’s various consulates: five in Chongqing, five in Guangzhou, 15 in Shanghai and 23 in Hong Kong. This is also updated on a daily basis.
Question No. 1320—
Mr. Michael Kram:
    With regard to the agreement between Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark and Greenland, signed on June 14, 2022, concerning maritime and land boundaries in the area between Greenland and Canada: (a) what is the summary of the agreement; and (b) what is its date of entry into force?
Mr. Robert Oliphant (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.):
    Mr. Speaker, the following reflects a consolidated response approved on behalf of Global Affairs Canada ministers.
    On April 25, the Minister of Foreign Affairs tabled in Parliament the agreement between the Government of Canada on the one hand and the Government of the Kingdom of Denmark together with the Government of Greenland on the other hand, on the maritime and land boundaries in the area between Greenland and Canada, done at Ottawa on June 14, 2022. Please see Sessional Paper No. 8532-441-33.
    With regard to part (a), on June 14, 2022, Canada and the Kingdom of Denmark signed the agreement between the Government of Canada on the one hand and the Government of the Kingdom of Denmark together with the Government of Greenland on the other hand, on the maritime and land boundaries in the area between Greenland and Canada.
    The agreement resolves all existing boundary disagreements with the Kingdom of Denmark, including the long-standing disagreement regarding the sovereignty of Hans Island, Tartupaluk, Canada’s last remaining Arctic territorial dispute.
    In particular, the agreement results in solutions to four boundary issues with the Kingdom of Denmark.
    The first is with regard to the Lincoln Sea. The agreed maritime boundary resolves an outstanding disagreement regarding how to draw the boundary line in Lincoln Sea, the body of water north of Ellesmere Island and Greenland. The boundary in Lincoln Sea extends to the 200 nautical mile limit from the coasts of Nunavut and Greenland. The maritime boundary in Lincoln Sea builds on the 1973 treaty that established a continental shelf dividing line extending from the top of Nares Strait in the north to the bottom of Davis Strait in the south. At the time, the 1973 treaty did not determine the boundary in Lincoln Sea due to a technical disagreement over how the boundary should be determined. With the agreement, those technical differences have now been resolved.
    The second is with regard to the modernization of the 1973 boundary line. The agreement establishes a modernized single maritime boundary within 200 nautical miles, which runs from the 200 nautical mile limit in Lincoln Sea in the north to the bottom of Davis Strait in the south. The modernized maritime boundary between Canada and Greenland, at almost 3,000 kilometres in length, is the longest uninterrupted maritime boundary in the world.
    The third is with regard to Hans Island, Tartupaluk. The agreement divides the island along a natural ravine on the island running generally in a north-south direction. This equitable division forms part of the larger package of agreements. By using a natural landmark, it makes the division of Hans Island easy to administer.
    Continued access to and freedom of movement on the entire island will be maintained for Inuit in Nunavut and in Greenland, including for hunting, fishing and other related cultural, traditional, historic and future activities. A practical and workable mutually agreeable border implementation regime will be established by Canada and by the Kingdom of Denmark for all visitors.
    The fourth is with regard to the Labrador Sea. Canada filed a submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, CLSC, regarding the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in the Labrador Sea in 2013. The Kingdom of Denmark, together with Greenland, filed its own submission to the CLCS for the same area in 2012.
    The submissions revealed an overlapping area of continental shelf, which is a normal part of the scientific process under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS, to delineate the outer limits of the continental shelf. The agreement establishes a binding boundary line in the overlapping area, which represents an equitable solution, consistent with article 83 of UNCLOS. The agreement divides the overlap area approximately in half and confirms as Canadian continental shelf an area important to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. This is among the first delimitations of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in areas of overlap between countries. By resolving the area of overlap now, and in advance of the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf recommendations, it puts Canada and the Kingdom of Denmark in a position of leadership in this area. This is particularly important as we think towards the future and find solutions for large areas of continental shelf overlap in the Arctic.
    With regard to part (b), regulatory changes in domestic law are needed in both Canada and the Kingdom of Denmark before either country will be in a position to notify the other that internal procedures necessary to allow for the ratification of the treaty have been completed. One of the key regulatory changes required is to the border/customs regime to enable continued Inuit movement on Hans Island, Tartupaluk, and to set out the rules for other visitors to the island. For example, to allow continued movement, exceptions to presentation, examination, reporting of goods and other regulatory requirements specific to the island are needed from both sides.
    It is difficult to provide an exact timeline for the implementation into domestic law of the required changes, particularly as the Kingdom of Denmark is also required to make similar regulatory changes before it can ratify the agreement. It could take 12 to 24 months to complete this work, with likely entry into force of the agreement sometime in 2024 or 2025.
Question No. 1325—
Mr. Peter Julian:
    With regard to the staff currently employed at the RCMP Depot Division in Regina, Saskatchewan, broken down by RCMP staff and civilian staff: (a) what is the number of full-time equivalent staff; and (b) what is the total annual salary of staff?
Ms. Pam Damoff (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, Lib.):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to part (a), the total full-time equivalents, FTEs, employed at the RCMP depot division in Regina, in fiscal year 2021-22 was 468 FTEs, of which 228 FTEs were RCMP staff and 240 FTEs were civilian staff.
    With regard to part (b), the total FTE salary expenditure for fiscal year 2021-22 was $53,058,711. Of this, $36,857,728 was for RCMP staff and $16,200,983 was for civilian staff. Included in these expenditures are one-time costs of $10.4 million related to retroactive salary increases as the result of collective bargaining.
    The figures above exclude the police dog services training centre located in Innisfail, Alberta, which reports to depot division, as well as cadets enrolled in the cadet training program.
    Please note that “RCMP staff” includes regular and civilian members. “Civilian staff” are considered to be public service employees.

[English]

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

    Mr. Speaker, if the government's responses to Questions Nos. 1316 to 1318, 1321 to 1324, 1326 and 1327 could be made orders for return, these returns would be tabled immediately.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Text]

Question No. 1316—
Mr. Matthew Green:
    With regard to hiring processes within the government, broken down by department or agency since fiscal year 2015-16: (a) what is the data storage policy regarding pre-recorded video interviews, especially concerning the (i) access to videos, (ii) disposal of videos, for successful and unsuccessful candidates; (b) what is the total number of pre-recorded video interviews collected; (c) what is the total number of positions that required a pre-recorded interview as part of the candidate search process; (d) what compensation was offered to prospective candidates for the purpose of a pre-recorded interview, including the reimbursement of (i) camera equipment, (ii) lighting equipment, (iii) video editing software, (iv) space rental, (v) time; and (e) are there any artificial intelligence programs used to evaluate the content of pre-recorded video interviews, and, if so, what content do the programs evaluate?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1317—
Mr. Marty Morantz:
    With regard to the government's National Housing Strategy, as of March 16, 2023: (a) how many residential units constructed through the strategy have been completed, in total and broken down by province or territory; and (b) how much has the government spent to date on the strategy?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1318—
Mr. Kyle Seeback:
    With regard to asylum claims received by the government, in total and broken down by province or territory where the claims were made: since 2012, what is the number of asylum claims processed each year by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1321—
Mr. Peter Julian:
    With regard to the Canada Border Services Agency, broken down by worksite and fiscal quarter since 2018-19 to present: (a) broken down by occupational category, what is the total number of (i) employees, (ii) full-time equivalent employees, (iii) employment vacancies, (iv) casual employees; and (b) what ratios or algorithms are used to plan staffing levels at each worksite?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1322—
Mr. Peter Julian:
    With regard to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), broken down by worksite and fiscal quarter since 2018-19 to present: (a) what is the total number of temporary help agency employees or private contract workers for each occupational category; (b) what is the total number of workers employed by CBSA who are (i) former public sector employees, (ii) retired CBSA employees; and (c) for each worker in (a), what is the total number of workers hired on contracts lasting (i) less than six months, (ii) six to 12 months, (iii) 12 to 18 months, (iv) longer than 18 months?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1323—
Mr. Peter Julian:
    With regard to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and students hired through the Federal Student Work Experience Program, broken down by worksite and fiscal quarter since 2018-19 to present: (a) what is the total number of students hired; (b) for students hired in (a), how many students were hired in each occupational category or role; (c) how many students have since become CBSA employees; and (d) for each student hired in (c), what is their (i) job classification, (ii) length of term?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1324—
Mr. Alexandre Boulerice:
    With regard to immigration and housing: (a) what measures does the government have in place to address likely increases in refugees seeking to cross our borders due to climate instability, and what provinces have been consulted on these measures; (b) broken down by department and year since 2013, what is the name of all reports commissioned by the government assessing refugee migration due to climate instability; (c) how is the impact of refugees from current crises, such as in Afghanistan and Ukraine, factored into meeting the government’s housing objectives, and what additional amounts are allocated to the National Housing Strategy to respond to such events; and (d) how is the impact of refugees anticipated as a result of climate instability factored into meeting the government’s housing objectives, and what additional amounts are allocated to the National Housing Strategy to respond to such events?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1326—
Ms. Lianne Rood:
    With regard to individuals seeking asylum who entered Canada at Roxham Road: (a) how many individuals have crossed into Canada at Roxham Road in total, broken down by year since 2015; (b) how many individuals are being sheltered by the government as of March 16, 2023; (c) what are the names and locations of each hotel or motel currently contracted by the government to provide such shelter; and (d) what is the total amount, or approximate total amount, the government has spent since November 4, 2015, on hotels or motels for individuals who have entered at Roxham Road?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1327—
Ms. Lianne Rood:
    With regard to the Royal Military College of Canada, broken down by year for the 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years: (a) what is the mandated female student ratio; (b) how many students were accepted into first year intake; (c) what is the breakdown of (b) by gender; (d) how many students identifying as male were declined admission in order to meet the female student ratio; and (e) what is the admissions cap for first year intake?
    (Return tabled)

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Motions for Papers

    Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act

[English]

Speaker's Ruling  

    There are three motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill S-5.
    Motions Nos. 1 to 3 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.

[Translation]

    I will now put Motions Nos. 1 to 3 to the House.

  (1610)  

[English]

Motions in Amendment  

    That the amendment to Clause 9 of Bill S-5 be deleted.

[Translation]

    seconded by the member for Victoria, moved:
Motion No. 2
    That the amendment to Clause 39.1 of Bill S-5 be amended by replacing subsections 108.1(1) and (2) with the following:
    “108.1 (1) If the information that the Ministers assess under subsection 108(1) or (2) is in respect of a vertebrate or a prescribed living organism or group of living organisms, the Ministers shall ensure that the public is provided with the opportunity to bring forward any relevant Indigenous knowledge and scientific information before the expiry of the period for assessing that information.
    (2) If the Minister is provided under paragraph 106(1)(a) with information in respect of a vertebrate or a prescribed living organism or group of living organisms, the Minister shall publish that information in the Environmental Registry within five days after its receipt.”
Motion No. 3
    That the amendment to Clause 44.1 of Bill S-5 be amended by adding the following after paragraph 114(1)(g.1):
    “(g.2) prescribing processes for the consideration of Indigenous knowledge and scientific information provided to the Ministers under subsection 108.1(1);”

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to rise in Parliament to represent the people of Victoria.
    People in my community care deeply about the environment. Protecting coastal ecosystems, being able to enjoy clean lakes and clean rivers and to breathe clean air are things that people in Victoria, and across our country, care deeply about. They are things we cannot take for granted. It is why enshrining the right to a healthy environment in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act is so important. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act is the largest piece of legislation that governs environmental protection in Canada, and it has been over 20 years since the last time it was updated. The world has changed and toxic substances are different than they were two decade ago.
    The bill was an opportunity to address environmental justice and to better protect the most marginalized who are impacted by pollution. This was such an important opportunity to strengthen environmental protections, and there are some great pieces of this legislation, but there were also so many missed opportunities. While Bill S-5 does not address a number of critical aspects of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act that need to be updated, I am going to start by outlining what we accomplished in committee, what was accomplished in the Senate and why it is important to pass this bill.
    The right to a healthy environment would be recognized for the first time under federal law. We were able to strengthen the legislation in committee to ensure that there would be a duty for the government to uphold the principles of environmental justice, intergenerational equity and non-regression. The bill would also require the federal government to take the cumulative impacts of toxins and their effects on vulnerable populations into account. I want to thank Senator McCallum for her work in providing amendments for vulnerable populations. The bill would also update how we control toxic substances and dangerous chemicals. It would prioritize prohibiting the most hazardous substances, and New Democrats worked to improve transparency and accountability.
    The bill would not be as strong without the amendments that we fought for and passed at the environment committee, or without the work of senators like Mary Jane McCallum and others, who strengthened the bill in the Senate.
    Unfortunately, there were so many important amendments that the government and the Conservatives voted against. They went so far as to take out provisions in the bill so as to water down environmental protections, undermine provisions for public consultation and protection of indigenous rights, and deny Parliament the opportunity to deal with the grave concerns around enforcement. They voted against amendments on the right to a healthy environment for future generations, including voting against implementing enforceable air quality standards, stronger labelling requirements for consumer products, and requirements for public and indigenous consultations regarding genetically engineered organisms, among others.
    It was disappointing that the Liberals and the Conservatives teamed up to undermine environmental protections, but it was not surprising to see them, yet again, listening to corporate lobbyists instead of scientists, doctors and environmental experts. One example of this was when the Liberals and Conservatives joined together to remove the reference to tailings ponds in the bill. This egregious amendment came from the Conservative members, who argued that tailings ponds are being managed very well. This is blatantly ignoring the science, the reports and the testimony from indigenous communities about the impact of pollution from tailings ponds. What was shocking is that the Liberals, who say they care about the environment, voted with the Conservatives to remove this vital provision. Pollution from tailings ponds is having devastating effects on communities, and the Liberal members on committee decided they would take out the only reference to tailings ponds in this legislation.
    Not even a month after this amendment passed, it was widely reported that the oil and gas giant Imperial Oil had a massive tailings pond leak that affected many indigenous communities near the site, including the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. What makes this case particularly horrific is that it has been happening since May 2022 and that the indigenous nations that were impacted were only informed almost a year later, in February 2023. This was after 5.3 million litres of toxic waste seeped into the ground and watershed that these communities rely on. That is two Olympic-sized swimming pools of toxic waste. Members from these communities came to speak about the failures of this federal government: the failure to protect the environment and the failure to protect the indigenous communities that were impacted.

  (1615)  

     We must do more. We need to address this failure and properly regulate tailings ponds. This is why I put forward a report stage amendment to put the words “tailings ponds” back into the bill. I urge my colleagues in the chamber to vote in support of this amendment.
    Another area where the bill fails is on air quality. In fact, Bill S-5 does not mention air quality. Air pollution is the single greatest environmental risk to human health. Health Canada estimates that air pollution kills more than 15,000 people each year in Canada, and it is responsible for over $120 billion in socio-economic costs to the Canadian economy. Exposure to air pollution increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and lung cancer, as well as chronic and acute respiratory illnesses, such as asthma. There are also links to neurological diseases and adverse birth effects.
    The U.S. has had enforceable air quality standards for over 50 years. However, Canada has decided to continue to rely on voluntary standards. David Boyd, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, said that legally binding and enforceable ambient air quality standards are not just a matter of protecting the environment and public health, but that they are also important in creating a more equal Canada.
    Air pollution affects everyone, causing widespread violations of the right to breathe clean air, yet the burden of related diseases has a disproportional impact on certain vulnerable populations. Among the most severely harmed are women, children, the elderly, minorities, indigenous people, people living in poverty, people with pre-existing health conditions such as respiratory conditions or heart disease, and people who fall into several of these categories. Major sources of ambient air pollution, including power plants, refineries, factories, incinerators and busy roads, are often located in poor and racialized communities. Therefore, implementing ambient air quality standards in law and enforcing those standards across Canada is a matter of environmental justice.
    Parliament should strengthen Bill S-5 to ensure that Canada's first law recognizing the right to a healthy environment does not overlook action on air pollution. People's lives depend on it. When given the chance to make the Canadian Environmental Protection Act the strongest piece of environmental protection possible, the Liberals and Conservatives listened to the interests of big corporations over those of scientists and environmental experts.
    I also want to mention the amendments put forward by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. When it comes to protection of nature and when it comes to addressing genetically modified organisms, we need to ensure not only that we are listening to science, but also that we are listening to indigenous communities that are impacted when the Canadian government pushes through approvals for genetically modified salmon and other organisms that are central to the culture and livelihood of indigenous communities.
    There is a lot more to be said, but I will conclude by saying that my NDP colleagues and I are going to keep fighting to ensure that we protect our environment, that we protect human health and that we protect everything that we hold most dear for ourselves, for our children and for future generations. I am proud of the work that has been done, and I will be voting for this bill, but I hope that we do not wait another two decades to make these changes.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Victoria for her work on this very important bill and the collaboration that we enjoyed. We worked closely on this bill for a number of months.
     I disagree with her characterization of the ultimate result. From what I have heard from environmental groups, industry representatives and health professionals, the feedback coming to me is that this is a good bill that moves the agenda forward. This is not the last that we will hear of CEPA. We will be entertaining further improvements when other sections of the act open up.
    Would the hon. member acknowledge that collecting information on tailings ponds is already a provision under CEPA? We had a very robust discussion in committee, and it was decided that this was redundant and was singling out one particular industry. We could have added 10 more.
    We are, in fact, dealing with the Kearl issue, which is a separate subject. We are all in agreement that what happened in Alberta was absolutely unacceptable, and we are putting measures in place for a better monitoring and reporting system for the good people of northern Alberta.

  (1620)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his work on committee, but I have to say that I am extremely disappointed by the question.
    I was extremely disappointed to see Liberal members vote alongside the Conservatives to take out the only reference to tailings ponds in this entire piece of legislation. This is an issue that is impacting indigenous communities right now, and the fact that the government has decided that it does not want the words “tailings ponds” in CEPA is egregious, in my opinion.
    Honestly, I hope that the members in the House are listening. I hope that they will take the time to listen to indigenous communities who are impacted by the toxic pollution from tailings ponds and that they will reverse this decision and vote in favour of the report stage amendment to put the words “tailings ponds” back into CEPA.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Victoria for voting, in committee, for a number of the over 24 amendments that the Green Party tried to put forward. We worked on Bill S-5 from mid-December right through to March. All those good amendments were defeated, as were the many good amendments that had been brought forward by the Senate.
    By the way, I cannot vote for this legislation. We are asked to believe that the legislation is so important, but the government knows it is flawed; if we just wait a minute, any minute now, the Liberal government will bring forward a new version of amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Nobody has touched this act for 20 years. It stretches credulity to the breaking point.
    Has my hon. colleague from Victoria seen any evidence that there is a likelihood of any new legislation from the government on the various sections of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act that were not touched in this amendment review?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for her diligent work in committee in attempting to strengthen this piece of legislation. The answer is no.
    If the government were serious about actually amending the pieces, especially section 22 on enforcement of the right to a healthy environment, it would have done it this time. This is a critical piece, which it did not allow us to open up.
    I do not think it would do to argue for any other well-known bill that the government will be putting it forward now, but we should not worry because another bill will be put forward in a few months or years. We know that it took 24 years for this iteration, this update. It has been years and years of advocacy to get to this point where we can modernize CEPA.
    It stretches the imagination to think that it is going to table a comprehensive “CEPA 2” bill in this Parliament. I do not believe it, but I think it is critical that we start pushing the government to do this work.

  (1625)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to start with the matter before us right now and hope that members will decide to support the amendments that have been put forward in today's debate at report stage. My hon. colleague, the member for Victoria, has just walked through some of them. I want to stress that it is important to vote in favour of the reasoned NDP amendment put forward by the hon. member for Victoria, which is to restore a change that was made in the Senate.
    Anyone watching this could be confused. Are changes made in the Senate? Are they going back to the Senate? What is going on here? This is a fundamental concern I have about the bill. The Minister of Environment had the amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act put forward in the previous Parliament, in June 2021. This was when the Liberal government was pretty sure it was going to bring itself down and have a snap election in midsummer. Therefore, it was put on the Order Paper with no intention of really pursuing it. However, this did give people, environmental law groups and others a chance to read it and say that there is more that needs to be done here. There were a lot of efforts in that regard, to which I will refer later.
    We got back from the election, and there was nothing on the Order Paper for the long-promised amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Therefore, the minister and the Liberal machinery for putting forward legislation decided they ought to start this one in the Senate. Why was this? It was because it was not such an important bill to the Liberal Party that they would start it in the House. It could not get House time, so it was started in the Senate.
    Then there was this convoluted process. The Senate worked hard. By the way, having worked on this bill, the Senate sent a letter to the House that said it could not get to some of the key amendments it really needed to make, particularly to make the right to a healthy environment enforceable. This is outside the scope of the bill. What does that mean to people who might be watching this and wondering why I would be voting against the Canadian Environmental Protection Act amendments? In order to make the right to a healthy environment enforceable, one would have needed to open up section 22, which is the section of CEPA that deals with enforcement.
    That was not before the Senate as a possible place for an amendment any more than it was before the House of Commons environment committee. This is because section 22 has never been used, in the entire long history of this act; it is unusable. We really needed to open that up.
    Those were the many amendments made in the Senate. The Senate then said there were some things that really needed to be changed that it could not get at. However, the Senate succeeded in amending this bill to say that we have to pay attention to tailings ponds; that point was then deleted by the House of Commons environment committee. This is why the hon. member for Victoria has put forward the amendment that we find in Motion No. 1 before us today. The amendment to clause 9 that was made in committee restores what had been done in the Senate. I know the procedural path here is a bit circuitous.
    I have brought forward amendments, and I want to credit those groups that did the work on them. Nature Canada, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and a number of other groups wanted to see meaningful public participation in this legislation. In order to make sure of this, the amendments put forward at report stage changed the bill substantially. In terms of language, we move away from saying what the bill says now, which is that there will be a consultation with interested parties. “Interested parties” has a particular meaning in law, which might not be the public or necessarily scientists. It would not be indigenous people. The amendment is a compromise.
    I want to stress that this is a compromise from what we wanted or what we hoped to get at report stage, which is to allow that when there is a decision to genetically modify a living organism, indigenous knowledge is an important component to looking at that kind of a decision. That is the first amendment. For instance, we have had genetic modification of salmon in this country. We are the only country in the world, by the way, that allows genetic modification of a fish that is intended for human consumption. Pacific salmon are sacred to indigenous peoples in the territories I represent. The second amendment deals with the processes for considering indigenous knowledge and scientific information.

  (1630)  

    It is really important that we identify where the barriers to this kind of thing lie. Some of them, unfortunately, are in the advice the minister received from people within Environment Canada. This should be a process with significant public participation. However, there is a counter-argument from John Moffett, who is the senior Environment Canada expert in this area. In the evidence given to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development on February 16, John Moffett said, “This is not a public participation process. This is a science-based process.”
    That would all be very well and good if scientists could also intervene at this point, but it is not clear they can. To say this is not a public process flies in the face of commitments Liberals have made that there will be public participation, there will be indigenous knowledge and we will listen to scientists.
    Before my time expires to speak to the rest of the bill, I really urge members on all sides of the House to give favourable consideration to these three amendments at report stage. They will substantially increase the chance that we will have meaningful public participation, including incorporating indigenous knowledge into the bill.
    I am going to go through the deep disappointment I feel in Bill S-5. It is tragic, really. Members may believe it or not, but I worked on this bill before first reading in 1988. I know I do not look old enough for this to be true, or at least I would like to believe that.
     I worked on this bill in 1988, when it was brought forward in the time of the Mulroney government. A majority Progressive Conservative government brought forward the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. It brought together many disparate pieces of legislation, including the ocean dumping act and the air quality act, and it created part 5, which is all we are really dealing with here today.
    We are dealing with part 5 of the original Canadian Environmental Protection Act, on toxic substances. We are not dealing with part 6, which we should, to modernize genetically modified organisms and how we regulate them. We are not dealing with the parts on the ocean dumping act, which are crying out for amendments. We have a lot going on right now with our ports with cruise ships.
    We know we are going to hear the trumpets, the horns and the hallelujahs that we have put a right to a healthy environment into this bill. What kind of a right is it if it is not enforceable? A non-enforceable right is a bumper sticker. It is good to have in the bill, and people can point to it and say it is improvement; however, it is not a right if we cannot enforce it.
    The deep disappointment gets deeper when we look at the changes to the schedule for toxic chemicals. The Canadian Environmental Law Association talked of this in its briefs. I agree with it, having worked on this legislation for longer than I care to mention. This bill survived constitutional challenge in the Hydro-Québec case in the 1990s in the Supreme Court of Canada because it focused on toxic chemicals as a health issue and because the Minister of Health and the Minister of Environment jointly administer this act. Therefore, it was seen as a legitimate exercise of federal jurisdiction.
    Why would it be changed now? That would be thanks to the lobbying of the plastics industry, which did not like the idea that its products could be described as toxic. We know that, for many decades now, courts have understood the concept of “CEPA toxic”, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act's version of toxic. This means that in adequate amounts and sufficient quantities in the environment, something is a threat to the environment and human health. It does not mean that if someone picks up a piece of plastic, they are going to poison themselves. It means that the enormous amounts of plastics we dump into the environment are a threat to our environment on a planetary scale.
    To help the plastics industry with a potential reputational public relations problem, this bill weakens the constitutional foundations of the act. I am unable to support a bill that takes any risk with the constitutional underpinnings of the act to help an industry out with a public relations problem.
    There is also the elimination of key sections of the original CEPA. Actually, the virtual elimination piece came in later, after the first passage of the act in 1990, and so on. We have had a lot of improvements to this act over the years, but Bill S-5 is not one of them.

  (1635)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member down the way for her intervention and for coming to the environment committee to take part in some of our discussions.
     Some of those discussions were centred around the Senate amendments. She mentioned clause 9, and I think proposed paragraph 46(1)(k.3) mentions the tailings ponds, which is included in our legislation. We are also including multiple chemicals from different sources that can add to the cumulative effects on vulnerable populations, which again would apply to situations such as we have in Kearl in the tailings ponds.
    The bill as written, and amended by the committee, is now covering situations around tailings ponds, which can be detrimental to human health. Could the hon. member provide her thoughts on the watch-list we have created and the management of it?
    Mr. Speaker, I have to start by saying that the member for Guelph thanked me for coming to the environment committee. I was coerced into being at the environment committee. I am not allowed to be a member of the committee. The motions passed in every committee in this place give me 48-hours notice to submit all my amendments to the committee for clause-by-clause, but I am not allowed to participate. I am not allowed to move my own amendments, so they are deemed to have been moved.
    This is not an opportunity I have ever sought because, if not for the motions passed in every committee, I would have a right today, right now, to submit all of my amendments to the committee, argue them out and discuss them here at report stage. We would then have to vote on them. That is why Stephen Harper's PMO invented this motion, which every committee passes without thinking about the fact that the party in the House that has the least procedural fairness in the one right we have to put forward substantive amendments at report stage, had that right reduced because we knew how to use it.
    The watch-list is a small improvement within an act that, overall, reduces the effectiveness of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act in a way for which the only word I can use to describe it is tragic.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I must say that I truly share the frustration of the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. When our party was not recognized, we could not move our amendments in committee either.
    Instead of asking a question, I would like to make a statement. I must commend the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for the excellent work that she has done and was able to deliver to the Standing Committee on the Environment. I also want to acknowledge the work of Nature Canada, an environmental protection association that is almost always one step ahead of us. Nature Canada put forward these amendments that we are discussing today, and the members for Victoria and Saanich—Gulf Islands are speaking on their behalf. I want to thank them.
    We, as members of Parliament, are generalists and we need these experts, these specialists, to inform our thinking and give us a better understanding of the issues.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my dear colleague from Repentigny. I absolutely agree with what she said about NGOs like Nature Canada that have worked on the issue of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
    It is unbelievable to think that we now have the opportunity to make changes to part 6 of the bill in order to modernize the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, but that the government is choosing to do nothing. We could protect the public against risks related to GMOs in food. It is outrageous.
    We really need to try to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act with regard to the management of toxic substances in order to protect Canadians from big corporations that are a danger to our environment and human health.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on the amendments the member put forward at report stage, in particular, the work of Nature Canada and the criticisms to the language of interested parties when it comes to public consultation, how important it is that we have public consultation, and how problematic that particular language is.

  (1640)  

    Mr. Speaker, relying on my previous work as a practising lawyer, the words “interested parties” definitely mean the chemical industry would be an interested party. They do not mean Nature Canada would automatically be an interested party.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill S-5, the strengthening environmental protection for a healthier Canada act. It proposes amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999, also known as CEPA.
    As members know, our government introduced Bill S-5 in the Senate on February 9, 2022. Over the past year, Bill S-5 has moved steadily through the parliamentary process. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the tremendous contribution from parliamentarians on all sides of the House, and their insight and efforts to advance and strengthen this bill.
    The parliamentary process was clearly a success. The committees that worked on this bill spent nearly 50 hours studying it. They heard testimony from over 80 witnesses representing civil society, academia, industry and indigenous organizations, and received more than 100 written briefs. In the end, over 40 amendments were adopted, with the government supporting more than half of these changes. The bill is stronger as a result, and the government supports it.
    It is now time to pass the bill as reported by the ENVI committee, send it back to the other place and, most importantly, ensure that the bill receives royal assent without delay so we can implement it.
    Bill S-5 would be the first major overhaul of CEPA in more than a generation, as many members have pointed out. The bill would modernize CEPA in two key areas. First, it would recognize a right to a healthy environment, as provided under CEPA. Second, it would strengthen the foundation for chemicals management in Canada and enable robust protection for Canadians and their environment from the risks posed by harmful substances.
    The recognition of the right to a healthy environment, as provided under this act, would be an important achievement. It would be the first time such a right has been recognized in federal legislation. Under the bill, the government would have a duty to protect that right and uphold related principles, such as environmental justice. Within two years, if it comes into force, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change would be required to develop an implementation framework to set out how that right would be considered in the administration of the act.
    People may ask what difference the recognition of this right would make. They should recall that CEPA provides the foundation for multiple programs aimed at preventing pollution, such as those dealing with air quality, environmental emergencies, greenhouse gases and, of course, the chemicals management program. The right would apply to the administration of the whole act.
    I will take one principle: environmental justice. I have heard those words in the chamber today. It includes avoiding disproportionate harmful impacts on vulnerable populations. Examining decision making from this perspective would require a greater understanding of who is most impacted by pollution and putting some priority on addressing those situations. Because a solid understanding of the situation would be important, the bill would require the ministers to conduct research, studies or monitoring activities to support the protection of the right to a healthy environment.
    Complementary to that right, the bill would confirm the government's commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including free, prior and informed consent. Amendments confirmed the role of indigenous knowledge in decision-making related to the protection of the environment and health, and encouraged examination of whether CEPA is implemented in a way that advances reconciliation.
    Bill S-5 would also modernizes Canada's approach to chemicals management by, among other things, emphasizing protection of Canadians who are most vulnerable to harm from chemicals, encouraging the shift to safer alternatives and accounting for the reality that Canadians are exposed to chemicals from multiple sources, often referred to as cumulative effects.
    Central to these amendments is the proposal to develop and implement a plan of chemicals management priorities. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Health would develop this plan in consultation with stakeholders within two years of royal assent. It would set out a multi-year integrated plan for chemical assessments, as well as supporting research and information-gathering activities. The plan would also consider factors such as vulnerable populations, cumulative effects and safer alternatives, as I have already said.

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    This proposal was strengthened with amendments, supported by the government, that would require the plan to include timelines and that it be reviewed every eight years following its publication. Recognizing that Canadians are exposed to multiple chemicals from many different sources, the bill broadens the scientific basis for risk assessments under CEPA to include consideration of cumulative effects and vulnerable populations. Amendments adopted at committee introduced the related concept of a vulnerable environment. The changes will help ensure that assessors consider real-world exposure scenarios.
    To support the shift to safer alternatives, the bill would establish a new watch-list of chemicals of potential concern. Amendments adopted at committee clarify the process for removing chemicals from the watch-list and provide helpful guidance to industry and other chemical users. The bill would also shift the risk-management paradigm under CEPA by expanding its regulatory focus to a broader subset of toxic substances, that is toxic substances that pose the highest risk, and requiring that priority be given to prohibiting activities and releases of these toxic substances.
    However, amendments adopted at committee and supported by the government make it clear that it must include toxic substances that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction, in addition to persistent and bioaccumulative substances, which departments have always aimed to eliminate. These important changes bring CEPA in line with the latest science and understanding of environmental and health risks.
    Having summarized the key chemicals management components of the bill, I will now speak to some cross-cutting themes that came in through amendments.
    Openness, transparency and accountability in environmental and health protections were major themes underlying many of the amendments made to the bill at committee. These included a preambular statement to this effect, along with various timelines and reporting requirements for the risk assessment and risk management of chemicals. These changes would increase accountability under CEPA and ensure risks to Canadians and their environment from chemicals are assessed and managed in a timely fashion.
    Similarly, amendments made to the bill would create a more open and transparent regime for confidential business information by requiring that claimants justify their confidentiality requests against Access to Information Act criteria, and would require that the Minister of the Environment review and validate a statistically representative sample of confidentiality requests and report annually on the results.
    Animal testing is another major theme of the amendments to the bill, with the committee adding several new provisions aimed at replacing, reducing or refining the use of vertebrate animals. Moreover, the plan of chemical management priorities discussed earlier would include a strategy to promote the development and use of methods not involving the use of vertebrate animals.
    These amendments are consistent with work under way in other jurisdictions around the world, such as the U.S. and EU, and help further this government's commitment to move away from vertebrate animal testing. This includes continuing to work with industry, academia and our international partners to develop and evaluate non-animal alternative methods with the goal of moving closer to ending animal testing. In fact, the government recently reaffirmed its commitment to end cosmetics testing on animals in the 2023 federal budget, and with amendments to the Food and Drugs Act tabled in Bill C-47. These CEPA amendments would be an important complement to this work.
    Lastly, on the topic of amendments, not all of the amendments that were made to the bill in the other place were maintained, but I would say majority were. There were some that were not in keeping with the principles of the act, would be difficult to implement or were premature, in light of ongoing consultations being undertaken by Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada. As I mentioned before, this is not the last chapter on CEPA.

  (1650)  

    Mr. Speaker, this is the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and I appreciate that there has been some work done on this bill to make it stronger and very much appreciate the work that my colleague from Victoria has done on this bill. However, as I have been sitting on the committee listening to the testimony on the Kearl mine spill in northern Alberta, I have been listening to horrific testimony from indigenous leaders on what this has meant in their communities.
    I wonder if the member could tell me how on earth he can look those people in the eye and explain to them that tailings ponds would not be protected under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and that the water and land in their communities, where they fish, hunt and live with their families, are not worthy of being protected under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. How on earth can Liberal members stand and say that tailings ponds do not deserve any sort of environmental protection through this act?
    It baffles the mind, and I certainly am not comfortable going back to those people and telling them that the government does not care about the environment they live and breath in.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's statement and question.
    The sentiment she expressed at the committee meeting was one of disgust and disappointment. I did look Chief Adam in the eye. Everyone around that table was very incredulous at how something like this could happen and how notification was not given.
    That is why the minister has established a working group. He has extended his hand to the indigenous peoples of that area and to the Alberta government. We will be working together for solutions, not only in the short term but also in the long term.
    Mr. Speaker, there is a certain substance out there called penta. It has a much longer scientific name attached to it. In essence, it is used to treat utility poles. This substance is being phased out, but the government has not approved a substitute for it yet. As I understand it, if it is going to eliminate something, it is supposed to implement something else to be a replacement for it, yet the government has not done that. The problem with that is it becomes a health and safety issue for people who are working on utility poles.
    I am wondering why the government has not bothered to approve a new substance that could be used in place of penta, even though it has forced these companies to no longer use it?
    Madam Speaker, I was not aware of the particular issue the member has raised today. I will certainly take it back and see where things lie in terms of safer alternatives.
    One of the major thrusts of CEPA is looking for those safer alternatives. We will be looking to the innovation and ingenuity of our scientists, researchers and universities to find alternatives so we can replace substances that are harming the environment or human health.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, it is difficult to be brief when talking about an issue like this.
    We had a wonderful opportunity to demand action on air pollution and the labelling of hazardous substances in consumer products.
    In his speech, my colleague referred to the European Union. Let us look at the example of GMO labelling. The European Union is light years ahead of Canada. Even the United States is beginning to require and tighten regulations.
    Why did we not take advantage of the opportunity presented by Bill S‑5 to help Canada catch up with the other countries that are really far ahead of us?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I believe when I was referring to the EU, I was referring to cosmetic testing.
    The whole basis of CEPA is to have risk-based analysis versus the hazard-based management system of the European Union. I believe our system is much more superior for protecting human health and the environment. It has served our country well, and we have made major improvements to CEPA that would make it even better.

  (1655)  

[Translation]

    Order. It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, Foreign Affairs; the hon. member for North Okanagan—Shuswap, Government Appointments.
    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to take part in this debate on Bill S‑5, dealing with the important issues of the environment and climate change. As hon. members know, I have the pleasure and privilege of being the official opposition critic on the environment and climate change. I was named such by the leader of the official opposition and member for Carleton, and so I take the lead on these matters.
    We all recognize that climate change is real, that humans played a role in climate change and that humans therefore have a role to play in addressing climate change and mitigating it as much as possible. I also want to remind members that this bill is at its final stage. We will support the spirit of the bill. We believe it represents significant progress in dealing with environmental challenges.
    We have been waiting for such a bill, and rightly so, since the first version of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act was passed in 1999. It has been nearly a quarter century, or exactly 24 years, since there has been an update to this environmental protection legislation. It needed to be done, it has been done and we are happy about that.
    I would like to draw my colleagues' attention to the fact that this bill is not new. It was introduced two years ago as a House of Commons bill, Bill C‑28. The work was under way, good progress was being made and, all of a sudden, it had to be abandoned. Why? Because the Liberal government, or rather the Prime Minister — I was told that many in the government and in that party did not entirely agree — in the middle of a pandemic, at the start of the fourth wave of COVID‑19, decided to trigger an election that cost Canadian taxpayers over $600 million, only to end up with about the same result.
    Consequently, we lost over a year on this bill, which found its way back on the agenda through a side door, let us say. I am not saying that there is a main door and a side door. Let us say that the two doors are equally important: the door of the House of Commons and the door of the Senate. Oddly, the government decided to introduce this new bill by knocking on the Senate door. That is their right, but it is still surprising.
    We are now at the last stage after having heard 80 witnesses and studied about 100 briefs. The bill, with its 60-or-so pages and dozens and dozens of clauses, received very little consideration in committee, in the Senate and here. As I said earlier, these are steps forward that are welcomed by environmental groups and by industry.
    Before I go any further, I just want to make a small observation. Earlier, I heard the leader of the Green Party rightly point out that she finds it regrettable that, in our parliamentary system, independent members cannot bring forward amendments or take part each day in parliamentary committees to improve the rules. That may indeed be a bit troubling to see, as we are all elected, but the rules are the rules and they must be respected. We know the rules.
    I should mention another situation that may seem a bit unfortunate for Canadian democracy, but those are the rules. In 2019, the Liberal Party obtained fewer votes than the Conservative Party. Who formed government? The Liberal Party, because they had more members. In 2021, the Liberal Party obtained fewer votes than the Conservative Party, but the Liberal Party formed government. Why? Because they had more members.
    People who observe democracy in the true sense of the word will wonder how those who obtained the most votes do not form government. It is because our rules are established in that way. We, the Conservatives, are a party of law and order, and we respect the rules. Are we happy with the situation? Of course not. Do we follow the rules? Yes. We do our work properly. The same goes for all independent members.

  (1700)  

[English]

    Let us now go to the issue and substance of this bill.
    As I said earlier, this bill is not brand new. It was tabled two years ago, but we had an election. This bill would refresh an old bill from 1999 that was debated and adopted by the House of Commons. That is why we have to refresh it.

[Translation]

    I would like to mention three fundamental aspects. The bill is so thick I could talk about this for hours.
    Essentially, the bill stipulates that everyone has a right to a healthy environment. This is a major breakthrough. At the same time, the concept of what constitutes a healthy environment is open to debate and interpretation, and needs to be defined. The bill proposes a 2-year period for developing a legal framework that establishes exactly what constitutes a healthy environment.
    The first stage is a step in the right direction, and we welcome this progress.
    The bill acknowledges the importance of vulnerable populations. These vulnerable populations must be taken into account when it comes time to develop or approve new projects with environmental impacts or to assess the potential toxicity of certain projects.
    The bill also provides for the creation of a mechanism for regulating chemical substances. Some might call them toxic substances, but we prefer to speak of chemical substances that can be assessed in some way or another, but that must be effectively regulated by this bill.

[English]

    This is why I think the bill is going in a good direction. It is not the end of the road, but it is a good direction.
    We have to recognize that some green activists are very positive about it, and recognize that we can do something more and that this is not enough. We also have to recognize that industry people sometimes see things as tough but think this a good way to address the issue.

[Translation]

    That is why this is a step in the right direction. It was eagerly awaited by environmental groups and industry folks who managed to work together at times and against one another at other times. That is democracy for you. This is the bill we ended up with.
    This bill is another great reminder that this government is heavy on rhetoric but pretty light on concrete results.
    Let us not forget that not so long ago, on April 20, 2023, the commissioner of the environment tabled five reports in the House that were not very positive. The reports were specifically about the government's concrete achievements. The commissioner, Jerry V. DeMarco, made a rather stinging mention of the Prime Minister's very ambitious goal of planting two billion trees by 2031. What a laudable commitment. How beautiful and exciting, emotional even, since he made it in the company of the person who was attracting the most attention worldwide on the environment. The Prime Minister actually used that individual to make an announcement that he considered historic, important and sensible for the future of the entire planet. He promised to plant two billion trees.
    Once again, we see a lot of rhetoric and a lot of images, but very few results. We, the Conservatives, are not the ones saying it, it is the environment commissioner who has said that the tree planting program will not reach the objectives set by the government.
    This same commissioner also stated that a good number of the regulations made and implemented by the government cannot measure actual effectiveness. It is fine to announce regulations that are supposed to be ambitious, rigorous and demanding, but the ability to assess results is lacking. There is a lot of talk and few concrete results.
    The environment commissioner also stated that the government was not doing enough for species at risk. A COP15 conference was held in Montreal. I want to salute the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, who, as we know, was an ardent environmental activist. He hosted the entire world in his backyard, because his riding is very close to where the conference was held. Protecting certain environments was one of the topics addressed at this conference. That was a good thing, so I say bravo. That said, the environment commission said that this government is not doing enough for species at risk.
    I also could have talked about the report released by the UN at COP27, which found that, under this government, Canada is ranked 58th out of 63 countries. Canada, after eight years of Liberal governance, is ranked 58th out of 63 countries for environmental protection.
    As my time has expired, I will happily and resolutely answer any questions.

  (1705)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member across the way for his work on the environment committee. He always brings accountability into the discussions and looks at ways forward so we can work together for the betterment of both our ridings and, in fact, of all Canadians.
    One of the things we discussed at committee was the plan for chemicals management. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change has to develop this plan within two years of royal assent and have a multi-year, integrated plan for chemical assessments that supports research and information-gathering activities.
    The hon. member across the way talked about accountability, and I think he mentioned in committee that we should have timelines. We did modify our proposal so that the plan would be reviewed every eight years following publication.
    Could the hon. member talk about the need to hold not only the government's but the industry's feet to the fire to make sure things get done?
    Madam Speaker, I deeply appreciate working with the hon. member and all the other members of the environmental committee. That was my first hard work, I would say, on this issue since I was appointed on the climate change issue. I am very proud to be the shadow minister on this issue.
    Yes, I do agree. Things are moving so fast in our world right now. We see climate change and we have to address it as soon as possible, but the technology and the impact are moving very fast. This is why we need to review it. We spent the last, I would say, quarter of a century before reviewing the law that had been adopted in 1999.
    For sure, we do not have to wait another 24 years to address it. This is why I think we should have a time frame that will let people analyze what is right, what is working and what we have to fix, to be sure that we apply all the good rules to correct the situation.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent for his speech, and I would mention that we are fellow members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.
    At the end of his speech, he talked about Canada's standing in the world on environmental protection.
     I have a question for him. When we voted on the amendments during our study of Bill S‑5, the Conservative Party always voted with the Liberals. Does the member not think he could have voted in favour of the amendments that we developed with the help of experts and scientists specifically to improve Canada's performance?
    Madam Speaker, I want to commend my colleague's contribution. We were elected at the same time in 2015 and, no matter what anyone says, there is always a special connection between members who were elected the same year. I want to acknowledge her support and her efforts when it comes to the environment. I recognize that and I commend her.
    Once is not a habit. Yes, there have been times when we voted with the government. It may have happened more often than she thinks or perhaps less often than she thinks. We did it because we were looking for consensus. It is important to balance the needs of environmentalists with the reality of the businesses that will have to work within these laws.
    If we implement measures that are so severe, harsh and brutal that businesses are unable to achieve the targets immediately, then it is an exercise in futility.
    I recognize that we have worked with the government at times, but we feel that this was a bill that needed to move forward. Yes, we offered our support and co-operation, but we have also been very critical, as I was earlier, of this Liberal government's environmental record over the past eight years.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, in our region, the great Montreal River was almost destroyed by a tailings pond that gave way because it was not maintained, so we know the damage, yet we are dealing now with industry tailings dams that are so much more massive than the one that hit out of Matachewan, Ontario.
    I am concerned that the Liberal government has taken out the reference to tailings ponds, because they are such massive bodies of water and there are so many issues of contamination. It is about reassuring the public that when projects go forward, there is going to be proper oversight. I would like to ask my hon. colleague why the Liberals have decided to keep the issue of monitoring the tailings ponds out of the language.

  (1710)  

    Madam Speaker, I have a lot to say to address the question raised by my colleague from the NDP.
    Just to be very clear and very appropriate on this, I think it is a work in motion. Yes, I think that this bill addresses some issues, some specific issues, and maybe not enough for some people. That is fine. We are working forward to adapt it, to modify it and to improve it if necessary.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I am pleased I can finally say that the Canadian Environmental Protection Act is going to be revised and modernized. It would be an understatement to say that it is about time.
    For more than 20 years—nearly 25 years, actually—successive federal governments have not given this law the attention it needs. Canada has been doing nothing while, elsewhere in the world, environmental regulations have been implemented everywhere. We are at the report stage of Bill S-5. The door to change has opened just a crack, and we are going to have to get our foot in that door before it closes, I am afraid.
    The bill first made its way through the Senate. It arrived at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development just before Christmas. Throughout 2022, I had a huge number of meetings to better understand the expectations and needs expressed by expert associations from various technical, scientific and legal fields as well as environmental protection organizations.
    Not long after the 2021 elections, the Minister of Environment acknowledged that the bill to modernize the Canadian Environmental Protection Act would be the first of many. Indeed, the scope of this piece of legislation is so vast that a formal review would have been impossible without a multi-step process. The study of Bill S‑5 also confirmed the need to avoid delay in tabling the next part of the modernization, which I eagerly look forward to.
    In the time I have to speak at report stage, it would be impossible to cover everything that deserves a mention. When everything seems important, choices can be difficult. Hopefully, I will get an opportunity to discuss other aspects at third reading.
    To get right down to business, I wish to talk about the right to a healthy environment. The scope of application of the clauses on the right to a healthy environment does not extend beyond the boundaries of the act itself. They have no impact on other Canadian statutes. If protecting this right is added on to the federal government’s mission, the amendments will not necessarily create a genuine, fundamental right to live in a healthy environment, which would have been a good thing. This was confirmed unequivocally by senior officials appearing before the Senate committee and the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.
    This right will have to be balanced by what is defined in the legislation as reasonable limits and socio-economic factors. We will have to wait for the implementation framework. When I say the door is only open a crack, that is an example.
    No one is against virtue, but we have to tell it like it is. This is a step forward—although a cautious and very strictly regulated one—that will not necessarily give citizens more rights to go before the courts and ask for sanctions for projects or situations that harm the environment. I want to commend my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands for the rigorous amendments that she introduced in committee but that unfortunately were rejected.
    Another point I wanted to make is that there has been no progress at all on pollution prevention plans, or PPPs. PPPs should be considered as a centerpiece of the environmental legal framework, a pillar even. A few years before the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, received royal assent, the environment committee of the time said, and I quote, “the Committee believes that pollution prevention should be the priority approach to environmental protection. In addition, the Committee firmly believes that CEPA should provide a key legislative base for promoting pollution prevention in Canada. ...a major shift in emphasis is required in the legislation, from managing pollution after it has been created to preventing pollution in the first place. We believe that pollution prevention will avoid, eliminate and reduce more pollution than ‘react and cure’ strategies”.
    This excerpt dates back to 1995. Requiring planning for the prevention of pollution was important 25 years ago, and so just imagine what it should be today. I am saying today, because the opportunity to address the inertia of the past two decades with respect to pollution control standards based on prevention and leading to strict management of risks and dangers was within reach.
    Members know that I have an interest in human health and its links to the environment. In medicine, it is often said, and quite rightly, that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That can also be said about environmental pollution. Prevention, whether of illness or pollution, has to be planned.

  (1715)  

     The Canadian Environmental Law Association made this a key recommendation, one that was supported by several organizations and experts in environmental law. These experts were invited to testify at both the Senate and House of Commons committees.
    The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources was able to craft an amendment that rallied all its members. When Bill S-5 was sent to the lower chamber, the majority of the members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development wanted to set it aside, to discard it. They voted against it.
    Focusing the content of Bill S‑5 on principles to manage pollution and not prevent it is to give in to the wishes of the industry to continue heading in a less restrictive direction.
    A minute ago I was saying that addressing the inertia was within reach. That is true, because the science and knowledge about the environment and the effects of toxic substances on the environment and on our health have grown over the past 25 years.
    Experts who have studied and analyzed the regulatory system, from both a technical and legal perspective, have submitted recommendations and testified in the Senate and in committee. We were not short on resources. We had resources that could help us learn about what is happening elsewhere, to fully grasp what could truly structure progress and to offer hope that this review would be fruitful.
    The industry's input prevailed when it came time to talk about the regulatory framework on toxic substances. More broadly, the industry wanted to see a legislative measure that was not overly burdensome. Some might say that is obvious.
    That being said, I do not deny that listening to industry is essential for a host of good reasons. However, when the dominant narrative from the industry is inflexible and the industry seems to be wiping its feet on environmental considerations and human health just to maintain the status quo, I start to get annoyed—and I think that is an understatement.
    We know that between 2006 and 2020, there was an impressive reduction in the quantity of toxic substances that were released into the air, a decline of 60%.
    That said, every rose has its thorn. We also know that during the same period, land-based toxic releases, both intentional and accidental, jumped by more than 50%. They are turning their backs on analyses and facts.
    Like it or not, the government has severely undermined the excellent amendments put forward by the Senate, Green Party, NDP and Bloc Québécois that relate to the consultation and public participation processes. They are turning their backs on transparency.
    High-level experts pointed us in the direction of essential regulatory updates, yet the Liberal-Conservative coalition chose to support industry. They are turning their backs on balance.
    Of course, the Bloc Québécois understands that environmental policy requires trade-offs between health and environmental protection objectives on one hand and commercial and industrial interests on the other. We understand that.
    At least the door is open. To move forward with regulation, we need to be able to recognize the weaknesses and pitfalls that characterize this regime in Canada. There is some work that has been done in that regard.
    The legislator needs to remember its responsibilities toward Canadians and the environment. It must not become complacent because that will serve only to promote the financial health of trade and industry, rather than protect the health of millions of people and the health of the environment.
    I would like to be able to say that we have taken a small step for man and a large step for mankind, but instead, I have to say that we have taken a small step for health and environmental protection but that we look forward to making greater strides.

  (1720)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for her work on committee. The member put forward many amendments that were similar to New Democrat amendments. Whether it was on pollution prevention planning, timelines or genetically modified organisms, I am grateful for the work that she diligently tried to push forward in committee.
    We were able to strengthen some aspects of this legislation, but there are still so many gaps, and I want to ask about one of those gaps, on air quality standards. We know that the U.S. has had enforceable air quality standards for over 50 years and that over 15,000 lives are lost in Canada every year from air pollution. That is 15,000 people and families. Can the member speak to how this is a matter of life and death? These provisions are important and the government needs to do better.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Victoria, with whom I serve in committee, for her question.
    I think that the Green Party, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois were all united in trying to make the legislation a lot more binding and in trying to improve it. We are talking about the health of millions of people, human beings, and about the health of the environment. They are interconnected.
    Thousands of people die every year. It is not something that anybody really seems to think about, but I believe, if memory serves, that 6% of the GDP, billions of dollars, go toward helping those who become ill as a result of air pollution.
    Bill S‑5 was a good opportunity to improve that. I think we missed that opportunity.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the hon. member on the environment committee, for all her work on this bill, her very important work.
    I have a question for the hon. member on the issue of air quality standards that our NDP colleague had raised. I know the Bloc is very sensitive to jurisdictional issues. One of the reasons we defeated the NDP amendment was that this is an area of joint jurisdiction. Our feeling as a committee was that we needed to work on this together.
    I wonder if the member would have some reflections on this, particularly the sensitive issue of jurisdiction and the importance of working together to better the environment.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, as everyone knows, the Bloc Québécois is quite sensitive about jurisdictions and respect for jurisdictions.
    The environment is a shared jurisdiction, to some extent. When the Constitution was being written in 1867, no one was talking about the environment. Now when it comes to the environment, we have to strike a balance between what the federal government can do in terms of regulations and what Quebec and the provinces can do. It is a delicate balance.
    I tried to introduce amendments to bring in the idea of respect for Quebec and provincial jurisdictions, but to no avail. I eventually gave up on the idea of getting such an amendment passed.
    Madam Speaker, I have a question.
    In this afternoon's debate, we heard about the Senate amendments, which were great amendments, about collecting information on the oil sands and tailings ponds. The Liberals have opposed that amendment.

[English]

    It is a little complicated, but what we are talking about is that including tailings ponds in Bill S-5 is so rudimentary and obvious that it is deeply shocking that the Liberals do not like it, because what they are proposing to change is—

  (1725)  

    Could we get a question, please?
    Madam Speaker, the question is this: Does the hon. member agree with me that the mere fact of asking for information gathering about the tailings ponds should not have provoked a reaction that it had to be removed?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, yes, there is a lack of transparency there. The Liberal-Conservative coalition voted against every amendment that increased transparency.
    The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands is absolutely right.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and add a few thoughts regarding the bill. I know the NDP wants to focus a lot of attention on the issue of tail ponds, and I will deal with that right away, along with the members of the Green Party and, to a certain degree, even my friends in the Bloc.
    I find it interesting that they are maybe playing a bit with words on the issue. It is not to take away from the seriousness of the issue. We have recognized that. I believe the member knows full well that, in good part, what she is talking about as a concern is already there and the amendment is somewhat redundant. It might make a nice social media post or something of that nature. Giving the member and those who have been speaking on it the benefit of the doubt, I will say that maybe they just do not fully understand everything that has been explained through the legislation.
    It is important to recognize that information with regard to tail ponds is already being collected through CEPA. It is important for us to—
    I have to interrupt the hon. parliamentary secretary. There is a point of order from the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.
    Madam Speaker, we have a long-standing tradition that debate has to be about the subject at hand, and I do not believe you will see in the legislation anything about tails, so I would ask the hon. member to stay focused on the subject.
    Madam Speaker, it is quite possible I missed the word “tailings”; that does happen at times. My apologies. I did not mean to offend the member.
    Having said that, when we think about tailings ponds, members will find that this is covered within the current legislation. At the end of the day, I would refer the member to the amendments adopted at committee that related to the concept of vulnerable populations and cumulative effects. There are other situations that empower and allow for the minister to track and, ultimately, enforce issues related to tailings ponds. The member, I suspect, would likely be aware of that.
    As I indicated, information on tailings ponds is already collected through CEPA. Members tend to give a great deal of attention to this particular issue. I know the member is anxious to ask a question, but unfortunately we are going to run out of time because I only have another minute to go.
    I think one of the things we have missed is the recognition of toxic and potentially toxic chemicals. The government takes that very seriously. The right to a healthy environment is being enshrined and supported in a very real and tangible way. Canadians are very much concerned about our environment. Through this legislation, there is a direct connection that would enable Canadians to express their concerns where there will be attention drawn to that concern. That is something I really have not heard in the relatively short amount of time that we have had to debate the issue, but it is something we should be talking about.
    We see our constituents growing more and more concerned about our environment. Having a statement that is very clear as to the rights of Canadians to have a healthy environment is something that is very positive. I would like to see more of a discussion the next time the bill comes up, when maybe I will get the tailings—

Private Members' Business

[Private Members' Business]

  (1730)  

[English]

Court Challenges Program Act

     moved that Bill C-316, An Act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act (Court Challenges Program), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
     He said: Madam Speaker, it is often too easy to take for granted the many rights and freedoms we enjoy as Canadians. Canada is a free, successful country because of the decisions made by those who came before us. We are an open and inclusive democracy in large part because the rights of individuals are respected. Canada is a country where the rule of law operates independently from politicians and where our Constitution protects the rights of Canadians. This is something we should champion. It is something we should celebrate. It is something we must do everything we can to protect.
    I introduced Bill C-316 to build upon the good work of previous Parliaments. In the 42nd Parliament, at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, of which I was then a member, as part of our study on access to justice we recommended that the court challenges program, which had previously been cancelled, be recommenced. I am happy to say this was in fact done.
    In our report, we also called for enshrining the court challenges program in legislation to enhance its sustainability and to ensure that any government seeking its cancellation in the future would require the approval of Parliament to do so. Bill C-316 would do just that. It would enshrine the court challenges program into Canadian law, providing stability and certainty to the program, and ensuring that it continues to operate predictably. This, in turn, would give greater protection to the rights of Canadians as we continue to provide a mechanism that enables individuals and organizations to challenge laws and regulations that they believe violate their rights.

[Translation]

    The court challenges program protects and strengthens constitutional rights. It provides funding for individuals and organizations who wish to bring matters of national importance before the courts.
    More specifically, the program provides funding to protect our constitutional and quasi-constitutional rights in matters involving official languages and human rights.
    Created in the 1970s, the court challenges program played a key role in helping Canadians clarify and assert their rights, especially with regard to official languages and equality rights.
    The program was eliminated in 2006, and our government restored it in 2017. We expanded it to include rights not originally covered, such as specific sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms pertaining to fundamental rights, including democratic rights, freedom of expression, and the right to life, liberty and security of the person.

  (1735)  

[English]

    Over the years, the program has been used many times to protect the rights and freedoms of Canadians. It has provided funds to disabled Canadians to help them ensure they are treated fairly. It has helped to clarify the rights of LGBTQ+ people to marry whom they love. It has strengthened the rights of official-language minorities to protect their rights and preserve their culture.
    The court challenges program also provided support to important cases, such as Andrews v. Law Society of British Columbia, where the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a law society could not prevent a qualified permanent resident from practising law in Canada simply because they were not a Canadian citizen.

[Translation]

    The court challenges program strengthened the rights of French-language minorities in British Columbia. It helped protect the rights of francophone children to receive French-language education of equivalent quality to that of English-language education.
    In its ruling in June 2020, the Supreme Court of Canada reaffirmed the importance of education in the official language of one's choice. The court also recognized the key role that section 23 of the charter plays in the vitality of official language minority communities.

[English]

    I know that some of my honourable colleagues may ask why we would provide funding to allow people to sue us. I think this asks the wrong question. The right question is why we would fund cases defending the charter, and the answer is that, as we know, the cost of justice can be prohibitively expensive. Justice should not be decided by who has the most money. It is of significant public good that the constitutional rights of Canadians be protected, whether or not they have money.
    The value of the court challenges program is that it breathes life into the charter and into the Official Languages Act. It provides meaning to our constitutional rights, particularly by enabling those with lesser means to protect their rights. The program allows matters of merit with significant public impact to be brought forward, regardless of the means of those bringing forward the case.

[Translation]

    Other members might wonder if the program allows the federal government to decide which cases receive funding. Does it allow the federal government to sue provincial governments that do not agree?
    I can say that the answer to that question is no. The program is independent of the government. It is administered by the University of Ottawa. Funding decisions are made by two groups of independent experts, one for official language rights and the other for human rights.
    These committees are made up of experts who are selected based on their expertise in law. The government has no say in which cases receive funding, and the funds are often used to challenge federal decisions or policies.

[English]

    This is, in fact, a good thing. I think that I can say without much controversy that the government does not always get it right, and it is important that, when policies and laws are put into place, we have a process to review, and possibly correct, these decisions. In a constitutional democracy where the rule of law is paramount, allowing Canadians to bring forward cases when their rights may have been infringed upon is an important part of our constitutional democracy.
    We face a great many challenges as Canadians. The world is an uncertain place, but Canada is blessed with tremendous resources and potential. We have some of the best and brightest people in the world, and we have inherited the tremendous institutions that have made us successful: pluralism, freedom of speech and debate, and the opportunity to make a better life for our families. These are the things that bring us together as Canadians.
    The rights and the freedoms that we hold dear are critically important to Canada’s success as a country. We must do everything we can to shore up our democracy and protect our constitutional system. By passing Bill C-316 and enshrining the court challenges program into Canadian law, we would be sending a strong message about the importance of protecting the rights of Canadians. It would demonstrate our shared commitment to ensuring that the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the charter, the Official Languages Act and the Canadian Constitution are respected and upheld.
     I hope members will join me in supporting Bill C-316, so we can better protect our democratic institutions.

  (1740)  

    Madam Speaker, I will be supporting the bill, and I thank my colleague for bringing it forward. He spoke a bit about some of the groups that would be protected by having this put into legislation.
    Could he perhaps tell us about some of the other pieces of action the government undertakes that we would also need to protect, in the event the government was to change?
    Madam Speaker, I certainly think there are many areas in which we could continue to act to protect the rights and freedoms of Canadians. Although my focus at this point is on the court challenges program, I think it is very important that we are able to test the laws in some manner or mechanism to make sure that the provisions of the charter are upheld.
    Madam Speaker, the member mentioned the suggestion of arm's length and, in developing this committee around legislation, appointing someone who is at arm's length.
    In the member's opinion, what is the definition of arm's length in developing the bill? Would that include someone from the Trudeau Foundation? Would it include some sister-in-law from somewhere? What is the actual definition of arm's length in the member's opinion?
    Madam Speaker, the key here is that the members of these different committees are not chosen by the government nor any government body. The program is administered by the University of Ottawa and is responsible for selecting appropriate people who are versed in the law and who make the decisions about which cases that come before them are of sufficient public importance that they should be supported under the program.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to know what my colleague thinks.
    The court challenges program was established in 1978 to counter the Charter of the French Language, which was democratically passed in Quebec. Then, the 1982 Constitution further reinforced that. It was also established to counter the Charter of the French Language, which should have fallen under Quebec's jurisdiction.
    The most frustrating thing is that we do not know who those public funds are going to. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has already proposed that the organization responsible be allowed to disclose who received the subsidies once the court proceedings are complete.
    I want to know what the member thinks about making the process more transparent and either excluding Quebec from the program or making sure that the program is not systematically used to dismantle Bill 101 and its reinforcement, Bill 96.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I really appreciate the member's question, because that is precisely what this bill would do. It would add to the existing process requirement that the administrators of the program report to the minister on, I believe, an annual basis, and that the minister table that report in the House within 15 days. The report that is requested is to identify the cases, or at least the nature of cases, that have been supported.
    It should be remembered as well, as the member noted, that this program originally was constituted to protect French language rights across the country, and we wish to build on that. I would note that, the more we can defend French elsewhere in Canada, the more it supports Quebec. Both of my children, who were born and raised in British Columbia, speak fluent French.

  (1745)  

    Madam Speaker, we are here to talk about the court challenges program, which has been brought forward by the hon. member, and I appreciate his words.
    Right now, we already have a court challenges program in place. However, it is based only on a contribution agreement within the heritage department. This bills looks to permanently enshrine in law a court challenges program here in Canada.
    What is that? I will quote the bill. It says it is “an independently administered program whose objective is to provide financial support to Canadians to bring before the courts test cases of national significance that aim to clarify and assert certain constitutional and quasi-constitutional official language rights and human rights”.
    There would be two streams: official languages and human rights. Individuals or groups could come forward and to apply for funding from this supposedly independent body, and then go ahead to essentially go after the federal government or a provincial government in a court challenge.
    It should be pointed out, just as an important side note, that this program is currently funded to the tune of $5 million per year. We know that about $3.3 million is spent on actual cases, which means that $1.7 million is being used on administrative costs. That is a lot of money tied up in administration. I have many significant questions, as do Canadians, about that money and its wastefulness. If this program is about equipping Canadians or empowering Canadians to be able to seek justice, then the money should be going toward that and not the hefty fees for administering this program.
    Nevertheless, I will also point out that the government has said that it is supposedly doubling this amount. That is what the 2023 budget says. What is the amount it is committing to in the 2023 budget? It is $4.9 million. It currently spends $5 million, and it is committing to $4.9 million, yet it says it is somehow doubling the funding to this program. I point that out because it is as if the government just says something and relies on being believed to pull the wool over Canadians' eyes. Going from $5 million per year to $4.9 million a year is not doubling the program. The numbers speak for themselves.
    While the Prime Minister and the government may claim one thing, they are really doing another. It is incredibly disingenuous of them. I want to point that out. Nevertheless, the bill itself is deserving of our attention today.
    We have to look at the history to fully understand it. It originated with Trudeau senior, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. The reason Mr. Trudeau senior brought this bill forward was because he was faced with Bill 101, which threatened the unity of this country. It looked to make French the sole official language in Quebec.
    The prime minister at the time, Trudeau senior, did not want to challenge this himself, so he decided to put in this crafty mechanism called the court challenges program. It gave money to third party groups to challenge Bill 101. In other words, the prime minister, with his left hand, was saying he was in support of Quebec and its independence, and with his right hand, was handing over millions of dollars to have these third party groups challenge Quebec. That is the birth of this bill. It is incredibly disingenuous once again.
    That is where it started. It has morphed over the years. Sometimes it has been backed up and supported, and sometimes it has been scraped or supported less. Nevertheless, it has existed in some form since the late 1970s.
    One of the problems with this bill is that it undermines Parliament. This is where laws are made in this country. This is the place that has been entrusted by the Canadian electorate to make decisions regarding legislation. When we take that responsibility or authority, and we put it into the hands of the courts, we are doing a disservice, and even an injustice, to the Canadian people.
    I would raise that as a significant concern, and I have many more concerns. They have to do with transparency, accountability and independence. I will explore those.

  (1750)  

    First, it should be noted that this bill is often used as a direct attack on Quebec and its culture and language rights. For example, even right now, the court challenges program is being used by activists to fight against Bill 21, which is a Quebec bill. It is currently being used to fight that bill.
    The other thing I will point out is that this program is often used by woke groups to push woke agendas. Of course, that is supported by the panels that exist. Why is it supported by panels that make these decisions? I would argue it is because those panels are not in fact independent and are not in fact transparent. Again, there is a shroud of secrecy around the court challenges program and how it functions.
    Let me explain more. With regard to transparency, panels exist: one panel for language rights cases and one panel for human rights cases. How are the individuals on those panels selected? I do not know. The reason I do not know is that this is not available.
    The government claims it is supposed to be available, but my staff and I have checked the government's website numerous times over the last several months and it has always been down. We decided to go on the Wayback Machine, thinking perhaps the site was just down momentarily, but we were not able to find anything on the Wayback Machine. I wonder about that. Is the government purposely being secretive in the selection of these panel members or is the site just down? It is interesting. I am sure someone in IT would be able to fix that should they wish to do so.
    Further to that, yes, there is some secrecy with these panels, but with regard to the supposedly independent organization, which is currently the University of Ottawa, how was it selected? Again, there are crickets. I am not sure. I could not tell the House because it is not readily available in the public domain.
    I must highlight, then, that there is also an issue around transparency regarding which cases are funded. That was never made public knowledge. That was never made knowledge here in Parliament. There is also this shroud of secrecy around the level of funding, so not only what gets funded but also to what extent. How much money is going toward each of these cases? Again, it is secret.
    We have a program taking tax dollars and putting those tax dollars toward these cases, but there is no transparency as to the decision-making process. Canadians deserve better than that.
    Transparency is one issue, but another issue would be independence. One would expect the administrating body, which is the University of Ottawa, to be functioning fully independently of the government. Well, a bit of research shows us that this simply is likely not the case.
    The University of Ottawa is functioning as this body. This is the university whose former president was a man by the name of Allan Rock. He was a cabinet minister under Chrétien who was convicted of an ethics violation for taking a free trip with the Irving family, which covered his transportation and his hotel. Does that sound familiar? We see a lot of that.
    Allan Rock is known for initiating legislation that put the Trudeau Foundation in place. He is also known, of course, for his relationship with the Chinese. It is super interesting, is it not? We have this super independent body with these secretive criteria that are not transparent and are being used to select panels, and further to that, there are two panels making decisions.
    When I look at the biographies of these panellists, all of them read as if the Liberal Party of Canada platform was just copied and pasted under their names. There is no doubt about it: These panels are not independently selected. There is no merit-based process being utilized, unless it is the same merit-based process used for the supposedly independent senators over in the other place, and we all know how independent that is.
    The Speaker will excuse this side of the House for the conclusion we must draw, which is that this program is absolutely ludicrous. It lacks transparency, it lacks accountability, it lacks independence and it must not go on.

  (1755)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak about Bill C‑316, an act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act, specifically with respect to the court challenges program.
    The Bloc Québécois supports this bill in principle. We would like to look at Bill C‑316 in committee and make recommendations. The Bloc Québécois's current position already favours the continuation of the court challenges program, especially considering the important role it plays in promoting the rights of francophones outside Quebec. We therefore support the idea of ensuring the program's future by including it in the Department of Canadian Heritage Act.
    However, in my speech, I will go over the Bloc Québécois's reservations concerning the program's terms and conditions, especially the lack of clarity surrounding its management and the process for deciding which cases and organizations will receive funding. Next, Bill C‑316 proposes measures designed to make the program's administration more transparent. On the surface of things, it seems to answer a Bloc Québécois demand related to one of our major criticisms of the program, namely, its claim to operate at arm's length from the executive.
    Finally, I will address the fact that this program is currently being implemented and administered by the University of Ottawa, but it is impossible to prove that decisions about cases are not politically driven because of the lack of transparency and accountability measures.
    First, in terms of transparency, Bill C‑316 states that the organization responsible for administering the court challenges program would be required to report annually on its activities, including disclosure of the list of cases funded during the year. These reports would be tabled before Parliament. The Bloc Québécois believes it is imperative that the reports include not only the cases, but also the recipient organizations, as well as the amounts of money allocated. That is one way Bill C‑316 could be improved. We would also then be able to assess the amount each part of the program receives, in other words, official language rights and human rights. It would be interesting if the report also had to include a list of the unsuccessful applicants.
    Second, the fact remains that the court challenges program can be used to fund challenges to Quebec laws, such as the Charter of the French Language and the state secularism law. The crux of the problem is that we cannot pick and choose, based on our political views, which laws should be challenged and which ones should not be, even if we have good reason to believe that some laws that do not pass the test in the Canadian courts would be deemed constitutional under a future constitution of Quebec.
    A partial fix for this problem as far as the official languages component of the court challenges program is concerned could involve a program framework that takes an asymmetrical approach to Canada's official languages. Since the Liberal government recognizes that only one of the official languages is at risk, then it should agree to grant program funding only to cases that defend the rights of francophones.
    The text of Bill C‑316 amends the Department of Canadian Heritage Act to specify that, in exercising the powers and performing the duties and functions assigned to the Minister of Canadian Heritage under that act, he or she shall maintain the court challenges program.
    Here are a few explanations. From the Bloc Québécois's perspective, the court challenges program has two major flaws in its design. The first is the fact that, historically, the program has helped to undermine the protection of French in Quebec. The second is that, historically, the program was politically oriented and acted as the judicial arm of the executive branch.
    Bill C‑316 could potentially fix, or at least mitigate, the second problem we see, namely the program's lack of transparency and independence. This would be brought about by adjustments and improvements, in particular by disclosing in the annual reports not just the cases funded, but also all the amounts granted and the recipient organizations.
    As for the first problem, it could also be addressed, but this would require refocusing the vision of Canada's official languages policy, which the Liberal government and its NDP ally just rejected in the review of Bill C‑13. This problem could be solved with amendments to this bill or with future legislation.
    The court challenges program has gone through three historical phases. First, the date of the program's creation is significant. The court challenges program was established in 1978 in a very specific context of heightened language tensions and Quebec-Ottawa confrontations following the election of the Parti Québécois in 1976, and the adoption of the Charter of the French Language the following year. We know that Canada's prime minister at the time, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and his government very much disliked Bill 101.

  (1800)  

    The year after Bill 101 was passed, Ottawa created the court challenges program to subsidize anglophone lobby groups' legal fees from challenging Bill 101. It was not originally a formal program. The Department of Justice decided which cases would be funded and how much they would receive based on its own objectives. This approach obviously put the government in a conflict of interest.
    Between 1978 and 1982, the court challenges program funded six cases, half of which challenged Bill 101. At the time, the program was not at all independent. The cases that would be brought before the courts were selected and funded by the executive branch. To assess applications for funding for language rights, a committee was formed by selecting members from among a small group of candidates proposed by agencies that dealt with official languages.
    The third version was initially called the language rights support program. The Stephen Harper government, which had cancelled the first program, was forced to create this new program following an out-of-court settlement with the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, or FCFA.
    The new and current court challenges program arose from a Liberal campaign promise in 2015. The administration of the program was entrusted to the University of Ottawa. The program relies on two committees of experts to decide which cases can be funded according to two streams, namely human rights and official language rights. We know that there is a bit of bias here.
     Currently, through an access to information request, it is possible to find out which cases were supported, but it is impossible to find out who the recipients were and how much money they got from the program. This means that taxpayers cannot find out how the money allocated to the program is being spent. Since the year 2000, the names of individuals or organizations receiving money cannot be disclosed, after a court ruled that applications and funding contracts are protected by attorney-client privilege. That has made it difficult, if not impossible, to access accurate information for at least two decades. Annual reports, when available, contain only general information and mention only examples.
    To ensure transparency and accountability, a report by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights recommended that, after a case is filed, the names of those who received funding from the court challenges program and the nature of the cases be disclosed in each annual report, unless such disclosure would prejudice the litigants. It appears that no follow-up has been done in this regard.
    During the committee's consideration of Bill C‑13 on modernizing the Official Languages Act, the Bloc Québécois tabled an amendment to have the program administered transparently, with consideration for the rights granted by provincial and territorial language regimes, and mirroring the position of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, to ensure as much transparency as possible. The amendment was rejected with the NDP's support, despite the party's claims about supporting Quebeckers' right to self-determination.
    Issues related to the program's transparency and independence came into clear view during the controversy surrounding the $125,000 in funding provided to the English Montreal School Board to mount a legal challenge to Quebec's secularism law.
    The Liberal government is hiding behind the program's alleged independence to avoid having to address the fundamental issue: the Canadian government's financial commitment to supporting challenges to Quebec's secularism and language laws.
    In addition to the transparency issues, the other problem with the court challenges program is that, although it has been used to advance the rights of francophone minority communities in other provinces, it has also been used to challenge Quebec laws that are designed to promote and protect the French language in Quebec.
    That problem stems from the main flaw in Canada's official languages policy, which assumes that there is symmetry between the anglophone and francophone minority communities. That structure, which was designed by Pierre Elliott Trudeau and which the Liberals just refused to change when they modernized the Official Languages Act, pits the interests of Quebec against those of francophones in Canada.
    In closing, the francophone communities of Canada have good reason to care about the existence of the court challenges program and to hope that it will be around permanently because it advances their language rights. That is the main reason the Bloc Québécois is not calling for the program to abolished. Rather, we are asking for it to be regulated and modernized.
    There are some good things about the court challenges program, but it falls into the official languages trap. This would not be an issue if the Liberal Party and the NDP were willing to accept the solution proposed by the Government of Quebec and the Bloc Québécois, which is to use a differentiated approach in the implementation of the Official Languages Act, or in other words, to stop putting both official languages on equal footing.

  (1805)  

    If the Liberal government recognizes that only one of the two official languages is at risk—
    The hon. member for Edmonton Strathcona.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, as always, it is a delight to stand in this place and represent the great people of Edmonton Strathcona.
    Today we are talking about Bill C-316, an act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act regarding the court challenges program. Basically what this bill would do is amend the Heritage Act to require that the Minister of Canadian Heritage maintain the court challenges program, making sure that this is now in legislation, so that if any future government wanted to cut this program, it would have to do it through legislation. Of course, it would not be a perfect protection for this program, but it would be a good start. It really does make me think about all of the different policies I would like to see protected that have been put in place by various governments. I am going to come back to that as we go forward.
    Some people in the House today have said that this is bad legislation and is not something that should be in place, and they have expressed what I would consider some pretty faux outrage about this particular bill. I want to highlight that there are a number of people who believe in the court challenges program, very notable groups that actually think this court challenges program needs to be put into legislation and also needs to be protected and expanded.
    The New Democratic Party has been calling for an expansion of this. There is very little money that is allocated to this. It is a very small fraction, a drop in the bucket, compared to what we spend on the justice department. We would like to see this expanded. We are not alone. The people who would also like to see this program expanded are people like Cindy Blackstock and other advocates within the indigenous communities. Legal organizations, including the Women's Legal Education & Action Fund, or LEAF, would love to see this program expanded and put into legislation so that it is protected. Even more notably, the Canadian Bar Association supports the court challenges program.
    There are people around this country who are leaders on this and who have asked for this program to be maintained and expanded. It is something that all parliamentarians need to consider. Very few of us are experts in the fields in which we produce legislation, so we take advice from experts. I would say, when we are looking at the justice system, that the Canadian Bar Association, Cindy Blackstock and others would be excellent examples of experts we should be listening to.
    There are several reasons why this program is so important, but one of the ones that mean the most to me is that it levels the playing field. It allows Canadian citizens to have access to justice. Often, those Canadian citizens who are least likely to be able access justice are marginalized Canadians. They are women, indigenous people and members of the LGBTQ2+ community. For the people who are often disproportionately impacted by the justice system in a negative way, this helps level the playing field.
    I strongly support the program. We could work on making the bill stronger. Certainly, I would like to see the government commit to better funding. We have been calling for stronger funding for this program for some time, so we would like to see that.
    I want to talk a little tonight about some of the other things that I think we should be putting into legislation. We are all lawmakers in this place. As I was preparing the notes for my speech this evening, I was thinking about how important it is that we put things into legislation to protect them, protect them from potential future governments that do not share the values of ensuring that there is a level playing field within the justice system for Canadians.
    The first thing that came to my mind is my Bill, C-205, which is actually about the Impact Assessment Act. I was very happy, because Minister Wilkinson—

  (1810)  

    The member knows we cannot use names of current members.
    Madam Speaker, when I brought that bill forward, the Minister of Natural Resources was kind enough to take what was in the bill and put it into policy. That bill actually said that coal mines, regardless of size, would trigger the Impact Assessment Act. Prior to that, it had to be over 5,000 tonnes a day, but we just took that little bit out. That made it so that all coal mines would trigger the federal Impact Assessment Act. The reason that was important is that companies were trying to skirt around that. I do not know if members know this, but, in Alberta, there is a real movement to mine in our Rocky Mountains, which Albertans are appalled by. I think most Canadians would be appalled by it. That is an example of something that is only in policy.
     I retabled that legislation in Parliament for the simple reason that, in policy, it is not protected the same way. What happens is that, if another government comes in, a government that maybe does not believe in climate change or maybe does not believe that there is a need to protect the environment, to protect the Rocky Mountains and to protect our vital natural resources in this country, it would be able to take that out of policy and just start strip-mining and taking down our mountains. Of course, we do not want that to happen, so we would like to see this put into law, put into legislation to protect against that.
    There are other things I can think of that are exactly the same. We saw, in our development dollars spent in the Stephen Harper years, that there was no support for the full range of reproductive services for women around the world. That was cut out of our official development assistance, even though thousands of women a year die because they do not have access to the full range of reproductive services. That is another example where I would very much welcome legislation being put in place to protect people's right to the entire range of reproductive resources. That is just another one.
     I could bring up another example, from last night. Many of us were here very late last night, working with my colleague for Winnipeg Centre, who has been calling, tirelessly, for a red dress alert. A red dress alert is something that, if we put it into legislation, would be very difficult for another government, which maybe did not believe in women's rights the same way, to take that out. I would welcome that from the government, that it would actually step up and make sure that the red dress alert is actually done, finished and put into legislation, and that it would be much more difficult for a government that does not believe that there is a genocide of missing and murdered indigenous women in this country to take it out.
    Those are just a few examples of why I think it is important that we look at programs and policies that are in place and think of ways we can protect those very important programs and policies by turning them into legislation.
    I know that New Democrats will sort of be supporting this bill. We will continue to call on the government to do better by this program. We will continue to call on the government to allocate more funding to ensure that more people would be protected by this very important program.
    Madam Speaker, first, I will provide a different perspective by recognizing that this is a substantive piece of legislation. I must acknowledge, right at the very beginning, that it is difficult to get one's name in a position, as a member of Parliament, where one is able to bring forward legislation or a motion. What we have before us today is a substantive piece of legislation that would really make a difference. I want to recognize the member for Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam for his efforts in getting it to the stage where it is now, whether it gets to committee or not. We will wait and see what happens.
     I was quite impressed to hear that the member has two older daughters who are perfectly bilingual. That might not surprise many people, depending on where they live, but if someone is living in British Columbia, or a province like Manitoba, it is noteworthy and ultimately emphasizes the importance of enshrining, where we can, language rights.
     Just the other day, we were in the chamber, talking about Bill C-13 and the importance of Canada's being a land of two languages, English and French. What we have seen over the years is a commitment from the government to protect the minority languages. What takes place in the province of Manitoba with our francophone communities in particular, though not only them, but all over the province of Manitoba, is that we value the protection of the minority languages outside of the province of Quebec. The same principles apply whether it is in British Columbia, Atlantic Canada or anywhere in between, or up north.
    With respect to the province of Quebec, there is an emphasis on the important role that Quebec plays in ensuring that the majority French language not only continues on but is healthy. It speaks volumes not only for Canada, but also, in fact, for North America. This is a government that has emphasized the importance of languages from coast to coast to coast, with an emphasis on protecting minority languages.
    Let us put that in the perspective of when Stephen Harper was the prime minister. There used to be a court challenges program that predates this government, but it was Stephen Harper who ultimately cancelled the funding for that program. I suspect that might have been one of the triggers for the member for Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam to look at the legislation. In that draw, the member is provided the opportunity to do a wide spectrum of types of legislation or resolutions. He could have taken the easy way out and said that we would have such-and-such day being recognized. However, he chose an issue important to his constituents and to all communities in Canada, because we are talking not only about language rights but also about human rights.
    I listened to the member for Lethbridge, and at times it can be tough to listen to her. However, there is absolutely no doubt in her mind that if the Conservatives, heaven forbid, form government, this program is gone. That is an important part to the debate, because it amplifies why my friend from Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam is trying to see this legislation get through. It is an important issue.

  (1815)  

    Does anyone believe in Canada being a country of two official languages? Does anyone believe there is a need to protect minority languages? I, for one, believe that is the case. I also believe it is important for us to recognize that there are organizations and individuals that at times feel threatened regarding those rights, and the issue of financial support is of absolute necessity.
    We talk about the independence. It is arm's length. I am not going to question the independence of a post-secondary facility like the University of Ottawa. I am disappointed in the member for Lethbridge trying to give the impression that universities are not independent. I think of the University of Winnipeg. Lloyd Axworthy was a member of Parliament for many years and when he was president of the university, I never saw him as someone who would do anything other than what was in the best interests of the University of Winnipeg, recognizing the academic excellence and expectations that people had for the university.
    The University of Ottawa has been, in essence, delegated the responsibility, and I believe that responsibility is taken very seriously. There is a reason it was being financed previously, going into the Stephen Harper regime, and there is a reason we have reinstated that funding. It was a few years back when we reinstated the funding and, in this particular budget, we are enhancing the contribution to the university administration in order to be able to run this critical program.
    Individuals might want to raise concerns around the need to incorporate it into legislation, but there should be no doubt about the value of the program. Having a court challenges program to protect and, as I say, expand the rights to incorporate human rights I see as a positive. Maybe this is one of the considerations that was being taken, as to why, in a time of constraint, we enhance it. We are looking at ways to ensure that these human rights and language rights are protected.
    As a government, we recognize that it is good to not only talk about it, but support it. One of the ways we can support it is to ensure that the budgetary needs, at least in good part, are being met by the government through supporting that arm's length organization and allowing the organization the opportunity to do the tertiary things required in order to select the types of cases that need to be heard at the court level. I believe it has the expertise in order to do that, far greater than members in this House, especially if we take them at random. It has been depoliticized. It has a program. The member is mocking it because it has money and questions the administrative costs. I do not think the member realizes that there is a carry-over year to year.
    Suffice to say, support for the court challenges program is worthwhile.

  (1820)  

    Madam Speaker, I heard a riveting comment from a colleague behind me, but I will not go that far.
    It is indeed an honour and a privilege to rise in the House this evening to contribute to the debate on Bill C-316, an act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act, court challenges program. Indeed, as has been mentioned in this House, this program has an off-and-on history in this place and in government through the Department of Canadian Heritage. I did have the honour and privilege of serving for some time at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
    Before I get into the meat of my speech, I do want to reflect on one of the more famous quotations from one of the great parliamentarians of this place. The Right Honourable John Diefenbaker was one of the great defenders and protectors of Canadian freedom. He said, “Parliament is more than procedure—it is the custodian of the nation's freedom.”
    I think too often in this place we forget about our role as the protectors and defenders of the freedoms of Canadians. If we look back at the history of some of the great orators, some of the great defenders in this place, including Diefenbaker and his bill of rights, the first attempt at enshrining the rights and freedoms of Canadians in a single federal statute was by Diefenbaker. From his humble upbringing, his birth in Neustadt, Ontario, which is just north of my riding, Perth—Wellington, to his time as a defender, as a defence counsel and during his time as a parliamentarian, his focus was on the rights and freedoms of Canadians. That was what he lived for in this place.
    We will recall that it was under Diefenbaker that the first woman was appointed to cabinet. It was under Diefenbaker that indigenous peoples in all corners of this country finally had the right to vote and it was through Diefenbaker's bill of rights that we saw the first written efforts at enshrining the rights and freedoms of Canadians.
    That history and protection of rights and freedoms continues under other Conservative leaders as well. We need to be proud of their efforts. Indeed, under the leadership of former prime minister Mulroney and former foreign minister Joe Clark we saw the strong stand that Mulroney and Clark took in defending us on the world stage in calling out the apartheid regime in South Africa. We saw the efforts they led in the Commonwealth to make that happen and we saw the work they undertook here at home in Canada when it came to the defence of Canadian rights and freedoms. Their efforts on the two constitutional accords did, in fact, fail but, nonetheless, attempted to enshrine those rights and freedoms and ensure that all members in this country signed on.
    To the issue at hand of this bill, Bill C-316, I think Canadians would be forgiven in not fully understanding why this is before us today. Members will know that, in fact, the court challenges program exists today. It is a program that is run out of the University of Ottawa and funded by the Government of Canada, so why is this being done today? Canadians might be forgiven for perhaps seeing it somewhat odd or ironic that the government is creating a program that would sue itself, that would provide funds for the Canadian public to sue themselves. There is an odd strategy there.
    If we look back at the history of the court challenges program, in 1978 this was first established under then prime minister Pierre E. Trudeau. It was primarily for language cases. We look at the importance of language rights here today in Canada, and indeed we have a bill before the House, as we speak, Bill C-13, which is the modernization of the Official Languages Act. As luck would have it, was one of the first files I worked on when I first came here in 2015 as a member of Parliament. I was the vice-chair of the official languages committee, the Anglo from southern Ontario at the official languages committee but it was, nonetheless, a great opportunity to learn my beloved second language.

  (1825)  

    The importance of having the rights of official language minorities protected across the country is, indeed, very important. Whether someone is a Franco-Ontarian, a Franco-Albertan or even from a small language community in the country, it is important to protect their right to be able to receive services in their second language.
    My time is dwindling, but I understand I will have four minutes remaining when the House takes up this important issue next. I look forward to concluding my remarks on Bill C-316 next time.
    The hon. member is quite correct.
    The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

  (1830)  

[Translation]

An Act Respecting Regulatory Modernization

Hon. Patty Hajdu (for the President of the Treasury Board)  
    moved that Bill S-6, An Act respecting regulatory modernization, be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology.
    Madam Speaker, I would ask for the consent of the House to share my time with the member for Kings—Hants.
    Does the hon. member have the consent of the House to split his time?
     Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Madam Speaker, before I begin my speech, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that we are gathered here on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.
    I am very pleased to add my voice to the debate on Bill S-6, an act respecting regulatory modernization. Regulations are the book of rules that govern how businesses operate and that protect consumers, the environment, our health and our safety. As we have seen, these rules can pile up and become obsolete over time. When that happens, innovation and growth are stifled, which weakens the economy and causes more problems for Canadians.

[English]

    Modernizing our regulatory system improves Canada's ability to attract investment in growth-oriented businesses. That is why this bill is so important. It would have an important impact on Canadian businesses and advance public service efficiencies.
    In a time of economic recovery, Bill S-6 would ensure that the legislative frameworks that support Canada's regulatory system evolve with the changing technologies and environment.

[Translation]

    The fact is that we have been working on the modernization of regulations for some time. The Budget Implementation Act, 2019, No. 1 amended 12 regulatory instruments with the first annual regulatory modernization bill. It included making changes to digitalize paper-based processes, streamlining the review process for zero-emission vehicles, and enabling innovation by changing regulatory requirements to test new products.
    The fact is that regular and eminently sensible updates ensure greater competitiveness. At the same time, we must protect Canadians' health, safety and environment.
    An important way to ensure that we can modernize and streamline regulations while protecting Canadians and the environment is to put in place an in-depth and effective review process. To that end, this bill will serve as a recurring legislative mechanism. This means that the Government of Canada can ensure that the regulatory system remains pertinent, effective and up to date. It is designed to address the legislative challenges raised by businesses and citizens through consultations and targeted regulatory reviews.
    In fact, consultations with stakeholders in the business sector led to the inclusion of this recurring mechanism. The economic strategy tables and the Advisory Council on Economic Growth pointed out that creating a regular mechanism such as this is essential to improving Canada's regulatory system.
    I would also like to point out that the External Advisory Committee on Regulatory Competitiveness, made up of stakeholders from business and academia and consumers, has recommended continuing efforts to keep the administrative burden of regulation at a reasonable level and to ensure that regulations stand the test of time.

  (1835)  

[English]

    At its core, Bill S-6 proposes to modify 28 different acts through 45 common-sense amendments to modernize our regulatory system.
    For example, the bill contains amendments to the Fisheries Act that would make it clear that fisheries officers have the authority for minor violations to reach an agreement with fishers instead of taking them to court, an authority that was unclear in the existing legislation. Not only would this reduce the number of lengthy and costly court processes, but it would also ensure small violations do not result in criminal records and the stigma and barriers that could come as a result. Importantly, this change has been supported by the fishing community and by indigenous peoples.

[Translation]

    Another example is the minor change proposed to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act. In short, this amendment would allow the CFIA to provide services and allow businesses to interact with the agency electronically instead of through paper transactions. This will give businesses more flexibility in their interactions with the federal government, resulting in a reduced regulatory burden.
    There are also proposed amendments to the Canada Transportation Act that would allow us to adopt international transportation safety standards faster, in consultation with the businesses affected.
    As we have seen, even minor changes can often have a significant positive impact on various sectors of the economy, and I have covered only three of the 45 amendments included in this bill. In addition, all of the proposals are cost-neutral, with little or no associated risk.

[English]

    Bill S-6 helps ensure that our regulatory system stays up to date and sets up Canadians and businesses for success in the years ahead by amending laws that are too inflexible, too specific or simply outdated. This bill is an important reminder of the need for ongoing regulatory review and legislation that stands the test of time.
    I want to also assure all hon. members that the bill is not a one-off.

[Translation]

    It will be an annual undertaking. In fact, work on the next bill is already under way.
     The Canadian regulatory system plays a key role in helping companies succeed and in protecting Canadians and the environment. For our economy to keep growing, we need a more effective and streamlined regulatory system that keeps on delivering world-class protection for consumers, health, safety and the environment.
    This is exactly what Bill S‑6 does. It helps modernize the current rules to make things easier for companies, and it will continue to set up regulatory agencies, stakeholders and Canadians for success. This is something we can all get behind.

  (1840)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I found it interesting that throughout the member's speech, he quite often made reference to the environment.
    Through you to the member, I am curious what specific regulation the government is changing that would prevent it from once again handing out a $13-billion subsidy to the one automaker in this country that has actually been charged for violating CEPA. Which regulation would it like to change to make sure that does not happen again?
    Madam Speaker, I know it sticks in the hon. member's craw that Canada is now making a transition to a clean, green economy, especially in key sectors, such as the automotive sector.
    Let me get back to Bill S-6.

[Translation]

    I can tell members why this process is so important. We are going to review all of the government regulations to ensure that they are still up to date. Any obsolete regulations that are no longer useful must be removed. We must be sure to remain competitive so that the Canadian economy performs and so that we can protect Canadians and especially the environment.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my esteemed colleague for his excellent speech.
    It is important to modernize regulations and to keep them up to date. It is important that they be simple, clear and identical in both languages. I am a member of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, and we often have to repeatedly ask departments and ministers to correct discrepancies between the English and French versions of certain regulations and orders.
    This week, we sent a notice of disallowance for a problem that has been going on for 25 years. I was not even old enough to vote when this problem arose. The fact that departments do not respond to the committee and that ministers refuse to testify in committee is an ongoing problem.
    Do the government's objectives include fixing the relationship with the committee so that there will be more constructive interaction when it comes to modernizing our regulations and addressing any problems with them?
    Madam Speaker, I could not agree more with my colleague from Mirabel on this issue.
    The committee he is a member of may be one of the House of Commons' most important committees. I am not sure what I did in my life to deserve to be a member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. I wanted to be a member of that committee because at a joint committee of senators and members, parliamentarians have an opportunity to really get to the bottom of things and to require that the machinery of government change or get rid of things that have been dragging on for years. There are consequences to violating the requests of the committee.
    Bill S‑6 gives us the chance to modernize regulations, in a similar fashion to the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. I hope it will lighten that important committee's workload.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I, too, want to thank the member across the way for his speech on the importance of Bill S-6.
    Bill S-6 is a massive bill. It contemplates minor amendments to a great series of ministries, and it is important work.
     It is my understanding that consultations had taken place, vast consultations prior to COVID, beginning as early as 2017 and manifesting in 2019. However, we found there was not one labour organization consulted. Can the member speak to why there was an absence of consultation with labour?
    Madam Speaker, unfortunately, I cannot, but I will engage to get back to the member and find out why that was the case.
     Labour is a very important element in terms of some of the key stakeholders, and we should be consulting not only with businesses, but also with labour, government and academics.
    I do engage to get back to the member with a response.

  (1845)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be here in the House with all my colleagues to discuss Bill S‑6. This bill is very important for addressing the red tape that exists in our federal system.

[English]

    I heard some of the comments, and it seems that most members of Parliament believe this is reasonable and straightforward legislation. We are taking important steps to be able to reduce unnecessary irritants in our legislation to create an ease and efficiency about how the Government of Canada interacts with a variety of different sectors.
    I am the proud chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, and a lion's share of the provisions in Bill S-6 relates to agriculture; therefore, I put my hand up for the opportunity to speak to this legislation today. It relates to the opportunity to work with different agencies to help reduce some of that administrative burden. Representing Kings—Hants, where agriculture and farming are big parts of our economy, I often hear from stakeholders about the importance of small legislative and regulatory tweaks that actually mean just as much, in some cases, as government programming and funding.
    I want to take an opportunity tonight to address some of the elements of the bill and offer some suggestions on where the government can go even further, because it is going to be really important in the days ahead. I also want to compliment the work on this bill in that it is a really important start, and it is important that we advance this through the House.
    First of all, under the Seeds Act and the Feeds Act, for the CFIA, there is an ability for mutual recognition of products that may be deemed novel to Canada but have had approval elsewhere, in other jurisdictions with similar processes to ours, to be able to expedite approvals. Traditionally, the CFIA did not have that tool, where there was an ability to grant mutual recognition. What an opportunity this is to be able to expedite processes.
    In a world where we are dealing with a global competitive marketplace, time matters. Having the ability to get these approvals and making sure the tools are available to the agriculture sector and to farmers are important steps. We do not have to compromise our public policy and public values around making sure there is due diligence, because we can rely on sound science and processes from other jurisdictions that we trust. I just want to highlight that.
    I have had the opportunity to talk at quite considerable length about the idea that we should expand that pathway and create a presumptive approval. There is an opportunity for the CFIA and the Pest Management Regulatory Agency to be able to have an expedited pathway where an applicant can present evidence and the science that was used in a jurisdiction with similar practices and standards to Canada to expedite those pathways. I have encouraged the Minister of Health to look at this. I know the government is contemplating it, but I hope the bill could be a catalyst for driving this forward in the days ahead.
    I also want to talk about the idea of trying to make some changes around how we meter and target electricity. This is a conversation that will become even more important in the days ahead, as we start to make really important moves to decarbonize our economy and talk about some of the standards. I have not gone through all of these in depth.
    I want to compliment Senator Colin Deacon, who is in the other place. He has done tremendous work in stewarding Bill S-6 to us here in the House, and I want to make sure that is on the record in Hansard. He has also done tremendous work to help advance this in the days ahead.
    Why is this important? It really matters in terms of getting efficiencies in how the government deals not only with large businesses but also with small businesses. Every member of Parliament has small businesses in their ridings that deal with the Government of Canada, whether it is through incorporation under the CBCA or other types of measures. We have to be mindful of that in the days ahead. There are opportunities for the government to go even further.

  (1850)  

    Canada actually ranks relatively poorly in the command and control regulations. What I mean is that we set out a legislative process whereby an applicant has to follow every single step that we determine necessary to get regulatory approval, versus an approach where we identify what outcome we need so that we can determine an approval, whether it is through government agencies or civil servants.
    I have heard an analogy before, Madam Speaker, and I will use it for you. Maybe there is a good bakery in your riding. You do not walk into that bakery and say, “This is the exact recipe”, give it to the baker and tell them to bake the cake. There is trust in the baker, and they are told that the cake you want is round, delicious and chocolate. You would want to go in and describe that cake, as opposed to going in with a prescribed notion and saying, “Bake this exact cake.” The cake would be described to meet satisfaction, and the baker would be allowed to go and illustrate how they made that cake. Hopefully, there would be approval.
    We need to be able to do that moving forward. The Speaker might have high standards of what her cake is, but she needs to describe it. That is the difference between command and control. She is not saying, “Here is the recipe; go bake this cake.” She is describing what type of cake she wants and then letting the baker be creative in delivering that cake. That is the best example. I look forward to the Hansard record of us talking about baked cakes and people asking how the heck this is important to Canadians.
    It matters. We need a little more freedom in how we regulate. We have seen instances of regulatory approvals recently, including in my own backyard. I want to make sure it is very clear on the record that I think this is somewhere we have to go in the days ahead.
    I can say this: I think the Liberal government is doing the right thing on Bill S-6. Let us look at important major projects that have to get done in this country. The Minister of Natural Resources has highlighted this. In our critical minerals sector, an extremely important question is this: How do we find a way to create efficiencies in the permitting process without compromising our public policy values?
     There is a lot of room for us, as parliamentarians, to dig in on this question. Whether it is our decarbonized future, and how we reduce emissions and fight climate change, or whether it is our economic competitiveness, the economy is strong right now. Frankly, employment numbers are really good in this country. There are a lot of good indicators, but we could do even better.
    How do we find ways on non-cost measures to be able to drive the initiatives that matter to Canadians? In this way, how can we reach the public policy goals that we are setting for ourselves, not only the government but, indeed, every member of this House that wants to see the best for Canada? How can we look at a formalized mechanism?
    I want to compliment my predecessor, the hon. Scott Brison, who represented my riding. He served as the president of the Treasury Board. Let me recognize the current Acting President of the Treasury Board for her work in helping to steward and drive this thing forward.
    In the past, in the 42nd Parliament, the government had regulatory review processes that were successful. How do we build on that success? How do we create a formalized mechanism that would allow the government to actually look at strategic growth areas; work with the business sector; work with organized labour, as one of my hon. colleagues mentioned earlier in a question; and work with stakeholders to identify ways that we could expedite process? This matters for the business community, for our competitiveness and for good jobs, whether in unionized or non-unionized contexts. This is how we have to move forward.
    I am very proud of what the government has produced. Leading into the fall economic statement, I hope the government continues to build on that success by creating mechanisms that could do exactly that. It could focus on Canada's competitiveness and on non-cost measures that could help drive our public policy outcomes. Surely, everyone in this House would be able to agree that this is an important pathway that will make a difference in the days ahead.
    It was a pleasure to get to speak to Bill S-6. I look forward to questions from my hon. colleagues.
    Madam Speaker, the member briefly mentioned the PMRA.
    We are having a lot of issues with the PMRA regulatory regime right now. There are many products that have been arbitrarily banned or pulled from the shelves because of uncertainty around the PMRA. Would the member support making some changes to regulations that would actually provide more certainty for our producers, so that companies are not arbitrarily pulling products off the shelves because of regulatory uncertainty?

  (1855)  

    Madam Speaker, it is an important question. I represent an agricultural riding, as I know the hon. colleague across the way does as well; as such, I will say that the PMRA is a really important agency for agricultural competitiveness. Obviously, its decisions always have to be based on science and the evidence that is before it. I am not fit to make those decisions, and I would respectfully say, neither is the member opposite.
    I said in my speech, and I want to reiterate in my answer here, that if there are ways that the PMRA can create expedited pathways based on the sound science of other trusted jurisdictions, that is extremely important. It could increase Canada's competitiveness by reducing the lag time before an applicant applies and when they can actually get approval. Therefore, I would agree with the member opposite that where we can use regulatory reform to help drive processes without compromising values, we absolutely should be doing that.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech and for speaking French. It was excellent.
    The bill would repeal section 15 of the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act. As a result, regulatory changes to oil and gas operations would essentially no longer have to be published in Part I of the Canada Gazette.
    The Senate debates revealed that many regulations are irrelevant, no longer used and no longer managed, and that changes could facilitate the process. As it stands, however, Bill S‑6 does not distinguish between minor regulatory changes and changes that would be much more consequential.
     I am wondering if my colleague believes that this matter could be studied in committee to ensure that there is still a certain obligation to publish substantive regulatory changes that do not simply seek to simplify the process.
    Madam Speaker, I absolutely agree with the proposal to study this bill in committee. In my view, it is very important to publish major regulatory changes.
    At the same time, I believe that, with respect to the Atlantic provinces, the bill is very important as a means of identifying a way to adopt regulations for offshore wind power for the hydrogen sector.
    I believe that measures for Atlantic Canada are very important, but that it is also important to be transparent in the future. I would be pleased to continue the work on this bill in committee.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's speech. While my riding is not fully agricultural, we have a lot of small producers in my riding. They are concerned about food security and about quality of food. I know that my colleague, the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, is busy consulting in the agricultural community on this bill.
    The member's speech raised a significant concern for me when he talked about presumptive approvals of things in agriculture, using countries with what he would call similar standards. However, in agriculture, that usually means the United States, which has significantly lower standards in most agricultural and food products. We know that in things like milk and cheese, there are extra additives allowed in the U.S. that are not allowed in Canada. Does the member share that concern, and does he think there are adequate protections in these presumptive approval processes?
    Madam Speaker, absolutely, I will address the presumptive approval. This is something I am pushing as a member of Parliament and saying that this is something the government should take on. What this bill actually does is outline a process where the CFIA could find mutual recognition between other jurisdictions. The member opposite points to the United States, but this is one example. There are multiple jurisdictions around the world, I would submit to him, that we would share similar principles and values with.
    In terms of the idea of a presumptive approval, it is not that there simply would be no review. We would look at the process and the science that was used in other jurisdictions and actually have an ability to see whether there is an expedited pathway on the strength and the resolution of that science. Therefore, I do not want the member to suggest that somehow there is no protocol in place. However, I hope he would agree that there is an ability to expedite this, where there are other jurisdictions with scientific processes that are very similar to those of Canada and that have demonstrably been proven safe. How do we find a way to make sure those small farmers the member talked about have the same access to the competitive tools as other farmers in other parts of the world?

  (1900)  

    Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House and speak on behalf of the constituents of Calgary Midnapore. Of course, as the shadow minister for the Treasury Board, I am responsible for critiquing this bill and overseeing the debate for the official opposition this evening, and it is a pleasure to do so.
    I am sure members are aware that Bill S-6 is the second piece of regulatory legislation aiming to clean up small pieces of legislation throughout a series of departments and ministries that have required these small pieces of legislation to be cleaned up for some time. I will add that the first was completed before the pandemic. This one, the second, is unfortunately a little behind schedule as a result of the pandemic, but the government expects to conduct this exercise on a yearly basis.
    What I think is very interesting is that in the third round, the government will start to consult with outside stakeholders. Of course, as the official opposition, we are always for consultation and transparency with Canadians, for Canadians working for themselves and for Canadians making decisions for themselves, so I certainly encourage the government to pursue this route of consultation and stakeholder talks in its next round before its proceeds to it.
    In respect of the Bill S-6 document we have before us today, one thing is evident to me, and it is seen, I would say, throughout all of the correspondence I have received at my house, all of the conversations I have had with my hon. colleagues and all of the debate we have had in the House: Canadians are defeated and exhausted. With this bill, it is easy to see why.
    First of all, as members know, the cost of living has skyrocketed in this country at a time when Canadians need measures to reduce their cost of living. I need not remind members that both rents and mortgages have doubled since 2015, since the government has been in power. Also, food inflation has increased at the fastest pace in 40 years, up by 10.8%. Butter is by 16.9%; eggs are up 10.9%; breads, rolls and buns are up 17.6%; lettuce is up by 12.4%; and apples are up by 11.8%.
    Really, this is a time when Canadians need cost of living reductions. It means we need a government committed to balancing the budget, lowering deficits and working toward getting rid of our national debt. I really do not see this bill working toward that.
    I am sure members are aware that over a million Canadians are using food banks at this time. In fact, it is 1.5 million, I believe. I am sure everyone saw the social media post, which was very unfortunate, of the Fort York Food Bank about the lineup there. Again, at a time when we need a government to be thinking about reducing waste instead of having red tape and additional measures that will cost more for government and more for Canadians, the government simply does not have that on its mind.
    With that, I will make reference again to some of the numbers we see from the government.
    As shadow minister for the Treasury Board, I can tell members that the cost of the public service has increased by over 50%. It is 53%, in fact, and it is crazy. If members can believe it, that is an additional $21 billion spent on our public service. We have this cost of living crisis, yet we have these incredible increases in the public service and in spending.

  (1905)  

    As I know everyone is well aware through conversations we have had in the House, in addition to that $21 billion spent on public servants, $22 billion was spent on outside consultants. Of course, one of them was McKinsey, a firm that was studied in depth at the committee on which I sit, government operations. I hope the transport committee will finally get an opportunity to discuss that after some back-and-forth among its members relating to the motion they passed to consider it.
    The different types of waste evident in Bill S-6 come at a time when we need to be thinking about saving money for Canadians and not having these incredible expenses. The federal debt, as I am sure members are aware, reached $1.22 trillion. That is $81,000 of debt per household. This is the type of thing we need to focus on. The deficit for this fiscal year is projected to be $43 billion, and that is something we need to really think about. Also, the deficit for next year is projected to be $40.1 billion. That is really something.
    If we look at these incredible numbers, our debt-to-GDP ratio is projected to increase from 42.4% in this fiscal year to 43.5% in the next fiscal year. The finance minister indicated prior to the budget that she was going to consider fiscal restraint, but we do not see anything like this. The result is that we end up with a bill like Bill S-6, with more—
    The hon. member for Kings—Hants has a point of order.
    Madam Speaker, I do not mean to take away from my hon. colleague's time, but this is about Bill S-6. I have been listening intently for the last few minutes. I do not know what your ruling may be, but she seems to be quite off the mark from the piece of legislation before the House. If you could ask the member how her remarks today relate to Bill S-6, I would certainly appreciate that.
    I think the hon. member has been making references to the bill, from my understanding of the bill.
    The hon. member for Edmonton Riverbend is rising on the same point of order.
    Madam Speaker, I listened intently to the speech by the member for Kings—Hants and he talked a lot about cake. He talked a lot about how he would reference cake—
    That is getting into debate.
    I am going to give the hon. member for Calgary Midnapore the opportunity to continue her speech and make her case and points for Bill S-6.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleagues for ensuring that the debate stays relevant.
    Certainly the amount of money the Liberal government is spending is critical to every bill, so thank you, Madam Speaker, for overseeing the discussion as I continue my interaction here today.
    As I was saying, the finance minister indicated that she would use fiscal restraint. I do not believe she did so. If I could go even further back to when Bill S-6 was first being discussed, which was last spring before we broke for the summer recess, it was at that time and even into the fall that the finance minister indicated she was going to implement an idea that our leader has committed to: the “pay as you go” system. She said she would have fiscal restraint, but I do not believe she has that. Last year, at the end of the spring session, Bill S-6 was being discussed, as well as the “pay as you go” system, but both of these things did not happen.
    In relation to our economy, I talked about Canadians being frustrated, defeated and exhausted. I am sure members saw the article in The Globe and Mail today indicating that this point in Canadian history is the worst time for new small business start-ups. This touches my heart very much. I know members have heard me speak before about how I come from a small business family in Calgary Midnapore. For me, growing up, small business was always front of mind. This included regulations, and I believe small businesses will struggle with the changing regulations indicated in Bill S-6. Again, if we look across the different departments, we can see how this can happen. Those are a couple of points in relation to Bill S-6.
    I will also point out that in Bill S-6, with the way the government legislates and operates in general, the language is consistently filled with jargon, with words and phrases that are difficult for Canadians to interpret. I started out this speech by talking about how legislation should be for Canadians. It is the common Canadian we should be legislating for. When we have phrases that are too complex for Canadians to understand, it does not help them. It does not empower them. We need to do that.
    With that, I would like to take a moment to talk about the plain language law that we would implement once we are in government, again in an effort to get government working for Canadians instead of having Canadians work for the government, as we are seeing in this case. I thought that was a very important point to mention.
    As shadow minister for the Treasury Board, another place where I see this take place is with the public accounts. There needs to be much revision to the public accounts and how they are presented. I do not believe Canadians understand them in the format they are in presently. I always share the story that in my home growing up, like the concept we have in our home, a budget was like this: We bring in this much money as a household, we spend this much money as a household and we save this much money as a household. I do not believe the public accounts reflect a simple concept such as this, a concept that many Canadian households and many Canadians sitting around the dinner table have to follow. Again, this is in relation to the jargon, the lack of plain language and the complexity we see in regulations and legislation from the government, which is relevant to Bill S-6.
    We also talk about Bill S-6 being indicative of another concept, which is very dear to the official opposition and the heart of our leader: getting rid of the gatekeepers. That essentially means making it easier for Canadians to live, to conduct business and to have the quality of life they deserve, which the government is not delivering to them, as evidenced by some of the earlier indicators I gave.
    We as the official opposition have provided some constructive ideas for getting rid of the gatekeepers.

  (1910)  

    For example, our opposition day motion that was presented yesterday talked about getting rid of the municipal gatekeepers, which, coming from Calgary, I have had an opportunity to see first-hand at Calgary City Council. Having done some advocacy work at the civic level, I can say that all governments must be working together, pulling in the same direction in an effort to provide Canadians with the best standard of living, and that includes housing.
     Especially when we consider the ambitious immigration targets of the current government, we need to seriously and sincerely consider how we are going to accommodate all of these newcomers. Again, I say this as an Albertan. Alberta is a place of incredible growth and we are so happy that so many new Canadians and so many Canadians who have abided in other places are making the choice to come to Alberta, but we need to seriously consider how we are going to support our citizens.
    In his opposition day motion speech yesterday, my leader talked about how we will incentivize those municipalities that make the decision to build more homes for Canadians, and we will not reward those that do not. This is an excellent example of where we have to think about the gatekeepers. Bill S-6 is just an indicator that there are so many gatekeepers across government, when we have to make these minute changes to legislation which seems applicable to ages ago, including things as simple as removing stickers from liquid vending machines. It is astounding to me that these types of things are coming to light now.
    Another example I will give of the official opposition's desire to get rid of the gatekeepers is our unique idea to bring home doctors and nurses and to allow for a Blue Seal in the same way that we have the Red Seal in the trade professions. That is wonderful. It is just fantastic how we have more young people joining the trades. I am especially excited about more young women joining the trades. I am certainly glad to see some of the legislation, even if it is at a provincial level, allowing young women to feel comfortable in joining the trades. Whether it is providing safe and clean restrooms for them or whether it is providing equipment that is suitable for their size and stature, whatever that may be, that is just excellent.
    Our leader and the official opposition have found that the licensing bodies create endless barriers and red tape, which again is a topic that is talked about much in Bill S-6, resulting in an unnecessary, even greater shortage of doctors and nurses. I would like to quote this sentence from my leader. He said, “The Blue Seal will mean that it won’t matter where someone comes from, it matters what they can do.” That is just fantastic. If these doctors and nurses meet our Blue Seal standards, they will be able to work in our health care system. Again, this is just another example of the Conservative Party, the official opposition, looking for true efficiencies.
     Bill S-6 addresses these tiny things. Really our energies could be spent on addressing much larger problems and finding efficiencies in larger problems rather than, in many cases of Bill S-6, providing opportunities for even more legislation through regulation.
     I will add that legislation by regulation has not always resulted in the best outcomes for Canadians. I know that as we discuss Bill C-290 in the government operations committee right now, we are discussing, for example, the role of the public service integrity commissioner. A big discussion around these debates on Bill C-290 is really to decide how much leeway we will give the public service integrity commissioner in terms of regulation.

  (1915)  

    These are significant things that touch upon workers and will gravely determine whether a public servant decides to file a grievance and if they feel comfortable in doing so. This is something that is very important.
    Another situation where we saw regulation was not sufficiently applied, for this official opposition, was the order in council regarding firearms. My goodness, that was before the pandemic, so three or four years ago now. That is a time when it most probably should have been legislation. Of course, we are going through the Bill C-21 process right now, which the Conservatives oppose. No matter what the wolf in sheep's clothing looks like, we will oppose Bill C-21. That is an example where regulation was used and perhaps should not have been. Perhaps it should have been left to legislation. This is most definitely another example.
    I look through these different examples. There are other examples that my colleagues will talk about this evening, things they are very concerned about, interpretations of endangered species, for example. Again, there are more topics filled with jargon, but members will give their comments as well as to what interpretation of this legislation will mean through regulation.
    It is something important to keep in mind, because, as I indicated, legislation should be made by the people for the people. This is something the official opposition, the Conservatives, are committed to. I think about how we are going to deal with the complex issues ahead of us, such as artificial intelligence, if we are talking about liquids coming out of vending machines.
    Bill S-6 brings back the complexity, the jargon and the gatekeepers of this legislation. We on this side of the House want to have legislation that works for every Canadian in every single home, my home, all our homes, so let us bring it home and let us re-evaluate Bill S-6.

  (1920)  

    Madam Speaker, I am so glad the member brought up yesterday's opposition day motion, because I was not here so I was not able to contribute. Now I have the opportunity to ask her a question given she spent some time talking about it.
    The Conservatives are talking about municipal gatekeepers, which is an interesting way to reflect on and appreciate municipal councils and mayors throughout the country who are elected and trying to represent their constituents. Nonetheless, what the Conservatives are doing is basically suggesting the federal government can somehow affect the direct policies in neighbourhoods about zoning, intensification and increasing density.
    I know she says and the Conservatives say that this is about incentivizing municipalities to build more housing and tying, I guess, money to that incentivizing process. Can she explain to this House exactly how they would incentivize that, but more importantly, how it is different from the current existing housing accelerator fund that does exactly that?
    Madam Speaker, I am glad my colleague from Kingston and the Islands had an opportunity to weigh in on this conversation today.
    First of all, I have the utmost respect for our civic politicians. I want to give a special shout-out to Dan McLean, who represents Ward 13 on Calgary City Council. I thank Dan for all the work he does and ask him to please keep fighting for the constituents and for all Calgarians.
    It is very clear the housing plan of the current government is not working, as is indicated by the results. Providing incentives to Canadian cities, Canadian municipalities, is simply looking at the results, so how many homes they built and incentivizing that. There is a saying that if what one is doing is not working, one has to try something different. This is something different and I think it is going to work.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, Bill S-6 contains a series of regulatory changes that could make life simpler for companies and the business community in Quebec and Canada.
    Not to make any assumptions, Madam Speaker, but you do not look like someone who would want to file two tax returns, because your time is valuable and you do not want to waste it doing the same thing twice. I know you do not want to file two tax returns, and neither do Quebec businesses. This was confirmed by a motion passed unanimously by the Quebec National Assembly calling for a single tax return.
    Until Quebec becomes a country and we are independent, does my colleague not think that it would be a good idea to make life simpler for our business owners by allowing them to file a single tax return?
    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Mirabel for his question. I also want to thank him again for his bill, Bill C-290.
    The idea he just mentioned was part of our platform in the last two election campaigns. I am pretty sure about that with respect to individual tax returns. I am not 100% sure about it when it comes to businesses, but certainly with respect to individuals.
    I know that the Quebec members of our caucus, but really all members of our caucus, agree that Canadians should be able to report their income in the simplest and easiest way possible.
    I therefore agree with my colleague. We support the idea of collecting taxes as he has suggested.

  (1925)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I think the hilarious thing about being a Conservative is that they get a slogan, and they get use it again and again.
    There is this whole thing about gatekeepers. Everybody is a gatekeeper now. The leader of the Conservative Party has never had a job and he lives in a 19-room mansion, so the only thing he has ever come up with are groundskeepers who are paid for by the taxpayers.
    I listened to my hon. colleague, and she is upset that firearms legislation may be dealt with by order in council, when it should be dealt with by legislation. That is based on political amnesia. The Harper government used an order in council to stop the gatekeepers, the RCMP, from designating what were dangerous weapons.
    The Harper government brought in the use of the order in council on firearms. The Harper government did not want it to go through legislation, and it did not want police involvement. Now we are in a situation where the Conservatives are crying and outraged. Now they are defending trying to stop changes to the legislation that would stop ghost guns. I do not know what they figure in terms of gatekeepers who are running around with ghost guns, but we have to deal with these issues, and it was the Harper government that used an order in council to exploit the ability of the gun lobby and to circumvent legislation for the Canadian people.
    Madam Speaker, I am certainly not going to let any member in this House, be they from that part of the government or the part of the government back there, deter me from a future that I believe is better for Canadians, and that is a Conservative government. These individuals can belittle me, belittle my ideas and belittle the ideas from my party, but they will not deter me, my colleagues or my leader from fighting for a government that is better for Canadians.
    Madam Speaker, with all due respect, the member never answered my question, and I really want her to bring it home on this so that I can get a straight answer to my question.
    What I asked was how the proposal by the Conservatives about incentivizing municipalities is any different from the current housing accelerator fund that exists. If she is saying that we are unsuccessful and are not producing results, what she is effectively saying is that their plan would do the same.
    Can she explain to me how the Conservatives' plan to incentivize building housing is different from the current housing accelerator fund that exists?
    Madam Speaker, the government is not getting results. It is absolutely evident. We have had individuals from other parties talk about the necessity of providing housing at all different scales of the housing continuum. Our platform has done this in the past as well.
    I do not know what I could even say to the member to bring to light just what a failure the Liberals' plan has been. We have to try something different and some new ideas. I believe this is a different idea and a new idea to incentivize, because I have not seen anything change in my municipality, and I have not seen—
    Madam Speaker, the RMB is supposed to be instituted annually, as per the government. The last one was done four years ago. I cannot believe how bad the government is at math. Something that has to be done every year is being done once every four years.
    Could my hon. colleague elaborate on that failure in dealing with something such as this, which is supposed to be very important?
    Madam Speaker, my wonderful colleague from Edmonton Manning is absolutely correct. I indicated this concern in my speech. I am very concerned what this glacial pace of re-evaluating regulations and policies means for the economic future and security future of our nation. On a daily basis in the House, we are seeing it being compromised.
    I would say to my colleague that I am really looking forward to the third edition of Bill S-6 having some clauses on VCRs, beta tapes and compact discs.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to follow up on the question from the member for Kingston and the Islands.
    Clearly, the national housing strategy has been a failure. The Conservative strategy is to get back on track and attack our elected municipal officials by judging their work and telling them that they are not capable of making the right decisions. I would like to point out that the elected officials of the Union des municipalités du Québec are in Gatineau right now. I want to say hello and let them know that we appreciate their work and their skills, and we are happy that they are here.
    The member and her party say they will respect provincial jurisdictions and stop imposing conditions on them. At the same time, in their opposition motion, they said they would impose conditions on municipalities and, if they do not listen to what know-it-all Ottawa says, they would take away their funding.
    How is that possible?

  (1930)  

    Madam Speaker, it warms my heart to see that we both care about our counterparts at the municipal level. We both have hope for more housing in Quebec and Alberta—
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Joliette.
    Madam Speaker, I seek the consent of the House to share my time with my unique and extraordinary colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue.
    Does the hon. member have consent?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Madam Speaker, over the past few days, my area has had significant rainfall. As a result, numerous rivers are overflowing and there is major flooding, damage and all sorts of issues. Many houses are flooded. People in my riding have lost a lot. Many roads were cut off and are still not passable. A number of communities are isolated. It is a sad state of affairs, and I am deeply distressed. My thoughts go out to the people of Saint-Côme as well as Sainte-Émélie-de-l'Énergie, Chertsey, Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez, Entrelacs, Rawdon, Saint-Michel-des-Saints and Saint-Zénon, and of course the Atikamekw community in Manawan. I am also thinking of the people of Saint-Donat, Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci and Sainte-Béatrix.
    Everyone is hoping that the rain will stop soon and that we can carry on with the repair work. I would like to thank the municipal elected officials, their teams on the ground and the many volunteers who are doing an incredible job under the circumstances. I would also like to thank Quebec for its involvement. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the personal commitment of the Minister of Emergency Preparedness. I had the opportunity to speak with him and he, too, offers his full co-operation and is very saddened by the situation.
    Obviously, we also stand in solidarity with the people of other municipalities in Lanaudière, as well as in the Laurentians and the Outaouais, and of course those in the Charlevoix region and Baie-Saint-Paul in particular. Our thoughts are with them. We are terribly saddened by the tragic accident involving the two firefighters who were on a rescue mission.
    As we can see, climate change is generating more extreme weather events. We need to start adapting to this new reality now. Clearly, infrastructure upgrades are now urgent. Ottawa must contribute. I also invite this government to listen to the needs of municipalities to bring all small dams up to standard.
    Let us get back to Bill S‑6.
    As members know, this regulatory modernization bill is introduced annually. It includes minor changes to ease the administrative burden on businesses, facilitate digital interactions with the government, streamline regulatory processes, provide exemptions from certain regulatory requirements for testing new products and facilitate cross-border trade. It updates 29 laws with 46 amendments and affects 12 government departments and agencies. I did say minor changes.
    Bill S-6 helps ensure that the regulatory environment evolves in step with technologies and takes into account the realities of businesses. That is a very good thing, even though it is a bit late. The government announced its intention to introduce this bill in 2018, or five years ago. We know that there was a pandemic, but we also know that this government does not move very quickly.
    In short, we are studying a bill to modernize regulations. The amendments are minor and we find most of them to be pertinent.
    However, as long as we will be doing that, I would have liked the bill to go much further. For example, it could have addressed the regulations buried in the Income Tax Act, which legalize the use of tax havens to avoid paying what is owed. We have recognized that for many years. It is high time we withdrew them. I am referring here to section 5907 of the Income Tax Regulations, which allow banks, web giants and multinationals to report their profits made here in a tax haven to avoid paying tax. It is about time to make illegal what is immoral. This is an opportunity to withdraw regulations that contravene the very spirit of the law.
    The use of tax havens is a scourge that undermines our public services. Globally, it is estimated that $12 trillion in assets are hidden in tax havens. This situation is only possible because of the hypocrisy of western governments, starting with England and the United States. In Canada, the examples of Paul Martin and Bill Morneau speak for themselves. While Ottawa was legalizing using Barbados as a tax haven, Paul Martin, the then minister of finance, was registering his company there to avoid paying taxes. The Morneau Shepell family business publicly offered its services to retirement funds and insurance companies to help them use tax havens, even though he was serving as finance minister for the current government.
    According to expert Renaud Van Ruymbeke, despite the efforts of the OECD and the G20, tax havens have never been used more often.
    A world of shell companies, trusts, front men and straw men, financial advisors and legal experts, also known as “trustees”, is protecting the perpetrators of massive fraud, certainly tax fraud, but often also criminal fraud. There is a mix of drug traffickers, CEOS of multinational corporations looking to evade taxes, oligarchs, of course, mobsters, greedy and corrupt dictators...

  (1935)  

    Let us not forget that Mr. Van Ruymbeke was an investigative judge in the financial division of the Paris court. In a recent book, he explains how tax havens are used to hide assets and evade taxes.
    Based on his investigative experience, he describes the complex techniques implemented by banks, firms and specialized offices. He also lists the main offshore financial centres, such as Delaware, the City of London, the British Isles, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, and so on.
    According to this expert, international agreements yield almost no results. As he explained, and I quote, “these reforms have a flaw: They assume that bankers, trustees and consulting firms under the jurisdiction of tax havens will co-operate, under threat of sanctions. However, they live off this hidden money. Why would they report their clients, which would make them flee to other jurisdictions?”
    In fact, he explains that these managers are continually adapting to new rules to continue protecting their clients' identities and assets, which makes it difficult to make any real changes.
    Fortunately, there have been many leaks from whistle-blowers. They have shown just how widespread the use of tax havens is and they have mobilized us to take collective action. I want to once again quote Mr. Van Ruymbeke, who said, “The papers have thus become recurring global scandals. No financial centre is immune to these continuous revelations. I find that reassuring. There are cracks in even the thickest armour. Dubai, which never responded to my requests, is at the mercy of computer leaks and the Papers whistle-blowers, just like all of the financial centres.”
    Names of the beneficiaries can be revealed and some evaded taxes can be recovered, but the judge reminded us that this is the exception. To really eliminate those privileges, we need to put an end to the complacency that currently exists. That takes political will. To accomplish this, every government needs to implement a centralized registry of all the accounts on its territory and create a list of the real beneficiaries.
    Again according to Mr. Van Ruymbeke, “Every country also needs to create a registry of all of the corporations and make it accessible to everyone. We need to eradicate the fake Liechtenstein foundations and other shell companies.” He goes on to say, “Every country must ensure that the banks do not just go through the formalities but actually verify their clients' assets, particularly those of any front men whose personal resources do not justify the tens of millions of euros flowing into their accounts.”
    Banks must be required to report suspicious transactions or face real penalties. The government needs to stop being soft on trustees and legal advisers who help arrange fraud. Banks that participate in tax evasion must be severely punished.
    Shell companies should be prohibited altogether. If the sole purpose of a company is to conceal the identity of its owner, it should be illegal. This must be the case for shell companies in the Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Panama and Delaware. Their sole purpose is to be used in offshore arrangements. This should also apply to Liechtenstein foundations, Anglo-Saxon trusts, and so on.
    All countries that allow multinationals, banks and individuals with personal fortunes to escape taxation by using tax havens have an elephant in the room. How can we legitimately impose austerity policies, cutting public services or raising the retirement age, when we allow the wealthy to evade taxes? It is high time we addressed this, including the regulations in section 5907 of the Income Tax Regulations.

  (1940)  

    Madam Speaker, I know that my colleague from Joliette is very passionate about the issue of tax evasion. I understand, because we are constantly told that there is not enough money for health transfers. We are told that there is not enough money for the provinces. However, at the same time, we are depriving ourselves of important sources of revenue.
    That said, with respect to tax evasion, there is always one country saying that it cannot be the first to make changes, because it must wait for the others to do so. Ultimately, no one ever does anything.
    I would like to ask my colleague the following question: In this matter, why is Canada not showing any international leadership?
    Madam Speaker, Canada is lagging behind when it comes to dealing with tax evasion and tax avoidance. In the United States, the equivalent of the Canada Revenue Agency, or the IRS, has taken legal action. There have been criminal judgments and sentences have been imposed. This has never been done in Canada for tax evasion. More needs to be done.
    The government says it has more means. Now, we are going to have better laws, but it also takes political will. We are still far from seeing results.
    In the latest leaked “papers”, Radio-Canada reported that Revenu Québec had recovered more money than the Canada Revenue Agency, which had recovered 20 or 30 times less than its friends in Europe such as England, France and Germany.
    Madam Speaker, I have a question for my colleague. Many businesses tell me that there is too much red tape in Canada. The administration is cumbersome. There are often delays at the municipal and federal levels. There are forms to fill out to participate in programs. It is onerous and complicated. A person almost needs a doctorate in administration to be able to fill out those forms.
    Does my colleague think there might be a way to improve the situation?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Lévis—Lotbinière. I completely agree with him. There is far too much paperwork. The departments do not communicate with each other. We need to do a lot more than what is set out in Bill S‑6. Bill S‑6 helps a little bit, but there is still a lot of work to be done after that.
    One thing that the Bloc Québécois keeps bringing up and that I think the Conservative Party supports is the single tax return. We are asking that Quebeckers only be required to fill out one tax return rather than two, and that that single tax return be administered by Quebec. There is a consensus on that in Quebec. That would mean a lot less paperwork for businesses. We are therefore once again asking the government to listen to us.
    Of course, the government does not like that idea and wants to maintain control. Sharing power is not something the federal government likes to do. It prefers the idea of a legislative union where know-it-all Ottawa controls and oversees everything.
    That is not our vision. We want to reduce the paperwork for businesses with a single tax return.
    Madam Speaker, Bill S‑6 contains a lot of little regulatory changes that we are told can make a big difference for the business community.
    It seems to me that some big changes, like Quebec's independence, could eliminate some major duplication and simplify the lives of Canadians, Quebeckers and businesses.
    I am wondering whether my colleague can give us a few more examples on this lovely evening.
    Madam Speaker, again, I thank my colleague from Mirabel for his comments. Yes, indeed, we have two levels of government.
    Because the decisions made here in Ottawa are not consistent with the values held by our distinct society, we have developed a sort of half-state that is more responsive to our needs. Meanwhile, half the taxes we pay come here. Sometimes these funds are spent in useful ways, but sometimes they are used for projects that we do not care about or that actually harm our interests and values.
    Because we love Quebeckers and want the best for them, our party is of the opinion that we had better make decisions ourselves in order to be fully accountable. Let us stay good neighbours instead of bad roommates.
    I would obviously have a host of examples to give; however, since my time is limited, I will provide examples in a future speech.

  (1945)  

    Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to a bill that responds to repeated requests from small and medium-sized businesses. It also contains provisions that affect large corporations, which will have to be examined more carefully.
    I would like to begin by thanking my colleague from Joliette who has been strong and agile, just like Matthew Tkachuk in his fight against Toronto. That is what is sometimes missing from the Canadian economy and Canadian laws: strength and agility.
    Like my colleagues, I do not have the luxury of holding the House at rapt attention while I talk about each of the amendments. I simply do not have enough time. That is why I think that a more detailed study of this bill in the various committees is quite warranted. I will, however, take a few moments to talk about some of those amendments.
    Bill S‑6 has many interesting provisions and will certainly make it easier to do business in Canada by eliminating outdated regulatory requirements and authorizing the use of modern means of communication. Believe it or not, there are government organizations that still use paper and fax machines. Worse yet, they force us to use paper and fax machines too. We even have a fax machine in each of our offices, I would remind everyone. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is one such organization. There is something for everyone in this bill.
    The bill proposes roughly 46 changes to 29 acts that are administered by the following organizations: the Canadian Food Inspection Agency; Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; Natural Resources Canada; Environment and Climate Change Canada; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. It might be a good idea to include Air Canada, in order to ensure that it provides quality service in the regions. That is another story.
    On a more serious note, before I get to the heart of the matter, I would like to say a few words about a loss that is affecting our community and the Ukrainian community in Abitibi—Témiscamingue. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the contribution of Jim Slobodian, a resident with Ukrainian roots who did a lot for the Ukrainian community. He was instrumental in preserving his community's history in Abitibi—Témiscamingue, whether by sharing the history of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Rouyn-Noranda or by establishing the Camp Spirit Lake Interpretation Centre as a reminder of this internment camp, which was built near Amos in 1914 and closed in 1917.
    Jim Slobodian was also a committed volunteer. He was involved in amateur sports and, along with Jean-Paul Charlebois, he negotiated the famous boxer Muhammad Ali's visit to Rouyn-Noranda in 1983, an historic event for the region that was documented in the film Voir Ali, by Martin Guérin. My father, Guy Lemire, and my uncle, Jean-Pierre Lemire, were also part of it. I invite everyone to watch it.
    In short, Jim Slobodian was one of the many immigrants from eastern Europe who helped build Rouyn-Noranda. He later helped welcome Ukrainian nationals who moved to our area. His work in preserving the Ukrainian history of Rouyn-Noranda has helped ease the transition for the Ukrainian nationals that our region has recently welcomed. I salute Jim and thank him for everything.
    Let us now get back to Bill S-6. It is precisely these types of outdated and, quite frankly, slow regulatory actions and processes that undermine the competitiveness of Canadian businesses and our confidence in the system. It also makes things more difficult for foreign companies that want to invest here. We were just talking about this today at the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology.
    Without a doubt, the business world is constantly changing. Emerging technologies, new regulations and changing consumer preferences are among the many factors contributing to the rapid transformation of the business environment. Keeping pace with these changes is essential for companies to remain relevant and competitive.
    There are many arguments in favour of this kind of annual exercise. This government initiative is interesting, provided that it takes into account the many reports that have addressed the importance of regulation or that have identified indicators affected by our economy's lack of efficiency and agility. Perhaps too much is being asked of entrepreneurs. Of course, the bureaucracy has become quite heavy on the federal side. It is essential to take stock.
    I am thinking of the Deloitte report published in 2019 on the state of regulation, entitled “Making regulation a competitive advantage”, which referred to Canada's regulatory environment as a core weakness.
    I am also thinking of the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology's study on the same subject and the report we produced, entitled “Small and Medium Enterprises in Canada: Charting a Competitive Future”. This report talked about the labour shortage and all the regulatory paperwork required to hire foreign workers, especially in an agricultural or rural context.
    Canada is a poor performer when it comes to regulating business activity, and the costs involved in meeting all government requirements are high, which affects competitiveness.
    Three themes seem to have provided inspiration for Bill S-6: the ease of doing business, regulatory flexibility and agility, and the integrity of the regulatory system.

  (1950)  

    With regard to the ease of doing business and amendments 1 and 2 in particular, Bill S-6 proposes amendments to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act so that businesses can more easily restructure their debt and continue to operate during periods of restructuring. The bill will also allow businesses to reach agreements with creditors without having to get approval from the court.
    Right now, there is no mechanism to allow for the withdrawal of a request for mediation, even if both parties reach an agreement, which means that they often have to go through an unnecessary mediation process. That can result in higher costs and delay the completion of the bankruptcy process. What is more, given the growing use of digital and social media, local newspapers are not always the best way to keep creditors and other interested parties informed of the bankruptcy, even though that is one way to fund those newspapers. The funding of our local and regional media is very important. The amendment would allow the superintendent of bankruptcy to issue directives specifying the manner in which the notice should be published.
    There is amendment 4 on trademarks, which authorizes the disclosure of certain information to the public. Bill S‑6 would allow the Canadian Intellectual Property Office to disclose certain information about applications for trademark registration, including the names and addresses of trademark holders and the trademark filing and registration dates.
    Currently, the Trademarks Act prohibits the disclosure of this information except under certain limited circumstances, such as legal proceedings and criminal investigations. The purpose of this proposed amendment is to improve transparency, a key word in this debate, in the trademarks system and to make it easier to access information on trademark holders. This could be useful for businesses, consumers and intellectual property professionals. This is an essential issue.
    I commend Jim Balsillie, whom we heard this week at the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology. I think everyone has a duty to reflect on how we regulate our intellectual property. This is an important part of our economy, but we are leaving it vulnerable.
    This clause takes effect on the day Bill S‑6 receives royal assent.
    Regarding amendment 8, when Bill S‑6 is studied in committee, it will be important to ask public servants to ensure that this does not exempt corporations from publishing their financial statements, particularly for non-profit organizations that benefit from more advantageous tax provisions. We must be careful not to open a governance and transparency loophole that we are trying to close.
    For instance, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is examining the records of national sports organizations. They are not in compliance at the moment. Hockey Canada, for example, was not compliant until recently. The Canadian Hockey League is non-compliant, and Canada Soccer just recently filed the information that was missing. The work we have done in committee is what is bringing transparency to these charities. There may be other regulatory changes to be made in this area.
    With respect to regulatory flexibility and agility, we noted that clauses 15 and 17, the amendments to the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, could potentially pose a problem. The bill proposes to drop the obligation to publish amendments to regulations under these laws in the Canada Gazette. The government says that the purpose is to cut red tape, but we fear that this would make it possible to amend the regulations to benefit oil companies without informing the general public. In short, it is imperative to ask the government about these amendments. The past often foretells the future. I do not believe in green oil.
    The amendments concerning immigration should not pose a problem if they seek to ensure that information is shared within a department or with other departments, whether provincial or federal, in order to uphold provincial or federal laws.
    With respect to the integrity of the regulatory system, there is a whole range of amendments affecting agriculture. That is the responsibility of my colleague, the member for Berthier—Maskinongé, who is an expert on this subject. He is our party's critic for agriculture, agri-food and supply management.
    What I would really like to see is an amendment that responds to a repeated request from boards of trade in every riding across Canada.
    The Fédération des Chambres de commerce du Québec sent me its recommendation, which reads as follows:
    That the Government of Canada:
    Work with the impacted regulated entities and related associations to amend and modernize the Boards of Commerce Act to reflect current and future business and governance models and needs. Specific areas could include the following amendments:
1. Amend part 1, section 3(1) to replace the specific references with more current business language regarding who is eligible to form a board of trade;
2. Amend part 1, section 11 to allow at least two additional members to serve on the council of the corporation, in addition to the president, vice-president and secretary;
3. Amend part 1, section 12(2) to provide for a term of office of up to two years for members of the council of the corporation;
4. Amend section 17(1) to allow for at least one general meeting to be held per year;
5. Introduce new language in the Act to allow flexibility in the type of financial reports—

  (1955)  

    Unfortunately, I have to interrupt the hon. member because his time is up.
    I do not know whether the interpreters were able to keep up with the member, but I think they did a good job.
    The hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands for questions and comments.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I appreciated the member's speech. He really covered a lot of the aspects of the bill. He touched on many areas there.
    I just want him to go back to the portion where he was talking about trademarks. I know the Bloc talk a lot about trying to deal with the issue of planned obsolescence. In the regulations that will be changed around trademarks, does the member think there will be anything to help out in that area as well?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his passion for trademark protection and his interest in creating increasingly modern and robust legislation.
    I would remind him that the objective is to ensure that our local industries are as successful as possible. That requires a legal mechanism that will protect our economy. It is not the rest of the world's economy that we need to protect; it is our own, particularly in rural areas.
    I commend my colleague for his interest in this issue. We should be able to protect our trademarks, our integrity and our intellectual properly effectively. Intellectual property theft is too easy right now. If China is doing as well as it is, it may be because we wanted to manufacture all of our stuff there and we gave away all our patents at the same time. Perhaps it is too late to do anything about that, but it is not too late to do a better job of protecting our businesses' interests, particularly in the age of digitalization.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my neighbour from Abitibi—Témiscamingue for his recognition of the huge contribution of the Ukrainian community in Abitibi—Témiscamingue.
    I know well the history of the Ukrainian church in Val-d’Or, in Rouyn. It is the same story in Kirkland Lake with the Ukrainian church that just closed and, of course, the Orthodox and Ukrainian church in Timmins. This is the story of our families who moved back and forth along that line from Val-d’Or to Timmins in the mines. We also know the history of the treatment of the Ukrainians, the mistreatments and incarcerations. My friend, Richard Desjardins, has talked about how Noranda Mines used to bring in the Ukrainians because they would threaten to deport them if they ever tried to strike.
    Given the incredible contribution of the Ukrainian community in Abitibi—Témiscamingue and the situation with the war, I would like to ask my hon. colleague how he feels the Ukrainian community has added to the vitality and development of our region.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Timmins-James Bay, my neighbour, for allowing me to speak to this issue.
    Barely a century ago, Rouyn‑Noranda was the second most cosmopolitan city in Canada. Before Toronto and Vancouver there was Rouyn‑Noranda. This was mostly due to the arrival of people from all over the world. At the time, regulations favoured the massive arrival of immigrants who came to work on developing our economy. The situation at the time was very different than it is today.
    This paved the way for the emergence of a very engaged community, the Ukrainian community. I did not have the chance to inform my colleague of this, but I recently participated in the Timmins tournament with my hockey team, the Pro‑Gaz. We won, by the way. I did notice the presence of this Ukrainian church. Father Chayka was probably also in Timmins-James Bay. Sadly, he died in the early days of the invasion of Ukraine. He would have been very helpful in welcoming the newcomers. In Abitibi—Témiscamingue, we have welcomed more than 60 of them, including five at my place. I would like to say hello to them.
    Madam Speaker, the discussion we just heard was very moving, and I congratulate both my colleagues.
    My question is about the delays. Bill S-6 was announced in 2018, and, in 2023, it has only reached second reading stage.
    We know that there was a pandemic and that this government takes its time, but what does my hon. colleague think about that? Are such long delays acceptable?

  (2000)  

    Madam Speaker, what is happening right now is quite shocking.
    I would like to tell my colleague about the report prepared by the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology, which I mentioned earlier. The report shows the economic impact of immigration delays on small and medium-sized businesses.
    Madam Speaker, in my riding and yours, we are losing many workers because the agreements are making immigration wait times much longer.
    We have to ask ourselves some serious questions, because this ultimately has repercussions on the economic development of every municipality. Land use, a fundamental value, is affected by the delays, which are mainly caused by the federal government. We have to think of our SMEs and support some regulatory relief.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, today I am honoured to rise to speak to Bill S-6. I want to thank the previous speaker for highlighting many of the areas that are contemplated in this bill. I would argue that it was one of the better speeches made today.
    I also want to speak to what the bill does. Of course, as was just mentioned, it was originally contemplated in the minister's mandate letter as far back as 2015 that the economic viability of our regulatory processes be looked at to ensure increased innovation and competitiveness. This version of Bill S-6 removes the existing negative barriers to imperative regulation processes, as outdated provisions can lead to significant errors and impact essential work within government departments.
    This is one of the greatest tests of our time. Between the tabling of the previous iteration of this bill and the tabling of this version there was a significant event. COVID–19 impacted our country in ways we never would have expected. We practically went online overnight. In a short period of time, we went from living our regular everyday lives to being almost alone in our homes and relying on digital technology. Federal civil services were also impacted by the requirement of regulations and the burden of ensuring we were able to address those issues via companies and regulators throughout COVID. Therefore, it is a very timely bill in the sense that we can finally address some long-awaited areas. If the government had done a better job, some of these regulations might have already been passed before we experienced COVID–19, this tragic, ongoing, international disease.
    I want to speak to the broadness of the bill. It modifies 29 acts through 46 amendments and applies to 12 departments and agencies. Imagine how large and significant that will be. We have seen, through Senate committee hearings, for example, that the amendments are low risk and deal largely with the requirement of modernizing existing processes, for example, the requirement for physical postings versus online postings, so we can see that the nature of these amendments is such that they will make the operations of government more consistent and more appropriate for the processes and regulations to be used.
    It is important as well to ensure that, regarding the regulations to be reviewed at committee, other folks, like agriculture, for example, which is one of the departments most affected by this bill, be at the table to speak directly to the issues, particularly those amendments with respect to agriculture. I know the member of Parliament for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford is doing good work with many agriculture representatives across the country and is consulting on this as we speak.
    New Democrats will stand in support of the passage of this bill at second reading in order to get it to committee. At committee, I would invite all our colleagues to work diligently to ensure that the vastness and scope of the bill is truly reviewed at committee. If it requires amendments, I hope the government will be willing to table the amendments in earnest and adopt them.
    One of the greatest concerns I have with the bill, which has also been referenced by other members of this chamber, is with respect to the vast consultations. When we look at some of the consultation documents that were tabled by the government and reviewed at the Senate hearings, for example, it is clear that the government was consulting businesses, industry and stakeholders, but the one important stakeholder that was absent was labour unions. We know that good, quality work in Canada is one of the most important skills we have. We know that human resources and good skilled labour is truly our best resource in this country, so why would we not invite labour unions to the table when talking about some of the most significant changes these folks will deal with in their industry? Although they are minor in their area and impact, it is regular everyday people who will have to process these regulations, so why not make it easier for all those who process those regulations to do that work, including the labour unions? I believe labour and management can do great things in this country if they work together. At committee we are going to ensure that we invite many labour representatives to speak directly to the impacts of this legislation on labour.

  (2005)  

    I want to speak about the benefits of improving our regulatory systems on an annual basis, another important piece to this legislation. It speaks about the important work that is required when provisions go out of date. We are not immune to modernity in this place, nor are our laws, meaning that we need to invest in time and processes. Bill S-6 contemplates a process to modernize these things.
    Regulations, of course, are important pieces of how the government needs to operate. They are the biggest role of the government. They ensure that consumers are most and best protected, regular everyday folks, folks who need these kinds of protections. New Democrats have always cautioned against outright removal of regulations that would seek to harm consumers for the benefit of big corporations. Although this bill does not contemplate any of these vast changes, the annual process, as a matter of fact, could.
    At committee stage, I hope we can find ways to close up and tighten the language of this bill to ensure, when we are speaking about annual regulation changes, that process is defined in area, scope and impact, and we make sure the right stakeholders are at the table. I do agree that the government did a good job in terms of its consultations with businesses, industry and stakeholders, but the important piece of ensuring that labour is there is most critical.
    We also see mention of “help cut red tape”. That is a famous Conservative line, that they are going to cut the red tape. We see the Liberals are joining this process of calling for the cutting red tape. As a matter of fact, we heard a speech from a Conservative earlier, who did not mention anything about Bill S-6. I hope the vast debates that they are going be hosting tonight and the vast number of speeches that they have asked for today speak directly to this aspect, speak directly to the fact that we are going to see a reduction of regulations through this bill. I would imagine the Conservatives are going to be voting in favour in this, but have yet to hear their position.
    When we talk about how existing regulations in this bill are going to work, for example, the ones related to agriculture, we need to be careful when we talk about fairness in competition and innovation that we protect Canadian producers. I am a bit nervous with some of the language presented in the agriculture amendments that look at other jurisdictions. It was mentioned by a Liberal member earlier today that some of these regulations could impact the competitiveness of Canadian farmers and producers by looking at other jurisdictions and equalizing, for example, the requirements they have. I think of dairy products, for example. Canada has some of the best laws protecting our dairy industry, but if we were to reduce those regulations in favour of other jurisdictions' regulations and “scientific processes reviews”, they could in fact harm producers. That is why New Democrats are consulting at this time with the agriculture sector and we hope to invite their amendments to this bill at committee.
    As well, we know that during the hard time during COVID-19 when so many Canadians had to all of a sudden deal with the reality of going online, we found that many Canadians were unequipped to do that. We found that many Canadians did not have some of the services that the country is moving forward with, and that is an important piece to this. As much as we are in favour of ensuring that we are going to be operating in the 21st century by eliminating fax machines, for example, and ensuring that people can apply online, we have to remember those in northern, rural and remote communities.
    There has to be a way to ensure that those who are not yet connected, those who lack ability and connectivity, have a chance to access these services, too. That means ensuring that rural and remote communities continue to access their services the way they know how. Should there be a barrier, like being unable to apply for a service online because of a lack of technology, Internet or availability, the government needs to take special consideration of those realities.
    We also want to ensure that environmental groups are consulted on the impacts of much of this work. We know that environmental groups are some of the most passionate, hard-working and decent people who are looking at the very environment we live in, the conditions we live in.

  (2010)  

    It is important that they are invited to the table because the ministry of environment has a proposed amendment. Why not invite more people into the room? Come committee stage, we hope that environmental groups will also be invited to have their testimony heard in relation to the bill.
    The external advisory committee on regulatory competitiveness, made up of business, academic and consumer stakeholders, has also recommended that there be continued efforts to reduce the administrative burden on regulations and to ensure that they are future-proof, which means keeping pace with changing technologies and business realities. We agree with this. New Democrats believe that the government must continue to keep pace with modernity, such as Canadians are. However, it is important that the government acts on Canadians' best interests and, in particular, act in the interest of protecting consumers.
    For example, we live in an age when many members of the House have probably heard of ChatGPT, which is artificial intelligence, or AI, so part of the regulations that contemplate an annual renewal of regulations should take special consideration of AI technology. My colleague, the member for Windsor West, has spoken to this and has done good work to ensure that the science and technology is well regulated and that the processes are there to protect regular Canadians. We need to ensure that annual regulation reviews take special consideration of that level of changing technology.
    AI will dramatically change the landscape on how regular, everyday people interact with our government, with one another and online. We need to ensure that our regulatory systems, in particular, the continued annual regulatory systems, take into special consideration these facts. We may not even know what kind of future innovation is out there yet.
    To contemplate a process that looks at the future renewal of regulations means that we have to take special consideration with a special eye on science and technology. We need to ensure that, as it exponentially grows, the regulations are put in place to better protect them. I am saying that we should not only see regulation review and the modernity of regulation review as a process to remove regulations, but we should also consider what regulations could be put in place that are common sense and good for Canadians. For example, common sense in access, equitability and applicability.
    We have the power in this place to ensure that the processes are in place so that everyday, regular Canadians, or the companies that our country is proud to host, can interact in a fair system in a way that does not take advantage of their time and where they can actually see their products and innovative work produced and put onto the market without hindrance. I agree with that principle, and that is the nature of the bill before us.
    However, by no means should we take my airing this caution as a way to diminish the innovation that is happening, but we need to have a balance. Regulation and the processes that government creates to ensure that these regulations are put in place are there to protect Canadians from ulterior motives that could otherwise take from them more than we had ever anticipated. This is because of the unique relationship between science and technology, regulation and the future. When the committee asks for something to be future-proof, we have to contemplate what that really means. When the committee asks how we can create a future-proof system to deal with regulations that are cumbersome, we need to consider the balance of facts and the risk that could be present to Canadians.
    We know, for example, that banks and big corporations often look at the letter of the law to find ways to get around it. Why would a company do something like? Well, oftentimes we find that these companies are seeking to get around those laws to get around the protections that we have put in place for consumers so they can maximize their own interests. If it is our job in this place to ensure that the interests of Canadians, regular folks and consumers, are heard, then it is in the interest of all members in this chamber to put in place good regulations. Those regulations should be for the betterment of understanding, whether it is in agriculture, technology and science, and we truly future-proof that process by taking an earnest consideration of the power of regulations.

  (2015)  

    Therefore, a red tape reduction act like this, the one being contemplated here, does have some areas that we have to hear about in committee. It does not mean that we are opposed to the vast number of amendments in here. It means that we have to do more work.
    New Democrats stand ready and firm to work with all members of the House to ensure that we get to a place where we strike the balance I spoke about between what is future-proof and what is in the public good of Canadians. How do we strike a balance between these two in a way that encourages innovation and science, but keeps the protection of Canadians at heart? That is the role of the government. That is the role of bills such as Bill S-6.
    We need to find ways to ensure that, while we future-proof this process, we take those lessons learned to ensure that we continually build on the good work of regulation review and that it does not become a process for governments, whether it is this one or the next one, to abuse. We do not want to see a vast abuse of the power found within Bill S-6 to have an annual review of regulations to toss out regulations a government may not like. That would hurt, for example, regular everyday people. That would hurt innovation in our country. These are two important aspects of how our country should be governed, by balancing those two interests.
    From the testimony from the committee related to Bill S-6, we heard that it proposes 46 amendments to 29 acts under 12 departments and agencies. This may seem like a huge and cumbersome amount, but I want to remind members of the chamber that these are minor and, according to the independent committee, low risk. However, it is our job to ensure that, during a line-by-line review in committee, those interests o