Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Hélène Laverdière Profile
NDP (QC)
I think this is key.
Mr. Morley, I did not get a chance to ask what your opinion is on the need to help build public health systems. Do you have any comments on that?
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2014-11-24 16:39
Thanks, Chair.
Thank you to all of our witnesses.
I'd like to start with Professor Hoffman. We had the benefit last week of having the chief public health officer here, Dr. Taylor, who was excellent. We're very fortunate, as Canadians, to have such a talented individual before us. I suppose, like you, as a lawyer, I looked at this and had a very different understanding from the one he provided, in which he seemed to think there was no issue with independence. When I read it, I had exactly the same perspective as you did.
Your point about loss of independence as regards the old bill was something that caught my eye as well. The devil is in the detail in drafting, and I thought that Dr. Kettner made the same point very well when he said the chief public health officer has the ability to make reports and he hopes it's broad enough to do the big communication. Well, so do I, and that's the problem with the drafting of this bill. There's no communication responsibility. You have a person who is now subordinate to a CEO who is an official, and our model doesn't seem to provide that ability to go forth and speak.
Do I have the gist of what you're saying is wrong with this?
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2014-11-24 16:41
Yes. Your colleague Mr. Culbert, from the Canadian Public Health Association, put it well, I think, when he said that “rank matters”—being equal at the table or something—given this role we're supposed to create for this national figure.
I thought you also did an excellent job of reminding Canadians of the importance of this, of the health costs and of the SARS example, and why we want to improve things going forward. As my colleague Mr. Brison said, it's bizarre that we're talking about this in the finance committee in dealing with a budget bill, but there you go.
You talk about “demotion and politicization”. Those are very serious accusations. Could you elaborate a bit on why you say those are accurate characterizations?
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2014-11-24 16:42
Mr. Culbert, you made another similar comment in the context of the fact that these two people—the president and the CPHO—both appear before the minister and may have different views. You've pointed out, I think accurately, that Public Administration 101 says that you don't have two people, you have a hierarchy. Yet if such a dispute were to occur in the future in good faith between these two individuals, it would be for the minister to resolve.
You were careful and I think you appropriately said that it's the minister who has to take political responsibility in our system. I agree, but what if the chief medical officer of Canada thinks we have a bigger crisis than the bureaucrat and the politician think? Essentially, it's the politician who gets to decide whether SARS is a big deal or not a big deal at a moment in time, when maybe no one really knows. Is that not the concern?
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2014-11-24 16:44
On the point of communication, I know, and Mr. Therrien may also know, that there's been a big debate within the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada about whether the language in their statutory mandate allows public communication. They still fight about it. They don't have it in their law and it's not been inferred because apparently the legal advice in the past has been that we can't publicize Canadians' rights of access. That's their advice.
We don't have anything in here that talks about the ability to publicize, not a single word, just reports, which, as Dr. Kettner says, we hope will be broad enough. It's really quite a scathing indictment.
I'd like to, if I may, ask you another question about the Naylor committee, Mr. Culbert. You talked about how the Naylor committee said that the chief public health officer should be the head and should have the responsibility to promote public health. We got half of that, I suppose, right? We did not get the head, but we have a person with responsibility. I'm trying to marry that up with the point about resources that Professor Hoffman mentioned.
You said they're dropping section 258, as they've done in division 20, and this doesn't allow for “reimbursement”. Could you elaborate a bit on what you meant by that?
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2014-11-24 16:46
As a matter of statutory interpretation, when you specifically repeal something that used to exist, one can infer, in interpreting that statute, that you no longer want there to be that reimbursement. It doubles the problem that they're silent on, that they repealed. Would you agree?
View Guy Caron Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you very much.
I will start with you, Mr. Hoffman.
What do you make of Mr. Kettner's comment about the chief public health officer not being subordinate to the president? Do you agree with that statement?
View Guy Caron Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you kindly.
Ms. Lalande, I think you may have been forgotten, so I am going to turn to you.
What you said about port authorities was very thought-provoking. You feel that port authorities, which are federally regulated, are not necessarily interested in dealing with local or community problems.
Whenever we ask questions about the nickel dust or other port authority related issues, the minister or parliamentary secretary always gives us this answer:
“It's an arm's-length organization.”
Since these organizations are quasi-independent of the government, the government cannot intervene in these matters. The government refuses to force port authorities like the Port de Québec to assume their responsibilities and comply with environmental legislation.
What would you like the federal government to do in situations like yours?
View Guy Caron Profile
NDP (QC)
Division 16 of the bill seeks to give port authorities, such as the Port de Québec, the ability to acquire federal property including other ports.
You have examined that division. What do you make of it?
View Raymond Côté Profile
NDP (QC)
A minute and a half; that's great.
I want to thank all the committee members for having me.
Ms. Lalande, thank you for setting aside a whole day and travelling from Quebec City to join us in Ottawa. I won't hide the fact that I will probably try to use other opportunities to ask you questions.
I would like to begin by telling the committee about the huge amount of work you and your spouse, Louis Duchesne, have done. The constituents of Beauport-Limoilou owe you a debt of gratitude.
You talked about the Conservatives' piecemeal approach. I should point out that you have been working on this for two years. We have been in touch over the last two years regarding this file.
What would you say about the government's overly fragmented approach?
View Guy Caron Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I would like to go back to Ms. Lalande's comments.
I am actually very happy about your answer. You do not want to shut down the Port of Quebec, but you would like to see more transparency and accountability from port authorities in general, including the Port of Quebec authorities.
View Guy Caron Profile
NDP (QC)
Okay.
The bill contains elements that grant more powers to port authorities. The Port of Quebec, which is an independent entity, is unable to meet the community needs regarding a specific environmental situation.
What kind of a role should the federal government play? What should the legislation stipulate to enable the federal government to force port authorities to meet their obligations toward communities in the surrounding areas?
View Raymond Côté Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you very much.
Ms. Lalande, you work with representatives of provincial and municipal organizations within advisory committees. You see how the Port of Quebec reports on its activities. Certain objectives were set in terms of transparency, and the Port of Quebec authorities agreed with them, at least initially.
How open has the Port of Quebec been toward those committees?
View Raymond Côté Profile
NDP (QC)
Okay.
In the early 1980s, an independent federal agency held public hearings to study a Port of Quebec expansion project. Among the proposed solutions were measures to mitigate dust particle emissions, which were already widespread at the time.
View Raymond Côté Profile
NDP (QC)
That's unfortunately too little time.
Those measures were not implemented. However, they were implemented at the wood pellet terminal. Significant investments were made in that area.
How can you explain this difference between the Port of Quebec and Quebec Stevedoring?
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