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Results: 136 - 150 of 560
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
In fact, this is the only amendment the Bloc Québécois is moving to this bill, but we think it is extremely important.
Since yesterday I have been following the work of the committee, and I note that a great deal of importance is rightly being given to the matter of penalties and sanctions for breaching the law in any way.
However, if you read clause 139, you see that almost of the details of this act will be decided by regulation.
I refer among others to paragraph 139(1)(b), which permits the establishment of other classes of cannabis. What will be done with those other classes? We see that provisions will apply differently according to the category in question.
Further on, the issuance of licences and permits are mentioned, as well as all of the related conditions.
Clause 139 also discusses the composition, content, concentration and purity of the cannabis. In fact, we were just talking about that. In our opinion, these are all questions that should be discussed in committee and submitted to the entire House. We don't agree that these decisions be made in camera by public servants of the department.
The bill also discusses the classification of violations. This is in paragraph 139(1)(z.3), where it refers to classifying “each violation as a minor violation, a serious violation or a very serious violation”. Afterwards, paragraph 139(1)(z.4) discusses modulating the penalties in light of that classification. Thus if the decision is made to establish new levels of violations, they could be minor, serious or very serious, and penalties would be adjusted accordingly. This means that the work we are currently doing in committee may be somewhat superfluous.
In addition, as I was saying, according to paragraph 139(1)(z.5) and the following ones, the criteria according to which a penalty for a violation may be increased or reduced will be set by regulations. The clause discusses amounts, agreements, ranges of amounts and so on.
We all agree that this is an important bill, because it is going to change a lot of things throughout Canada. We think that a bill as important as this one has to be managed properly. These matters are important and should be discussed in committee. That is why we move that clause139 be amended as proposed in amendment BQ-1 which is before us now.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
Mr. Chair, the amendment we are proposing will not strengthen the future act, but it will make it better understood and better adapted to the realities of Quebec and Canada as a whole. Parliamentarians will be called on to discuss these important matters as the need arises. We agree that certain decisions may be made by public servants. That is always the way things are done, and I am aware of that. However, under clause 139, some important decisions are going to be made by officials.
As I just said, paragraph 139(1)(z.3) of the bill refers to the classification of violations as “minor, serious or very serious”. Paragraph 139(1)(z.4) refers to setting “a maximum amount as the penalty for minor violations, for serious violations, or for very serious violations”. This means that everything that has been done in committee since yesterday regarding penalties will be practically useless, since officials will be able to set the categories of violations of the law and modulate the penalties to be applied in consequence. This seems important to us.
The same thing applies to paragraphs 139(1)(z.5) and (z.6), which discuss “circumstances under which [...] a penalty for a violation may be increased or reduced”. Isn't that what we have been doing since yesterday? My colleague from Vancouver Kingsway Mr. Davies has rightly insisted on the importance that needs to be given to penalties in the bill. Do we want them to be serious, less serious? How will we adjust those penalties with regard to all of the violations listed in the Criminal Code and according to the relative seriousness of the different violations? It is important that we examine all that.
Regarding the issues raised by Mr. Davies, I see now that a public servant sitting in his office will be able to set aside all of the work we have done and decide which violations are minor, serious or very serious, and adjust the penalties in any way he or she deems appropriate.
If the act is to be accepted by all of the population and adapted to the realities of Canada as a whole, it seems important to us that it be discussed by parliamentarians, at the very least regarding issues that appear to me to be of critical importance.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
Mr. Chair, with your permission, I would like to quickly reply to the arguments we just heard.
I understand my Liberal Party colleagues' contention that this would cause delays. I would point out that these delays will not last several years, as my colleague Mr. Oliver pointed out. There will certainly be delays, but they would only last a few months.
I am addressing my colleagues here. In adopting such an important act, should we really be attempting to spare a parliamentary study? Must we really go so fast that we disrupt everything, regardless of the effect, regardless of legislative chaos or chaos in the enforcement of the act?
This morning, we were talking about the height of the plants, and so on. This bill contains all sorts of important things and the provinces are asking for time to apply the act that will be passed, since there will be important consequences for health and safety. The provinces and police forces want some time to prepare to enforce the act. We think that these important questions that will be delegated to public servants should be studied in Parliament. All of this leads me to think that we may find ourselves in a deplorable situation in a few years' time, and perhaps even in a few months.
I want to insist on this, and I ask my colleagues to revise their position. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of legalizing marijuana, but we have to do this right. We cannot botch this; It is too grave a matter.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning.
We are proposing that clause 192 be amended by replacing line 9 on page 110 with the following: “following year, $300,000,000; and”. Now I will explain why we are asking for the amendment. It's important to understand that, originally, the change the government sought was to raise the reviewable investment amount, pursuant to the Investment Canada Act, from $600 million to $1 billion.
Our party sees that as a very bad idea because the Investment Canada Act requires the economic development minister to review foreign investments exceeding a certain amount. To that end, the minister has to examine whether the transaction is sound. That's called a net benefits analysis. He also has the power to allow or refuse the transaction and even to attach conditions to it. We believe that setting the reviewable investment amount at $300 million, as opposed to $1 billion, would be much more appropriate. The reality is that very few of Quebec's big companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange are valued at over $1 billion. You can count them on two hands; there are fewer than 10.
When the act came into force, the amount was set at $300 million, which was in line with what had been negotiated under the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA. We would even be in favour of setting the threshold below $300 million, but we do think $300 million is a reasonable number, and that is why we are proposing it.
It would apply to companies like RONA bought by foreign interests. That deal was worth over $1 billion. You also have companies like Canam Group, a company worth less than $1 billion that was recently bought by the Americans. When a purchase exceeds that amount, to protect national interests, the minister is able to review the transaction and determine whether or not it should proceed and can attach conditions to it. In our view, the economic interests of all Quebeckers would be far better served by a lower threshold.
View Monique Pauzé Profile
View Monique Pauzé Profile
2017-05-30 9:03
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning everyone.
The amendment in front of you seeks to extend the qualifying period. Through Bill C-44, the government is making changes to maternity leave under EI and increasing the number of weeks a woman is able to receive maternity benefits. That's wonderful. The government is recognizing that helping women better integrate into the workforce and economy is beneficial to all aspects of economic life. That's the good news.
As for the not so good news, believe it or not, a mother who loses her job during, or immediately following, her parental leave does not qualify for employment insurance. It would therefore be extremely difficult for mothers who took maternity or parental leave to collect employment insurance after losing their jobs. That is already a problem in Quebec, and we have repeatedly alerted the minister. No meaningful action has been taken, and that's why I am here today. Our amendment would plug that hole in the legislation.
Let's take a closer look at the problem. Currently, in order to determine whether someone is eligible to receive EI, the government relies on the number of hours that person has worked during the last year. Even if the government extends the benefit period, however, Canadian women will experience what women in Quebec have been dealing with since parental leave was introduced: if they lose their job while on parental leave, they will not have access to EI because they won't have accumulated the number of hours required to qualify.
We need to do remedy this, because Bill C-44, which seeks to do something positive by giving women an additional right, does not extend that right to those who lose their job while on leave. They will be penalized for having lost their job and will therefore have one less right.
A government that describes itself as feminist should care about protecting women who are at the mercy of an uncertain job market. It's hard enough when one person in a couple loses their job. Imagine how hard it is for a single mother who loses her job and is left with no income.
It is outrageous for a woman to lose her job and have no income simply for having a child. That indirectly discriminates against women, and the government has an obligation to do something about it.
I fear I will be told that the amendment broadens the scope of the act and is therefore out of order. As a member of a non-recognized party, I do not have the right to a second turn in order to convince you. I therefore call on another member at the table to appeal the decision if my amendment is ruled out of order. It does not broaden the scope of the act or change the nature of the benefits. It does not create a new benefit.
All the amendment does is clarify the nature of the new benefit that Bill C-44 introduces. It is simply adding a definition, and the act already allows for this kind of thing. It is possible to go back further than the last 52 weeks in the case of preventive withdrawal, sick leave and compassionate leave. The government has made an exception in those circumstances, but not for parental leave.
The sole purpose of the amendment is to protect mothers who lose their jobs, as well as their children.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Amendment BQ-8 may seem rather technical but, in our view, is fundamental.
As far as the creation of the infrastructure bank is concerned, Bill C-44 brings about a major change, one that is totally absurd and has gone without mention. Amendment BQ-8 seeks to correct that.
The infrastructure bank would be the agent of the crown for all projects specified by the government. Paragraph 5(4)(d) of the proposed act stipulates that the infrastructure bank would be the agent of the crown whenever the government sees fit. That means the bank would be considered the representative of the federal government and enjoy all of the privileges and immunities that go along with that status.
Further in the new act, it is clear from subsection 18(c) that the privilege would extend to wholly private projects submitted to the infrastructure bank. According to the provision, the bank may “acquire and deal with as its own any investment made by another person”.
First of all, that gives private investors an unlimited loan guarantee. We are talking not just about the $20 billion that was announced but, rather, about an unlimited loan guarantee. That is ridiculous.
Second of all, that shelters those private investments from the jurisdiction of Quebec and municipalities because, under the new act, the investments and infrastructure projects are the federal government's. Unlike with the Champlain bridge project, for example, the government will no longer have to use its declaratory power to consider an investment as being exclusively under federal jurisdiction. That is a huge change that has gone overlooked and a terrible injustice, in our view.
What this change does is exempt investors from Quebec's laws and municipal bylaws. Quebec's environmental legislation will no longer be taken into account. TransCanada's energy east pipeline project could be approved without any BAPE hearings, as long as the investments are made through the infrastructure bank. Quebec's Act respecting the preservation of agricultural land and agricultural activities would also be tossed aside. Roads and every other type of infrastructure could be built in green areas. The change flouts Quebec's laws: city plans, land-use plans, and zoning bylaws. It is, in all likelihood, unconstitutional.
I don't understand why this change appears in Bill C-44. If the government persists in creating this infrastructure bank, it must, at the very least, do what we are asking and eliminate these abusive powers by removing subsection 5(4) of the new act. I hope my message came through loud and clear.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
Mr. Chair, I'd like to clarify a few things.
According to the legislation, when an infrastructure project is considered to be under federal jurisdiction, provincial legislation, like Quebec's, and municipal bylaws apply, so long as they do not conflict with federal legislation. Major fiascoes can arise, however, as we have seen in Quebec, where city plans and agricultural zoning rules gave way to the creation of airports. We also witnessed that with Canada Post, which did not consult anyone on the installation of community mailboxes. Mayor of Montreal and former Liberal MP Denis Coderre even took a jackhammer to the slab foundation of a community mailbox in protest of the legislation. We should expect the same problems in this case.
As Mr. Campbell confirmed, if the energy east pipeline were to go through the Canada Infrastructure Bank, it is very likely that, under its Environment Quality Act, Quebec would have a say over minor details, but not over the route of the pipeline. Constitutional expert Patrick Taillon confirmed our fears: the bank would be the agent of the government and even wholly private projects going through the bank would be considered government projects.
I therefore beg to differ with Mr. Campbell. His remarks contradict those of Mr. Taillon, a constitutional expert and professor at Université Laval. Mr. Campbell's comments also indirectly conflict with what a public servant told a Radio-Canada journalist yesterday, if we are to believe the article that came out. The public servant confirmed that any investment made through the Canada Infrastructure Bank would be wholly covered by the bank.
I appreciate that Mr. Campbell has to follow government orders. The same thing happened with Bill C-29, in the fall, when we discussed the financial sector's desire to be exempt from Quebec's Consumer Protection Act.
With all due respect, we were ultimately right, Mr. Campbell.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2017-05-29 19:09
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I will be brief. I want to announce that I'm going to withdraw BQ-1. I am also going to withdraw amendments BQ-2 and BQ-5, since as you just pointed out regarding amendment BQ-1, there are other amendments that contain redundancies. And so I am withdrawing amendments BQ-1, BQ-2 and BQ-5.
I will explain amendments BQ-3 and BQ-4 jointly when the time comes, since they are about the same subject.
Thank you.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2017-05-29 19:25
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
As I said earlier, I'm going to discuss amendments BQ-3 and BQ-4 together since they are in the same spirit, although the amendments are made to different provisions of the bill.
This concerns the PBO. We are concerned by the curtailment of the independence of his research. This is also mentioned in other amendments. In this regard, I wish to congratulate my colleague Greg Fergus of the Liberal Party for the excellent interview he gave to the newspaper Le Devoir last weekend. Consequently, I believe I will have the support of Liberal members for this amendment, which concerns the possibility members have of submitting study requests to the PBO.
As you know, until now members could submit any request or ask any question of the parliamentary budget officer. Bill C-44 eliminates this possibility. The purpose of amendments BQ-3 and BQ-4 is to restore it.
There are two categories of members in the House of Commons: those who are members of a recognized party and those who are members of an unrecognized or independent party. There really are two categories of members. As members of an unrecognized party, we do not have research budgets. The Liberal Party, which forms the government, has access to all public servants. The members of a recognized party have access to millions of dollars to do research. We have nothing, and we have to make do on our own. When we have to study an omnibus bill like this one, it's very cumbersome. We also don't have access to analysis reports that are presented to the committee. We asked to have access to the point-by-point analysis of Bill C-44 prepared by the analyst, but this request was denied since we are not a part of the committee. We have to do all this work on our own. We can only count on our own means. At least we still could rely on the parliamentary budget officer, but now Bill C-44 removes that possibility. I implore you to restore this.
I deplore the fact that there are two categories of members in Ottawa. Being placed in a second category of members is one thing, but I would like to avoid being made a pariah.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2017-05-29 19:30
I would like to answer my colleague, briefly.
As you know, the parliamentary budget officer is independent and may determine his own program. All we are asking is that, we the members, may be allowed to submit requests to him. After that, he is free to manage his priorities, as Mr. Sutherland said, and that suits us entirely.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2017-05-29 19:35
To reply to my colleagues, I would say first that we, the members of unrecognized parties, cannot table motions in committee.
However, we can make direct requests to the PBO and I would like to verify with Mr. Sutherland the circumstances that will allow us to continue to do so. We can ask him for help when we table private members' bills, but this won't be possible otherwise, according to the other provisions of the bill. That is not what we want.
To answer my Conservative colleague on the fact that the PBO is free to chart his course, I will give you an example. We asked for an analysis of Muskrat Falls regarding the word “doit”, or “shall”. He told us that he could do that, but that it was not among his priorities and that it would not happen for a year and a half, but that he acknowledged the request. As things stand, the PBO is free to set his own program; we want him to remain free. According to the wording in Bill C-44, he will remain free, because he must manage his priorities; however, second-class members will become pariahs, and we don't want that to happen.
View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
Mr. Chair, I rise on a point of order.
View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm pleased to be speaking to the committee today because my party doesn't often have the opportunity to do so. I know my colleague had a great deal to say, and I want to thank him for letting me take part in the discussion.
The members of my party don't often have the chance to speak. We have little or no speaking time in committee meetings. The only exception was when the Special Committee on Electoral Reform allowed the Bloc Québécois to sit on it. Since the last Parliament, we haven't been able to sit on any other committee. This is a major problem for us. Each time a bill is submitted and we have issues to raise, we can't do so. We also can't suggest amendments. We sometimes manage to do so, but often, we can't do so the way we would like to.
This causes specific problems. We're members like all the other members in the House of Commons, meaning we were elected by the citizens of our constituencies. There are 11 members in this situation in the House of Commons. No, there are now 12 members because a former Liberal member is now sitting as an independent.
The mandate from our constituents is the same as the mandate given to the other members by their constituents, which is to represent them in the House of Commons. It's unfair because we can't represent our citizens the same way the other members represent their citizens.
The committee should look at this issue to ensure that it's taken into account in the possible changes to the Standing Orders. The members must be able to express their views in all the House committees, and not only in the committees dealing with the Standing Orders of the House and the changes to the democratic rules for committees.
The democratic rules were discussed in a committee that studied the change to the voting system. I appreciated the openness to us and the fact that we were allowed to share our views. I think it was essential. When the rules of our democracy are changed and certain people aren't invited to the table, democracy is denied, because these people are part of the democratic process.
In this case, the situation is similar since we're talking about changes to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. Obviously, the Standing Orders play an essential role in the parliamentary process. When it comes time to change the lives of parliamentarians, it's important to hear what all parliamentarians have to say on the matter. On that note, I appreciate that the committee is giving us the chance to speak. However, I don't think it's sufficient to give us the chance only on this occasion. We should also have the opportunity to speak on other occasions, in all the committees.
I don't think we should implement a practice of automatically assigning a member to a committee. We're 10 independent members, since you don't want to recognize us as Bloc Québécois members. Since there are more than 10 committees, we can't sit on all the committees, given the number of members in our party. Nevertheless, whether one or 11 independent members are elected to the House of Commons, we need to look at the possibility of those members sitting on the committees—no matter which committee—and participating in a meaningful way. It's a key way to allow everyone to participate in the democratic parliamentary life.
I'm sure the parties considered independent could agree on who would take the place of independent members on a given day. For example, I'm sure the member from Saanich—Gulf Islands would regularly sit on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. I'm sure she would often leave us her place on other committees. When we would have issues to raise in the committees that interest her personally, there wouldn't be any problem either. I think it would be something positive.
It would be all the more desirable because, in a democracy, we talk about the proliferation of views. Having views from all the parties is even better for the House and for all the members.
We each received in our offices a document that was released to the public. The document is a policy paper from the government describing the changes it wishes to make.
One of the changes is to sit four days a week instead of five. It's an interesting option to explore, but it involves many risks.
First, all members must be able to spend time in their constituencies, but they must also spend enough time on the Hill. If we decide to sit four days a week, for example, would members seen as independent have their number of questions reduced? Currently, each independent member has the right to ask one question a week. The Bloc Québécois has 10 members and can therefore ask 10 questions a week. The Green Party has one member, so it can ask only one question a week. These members mustn't lose the opportunity to ask their questions. They already can't ask many questions, and they may ask even fewer. I think the current system is already completely dysfunctional. Regarding the questions, it's not right that parties with fewer than 12 members aren't recognized. Parties should be recognized whether they have ten, five, four, two or one member.
The policy paper we received talks a great deal about London. The example of the British Parliament is provided. The British Parliament doesn't always sit five days a week and the Prime Minister sits only once a week to answer questions, as proposed in the policy paper. However, in London, the parties with two or more members are recognized, whereas here the parties need 12 members to be recognized. Great Britain has a population of 60 million and Canada has a population of 35 million. If we establish an equivalency based on the number of inhabitants, a party should be recognized starting at a single member. If the equivalency is purely based on how the British Parliament works, that's what must be done.
It isn't right that the members don't have the same resources. Recognition means the ability to ask more questions. In a question period where over a hundred questions may be asked, the party that's unable to ask questions can't even be included on the agenda and comment on what's happening on a given day. All political parties must be able to speak every day about key issues. Things are happening in society, and when the members of these parties can't be heard, their views aren't heard at all.
If we were to sit four days a week, we would sit for more weeks to compensate and to ensure the government sits for the same number of hours. We can look at this, but we're wondering what would happen to the recess weeks. Would the parliamentary recess weeks be eliminated? Would we sit more often? All members must have time to spend in their constituencies, especially the constituencies that cover a large area.
Important dates must also be considered. Sometimes, the House sits on June 24, which we find completely unbelievable as members from Quebec. June 24 is Quebec's national holiday, and it's an extremely important day for people in the province. All Quebec residents expect to see their members in their constituencies, to meet with their them, to celebrate with them and to share this important time. June 24 must be free so that Quebec members can go to their constituencies. I'm sure the Quebec members from the other parties would agree. The national holiday is very important for everyone in Quebec.
The policy paper also refers to the possibility of independent members sitting on committees. We're pleased about this, but I want to point out that members need preparation time to sit on committees. When members seen as independent are invited to committees, the time required is demanding. It's often said that time is money. These members need additional financial resources, because they currently don't have enough to prepare to sit on committees. Sitting on committees results in additional responsibilities, and financial resources must be allocated accordingly.
If ever there is a reform that allows independent members to sit on committees, or parties to be recognized in various ways—for instance, we could recognize a parliamentary group without acknowledging it as a party, or recognize parties on the basis of a lower minimum threshold—then budgets would also have to be made available at a lower threshold. Members will not be able to take on bigger workloads without having the financial resources to do that work. I think this is the most important point we have made today: additional financial resources are essential.
Currently, our Bloc Québécois members have to cut their riding office resources in order to be able to do parliamentary work. That means that they are not on an equal footing with the other members from recognized parties. All of the members should be able to serve the citizens of their ridings without having to amputate their constituency budget to do parliamentary work. What is happening currently is very difficult for our members. I think it is important that everyone be able to provide reasonable service in their ridings and on the Hill, both with regard to constituency files and parliamentary work.
Electronic voting is also discussed in the document. We view this with a certain amount of interest. However, there seems to be a certain ambiguity as to how this electronic voting would proceed. The document says that the members could continue to work in their ridings and vote electronically, or while continuing to work at the House. We are wondering how security measures could be put in place to ensure that the member who is in his riding has the proper context to allow him to vote for or against a bill. How can we ensure that the vote has really been cast by the member? For instance, it is not normal to have someone who is travelling vote without anyone verifying his identity. I think that the security systems have to be very reliable. We really need proof that this would be concrete and effective.
Whether we like it or not, there is a history that explains the way we vote now. The history behind the way in which the vote is carried out currently is an important symbol for a lot of people. If a change is made to the way in which we vote, I think it would be important that on certain important occasions, such as the vote on the Speech from the Throne, the budget or other such occasions, we be allowed to vote in the traditional way. That is part of our tradition and history, just like the way the pages, the Speaker of the House or some of the table officers dress. We should be able to continue to vote in the traditional way on certain special occasions.
We have not yet made up our minds about the idea of sitting four days a week, but we are open to the concept, as well as to the electronic vote. I think it is important to talk about it, and that it is a good idea to submit this to our committee so that we can discuss it today.
However, there is something that concerns us in the document that was presented. It concerns time allocation. It seems to open the door for the government to resort more easily to time allocation, that is to say that the House will be forced to take a position on certain issues and debate will be cut short, both in the House and in committees. We are concerned about that because according to the way things are done currently, we cannot even take a position on many bills, or debate them in the House. That too is a problem.
In other parliaments of the world, such as the National Assembly in Quebec for instance, when any member wants to speak, he or she has the right to do so. He can express his opinion on all of the bills that are introduced, and on every topic that is discussed.
We think it is abnormal not to be able to express ourselves. If a bill is tabled, it is important that all of the members be able to speak on it. With 10 members, it is not true that our group is so small that it should not be allowed to speak. There are parliamentary groups made up of 12 members. With only two additional members, they are allowed to speak on all topics, whereas we are not, although we have 10 members. There is quite simply something wrong with that picture. It is important that changes be made to that way of doing things. If it becomes easier to resort to time allocation, we fear that this will adversely affect members who, like us, already have trouble making their views heard in debates.
Traditionally we have always voted against time allocation because we think it is a way for the government to cut the debate short.
We think that cutting debate short is dangerous. It is important that the members be able to put forward their points of view. There are 338 members in the House of Commons and I think that if 338 people speak on a bill, it is not the end of the world. It is in fact interesting to hear about the vision of each of the members of Parliament on every bill.
You know, some members belonging to the same party may not have the same position; after all, people vote for a member, first and foremost. That is how our system works and it is important that this still be recognized today.
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