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Results: 1 - 15 of 22
View Michael Barrett Profile
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is taking our country down a dangerous path.
Yesterday, in response to the united plea of six premiers urging him to accept amendments to Bills C-69 and C-48, he angrily accused the Conservatives of threatening national unity, as though the very real anger and anxiety over these two destructive bills are some kind of Conservative plot against him. This, from a Prime Minister who has made comments backing Quebec separatism if Conservatives stayed in power.
These premiers are not making a threat. They are stating the facts and they are pleading their case.
The Prime Minister is too partisan or too petulant to care. If he is so concerned about national unity, he should look in the mirror. If he does, he will see the greatest threat to national unity of the country staring right back at him. This is not about impressing celebrities or drinking boxed water; this is about doing what is best for Canada.
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
2019-05-06 11:21 [p.27369]
Madam Speaker, in light of the words of the member for St. Catharines, always when we open fire on others, we have to understand that if people have a house made of glass, they do not throw stones. This is what happened with the government side. The Tides Foundation's fingerprints are everywhere in the last election and that situation continues now. This is not a time to start pointing fingers at one another.
Bill C-406 is a great example addressing the need to strengthen our system and our democracy in order to be able to protect our system from any manipulation and any interference from the other side. I was hoping that the member for St. Catharines from the government side would have taken this opportunity to appreciate the notion of the bill and what it intends to do as it is coming from the official opposition, our Conservative Party.
I am very pleased to to rise today and speak to the legislation of my colleague, the member for Red Deer—Lacombe. Bill C-406, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act with regard to foreign contributions, which, if passed, would prohibit foreign entities from contributing funds to Canadian third party groups for election advertising.
This legislation is not only vitally important but is also very timely. With the next election just around the corner, this legislation is a way that we can take a tangible step to safeguard our democracy from foreign actors looking to insert themselves into our democratic process for malicious and self-serving reasons.
The world has been changing rapidly, and we now know without a shadow of a doubt that there those who are trying to undermine the political systems of democracies across the world. There are people and organizations out there that want to attack our political system and the freedom that it represents. With all the technologies that have been developed over the past decade, their access has been greater.
The time when only complex state actors can interfere is over. Small organizations can have a significant impact. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Democratic Institutions have made it clear that they are expecting foreign actors to try to interfere.
As Canadians, we have a duty to combat this, but I believe that the onus on us as parliamentarians is even greater, and I look forward to voting in favour of this legislation and encourage my colleagues on all sides of the House to support it. This is a call to the government to stop playing politics with useful bills and start supporting those bills that are going to enhance our democracy and our democratic systems.
We all know why this legislation is important. Canadian elections should be decided by Canadians. It is fundamental to our political system. Bill C-406 would change the Canada Elections Act to prohibit foreign entities from donating to third parties for the purpose of advertising.
In terms of who it prevents from contributing, it uses the criteria already previously established in the act. If those contributions are made to a third party for political advertising, the official representative of that third party will have an obligation to return contributions, unused, to the contributor. If that is not possible, the same amount of the contribution or the equivalent value of it, if it is not monetary, must be paid to the Receiver General. All these things must be done within 30 days of determining that the contribution was ineligible.
This is very reasonable and will prevent a repeat of what occurred in the last election, when money was funnelled in from outside the country, largely the United States, to swing ridings in an attempt to affect our election outcome and put in place a government that these groups felt would better advance their interests.
Regardless of which party was the beneficiary of such underhanded efforts in the past, all members of the House have a responsibility to ensure that they do not occur again.
As an Albertan, I must admit that I am particularly outraged by this sort of tactic, as our province has been harmed by these types of tactics in the past. We know that corporate actors in the United States have been have long been funding anti-resource development groups in Canada to try to prevent responsible resource extraction in Canada. While I believe that many of the people here in Canada benefiting from this arrangement are generally engaged and concerned Canadians whose opinions are valid and important in increasing the quality of the national dialogue on these important issues, the fact is that millions are being pumped in by our international competitors to derail our industry and increase the profits of foreign corporations, which has been an issue for years.
We often hear people question why certain activists target the Canadian oil sands but remain silent on the industry in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran or Venezuela, where there are concerns about not only the environmental impact but also about labour rights and the complete lack of commitment to fundamental human rights more broadly. I believe that this is one of the main reasons, because behind the scenes, backers do not necessarily have much common ground with the groups they are funding. They are merely using them as a means to an end to advance their business interests, and they are far more concerned about preventing us from getting fair value for our resources than in addressing the issues of climate change or the denial of human rights by the world's worst offenders.
What they have been doing to attack the resource industry is not unlike what they are doing to our elections. Foreign funds have already had an impact on the last election. Some organizations have bragged about flipping dozens of swing ridings in 2015, despite the fact that they received funding from abroad for their activities. It has been well documented, and we have a duty to combat it. Therefore, I believe Bill C-406 is an excellent next step.
The first steps have been taken by the government in Bill C-76, and there are some who have suggested that Bill C-76 makes this bill redundant, such as the member for St. Catharines, who suggests we reject it completely. However, while Bill C-76 prevents the use of foreign funds for advertising, Bill C-406 would prevent a third party from accepting the funds in the first place. This is an important distinction between the two bills.
When we have potentially malicious organizations trying to undermine our electoral systems, the standard should be strengthened. Canada has weak prohibitions on foreign interference, and it is time to change this situation. Changing the standard to not allow organizations to accept funds in the first place will help prevent any uncertainty about compliance for domestic third parties here in Canada and for foreign entities elsewhere.
Protecting against this sort of uncertainty and confusion is important not just because of the value that we place on our democratic institutions and the integrity of our elections, but also from a national unity standpoint. We do not have to make the same mistakes as our allies and other established democracies in order to learn from them. Our friends and neighbours to the south continue to have an extremely important conversation and continue to investigate various levels of interference in their recent elections.
As many members in the House well know, the interference ranges from alleged direct Russian interference with the president's campaign to social media troll farms and shell organizations creating competing events in close proximity to each other with the hope of sparking conflict. We must learn from these serious matters and implement safeguards in our system in order to help prevent divisive problems of that magnitude in our society and the erosion of confidence in our institutions that would come from them.
We have a prime example of how harmful these types of incidents can be to our national unity and respectful public discourse. I think we can all agree that it is better for us to work to prevent them in the first place than to try to sort it out afterwards.
View Jacques Gourde Profile
View Jacques Gourde Profile
2018-11-30 10:59 [p.24258]
Mr. Speaker, the leaders who go down in history are the ones who unite Canadians on the important issues of our times in order to build a better Canada. Recognizing our first nations and the two founding nations, the French and the English, as the underpinnings of an open and welcoming society is essential.
Our country's future depends on national unity and on our ability to work with all the nations living together across Canada in the hopes of ensuring individual and collective prosperity. There is no point in working against one another and rekindling a sterile debate that is fraught with consequences.
Let us all be proud of what we can contribute to our country in a constructive manner for future generations.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my colleague about the national unity dimension of the whole discussion around pipelines, because some of this has come out recently. It is my belief that we should be able to have these kinds of debates without the Prime Minister, for instance, saying that we should not have this debate for fear of a negative impact on national unity.
We should be able to have this conversation and debate and present different points of view. Most Canadians I talk to are united in believing that development should be able to go forward. Maybe the NDP and the government have a different perspective on it, but certainly we should be able to have debates on Bill C-48, the importance of pipelines, and these sorts of things in the House without raising the spectre of negative impacts on national unity.
If there is anything negatively impacting national unity, frankly, it is the unfair policies of the government toward the west. I wonder if the member would agree with me on that.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2016-09-22 13:26 [p.4971]
Mr. Speaker, I, too, believe that I am the voice of the people of Atlantic Canada, where I lived between the ages of two and 11. Acadia is still very much a part of me, and that is why I absolutely had to speak about it today.
Right in the middle of summer, the Prime Minister arrogantly and unabashedly announced that he intended to change the historic process for appointing Supreme Court justices that has been in place since 1875.
More than any other, this government announcement has made me dislike the political party that currently governs our great country. Yes, like many Canadians, I am outraged by such actions and attitudes that show the true arrogance of this government.
I am saddened by this unsettling desire, so brazenly expressed by the Prime Minister, to radically alter our constitutional customs, the very customs that have informed government policy for so long in Canada.
If this Liberal government decides to change the constitutional convention for choosing Supreme Court justices without first obtaining the consent of all parliamentarians in the House, it will be going too far. Therefore, and I am choosing my words carefully, this government's actions in the past few months make me fear the worst for the federal unity of this great country.
The Prime Minister is not just interfering in provincial jurisdictions whenever he feels like it, but also interfering in his own areas of jurisdiction by planning to make sweeping changes without even consulting the opposition parties or the public. This is nothing short of anti-democratic. There are other examples of this.
First, the Prime Minister plans to change Canada's nearly 150-year-old voting system without holding a referendum to do so. It is no secret that he and his acolytes are doing this for partisan reasons and to protect their political interests as well.
Then, this same Prime Minister shamelessly suggested just this morning that he wanted to put an end to a 141-year-old constitutional convention. I am talking about the constitutional convention whereby a Prime Minister selects and appoints a judge to the Supreme Court when a seat becomes vacant while ensuring that the new appointee comes from a region similar to that of the person who occupied the vacant seat.
The purpose of this constitutional convention is to guarantee that the decisions rendered by the highest court in the country reflect the regional differences in our federation. Must I remind the political party before me that Canada has five distinct regions and that those regions are legally recognized?
The fact is that Jean Chrétien's Liberal government passed a law that provides for and gives each of the regions of Canada a quasi-constitutional right of veto. Accordingly, the Atlantic provinces, and their region as a whole, do have a say when it comes to the Constitution Act of 1982.
What is more, the British North America Act guarantees the Atlantic provinces fair and effective representation in the House of Commons. For example, New Brunswick is guaranteed 10 seats. The same is true in the Senate, where it is guaranteed just as many seats. Under the same convention, each of the Atlantic provinces holds at least one seat on the Council of Ministers.
How can our friends opposite justify threatening, out of the blue, to reduce to nil the Atlantic provinces' presence in the highest court of the country? If the government moves forward with this new approach, will it do the same to Quebec, the national stronghold of French Canadians? That does not make any sense.
I invite the government to think about this: can the Supreme Court of Canada really render fair and informed decisions on cases affecting the Atlantic provinces without any representation from that region?
Justice for Atlantic Canadians means treating them as equals. It seems the Liberals could not care less about the regions even though every one of them includes distinct communities that want Supreme Court decisions to reflect their values, goals and ideas about the world.
For the Prime Minister to suggest, if only in passing, we defy the convention whereby one seat on the Supreme Court of Canada's bench is reserved for Atlantic Canada is offensive to many legal experts and associations, including Janet Fuhrer, a past president of the Canadian Bar Association, and Ann Whiteway Brown, president of the New Brunswick branch of the Canadian Bar Association.
Echoing this sentiment are the Law Society of New Brunswick, the Atlantic Provinces Trial Lawyers Association, and the Société nationale de l'Acadie, which advocates on behalf of Acadians worldwide.
Disregarding this constitutional convention is tantamount to stripping four out of ten provinces of their voice in the highest court in the land.
Must I also remind members that the Atlantic provinces have a large pool of extremely qualified legal professionals who come from every region and background and who are perfectly bilingual? More importantly, these are candidates who have a vast knowledge of the Atlantic provinces' legal systems and issues. Is there anyone in this House, or elsewhere, who would dispute that?
Even more importantly, there are a few significant constitutional cases on the horizon that could have major repercussions on the Atlantic provinces. Consider, for example, the case referred to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal regarding the elimination of protected Acadian ridings. Hearings on this are currently under way.
Is the Prime Minister really thinking about having judges from other regions rule on a case that deals with how Acadians are represented, when Acadians have been fighting for their survival on this continent for generations?
Is that really what our friends across the aisle want? Do the Liberals from Atlantic Canada really want to muzzle New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, two founding provinces of this great country?
The change that the Prime Minister wants to make to how judges are lawfully appointed to the Supreme Court is essentially a total and complete reversal of this country's established constitutional practices. How shameful and how arrogant.
It would seem the son is following in his father's footsteps. Do hon. members not see what is happening? Just like his father before him, the Prime Minister wants to alter the constitutional order of our country.
Fear not, however, because we in the Conservative Party are not buying it. We not only see what this Prime Minister is doing, but we also see know full well that behind this change in convention is a much greater ideological design.
There is an underlying desire to profoundly change Canadian constitutional arrangements and replace them with a post-materialist world view that is a departure from our constitutional traditions.
In this world view, the main objective is to eliminate from our government institutions, in this case the Supreme Court, the historical and traditional community characteristics that have defined Canada since day one by replacing them with individual and associational characteristics.
In other words, the Prime Minister obviously wants to eliminate the political predominance of certain constituencies in the Canadian constitutional order, at the Supreme Court in particular. He wants to promote a new political predominance, that of associational groups that bring together individuals who share individual rights rather than constituent rights.
Although that may be commendable in some ways, it is a major change because the Prime Minister is ensuring that the very essence of political representativeness and the concept of diversity within the judiciary is changed. The Prime Minister wants a representativeness based on a concept of individual diversity and fragmented by idiosyncratic characteristics.
In light of this potential change, Canadians across the country, including those from Atlantic Canada, must protest and call on the Prime Minister to answer for this. The Prime Minister cannot act unilaterally in this case and must involve all the players concerned.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2016-09-22 13:41 [p.4974]
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to point out that I do plan to share my time with the hon. member for Long Range Mountains who is sitting just to my right.
It is always an honour to rise to speak in the House on any issue that has the importance to get to the floor, but today I am particularly excited because I have the opportunity to speak to an issue with which I am not only familiar but that I care about. It inspired me to get involved in politics in the first place and it impacts a region that I care about more than any other place on planet earth, and that is Atlantic Canada.
Today we are debating a motion in the House involving the appointment of Supreme Court justices, namely the custom to appoint a Supreme Court judge to fill a vacancy that was left after the retirement of a judge from that same region.
This whole debate arises out of the new process that the Liberal government introduced to introduce an open and transparent process that is independent from the executive and non-partisan in that it has a former Progressive Conservative prime minister, and that is different, chairing the committee that is overseeing this whole operation. This is the kind of process that the International Commission of Jurists implored the previous government to introduce when it came to the appointment of Supreme Court justices.
If we set aside just for the moment, but I will come back to it, the importance of regional diversity on the court, this process would be stellar. There would be no questions, and I expect it would not even be controversial enough to make it to the House because it would get universal support. However, on the issue of regional diversity, it is important, and I am supporting the motion for this reason. It is about federalism.
Federalism is part of the constitutional fabric that makes Canada the country that it is. As discussed by the Supreme Court of Canada, an institution I deeply respect, they described it as a political tool that promotes diversity within our country and enhances national unity at the same time.
In the Nadon reference, which I will come back to again in a moment, the Supreme Court flagged that it is not just sections 5 and 6 of the Supreme Court Act that make regional representation in government important, it is also about the understanding of legal traditions and social norms. We could supplant Nova Scotia's name or Quebec's and the argument would remain the same. I do support regional diversity on the court, and I hope Atlantic Canada is represented on the court. This idea that 32 Atlantic Canada MPs are silent while we are actively speaking out like this in the House of Commons is laughable and false.
What I really have to get to here, and this is the grand take-away from my remarks, is that given the messenger, it is hard to take this criticism seriously when we had 10 years of a Conservative government that sought to undermine the integrity of the Supreme Court of Canada, the justice system in Canada, and indeed to diminish Atlantic Canada as a region in our federation.
I mentioned the Nadon reference previously. That case revolved around the attempted unconstitutional appointment of a Supreme Court justice. In that case, what made it worse was that on the back end of the decision, the Conservative executive, the Prime Minister's Office, was involved in a spat with the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. She is a tremendous jurist who we are lucky to have in this institution. Instead of abiding by a decision that they disagreed with, which would have been the mature thing to do, the Conservatives launched an adolescent spat to try to undermine the integrity of the most pre-eminent legal institution in our country. They should be ashamed of themselves.
In addition to the Conservatives' disrespect for the Supreme Court of Canada, their attitude toward justice in Canada boggles my mind. What they sought to do was spend millions of Canadian taxpayers' dollars to defend charter violations time and time again, which makes it hard to take criticism legitimately from the opposite side on how we are dealing with the Supreme Court of Canada.
When it came to assisted dying legislation, the Conservatives sought to ensure that the legislation the Supreme Court required would not get passed. When it came to protecting vulnerable people such as drug addicts and sex workers, they sought to introduce criminal legislation that would make these people less safe. The Supreme Court of Canada said no, they were not allowed to do that. When it came to their attempts at Senate reform, the Supreme Court said they were doing it wrong again.
When it came to trying to deny full access to aboriginal title to our indigenous population in western Canada, the Tsilhqot’in case, the Supreme Court said no. When it came to a ban on medicinal marijuana, on the basis that marijuana cannot be a medicine that patients use, the Supreme Court said no. When it came to introducing mandatory minimum sentences, the opposition, when they were in government, took the attitude that they were better positioned as legislators in Ottawa than a jurist sitting on the ground with the accused before them and access to a full body of evidence. I cannot understand it, and again the Supreme Court said no, that is not allowed.
It is not just the Supreme Court that the Conservatives attacked, it was the justice system from top to bottom. We need to look no further than their attempts to, again, spending taxpayer dollars, refuse the integration of Omar Khadr into Canadian society. When it came to the case of Ron Smith, they got tied up in litigation that was based around the refusal to ask diplomatic services to protect a Canadian who was on death row in another country.
I apologize in advance if I get emotional about the next one because it strikes home with me. The Conservatives spent $1.4 million Canadian taxpayer dollars to deny health care benefits to refugees. I am particularly emotional about this one given the experience that my community has had in welcoming refugees to rural Nova Scotia on the eastern shore in Pictou County and in Antigonish.
I feel compelled to draw attention to one example who have now become my friends, the Hadhad family in Antigonish. They ran a chocolate factory in Damascus that employed 30 people and in a week, they lost everything, a lifetime's worth of work, to the war. When they landed in Nova Scotia with nothing but the goodwill of the community to welcome them, they started from scratch. However, they said that if they had to start from scratch they would start that day and they started making chocolate in the basement of the home the community found for them. When they were on their feet, they decided they wanted to give back and when the wildfires broke out in Fort McMurray, they donated a month's worth of profits to the relief efforts in Fort McMurray.
These are not only the kind of people we should be welcoming as newcomers to Canada, but we should be aspiring to be as Canadians. While we welcomed them to our shores, the Conservatives now in opposition spent $1.4 million seeking to deny them access to a full range of healthcare benefits and it was disgraceful.
Continuing on the theme that it is hard to take this criticism legitimately, there is a latent narrative the Conservatives are trying to push in the motion that Atlantic Canada is not being effectively represented despite the fact that there are 32 strong Liberal MPs. I find it ironic that the Conservative Atlantic MPs have been silent on this. Perhaps it is because there are none, because they do not speak to issues that matter to Atlantic Canadians.
Since the election we have been focused on growth in Atlantic Canada. We are constantly advocating for the rights of Atlantic Canadians and investment in the region. Just this summer when the Prime Minister visited New Glasgow and 4,200 people came out to see him, we had announcements of $190 million in infrastructure, $75 million in affordable housing, and $50 million in small craft harbours. These investments create work in the short term, but lay the framework for economic growth in the long term and that is what matters to Atlantic Canadians.
What excites me most is that these are not one-off investments. These are part of a strategy that was announced in July called the Atlantic growth strategy and this strategy was not something that we campaigned on. It was not in our budget. It was a plan that was formed in direct response to the feedback of 32 Liberal MPs working with the government to ensure that the interests of our region are represented in the priorities of the government, and we are having success. This plan focuses on immigration, innovation, infrastructure, trade, and tourism. These are the priorities of the Atlantic caucus that have made it into federal policy and will help Atlantic Canada grow.
It was difficult, 10 years of watching Conservatives diminish my region economically by revamping EI. Their plan for Atlantic Canada was to encourage young people to move to Alberta. The kinds of investments we are making are going to allow young people and families to stay in our region. I cannot stand here and listen to criticism either about the role of the Supreme Court of Canada or members' supposed defence of Atlantic Canada after the record they had in government. I am very pleased to stand here knowing in my heart of hearts that we have been standing up for the rights of Atlantic Canadians, acting on their behalf. I will continue to act as an advocate within our caucus and in public for my region because that is the job I was elected to do.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and contribute to the debate on this important motion. I want to congratulate my colleagues, our justice critic and deputy critic, for bringing this motion forward.
By way of context, I think it is worth reflecting on what an interesting day it has been here for our discussion on our national institutions.
We began our day with tributes to the member for Calgary Midnapore. I want to join members in paying tribute to his remarkable career thus far as a defender of the Conservative tradition and liberty and as an ambassador for that tradition to those who share our fundamental beliefs who have yet to join the Conservative family. Of course, he is also a passionate Canadian nationalist, and of particular importance to our discussion on this issue, a defender of our institutions.
During his speech today, the member for Calgary Midnapore spoke about the importance of our institutions and about Parliament in particular. He spoke of Edmund Burke, indisputably one of the greatest parliamentarians and philosophers in the history of the English-speaking world.
Burke's political philosophy, and our Conservative tradition that flows from it, centres on two interrelated ideas: intergenerational obligation and the fragility of civilizational goods.
On intergenerational obligation, I have quoted these words in the House before. Burke says, in Reflections on the Revolution in France, that:
...a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born. Each contract of each particular state is but a clause in the great primeval contract of eternal society...
It is because of our obligations to the next generation that we must preserve the integrity of our well-functioning institutions.
The second point, on the fragility of civilizational goods, reminds us that the goods of civilization cannot easily be restored once they are lost. We cannot so easily reach into our past and place our traditions back on the shelf if they have been broken and thrown down. Civilization in general, and our institutions in particular, are fragile things that are much easier to keep together than to put back together once they are broken.
It is with this understanding that we, as Conservatives, seek to conserve our best traditions. It is not to oppose change in all its forms. Indeed, Burke himself was sympathetic to the grievances of the American colonists, and he supported Wilberforce's efforts to abolish slavery. Some would have called these things radical in their own time, but they were much better understood as reforms that at the same time sought to preserve existing institutions and traditions. We can be reformers without being radicals.
The member for Calgary Midnapore earlier today passionately defended the value and integrity of Parliament as a genuinely deliberative body, a body that talks about things that matter and where words and votes actually mean something. I will come back to that.
Today we are debating a motion about the integrity of another institution, our Supreme Court, and especially of the traditions and customs that surround it. Here is what the motion says:
That the House call on the government to respect the custom of regional representation when making appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada and, in particular, when replacing the retiring Justice Thomas Cromwell, who is Atlantic Canada’s representative on the Supreme Court.
This motion could not be more clear. It refers specifically to the custom of regional representation and the need to respect it. Surely, in any plausible interpretation, it could not mean anything other than appointing someone from Atlantic Canada to replace the retiring justice on the Supreme Court. I think any Canadian who read the motion and listened to our deliberations today would clearly understand what the motion is referring to.
We have a tradition of regional representation on our Supreme Court, but it is more than just something we have done in the past. I think it was a tradition developed with a specific understanding, with good reason, and with reasons that remain valid today. I will talk about what I see as four reasons why regional representation on the Supreme Court is important.
First of all, diversity of representation is important. I think the government at least pays lip service to this principle and understands it in theory. I am going to talk about it a little as well and about the breadth of diversity it ought to entail.
When people are in an institution that is responsible for making or interpreting laws, be it here in Parliament or be it the Supreme Court, they are going to draw on elements of their experience. Their understanding of the way the world works is going to be shaped by what their lived experience is. I think that is fairly obvious.
A diverse body is therefore more able to draw on the diversity of human experience. It is able to draw on the different experiences people from different kinds of backgrounds have to understand what the social realities actually are and what the application of a particular law or the interpretation of the law will have.
That is why it is important to have diversity of representation, one of probably several reasons. Given the importance of our Supreme Court, that is why it exists on the Supreme Court. Again, I think at least some members of the government understand the value of this diversity, in theory. Certainly we hear it talked about quite a bit.
Second, I want to underline that regional representation in no way precludes other forms of diversity. We hear the government talk, as well, about a range of other kinds of diversity. There is absolutely no reason we cannot respect this tradition while also ensuring the diversity of our court along other dimensions. I think that includes cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity as well as regional diversity and intellectual diversity.
Intellectual diversity is a key element of diversity. It means people who have different kinds of opinions and different kinds of foundational world views. Again, regional representation does not preclude other kinds of diversity.
Third, regional representation is a particularly critical dimension of diversity. If there is a group of people who may be diverse in a range of different ways but are part of the same geographic community, they have opportunities, in spite of their differences, to learn from each other's differences frequently, one would hope, being in the same geographic area.
Those who are from different regions may not have the opportunity to develop an understanding of each other's different experiences, because not being in the same geographic location, they would not have the regular opportunity to brush up against each other and to learn from and hear about others' experiences. That is why regional representation is a particularly critical dimension of diversity.
Although people in a city in Ontario or western Canada may have an opportunity to learn from others within their community who are in some ways different, they may never have an opportunity to fully understand the lived experienced of those who are from Atlantic Canada.
Fourth, and I will touch on this point briefly, because I think it was explained very eloquently by my colleague from Milton, regional representation is part of the founding bargain of our country. Its specific application, and the broader principle of regional representation, was part of Canada coming together as different constituent parts to say that we will respect each region and each region's role in this country.
Disrespect for our traditions with respect to the court is clear in the approach being taken by the government in not respecting regional representation. We also see in their approach to this motion disrespect for Parliament. The Liberals said that they will vote for this motion, that they will “respect the custom”, but that they will not necessarily appoint an Atlantic Canadian to the court, which is precisely what this motion says. That is obviously a contradiction in terms.
It is almost as ridiculous as saying that they will sign an extradition treaty with China while respecting human rights. It is a contradiction in terms. It is like saying they will create jobs while eliminating the small business hiring credit. It is a contradiction in terms.
We have spoken today about respect for this institution and all of our institutions, yet there is something clearly Orwellian about the way the government is approaching this conversation.
The government should have the courage of its convictions. If it believes in our traditions, then it should vote for them. If it does not, then it should vote against them. However, this is precisely the kind of thing that makes Canadians cynical about our politics, and they deserve better.
View Dan Albas Profile
That the House: (a) recognize that it is a constitutional right for Canadians to trade with Canadians; (b) re-affirm that the Fathers of Confederation expressed this constitutional right in Section 121 of the Constitution Act, 1867 which reads: "All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces”; (c) recognize that the recent Comeau decision in New Brunswick creates a unique opportunity to seek constitutional clarity on Section 121 from the Supreme Court of Canada; and that therefore, the House call on the government to refer the Comeau decision and its evidence to the Supreme Court for constitutional clarification of Section 121.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour to kick off our opposition day motion on a subject that is near and dear to me, which is the subject of interprovincial trade in this great country.
Let me first take a moment to provide some background on the subject and why this is an important debate for Canadians. First, let me take members back to 1867 and our Canadian Constitution. In our Canadian Constitution, section 121 states:
All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces.
To the credit of our country's founders, they not only had the foresight to understand the critical importance of internal trade to our Canadian economy, but even put it, in plain language, I might add, directly into our Constitution.
Unfortunately, over the years since 1867, many provinces, through regulatory regimes, and in some cases outright protectionism, have created barriers that hinder internal trade. In fact, it is easier for winemakers in Nova Scotia or British Columbia to sell their wine to Asia than to sell it to Ontario. This is in spite of the fact, as I often pointed out during the debate on my wine bill in the last Parliament, Bill C-311, that seven out of every 10 bottles of wine consumed in Canada are made outside of Canada. Yet provinces like Ontario refuse to get on board and support the free trade of Canadian wine.
Over time our federal predecessors realized that internal trade barriers were limiting our economic prosperity in terms of both jobs and gross domestic product growth. That is why, in 1995, which was in the era of Prime Minister Chrétien, Canada's first ministers, working with the federal government, signed the first agreement on internal trade. The stated purpose of this new agreement on internal trade was, “to foster improved interprovincial trade by addressing obstacles to the free movement of persons, goods, services and investments within Canada”.
It was a historic, groundbreaking agreement for that time, and I will rightly credit the Liberals for the agreement occurring under their watch. I should take a step back to say that it was the Canada-U.S. agreement on free trade that caused these concerns to arise in the first place.
For the history buffs out there, of which I am one, some of the provincial premiers of the era who supported this agreement were Ralph Klein, Mike Harcourt, Gary Filmon, Frank McKenna, Clyde Wells, Jacques Parizeau, Roy Romano, and, as that was an election year in Ontario, both Bob Rae and Mike Harris.
These are prominent names, and these premiers represented the entire political spectrum, from the New Democratic Party to the Progressive Conservatives of the day.
From my work on internal trade, starting with Bill C-311 in 2011, I can say that internal trade is a very different subject for Canadians than international trade. While international trade deals are often divided between left and right on the political spectrum, when it comes to internal trade, it really comes down to right and wrong. From my experience, Canadians are hugely supportive of increased internal trade and think it is wrong that many Canadian producers can more easily access the markets of other countries than the markets of other Canadian provinces.
Let me provide an example of this that does not involve Canadian wine.
For the province of Saskatchewan, canola oil has become a significant driver of the export economy. Canola oil, which basically is a vegetable-based oil that has become an alternative for dairy products, has become known as Saskatchewan's other oil boom. Canola is considered to be the most profitable legal cash crop in our country and is part of a $15 billion a year industry in Canada. There is only one problem. In Quebec, the government decided to place restrictions on the sale of certain types of canola-oil-based products, things as common as margarine, for example.
The Quebec government of the time imposed trade barriers that were considered by many to be protectionist, given that over 40% of Canada's dairy industry is supplied by Quebec producers. Ultimately, this is where the Agreement on Internal Trade comes in. Saskatchewan challenged Quebec through the Agreement on Internal Trade process back in 2013, and in 2015, after two years of very expensive legal proceedings in Saskatchewan, it finally won the case.
I think most would agree that in today's fast-moving economy, two years in regulatory limbo is a long time. Critics of the Agreement on Internal Trade frequently reference this process as far too slow moving and extremely expensive.
Here is the good news. Everyone, including all of the provinces that first signed on to the original Agreement on Internal Trade, also agree that this now 20-year-old agreement needs to be replaced. In fact, at the Council of the Federation conference in Prince Edward Island in August 2014, the premiers not only announced that they would conclude a new agreement on internal trade but announced a deadline of March 2016 to do so.
Why did they do so? They did so because Canada's premiers recognized that internal trade is valued at $366 billion a year. That is roughly 20% of Canada's gross domestic product. These are huge numbers, and the best part is that eliminating interprovincial trade barriers would not add tons of new debt, nor would it increase the deficit budgets of governments. In fact, it is probably the most cost-effective way to increase jobs and help grow our Canadian economy. This is a point we all in this place can agree on.
What happened? We have to look to the deadline month of March 2016, the month when Canadian premiers, working with the federal government, should have been concluding an agreement on internal trade to see what happened.
We know that in March 2016, the new agreement on internal trade was derailed. We know that the Prime Minister summoned the premiers to a conference in Vancouver that month. We also know that this Vancouver meeting was not about internal trade but rather was the Prime Minister's attempt to force a national carbon pricing strategy on the premiers. That effort failed. Instead of a national agreement on a carbon pricing strategy, the only agreement we witnessed was an agreement to disagree and talk again at a future summit down the road.
Where does that leave a new agreement on internal trade? Frankly, here in this place, we do not know. We have been told that we will see something possibly in July, but already details are leaking out that a new agreement on internal trade will have all kinds of exemptions, alcohol, again, being one of them. No doubt, in today's debate, the government will use a potential new agreement on internal trade as a reason to oppose this motion, and that is not good enough to give our Canadian economy the kick-start it needs.
Fortunately, there is another way. First, let us recognize why we have so many internal trade barriers to begin with. The reality is that in many cases, over time, various interest groups have effectively lobbied successive governments of all political stripes. The purpose of this lobbying was to enact regulatory red tape that would stifle competition, limit market access, and in some cases, create monopolies. In other situations, provincial governments have directly intervened in certain industries, largely for self-serving political considerations. I know that this is a shocking revelation.
Instead of it being a political debate, which is often influenced by lobbyists, what if this were strictly a legal question? What is the constitutional right of Canadian producers to access Canadians in other provincial markets? Ultimately, I contend that this is the question we should be asking, and that is why debating this motion today is so important for this place and for our national economy.
If we can convince the government to elevate the Comeau ruling to the Supreme Court for clarification, we will be creating an opportunity to grow our economy and create jobs through increased internal trade, because it would be a constitutional right instead of a political backroom deal. If we think about it, that is what we are debating today.
What is the Comeau decision for those who may be unfamiliar? In New Brunswick, a local resident, Mr. Gerard Comeau was charged for personally importing beer and some spirits across a provincial border from Quebec. Fortunately, a New Brunswick judge, after hearing evidence regarding the original intent of section 121, the free trade provision of our constitution that I mentioned earlier, found Mr. Comeau was not guilty. Sadly, the Province of New Brunswick has decided to file an appeal.
It is for that reason we created the “free the beer” campaign. We had some fun with our “free the beer” campaign, which has been widely supported by Canadians, but let us not lose sight of what “free the beer” really means. It means asking the Liberal government to elevate the Comeau case to the Supreme Court for constitutional clarification, and to do that now, rather than waiting on further delays.
This not only has the potential to free the beer and other forms of alcohol for Canadians, but more importantly, it would open up our internal economy for all Canadian producers of a whole host of different products. This obviously includes farmers and other agricultural producers.
Imagine if buying Canadian truly meant buying from all Canadian producers in all provinces, something that in many cases we cannot do now. I submit that needs to change.
I would like to share a few quotes from the chief executive officer of Moosehead Breweries Limited. Moosehead, as some will know, is Canada's oldest independent brewery and is located in New Brunswick. When asked by the CBC on how elevating the Comeau decision to the Supreme Court would benefit the industry, the Moosehead CEO was crystal clear in response. He said:
“The sooner there's some kind of decision, the better for everyone involved,”....
He said Moosehead can compete in an open market if both tax and non-tax barriers to trade are eliminated by all provinces.
“We sell beer in all 50 states in the United States with pretty open borders and hopefully we'll get to that point in Canada soon.”
I like that last part, “hopefully we'll get to that point in Canada soon”. I hope so, as well.
How soon? Today, our Liberal government could vote yes on the motion. If it does, it would send a message that the Liberal government is committed to eliminating trade barriers and wants to help grow our Canadian economy. If the House supports the motion, members will be sending a message that growing our economy through increased internal trade is something they support.
I know the Liberal government, in particular our Minister of Finance, loves to use the talking point “grow the economy”. In fact, I found over 100 references to “grow the economy” from the finance minister alone. The motion would present an opportunity for the Liberal government to do exactly that, grow the economy through increased internal trade.
The best part is that there is little to no cost to taxpayers to remove interprovincial trade barriers, meaning the Liberals' second favourite talking point, “adding debt”, or what the Minister of Finance refers to as “investing”, is not required here. How about that? It is a debt-free way to help grow our Canadian economy. What do folks think about that?
Earlier today, the Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce from the other place issued a report on the very subject of interprovincial trade. In fact, it is called “Tear Down These Walls: Dismantling Canada's Internal Trade Barriers”.
Among other findings, this report concluded that internal trade barriers reduce Canada's gross domestic product by between $50 billion and $130 billion annually. Let us think about that for a moment. That is why among other recommendations this report also supports that the federal government pursue, through the Governor in Council, a reference of section 121 of the Constitution Act, 1867, to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The only question that remains is timing. When do we take action? Do we continue to wait for a new agreement on internal trade, as we have been anticipating, or do we recognize that the Comeau decision has created a unique opportunity to do so now? I think most would agree we need to take action now.
Canada could be a stronger country economically and it could be more prosperous, if we can truly harmonize our regulations to eliminate interprovincial trade barriers. Again, let us not forget that this need not be a political battle. This could well be a constitutional right for Canadians if only we dare ask.
With Canada soon celebrating our 150th birthday, the anniversary of Confederation, I can think of few better ways to celebrate from an economic perspective than strengthening our internal economy to create more access for Canadian producers.
Before I close, I would like to add a few points. Sometimes in this place motions are done for political or ideological reasons. Some motions are even crafted to appeal directly to certain interest groups or demographics. In this case, I believe that every member of this chamber has producers in their home ridings, be they farmers, small business owners, manufacturers, whoever. All of these people can benefit through supporting the motion before us.
In my view, anything we can do to help increase the accessibility of the Canadian marketplace to Canadian producers is not only helping to grow our Canadian economy, but it is also helping to grow a stronger, more united country. The Fathers of Confederation did not intend Canada to only be a political union. They intended and put it in section 121 that it is meant to be an economic union as well, yet for some reason, there are those who fear competition and increased consumer choice between provinces.
Internal trade barriers not only harm our Canadian economy, but they also stifle innovation and often give competitors outside our borders market access advantage because of our collective inaction. While we all support the notion of Canadians buying from Canadians, let us not forget that we must first remove the barriers so that Canadian-produced goods, products, and services can reach our local marketplace.
I ask all members of the House to support buying Canadian by supporting this motion to ensure we can remove barriers that stand in the way of Canadian producers. It is an opportunity that is before us. Let us grasp it together.
View Alexander Nuttall Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour to stand today and speak to the opposition day motion tabled by the member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola regarding the creation of free trade between provinces across Canada.
I believe we are at a historic crossroads for the Canadian economy, one that can either tear down barriers and create new business and economic unions in Canada, or one that will forever destine our country to hamper economic growth in Canada by making it easier for Canadian companies to transact and partner with foreign entities than it is to partner with fellow Canadian companies.
Obviously this debate is being spurred on and highlighted by the recent decision in New Brunswick, known as the Comeau decision. Mr. Comeau was prosecuted for seeking to move purchased goods from one province to another. This single decision has propelled the case for economic growth in Canada by reducing provincial trade barriers and tightening the economic union that stands as the foundation of our federation.
The interprovincial relationship that exists today is costing the Canadian economy upwards of $15 billion annually, and as many as 78,000 jobs would be created in British Columbia and Alberta, without even including the rest of the country, if these trade barriers were torn down.
Today there are many regulatory issues that exist between provincial borders, which act as barriers to expansion, barriers for business to create jobs, deliver goods, and use Canadian products that have been imagined in Canada, patented in Canada, made in Canada, but oftentimes not sold barrier free in Canada due to these trade barriers that exist.
These barriers need to be torn down in favour of uniformity across Canada to spur economic growth. Whether it is the Canadian Federation of Independent Business or the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the only uniformity that exists on the subject is that non-profit business organizations know how detrimental trade barriers are to our economy.
As we look back over the last few weeks with the Comeau decision behind us, we see there are so many areas that require internal Canadian co-operation, not just to create jobs or help Canadian businesses compete, but to build a stronger environment for Canadians to buy goods and services.
Perhaps one of the largest barriers that exists today is in the financial services industry, or banking industry. This is an industry that has a very large impact on the lives of Canadians with regard to the investment of savings by Canadians in this country and the professional regulations that govern those providing investment advice.
In this day and age, where there is a free flow of people throughout the country, and a free flow of personal financial resources throughout the country, why is there a difference in the professional designations, resources, and processes that are needed to provide that investment advice?
The Canadian banking industry is recognized as one of the strongest and most robust in the world, yet it is somewhat hampered by provincial borders that dictate differing regulations and rules. What is worse is that, every day that the inequity and non-uniform regulatory structure lives on, there are more and more barriers created that hurt the finances of everyday Canadians.
As we stand on the growing wave of the fourth industrial revolution and the emergence over the last few years of the new economy or sharing economy, our world is literally changing daily. This change is transpiring in many ways, throughout many sectors, and each of them has massive consequences for Canadians.
Not only are these innovations affecting Canadians, but because of the differing regulatory regimes in different provincial jurisdictions, Canadians are affected by them differently across the country. It is, therefore, very difficult for this Parliament to react appropriately to the innovations that are occurring, as each conversation with each provincial government is different.
In the case of the banking industry or financial services industry, the world is being turned upside down. Daily, new websites are being launched to match investors with possible investment opportunities. The opportunities are endless.
Startup businesses that have always lacked access to capital are suddenly finding vehicles to fund their businesses through the emergence of equity crowdfunding sites. Businesses like those that are members of Startup Canada depend on the emergence of this new, innovative, investor-business relationship.
Industries that have traditionally had very difficult times securing capital to expand or proceed with projects that create jobs for hard-working Canadians suddenly have new avenues to solicit funding to make these projects a reality.
Industries like mining are finally able to find resources that are not dependent on financial service providers that choose when to turn on and off the taps. When another capital crunch occurs, resulting in many businesses not having access to the investment needed to maintain their position or grow their business, suddenly they have an opportunity to succeed rather than just being told no by five big banks and having to give up. The ramifications of this technological advancement on our society are yet unmeasured and will become clearer over the coming years. However, one thing that does stand clear today is that freedom to choose investment products, with increased competition, will dramatically increase value for Canadian consumers and for Canadian citizens.
The problem is that there is not a uniform pan-Canadian approach to these technologies. Provincial securities commissions have developed an independent thinking on the amount an individual can invest. Yes, provincial regulators have developed a maximum that each individual can invest in a business as well as how much each of us can invest in total for any given year. Not only is the amount that an individual invests regulated, but so is the amount that a business can raise through equity crowdfunding. They regulate the amount of money a business can raise to fund the creation of new jobs for hard-working Canadian.
What is worse than the inhibition of investment in Canadian business and Canadian jobs by Canadian citizens is that the standards are not uniform. In Ontario, the standards are different from those in Quebec and those in western Canada. Not only do these barriers inhibit the expansion of business and creation of jobs, but they create a business environment that is not stable and steady across this country.
I have spoken to financial services, and indeed there are many other areas that have similar issues with regard to an unsteady investment environment. When a stable business environment does not exist, this becomes not just a barrier to trade but a barrier to external investment in our country. It becomes a barrier to expanding our economy internationally because the provision of products and provision of services are not uniformly accepted within our provincial jurisdictions. The security regulators today stand as a barrier to interprovincial trade, and we must continue to call on these barriers to be struck down and uniform regulations adopted to allow freer interprovincial trade.
I have reflected on the ramifications of this decision in our society. I have spoken at length on the inhibiting of business to expand and be successful. However, what we must remember is that, while it is business organizations, media outlets, think tanks, and others who are loudly calling for the reduction and elimination of trade barriers, it is average Canadians who would be the victors of progress in this area. Canadians would reap the benefits through more jobs, through more investment, through increased competition, through stronger provincial government ties, through increased buying power, and certainly through a stronger Canadian identity.
This must not be lost in this debate. It is Canadian citizens who are losing through the existence of interprovincial trade barriers, and Canadian citizens who would reap the incredible benefits if the current Liberal government chose to liberate our economy from undue, unfounded, and unfair trade barriers.
We joke about freeing the beer or freeing the wine or freeing this product or that one. What we are talking about is freeing Canadians from undue red tape and regulations. How can we tackle the new financial and digital products of the future if we cannot even see agricultural products, like beer, wine, or spirits, move freely across provincial boundaries without people taking their pound of flesh? That only increases barriers to growth and stifles innovation. That is why I am supporting this motion today. If we can free the beer, we are one step closer to a more effective and efficient economy.
View Mel Arnold Profile
View Mel Arnold Profile
2016-06-14 12:48 [p.4458]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the motion brought forward by the hon. member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola. I will be sharing my time with the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
I thank the member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola for his continued efforts to promote economic vibrancy through interprovincial trade across our great nation. I am motivated to speak in support of the motion because I find myself asking the same question that many Canadians are asking. Why not? Why would we delay action that would free Canadians to offer their goods to fellow Canadians right across our nation?
I understand that the previous government committed to working with the provinces and the territories to do away with restrictions that limit interprovincial trade. However, now we have an indication that we should be referring to the Supreme Court so that developing and future legislation and regulations do not cause extended delays in freeing the sale of goods across provincial lines.
Let us be clear here. What we are talking about is the court clarification of free trade among the provinces and territories. The recent decision handed down by the Supreme Court of New Brunswick confirmed that section 121 of the Canadian Constitution says:
All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces.
It seems pretty clear that the Constitution provides for free trade across provincial boundaries. Although this court decision and campaign has been dubbed “free the beer”, it is about much more than beer.
Our Fathers of Confederation had the vision and foresight when composing our Canadian Constitution to include this section, this concept, and this liberty. Their vision in forming a nation for all members, constituents of the nation, would be free to trade with each other, to build commerce, and to benefit from the co-operative trade was a vision far beyond its time.
Then in 1921, the Gold Seal decision said that this vision, this liberty of section 121, only meant that interprovincial free trade could occur without any tax or duty imposed as a condition of their admission. The Gold Seal decision somehow became the basis of constricting powers, allowing a patchwork of restrictions to grow over time. Somehow as provinces and a country, we have lost the clear vision of free trade across our federation the way our founders envisioned it.
Now the stage is set to make things right. In 2012, Mr. Gerard Comeau, the defendant in the recent court decision, made some decisions. He first decided to take a drive to Quebec and purchase some spirits and beer. I suspect he was not the first New Brunswicker to do so. Upon returning to his home province of New Brunswick, where the provincial liquor act restricts interprovincial importation to one bottle of spirits or wine, or 12 pints of beer, he was stopped and charged with importation charges. Why? His property was not stolen, no, he had paid for it in Canada, which means he had also paid taxes, federal and provincial, for the goods.
Then when Mr. Comeau decided to challenge the charges laid against him and take the case to court and put his trust in the Constitution of Canada, he sparked a reaction that has raised the profile of section 121 of the Constitution. Again, it states:
All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces.
That is what section 121 states. I do not know how that statement could be any more clear, but obviously it has become clouded, manipulated, and misinterpreted over the last 149 years.
Here we are today as our nation looks on, wondering if we might have the wherewithal to uphold the intent, the spirit, and the liberty afforded to us by our forefathers, the liberty to move goods across provincial lines freely.
Why would the current government risk stalling the process of removing restrictions by not seeking clarity of the Supreme Court so that whatever agreements are reached between the provinces would stand far less risk of being challenged and delayed in their implementation? Does the current government doubt that the notion of individual liberty set out in section 121 of the Constitution is inappropriate? If so, then it should take a look at how much beer, wine, and liquor moves across the river behind this place on the Hill on a daily basis, especially on a Friday.
In all seriousness, let us trust Canadians to hold section 121 of the Constitution as they wish. There have been successes in restoring the spirit of section 121, and we ought to carry that momentum forward. The Agreement on Internal Trade came into force in 1995, as an intergovernmental trade agreement signed by the Canadian first ministers, and is aimed at reducing and eliminating barriers for free movement of persons, goods, services, and investment within Canada. This is essential for an open, efficient, and stable economic market.
Twenty-one years after the introduction of the Agreement on Internal Trade, we need to move forward again with bolstering interprovincial trade. There are provinces that have taken significant steps in this direction, and continue to facilitate interprovincial trade because it yields mutual benefits, because it works.
One example of initiative and leadership at the provincial level in driving interprovincial trade is the New West Partnership Trade Agreement, the NWPTA, which was agreed to by the governments of British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. The NWPTA came into effect in 2010 and has been fully implemented since 2013. The NWPTA represents Canada's largest barrier-free interprovincial market. This agreement is an extension of the pre-existing Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement between British Columbia and Alberta in 2006. In the NWPTA, B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan became the first jurisdictions in Canada to commit to full harmonization of the rules affecting trade, investment, and labour mobility. This removed barriers to free movement of goods, services, investment, and people between the three provinces. These agreements were hammered out by provincial leaders for the benefit of their constituents.
I believe that we too, as federal legislators, can seize the opportunity to bolster our national economy by leading all the provinces and territories to agreements that remove restrictions on trade or the mobility of investment and labour. Canadian businesses, investors, and workers deserve to be treated the same across Canada. The federal government has an opportunity to provide leadership in establishing such an agreement to open doors of the provinces and territories.
Some may say this is not possible: that the provinces and territories need to be insulated from one another; that disputes would eclipse any possible benefits of co-operation. I disagree. I believe that a strong economic union means a stronger Canada. I believe that opening doors for the provinces and territories to one another would spur mutual benefit and broader opportunities now and in the future. As I mentioned earlier, this is much more than free beer; it is a much larger issue than that.
Let us make it clear again that the hands that trade or choose goods across provincial boundaries should not be changed by the restrictive status quo. Our Constitution was drafted by recognizing interprovincial trade and the value it brought to Canadian economic growth and Canadian buyers of goods.
While we have this in our sights again, let us not lose sight of it for partisan reasons. Let us move this forward for the benefit of Canadians, like Mr. Comeau, who want to purchase Canadian goods in other Canadian provinces.
As our fellow Canadians look on with intent at the proceedings here today, let us all be mindful of our duty to protect, and if need be restore the liberties provided in section 121 of our Constitution.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am excited to be joining this debate, as I get to use both court decisions and John Maynard Keynes in support of a Conservative argument. I am glad to see that my friend the parliamentary secretary is here. I am sure that he is a big fan of both and will enjoy hearing this Conservative argument, which references the wisdom of the courts and of John Maynard Keynes.
I want to thank my colleague from Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola for bringing forward this important motion and for all the work he has done on this issue.
What we are talking about today is internal trade. We are bringing forward a motion that encourages the government to make a reference to the Supreme Court, or to elevate a particular case to the Supreme Court, which will provide us with some clarity on what the constitutional requirements are in terms of internal trade. Our party has been clear throughout this process that we are strongly supportive of more open trade generally and in particular of more open trade within Canada between Canadians in different parts of the country.
In my remarks today I would like to start by talking more generally about why I favour policies of open trade. Then I will talk about internal trade specifically in the context here. Finally, I want to move beyond the economic discussion to talk about the social and cultural benefits of trade, because often when we talk about trade, we see the benefits economically in terms of economic growth and prosperity. However, there are important social and cultural reasons to favour greater internal trade. I think it is positive in terms of creating greater harmony within our country and between different countries. I will talk more about that later on.
First, fundamentally, why do we believe in the importance of trade policy? I think sometimes when this issue is discussed the language can be a bit confusing to people. When we talk about negotiating free trade agreements with other countries and within Canada, we are not talking about the government negotiating to trade. We are not talking about the government saying, “We will trade this much of these particular goods with you for a certain amount of other goods.” It is not up to governments to specifically negotiate trades. When we talk about trade deals, they are agreements to remove barriers to allow private individuals and private actors within those jurisdictions to make voluntary trades themselves. It is not principally about trade. It is about the freedom of individuals to trade. This illustrates its importance.
Many of the counterarguments against trade I think misunderstand the freedom component. We hear people say, “Trade is well and good, but is the trade fair?” The response is simply that if the trade is not fair, the private individuals involved in making that trade need not participate. We are not talking about forcing people to make an exchange. We are talking about removing barriers to allow a voluntary exchange between individual actors who would invariably regard those exchanges as mutually beneficial.
Therefore, at a basic logical level, we can see that this invariably creates benefits, because if the individual actors previously prevented from engaging in voluntary exchange are now able to make exchanges and see that a trade arrangement is in both of their interests, then almost certainly it is. I think people are better judges of their own economic interests than an external agency like the state. Therefore, the state removing barriers to free economic exchange, giving individuals the ability to exchange without state intervention, enhances their freedom and allows them to pursue their own well-being and their own conception of the good life without unnecessary state restrictions. Almost by definition, the freedom to trade is good.
There are some exceptional circumstances where economists will talk about the concept of externalities, where the exchange between two private individuals might have a negative or a positive effect on a non-consenting third party. However, in the absence of these externalities, it always makes sense for governments to remove barriers to free and voluntary exchange between individuals in different jurisdictions.
There is a basic principle of individual freedom here that applies just as much to an individual's right to buy certain kinds of goods as it does to that person's finding the good life with respect to social or other kinds of private activities.
In addition to being consistent with the principles of individual freedom, trade helps to create collective wealth. It helps to facilitate specialization. It allows individuals or communities to become focused on certain activities that may fit certain natural competencies—obviously we do not grow a lot of bananas or coffee here in Canada—and it allows others to focus on other things and to then make exchanges. Having both specialized in certain areas leads to enhanced efficiencies, and there is a collective economic benefit in that voluntary exchange.
This is the basic logic of trade agreements, and it should, in some ways, be fairly elementary. There are still members of the House, not just in the NDP but in the government, who demonstrate significant skepticism about the value of trade deals, at least of certain kinds of trade deals. Going over that basic groundwork on the importance of allowing voluntary exchange and how it is conducive to the growth of wealth is important.
We are talking specifically about allowing voluntary exchange within Canada. The recent Comeau court case recognized that individuals should be able to go across provincial borders and trade without undue and unnecessary restrictions. We are saying that the government should get clarity from the Supreme Court. We should negotiate, as well, to remove trade barriers. We should work with the provinces and continue the work the previous government did on this, but we need some clarity from the Supreme Court in terms of what actually is required by section 121 of the Constitution.
In terms of the economic impact of internal trade, estimates produced by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business say that barriers to internal trade cost the Canadian economy nearly $15 billion per year. Another estimate, from the Conference Board of Canada, says that the removal of trade barriers would add close to $5 billion to real GDP and would create close to 80,000 jobs in B.C. and Alberta alone, and much more, I am sure, across the country.
The same arguments that apply to international trade very much apply with respect to internal trade. We need to realize the economic benefits, in terms of efficiency and the growth of our collective wealth, that come with increased trade. However, we also need to respect the freedom of individuals who might want to buy wine from B.C., even if they do not live there, or to buy other goods or partake of services that are available in other provinces that may be different from what is available in their own province. This is sensible. This is consistent with freedom and is conducive to the growth of wealth and well-being.
I want to talk quickly about the social and cultural impact of trade. Trade is not just about economic exchange. It is about allowing commerce between people in different regions of this country and between people in different countries and that commerce creating greater community between people and leading to increased cultural sharing and understanding. The ability to buy goods that come from other provinces or other countries allows people, in a sense, to access parts of that distinct culture or community and to learn and build community with the people involved.
Generally speaking, trade has been recognized as a way of enhancing community at an international level and even of reducing conflict. In Canada, we could understand internal trade as an important way in which we build national unity, in which we enhance our national cohesiveness. That speaks to the importance of doing this.
I want to mention the great economist John Maynard Keynes, because he was outspoken in the context of the First World War settlement. He was not supportive of the Versailles agreement, which he described as a Carthaginian peace. It was far too harsh and was reminiscent of the Roman treatment of Carthage during and after the Punic Wars, when it was really more about punishing the former enemy than about creating a durable peace. He advocated instead for a policy of free trade in Europe. He thought that if after the First World War countries worked together for free trade, there would of course be an economic benefit, but the social, cultural, and international cohesion that would result from prospering together, from becoming more interdependent economically, would be an important check against the possibility of future hostilities arising.
This was a visionary idea from John Maynard Keynes and one that was very much ahead of its time. He understood the economic benefits of trade, and the respect for individual freedom, but also the social and cultural benefits.
We can harness that insight in the Canadian context as well and use internal trade as a tool for national unity as well as economic growth.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2016-06-14 18:26 [p.4509]
Mr. Speaker, as I have done before, I am going to start with a Yiddish proverb, a hint hits harder than the truth. The truth is that the government is wrong to be moving its members to vote against the motion. The hint is from my colleague, the member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola that this is the right thing to do on behalf of all Canadians. The hint is in the motion. The truth is in the motion, and the government should support this because it is good for Canadians.
I want to thank the member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola both for having a difficult riding name to pronounce and also for fast becoming the most popular member on Parliament Hill with his catchy free the beer campaign. I get countless messages from constituents. He deserves a round of applause.
The motion the member has put forward to the House challenges us to answer the question of what Canada is. What is our country? Are we a nation of traders, or are we 10 separate islands? Are we living up to the dreams of the Fathers of Confederation for something more than a mere customs union, or are we 10 distinct protectorates set on fighting endlessly? I believe we can be a nation of traders while respecting the distinct character of every single province.
On the matter of the free the beer campaign, the provincial liquor control boards and the related regulations are a holdover from the temperance movement that was introduced during the Prohibition years. Prohibition has been gone for over half a century, but the controls remain, and they have become an impediment to internal trade.
Mr. Gerard Comeau did us all a favour on probably the greatest Canadian beer run ever. He did the most Canadian thing ever, the Canadian tradition of shopping around for the cheapest possible beer, so we can bring it home and enjoy it. His error was that he moved across a border, but his error was to the benefit of the Canadian taxpayer because we have an opportunity here to do the right thing for Canadians and refer this case to the Supreme Court to review its original decision, the Gold Seal decision. The $292.50 fine Mr. Comeau got is probably the best money ever spent if this is referred to the Supreme Court and if the Supreme Court does review its original Gold Seal decision. Fighting this in court is pointless. The right thing to do is for the government to refer it.
Section 121 should be applied in the spirit of the original intent of our founders. On that intent, I actually went to the original Debates on confederation. They are often called the constitutional moment. In referring to parliamentary Debates on the subject of the confederation of the British North American provinces, the third session, 8th Provincial Parliament of Canada, page 276-277, the member, Mr. Ryan, goes into vast details on the type of trade they had imagined for Canada: flour, grain, bread, beans, peas, butter, eggs, tallow, soap, and they keep going on. New Brunswick, shockingly enough, is an incredible source of boots and shoes, and he goes into vast detail on how the Canadian confederation could benefit from being able to trade among themselves instead of running it through the United States.
The member said, “These under Confederation would go duty free from Canada”. They were concerned about customs and tariffs and duties imposed by the American government. This was in 1865. A year later, in 1866, the reciprocity treaty would be abrogated by the United States. This was a long time coming, and the founding fathers knew it was coming. Therefore, they knew when they were debating this issue that they were not debating what size of barrel there should be and what the gauge should be for the railway on the intercontinental railway that they were debating. They were talking about free trade for all of these products. That was their concern. They were not debating the size of the product, but that the product itself should be available for all Canadians.
We should support Mr. Comeau. I invite all members to support the motion.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2016-06-06 13:55 [p.4058]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all of the hon. members who spoke before me in this debate today. This is the second time I have had the opportunity to speak in the House on Bill C-15.
To try to say something different, I want to start off by focusing on a couple of the things I have heard.
This morning, I heard a Bloc Québécois member accusing the government of neglecting Quebec. He also accused the government members from Quebec of neglecting Quebec.
Then I heard another member from Alberta saying that the budget disproportionately helped eastern Canada and affected Alberta.
I just want to say that we can be upset and disagree with provisions in the budget, but I would call upon all of us, as Canadians, to recognize that we are here as members of Parliament, not only to stand up for the people of our riding and our region, but also to stand up for all of Canada.
Therefore, I would call upon us not to continually divide ourselves by region, saying that one region is favoured over another, but to recognize that all of us believe in the best interest of Canada, and that we are furthering policies that are in the best interest of Canada.
I would only suggest that that be how we start off in this debate. I am pleased to be able to talk about Bill C-15, because coming out of an election campaign, I saw a lot of things going on in my riding that were disconcerting. I am very happy that some of these situations are alleviated by provisions taken in Bill C-15 and in the budget as a whole.
Number one is the Canada child benefit. It was frustrating, as we all walked door to door during the election, meeting so many families with children living in poverty. I am lucky to represent a riding that has a very affluent side, but we also have a very poor section. I got to meet families living on very low incomes with children, who had to question whether they had enough money to put their child in an after-school program as well as feed them.
All parties, whether Conservative, Liberal, or New Democrat, agree that we want Canadian children to start out with a fair chance, to have a full belly, to be able to participate not only in primary and secondary school but to go to university or trade school or whatever option they want post-secondary, and to be able to participate in after-school sports or arts or other programs.
The Canada child benefit says we are focusing on the poorest Canadians, we are focusing on those parents who earn, for example, less than $30,000 a year, and saying they are going to get $6,400 tax-free for children below the age of six and $5,400 tax-free for children above the age of six. That makes a real difference.
Whatever we think of the whole budget, whatever we think of Bill C-15, I certainly hope we are able to applaud that measure.
As well, I want to focus on seniors. One of the things that was also disconcerting was seeing the number of seniors in my riding living in poverty, widows especially, living alone in their 80s and 90s, with no family in Montreal to support them. These people will benefit from the enhanced guaranteed income supplement for single seniors, of 10%.
I will resume my comments later.
View Matt DeCourcey Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Matt DeCourcey Profile
2016-03-10 10:21 [p.1674]
Mr. Speaker, what I will acknowledge is how unfortunate the last 10 years were to all kinds of Canadians who were divided against one another, from different regions of the country and from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. We have decided to put an end to that, starting with measures contained in our Speech from the Throne, measures that will be in the budget two weeks from now, and measures contained in these changes to the Citizenship Act. Those are about uniting Canadians and about building a stronger society, a better economy, and environmental safeguards, which can allow future generations of Canadians to live together. This is about what is in the very best interests of Canada now and what we can become for years into the future.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2016-01-28 11:30 [p.529]
Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member on his comments. I note that he mentioned the multiple provinces his family has links to. I know that the hon. member has been listening to question period in recent days and to the debate in this House, where people have named different provinces in this country and argued that a unity crisis would be caused if the pipeline was not approved, because Alberta would want to secede or Quebec would want to secede. I want to ask the hon. member what his feeling is.
Does he not feel that this country is strong enough, in terms of its unity, that a pipeline project could be approved or not approved and this country could still stay together, united? What we should be really looking at is whether the economic environmental criteria are really reflected in whether a project should go forward as opposed to whether we will have a national unity crisis if it does not.
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