Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Chair. I was going to retire yesterday, but I decided that I have this opportunity here.
Thank you, Minister Qualtrough, and to those who are with you, thank you for your attendance here today.
As you're probably aware, there's quite a bit of discussion about this article, this matter, that my colleague Mr. McCauley raised with you:
A journalist’s question about a potential problem with the Royal Canadian Navy’s new Arctic...ships prompted federal bureaucrats to generate more than 200 pages of documents as they warned Irving Shipbuilding about the news outlet’s interest in the multibillion dollar program.
Is that a standard thing? I mean, if somebody asks a question, you sort of tip off...or does somebody get a hold of...? In fact, the journalist has put in an access to information request, and it's been more than 30 days since, which is outside the limit, and he can't seem to get any information. He's been directed around and is not getting anything. Do you find this concerning?
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Okay, so we'll see that in the next couple of days here, but in terms of releasing information, the same article I quoted points out:
Last week, the office of Innovation Minister...alerted Irving that Globe and Mail journalists had asked that department whether an investment in an Alberta french fry plant counted toward the industrial benefits.... As a result the newspaper received a letter from an Irving lawyer threatening legal action if the article contained any allegations of improper conduct.
I take it that this must bother you as well. I mean, this is another example of a company being tipped off to do this. I think the media has a right to ask these questions.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Congratulations, Minister, on your new appointment here. It's not easy because of all the different aspects of it. It's huge, and certainly it's a large responsibility.
I want to get back to one of the questions raised by my colleague Mr. McCauley.
The background to this is that, during the Victoria Day week, I met with a man, a public servant. He told me that he was a veteran. He had been in the armed forces for about nine or 10 years, I think he said, and he's now been in the public service for a couple of years.
He told me that he now doesn't get credit for the nine or 10 years he was in the military, and it makes a difference. Your responsibility, or the responsibility of the government, is everything from pay equity to making sure we know where the money is getting spent.
He said he's not given credit for that, and it makes a difference to him. If he has seniority in the public service, let's say 10 years or 15 years, he might get an extra week's vacation. There are benefits.
I wasn't quite aware of this decision. Apparently, as I've been told since, Treasury Board approved it. You've probably approved a lot of things, and this is just one component of it, but we want to do what we can. Everybody talks about doing what we can to support the people in our military and our veterans. We can get into criticisms as to who did what, when, and all of that kind of thing, but it seems to me that this is something important and that we should do what we can to support those members of our military who have retired and go into the public service.
I'm hoping that you will have a look at this. Again, I think you would probably get unanimous consent among all political parties if this were reversed and we said, “Yes, okay, if you've served in Canada's military, yes, that should be credited towards your public service”. We could spend all our time criticizing each other, but I think you would agree. I bet if I canvassed people around the table, they would say, “Yes, if you've served in the military, you should be credited, and you should get this benefit”.
I think, Mr. Purves, you said you were going to be looking into this, or maybe you've gotten some notes on it. Again, this kind of stuck in my head when I met with somebody about this. First of all, when he said this, I said, “No, no, we want to accommodate our military people. We want to give them credit for that”, but there is a challenge here, and so I'd like to hear your thoughts on that.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
I appreciate that. As I say, I don't see any downside to this. If it's the union that's negotiating this, and the government and the Canadian people want to support these things, it's not contentious in that sense.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you for your comments and your input here today.
I want to get back to a subject that we raised with your counterpart, Minister Qualtrough, with respect to the Privacy Act. I'm sure you are aware that, and I quote:
Personal information under the control of a government institution shall not, without the consent of the individual to whom it relates, be disclosed by the institution except in accordance with this section.
I'm quite concerned about a number of incidents that have taken place over the last number of months. Some of them have gotten a lot of publicity—the trial of Admiral Norman—with the information that has been released. I was concerned, for instance, having been a member of a group that gave advice to the government with respect to the appointment of a Supreme Court of Canada justice. The leakage of information about different individuals, I think, was a concern to everyone.
It's hard to pick up the paper and not see something else. I mentioned this to your colleague. It says last week that the office of innovation minister Navdeep Bains alerted Irving that Globe and Mail journalists had asked the department whether an investment in an Alberta french fry plant was counted as an industrial benefit requirement.
In a sense this continuous leakage undermines people's confidence in our system, and there is legislation that makes it an offence to release any information. I'm just wondering how concerned you are about this and what is being done.
I asked Minister Qualtrough about it, and she said they had sent out a message that they can't be doing this kind of stuff, releasing all this information, but I think it perhaps goes beyond that. It's a greater concern.
What are your thoughts?
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
I just want to make it clear that when this bill comes into effect and then there is a birth afterwards, that wouldn't be caught up in this bill. There would be no offence or anything. I think that's all it is. It's just saying that if the cetacean was pregnant at the time it was kept in captivity. We wouldn't want this bill to come into effect and then six months later a cetacean is born. To me it seems it would run afoul of the wording of the bill.
Do you agree?
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Can I ask for some clarification on that, Mr. Fraser? You said that there are no pregnant cetaceans at the present time. Is that what the fisheries department said? That's not my understanding. There are a number in captivity that are, in fact, pregnant now, and this is just clarification.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Well, all this is saying is that if they are, in fact, born, they are not caught up in this. I agree with Ms. Klineberg here that this would actually provide some clarification. I don't think this is controversial.
(Amendment negatived)
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
I think that's a pretty reasonable amendment. You want to make sure that anybody who might get charged under this is somebody who really is participating in this for the exact wrong reason. The amendment proposed by my colleague is saying that if somebody has to knowingly get involved with something like this, then somebody who's just being part of an entertainment package, or just wanders into something, shouldn't be convicted of a criminal offence on that.
This will help clarify that. This is good.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much.
Colleagues, obviously both language versions have to be completely in line with each other. It's not easy to draw up legislation. As our official from the Department of Justice knows, you have two systems of law, civil law and common law, and you have French and English. Getting it right is always a bit of a challenge.
In fact, there are some legal words such as the word “mortgage” in English, in the common law or something, that are not quite the same thing en français. At the same time, this bill has two different versions here, and the amendment is just to try to align them.
I'm not sure if you got this, but there's a letter here from a former justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Major, who had a look at this and said we should make sure we align it.
As it stands now, the version in one language refers to a specific section of the bill and the other one doesn't. Therefore, all we have done here, in collaboration with Mr. Doherty and our colleagues, is come up with a way they will mean the same in both official languages.
It is straightforward, and certainly I hope there is support for it. As I say, it is agreed to by the Honourable Justice Major, formerly of the Supreme Court of Canada. He's the one who was saying, yes, we have to do this.
It sometimes happens. We've all encountered this, but a simple amendment here to make it coordinate is all we're asking for at this point in time and it's an important thing to do. We can't have a bill that's different in each of the official languages.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
The amendment is that Bill S-203, in clause 4, be amended by replacing, in the French version, line 8 on page 3 with the following:
7.1 Il est interdit, sans licence délivrée en vertu du paragraphe 10(1.1) ou contrairement à celle—
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
I just want to read you one paragraph for the record, and I'd like to hear the opinion of Ms. Klineberg.
The letter from Justice Major says:
Section 7.1 of Bill S-203 is an enforcement provision under the Act. Given the conflict in the English and French versions of the proposed legislation its passage without a clarification amendment would, in the event of an illegal violation and subsequent prosecution, present a dilemma to the court. An obvious example being that an application under the English version would be required to meet the conditions set out in s. 10(1.1) whereas an application adhering to the French version would not. In the result the same law would be different depending on the site of the application. Should a charge be laid under the proposed Section 7.1 the difficulty described would be left to the court then to attempt a reconciliation of the conflict in the language and if not possible to strike down the section and order an acquittal.
I think that's very clear.
Ms. Klineberg, I don't know whether you have had a chance to compare both versions here, but Justice Major is saying that we should do what we have to do to make them coincide with each other and not just take a chance and have this dilemma presented to the courts.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Don't you think, though, it's a bit unusual that in the English version it specifically references a particular section in an act, yet there is no reference in the French? Whether we're drafting things through the Criminal Code or policy and everything else, wouldn't it make sense that, if the English refers to a specific section that has to be adhered to, the French be amended to say the same thing?
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Well, you heard what Justice Major says, and he—
An hon. member: What does he know?
Hon. Rob Nicholson: Well, when you've been on the Supreme Court for quite a time, you do develop some expertise or you bring your expertise to the role here. It seems to me a fairly straightforward thing just to make sure they both coincide with the exact wording. I don't know.
(Amendment negatived)
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Again, the differences between the French and English are referring to subsection 10(1.1), All we would be doing is removing that from the English version so that it would be identical to the French version here. I'm not quite sure why that would be controversial for anyone, but there you have it. It would bring them both into line.
That's all we were trying to do with the previous one, but this is the English version of it. Okay, remove subsection 10(1.1) from there so it will be identical. This is, I think, our job. That's what we have to do.
(Amendment negatived)
(Clause 4 agreed to)
(On clause 5)
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Chair, if you don't mind, I'd like to propose a subamendment to that and I'm sure this will be well received by the committee, “That this act come into force on January 1, 2021.”
The reason for that is if this bill comes into effect in the next month or so, the pregnancy period of these cetaceans is, many times, about 18 months. If you're going to ask them to start splitting up, as they do in a place such as Marineland, where you have to start separating them all so none of them gets pregnant, that will be the law and that's fine. However, for those times that the whale or dolphin is pregnant already, they need 18 months, so we don't want to have a situation where charges are being laid because a cetacean is born 14 or 15 months from now.
That would be helpful. It wouldn't be inconsistent with the intent of the bill, but it would come into effect on January 1, 2021.
That is my subamendment.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Let's go with three fives, Mr. Chair.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Chair, thank you very much.
Thank you all for your testimony here. What you had to say, Dr. Graham, was very significant with respect to the extinction of a particular species here because more effort wasn't made to do what we can to help them repopulate.
Mr. Burns, you said that if a beluga whale is pregnant and gives birth after the implementation of this bill, those who are there at Marineland and other places immediately face criminal charges.
If they postponed the enactment of this, how would that change? Don't these whales get pregnant on a regular basis?
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
The treatment of these animals is always foremost in everybody's mind. What you're saying is that if this bill gets passed, Marineland and others would have no choice but to start separating these families. How many years have some of these families been together?
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
You're saying that this bill here means that they'll have to be broken up and separated to make sure that—
A voice: It will cause stress.
Hon. Rob Nicholson: Yes, that's right.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
In your previous testimony, you said, “Marineland continues to evolve. It's committed to evolving.” Could you please elaborate on that for us?
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
When you testified about this bill here, you said what a disaster it would be. You elaborated in a number of different ways on that.
The bill has been changed in some ways over the last couple of years or so. Does this alleviate any of your concerns?
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Not only unconstitutional, but the implications of the Criminal Code and the possibility of charges that—
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Well, I would hope, Mr. Chairman, that we could have that individual, that former prosecutor, testify. We've just started the testimony on this bill here, so that's—
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
—one of the suggestions I'd like to make, because I don't think we're in any hurry to—
This is it? We only have one day?
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, and thank you, Minister and all those with you here today.
Minister, you have a very busy portfolio, I have to say. You've been in this portfolio for, I think, about a year and a half now, and there is lots going on.
You did talk in your opening statement—and I wanted to go to that first—about the Phoenix pay backlog. It seemed to me that you have, I think you said, about $25 million as part of these estimates to work on this.
I'll tell you what concerns me. It's an article I saw just a couple of days ago. It was reported on CBC that there was a document “prepared in August 2018 for a deputy minister in Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) ahead of a meeting with the Treasury Board official in charge of helping find a system to replace Phoenix.” It says, “As the federal government forges ahead to replace the Phoenix payroll system, internal documents obtained by CBC News through access to information suggest clearing the backlog could take another three to five years,” and then it goes on to say that it actually “could take 10 or more years for the system to achieve 'overall stability'.”
It's one thing to be waiting 10 years for the rehabilitation of one of our Parliament Buildings, but this Phoenix estimate seems way out of line. Don't you agree? I mean, three to five years.... Many of these employees have suffered enough, and I'm sure you've heard from them, just as I have. It has to be very discouraging to see that report. What are your thoughts on that?
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
That is somewhat reassuring.
People have approached me about problems with either getting paid or having been overpaid and then having problems with their taxes. Do you have people within the department who can look at one of these issues, see how to fix it and send out a cheque?
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