Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl for that question, because he is absolutely correct.
In Washington State it was becoming a crisis, and I think the parliamentary secretary acknowledged that it is a significant problem in Canada. What was also done in Washington State was to improve the ability of other levels of government to actually deal with the front-line issues with regard to derelict vessels. I do not have the precise number, but authorities have taken hundreds of vessels out of the waters in Washington State. They have this fund. They have clearly identified authorities who can deal with it.
I am very well aware that the Minister of Transport has convened a working group, but the government promised some information back in 2013 and we still have not seen it. Every winter that goes by, with our big winter winds and big seas, we have more vessels that end up foundering. I would encourage the Conservatives to support this bill. If they are suggesting that there is a way to amend it, let us amend the bill so at least we have some action in which municipalities have some confidence.
moved that Bill C-638, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (wreck), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl for seconding this piece of legislation, and I also want to acknowledge the work that has been done by the member for Victoria and the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
What exactly is it that Bill C-638 does? It designates the Coast Guard as the receiver of wrecks for the purposes of the Canada Shipping Act, allowing them to take action without being directed to by a ministry. It would also compel the government to create regulations for the removal, disposition, or destruction of derelict vessels or wrecks.
I have had a number of emails asking me exactly what we mean by a wreck. I will go to part 7 of the Canada Shipping Act, section 153. It says that a wreck is defined as:
jetsam, flotsam, lagan and derelict and any other thing that was part of or was on a vessel wrecked, stranded or in distress
Part of the reason I brought this bill forward is that what we have out there is a jurisdictional quagmire. We have three separate federal government departments that end up dealing with wrecks, whether it is Transport Canada, whether it is Environment Canada, or whether it is the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Then we have provincial and municipal levels of government as well. I want to quote from a report called “Dealing with Problem Vessels and Structures in B.C. Waters”. This report says:
Dealing with problem vessels and structures can be highly complex due to the mix of provincial ownership of land, federal jurisdiction over navigation and shipping and sometimes conflicting federal and provincial laws.... Determining what laws apply can be complicated by the fact that Provincial laws or local government bylaws that would be applicable to a structure or vehicle on dry land may not apply to vessels because they either conflict with federal laws such as the Canada Shipping Act, or infringe on the core of the federal government's responsibility for navigation and shipping.
What ends up happening, actually, and I will give an example a little later on, is that departments end up pointing their fingers at each other, or levels of government end up pointing their fingers at each other, and nobody takes responsibility.
We might ask, what is the scope of this problem? Unfortunately, part of the problem is that we do not have a really good inventory of this. However, there was some attempt in British Columbia to deal with the problem of derelict vessels. There was a report called “Vessels of Concern Inventory” produced by Transport Canada in March 2014. In this report, and it only focused on British Columbia, it said that a total of 245 vessels of concern have been identified in this inventory.
In my riding, for example, the town of Ladysmith has 45 vessels. South of me, the city of Victoria has 22 vessels, and so on, but there is a caveat in this report. It said, “The reader is cautioned that this inventory consolidates only the municipalities responding”.
Most people feel that the problem is seriously understated in British Columbia, and we know that this is a problem from coast to coast to coast. We are hopeful that all members of this House will be seized of this issue and will support what is really a first step. This is just a very preliminary first step.
“Vessels of Concern Inventory” also indicated that “Many problem vessels of concern to local governments and the public are not obstructions to navigation and therefore [Transport Canada] is unable to take direct action”.
I want to point out that this report was done by Transport Canada, and it highlights part of the jurisdictional problem.
Before I get into some examples, I want to mention a couple of people who have worked on this issue for a number of years. The first person is Lori Iannidinardo, who is a regional director for the Cowichan Valley Regional District and is responsible for Cowichan Bay. Unfortunately, Cowichan Bay, which is a lovely part of my riding, has had a number of problems with derelict vessels.
I have to acknowledge the former fisheries minister from the east coast. One of the vessels broke loose and was floating around in high winds, and when I went to the fisheries minister, he immediately had the Coast Guard get the vessel secured and tied up. They did not deal with the fact that the vessel was still in Cowichan Bay, but at least it was secured so that it was not running amok in the bay, where there are many other vessels, including commercial vessels.
I also want to acknowledge Sheila Malcolmson, the former chair of Islands Trust. Both Sheila and Lori have been working on raising awareness and seeking solutions.
Recently, Sheila Malcolmson sought and gained support from the Town of Ladysmith and the Regional District of Nanaimo for my bill, Bill C-638. In a 2013 letter to the transport minister, Sheila, as the former Islands Trust chair, highlighted the challenges facing our communities. The Islands Trust has been concerned about derelict and abandoned vessels for decades and has been asking since 2010 for the Province of British Columbia and the federal government to develop a coordinated approach to the timely removal of all types of derelict and abandoned vessels, barges, and docks.
Although we are grateful for the leadership shown by Transport Canada staff with some specific derelict vessel removals last year, no permanent solutions have been adopted. Derelict and abandoned vessels, barges, and docks pose environmental contamination and safety risks. They also create visual pollution in communities, which negatively impacts tourism and commercial activities.
The age of vessels in Canadian waters is increasing and so the number of incidents of abandoned and derelict vessels is expected to increase and become unmanageable. I will give a very recent example of how difficult this is for our communities to deal with.
Just the other day, I wrote a letter to the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Minister of the Environment, highlighting a current situation. In the letter I indicated that on August 31, 2012—we are talking two-and-a-half years later, and we have still not dealt with the problem—a survey was commissioned for the Canadian Coast Guard. It said that the Viki Lyne II, also known as the Aberdeen, posed a significant, imminent, and ever-increasing threat to the environment due to her deteriorated condition and the significant amount of oil aboard. The survey recommended that the only certain way of removing the threat was to disassemble and scrap the vessel. More than two years later the vessel remains a threat.
In the fall of 2014, 20,000 litres of oil was pumped from the Viki Lyne II by the Coast Guard. However, 13,000 litres of oil and solvent remain on board. Unfortunately, the resources to remove the remainder of the material are limited.
This is part of the problem. If it is a hazard to navigation, Transport Canada will step in and secure the vessel. If the vessel is actually leaking oil into the water, Environment Canada will step in and do something. However, the problem in this particular vessel's case is that they pumped out the oil and left all of this sludge in the bottom of the vessel, and the vessel is listing and threatening to sink. In the Coast Guard's own assessment, the vessel is said to be deteriorating, yet the vessel still sits there. The community is waiting for it to sink and then maybe someone will step in and deal with the cleanup, which would probably cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more than if the vessel were removed from the bay.
We have been working on this issue for months now. In an email on February 6, we wrote to the Minister of Transport and said that the vessel appeared to be listing and, given a forecast of lots of rain and possible high winds in the coming week, there was concern that the vessel could sink. The transport minister wrote back to us saying that it had been determined that the vessel was not now, nor would it likely ever become, an obstruction to navigation in its current position and, therefore, that the navigation protection program had no mandate to intervene in this matter.
I do not know if Transport Canada staff have actually been out to the west coast where we get big winds and big seas. We know it is not a question of if the vessel will sink, but when it will. The transport minister has known for years that this vessel is a problem, yet there is no action.
It is not just about the environmental pollution, or just about it being a hazard to navigation. I want to read a letter from the Stz'uminus First Nation. They have also written a letter to the Minister of Transport about the Viki Lyne II, or Aberdeen as it is known. They wrote that it would be an environmental disaster, affecting the traditional waters of the Stz'uminus First Nation, where there is a vibrant and established shellfish industry, a growing marine tourism industry, and B.C.'s most successful west purple martin colony, thereby threatening the very lifestyle of a region known for its connection to the sea
Therefore, not only is it an environmental hazard and a hazard to navigation, but it also affects the very livelihood of the people who live in the area. It is quite shocking to me that we cannot get any movement to deal with this longstanding problem.
There are many examples, and I wish I had time to go over all of them. However, as I said, there are 245 vessels that have been identified, and that does not even come close to representing the scope of the problem. I do not have time to go over every vessel and the state it is in, but we have concerns from the provincial government as well. The provincial government and municipalities are urging the federal government to come to the table and show leadership in tackling this problem.
I want to mention one other vessel, the Trojan, which was adrift in Maple Bay. This vessel was inadequately anchored. It did not have enough rode, and the mooring attachment was not sufficient for the size of the vessel. We contacted Transport Canada, and because the vessel was temporarily secured and not in the navigation channel at the time, Transport Canada said it could not touch it.
I understand Transport Canada's perspective. Transport Canada's mandate is that it cannot step in until it becomes a hazard to navigation. However, in this case, because there was no environmental concern, Environment Canada could not step in either.
We get some extreme tides on the west coast. For a while, at low tide, the Trojan was not drifting around the bay. However, as soon as some extremely high tides came in, the vessel was drifting around the bay.
One of the constituents who had been involved in this said that the last word they had from Transport Canada under the navigation protection program was that it is considering its options. The constituent followed up and inquired about who had responsibility for removal and cleanup when, not if, the Trojan ran aground, but received no reply.
The constituent goes on to say:
Of course, the problem with Transport Canada's response...is that when the vessel becomes an obstruction to navigation (again) or a danger to property (again), it may be too late for remedial action.
In this case, it had actually damaged some private property when it had broken loose at some point.
We had a tremendous amount of support for this bill, but I want to remind people that this bill is only a first step. We are constrained in private members' business about what we can ask for in a private member's bill.
I have to acknowledge that the Minister of Transport has been convening meetings discussing the Washington State model, which is probably a good model for for Canada to look at.
The Minister of Transport has also been responding and acknowledging the depth of the problem, but in the meantime, municipalities and first nations are rallying to support my bill because they recognize that it represents at least some movement. Again, it would designate the Coast Guard as a receiver of wrecks and require the government to set some regulations.
The Town of Ladysmith has written a letter to the minister indicating support for this bill. The letter says:
The problem continues to grow and poses an ever-grave threat to our communities. Derelict and abandoned vessels leach many different environmental toxins into our waters, pose serious navigational hazards, and adversely affect both aesthetics and local economies. Local governments like ours are virtually powerless to address this issue which has such serious consequences for our communities.
Just the other day, the Regional District of Nanaimo also supported Bill C-638. The regional district directors voted unanimously at their regular meeting to write a letter in support of private member's Bill C-638, which would see the Canadian Coast Guard take on full responsibility for derelict vessels littering the coastline.
Bowen Island Municipality has also indicated its support because of the issues around environmental, economic, and navigational hazards posed by derelict and abandoned vessels.
I am hopeful that there will be support from all members in this House for this legislation as a good first step. I think it is important not only in terms of environmental hazards and hazards to navigation but also in terms of the impact on economic opportunities when derelict vessels run aground or sink.
Again, I am looking forward to further debate on this bill. I am expecting to see it pass on to committee for further review.
The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion of the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl relating to the business of supply.
Call in the members.
Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride that I stand today in support of this very important motion made by the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl. He has demonstrated in the House, year after year, since he was elected, that he is a passionate champion and rigorous defender of the interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, along with the member for St. John's East. The two of them represent a duo of members of Parliament who routinely and consistently stand in the House and stand up for fairness, justice, and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. They should be applauded by the people of that province for their efforts on their behalf.
I want to talk briefly about what the motion today is about, but, more importantly, what it is not about. The motion is about the commitment made by the federal government to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to secure provincial government support for the comprehensive economic and trade agreement with the European Union. In short, it is about the official opposition, the New Democrats in the House, requesting that the governing Conservatives honour the clear commitment they made that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador would get a $400 million transition fund, made up of $281 million from the federal government and $120 million contributed by the provincial government, in exchange for Newfoundland and Labrador giving up a very important policy tool, the minimum processing requirements for their fish products in Newfoundland.
What the debate is not about is the merits of CETA. It is not about the economics of trade. It is about one thing. It is about when a province of our federation can expect its federal counterpart to honour a clear commitment that is made to it. That is what this debate is about, and now I will go into that in more detail.
First I want to talk about the importance of fisheries and seafood to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I do not think we have to belabour this point. I think every Canadian is well aware of the importance of that sector to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and in fact all people who live in the Maritimes, as well as the rest of Canadians who benefit from the hard work of those people in that sector.
In 2013, the seafood sector in Newfoundland generated $1.1 billion, and provided employment for over 18,000 people, mainly in the rural parts of Newfoundland and Labrador, where alternate sources of employment are not so easy to get. Therefore, the fisheries sector is critically important to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The average annual export value of fish and seafood products from Newfoundland to the European Union is approximately $120 million per year. CETA does contain a comprehensive schedule of tariff reductions for seafood exports that we all think will benefit the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and in fact all of Atlantic Canada. There are tariffs as high as 25% on seafood products. Ninety-six per cent of the European Union fish and seafood tariff lines are expected to be eliminated by CETA once, and if, it is in place at some point.
Let us review some of the basic facts of this dispute. Newfoundland's fish processing sector generates hundreds of millions of dollars in value to the Newfoundland and Labrador economy. The minimum processing requirements policy tool has been used by Newfoundland to secure value-added jobs in rural areas across that province, regions that have suffered from low employment since the cod fishery's collapse.
Newfoundland and Labrador has tightly guarded the right to manage MPRs to generate employment in the past. In short, the policy tool of minimum processing requirements has been very important to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and, more importantly, the people of that province.
In January 2012, Ocean Choice International, a major seafood corporation, requested a permanent exemption for MPRs to permit the export of flash-frozen whole fish for further processing overseas. The Newfoundland government refused that request, highlighting the need for “ensuring the long-term security of resources for the benefit of future generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians”. Members can see that two or three years ago, the Newfoundland and Labradorian government was emphasizing the importance of minimum processing requirements.
In January 2013, the Newfoundland government stated that it was pushing for maximum local benefits in the CETA deal. Minister Hutchings of that province added, “We will only support a deal that is in the best interest of Newfoundland and Labrador”.
What happened is that the heavy-handed tactics of a secretive and insecure government started to show its hand. CBC reported that the federal Conservatives were in the province to negotiate with Newfoundland over the removal of MPRs. In other words, the European Union was requesting the Canadian government to give up MPRs, and that, in turn, caused the Canadian Conservative government to turn to its counterpart in Newfoundland and request that the government give up its historic important tool of minimum processing requirements.
In a speech to the St. John's Board of Trade, Premier Dunderdale said at that time that “...the Muskrat Falls loan guarantee nearly fell apart when Ottawa suddenly demanded [that] the province give up the requirement that fish landed in Newfoundland and Labrador be processed within the province.”
It was the first time that we saw the pressure on the Province of Newfoundland by the federal Conservatives, going so far as to threaten the pulling of federal loan guarantees for a very important electrical generating project in Newfoundland.
On October 23, 2013, Bill Hawkins, the chief of staff to the Minister of International Trade, wrote an email to the Newfoundland government, which said that transitional programs “of up to a combined total of $400 million that would address fish and seafood industry development and renewal, as well as workers whose jobs are displaced in future” will be provided by the federal government.
What happened here is clear. Newfoundland negotiated the agreement with the federal government. In exchange for giving up the important policy tool of minimum processing requirements in that province, the federal government agreed to provide transition funds to help the province, in the sum of $280 million. Combined with $120 million from Newfoundland, the fund would be $400 million, which would be integral and necessary for the people displaced by the ending of minimum processing requirements in Newfoundland to transition to other employment. There was zero mention at that time that those transition funds were in any way linked to Newfoundland and Labrador having to demonstrate that there were job losses or negative consequences as a result of the implementation of minimum processing requirements.
I am the official opposition critic for international trade, and I can tell members that when the Conservative government does link the payment of federal transition funds to provinces for displacement due to CETA, it says so.
The Conservatives said directly to the provinces that if there are negative consequences suffered by the provinces over changes to the intellectual property provisions of CETA, in other words, costs to the provinces for increased prescription costs as a result of CETA, and if the provinces can demonstrate losses, the federal government will compensate.
The federal government has said to the dairy industry of this country that if the dairy industry suffers losses and those can be demonstrated, it will provide funding.
The Conservatives said no such thing to Newfoundland and Labrador when it came to the provision of transitional funds.
Here is the other thing. On October 2014, the Minister of State for Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency was quoted as using the term “fishery transition initiative”. At that time, in late October 2014, ACOA officials, for the first time started to say that the province would have to demonstrate damages to the federal government as a result of the elimination of MPRs before funding would flow.
On December 11, 2014, the new premier of Newfoundland, Premier Davis, met with the Prime Minister to discuss this issue. He clearly said to the Prime Minister that the federal transition funds were unconditional. They had nothing to do with Newfoundland demonstrating losses. It was money that was intended to flow to the province of Newfoundland purely as a result of giving up the minimum processing requirements and there was no condition attached to that.
Here is what Premier Davis said, coming out of that meeting:
[It] really solidifies for me that you can't trust the federal government.... You can't trust [the Prime Minister's] government.... We bargained in good faith.... We believe[d] we had an agreement in place, that we had a deal set.
That is not the official opposition saying that the federal government reneged, that the Conservatives reneged. That is the Premier of Newfoundland saying that.
Let us explore the argument the Conservatives are making in the House that, “Oh, no, the federal Conservatives always intended the Newfoundland government has to demonstrate losses”.
I met with ministers of the Newfoundland provincial government. This is what they said to me—and I put this out for Canadians to judge—“If the $400 million was intended as a fund only to be paid in the event of demonstrated losses to compensate Newfoundland for the losses they could demonstrate, why are we contributing $120 million? Does the federal government expect us to compensate ourselves?” They do not need to have a deal to compensate their own displaced fisheries workers. Not only that, but there was never a word mentioned in any memo, in any news article, anywhere, by the current Conservative government that ever tied the payment of transition funds to the demonstration of losses.
The Conservative government has also said, “Oh, well, this isn't fair to the other provinces, Atlantic provinces, which also may suffer losses as a result of CETA.
Here is the fact that all Canadians can weigh, that punctures to the heart of that matter. The other Atlantic provinces do not have minimum processing requirements. Only Newfoundland and Labrador does. Only Newfoundland and Labrador was asked to give up minimum processing requirements. Only it was negotiating with the government what it would get as a result of giving up that important policy tool.
Does it really seem reasonable to anyone that this is unfair to Newfoundland because the other Atlantic provinces did not get it? Of course it is not unfair, because they did not give up minimum processing requirements.
Now, to add insult to injury, the Minister of Justice states that the fisheries fund was never intended to be a “slush fund”. What an insult to the Premier and the Government of Newfoundland. What an insult to the cabinet ministers of Newfoundland. What an insult to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to call this money a slush fund when it is compensation for those people, compensation that the current government admits is owing, compensation that it knows is necessary, because Newfoundland and Labrador gave up something important to it and will suffer losses as a result
What has happened since then? On January 20, 2015, Newfoundland announced that it is withdrawing from Canadian trade negotiations and withdrawing its support for CETA.
The Conservative government's credibility is on the hook here.
I want to talk about integrity and respecting agreements.
When one signs a trade agreement, like any contract, like any agreement, the value of that agreement is not just in the words on the paper. The value of that agreement is in the good faith and the intent of the signatories to that agreement to implement the terms of that agreement in good faith.
Trade agreements are only as strong as the good faith of the parties implementing them. I will give an example. Non-tariff barriers are notorious in our world. Stories are legion of parties signing trade agreements, only to have the benefits of those agreements undermined by parties that go away and implement every single conceivable kind of non-tariff barrier to defeat the purpose of that trade agreement.
In this case, for the federal Conservative government to break its word with the province early on, in the agreement's genesis, demonstrates a lack of good faith. It demonstrates bad faith. That is inconsistent with the federal government's proper role in implementing trade policy, which requires the utmost of good faith.
When we speak of integrity, commitment, and honour, I want to relate a story of a person I know in Vancouver: Mr. Jeff Gourley. Jeff Gourley is the head coach of the senior boys' basketball team at Vancouver's Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School. For over a decade, Jeff has volunteered his time to create and coach this small eastside school basketball program. Prior to his arrival, Tupper had not even made the playoffs for the better part of 20 years. Through his leadership, he has inspired the Tupper Tigers to bring home city championships and rank in the top five in the province while excelling in school and, more important, growing as people of responsibility.
Several of his charges have gone on to win university scholarships and played at the highest levels in Canada and to achieve success in every area of endeavour. Jeff has done this by teaching the boys under his charge to see the game as a metaphor for their lives. In his words, “All I am doing is giving them the opportunity to dream, to think and most importantly for them to understand that each and everyone of them has the ability to try and succeed at what ever they want to do”. .
Inspiring young athletes from a lower eastside neighbourhood who have not had a track record of success can be one of the most difficult tasks for any coach to accomplish, but Jeff has done this by teaching them teamwork, respect, honour, and to trust in themselves and each other and to keep their commitments.
That is a lesson for us all, but it is a lesson for the federal government more than anything. Because Mr. Gourley and the players at Tupper School in Vancouver know one thing: they know that when they give their word, they keep it. They know that when they make a commitment, they honour it. They know that when they tell someone they are going to do something, they do it. That is what makes those young fine men. The government should listen to what those young men are learning in that school.
I want to talk about the consequence of this. I hear the government stand every day in the House and mislead Canadians by saying that this Conservative government has secured trade deals with the two largest markets on earth, a reference to the United States and the European Union. It has indeed secured an agreement with the United States, but it is wrong to say it has secured agreement with the European Union. There is no agreement in force with the European Union. CETA is not in force and, frankly, it is jeopardized by the behaviour of the government.
The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador has already stated publicly that it is not going to honour the commitments in CETA. The number one ask of the European Union at the bargaining table in CETA negotiations with Canadians was to have access to provincial procurement, to sub federal procurement. What kind of message does it send to the European Union when Canada gets into a public conflict with one of its own provinces, which has now withdrawn from its commitments under the agreement?
Second, Germany and France just two weeks ago went to the European Commission and stated that they wanted changes made to the text of CETA dealing with the investor-state relations. It is well-known across Europe that CETA is a mixed agreement, meaning that it will require ratification by every single member of the European Union, including Greece, which is now put into jeopardy. The point is that we do not have an agreement yet with the European Union.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl for putting this motion forward. It is extremely important that this be debated in the House. I am shocked to hear the member for Calgary—Nose Hill call it a waste of time to talk about something involving federal-provincial relations between Newfoundland and Labrador and Ottawa. It was an agreement made between two levels of government at the request of the Government of Canada.
I was supposed to be here earlier today. A taxi left my house at 6:30 a.m., Ottawa time, to get a flight to get here. I got here around 3 p.m. This is a big, diverse country. Each province and jurisdiction has its own industry, issues, problems and jurisdictional responsibilities. Each province acts in a different way within its provincial jurisdiction.
The Alberta government runs its oil and gas industry and royalty regime program differently from other parts of the country. Agriculture is a very important sector in Quebec, Ontario and out west. They all have different ways of doing things. Inside the jurisdiction of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador had certainly policy tools at its disposal to protect, develop and grow its industries, and to support the rural culture.
The Newfoundland and Labrador government has had a system of minimum processing requirements for a long time so Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can benefit as much as possible from the resources around their shores. Newfoundland and Labrador brought this into the Confederation in 1949, along with all the oil and gas resources in the offshore, as a contributing member of the Canadian Federation.
A lot of the talk around slush funds reminds me of the attitudes of some Canadians about treating Newfoundlanders and Labradorians as some sort of a handout province within Canada. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is only recently that Newfoundland and Labrador has been considered a have province, with oil and gas prices at a very significant level. That may or may not change as a result of the drop in oil prices, but we are very proud to contribute on a fiscal level in a way that we had not before. However, we have always contributed to Canada in terms of our resources, our human resources, our educated and skilled people who went throughout Canada and helped to create the wealth of Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. That is part of what Confederation is about.
We do have divided jurisdictions in Canada. We have federal responsibilities and we have provincial responsibilities. International trade is a federal matter. It is up to the Government of Canada to negotiate trade deals. CETA is one of them, and it is an important one. There is no question about it.
However, this is not about CETA and whether it is good or bad for Canada and Newfoundland. We know that there are big advantages to the Newfoundland fishery of the removal of the tariff on shrimp and cod fish. It has been an irritant for many years. In fact, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have complained about the fact that the Government of Canada has not used its influence with Europe to fix this in the past. There have been complaints for decades, going back 30, 40, 50 years, about the failure of the Government of Canada to protect the offshore fish stocks in Newfoundland and Labrador, instead of allowing them to be overfished and reduced to the point they were.
There is a lot of history around this. The jurisdiction of the Newfoundland government to have control over fish processing and minimum processing requirements is part of a policy tool that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has had.
Seafood production and the provincial seafood sector are extremely important to Newfoundland and Labrador, with over $1 billion in production value in 2013 alone and more than 18,000 people directly employed, mainly in the rural parts of the province. Minimum processing requirements are one of the policy tools within the jurisdiction of the Newfoundland and Labrador government.
What happened? This conflicted with the negotiated requirements and expectations of the Europeans, who said to Canada that they wanted it off the table. They wanted Newfoundland and Labrador to withdraw that policy tool. That was not said by Newfoundland and Labrador; it was said by the Europeans.
Then the Government of Canada, the Minister of International Trade and his department, called and asked the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to do this. They said that it was a demand at the table and they would like Newfoundland and Labrador to get rid of this policy tool as it affected the deal with Europe. It was not just for next year but forever. The province was asked what it would like in return for giving up this policy tool. The negotiations then began in good faith and resulted in an agreement.
However, this was not solely about compensating individuals who may have lost a specific job. I think that was what the federal government wanted initially, but it was very clear that was not what resulted at the end of the day. In fact, the negotiations, the exchange of letters, all of those things have been examined by independent people, including, for example, Professor Saul Schwartz, the public policy professor at Carleton University. He looked at the documents, the exchange and the correspondence, even correspondence from the minister responsible for ACOA. He concluded that the province's interpretation of what went on in the final deal was absolutely right.
A CBC story reads:
Saul Schwartz said based on his analysis of letters between former International Trade Minister...and Keith Hutchings, the former provincial fisheries minister, the deal is broader than what the federal government is now saying.
Schwartz said the letters show the money is meant to build a fishery of the future.
Therefore, when the minister said that this was only for adjustment and Mr. Hutchings said, no, that they wanted it for both any harm that might be done and for industry development, the positions were clear. In the end, the Minister of International Trade caved and said that the province could use it for industry development as well.
The article continues with:
Schwartz said the federal government could not have believed the fund was to be used for displaced workers only.
This is consistent with the debate we have heard from the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl. He quoted a lot of correspondence and letters on what went on for many months.
This is a matter of great controversy in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is not something that just slid under the table. The Newfoundland government was criticized by people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, by people who were concerned about giving up this policy tool, people who said that it should not do that. The government had to take the criticism on chin, but made it very clear that this agreement was about fisheries development, fisheries research, marketing development and other aspects of the fishery of the future.
I mentioned earlier about different jurisdictions. The federal government is responsible for fisheries, but the Newfoundland government is responsible for fish processing and other aspects of the fishing industry. However, because this is such a big concern in Newfoundland and Labrador that the federal government has let it down, Newfoundland has gone into paying for its own scientific research because the federal government has failed to do so.
This is not a waste of time today. We are asking the House to recognize that it is very important for the Government of Canada, in dealing with the province, to deal in good faith. When one makes a deal, one makes a deal. The deal was $400 million.
I can say without question that the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador would never be able to say to anyone in the House that this $400 million was only for individuals who would lose their jobs in the next two, three or four years in the implementation. Not a chance. In fact, the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and Keith Hutchings, the minister of intergovernmental affairs and former fisheries minister, told me that they were told by the federal government to think outside the box, that this was not just about the fisheries. Whatever the province wanted to put on the table, the federal government wanted it to give up this jurisdiction, this policy. This was not talking about how the workers individually might be affected. The federal government wanted the province to give up the jurisdiction and asked what it wanted from the federal government in return.
There were lots of things on the table. What it came down to in the end was a joint fund. The Government of Canada would put up as much as $280 million and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador $120 million.
What was that for? Was it to compensate individual workers? No. If there were demonstrable effects, they would be compensated, but outside of that, it was designed as a fund.
This $280 million is in the federal budget now. It is not there for 2020, when this deal might be implemented and we might be seeing some effects; it is in the budget now, and it is designated for the fisheries investment fund. It is an investment fund, not a compensation fund. It is a fisheries investment fund to deal with marketing, development, innovation, research, and all of those things that are important to Newfoundland and Labrador because of the significant need for the province to develop its fishery, independent of some of the other problems that are going to come about.
Therefore, this is not something one could even argue about. When the Minister of Justice came to Newfoundland and said, “This is not meant to be a slush fund”, what an insult it was to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. What an insult to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to suggest that is what Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are trying to pretend it is, that they want slush from the Government of Canada. I am shocked and shamed that the minister would say that.
Not too long ago, before the minister was responsible for ACOA, the minister was the regional minister for Newfoundland and Labrador. For him to come to Newfoundland and Labrador and say that I found insulting and not worthy of him, frankly. The Minister of Justice knows Newfoundland and Labrador. He has lots of good friends there. He goes fishing in Newfoundland and Labrador. I found it offensive for him to say that.
We have even heard it suggested that this was a fund for all the Atlantic provinces. I do not know who said that. I hope the minister can say that he did not say that and that he never intended that. Of course, why would Newfoundland and Labrador put up $120 million for an Atlantic fund if no other provinces were doing anything to do with that?
However, that is how far this debate has gone. It seems that it is like shifting sand to sit down with the Government of Canada and make an agreement in good faith. It was something the Government of Canada wanted. It was not Newfoundland and Labrador going cap in hand to Ottawa and asking the government to do something for it because it might be affected by this deal. It was a specific policy option that the European negotiators said to Canada they wanted off the table or there would be no deal. The Newfoundland and Labrador government, in good faith, entertained the request from Ottawa to do this, knowing it was a policy option that whatever its use or effect was now, was something they could not do in five or 10 or 20 years' time, because this was an agreement that was going to last forever.
There were negotiations and discussions back and forth between two mature partners, each with its own constitutional jurisdictions. This is not someone coming cap in hand looking for a handout from a parent. This is a jurisdiction that has it as a right under its law, whether we like it or not. Some people might call it protectionist. I can call Buy America protectionist too, but it does not change the power of the United States to do it.
We can argue whatever way we want about the trade deal itself and on the whole net benefit question, and that debate is going on in Canada, at least in some quarters. The Liberals have decided they like the deal. They did not need to read it. They did not need to see the text. They did not need to see anything. Whatever the government does on it, they support it.
We are having a look at that, and at the end of the day we will decide what our view is on it. In the meantime, this debate is not about that. It is about a specific detail that involves the Government of Canada, which we hope and fully expect can deal in good faith with the partners of Confederation.
We know the Prime Minister does not meet with the provincial premiers as a whole. He had a meeting with our premier in December, and our premier came away and said, “I don't think we can trust this guy.”
That is a shocking state of affairs. A Conservative premier of Newfoundland and Labrador came to Ottawa to meet with thePrime Minister, knowing the background and expecting that it was obviously some misunderstanding because the minister responsible for ACOA , even in early October of 2014, was referring to it as a fishery transition initiative and by the end of the month was saying something different.
The premier came to Ottawa with the minister of intergovernmental affairs and said, “Obviously this is a misunderstanding. We'll go to the source. We'll talk to the Prime Minister and it'll be sorted out. If there's a misunderstanding, we've got the documents, we've got the correspondence, we've to the whole shebang.”
He did not hear anything from the Minister of International Trade, by the way. He was absent from this discussion. He is the guy who made the deal, but he was not around. The minister responsible for ACOA was put on the hot seat and told, “Okay, you're going to take this position now”, but he did not negotiate the deal. I do not think the minister for ACOA was at the table.
The Minister of International Trade and his representatives were, including, according to John Ivison of the National Post, the now principal secretary for Minister of International Trade, who was at the table and who did write to the Prime Minister and the Newfoundland government about this matter.
However, all of these people who were involved were not around. It was just the minister responsible for ACOA who was asked to carry the bad news to Newfoundland and Labrador that we were not going to follow this agreement.
Newfoundlanders are a trusting group of people. When they make a deal, they feel that the other party is going to follow through in the good faith that the deal was made, so the premier came to Ottawa to see thePrime Minister and had a meeting, apparently on very short notice, with the Prime Minister, which was a good thing. I am certainly pleased to hear that it took place. Unfortunately, the results of that meeting were very dissatisfying for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador because, lo and behold, the Prime Minister repeated what now appear to be talking points. We heard the deputy government House leader repeat those talking points today, saying “Why would we do that?”
Well, the fact of the matter is that the government did do that. Why? It was because it wanted Newfoundland and Labrador to give up this jurisdictional policy tool that it had at its disposal and was using and wanted to continue to use. The idea was “We will give it up, not for the benefits of CETA in general but in response to the program that the Government of Canada put on the table after much negotiation.”
As John Ivison says:
The solution is simple. The [Conservative] government should stump up the $280 million it agreed to pay on the implementation of CETA. And Ministers Hutchings and King should stay home and save their breath....
That is the problem we have. The problem is that the government is not meeting the agreement that it made and is not following through on its commitments. Unfortunately, given those circumstances, it cannot be trusted.
I do not think this can be belaboured very much, but I do want to say there was an email to the Newfoundland government in October of 2013—so this agreement is not new; this is old—to Mr. Bill Hawkins, chief of staff to the trade minister, who is now the Prime Minister's principal secretary. The email says:
...a transitional program of up to a combined total of $400 million that would address fish and seafood industry development and renewal, as well as workers whose jobs are displaced in future.
That was the deal. It is known to be the deal, and this government is trying to back out of it.
Mr. Speaker, I can only say it so many times, and we have been very clear. The Minister of State for Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency has been very clear. The Minister of International Trade has been very clear. Absolutely, on the agreement to which we agreed with the Province of Newfoundland on the backstop for the fisheries industry and seafood sector, if minimum processing standards cause a loss to the province, we will be there. That was the agreement.
The member talked about $400 million. A portion of that would be from the federal government and cost shared with the province, but here is the rub. The NDP members have said from the get-go, long before they even had a chance to look at the draft agreement, that they will not support CETA. However, they want to support this one part, but they still will vote against the agreement. That puts the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl in a very tight situation.
Mr. Speaker, before I launch into the substance of the motion, I would like to take a moment to talk about the sponsor of the motion, the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.
We met in 2010, before the last election. I was with the member for St. John's East, another strong and passionate advocate for Newfoundland and Labrador. We were in St. John's together attending round tables about different issues in the community. He was not yet the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, but he was there as a member of the community attending these round tables. I was really impressed by how engaged he was with the community and the issues it was facing and how committed he was to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
As we all know, he was elected in 2011. I have had the pleasure of serving in the NDP caucus with him since then. He has also been the chair of the Atlantic caucus for the NDP, so I have got to know him quite well here on the Hill and know him to be a strong voice for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. I have had a chance to visit both Newfoundland and Labrador with this member and am still impressed with his work in community and the way he works alongside the member for St. John's East, the way the two of them work together, to bring these important issues from the community to this place, to the House of Commons, because that is the point.
There are 308 of us across this country and we are supposed to bring these issues that our communities are facing to the House of Commons for Parliament to work on, no matter how uncomfortable the issues are.
Today, I am standing and debating another example of this member's work. It is a great motion that stands up for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. I am proud to debate it as a Nova Scotian, because we do pay attention to what goes on around Atlantic Canada. We have been following this issue quite closely, because Nova Scotians are quite familiar with the levels of betrayal by the federal government as well. We do have experience with that.
Newfoundland and Labrador was promised a $400 million fishery fund by our federal government. That is not chump change but a a substantial amount of money for a transition, and now we see the Conservative government reneging on that deal, to the point where the Conservative Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Paul Davis, has said:
It really solidifies that you can't trust the federal government, you can't trust [the current Conservative] government.... We bargained in good faith. We believed we had an agreement in place, that we had a deal set.
Those are pretty strong words for a premier to come out and say against a government, against the federal government and against the Prime Minister. What is the solution? It is exactly in this motion. This is what the NDP is asking for: We want the federal government to live up to the commitments it has made, plain and simple. It is pretty simple, but pretty elegant, and I think only fair. We want the federal government to commit its share of the $400 million fisheries fund that would allow the development and renewal of the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is pretty straightforward.
In Atlantic Canada we do follow what is going on in different provinces. I read in the news in mid-January that Newfoundland and Labrador had suspended its support for CETA, the trade agreement, and all trade agreements currently being negotiated with the federal government. I wondered what these headlines meant. What was going on? I read the articles, and I saw that Newfoundland and Labrador's business minister, Darin King, had said:
The Federal Government's failure to honour the terms of this fund is jeopardizing CETA for all industries, economic sectors, and indeed all Canadian and European Union citizens.
There was another quote by him where he also talked about the failure to honour a deal. Those are strong words to say that a government is failing to honour a deal.
We go back to the premier's quote. He talked about how Newfoundland and Labrador had bargained in good faith with the federal government. Now we see that bargain is not being lived up to, that the federal government was not bargaining in good faith after all, because the terms of the agreement have been switched right before our very eyes.
The member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley talked about how, after the deal had been struck, the Conservative government started to crab walk. Perhaps that is a good metaphor for the issue of minimum processing requirements. Another one is the bait and switch, to say one thing and switch it out for something else. There are some good fisheries metaphors. Unfortunately, they are not very funny. It is not hard to believe that there has been a bait and switch or a crab walk because I find the Conservatives to be masters of the bait and switch.
There are other policies where we have seen this too. For example, they promised child care spaces. They ran on a platform where they would create child care spaces. How many have they created? They have created zero. It is not just the Conservatives. It is the Liberals too. They promised child care year after year they were in government. They had majorities, they had minorities, they had it all. How many child care spaces did they create? They did not live up to that promise either, did they?
Tom Walkom, a reporter for the Toronto Star, did a piece about child care, including the NDP's proposal for $15-a-day child care. The title of his article is “National child care—the promise that's never kept”. It is time for the government to start keeping its promises, like the promise of a cap and trade system to bring down our greenhouse gas emissions. Now Conservatives sit on the other side of the House and demonize a price on carbon. It is like this big, scary bogey monster that is under the bed, that is going to take everyone's money and eat their children, when it was actually part of their platform to have a cap and trade system.
They promised oil and gas regulations. New Democrats have been asking questions in the House about those, including where the regulations are. I have gotten answers from various ministers over the years that, “Hold your horses, we are trying to get it right. We are perfecting it”. Then this fall, the Prime Minister said it would be crazy to regulate the oil and gas sector. If that is not a crab walk or a bait and switch, I do not know what is.
Speaking of bait and switch, how about the change in the age of retirement from 65 to 67? I do not remember any discussion of that during the last election campaign. Usually if a party has a major policy announcement, it lays it out in a campaign document. It has a platform that it runs on and says to voters, “This is my offer to you and I ask you to accept that these are the things the party will do”. I do not remember that offer or the Conservatives saying, “And we're going to raise the age of retirement”. They did not campaign on that, and yet those years have been taken away.
As I said, people in Nova Scotia pay close attention to what is going on in Atlantic Canada. They share in each other's successes and in each other's struggles. This is just the latest struggle.
The member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, who introduced this motion, set up a briefing for NDP members so we could better understand the issue, have our questions answered, and know exactly what was going on. He did a good job of spelling things out really clearly for us. I am proud to be able to stand here and say what the NDP is asking for.
We believe that a deal is a deal. We believe that the Conservatives made a promise to Newfoundland and Labrador and need to keep their word. New Democrats have been clear that we support signing a trade agreement with the European Union if it is a good deal for Canada. I do not know if that question has been answered yet. It is a huge document. I think there are 40 chapters to this trade deal. New Democrats are going over it and taking the time to get it right, but we know this one aspect, this broken deal with Newfoundland and Labrador, is unfair. It is not the deal that was struck. As the premier said, the province bargained in good faith and that is now being taken away.
We all know that the fishery supports good, middle-class jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador and that the government needs to protect those jobs and build a fishery of the future, not just leave it to chance. It is too important to be left to chance. Time and time again, the Liberals and Conservatives have gone to Newfoundland and Labrador, cap in hand, only to turn around and betray it once they got what they wanted from Newfoundland and Labrador. All Canadians deserve a government that respects ordinary Canadians. We deserve a government that will work with provinces to create jobs and get things done.
In the NDP briefing to try to understand this issue, it was unbelievable reading the headlines and thinking this was happening, but it really is. What went on is laid out.
We know the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador has a long-standing system of minimum processing requirements. This is specifically designed to protect its fish processing industry. This system requires that a portion of the fish landed in Newfoundland and Labrador must be processed in this province. This makes good sense. It is creating and protecting jobs, good middle-class jobs, at home. However, it is potentially under threat when we are looking at trade agreements. We have seen some of the unexpected consequences of NAFTA. We want to ensure that does not happen when it comes to CETA as well, the European Union agreement.
The deal was that the EU asked for Newfoundland to lift its minimum processing requirements, the fund about which I talked. The federal government came forward and said that it would set a 70/30 federal-provincial cost formula to help with the transition of these fisheries workers, that this was only fair. It was actually called a “transition fund”.
Now the government is reneging on that, saying that damages have to be shown, which is unfair. This is not the deal that was struck. That is not a transition; that is damages. There is a big difference between laying out the money for a just transition for workers to transition versus having damages and coming in after the fact. That is more like a court system.
As my time is up, I am eager to answer questions.
The hon. member is correct in that there is parliamentary and unparliamentary language. The word “lying” is not acceptable in this place, and I think all hon. members know that.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to make the Chair aware that I will be splitting my time with my hon. friend from Halifax, who gave me such a rousing and warm welcome here. That is how we work on the New Democratic side.
This is an important debate. Many Canadians watching may be wondering why this debate may be relevant to them if they do not live in Newfoundland. As somebody who comes from the complete opposite side of the country, from Skeena—Bulkley Valley in the northwest of beautiful British Columbia, I can say very clearly that there is a pattern and a pathology within the Conservative government that worries us greatly. It is something that we have seen before, and we have great compassion and understanding for our friends in Newfoundland, who negotiated in good faith with the government over an important principle with respect to CETA, the agreement that the government has been compacting with the European Union. Even when we get an agreement with the Conservatives in black and white and the Prime Minister utters support in very basic and understandable terms, as was the case here, that agreement may not hold water when it is time to actually come forward and honour it.
In this particular case of with the European trade agreement, a principle held out by Newfoundland was that there would be a compensatory fund of $400 million established by the federal government to offset some of the damages that would be inflicted upon the people of Newfoundland, in particular with respect to their minimum processing requirements. It had been a long-standing policy and practice of the Newfoundland government to protect the processing of fish products in Newfoundland.
For those who do not know or who find it hard imagine, this is an incredibly important and integral of the Newfoundland economy. It is worth as much as $1.1 billion per year to Newfoundland. That is important, because it allows for the diversification of the economy to not solely rely on things like non-renewable energy, such as oil. That is important in the Newfoundland economy. It is so important that Newfoundland said that it was contingent on its agreeing to the broader CETA negotiations. It was Europe that asked the Canadian government to get Newfoundland to take away this minimum processing requirement that fish had to be processed within Newfoundland.
Newfoundland, recognizing that there were some broader benefits to its broader economy and to the Canadian economy, said yes, but let us set aside this $400 million. The Conservatives in Ottawa agreed, and as soon as they had that deal inked, they started to crab walk a little. They said that there might be a fund, but now that they had secured Newfoundland's support and the train had left the station, they were going to change some of the conditions of how the fund would be used such that Newfoundland would now have to go about the arduous process of proving damages.
Who would prove those damages and to what level? It would be the Conservatives here in Ottawa who would decide for Newfoundland.
We have seen this before, particularly in the more remote or rural parts of our economy and our country when it comes to resources and revenue from resources. I am looking at my friend from the north, from the western Arctic, who has seen the government renege on provinces before when it comes to resources. In the west we have seen it time and time again. Newfoundland has seen it twice now just in recent history.
In the 2007 budget, there was a black-and-white commitment from the Conservatives. I will read it out for them, in case they have forgotten their own words. When it came to non-renewable natural resources, they would exclude those calculations when making any payments to the provinces. Way back in 2006, the Conservatives said that they would:
Work to achieve with the provinces permanent changes to the equalization formula which would ensure that non-renewable natural resource revenue is removed from the equalization formula to encourage economic growth. We will ensure that no province is adversely affected from changes to the equalization formula.
That is pretty black and white. That is pretty clear.
In the 2007 budget, just a few months after making this promise to Canadians, and particularly Newfoundlanders, the Conservatives reneged on that promise. That then caused a reaction from the then premier, Danny Williams, who said Newfoundlanders had been betrayed yet again by Ottawa and ran his ABC, or “anything but Conservatives”, campaign. It was broadly effective, and it is kind of catching on in the country.
Certainly where I live in B.C., ABC is suddenly having a certain resonance with British Columbians, who say that these guys cannot be trusted even when they make their promises in black and white. Newfoundland showed up to say that the Conservatives would not change the equalization formula and would exclude natural resources from any of those calculations because they said they would; then the 2007 budget showed up and the Conservatives were shown to be liars.
That is a strong word that we do not often get to use here, because we have to be able to prove it. When we compare the 2007 budget to the 2006 promise that was made by this Prime Minister, we see that the Conservatives reneged on this promise, reversed it, and suddenly put non-renewable natural resources into the formula. We see that he was not telling the truth and was lying to Newfoundlanders.
We see it here again in an area that is very sensitive and very important to Newfoundlanders, the processing of fish in Newfoundland. A very clear promise was made by the chief of staff to the minister who was negotiating this deal as to what this fund was to be used for. It was to be a transitionary fund.
Then we see the crab walk begin, with the Minister of Justice from the east coast saying that we did not create a “slush fund”, as he calls it. There goes the transitionary worker fund. Now the Conservatives want to refer to it as a slush fund, because that would be a bad thing that would be helping out Newfoundland communities that got hit by impacts from the CETA agreement.
Then the Prime Minister's office very recently issued a statement saying that the government did not want to give Newfoundlanders and Labradorians a blank cheque. Oh, goodness. The very agreement that Conservatives made with those people is now being referred to a slush fund and a blank cheque.
Thank goodness for the New Democrat members for St. John's South—Mount Pearl and St. John's East, who are standing up for the interests of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians here in the House of Commons, opposed to the few Conservative colleagues left on the island. They are standing up and saying that Newfoundland deserves basic signs of respect from the Conservatives, as opposed to just breaking their promises so easily.
I guess that is what happens to a government when it sits in office for nine long years. It gets easier and easier to make a promise and break a promise, to say to Newfoundland and Labrador, “Here it is in black and white. We promise you can vote for us. Newfoundland can support this trade agreement with Europe, knowing there is going to be a $400 million transition fund.” Then, when it comes time to cough it up and actually come through on that promise, the Conservatives do the happy Conservative dance and say, “No, no, we did not mean a transition fund for communities. We did not want to give Newfoundland a blank cheque.” This was according to the Prime Minister's Office. It was the Minister of Justice who seemed to think this would constitute a slush fund.
Again, let us remember what this is all about. This is understanding that trade deals as complex as what is going between Canada and Europe will benefit some industries and have a negative impact on others. This is understood by the government of the day and the negotiators. It is understood by both sides that there are advantages and disadvantages in every trade deal.
This is why New Democrats wanted to see the text of the deal before issuing blank support in the way the Liberals did, because the devil is in those details. We broadly support trade initiatives with our European allies, free democratic countries that draw from a well of values and histories similar to Canada's. We know the importance of trade and diversifying that trade, while making sure that trade happens in terms and interests that benefit this country, because it is Canadian interests that we represent here in this House of Commons.
That is broadly speaking. I come from British Columbia, but I can stand up for my friends in Newfoundland and Labrador, as they have stood up for us in times past, to say that they deserve to have the promises made to them by the federal government honoured. When a province or territory in this country gets a black-and-white promise from the government of the day, regardless of the party that happens to be in power, is it so radical to ask that the promise be kept?
We saw that in 2006 and 2007 with the Conservative government. When it came time to honour the deal, the promise it had made to the people of Newfoundland to not include non-renewables, Conservatives were only too happy to break that promise and to change the formula to make it more difficult for Newfoundland and Labrador.
Now we see it again. Newfoundland was able to offer its support contingent upon this $400 million fund being there to help people transition, because it knew it was taking away a policy that had helped many communities for many years. Now the Conservatives are suddenly changing their tune, saying the promise was never made. Well, that is not the understanding of Newfoundland. I trust the people in Newfoundland and Labrador to interpret what that promise was, what it meant, and what it is still today.
Shame on Conservatives for so happily and easily lying and reneging on a promise to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador—again.
Mr. Speaker, I do not believe that everyone in this place is on the same page when it comes to the benefits, because the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl said that Newfoundlanders do not have a position. They do not know where they stand on this agreement. We know where we stand on an agreement that is historic and that is recognized by Canadians, industry, workers, and employers as bringing tremendous benefits to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador as well as to all Canadians. We know where we stand on that. We have also agreed that in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador giving up minimum processing requirements, we will be there to work with it to compensate for any impacts.
Our position is quite clear and consistent with other sectors, like pharmaceuticals and dairy, two other sectors where compensation is being offered. There must be evidence based on the impact before compensation can flow, and I think all people recognize that this is appropriate.
Again, I would remind members to address their comments to the chair rather than directly to their colleagues.
The hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.
The hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here tonight to debate this important private member's bill.
I want to remind the House that the bill was introduced in the House in 2010 by former Liberal member Siobhan Coady from St. John's South—Mount Pearl. Since then two colleagues from the NDP have picked it up and reintroduced it, for which I commend them.
This is an extremely important issue. There is not a member in the House who has not been touched in their respective communities by someone who has been the subject of an accident or a death as a result of colliding with a large vehicle. This happens regularly in our urban and suburban settings. It happens along our roadways and highways.
Just recently in Ottawa a senior executive from the Ottawa Hospital, who was riding in a cancer ride over a weekend, was tragically killed on a roadway by a large truck, while her husband and daughter waited for her at the end of the race.
This has been going on now for several years. It is important for us to understand there is an urgency to act. The member from the NDP who is proposing the bill is right, that this is about bringing in a new standard for new or imported vehicles in Canada going forward.
It is a prospective measure and a positive one. It is not asking for the complete retrofitting of the existing fleet, although if I were in the trucking business and I was seeing these kinds of accidents and tragedies happening, I might consider doing so. It costs about $750 to retrofit a large truck of those that would be caught by this bill.
I listened carefully to both speeches, the one by the NDP member who is proposing the bill and the one by parliamentary secretary who is opposing the bill, and I am quite shocked by the government's position.
The parliamentary secretary rose to say that there was insufficient evidence for mandatory installation of side guards for new or imported vehicles, citing exhaustive studies, I assume from Transport Canada. However, we have not seen any of those studies. They have not been forthcoming.
The committee is exactly the place for the parliamentary secretary to be bringing the internal analysis performed by the Department of Transport so it can be examined in the light of day and examined in contrast to other reports and other evidence that has been brought forward. For example, for Canadians who are watching, listening or reading, there are two very important reports that have spoken to this issue.
The first is the 2010 National Research Council report which called for mandatory side guards on heavy trucks. The idea, the National Research Council said, was to keep cyclists, pedestrians and scooters from being dragged underneath a large vehicle, a large truck should there be a collision.
Then, yet again, an even more exhaustive study and analysis was performed by Ontario's Chief Coroner's Office in 2012, just two short years ago. It was an exhaustive investigation into the deaths of cyclists. It also recommended mandatory side guards on heavy trucks, arguing that there was ample evidence that this would in fact save lives. It would also prevent injury or lessen the severity of injury.
Finally, there was a third report on pedestrian deaths, which also recommended side guards. Unfortunately in 2013, a blanket disavowal or a blanket rejection of these three reports was provided by Transport Canada, which said that side guards had not been proven to have safety benefits.
As I said in French, qui dit vrai, who tells the truth here? Who actually has the analysis that ought to swing our vote intentions one way or the other. This is why it is important to get this bill to committee. It is important to hear from the experts that have looked at this in great detail, the National Research Council, Ontario's Chief Coroner and, according to the parliamentary secretary, Transport Canada, which has performed its own analysis. Let us get it out.
Let us have it out in committee and find out what in fact is happening. The parliamentary secretary talked about new technologies. I would like to hear more about those new technologies. Which ones? How would they not be complementary to the installation of mandatory side guards?
What are these new advanced technologies purporting to do? Are they able to read the presence of pedestrians, cyclists, or people on scooters or motorcycles? Let us hear about that. Let us find out how we can enhance safety for all Canadians.
The parliamentary secretary also relied on a technical argument in saying that this is not the place to amend an act because there are regulatory powers vested in the provinces and the provinces can go it alone and do their own thing. That is not unusual, coming from the Conservative government. There is always a reluctance to take national leadership on some issues. Here is one of them. It does not want to take national leadership here.
I do not know why the Conservatives would want to have a different set of standards around the country. If the provinces go it alone, why would Canadian cyclists be subject to one set of standards in Quebec and another set of standards in Alberta? I do not get that. I am not sure why the government does not want to take a leadership role in making sure that we have a national standard to protect our citizens from coast to coast to coast.
It was also interesting to hear from the parliamentary secretary with respect to this question of insufficient evidence for the installation of mandatory side guards. Again going back to the details, that is not at all what was said by the National Research Council, the government's own chief research council. I am not sure why the government is not relying on the excellent work of the NRC and the scientists there. They have made some very conclusive remarks about vulnerable road users. Data from the European Union in areas where mandatory installation of side guards was made mandatory shows that the number of deaths and serious injuries caused by heavy vehicles to vulnerable road users has been reduced.
The document goes on to say that side guards alone would not eliminate serious injuries, but they are a huge contributing factor in making our roadways safer. They would not necessarily prevent incidents; they would simply minimize the risk that the folks who are involved would be dragged under the wheels of the vehicles.
There really is an opportunity here for us to move forward. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Conservative government does not want to take this to committee to hear the expertise and have a balanced, reasonable discussion.
One of the areas of corollary benefit is the environment. Regardless of the safety issues, it is estimated that industry-wide use of these kinds of side guards could result in a total savings of over 400 million litres of fuel every year in Canada. That is a total reduction of 1.1 million tonnes annually of CO2. One would think that a government that will never meet its target by 2020 and does not even pretend to do so now would want to grab this idea on that basis alone.
The human suffering, the human injury, the toll, and the tragedies that have unfolded from coast to coast to coast on this front warrant examining this idea in great detail. We owe it to our constituents because we have all been touched by a tragedy or an injury in our communities. Therefore, we strongly support having this bill go to committee so that we can analyze it in greater depth.
Order, please. The hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for the resounding applause and the very warm welcome. That was very kind of them. As the cow said to the farmer every morning, “Thanks for the warm hand”.
I want to speak to Bill C-12, and I want to talk about this in the context brought up earlier by my colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl and talk about drugs in prisons.
The structure of the drug-free prisons act dictates that this is, as the expression goes, on target but wide of the mark. It is on target in the sense that it could potentially clean up a situation we have when it comes to people getting out of the system. However, when it comes to freeing the prisons of drugs, it is wide of the mark.
I believe that in this case, and on this particular bill, it is a little too narrow in scope to deal with a much broader issue, which is drugs in prisons, and not just federal prisons but provincial ones as well. The proliferation of drugs in prisons still exists, as studies have shown.
This particular bill, as I mentioned, is fairly narrow. I want to speak to the contents of the bill, but first I want to say that with a title such as this, it is a little disappointing that we did not have broader consultation and the broader discussion that would have followed if we had started talking about elicit drugs penetrating our prison system across this country, in particular in the federal prisons.
The summary of Bill C-12 states:
This enactment amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to require the Parole Board of Canada (or a provincial parole board, if applicable) to cancel parole granted to an offender if, before the offender’s release, the offender tests positive in a urinalysis, or fails or refuses to provide a urine sample, and the Board considers that the criteria for granting parole are no longer met. It also amends that Act to clarify that any conditions set by a releasing authority on an offender’s parole, statutory release or unescorted temporary absence may include conditions regarding the offender’s use of drugs or alcohol, including in cases when that use has been identified as a risk factor in the offender’s criminal behaviour. It is about transitioning from within prison to outside and checking to see if that person is abusing particular drugs when in the system.
The title of the bill, as I mentioned earlier, is the unfortunate part, because we could have had the opportunity to partake in a much broader discussion to hopefully achieve some grander solutions brought forward by people who have been involved in the prison system: former prisoners, counsellors, therapists, prison guards of course, wardens, and officials with Correctional Service Canada. The title of the bill focuses very prescriptively on one part and one area, which I will talk about through the clauses in just a few moments.
In his 2011-12 annual report, the Correctional Investigator made the following observation with respect to the prevalence of drugs within our federal prisons. Here is what he had to say:
A "zerotolerance" stance to drugs in prison, while perhaps serving as an effective deterrent posted at the entry point of a penitentiary, simply does not accord with the facts of crime and addiction in Canada or elsewhere in the world.
Bill C-12 targets individual offenders by imposing requirements for the provision of urinalysis tests subsequent to having obtained parole, statutory release, or unescorted temporary absences. The legislation does not make any reference to or address the problem of offenders with drug and alcohol addiction problems or in any manner address the access to and prevalence of drugs within the federal institutions, which I mentioned earlier.
Currently under the act, where staff or authorities have grounds to suspect a violation by an offender with respect to drug use on parole, work release, temporary absence, or statutory release, they can order a urinalysis test. These tests are conducted to ensure that the conditions upon which release was granted are respected and adhered to.
Within institutions such tests can be ordered on a random and collective basis, unless individuals are, again, suspected on reasonable grounds of the use of illegal substances.
Bill C-12 does little to contribute to what the Office of the Correctional Investigator called for in his most recent annual report. He said, “I note that a comprehensive and integrated drug strategy should include a balance of measures—prevention, treatment, harm reduction and interdiction.”
There we find the crux of the issue, the harm reduction that we talked about in the last debate regarding injection sites. We go back to this aspect again because harm reduction is a policy that we should adhere to simply for that reason: the health of individuals who find themselves addicted to drugs and who in many cases are unable to find the help to wean themselves from a particular abuse.
The prison system does not address this issue through legislation. It addresses it through several reports, but it turns out that we are not addressing it correctly through legislation, which is the outcome we would like to achieve.
Bill C-12 has taken an exclusively punitive course of action, targeting individuals and offenders who have been granted parole and those who have been granted statutory release or unescorted temporary absences. They are transitioning out from the prison. The tests take place, and if the results are positive, then of course we have an issue.
The requirement is that prior to release, the offender who has been approved for release, in the case of parole, must provide that urine sample. There is nothing in the legislation related to what appears to be the wider systemic problem. We have problems across many provinces in many of these prisons, as demonstrated by some of the examples cited earlier by my colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl regarding the prison in St. John's.
Bill C-12 is a measure that at best can be said to address the symptoms of a serious correctional service problem without contributing anything of substance to resolving that problem, the overall problem that I talked about. We may be in agreement as to the specific transition of a person who has been released from prison, let us say in the case of parole. The testing involved in that is certainly worth discussing, which is why I personally would favour sending this bill to committee to find out about that. However, to call this part of a larger discussion about drugs in prison is really deceiving, because we are not addressing how to clean up prisons and get people off drugs through measures such as treatment or harm reduction in addition to these greater policing efforts.
The legislation will target those who have been granted parole or statutory release. According to the 2011-12 annual report, the Correctional Investigator says that almost two-thirds of the current prison population of approximately 15,000 federal offenders, meaning an estimated 10,000 offenders, were under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants when they committed the offence that led to their incarceration. That is from the very beginning of committing the crime, so we can see that for many of these offenders, the base of the problem started before entering prison.
What is more disturbing is that a very high percentage of the offender population that abuses drugs is also concurrently struggling with mental illness. That is another factor for people seeking treatment that we have to address within our prison system. Again I return to the term “harm reduction”, a term that we pay less attention to these days. Again I refer to the model of harm reduction from 2003, the safe injection site in Vancouver that was mentioned in a prior debate.
The issue of drug prevalence and use within federal institutions is a complex problem. The Correctional Investigator has acknowledged that “the problem of intoxicants and contraband substances in prison is difficult to measure and monitor.” That too deserves a conversation. It deserves debate and witness testimony. Probably only the tangents and margins would be addressed in witness testimony, but this aspect really requires a broader conversation. Unfortunately, the bill is far too restrictive and prescriptive in what it wants to do.
In August 2008, the Minister of Public Safety announced a five-year, $120-million investment in Correctional Service Canada's anti-drug strategy. The investment contained the following four components: expansion of drug-detector dog teams, hiring of new security intelligence officers, new detection equipment, and more stringent search standards. The results of these measures, according to the Correctional Investigator, appear mixed and somewhat distorted.
For example, while there has been an increase in the amount of drugs seized, the scope of the problem is difficult to determine. With respect to the results of the random urine tests administered, there has been, on the basis of these results, a decline within institutions. However, it goes on to say that:
after correcting for the removal of prescription drugs, the rate of positive random urinalysis has remained relatively unchanged over the past decade despite increased interdiction efforts.
Don Head, Commissioner of Correctional Service Canada, confirmed this conclusion in testimony before the public safety committee in December 1, 2011.
Correctional Service Canada's current anti-drug strategy, according to the Correctional Investigator, lacks three key elements.
First is an integrated link between interdiction and prevention, treatment, and harm reduction. Second is a comprehensive public reporting mechanism. Third is a well-defined evaluation, review, and performance plan to measure the effectiveness of these investments to be made, ways to curtail to drug use within prisons. Technology plays a large role in that, but what needs to play a much larger role, of course, would be the aspect of prevention, treatment, and harm reduction.
What might have been of value prior to Bill C-12 is that these elements would have been addressed by CSC to determine the efficacy of the programs currently in place and on which Bill C-12 is trying to build. Again, it only builds on a very small part of some of the recommendations that were put forward in many reports.
Given the reality of the prison population with respect to a history of substance abuse prior to entering correction facilities, the scale of which is massive, according to the Commissioner of Corrections, and given the fact that the CSC's substance abuse programming has been declining, the reality is that many of those eligible for parole, temporary release, or statutory release may well be ill-equipped to achieve a substance-free test result, the result being little or no treatment and a definite longer period of incarceration.
Without treatment and harm reduction, this could present a problem when it comes to the administration of Bill C-12 and what Bill C-12 hopes to do. This is something to discuss in committee, and I certainly look forward to that.
With respect to the provisions of the bill, and these are the specific provisions of the bill, let us take a look at clause 2. It is a new provision, restriction requiring the provision of a urinalysis, which would be imposed prior to release but after an offender has been granted parole.
Even though the PBC has satisfied itself that an offender meets all the criteria it has imposed and required, the offender would have to meet an additional requirement outside the normal parole process.
Also, the stipulation would affect all those seeking parole regardless of any cause. No offender being granted parole need be informed of any justification, nor can any offender granted parole refuse.
It appears cynical, true, but by imposing this requirement after parole has been granted, the government appears to have changed sections 56 and 57 of the act, which require officials to provide to the offender the basis upon which that demand for a test is based.
Interestingly, less than 23% of full paroles sought are granted. Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview 2012 cites that as a statistic. Again, that is 23% of full paroles sought are granted.
Clause 3 would amend section 124. It is a new paragraph after 124(3). If the PBC is informed on matters contained in Clause 2 with respect to a positive urine test or refusal of the offender to provide a urine sample, the board is empowered to refuse to grant parole on that basis.
Not only is it the positive test, but it is also the right to refuse that test.
Clause 4 would amend subsection 133(3) of the act, which currently states:
The releasing authority may impose any conditions on the parole, statutory release or unescorted temporary absence of an offender that it considers reasonable and necessary in order to protect society and to facilitate the successful reintegration into society of the offender.
The subsection would be amended to the following:
The releasing authority may impose any conditions on the parole, statutory release or unescorted temporary absence of an offender that it considers reasonable and necessary in order to protect society and to facilitate the offender’s successful reintegration into society. For greater certainty, the conditions may include any condition regarding the offender’s use of drugs or alcohol, including in cases when that use has been identified as a risk factor in the offender’s criminal behaviour.
It would appear on a literal reading that the addition contained in clause 4 is redundant to the existing section. It would add rhetorical flourish to the powers already granted to releasing authorities to any condition deemed necessary. There seems to be redundancy here in this bill, which is one of the other things that we need to discuss.
We have seen this on many occasions in bills in the past, where the government is out there and in an attempt to look and act tough on crime, it puts forward penalty measures from the authorities in legislation that really already existed. It is trying to impose what is seemingly a new way of getting tough on crime but, in fact, already existed in many cases.
Clause 5 would amend subsection 156(1) of the act by adding to the existing section, mandating that the Governor in Council or cabinet make regulations applicable to this part requiring regulations, including:
...defining terms that are to be defined in the regulations for the purposes of this Part...
Let us talk about the key stakeholders. The Office of the Correctional Investigator has been highly skeptical about this kind of initiative, which would rest on punitive initiatives without setting those efforts within the context of increased treatment efforts.
If there is one thing that I would like to bring up in this debate, and I know that it has been brought up before, it is the issue of treatment and harm reduction within an environment where the proliferation of drugs is rampant. Yes, we agree that there should be technical measures and technological aspects of looking at prisons and guarding them so that the entrance of drugs into these institutions is cut down. There is no doubt about that.
However, let us be honest with ourselves. There is a reason why they are going in. That is because of the addictions of the inmates. People who are addicted are in there for the wrong reasons. They are in there for committing crimes, and they continue to commit crimes in this case. At the same time, every element of crime requires a treatment and requires harm reduction when necessary in order to curb that type of behaviour in the future.
This is not a way of saying, in many cases, that we want to go easy on criminals. We do not want that. However, if we want to solve the problem of the crime itself, we have to address the whole issue and not just a part of it. If we want to pretend to be tough on crime and only that, then we are missing the point. The point is that people who are victims of crime do need treatment and justice. The people who commit these crimes do need to be punished but, at the same time, treatment must be available to curb this behaviour in the future.
All modern democracies, and any democracy that puts itself centre stage of the right things to do in justice and justice legislation, will tell us that it must go hand in hand with treatment and harm reduction. What this bill would not do is address that in a more holistic way. That is what I would call, as other people have called it, an opportunity missed.
At the same time, for the merits of this particular bill and the transition from a prisoner to outside through, for example, paroles or temporary absences, we should address testing them for drugs upon release.
Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise in support of the motion by my colleague. It is a very sensible motion, and given the nature of the issues that have been arising over the last couple of months, I think it is well overdue.
I am pleased as well to be sharing my time with the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.
It is very clear that there is a need for an audit by the Auditor General. The government speaks in terms of its enforcement regime, but its surveillance of the temporary foreign workers program consists of spot audits commissioned by the companies themselves. It is not that there are any credibility questions related to independent auditors it might hire, but I think there has been enough public attention to this issue for it to be time for the Auditor General to come in and do, as per usual, a fabulous job in auditing federal programs.
What are the issues that we have before us? The first issue, I would suggest, is this: do we even know if we have a labour shortage? Do we have a labour shortage for skilled workers, for the service sector? Do we even have reliable data? The response to that by some independent bodies, including the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the C.D. Howe Institute, is that we do not.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has reported that Canada has continued excess capacity in the Canadian labour market. He also reported that there was only modest growth in real average wages. He also reported that there is little evidence of a national labour shortage in Canada and that there is no evidence supporting an acute national skills mismatch, except in some specific areas. He singled out some of the sectors in Saskatchewan.
He has also reported that there are lower job vacancy rates and higher unemployment, obviously raising some serious issues about how the temporary foreign worker program is addressing the supply of labour and addressing unemployment in Canada.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has reported that there is a skilled labour shortage of just 32% and an unskilled or semi-skilled labour shortage of 16%. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has suggested the higher proportion of temporary foreign workers in the private sector could be putting downward pressure on private sector job vacancy rates and reducing the number of job vacancies; in other words, it could actually be imperilling the creation of jobs for Canadians, not filling them.
Provincial data also suggests that no provinces are experiencing acute labour shortages or skills mismatches related to the period before the 2008-2009 recession. The C.D. Howe report concurs with the findings of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. It has found little empirical evidence of shortages in many occupations and that the relaxations of conditions for hiring temporary workers resulted in rising unemployment in Alberta and British Columbia.
They suggest that the minimal uniform application fee paid by employers to hire temporary foreign workers offers minimal incentives to seek Canadian workers to fill vacancies. They also found that other countries imposed substantially higher fees, pro-rated per sector.
In other words, they have identified two problems. One is that there is an across-the-board fee, and if dealing with a big sector like the fossil fuel sector, it is probably not a high enough fee to deter the hiring of temporary foreign workers instead of investing in training or investing in searching for a Canadian employee.
To quote Professor Dominique Gross, the author of the C.D. Howe report:
A successful program would encourage employers to attract and train domestic workers for jobs that are permanent and that ensure stability of their business activity in the short-term. The current Canadian program falls short of these goals.
Do we have reliable labour and skills data? The Parliamentary Budget Officer and the C.D. Howe Institute say no. Statistics Canada has also now said no. Why? It is because apparently the government, in its wisdom, provided dollars sufficient only to survey employers on work demographics, skills shortages, hiring of temporary foreign workers, and which positions are hard to fill and why. It provided no money to analyze the data and thereby inform the Canadian economy of where there might be gaps, where we might need to be directing our training dollars, whether we needed to give support for mobility, or whether there might be space for temporary foreign workers. Even the minister has been quoted as saying that we must do a better job of collecting detailed labour market information.
The budget was shrunk. For such analyses, it was cut by almost $30 million, and staff at Statistics Canada was cut by over 18%, so we are not going to immediately address the problem.
What information have we gleaned? Has the temporary foreign worker program impacted wages? According to the information obtained through access to information, the answer to that is, yes, in Alberta. Across the board, it has been revealed that for the service sector, labourers, restaurants, nurseries, farm workers, hotels, casinos, and gas stations, hundreds of unlawful temporary foreign worker permits were issued by the current government at wages below the prevailing wage rate for each of those occupations. That indicates a pattern of using temporary foreign workers to drive down Canadian wages.
This evidence merits broader independent review by the Auditor General.
The minister said that he encourages employers to raise wages. I think perhaps the minister has additional powers. He should be going beyond encouraging Canadian employers to employ Canadians or train them. This evidence suggests that his temporary foreign worker program is having the direct opposite effect.
Third, what has been the effect of the temporary foreign worker program on employment for Canadians in the major employment sector, which the government likes to speak of all the time, the oil sands sector?
The first accelerated program, for which there was no LMO required to hire temporary foreign workers in Alberta, was finally ended, but it was replaced with a pilot program, in other words, no LMO required, and has been recently extended. What has that caused?
As I raised in this place, on behalf of Canadian workers, particularly the ironworkers at two major oil sands projects, Husky Energy and Imperial Oil, 65 Canadian ironworkers were laid off and replaced by Croatian temporary foreign workers, in the case of Imperial Oil. In the case of Husky Energy, 300 Canadian workers were replaced by temporary foreign workers.
In the case of Imperial Oil, I have actually been approached by a number of the workers who have been laid off, who have come to meet with me. One of them is a single mother apprentice.
The current government talks all the time about how it is working hand-in-glove with major industry to encourage the support of apprenticeships, yet here we have a scenario in which a single mother, who has gone back to school and is apprenticing, was laid off and replaced by a temporary foreign worker.
Why is that serious? It is because apprentices need that work experience to get their tickets.
I also was approached by an aboriginal apprentice who was laid off. He has a young family and is very seriously concerned about the lack of enforcement of this program in the oil sands sector.
I have also been approached by steamfitters apprenticing in the Esso heavy oil sector in Cold Lake, where apparently eight of 11 of the crew are temporary foreign workers, despite the fact that there are many workers, including Albertans, who would like those jobs. The problem is that the sector is moving so fast that rental rates are skyrocketing and there is simply not a place for people to stay, whereas we are enabling temporary foreign workers to come. We pay their travel and in some places subsidize their housing.
I have heard from welders who cannot get work. They have been waiting for a year where jobs are posted, and they have not been taken up.
I have heard from an insulator where 200 jobs were posted and then removed. That person was then told by the company that it was applying for an LMO to fill those jobs.
Where is the oversight? Where is the inspection? Where is the enforcement? Where is the enforcement and compliance strategy?
I have raised this issue repeatedly with the government. An efficacious regulatory program includes good regulations and rules, fully trained inspectors who ensure that those rules are enforced, and an enforcement and compliance strategy that sets forth how exactly they are going to ensure that this program is complied with.
We are told that there is no on-the-ground surveillance program for this sector, so the obvious question is raised. There is a lot of talk about increased penalties. How on earth are they going to assert these penalties, when the only time violations are raised is when workers who are displaced either come to the official opposition or other opposition members or to the media?
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague, the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, for graciously sharing her time with me in this important debate about Bill C-22, an act respecting Canada's offshore oil and gas operations that would also enact a nuclear liability and compensation act and make consequential amendments, including repealing the existing Nuclear Liability Act.
I also want to congratulate my colleague, the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, for his very forthright and passionate speech on this issue and on the industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, which has been so important to the fiscal position of the province and has provided opportunities for legions of workers, both in the offshore field itself and in engineering and related matters, bringing about great prosperity for Newfoundland and Labrador.
I am pleased to speak to this bill because it is an opportunity to talk about this issue and its importance within the Canadian context.
We hear a lot about western Canada. I went to law school in Alberta. I am very aware of the importance of that industry there and the oil sands, as well, but I think sometimes it overshadows the role that east coast oil and gas plays in total production and its importance to the overall Canadian scene.
We are concerned, of course, as is every country and anyone else aware of the consequences of potential oil and gas spills, both on land and at sea, about the danger of pollution and the danger of a spill that could have a catastrophic effect. We saw that in the most recent Macondo case in the Gulf of Mexico, which had huge consequences for Gulf, for the fishers in the area, for the communities, for the environment, and for all of the sea life affected by this particular spill. As as result, the need to take a close look at the liability regimes has been brought into sharp focus.
We support the bill at second reading. We want it to go to committee. We think that significant improvements have been made here. I do not know if it has been mentioned before, but the words “polluter pay” actually appear in the bill. I think that is the first time they have ever appeared in a bill in Canada. It is something that our leader has spoken about as a basic principle of our party when it comes to sustainable development. One of the hallmarks of sustainable development is that to make it sustainable, it is the polluter that should pay if there are any consequences of its economic activity, and not the public.
Here, we have a significant rise in liability from what has to be considered a ludicrous amount of $30 million, to $1 billion in the case of offshore oil and gas, and generally from $40 million to $1 billion in the case of the Arctic, for no-fault risk.
Some people might say, “Well, if it is not our fault, why should we have to pay at all?”
The reason is that they are the author of the activity they are engaging in to obtain profit and they have to pay the consequences if something goes wrong.
It is not as simple as “no fault” or “your fault”. As a lawyer, I know that deciding who is at fault and what the fault is, is often a very long, tortuous, and expensive process. In case of the kind of activity we are talking about here, we need to know that the initial responsibility rests with the person who causes the damage, that the damage is going to be fixed, and that people who need compensation are going to be compensated. A no-fault system allows that to happen.
The at-fault position is that there is not a limit on liability. The limit, I guess, is the ability of the operator to pay. That also comes into effect and we need to know that people who are engaged in this kind of activity, which is dangerous to the environment and to life and limb, are responsible and capable operators and companies that can actually carry out this work.
I say life and limb; it is often overlooked that the Deepwater Horizon project that blew up and caused this big damage also cost 11 workers their lives in that explosion. It is still a very dangerous activity, as we know from the Ocean Ranger disaster in 1982 and the Cougar helicopter crash recently and another crash a couple of decades ago. It is a dangerous activity that requires serious and responsible actors in the business, and so we would want to make sure that they are responsible for the damage they cause.
The act itself has some significant limitations. I am still puzzling over why one would say we are going to raise the liability from $40 million to $1 billion and then say the minister can waive that requirement. There does not seem to be any particular conditions as to when he or she might do that, and so one wonders why it should be there at all.
I can see the lineup now. Everyone would want an exemption because they would say they cannot really afford that or would not be able to get insurance or not be able to operate. Everything would supposedly come to a standstill if that were enforced. The minister is going to have a lot of people at the doorstep, looking for the exemption.
In the United States, the limit is $12.6 billion. In Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, and in numerous countries, there is no liability limit. In those countries, Norway and the United States being good examples, this has not prevented the development of robust and successful offshore oil and gas developments. We need to know why Conservatives are asking for that, but we would have a great deal of difficulty supporting that kind of exemption unless they convince someone that it was limited to one or two particular circumstances that may make sense. I do not know what they are. We have not heard the case for that yet.
However, we do see some progress here. The $1 billion, in fact, was an amendment suggested by the NDP in the last Parliament when a piece of legislation was brought forward, never really seriously, because it was left on the order paper for a year before the last election, but $650 million was proposed. The NDP recommended it be put at $1 billion at that time, which of course did not happen and the bill died on the order paper. This is a step forward, but there is a very strong case for unlimited liability and certainly a number more than $1 billion, and that is something to discuss at committee.
When we are talking about oil and gas development and pollution problems, there is the issue of spill response and what the capability is of dealing with an oil spill if it occurs. There is significant concern about that in the Atlantic and the existing regime right now. In fact, in a 2012 report, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development was critical of the industry and critical of the regulators, both in Nova Scotia and in Newfoundland and Labrador, for not being in a position to take over responsibility for oil spills if they occurred. In the case of Newfoundland, a study started in 2008, just to define and determine what the operator's capability was regarding oil spill containment and activity, has not been completed.
Officials tried to determine what the capability was. They had to review the spill response capability of operators. They said they were going to do it, but they have not done it. They said they were going to do it by March 31, 2013, after five years in the making. As my colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl pointed out about a month ago, officials still have not produced that report.
The member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, the member for Burnaby—Douglas, and I met recently with the C-NLOPB, which promised to have this report out very shortly. We look forward to that. We do need to know that if there is any kind of a spill, the oil companies have the capability to respond to it, to give the public confidence that this industry can be operated in safety and that the environmental concerns are taken into account.
I see that my time is up and I look forward to any questions and comments members may have.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand in the House and support this private member's bill. I have a few words of advice for the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.
I am a little surprised, because every once in a while we get a private member's bill that every party in the House can support. Usually we take that opportunity to commend the member for bringing the bill forward, and we recognize the good and salient points in the piece of legislation. We look at it as an opportunity to reach across the aisle, instead of trying to kick someone in the teeth.
I have heard foolishness before, but this is just patent foolishness. Here is the issue. It is an issue that every side of the House can agree on, so let us find ways to agree instead of disagree.
I suspect that the hon. member is smarting a little bit. As a new member of Parliament, he misspoke. He suggested that the seal hunt should be ended and that the days of the seal hunt were over. There was not any talk about it being in the blood of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. The language used was that it was time that we moved beyond it, that the seal hunt was a thing of the past. I know that he feels a little bad about that and is trying to make up for it, so we will forgive him for his remarks. However, I will not forgive him for failing to reach across the aisle and join hands on a subject we can agree on.
I was the chair of the fisheries committee for a couple of years. I sat on the fisheries committee, along with the parliamentary secretary and a number of other people in the chamber. Some very good work was done on that committee, and some very good work was done on the seal hunt. I got to be the chair at the time of the seal hunt report.
There are a couple of facts that have to be recognized. First of all, this is private members' legislation. It recommends doubling the distance for unlicensed observers. Most unlicensed observers are in vessels. They are not on the ice, they are in a vessel. The Farley Mowat attempted to ram sealers in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Had it been successful, it probably would have killed those sealers. That is what we are talking about. We are talking about risk of life and limb.
I would go a step further and recommend to the hon. member for West Nova, who brought this bill forward, and to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans that we should look at the distance that we allow licensed observers to go. Quite frankly, there should be no licensed observers outside of the international group of veterinarians who are already on the ice during every single hunt.
This is the most closely managed large animal hunt in the world. We have RCMP officers on the ice. We have Fisheries and Oceans Canada officers on the ice. We have firearms folks on the ice. We have people from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency out there, making sure that the sealers have taken their courses on how to identify that the animal has been killed properly and how to skin the animal. We have the Coast Guard. We have the air force out there, monitoring the hunt. This is the most closely monitored large animal hunt in the world.
There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that we should allow anyone who is not a registered veterinarian closer than 300 metres or 400 metres. Over 90% of the seals are shot. Fewer than than 10% are killed with a hakapik. They are shot with .222s and .223s. Those firearms will easily fire that bullet for 400 metres or 500 metres over the ice. That is the distance that people should be pushed back. If someone is a veterinarian who knows what is going on and how the animal is dying, whether it has been killed properly or not, and can identify that, he or she has a special license and moves up closer. That would save a lot of the trouble here.
I have pictures that were sent to me from John Levy, coming in off Georges Bank. He is 120 miles offshore. He is longlining halibut, and he is bringing his longline in with halibut after halibut. These are 30- and 40-pound fish, some of them. The skin has been raked off and the fat has been eaten, and the fish has been destroyed by grey seals.
I worked off Sable Island for nearly a decade during the 1980s. In 1980, when we flew over Sable Island we could count the seals on the spit. There were harp seals on the southeastern spit, and I think it was the southeast and northwestern spit. There were grey seals on the other spit. We could literally count them.
Today, some 30 years later, there are 300,000 grey seals. The males weigh up to 600 pounds.
What do the people who are against the seal hunt think those animals live on? What do they think the seals eat? They are not vegetarians, I can assure members. They eat fish.
It is all about balance. We do not want to kill the last seal, absolutely not. However, there is a sustainable hunt here that could be extremely lucrative. These animals are full of fat and omega-3 oil. That oil is valuable. Whether we can harvest the meat is something to be determined in the future, beyond for local consumption. The oil alone deserves to be harvested. It is healthy oil. It is good for people. It is good for everyone.
There are a couple of other points I want to make here. One of them was mentioned by other speakers and that is misleading information. The European Union, which should be our friend, has listened to misleading information. I was privileged to go with the fish committee to the European Parliament. We presented to the committee on the environment in the European Parliament on the sustainability of the seal hunt.
It was a very acrimonious meeting. We acted like professionals, we presented our evidence, but we did not get a fair hearing. Somehow, we have to move beyond that.
The other thing that all governments need to do, the provincial governments as well, is lobby the Europeans. These decisions are made in the Parliament of Europe today. They are not made in the individual member states. We have to have a presence, and we have to have a lobbying effort in the European Parliament if we are going to move ahead with any changes to the rules or any changes to the regulations on the seal hunt.
We could do it unilaterally, but we want to have their support when it happens, if we can. If we cannot, then I say we should move ahead with it.
I will give an example of how many seals there are. In the 1970s or 1980s, people sailing off the south shore of Nova Scotia might see a seal. They would probably see a whale and they would definitely see blackfish, but they might see a seal.
Three years ago, I was out in Mahone Bay and every rock had a seal on it and there were two more in the water waiting to get on that rock when the first seal got off. They are everywhere. We have to be able to bring them under control, and we have to do that in a reasonable, sustainable, and responsible manner.
We can do that if we reach across the aisle and do not treat this as a political football. This is an important piece of legislation from a member of Parliament who represents a huge piece of the fishery in Canada. It is timely and it is well meant. If we apply this, it will help to control the seal industry and help our fishery develop to the potential it has.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-25, an act respecting the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band Order.
We in the NDP are concerned about the indemnification provisions in the bill and whether or not they will deny anyone the right to further action in being recognized as a member of the Qalipu first nation. I would like to refer to the work my colleagues the MPs for St. John's East and St. John's South—Mount Pearl have already undertaken on this important issue. They have raised problems with the original agreement in principle creating a landless Qalipu first nation where children removed from Mi'kmaq families and adopted out would seem to lose all rights to membership under the agreement.
We recognize that the agreement before us is a negotiated agreement with the first nation, but we are concerned that the Conservatives have once again rushed a process and, instead of providing certainty, they have created anxiety and concern among all people applying to be part of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation.
Since the Indian Act separated first nations into status Indians and those without status, determining the citizenship rights of any person to be part of a first nation has been a highly charged process. We in the NDP are only offering equivocal support to the bill because we have questions about its provisions, and as we know, we will only get those answers from witnesses at committee. We have made it very clear that we are concerned when it comes to two areas in particular. One is the membership criteria and the second is the fairness of the process.
Speaking to those points, I want to refer to some of the coverage that Bill C-25 has received from Mi'kmaq people in Newfoundland itself. I refer specifically to Mr. Hector Pearce of the Mi'kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland, which has real concerns about Bill C-25. He stated:
We are not shocked but we are very disappointed with the legislation. This government has put up so many roadblocks to this Qalipu registration process that nothing surprises us anymore.
Mr. Pearce goes on not just to express concern but to refer to possible actions that he and the Mi'kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland will be taking.
What we in the NDP have been saying on Bill C-25, and also on other bills that relate to first nations people, is that it is time for the government to learn from the wrongs of the past and recognize that in negotiating with first nations directly, which is a very important step, we must respect the importance of a fair membership process and a clear understanding that status membership has been an issue that has been very problematic for indigenous people in our country. I know from my constituency, many first nations people are proud of their status in their first nation and of their treaty rights, but they are very concerned about the continued existence of their nation, particularly with respect to how their children and their grandchildren will be considered under the Indian Act. We know that Bill C-31 created significant change. It allowed for fairness by recognizing the children of first nations women who had children with non-indigenous men. However, we know that, as people intermarry and as families grow across the country, there needs to be a continued understanding of Indian status and respect for Indian status of indigenous people coming down the line. This is something that has been raised by first nations leaders across the country.
I recognize that Newfoundland has a very different experience, in terms of its entry into Confederation later on and the recognition of first nations people, and has had a different trajectory from other parts of the country. However, that is no excuse not to learn that first nations must be partners at the table in making sure that something as important as membership, as status in their community, must be front and centre.
I also share the concern around the process. I realize that the Mi'kmaq first nation and its advocates have worked a long time with the federal government to seek recognition. I want to acknowledge that work, because I realize from first nations leaders in my part of the country how important and how tireless that work can be.
There is nothing more frustrating for first nation members, for first nation leaders and advocates, than a process that seems rushed and that seems not to have taken into consideration the kinds of key factors that should have been considered all along. I think of first nations in northern Manitoba that have struggled to ensure that their land claims are recognized and that their children and grandchildren down the line will be recognized as members of that first nation, as I mentioned.
Even though some first nations in my area had great success in having band membership recognized amongst future generations, the federal government has been slow in equipping those members with their treaty cards. I think of the Peguis first nation, the largest first nation in Manitoba. About 1,300 members of the Peguis band are still waiting for their treaty cards from the federal government.
The process matters to all Canadians. For first nations people who have worked far too long on an issue as important as this, it is of the utmost importance.
We have great hopes that this issue will be dealt with fairly in committee and that we will receive the kinds of answers we need, so we can make a decision accordingly. Unfortunately, the Conservative government has a pretty dark history when it comes to shepherding legislation on indigenous issues through committee. We only hope that the Conservatives will take this issue seriously when it gets to committee. We will certainly be doing the very same every step of the way.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl for his very eloquent speech in the House. He has been one of the foremost advocates on offshore rights for workers, to make sure that those who work in the offshore industry are subject to real safety precautions. I thank him for his work in the House of Commons in this regard. He has made a real difference.
The member identified that the Conservatives, in their reckless, irresponsible, foolhardy way, are refusing to put in place an independent safety regulator. It makes no sense when countries like Norway, Australia, and the United Kingdom, all with good sense and responsible choices, have put in place an independent safety regulator.
Why are the Conservatives being so irresponsible, foolhardy, and reckless with the safety of offshore oil workers?
The electoral district of St. John's South--Mount Pearl (Newfoundland and Labrador) has a population of 81,938 with 66,467 registered voters and 187 polling divisions.
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