Resuming debate, the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt.
I advise the member that he will have approximately six to six and a half minutes before we end the debate for question period.
Mr. Speaker, the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt is correct. Our government has facilitated multiple technical briefings from the military for Canadians on the mission in Iraq. We have also made numerous statements in this House regarding our air strikes.
In that tradition, I can confirm that yesterday our CF-18s dropped a bomb on an ISIL vehicle checkpoint about 250 kilometres to the southwest of Mosul.
Unlike the Liberals, who did not even bother consulting Parliament when they sent our armed forces to Afghanistan, our government has been open and transparent with Canadians.
The hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt.
Mr. Speaker, this past Monday, my colleagues the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the member of Parliament for Saskatoon—Humboldt made an important announcement for the city of Saskatoon and surrounding area. The Government of Canada will invest $66 million through the P3 Canada fund for the replacement of Saskatoon's 107-year-old traffic bridge and the development of a new bridge crossing in Saskatoon's north end. Once the parkway and two bridges are opened, traffic congestion will be reduced, making travel times shorter and resulting in reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved air quality.
This project is a great example of how our government is working with municipalities and the private sector, not only in Saskatchewan but all across Canada, to reduce procurement and overhead costs, to the benefit of all taxpayers.
I would like to congratulate His Worship, Don Atchison, Saskatoon City Council, and the staff at city hall who all worked diligently on this proposal.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to debate Bill C-22, the energy safety and security act, and to share my time with the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt.
This bill would modernize and increase accountability in Canada's offshore and nuclear industries. As hon. members know, it is no exaggeration to say that the offshore petroleum industry has literally transformed economies in Atlantic Canada. Over the past few years, this vital industry has created thousands of high-paying jobs and spinoff industries. It has also generated billions in revenues for provincial governments to invest in social programs that are essential to Canadians.
Over the past 15 years, Nova Scotia offshore production has generated over $2.3 billion in government revenues. Today, the industry generates close to $190 million of expenditures and supports approximately 770 direct jobs. On an annual basis, over the period between 2003 and 2007, the offshore petroleum sector's contribution to Nova Scotia's GDP was 3%.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, over the same 15-year period, offshore production has generated over $9.2 billion in government revenues. Today, the offshore oil and gas industry in Newfoundland and Labrador contributes approximately 28% of the provincial GDP, spending over $3.2 billion annually and providing 7,374 direct jobs. In 2010, through direct and indirect and spinoff effects, the industry accounted for over 12,800 jobs. That is 5.8% of provincial employment through responsible offshore resource development.
It is clear that exploration and development of the offshore is translating into tangible benefits for the people of these provinces, and these benefits will continue to grow.
Our regulatory and safety regime in the Atlantic offshore area is already strong. Over the past year, our Conservative government has introduced a number of measures to ensure the safe development of our natural resources under our responsible resource development plan. We have initiated new enforcement mechanisms, which include fines for non-compliance, with stated environmental requirements. This includes inspections for oil and gas pipelines, which have been increased by 50% annually. We have also doubled the number of comprehensive audits of pipelines.
Another example is the new mandated measures for oil tankers, which will ensure the safe transportation of energy resources through our waterways. These measures include the safeguarding Canada's seas and skies act, as well as the creation of an expert panel to review Canada's current tanker safety regime, which will propose ways to improve safe transportation.
Building on these measures, our Conservative government is taking steps today to strengthen its robust offshore liability regime and make it even stronger. As I have said many times, our Conservative government will ensure that no development proceeds unless it is safe for Canadians and safe for the environment. We have been working closely with the Governments of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador to update and expand both accord acts to ensure that Canada's offshore regime for oil and gas exploration remains world class.
Companies operating in Canada's offshore have an excellent track record. Every stage of offshore petroleum activity, from exploration to production, is subject to stringent regulatory obligations and oversight by either the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board or the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board. Companies must have regulator approved safety, emergency response and contingency plans, and regulators will not allow any offshore activity unless they have determined that the environment and the safety of workers will be protected.
Bill C-22 focuses on protecting the environment and taxpayers in the highly unlikely event of a spill.
The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development has found that the offshore boards are operating with due diligence. However, he has recommended enhanced financial assurance for environmental risk. Our government has committed to study his report and make the necessary changes. The changes contained within Bill C-22 build on the commissioner's advice as well as lessons from international best practices. Our overall objective is to have a world-class offshore regime.
As the House knows, Canada's liability regime is founded on the polluter pays principle.
First, we are proposing to enshrine the polluter pays principle in legislation and to maintain unlimited liability when an operator is found to be at fault.
Second, our government will also increase the absolute liability to $1 billion, from $30 million in the Atlantic offshore and $40 million in the Arctic offshore. This means that fault or negligence does not have to be proven for that amount.
Third, we will require that operators demonstrate at least a $1 billion financial capacity to ensure they have sufficient funds if an incident were to occur. Currently the regulators require proof of an operator's financial capacity in an amount between $250 million and $500 million. We intend to raise the minimum financial capacity to $1 billion, in line with operators' absolute liability. Regulators may require higher amounts if deemed necessary. This increase will bring our country in line with comparable regimes, such as Norway, Denmark, the U.S., and the U.K. We are ensuring that companies have the financial wherewithal to meet their liabilities if needed.
Finally, we will require that operators provide regulators with rapid and unfettered access to at least $100 million that may be used if needed.
These are just some of the ways we are ensuring Canada is among the strongest liability regimes in the world.
We are also creating the ability for regulators to impose administrative and monetary fines as an additional tool in ensuring industry's compliance.
We are increasing transparency by allowing the boards to make emergency environmental and other documents public.
We are creating the ability to use spill-treating agents.
We are creating the basis for boards to recover costs from industry.
Our government is committed to ensuring the safe extraction of Canada's offshore resources, while at the same time protecting our environment. Raising the absolute liability for companies operating in the offshore will go a long way towards achieving that goal.
As the offshore industry continues to grow and develop, we must ensure it is done in a responsible manner. That is why I urge all hon. members in the House to support Bill C-22.
That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to consider the advisability of instituting a single, preferential ballot for the election of the Speaker by replacing Standing Order 4 with the following:
“4. The election of a Speaker shall be conducted by secret ballot as follows:
(1) Any Member who does not wish to be considered for election to the Office of Speaker shall, not later than 6:00 p.m. on the day preceding the day on which the election of a Speaker is expected to take place, in writing, so inform the Clerk of the House who shall prepare a list of such Members’ names together with a list of all Ministers of the Crown and party leaders, and shall provide the same to the Member presiding prior to the taking of the ballot.
(2) Members present in the Chamber shall be provided by the Clerk of the House with ballot papers, on which shall be listed, in alphabetical order, the names of all the Members whose names have not been placed on the list provided pursuant to section (1) of this Standing Order.
(3) The Member presiding shall announce from the Chair that the list provided pursuant to section (1) of this Standing Order is available for consultation at the Table.
(4) Members wishing to indicate their choice for the Office of Speaker shall rank each candidate listed on the ballot in the Member’s order of preference by marking the number “1” in the space adjacent to the name of the candidate who is the Member’s first preference, the number “2” in the space adjacent to the name of the Member’s second preference and so on until the Member has completed the ranking of all the candidates for whom the Member wishes to vote.
(5) A ballot on which a Member has ranked one or more, but not all, of the candidates is valid only in respect of the candidate or candidates whom the member has ranked.
(6) Members shall deposit their completed ballot papers in a box provided for that purpose on the Table.
(7) The Clerk of the House shall, once all Members wishing to do so have deposited their ballot papers, count the number of first preferences recorded on the ballots for each candidate, and, if a candidate has received a majority of first preferences, provide the Member presiding with the name of that candidate, whereupon the Member presiding shall announce the name of the new Speaker.
(8) If, after the count referred to in section (7) of this Standing Order, no candidate has received a majority of first preferences, the Clerk of the House shall
(a) eliminate the candidate who received the least number of first preferences from any subsequent counts and, in the event that, at the conclusion of a count, there is an equality of votes between two or more candidates, both or all of whom have the fewest first preferences, eliminate all of the candidates for whom there is an equality of first preferences;
(b) in all subsequent counts, treat each second or lower preference as if it were a first preference for the next highest candidate in the order of preference who is not eliminated; and
(c) repeat the process of vote counting described in paragraphs (a) and (b) until one candidate has received a majority of first preferences, at which point the Clerk of the House shall provide the Member presiding with the name of that candidate, whereupon the Member presiding shall announce the name of the new Speaker.
(9) Every ballot shall be considered in every count, unless it is exhausted in accordance with section (10) of this Standing Order.
(10) A ballot is exhausted when all the candidates on that ballot in respect of which a preference has been made are eliminated.
(11) In the event that, after all other candidates have been eliminated, the process of vote counting has resulted in an equality of largest number of first preferences between two or more candidates, Members present in the Chamber shall be provided by the Clerk of the House with ballot papers, on which shall be listed, in alphabetical order, the names of all candidates who have not been eliminated, and the vote shall proceed in like manner as the first vote.
(12) After a Speaker has been declared elected, the Clerk of the House shall destroy the ballots together with all records of the number of preferences marked for each candidate and the Clerk of the House shall in no way divulge the number of preferences marked for any candidate.
(13) During the election of a Speaker there shall be no debate and the Member presiding shall not be permitted to entertain any question of privilege.”;
and report its finding to the House no later than six months following the adoption of this order.
Mr. Speaker, Motion No. 489 proposes to change Standing Order 4, which governs the election of the Speaker of the House of Commons. If this motion is adopted by the House, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs will be asked to review a proposed new method for electing Speakers, details of which are contained in the text of the motion.
Mr. Speaker, while you offered to read the entire motion for the benefit of the House, I think members would be happy to consult with the written copy that is available on today's order paper.
The committee would be required to report back to the House within six months, but it is free to do the following: (a), accept the new proposed voting method; (b), reject the proposed new method; or, (c), make amendments to the recommendation and report back to the House with the recommended amended version in place of the original. As things stand, the Speaker is currently elected by what is known technically as an exhaustive ballot. Each MP casts a single ballot for his or her preferred candidate. The candidate who has secured the smallest number of votes is dropped from the ballot. Then, new rounds of voting take place with candidates being dropped from the ballot, one per round of voting, until a single candidate finally secures 50% of the vote.
To those of us serving today, this system of voting may seem to have existed since “time whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary”. In fact, the system was introduced in 1986 during the first term of the Mulroney government. It was based, in large measure, on the recommendations of the Lefebvre committee, which had reported on suggested changes to the Standing Orders in 1982, when Pierre Trudeau was prime minister.
Prior to that, Speakers were elected by an open show of hands; votes took place along partisan lines; and the Speaker was chosen, in practice, by the prime minister of the day. From 1953 until the 1980s, the Speaker had been chosen in consultation with the leader of the opposition, and one gets the impression that this was sometimes a perfunctory consultation. However, before the 1950s, even that did not happen. The Speaker was nominated in an entirely partisan manner, with the prime minister nominating the Speaker, and a senior minister seconding the nomination. Nominations were done by motion, which precluded a meaningful contest for the post, even in times of minority governments.
What we now have is clearly an improvement on the system that existed as recently as 20 years ago, but it is capable of being improved on, in several respects. For starters, it can be an interminably long process. Following the 2011 general election, six ballots were necessary to finally produce a majority for the winning candidate. As the rules require at least an hour to pass between ballots and the process of balloting takes some additional time, this consumed an entire day. It was not quite as long as the election of a Pope, but, at the time, the similarities did not escape some of the wittier members participating in the process.
We, in the 41st Parliament, were lucky. In 1986, Speaker Fraser was elected in an epic eleven-ballot process. Other highlights have been six ballots, in 1994; four ballots, in 1997; five ballots. in 2001; and five ballots, in 2008.
A second problem is that the current system can produce tie votes and there is no mechanism for resolving such ties. In 1994, there was a tie vote on the fifth ballot between the two remaining candidates, Gib Parent and Jean-Robert Gauthier. The solution that was jury-rigged at the time was to simply conduct the ballot all over again, with everybody voting as they had done before. Someone changed his or her vote, so it worked. However, such changes of heart cannot be regarded as being guaranteed to happen every time, as demonstrated, for example, by the 35 successive tie votes when the U.S. House of Representatives attempted to break a tie in 1800, between presidential candidates Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Therefore, formalized tie-breaking rules would be an improvement.
A third consideration, which is a problem from my point of view, although not perhaps in the eyes of all members, stems from the fact that the current system discreetly calls for all ballot papers to be destroyed and for the results of each ballot to remain a secret. That is in order, one assumes, to prevent MPs from casting their ballots strategically rather than on the more austere considerations of the competence and character of the candidates who ought, in the eyes of those who wrote the rules, to more properly guide our votes. This is fair enough, but it obviates the chief merit of the exhaustive balloting system at party leadership conventions.
Where exhaustive balloting is used, knowledge as to which candidate has received what number of votes is key to the deal making that allows one candidate to supercede another. Some people regard this deal making as a key advantage, which is why the system survives in the constitutions of some parties, and also in the rules that govern the election of the Speaker in the British House of Commons, where vote totals are known. In fact, anybody can look up the Wikipedia article on the 2010 election of the Speaker there, to see how the balloting went.
Having experienced the divisiveness of the final ballot in party leadership runoff elections—and many of us have certainly experienced that, whether at a convention or whether the party membership is casting the ballots—I do not personally share this particular enthusiasm for deal making. I do share the austere preference expressed by those who have designed our rules and kept the results secret.
However, once the decision to keep the results secret has been written into the rules, I am at a loss to determine what advantage is served by dragging out the process through multiple ballots. They are being conducted in the presence of an information vacuum, and therefore cannot serve any purpose whatsoever, other than to take up time.
Why not allow MPs to simply indicate all of their preferences at once, on a single piece of paper, by ranking each of the candidates and placing a number beside that candidate's name on the ballot paper, and then have the clerks total up the preferences?
There is a final problem with the current system. One additional advantage of not revealing the vote totals for any of the candidates is to allow individuals to drop off the ballot with their egos relatively intact, since nobody can be certain whether the individual being dropped has finished in close contention to the next lowest-scoring candidate.
However, under the current rules, which were put in place after the eleven-ballot extravaganza in 1986, any candidate who receives fewer than 5% of the votes is removed from the ballot. In 2011, more than one candidate dropped off the ballot following the first vote, indicating that at least one person had received less than 5% of the vote, and making it pretty clear who had suffered this particular stigma. A preferential ballot would perhaps eliminate this minor problem.
I want to talk a little about consideration of timing. Although I did not plan it this way, the timing of this motion is perhaps fortuitous. The same committee, during the same time period, will be studying Motion No. 431, proposed by our colleague from Saskatoon—Humboldt. That deals with the related issue of how to elect committee chairs. Likewise, the committee on procedure and House affairs will be in a position to continue the review that was started earlier in the 41st Parliament, on the Standing Orders as a whole.
These subjects could perhaps be studied at the same time, thereby allowing a more efficient use of the committee's time than would be possible if they were dealt with discreetly over the four-year life of a Parliament.
Let me talk now about why the motion is structured as it is. In preparing this motion, I had two options. The first, which I did not choose, would have been to refer the subject matter to the committee, but only with a general instruction as to the outcome that I would have preferred.
This is the approach adopted by my colleague for Saskatoon—Humboldt. That motion, no. 431, states:
That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to:
(a) consider the election of committee chairs by means of a preferential ballot system by all the Members of the House of Commons, at the beginning of each session and prior to the establishment of the membership of the standing committees....
The motion gives no further instructions regarding the actual wording of the standing order that would result. Alternatively, I could have laid out a motion consisting of the finalized version of the Standing Orders and voting system. If I had done that, a vote in the House in favour of the motion would have resulted in a change to the Standing Orders to take place immediately, without any oversight or potential amendment taking place at the procedure and House affairs committee.
Both approaches seem to have drawbacks. In my view, the former approach would not lay out a clear enough instruction. The proposal might have been seen as impractical, if an actual formula were not in front of the committee. On the other hand, a specific formula might have put us in the position of adopting a suboptimal solution, or potentially even a very problematic solution that I simply have not recognized and that could have been identified and corrected in committee.
Let me talk a little about the substantive side of Motion No. 489. It makes three meaningful changes to Standing Order 4, which governs the election of Speaker. First and most significantly, it changes the electoral system by which Speakers are elected. Second, it creates a method of resolving tie votes. Just as our current system has on one occasion produced a tie vote, it is entirely possible that the process of counting and reassigning the second and third preferences of MPs could result in a situation in which the two remaining candidates would have an identical number of preferences.
In such an event, proposed rule 4(11) will apply, and a runoff election between the two remaining candidates would take place. Members will recognize that this is, in practice, a holdover of the existing system. Likewise, proposed rule 4(8)(a) provides that if two or more candidates are tied for the least number of votes in a given round of counting, they will both, or all, be dropped from the ballot, and their votes will be redistributed among the remaining candidates.
Third, the embarrassment that might occur if one or more candidates for the speakership are revealed to have had virtually no support will no longer be an issue, as it will no longer be evident which candidates dropped off the ballot and in which order.
An obvious question to ask when dealing with a proposal like this is whether it has been tried in any other jurisdiction or we are engaging in an experiment which has no precedent. In answering this question, I have turned to the parliaments of the Westminster model, that is to say, the parliaments of countries, which, like Canada, have drawn their model directly from the United Kingdom.
The mother of parliaments at Westminster is by far the most widely emulated legislative institution on the planet. The Commonwealth of Nations furnishes the world's largest laboratory of democracy. The British Parliament has spawned literally hundreds of imitations, on every continent and in islands of every ocean.
In addition to the countries of the Commonwealth, there is a legislature, often with two chambers, each of which has its own rules for electing its presiding officer. These are in every British colony, and in sub-national jurisdictions, such as Scotland and Wales, Canada's provinces, and the states of Australia and India.
I have not done a complete review of all the rules governing the election of the Speaker in each chamber of each parliament in every one of these jurisdictions. Some have been easier to locate than others. The researchers at the Library of Parliament are still trying to assist me in locating the rules used in some of the jurisdictions that are less easy to locate. The states of India, which in some cases seem not to have translated their rules into English or French, are proving at the moment to be the greatest challenge.
However, many other parliaments do have rules that are readily available. I would encourage any member, who has the interest, to consult with me prior to the vote on Motion No. 489 in order to see the list, by which time it may well be close to being exhaustive.
Based on the nearly 80 models with which I have been able to consult so far, I can say this. With regard to number one, the most common model, Commonwealth-wide, is the one used in Canada's House of Commons. The Speaker is elected by means of an exhaustive vote, which is a system similar to the one we use.
Number two, some jurisdictions, including New Zealand's House of Representatives, continue to elect the Speaker in the traditional way: by means of an open vote on a motion that x be named as Speaker, or by an election conducted by a show of hands.
Three, in some jurisdictions, the process of balloting is sped up by accepting that if balloting continues for multiple rounds, the winner need not have more than a plurality of the vote. For example, in Cyprus, nobody can win on the first ballot with less than half the votes cast. On the second ballot, 40% will do, and on the third ballot, simply having more votes than anyone else will suffice. This means that, in practice, these jurisdictions have adopted a first past the post system for the third ballot. That is similar to the one that let me take my own seat in the 37th Parliament with only 38% of the votes cast by the electors of Lanark Carleton.
Finally, there is a single major jurisdiction in which a single preferential ballot is used. The chair of India's upper house, the Rajya Sabha, or Council of States, is elected by all members of both the upper and lower houses using a single transferrable vote. The chair is also the vice president of India, which explains why both houses participate in the vote. I do not recommend that we copy this aspect of the model, but I want to make it clear that the system has functioned well for over half a century in the largest democracy on earth.
On a final note regarding the merits of preferential ballots, the system of using preferential ballots in elections where only one candidate can win is known as the alternative ballot. A record of this system in producing winners who represent the consensus of the electorate is impressive. It has been employed at the federal level in Australia since the 1940s, and it is so well loved in that country that every Australian state and territory has adopted the model for its own elections. Some Canadian parties, including my own, have adopted this model for electing their leaders. Likewise, many local nominations are now conducted this way. It was through this system that I was first nominated, in October 2000, and dozens of other members here today have had the same experience.
Mr. Speaker, I will not go through the merits beyond this.
However, I do ask for your support when this motion comes to a vote, so that it may go to the committee for further debate and analysis.
Mr. Speaker, first I would like to take the time that you have generously given to me to say two words that we do not hear often enough in this chamber: “thank you”.
It is with humility that I would like to thank the members of Parliament and the House of Commons staff for all their kind words of encouragement over the past few weeks and months.
I wish to say a very special thank you to the members for Barrie, Brant, Burlington, Don Valley East, Kitchener—Conestoga—right here behind me—Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, Mississauga South, Okanagan—Shuswap, Sarnia—Lambton, my seatmate, Saskatoon—Humboldt, Scarborough Centre, Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, Vancouver South, Willowdale, and Winnipeg South Centre, and to the very dedicated vice-chair of the veterans affairs committee for carrying my duty in this chamber and in committee.
Also, thank you to the citizens of Orleans and my friends and family for their visits, their encouraging words and their prayers. Their support and assistance has helped me to feel better and to get better. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
Even in the most difficult times, I made an effort to be in this House and to vote, as it is our duty to do. Voting is a fundamental Canadian right. It is a symbol of our identity. It is the oxygen that keeps our democracy alive.
In many countries, much blood has been spilled and many diplomatic efforts have been made to establish democracy and the right to vote. It is our way of saying yes or saying no to the type of society that we want to build. Canada is a model of modern democracy around the world.
Developing democracies call on Canadians when they want to ensure that their elections are free and fair. Our sense of duty and our expertise give us international credibility in election monitoring.
Between 2009 and 2013, the Canadian International Development Agency, with the assistance of CANADEM, deployed more than 800 Canadian election observers in bilateral missions and 30 multilateral missions in more than 20 countries.
These observers went to Haiti, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Senegal, and many other nations.
Because I participated in one of these missions, I have a keen interest in this subject.
In 2004, I was assigned by CANADEM to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to co-chair a team of international observers during the rerun of the second round of the presidential elections in Ukraine. The other co-chair was a Swiss engineer. We were sent to Dnipropetrovsk.
It was an exhilarating experience. I was able to see first-hand that Canada is synonymous with democracy and freedom. However, that which does not evolve is doomed to disappear. We can continue to be proud. We can continue to improve things.
We will continue to be a model of democracy around the world only if we allow democracy to evolve. The separation of powers is a basic component of our system.
Consistent with separating the administration of the law and its enforcement, the fair elections act proposes that the commissioner be under the authority of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
In a hockey game, would we ask the owner of the Ottawa Senators to referee a game between the Sens and the Canadiens?
Our Minister of State for Democratic Reform said it well: the referee should not be wearing a team jersey.
Canada's government, which I support in this House, proposes that greater independence be given to the person with the power to conduct investigations and enforce the law.
The fair elections act will make our legislation more stringent, clearer and easier to follow.
It would protect Canadian voters from fraudulent and misleading calls by setting up a mandatory public registry. We want to establish a new public registry for mass calling.
Telephone service providers involved in voter contact calling services, and any individual or group that uses these providers would have to register with the CRTC.
We also propose that the fines for preventing or trying to prevent someone from voting be 10 times higher. Under this legislation, anyone convicted of impersonating an election official would face a jail term. These penalties would be more severe for individuals who deceive people out of their votes.
According to the Neufeld report, identity vouching procedures are complicated and have a 25% error rate. That is one in four. This problem is threatening our democracy, and we must take action, and so we propose to put an end to vouching.
The fair elections act would also require Elections Canada to tell Canadians which pieces of identification will be accepted at the polling station so that they know what to bring with them.
Thirty-nine different pieces of ID can be used to prove a voter's identity.
In addition, the voter information card would no longer be considered valid identification.
Elections Canada must also inform voters which pieces of ID are valid and would be accepted at the polling station. These cards contain incorrect information one out of six times.
The show Infoman highlighted the problems with voter information cards during a segment called the “Elections Canada two-for-one special”.
To prevent the more powerful elements in our society from drowning out citizens’ voices, we would ban the use of loans to sidestep donation regulations.
Some people have used unpaid loans to evade donation limits and make larger donations.
As elected representatives, we must stay clear of this type of pressure.
That is why we insist on standardized and transparent reporting for political loans.
In addition, candidates and political parties that have exceeded the ceiling on election expenses, would see their reimbursements reduced, and we would maintain a total ban on loans by unions and businesses.
I am pleased to say that Marc Mayrand, the current Chief Electoral Officer, lives in Orleans, as does his predecessor, Jean-Pierre Kingsley.
While Mr. Mayrand does not seem to support this brilliant bill produced by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, his predecessor appears to. Mr. Kingsley gave it an A minus, indicating that it is a good bill.
When I received an A minus, I did not ask for a rewrite—
Mr. Speaker, with great interest I have been listening to the last couple of speeches which talked about some of the pros and cons of what we are about to vote on, and certainly what we are debating.
I want to sincerely thank the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt who brought this forward with a great deal of sincerity and compassion. His argument is quite good as to how this works.
I have been here for almost 10 years, and I have seen committees come and go. I have seen the makeup of committees change, but the game always remains the same. The chairs are always appointed by the executive within the House, as was pointed out by our colleague from Wellington—Halton Hills.
Something that the member for Wellington—Halton Hills said which caught my attention was that “you reform this place or reform will be forced upon us.” This is a very good quote. It is pertinent to this debate because that is exactly where we find ourselves, at a crossroads for all sorts of reform in the House.
This is one element that brings democracy and legitimacy to the House of Commons. On many occasions we take some of the basic functions of the House and farm them out to the executive and they have more control than we desire. We have a choice. We have the power to change that ourselves through a vote in the House of Commons, or we could just let it go on.
I want to thank the hon. member for bringing this motion forward. It states:
That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to consider the election of committee chairs by means of a preferential ballot system by all the Members of the House of Commons, at the beginning of each session....
I am a fan of the preferential balloting system. We have to achieve over half in order to get the position. What basically happens is that if 50% or more is not achieved by the person in the lead, then the last person is dropped and so on, until we get to that chair.
However, is it not refreshing that all 308 members in the House have the chance to put themselves in a place where they are chair of a committee based on their skill of being a member of Parliament and a decent chair? It is not based on what kind of favours are owed to them in a party structure or a reward given for good behaviour. Quite frankly, that is essentially how it works.
This takes that control away from the executive and brings it back to the House of Commons. After being here for 10 years, I can honestly say that it is stuff like this that reassures my faith in the power of the House of Commons. It brings it back to the individual member of Parliament. It is not whether they are a minister or parliamentary secretary, a critic or a party whip, but it is based on the position of being a member of Parliament. It is a measure of equality that brings us here to vote for this.
I would encourage all members to vote for this motion. Then the study would take place and we would be able to debate the issue in a very mature manner. By doing that we are saying we are going to restore power—I hope that is the conclusion the committee comes to—to the individual member of Parliament. The motion also states:
study the practices of other Westminster-style Parliaments in relation to the election of Committee Chairs; propose any necessary modifications to the Standing Orders and practices of the House; and report its findings to the House no later than six months....
My colleague from Wellington—Halton Hills brought up the matter of parliamentary secretaries sitting in the House of Commons. When I first came here I was on the heritage committee, in the fall of 2004. I remember the opposition of the day were perturbed that there were parliamentary secretaries from our party sitting at the committee table. I thought they had a pretty valid point. There is a function within the executive of the House. There are ministers, but there are also parliamentary secretaries as well, and in many cases they function as the minister, whether the minister might be missing for the day or whether it is answering late show questions and so on.
That is perfectly legitimate, given the fact that the minister cannot be here all the time. The parliamentary secretary can fill in, but that parliamentary secretary carries a title and a function that is of the executive. If parliamentary committees are to provide study of legislation that makes it way through the House, then that skews the matter somewhat, because people sitting on the committee could naturally take direction from the parliamentary secretary.
I say this from experience, because when I first came here, I was with the party that was in government, so I was sitting on the side of committee where the parliamentary secretary was next to us. Many times we would go to the parliamentary secretary for direction about how we would vote or how we would debate. It happens.
The thing is, it is still happening, which is the point my hon. colleague is trying to get at. The nub of the issue is that we need to break this pattern by having a vote and empowering the individual member of Parliament to allow that person to become a committee chair. That is part and parcel of the system. Whether a parliamentary secretary sits on the committee or not is an executive decision.
What I like about this motion is that the spirit of it is to ensure that the power of the committee rests right here within this chamber. If we keep farming out the functions of the House to the executive time and time again, it is that much harder to bring them back. There is enough blame to go around, for anyone who has been in government, as to how, in a piecemeal process, the power of the House has been farmed out to the executive. It is so subtle that we do not even notice it sometimes, yet year after year, slowly, some of the power gets drained from this place, to the point where we function simply as voting machines.
We should be engaged in what I consider to be a wholesome debate on every issue that comes to the House, but let us remember that a fundamental extension of the House is the committee and the work it does. We could debate within the confines of the House. I know I only have 10 minutes like everyone else. I certainly would like more, but at least at the committee level I could be engaged in that as well.
The committee chair takes on a function that is given to that individual by the House of Commons. My hon. colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île also brought up issues of gender parity and other issues of committee chairs being representative of the diversity of the House of Commons. I agree with her, but we have two elements at play here: we have that diversity being reflected in committee chairs, but for the committee to be answerable to the House, it has to be elected by the House. I know, by function, we play this scenario whereby people are elected to a particular committee. We play it out, but we know full well who that will be. We all know who we are going to nominate going in and we all know who will get it coming out.
This is why I commend my colleague for doing this. What it will do with the balloting system is allow a fair vote. It also makes it accessible. It is universal to every member of Parliament in the House, whatever one's party. One could be an independent, or with the largest party, or with the smallest party. Members still have the chance to put themselves in front of the House of Commons as an effective, and now legitimate, chair of a standing committee, which is an essential and proper function of the House of Commons of our country.
Therefore, I urge all my colleagues in the House to say yes. Let us send this to committee, have a reasoned debate within the committee, and make a solid recommendation as to how we can restore power to this institution that we respect so much.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt.
It is an honour for me to stand and speak in the House today about Keystone XL pipeline and its vast benefits to Canadian families and our national interests. In my time today, I will touch on why Canada's oil sands and the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is important to our energy relationship with our most important bilateral and economic partner and neighbour, the review process, and the current state of play.
Canada and the United States are more than just neighbours. Our two nations' shared commitment to democracy, free markets and rule of law underpin why Canada and the United States have the world's most successful relationship, in a number of respects. Our energy relationship remains the single most important bilateral energy relationship in the world, and we will continue to work to further strengthen this relationship to the benefit of both our nations.
Our energy partnership, based on our open market energy policies and energy trade relationship, underpinned by NAFTA, has served both of our countries well. Our energy infrastructure, including oil and gas pipeline networks and electricity grids, is highly integrated. Already we trade oil, natural gas and electricity safely across our shared border every day. Every day, Canada supplies the United States with approximately 1.9 million barrels of oil, nearly half of which is derived from the oil sands. The strategic value of Canada's 172 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, the third largest reserve in the world, cannot be overstated.
I have been to northern Alberta to see the oil sands first hand and how the development of the resource is well managed right through to remediation of the land to its natural state. We are truly fortunate to have this incredible natural resource in our country.
With Canada as a strong and willing partner on environmental and energy security, we have an extraordinary opportunity to work with the United States to deal with the common challenges we face in moving toward low carbon economies. As the oil sands production increases, most of the increased production will go to U.S. markets, requiring new cross-border pipelines to be built. Approval of the Keystone XL pipeline will facilitate long-term access to secure oil supplies from a friend and ally, and thereby help reduce U.S. dependence on imports from less stable or declining foreign sources. This is important for all of us in terms of long-term continental security, and it matters to Canadian families from coast to coast to coast. Canada will continue to be the leading, most secure, reliable and competitive energy supplier to the United States.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development has already undertaken extensive advocacy efforts and outreach to key U.S. decision-makers and influencers to ensure market access and promote prosperity. In this regard, we have worked with the Government of Alberta and TransCanada. Along with these important partners, we will continue to watch the debate unfold in the U.S. and advocate on behalf of the project.
I would now like to spend some time explaining the extensive and important review process we have undertaken on this project, to help them understand just how thorough our government has been in terms of promoting responsible resource development.
TransCanada first filed its application with the U.S. department of state in September 2008. The department of state, which has delegated authority to issue presidential permits for cross-border pipelines, engaged in a lengthy review and consultation process for the Keystone XL pipeline permit application. Then, over the course of 2009 and 2010, as part of the presidential permit review process, the state department prepared a draft environmental impact statement, or SEIS, consistent with the national environmental policy act.
In April 2010, the state department released a draft SEIS for Keystone, which began an inter-agency consultation process and a 45-day public comments period, including 21 public meetings in communities along the proposed route. The public comment period was twice extended by an additional 15 days and additional public hearings were added. Congress, and various U.S. agencies, notably the Environmental Protection Agency and the state department, decided to undertake a supplemental SEIS, which was released in April, 2011 and which initiated another 45-day public comment period.
On August 26, 2011, the state department issued the final SEIS, which found that there would be no significant impacts to most resources along the proposed project corridor. I cannot emphasize the importance of these findings enough.
The final SEIS found there would be no significant impacts to most resources along the proposed project corridor. As well, TransCanada had agreed to incorporate 57 project-specific special conditions developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
The release of the final SEIS began a 90-day national interest determination. The broader evaluation of the application extended beyond the environmental impacts, and took into account economic considerations, energy security, foreign policy and other relevant issues. For the national interest determination, the state department officials decided to hold additional public hearings in six pipeline states, including Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and in Washington D.C., and to receive additional public comments.
The September 2011 hearings in Nebraska highlighted a growing public concern about the proposed pipeline route that crossed the Sandhills and a desire to see the route moved off the Sandhills. In November 2011, the state department announced that it could not make a national interest determination without further information and directed that a supplemental SEIS be done for alternate routes wholly within Nebraska but away from the Sandhills. We then supported the responsible decision and agreement between TransCanada and Nebraska to move Keystone XL off the Sandhills. They are now working together to agree on a new route. On January 18, 2012, the state department recommended to the President that the Keystone XL application be turned down, citing a provision that forced the decision on the pipeline within 60 days as the reason. The department of state argued that the federal government could not assess a new and not-yet-announced route in Nebraska within such a short period of time.
It is extremely important to note that in his statement of concurrence, the President said:
This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but on the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect American people.
The state department has stated that to the extent that the new application is the same as the previous application, both the National Environmental Policy Act and internal state department procedures allow the state department to access information from the previous application. However, it noted that a determination as to how much information may be accessed and how this information may shorten the assessment time cannot be made until an application is filed.
TransCanada officials then announced that the company would proceed with building the gulf coast segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Port Arthur and Houston, Texas. Construction will begin as soon as remaining required permits from federal, state, and local entities are obtained, with a possible in-service date of mid-2013 to late 2013.
In May 2012, TransCanada filed a new Keystone XL presidential permit application to seek approval for the northern portion of the pipeline. Last year, the Nebraska department of environmental quality released its draft evaluation report on Keystone XL. The report does not make a recommendation but notes that TransCanada has been “responsive to concerns raised by the NDEQ, HDR Engineering, Inc., the state's contractor for the evaluation process, and the public”.
A 36-day public comment period, ultimately extended to 39 days, took place between October 30 and December 7, 2012. A public hearing was held in Albion, Nebraska on December 4, 2012. Following a review of the public feedback received during this period, as well as the hearing, the NDEQ submitted its final evaluation report on the Keystone Nebraska reroute to Governor Heineman on January 4.
On January 22, 2013, Nebraska's Governor Heineman approved the revised Keystone XL route in Nebraska, based on the findings of NDEQ. This report concluded that if the pipeline is rerouted away from the environmentally sensitive Sandhills, the construction and operation of Keystone XL would result in minimal environmental impacts in Nebraska. As previously stated, we have supported the responsible decision and agreement between TransCanada and Nebraska to move the Keystone XL off the Sandhills, and they are now working together to agree on a new route.
On March 1, 2013, the U.S. state department released the draft supplemental environmental impact statement for Keystone XL. The scope of the draft SEIS was to evaluate the new route in Nebraska and to include any new information since the August 2011 final SEIS for the first Keystone XL application was completed. Once the U.S. department of state issues the final impact statement, there will be up to a 90-day national interest determination period that will take place, including an additional public comment period.
I hope this overview has helped members understand just how thorough the review process has been. I also hope it has demonstrated to members just how committed this government is to responsible resource development.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to conclude the debate today.
It is my privilege to conclude debate on this piece of legislation. I have known the hon. member who proposed the legislation since he first ran in the byelection. I had the privilege of campaigning with him as we went from town to town. In fact, in one town there was a five-finger discount done to the gasoline in his truck and we ran out of fuel. We got to talk to some of his constituents at the gas station, instead of at the door, as we tried to make it around. I have known this hon. member since before he got here.
One of the things I have most appreciated about him is his passion for his people, for the people of his constituency, for the people who have been a part of his life. I also appreciate that in the legislation he has taken his real-life personal experiences and is using them to craft the legislation.
We often are called upon to debate legislation in the House that we do not necessarily have a very intimate or personal stake in. However, sometimes we do, and for this member that is one of the reasons he brought the legislation forward. It is one of the reasons why the legislation is of the quality it is and would do the things it sets out, because it comes out of his own real-life experience. For that I want to congratulate him. This is totally and truly a private member's piece of legislation. I know, as we talked about this before he even proposed it to the House. I want to congratulate the member for doing something that is substantive, that would affect the people of his constituency and that would make life better for all Canadians who will be affected by this in one way or another.
As has been noted by other members of the House, virtually every aspect of life on a first nation reserve is controlled by the Indian Act. We in the western world and increasingly the entire world understand that free markets, free enterprise, the right to property, those very basic fundamental things contribute to wealth and well-being. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that when a government, through regulation, legislation and bureaucracy, controls those aspects of peoples' lives, they will not be able to have the prosperity that has been enjoyed by all Canadians.
Therefore, the Indian Act is a barrier to the economic development of first nations, and not just the economic development but the whole development of the broader society, the development of individuals and the development of families. As we have proven in Canada and in other nations around the world, fundamental liberties and principles allow people to grow, prosper and become what they want to be without the overbearing hands of the state.
The private member's bill from the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River would remove segments of the Indian Act that prevent first nations from selling items produced on their own land. Think about this, members who were here through the Wheat Board debate would often find it funny, strange or unusual that farmers could go to jail for selling wheat. Every piece of produce, everything that they grow, they are not free to sell from their own farmland. If people have vegetable farms, wheat farms or if they produce cattle, those farmers are not in complete control of their own property. That seems completely unreasonable to anyone who has been involved in business, anyone who has had a house or anyone else in Canadian society. However, that is actually a part of the Indian Act. This unreasonable statute or regulation needs to be put away and taken care of.
People will note that this element of the Indian Act is not often enforced, but it is still there. As the member pointed out in his speech and as other members stated, there are multiple illustrations of these sorts of archaic items that should never have been there in the first place, not in the past, present or future, but are still in the Indian Act. These archaic clauses in the Indian Act can be enforced. It is an active piece of legislation and it can be used selectively at the discretion of the agents of the minister.
As we all know, legislation that is on the books and is not being enforced should either be enforced or removed from law. It serves no purpose.
In my opinion, and in the opinion of many people in the House and of many persons in the first nations community, we have entered into a new era of co-operation between first nations and the government. The member who proposed this legislation is one of those examples. He comes from a riding that is approximately half first nations in population.
First nations people of Canada do not want to be excluded from entering into our modern economy. They do not want to be held back through government legislation. They do not want to be held back from free enterprise, from the ability to make, with their own hands, prosperity with their own property and livelihoods. Prominent chiefs in the first nations communities have expressed their desire to increase their participation in the Canadian economy, and ultimately, in the international economic sphere.
By restricting trade and opportunity for first nations, we are perpetuating an antiquated 19th century mentality. Even in the 19th century, many people understood that this was wrong. Unfortunately, not enough of them stood up to stop this legislation when it was first introduced.
We have an ancient mentality that government knows best. It is a medieval idea that if we have a king who is all knowing and all wise, we cannot permit freedom. It is freedom that ultimately brings prosperity, and it is freedom that has been denied the aboriginal people through large elements of the Indian Act.
Eliminating this law from the books removes the possibility of its injudicious application. The law itself is an example of bigotry. The people who voted for it may not have intended that, but that is ultimately the result in that it exempts one specific ethnic group from the rights all other Canadians enjoy. This is something people need to actually understand.
The previous member for my riding of Saskatoon—Humboldt had a major interest in this issue. He was very good at cursing the darkness without always offering a candle to light the way. He used to criticize and go after the Indian Act, because, he said, it brings special privileges, special rights, and more benefits to the people who are under it. What I always wanted to ask him, but never got around to, was how having more government interference in one's life actually helps. If it was such a benefit and something that was so positive, we would have seen those results. Frankly, as every Canadian knows, we have not.
Being under the Indian Act is not something that has helped our first nations communities develop, be it economically, socially, or culturally. Therefore, the discrimination of this act and the way it prevents people from enjoying their freedom needs to be repealed.
First nations residents are unable to own their own land. This hinders the ability to obtain loans and capital with which to build homes or improve property. As was noted earlier, they cannot sell produce they have grown themselves.
The time to allow first nations members the ability to generate wealth and prosperity by furnishing them with the rights every other Canadian has taken for granted is long past due.
By giving first nations real control over the use of their own lands, we can open the door to economic development and renewal. By paving the way to a more modern Indian Act, we also pave the way to more modern first nations who could fully participate in the Canadian economy without a multitude of crippling restrictions. I close today with these general points.
I wish to thank the member for bringing this issue to the House. I will be supporting it, because it is good for all Canadians, first nations and non-first nations alike.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to participate in today's discussion of Motion No. 431 on the process for selecting chairs of committees in the House. I know my colleague, the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt, has brought forward this motion with the objective of strengthening the role of Parliament and its members.
A strong role for Parliament is an objective that is central to the government's policy agenda. Just as our government's commitment to jobs and economic prosperity has led to positive results for Canadians, such as through the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, our commitment to accountability, transparency and democratic reform has achieved results.
The government's first act on forming government in 2006 was to pass the Federal Accountability Act, a comprehensive set of reforms that changed the way Ottawa did business. It did so by strengthening government accountability, including accountability to Parliament. Since then, the government has continued to improve integrity and accountability in government through measures to promote democratic reform and open and transparent government.
Let me return to Motion No. 431.
The motion first sets out a requirement for the procedure and House affairs committee to consider the election of chairs by a means of a preferential ballot system by all members of the House. The motion then states that the committee would be required to study the practices of committee chair selections in other Westminster style parliaments. It concludes with the committee having to table its findings within six months of the motion being adopted, including any necessary modifications to the Standing Orders.
Let us discuss the context for the current chair selection system.
As members of the House know, our rules and, in particular, Standing Order 106, provide that at the start of every session and, when necessary, during a session, each standing or special committee shall elect a chair and two vice-chairs. If more than one candidate is nominated, an election is conducted by secret ballot. This approach is consistent with the long held view that committees are masters of their own affairs.
Before this motion came forward in the previous session, I was not aware that there were any major concerns with our current system. The existing rules for committee chairs have now been in place for over 10 years. I believe it is fair to say that the current system functions efficiently.
It may be helpful in considering this motion to remind members of the circumstances under which the current rules were adopted by the House. It was the Canadian Alliance Party that brought forward a change of the rules through an opposition day motion in October, 2002. The motion proposed to change the Standing Orders to require a secret ballot when selecting committee chairs. The premise for the motion was the belief that committee members should have the freedom to vote by secret ballot for the member of their choice to be chair. The House agreed with that rationale and adopted the motion by a vote of 174 to 87. That was 11 years ago. Members of all recognized parties at the time supported the motion. Over 30 of those members are still members of the House today.
I should note that although the previous government did not support the motion, many of its members did. After it passed, there was no subsequent attempt to undo the changes to the rules that it brought into effect. The result we see today is that committee chairs are elected by the members of the committees they serve.
With respect to electing committee chairs in other jurisdictions, many of the other Westminster style legislatures have the same system in place that we have. Most provincial legislatures, as well as the parliaments of Australia and New Zealand, have systems of electing committee chairs that are essentially the same as the one we use here.
An exception to this general approach is the United Kingdom, which only recently changed its system and rules in 2010. Under the new rules, at the start of a new parliament, the allocation of chairs of each party is set, based on the results of the previous election. Members are then able to submit nominations for committee chair positions, as long as the member they nominate is from the party which has been allocated the chair for that committee. To be nominated, a member must obtain signatures from either 15 members of his or her party or 10% of the party's members, whichever is lower. All members of that House vote to elect committee chairs based on a system of preferential ballots, ranking as many candidates as they wish. A candidate is elected once he or she has received more than half of the votes, with the lowest candidate dropped from the ballot and those votes distributed according to the rankings after any round that does not generate a majority outcome.
This new system was implemented in 2010, so it has only been used once. In that case, 16 of 24 committee chair positions were contested and decided by preferential ballot, and 8 were elected unopposed. At this time, it is too soon to determine what the long-term impact of those changes will be or whether there are any unintended consequences of the changes. There are several factors in the consideration of changes to House rules.
Let us return now to Motion No. 431 and the rules that govern the House of Commons in Canada.
Members will know that the rules of the House are carefully balanced, based on parliamentary principles and traditions and reflect the interests of all members. We should keep an open mind about changing these rules, but such change should never be a trivial matter. Rather, prudence, due diligence and a wide support among members are needed before considering any significant changes to the Standing Orders.
To avoid an arbitrary or trivial approach to changing the rules of the House, Standing Order 108(3)(a) provides for a review of the operation of our rules by the procedure and House affairs committee in each Parliament. This is a study which the committee will resume this fall.
Today's discussion is an important part of the consideration of this motion. Some of the questions and concerns members will be no doubt commenting on include these. Is there a need for changing the current system? Is there something about the system that is not working? Do members want a system where opposition members could influence the selection of government chairs and government members could influence the selection of opposition chairs? What are the mechanisms for removing chairs from their positions once elected? Would just committee members vote on this or all members of the House? How might this proposal affect considerations such as adequate gender or regional representation of committee chairs? Are these important issues for members? Are we willing to considering moving to a system based on one established very recently in 2010, for which there is little understanding of its long term impacts and possible unintended consequences?
A study by the procedure and House affairs committee could review these and many other considerations. The committee is already undertaking a review of House rules and could review the process for electing committee chairs in the context of its broader review of the rules.
The government will support this motion. That said, it is important all members consider what is at stake when we implement any changes to the Standing Orders. Any such decision should be made with a clear understanding of potential impacts down the road.
We need to fully examine all options and potential consequences before considering whether there is a need to implement a new and permanent way of electing committee chairs.
There are often unanticipated consequences in making significant changes to the Standing Orders and, should the motion be adopted, these things should be carefully considered by the procedure and House affairs committee. We need to take careful consideration of any such changes. When we go down any road, we want to ensure that when we get to the destination we intended to get to, we do not leave a string of potholes behind us.
Order, please. The hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt has the floor. I am sure there are many who would like to hear what the hon. member has to say. If members have other things they wish to discuss with their colleagues, they may wish to take that out of the chamber. When we are in the House of Commons, when one member has been recognized, he or she has the floor and other members should be quiet so they can hear what he or she has to say.
The hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt.
Mr. Chair, I share the opposition members' enthusiasm for the minister's performance here tonight. It has been great. We want to thank he minister for sharing his evening with us in such an effective way.
I also would like to acknowledge Mr. Dupont and Mr. Arora for the time that they have spent here tonight and the expertise that they bring on this file as well, and I know there are other people who have worked hard to present the natural resources case for this country.
I also want to acknowledge my colleagues who have spent the evening here with us. Most of them have spoken and have spoken extremely well. I think of the chair of the natural resources committee; the member for Vegreville—Wainwright; my colleague from Tobique—Mactaquac; my friend from Wetaskiwin, who spoke a bit earlier; the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt; the member for Yukon, who even sent a “hi” out to his mother there; and the member for Calgary Centre, who spoke so effectively.
I also want to acknowledge the member for Blackstrap, who has been here with us all night tonight because resources are important to Saskatchewan. She is an important member of the cabinet and an important member from Saskatchewan. It is great that she was able to be with us as well.
We have been talking about numbers all night tonight, and there are some numbers that I find a bit disquieting and intriguing. We have talked about the 630,000 jobs that are projected to be created by the oil sands over the next 25 years and the hundreds of thousands of other jobs that are going to be created by the resources sector across this country. Unfortunately, again tonight it seems that we have heard the New Democrats say one more time that they want to say no to those jobs.
It bothers me, when I come from a resource-based province, to hear that kind of thing. As I mentioned earlier, it seems that they oppose everything about natural resources. We heard the member for Edmonton—Strathcona, from Alberta, the province where the oil sands are so important, who came in here and opposed oil sands. We heard my colleague from Calgary Centre talk about the Kearl project and how those greenhouse gas emissions now are similar to what is being produced from regular oil production. Certainly the opposition members should be welcoming that news, but they do not seem to be willing to do so.
We have heard in the past how they have opposed offshore. They do not like offshore and the development of offshore. We hear how they do not like pipelines. Some of them do not like pipelines and some of them seem to. They keep changing their position. I had to appreciate my colleague this afternoon in what seemed to be grudging support for the west-to-east pipeline, although last week his leader changed his own position on that, so we wish them luck in trying to convince their leader that he actually needs to represent all of Canada and just not small interest groups in particular areas across this country.
We are concerned, as I read in a quote a bit earlier, that the NDP opposes all things nuclear. The New Democrats' leader was straightforward about that here in the House. He said that they are just going to oppose it. I can hear my colleague across the way saying that they of course oppose that, that they certainly do oppose that.
There is shale gas, the latest and greatest development around the world that is going to change the way energy is produced and used on this globe, and the New Democrats again come up dead against it.
We also see their opposition in so many ways to mining across this country. My colleague from Yukon and other colleagues from the north are particularly concerned about their opposition up there as they try to develop their economies and begin to get some of the same advantages that the rest of us have.
It was interesting to hear about the impact that the development of natural resources will have on our aboriginal communities. Those of us from the west, and particularly from Saskatchewan, know that we need to get our young aboriginal people involved in the economy and that probably the quickest and best way to do that is through the resource sector. It pains me to have to ask again why the New Democrats stand so strongly against that when it is so important in so much of our country.
At the natural resources committee today we were excited to hear from some folks from Montreal who were talking about the importance of the west-to-east pipeline and the re-reversal of that pipeline so that it can create opportunities in Quebec and further east, as far east as my colleague from New Brunswick. He looks forward to having some of those opportunities as well.
I wanted to talk about the New Democrats' great commitment to the carbon tax and the $20 billion that it would take out of Canadians' pockets. We have not mentioned much about that tonight, and they certainly do not want to bring it up anymore.
However, we look forward to continuing to be the government in this country, continuing to develop resources across this country, continuing under the great leadership of the Minister of Natural Resources, and being able to do that in spite of what the New Democrats want to do to our resource communities, our resource jobs and so much of our resource-based economy.
It is my duty to inform hon. members that pursuant to Standing Order 93(3) no amendment may be proposed to a private member's motion or to the motion for second reading of a private member's bill unless the sponsor of the item indicates his or her consent.
Therefore, I ask the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt if he consents to this amendment being moved.
Mr. Speaker, our colleague, the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt, moved the following motion:
That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to: (a) consider the election of committee chairs by means of a preferential ballot system by all the members of the House of Commons, at the beginning of each session and prior to the establishment of the membership of the standing committees;...
This procedure would replace the current procedure, in force for the past 10 years, whereby committee chairs are selected by secret ballot within each committee. Of course, the goal of this reform would be to give all members greater powers relative to the pressure they may receive from their party leadership, and especially from the Prime Minister's Office, since we are operating under a majority government.
Indeed, it would be harder to control these secret ballots if there were hundreds of people voting, rather than just a dozen or so. It would be easier to conceal one's vote and therefore possible to vote more freely, without any pressure from party leadership or the Prime Minister.
I completely understand where this proposal is coming from. It is part of the democratic surge that has recently come from the government backbenches in response to the Prime Minister's authoritarianism and the PMO's heavy-handedness. This is a very compelling notion, and I wish to congratulate our colleague on this. However, as the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth said, there are other, more important reforms that need to be made in order to restore and rehabilitate our parliamentary democracy.
I would also like to emphasize the need to limit the right of the government majority to force committees to meet in camera. This right has been abused, which undermines the transparency of parliamentary activities.
I will also mention time allocation, which has been abused. It is not good for our parliamentary democracy. As well, the right of the government to avoid the House and prorogue when the government wants to should be limited, and there have been huge abuses of that recently. Also, there are the mammoth bills that prevent members of Parliament from debating and voting on specific issues, as we should do in a healthy parliamentary democracy. These areas are much more important to reform than what is being proposed. However, that being said, I want to congratulate my colleague on his motion and I think it would be helpful to consider it carefully.
The Liberal opposition will support this motion, but our support is motivated by the fact that the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt had the wisdom to recommend that his idea be studied closely before the House considers implementing it. Actually, as attractive as it may be, the idea of having committee chairs elected by the House raises some questions that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs will have to examine thoroughly prior to submitting its report to the House in six months.
Therefore, I am glad that this motion is only asking for the matter to be referred to committee for study since it does raise some questions in my mind, and I will list some of these questions.
First, is this a secret ballot or a recorded vote? Fortunately, our colleague made it clear in his speech that it was a secret ballot. If it were a recorded vote, the reform would be meaningless. However, the motion does not specify the type of vote. I am asking the question just to make sure. I am assuming that the hon. member really does have a secret ballot in mind, as he said in his speech. A recorded vote could very well end up being whipped.
In addition, a secret ballot is an easier way to hold a preferential vote, which is what the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt is advocating. At first glance, I think he is right to advocate a preferential ballot, but that is something that the committee will need to look at.
Second, are there any precedents? Our colleague has just mentioned the precedent of Great Britain, which is relatively recent. In addition, my understanding is that it has not been put in place yet, because the chairs were elected unanimously in that case. I am not aware of any other parliaments, with the exception of the British Parliament, that use this practice.
The motion asks us to study the practices of other Westminster-style parliaments. That is a good idea, but why stop there? Why limit ourselves? Why do we think that Great Britain, Australia or New Zealand are the only countries that can teach us something?
The parliaments of France, Spain and Germany have committees. I do not understand this reluctance. This is the tendency not just of my colleague, but of our entire system. As a minister, I would ask for international comparisons, and all I would hear about was New Zealand. I really like that country, but I do not understand why we are so reluctant to venture outside our small circle to learn from the rest of the world.
I hope that we will consider more than just Westminster-style parliaments. I understand the fact that we have a long-standing relationship with those countries, but we can learn from other countries as well.
Third, does the committee not run the risk of losing some of its authority over its chair? That was studied.
Indeed, currently, should the committee lose confidence in its chair, it has the ability to pass a motion and remove the chair. The committee then elects a new chair from among its members.
If, however, the chair is elected by the full House of Commons, would the committee have any right to vote non-confidence in its chair? Would the committee have to send a motion to the House indicating it had lost that confidence and request that the House elect a new chair? This may be a solution, but it is something at which we will need to look.
Fourth, we have to consider the arrangement with the upper house.
Indeed, joint committees often have co-chairs, one from the House and one from the Senate. It would certainly not be a problem if MPs elect the Senate co-chair, but would the Senate co-chair selection be limited to a vote by senators on the committee, or by the whole Senate?
Would a co-chair of a joint committee elected by one of the two chambers have more authority than one elected only by committee members?
Fifth, we must protect the prerogatives of the opposition. I am pleased that our colleague mentioned that in his speech.
Indeed, some committees are required to have opposition MPs sit as their chair. This is especially important for committees that hold government to account for its spending, such as the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and the government operations committee.
The Standing Committee on the Status of Women and the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics are also chaired by opposition members.
Currently Standing Order 106(1) requires committee members to elect an opposition MP as chair of their committee.
However, the House is not bound by the decisions of previous Houses, and we will have to move very carefully to ensure this tradition is maintained.
Sixth, there is the opposite concern of protecting the government. It will need this protection when it is a minority in the House, and there is the risk that all chairs elected will be from the opposition. That is a concern my party has about the coming years.
Finally, there is the thoroughly Canadian concern for striking a balance when appointing committee chairs: we have to strike a balance between males and females, francophones and anglophones and also the regions. Not all chairs should be from Ontario, for example.
Would a preferential ballot of all members protect these balances?
In closing, these are questions that could help guide further study of this matter. Should committee chairs be elected by all members?
The Liberal opposition is willing to provide assistance in order for the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to report back in six months.
Mr. Speaker, today, I want to acknowledge the “Year of the Fransaskois”.
According to Paul Heppelle, president of the Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise, Franco-Saskatchewanians are known to be explorers, pioneers, builders and investors in their native province.
The Year of the Fransaskois recognizes the centennial of the ACF, but it is important to note that francophones have lived in Saskatchewan for much longer than a century. Franco-Saskatchewanians have played a fundamental role in developing the fabric of Saskatchewan.
They have made important contributions to education, economic growth, health and immigrant assistance. They have strong ties to the anglophone majority and to francophones across the country and around the world.
I am always pleased to meet Franco-Saskatchewanians from Saskatoon—Humboldt and other parts of my province.
I want to wish those who are celebrating it a happy Year of the Fransaskois.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleagues who have debated and engaged in this today. I particularly appreciated my close colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board, for his remarks.
I welcome this opportunity to speak about our government's plan for responsible resource development. I do that not just as a member of Parliament who represents a region of Saskatchewan, both urban and rural, which depends heavily on resource development, but as someone who has worked in these industries over the years.
As have many Canadians, I paid my way through university by planting trees in our forestry sector, a good physical job that paid well, rewarded initiative and paid not per hour but per tree, something which many university students could appreciate. At the end of the day, the harder we worked, the more effort we put in, the more we appreciated our university education. That university education allowed me to become a geophysicist, someone who got to practise in northern Quebec, in Nunavut, in Yukon, in the Northwest Territories, in Manitoba and in my beloved home province of Saskatchewan. Therefore, I had the privilege of understanding, not just in the theoretical or the abstract but actually very practical to my own bottom line, the bottom line of my constituents and my personal life, the value of natural resources to us as a country.
Our government's top priority has always been to support jobs and growth and to sustain the Canadian economy. Since we introduced the economic action plan to respond to the global recession, Canada has recovered all of the jobs lost during the recession. In fact, in less than three years since 2009, employment has increased by more than three-quarters of a million, achieving the strongest job growth among the G7 countries, and our natural resource sector is a large part of that extraordinary job growth.
The natural resources sectors have supported the development of communities large and small throughout our nation and they have helped us to build a quality of life that is second to none in the world. Today, Canada's natural resource sector employs 760,000 Canadians. Furthermore, the resources sectors also generate billions of dollars worth of tax revenues and royalties annually to help pay for government programs and services for Canadians. We can see this future wealth being capitalized and becoming a reality now.
Over the next decade, Canada could have as many as 500 new projects and $500 billion in investments in energy and mining sectors alone. I will give just one basic example of how this can affect our country.
In my constituency a potash mine is being developed. When it is developed, as looks very likely to happen, it will be the world's largest potash mine. This project in and of itself is worth over $10 billion.
We see that resource development is not just isolated in Canada to Fort McMurray, to the oil sands, to the region up north. This is something that affects all Canadians. The development of this mine does not just boost economic activity in the riding of Saskatoon—Humboldt in the city of Saskatoon. Much of the engineering for this project is being done in Ontario and Quebec, employing highly skilled engineers in the service industry in eastern Canada. With these projects creating an estimated 700,000 jobs across Canada, they will continue to increase our country's economic prosperity.
However, we have seen, via the leader of the party, the NDP disagrees. Its leader said that the natural resources were a disease that would destroy the manufacturing sector. In the NDP's world, all of economic growth is a zero-sum game. Good high-paying jobs are all at the expense of the east. Instead of embracing economic growth, the leader of the NDP has chosen to pit one region of the country against another.
To be perfectly fair, that is not completely accurate because natural resources are an integral part of the entire Canadian economy and when people begin to attack natural resources as damaging other parts of the Canadian economy and other regions of the economy, they attack natural resources industries all across the country. I think of the diamond mines in the Northwest Territories and in Ontario, oil production off the east coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. I think of the Plan Nord going forward in northern Quebec. When they attack natural resources, they attack northern Quebec, Newfoundland, the Northwest Territories, the entirety of the prairie regions and in effect they attack one of the largest economic growth engines of Canada for all 10 provinces.
As has been stated earlier, economic growth in one region, the west, does not disadvantage another region, eastern Canada. It is quite the opposite. The economic growth of the west requires manufactured products of all types, from machinery to pipelines to construction material.
Hundreds of companies in the east are benefiting in a large way from resource development, not just in the west, but in Canada in its entirety. Just listen to what Jayson Meyers, CEO and president of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said about resource development:
In total, CME estimates that energy and resource companies invested more than $85 billion in major capital projects in 2011, and is expecting investments to double over the next three years.... These investments in major capital projects will drive new business for Canadian manufacturers in a variety of sectors ranging from equipment, structural steel, and metal fabricating to construction materials and parts suppliers. They will provide opportunities for engineering and construction companies, processing and environmental technology companies, and services ranging from accommodation, food, environmental, and resource services, through to land management, trucking, and distribution as well.
Far from destroying our manufacturing sector, our resource sector is helping to provide jobs to the manufacturing sector.
Canadians understand full well what the government is trying to achieve here. They understand the massive economic potential of our resources. They also know that when it comes to resource development and the environment, it is not an either/or situation. Canadians realize that it is possible to have both. We can responsibly develop Canada's resources and protect the environment as we modernize the regulatory system. In fact, a recent public opinion survey from the chamber of commerce showed 65% of the people asked agreed that it is possible to increase energy production while protecting the environment. This is very true.
With responsible resource development, we will not only maintain Canada's world-class environmental protection programs, we also intend to strengthen them. This would be achieved by focusing federal environmental assessment efforts on major projects that can have adverse effects on the environment.
Let me add a personal note here. I have worked in mining resource exploration. The people of Canada need to know that companies themselves take a very tough line on environmental standards.
When I did exploration in the north, we actually left behind less of an ecological imprint than most of the tour organizers and tourists who were going through northern Canada. Mining exploration was less of an impact than canoe trips and people going through the north. That is not to say that they were causing a major negative ecological impact on northern Canada. It just shows how absolutely serious we were. We picked up everything we put down. Absolutely everything that flew in, flew out. We were very strict on environmental standards.
Our government will take steps to strengthen compliance and introduce stronger enforcement tools. We will do this in several ways: by introducing new, enforceable environmental assessment decisions that ensure project proponents comply with required environmental protection measures; by introducing new penalties for contraventions of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act; by authorizing the use of administrative monetary penalties for violations of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the National Energy Board Act. We will also strengthen compliance by making conditions attached to the Fisheries Act authorizations enforceable.
These are not the actions of a government that is scared to stand up for the environment, but a government that cares greatly about the environment and understands that the environment and natural resources work together.
I spent much of my career before arriving in Parliament travelling across Canada seeing how our natural resources create jobs and prosperity in every region of the country.
Canadians from coast to coast realize how important resource sectors are to their communities, livelihood and well-being. The natural resources industry is our endowment. It is a high-tech industry. It is something we need to unleash, this resource potential, to create jobs, not just in western Canada, not just in northern Canada, not just in eastern Canada, but in Canada in its entirety. There is vast potential for all regions of our country to benefit from the responsible development of our resources.
I entirely reject the NDP premise that what is good for one part of the country is bad for the rest. All of Canada can prosper as a united, free country.
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest, Employment; the hon. member for Québec, Veterans Affairs; the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway, Citizenship and Immigration.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt.
The electoral district of Saskatoon--Humboldt (Saskatchewan) has a population of 75,051 with 56,377 registered voters and 172 polling divisions.
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