June 18, 2015

NDP

Ève Péclet

New Democratic Party

Ms. Ève Péclet

Mr. Speaker, every time I stand in the House and raise concerns, the only criticism my colleagues from the Conservative Party have against me is that I do not make sense. I do not know if that is unparliamentary, but those criticisms were not only raised by myself, but were raised by the parliamentary committee on regulations and by the Senate committee on regulations.

If the hon. member really thought I did not make sense, then he probably thinks the parliamentary committee on regulations and the Senate do not make sense, with which I totally agree. My speech was only based on the report from the hon. member's committee and the Senate. There are deep concerns that we let go of our privilege of studying law just because the Conservatives want to adopt Bill S-2, which is ridiculously large to implement right now, and it would ignore the study of regulations by the people who are elected by Canadians to study law.

If the hon. member thinks this does not make sense, then it is time for the government to go.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
?

Elizabeth May

Green

Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP)

Mr. Speaker, I certainly would never mention to that colleague that she did not make sense. I find she makes very good sense.

I am very concerned by the incorporation of regulations by reference. It is fine for the Conservatives to say that it has been done in the past in other laws, but the increasing and sweeping use of incorporation of regulations by reference does reduce public accessibility. It reduces our knowledge of what is moving through the Canada Gazette. It reduces the opportunity for Canadians to know what regulations they have to meet. I have seen it referred to in the media as a “sleeper law”, something that appears so dry that it does not gain public attention, but which does have deeply anti-democratic implications.

Would my hon. colleague like to expand on why she believes she continues to make sense?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
NDP

Ève Péclet

New Democratic Party

Ms. Ève Péclet

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleagues's deep knowledge, as a lawyer, on this kind of legislation. She knows the implications of what a bill like this could have on Canadian legislation.

I will go on to say that, unfortunately, if the government’s only excuse is that this has already been done in the past, that this has always been done and that, today, we must legalize everything that was done before without it being authorized by law, this clearly shows just how little concern the Conservatives have about creating a whole incorporation by reference system that would not be subject to scrutiny by officials or by Parliament. The way they see it, if something has been done since time immemorial and was not legal, then today it is all right to pass a bill that would legalize everything that was done in the past.

This is not how Canadians want their country to be governed. We need to make regulations that are legal and authorized by law. Today, what the Conservatives are telling us is that they have done this for years and we just need to pass a bill today to authorize them to act in that manner. I do not think this is a good reason to allow the creation of a whole parallel system for scrutinizing regulations just because there are things that have already been done in the past.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
LIB

Wayne Easter

Liberal

Hon. Wayne Easter (Malpeque, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure whether the member has the answer to this question or not, but the leader of the Green Party raised the question of gazetting. I was of the understanding that these regulations, handled this way, would still go through the scrutiny of regulations committee and would probably still have to be authorized by cabinet. I may be wrong on that, but do they have to be gazetted? That is an important aspect.

Does the member, who has studied this in a little more depth than I, have an answer to that question?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
NDP

Ève Péclet

New Democratic Party

Ms. Ève Péclet

Mr. Speaker, to answer the member’s question, I refer to section 18.4 in the bill. The exact wording is as follows:

For greater certainty, a document, index, rate or number that is incorporated by reference in a regulation is not required to be transmitted for registration or published in the Canada Gazette by reason only that it is incorporated by reference.

This makes it clear in the law that the incorporation by reference of regulations, either those from other countries or other jurisdictions, will ensure that they will not have to be published. They will not even have to be transmitted for registration. This means that, at that time, the regulation-making authority will not even have to transmit for registration the incorporations that it makes. This is a huge problem.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
NDP

Charmaine Borg

New Democratic Party

Ms. Charmaine Borg (Terrebonne—Blainville, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her analysis of this extremely technical bill. She painted a very good picture of the problems we might face if we pass this bill hastily, particularly since no amendments were agreed to in committee.

I would also like to point out that this bill will be retroactive. It seems to me that we are seeing things that we have never seen before. The government seems to be setting a precedent with Bill C-59, which retroactively authorizes the destruction of the gun registry so that it will not be subject to the Access to Information Act. I am very concerned about the fact that the government realized something was illegal and chose to fix things by retroactively amending legislation. Consider a criminal who commits an offence: he cannot go back in time and change the law to make what he did legal.

I would like the member to comment on that.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
NDP

Joe Comartin

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île has 50 seconds to answer the question.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
NDP

Ève Péclet

New Democratic Party

Ms. Ève Péclet

Mr. Speaker, 50 seconds is not enough time to answer the question, but I will do my best.

The problem here is that anything that has been incorporated by reference in the past, before the passage of Bill S-2, does not have to be published in the Canada Gazette. Those regulations will not be forwarded to be registered and will not necessarily be examined by Parliament.

Accordingly, even if changes have already been made to a regulation through incorporation by reference, passing Bill S-2 will not solve that problem. It will only make matters worse. It will be impossible for us to look at everything that was done in the past. Bill S-2 will not solve the problem that, in the past, that was illegal.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in this place to add some thoughts on a particular issue. After reading the title of Bill S-2, many might think it is a somewhat dull bill, maybe a little boring to read, but as I asked in my question for the parliamentary secretary, the details are in fact very important.

My view of the structure under which our system operates is that we do not give enough attention to regulations. Canadians would be surprised at the degree to which our society is regulated. It does not happen just here in Ottawa; it also happens internationally, and it affects Canadians' lives. It happens at the national level, which is what we are primarily talking about this morning, and it also happens at the provincial and municipal levels. Regulations are a part of everyday life for all of us.

They are important and they have a very profound impact. Some forms of legislation that come to the House of Commons are pretty straightforward and very easy to comment on; on others, such as this one, we have to be somewhat more diligent as we examine them.

The Liberal Party has a great deal of concern with regard to Bill S-2. Overall, we are not in a position to support the bill, because we have a number of concerns.

It is important at the get-go to recognize that incorporation by reference enables the federal government or agencies to give legal effect to material that has been published elsewhere. We should all be concerned about that.

We have talked a great deal within the Liberal caucus and we have shared some different ideas and thoughts in two-way communications with Canadians. Time and time again, and in fact earlier this week, we talked about how Ottawa is broken and how we do not see the type of progress that is important.

This is one of the pieces of legislation that I would use to cite that. We have standing committees of the House. We have a standing committee that deals strictly with the issue of regulations. Its primary function is to get a better understanding of regulations. It is there to provide diligence. We in the House might spend relatively little time dealing with the regulations, but there are other ways in which members of the House of Commons deal with regulations, from their creation to their being passed in the House to their appearance in the Canada Gazette. We need to have a decent understanding of what happens today and what the bill is proposing to do.

A department I choose to follow quite closely with regard to regulation is the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. A number of pieces of law, many of them very targeted and not very positive, have been passed in this administration, but when the law is passed after hours and hours of debate at committee, let alone what takes place outside of committee, that law does not actually deal with the regulations per se, and it is the regulations that will provide the details to either complement or, in some cases, detract from a piece of legislation that has been passed.

Let me give a specific example. We pass legislation dealing with the issue of citizenship; then we pass regulation to support some of those decisions that were made. As an example, the government passes legislation with an objective of creating additional resources or properly resourcing citizenship in order to speed up the process of acquiring citizenship. Then a regulation that follows stipulates what it would now cost to have that citizenship. We have seen some pretty bizarre things occur in that area, such as the quadrupling of citizenship fees. That has upset not only a good number of my constituents but also a good number of Canadians across the board.

How does that actually happen? The legislation passes here, and then the regulation comes up. Typically, the minister who develops the regulation brings it forward to the full cabinet. The full cabinet ultimately passes it. Then it ends up in the Canadian Gazette. All Canadians could then be familiar with what has actually taken place.

Through that process, even though all members of Parliament are not necessarily privy to the dialogue in cabinet, there are some eyes on it from parliamentarians. That is a very important aspect when we deal with regulation. That is because, at the end of the day, if something appears in the Canada Gazette, we should have a sense that there was a Canadian member of Parliament who had eyes on it. Perhaps it was a cabinet member, because the cabinet ultimately approves it prior to its appearance in the Canada Gazette. There is that direct link of accountability. The government is ultimately responsible.

Through this particular piece of legislation, we would change that somewhat. One could argue that incorporation by reference already exists. It does occur. However, this particular piece of legislation would enhance that. It would enable more of it to take place. Concerns have been raised in regard to the impact it would have on the Canada Gazette. Concerns have also been raised in regard to the impact it would have on the House of Commons and on the ability of members of Parliament to hold the government accountable for regulations that would increasingly be changing without any sort of real diligence from the House of Commons.

That is a concern that we should all have. It is something that has caused the Liberal caucus and the Liberal Party to express our concern, and it is the reason we will not be supporting Bill S-2.

Bill S-2 would reduce the oversight of federal regulations by allowing sub-delegation of regulation-making power that is already delegated by Parliament to the Governor in Council and other persons. The current government, as I cited, cannot be trusted to use this power responsibly. We have seen that time and time again. Its willingness to abuse oversight mechanisms through its omnibus legislation and its disregard for the Department of Justice's constitutional review procedure are but a couple of examples.

I have had the opportunity to talk about some of those specifics. We have talked about those massive budget bills into which the government incorporates numerous pieces of other legislation, attempting to pass legislation through the back door of the budget, attempting to avoid accountability, attempting to avoid the eyes of MPs, attempting to avoid scrutiny beyond that by many different stakeholders. It tries to sneak legislation through in these large budget bills.

In fact, when the Prime Minister was in opposition, I can recall him stating very clearly how wrong it was to be use budget bills as a back door to bring through legislative agendas. No government has done it more than the Conservative government.

I could check with my colleague, the member for Charlottetown, about the issue of oversight and the importance of that. The Liberal Party has advocated for parliamentary oversight with respect to CSIS and security related issues. We went through a fairly significant debate on Bill C-51. The Conservatives try to give the public the impression that there is a terrorist under every rock. Then the NDP in essence believes that there is no problem, that there is no need to be fearful. Those are two really different approaches.

The Liberals understand the importance of safety. We understand the importance of security. However, we also understand the importance of individual rights. We are the party that brought in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We talk about diligence and we look at the importance of our parliamentary committees in providing that kind of oversight. Through Bill S-2, there will be less parliamentary oversight on regulations. I believe the parliamentary secretary would recognize, or at the very least should recognize, that.

It would have been more encouraging to hear the parliamentary secretary talk about the importance of parliamentary oversight. He and the government are very enthusiastic about this legislation, but we do not hear whether the Government of Canada is prepared to give away a very important part of making regulations through the incorporation by reference. That will have a very important impact not only today but especially into the future, as Canada is becoming a bigger player in the global market. Therefore, parliamentary oversight is of critical importance.

Unfortunately, we lost that debate on Bill C-51, but we will correct that come fall if we are afforded the opportunity to do so.

What about parliamentary oversight on these issues, because these issues are important also? Once again, the government feels we do not need to worry about oversight. The government is wrong. Canadians have a higher expectation of what they want parliamentarians to do. Let me give members an example that is quite tangible.

We are all aware of the hundreds of thousands of tax dollars that the Prime Minister has used for the European trade deal photo ops. There are no lack of resources when it comes to taxpayer dollars to support photo ops on the EU agreement, which is not finalized. I believe Canada is the only signing officer to that agreement. We will have to wait until the next administration comes in to finalize it.

What about the details of the agreement? The parliamentary secretary acknowledged that a lot of work needed to be done on regulations once the EU agreement was finalized. We should all be concerned with that very important aspect. In part, those regulations play an important role in whether Canada will be on a level playing field.

Whether it is the leader of the Liberal Party or any other member of my caucus, we are very proud of our businesses in every region of our country. We know that if we put them on a level playing field, we will excel. We saw trade surpluses during Liberal administrations. We have confidence in our business community and we are there to support it in getting those new markets. Therefore, we should be concerned. When we talk about these agreements, the regulations will follow them.

To what degree does this legislation, for example, say that regulations related to certain aspects of trade agreements through incorporation by reference will not be determined by the House of Commons or that there will be no role for the House? We know that will occur. That is why I asked the member how things were going with respect to that as well as with Ukraine.

If I can just sidetrack for a bit, I have a personal favourite. I would love to see the Prime Minister forgo some of the photo ops, get down to work and get that agreement with Ukraine. The European Union already has done that. Why has Canada not dealt with Ukraine? The regulations would have followed. The Prime Minister needs to focus on how we can help the people of Ukraine in a more real and tangible way. At the same time, it also helps Canada.

With respect to those regulations, people need to recognize that the government has again been found wanting in explaining why it does not feel there is an enhanced role for members of Parliament to play. We are moving more and more into a global situation. MPs need to play a stronger role of monitoring and providing that oversight. We have a standing committee of the House that is responsible for regulations. As we move toward a stronger role for incorporation by reference, given the international laws and more trade, and the importance of Canada to be engaged in that trade, why not include a stronger role for our standing committee for oversight in legislation?

The Liberals have a website called realchange.ca. I would encourage members to go to visit it. They will see opportunities that would allow for additional oversight. When it comes to regulations such as—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
NDP

Joe Comartin

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice is rising on a point of order.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
CPC

Bob Dechert

Conservative

Mr. Bob Dechert

Mr. Speaker, as much as we would like to hear that member speak for another 60 minutes, and I am sure we will over the next few days, what the opposition members do not seem to understand or get is the state of the law today is that there is no restriction on incorporation by reference. That member is a member of a party that formed—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
NDP

Joe Comartin

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I am not sure, but I think the parliamentary secretary perhaps thought that I had called for questions and comments. I thought he was standing on a point of order.

I will go back to the member for Winnipeg North, who has about 30 to 35 seconds remaining.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

Mr. Speaker, it is nice to know the parliamentary secretary is so eager to ask his question.

I was giving my sales pitch with respect to www.realchange.ca. On that website are all sorts of opportunities to get a better understanding of the importance of oversight, among many other things. I would encourage all members to tap in and feel free to steal some of those ideas. There are plenty of them there.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
CPC

Bob Dechert

Conservative

Mr. Bob Dechert (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the state of the law today is that there are no restrictions on incorporation by reference.

That member is a member of a party that formed government from 1993 to 2006, during which time thousands upon thousands of things were incorporated by reference into regulations passed under his party's government with no oversight and no restriction whatsoever. Bill S-2 would put those restrictions and guidelines in place.

Obviously the member has not read subparagraph18.1(4) of the bill, and I would encourage him to do so right now if he can. He will see there is a definition of regulation-making authority and every individual or body is accountable to Parliament. This legislation would make all of this accountable to Parliament, whether it is incorporation of a foreign statute or incorporation by technical standards.

Those members talk about putting technical standards in the Canada Gazette, which could be tens of thousands of pages of numbers and schematics. They have not really thought this through.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

Mr. Speaker, I disagree with the parliamentary secretary. If members want to get a good sense of international regulations that have been put into effect, they can look at the previous Liberal administration under Jean Chrétien and some of the regulations that were done with regard to modernizing some of those international relations with respect to the automobile industry, which was of great benefit in particular for the production of vehicles. We are talking about literally thousands of jobs as a direct result. It is important. That is why I said the details of regulation do matter. It means everything from the safety of the food that we eat to the production of vehicles.

The member referred to legislation. I am not alone in my thinking that there needs to be more parliamentary oversight on a number of different issues. It is critically important, as we go more into the world economy, that incorporation by reference becomes an issue in the House. We should ensure there is that parliamentary oversight.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
NDP

Ève Péclet

New Democratic Party

Ms. Ève Péclet (La Pointe-de-l'Île, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question, specifically regarding four amendments that I presented in committee, which were all rejected by the government.

One of the things I included was a definition of accessibility. Under my amendment, any incorporation by reference that requires fees could not be deemed accessible.

I would like him to explain whether he believes that it would be appropriate to charge fees for access to a legislative measure or he believes that access should be free. Furthermore, how would he define accessibility in the context of Bill S-2?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

Mr. Speaker, I will provide an answer to the member, but if I may, I would first recognize that what we have seen with the government over the last four years is an absolute denial of any real attempt to improve legislation.

The member mentioned that she had attempted to bring amendments to the floor. The member's intention, no doubt, was to have some sort of discussion and debate on them. I was not there when she moved the amendments, but I feel fairly confident in saying that because she is a member of the opposition her amendments, no matter what they were, would not have been accepted.

The attitude of government is that it only accepts amendments from Conservative members. There might be the odd exception, but I can say that there are literally hundreds of amendments that have been introduced over the last four years of the Conservative-Reform majority government, and they consistently have been rejected. It is a terrible way to be running our committees. Realchange.ca sets out the reasons we should be reforming our standing committees.

In regard to access, it is absolutely critical that Canadians have access to the information that is important to them. I do not know the fee breakdown which the member is specifically referring to, but access is absolutely critical. If we could prevent having a fee, that would be a good thing.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
LIB

Wayne Easter

Liberal

Hon. Wayne Easter (Malpeque, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the member referred in his remarks to the regulations. From my point of view, one of the worrisome aspects is that we do get governments that would govern basically by regulation. Regulations do not have the same kind of scrutiny as legislation does in the House and cabinet directives in which the full regulations are laid out. There are people who do pay attention to the Gazette on an ongoing basis and they can raise concerns if there are regulations that they disagree with. There is a period in which to respond.

We know how far the government will already go when the PCO and the PMO encourage the RCMP to break the law. We cannot pick and choose what laws to support. I will have members on the government side know that the Access to Information Act is a law that applies to this House too, yet the Prime Minister encouraged the breaking of that law. Then it was covered up by way of a clause in a budget bill. The PMO encourages our national police force to break a law and then covers it up by way of legislation.

I ask the member, is he concerned about regulations—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
NDP

Joe Comartin

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member of Winnipeg North.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink
LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

Mr. Speaker, I can appreciate why the member raised that issue. I, too, am quite concerned.

We have laws in place and they are to be followed. If one is the prime minister or minister of justice, one has an obligation to follow the law as well. I suspect that we have not heard the end of that particular issue.

From what I understand, through the Prime Minister's Office there was information going to the RCMP encouraging it, in essence, to break the law. I do not think that is something we should just forget about. It is one of the reasons I made reference in my comments to the fact that we just cannot trust this particular government. It is beyond me in terms of some of the actions the Conservatives have taken. The member made reference to a very serious one. It is quite amazing, and I would suggest very undemocratic, particularly regarding the massive budget implementation bills that we have seen which have attempted to change laws through the back door. There are so many reasons that we should be concerned.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Permalink

June 18, 2015