June 18, 2015 (41st Parliament, 2nd Session)


Kevin Lamoureux


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
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