SCHNEIDER, The Hon. Larry, P.C.

Personal Data

Progressive Conservative
Regina--Wascana (Saskatchewan)
Birth Date
March 23, 1938

Parliamentary Career

November 21, 1988 - September 8, 1993
  Regina--Wascana (Saskatchewan)
  • Minister of Western Economic Diversification (June 25, 1993 - November 3, 1993)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 40)

June 16, 1993

Mr. Larry Schneider (Regina-Wascana):

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to this private member's motion, but before I do that I want to pay tribute in perhaps a different kind of way or maybe the same way, to the same member. With respect to the statement that was just made inviting him to come back I would just as soon invite him to stay home thank you very much because he was a very formidable opponent.

I distinctly recall one evening when we had the opportunity to debate one another. We then met in our lobby. I will not say in very much detail what was said but whatever was said caused us both to smile, to understand

one another, to acknowledge one another and to form a bit of bond at that particular time. I do share an appreciation for the contribution that the member for Skeena has made.

When the member from Skeena was talking about his two children it reminded me as well of my own family situation. I was the mayor of the capital city of Saskatchewan for nine years. I saw three children bom in my house but with the pressures of that particular elected job I was not able to grow with them in spite of the fact I was home practically every night.

In that way I can relate to not only his problem but to the problem of every member of Parliament who has children and people they are close to at home. They spend some pretty ridiculous hours that the public is not aware of. They may view this Chamber through the eye of television periodically and see some of the chairs busy. They want to know how come I was not in the House of Commons at a particular time. I have to take the time to explain to them all the committees that members sit on and how busy they are.

It certainly is a void in terms of the public understanding the efforts that members of Parliament go through. I want to again acknowledge the hon. member for Skeena. I want to say that I appreciate the love and affection his family has obviously given him so that he can be the formidable opponent that he is.

I have another task as well while I am on my feet. Unfortunately that is to speak to this private member's motion because I would like to speak about the contribution that members of Parliament make to this great place. I must speak to the motion to express some concerns.

As we have heard earlier the hon. member for Skeena has provided us with a private member's motion that calls upon the government to consider establishing the public right to sue government institutions for failure to protect the environment.

On its face I think that all members can share the underlying concern that is expressed in this motion. We can and do agree that the law has to be marshalled to support and enhance environmental protection not only in Canada but everywhere. We can and we do further agree that the law as it stands can be improved and should be supplemented where it is inadequate.

June 16, 1993

Private Members' Business

Certainly where the environment is concerned governments have a leading role to play in a partnership with a corporate world and the public as a whole. What does this motion precisely propose? Although the exact wording is a little confusing I think it seeks legislation that would do two things. In the first place it would create some kind of positive obligation on the part of every unit of government, department, agency, branch or what have you to ensure that its decisions or actions do not produce harmful environmental effects.

Second, the motion would give standing to any member of the public to sue the responsible government body where any such governmental act, decision or omission had occurred resulting in a harmful environmental effect.

These are quite radical proposals which must be carefully looked at even if the ultimate goal they seek to achieve is unquestionably admirable. I suggest that there are major problems with this proposal. In the first place there was an absolutist ideology attached to the hon. member's motion that any activity or omission on the part of the Crown resulting in a failure to protect the environment would be actionable.

What exactly would that include? Would it include a decision by the Minister of Communications under the Radiocommunication Act to issue a technical certificate allowing a company to set up a television transmitter in a specific location where it would entail chopping down a few trees? What if those trees are on the company's own property? What if the trees were dead and needed to be cut down anyway? Are we heading off in the direction of turning a governmental failure to protect the environment into some kind of tort. If so what is the duty of care on the part of the Crown here and what standard of care is to be applied?

One thing I am afraid of is that if this motion is given effect it would take Crown liability way beyond what it is today and make virtually any decision of a government body vulnerable to a civil action.

Over the last 10 or 15 years the courts have struggled with just such a question pertaining to the exercise of public functions mostly at the municipal level.

In their wisdom the courts have distinguished between policy decisions on one hand and operational decisions on the other. The importance of this distinction lies in the fact that the courts have consistently refused to attach liability to the policy decisions. Among other things, government bodies are required to make choices as to public priorities, how the hierarchy of public policy interest is to be arrayed, how public money is to be spent or how scarce resources are to be allocated.

These questions are the essence of government. These are what we elect politicians to decide on. They are beyond the reach of the courts which is the way I believe it should be.

I mention this because I am fearful that in its fervour to enhance environmental protection the end result of this motion will be to paralyze governmental bodies in terms of performing their functions and fulfilling their mandates.

Speaking of mandates, I think that the hon. member simply does not realize that one effect of his motion will be to force environmental protection, whatever that means, to be written into the mandate of every functioning federal entity. Legally this will be necessary if environmental considerations are to become a valid and enforceable concern of the Minister of Communications or the CRTC or the Merchant Seamen Compensation Board or the Civil Aviation Tribunal and so on.

The motion further raises some constitutional concerns which I am afraid need to be addressed. Our Constitution Act does not assign environmental protection exclusively, either to the federal government in criminal law or banking or navigation and shipping for example, or to the provinces. Environmental protection is a shared responsibility between both levels of government. One obvious implication of this is the absolute necessity of extensive co-operation and consultation between the federal government and the provinces in this field.

I would therefore suggest that it would not be appropriate for either level of government to introduce radical changes in the law pertaining to the environment and environmental protection without prior discussion and consultation.

June 16, 1993

Private Members' Business

I could exhaust all my time simply cataloguing what I see as serious legal problems posed by this motion. However as a general comment I would suggest that the absolutist view underlying this motion categorically rules out any legitimate competing value or interest which the government has to consider in all matters, including matters affecting the environment.

I am talking about such things as sustainable development, economic growth and competitiveness which are important aspects of public policy. These are matters that simply cannot be swept aside or ignored in the real world.

Environmental protection is a noble cause within the framework of the balancing of many different public policy goals. I am sure my hon. friend knows this but he appears to have momentarily forgotten this in putting his motion forward in its present form.

I should say that there are aspects of this motion that I like in principle. For example I am not in principle against empowering individuals with private rights that they can assert against the Crown and the courts. I do not think that the Crown should be given immunity that would shield it from civil liability in relation to conduct that is damaging to individuals. The hon. member surely knows that both common law and civil law already allow private resources against the party responsible for a spill or other environmental event producing actual injury or damage to property or other private interest.

This can include government bodies where they are actually responsible for a spill or other environmental tort. It is not in my view good legal policy to use private remedies to enforce public interests such as environmental protection which is exactly what this motion appears to propose.

At whose cost will these private remedies be asserted? Does the hon. member think that individuals are going to be willing to bear the costs of litigation in suing government bodies for torts before the courts if his motion is turned into law?

Is there an assumption that some kind of government program would fund court challenges? Although nothing is mentioned about this, I suspect that such a program is part of this deal. If we can sort out the implicit question of funding, what nature of lawsuit does the hon. member

have in mind in empowering individuals to sue the actions, damages and injunctions et cetera of government bodies?

Perhaps a better legal approach in this area lies in strengthening and where appropriate expanding the licensing and regulatory mechanisms for environmental protection which place a positive obligation on both the governments and the public. This is backed by enforceable legal recourse including penal sanctions.

To sum up, the motion while admirable and objective is flawed in design. Although all of us are desirous of creating a legal environment that puts environmental protection up there at the top it behooves us not to fall prey to solutions such as just simply suing the government which is what is being proposed here. They look good on paper and from a distance but when more closely examined they are not solutions at all.

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June 8, 1993

Mr. Larry Schneider (Regina-Wascana):

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response within 150 days.

I have one or two brief comments I would like to make. Not only is this report in our two official languages but inasmuch as we are dealing with the livelihood of peoples who likely cannot read either language we have prepared the report in three other languages that are prevalent in aboriginal communities. These are Cree, Inuvialuit and Inuktitut.

We hope that through the translation, we are providing the essence of this report which was prepared and unanimously supported by the aboriginal affairs committee for submission to Parliament. We hope that our second effort at this will ensure a continued livelihood in the fur business for four of Canada's aboriginal peoples who so much depend on it for self-sufficiency.

[Editor's Note: See today's Votes and Proceedings.]

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May 26, 1993

Mr. Larry Schneider (Regina-Wascana):

Madam Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

Canadians were pleased to see the Prime Minister and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development sign the very significant 10 Nunavut agreements yesterday which represent an historic event for aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in this country.

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May 26, 1993

Mr. Schneider:

There is yet one more step in this process and that is my question. Will the Prime Minister give his commitment that he will do everything he can to ensure that this legislation will be passed before Parliament adjourns this summer?

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May 25, 1993

Mr. Larry Schneider (Regina -Wascana):

Mr. Speaker, at this untimely hour of 4.30 in the morning, one rises to speak to a series of debates which are intended to tie in and provide clarification to the North American free trade agreement. One begins to see a mirror image of the debate that occurred during the 1988 election dealing with the Canada-United States free trade agreement. One begins to wonder whether or not anyone is actually using any original material. That is perhaps an opportunity for the opposition to engage the government in debate and tie up the business of this House, particularly when we look at the vast amount of legislation we have to deal with, particularly in the justice portfolio. I hope this House will allow some time for the passage of that before this House rises.

I want to take this opportunity to address particularly the aspect of the loss of sovereignty, which is simply not true. I have a series of statements the opposition has made which are simply not true.

I would like to begin by talking about water, which we have just heard some reference being made to. You will note how carefully the speech structure was put together whereby it was said that nothing would prevent the exportation of water in large amounts. Perhaps it is quite true that nothing would prevent it but on the other hand, nothing in the North American free trade agreement or the free trade agreement with Canada and the United States compels Canada to export its water.

I would suggest that if we are looking at a trading arrangement, far be it for those who are traders to keep the doors open. Should governments of the future wish to export certain amounts of water that would be their prerogative. It is the desire and wish of this government that not be the case but we do not need that written into law.

We have seen time after time where GATT has had the matter of trading water in large volumes explained. It is not a matter dealt with in international trading terms as a substance that would be considered as a trading entity by GATT. So there is no truth in the allegation that the North American free trade agreement compels the partners to trade water with each other.

There was another non-truth in this debate with respect to the fact that this whole matter has been rushed. There have been 27 meetings recently by the committee, 203 witnesses have appeared and 95 submissions have been accepted by the committee. As well, the Subcommittee on International Trade has had 29 meetings. It has listened to 124 witnesses. It has accepted 95 submissions, 23 exhibits and four appendices. The committee has visited nine cities.

The matter of the North American free trade agreement was raised at least once in the House of Commons in a period of 234 days; in Question Period 300 times; Members' statements, 22 times and it was the subject of petitions 14 times. To say this matter has been rushed again is a non-truth.

May 25, 1993

I recall during the 1988 debate that my opponents in the constituency of Regina-Wascana were using the scare lactic that if we were to enter into the free trade agreement with the United States we would be forced to harmonize our social programs with the United States. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, being astute as you are in following the news you would find that if anything there seems to be a mini stampede toward harmonizing all right, but harmonizing American standards with those standards we enjoy in Canada. For people to try to frighten the stampede of social thought into thinking that harmonization would occur as a retrograde step is certainly not telling it as it is.

I recently sent a questionnaire to my constituents asking a series of questions. One was with respect to the public's acceptance of the North American free trade agreement. I must tell you in all honesty that the constituency is pretty well split on the subject. I would think that being a technical trade matter the average member of the public is not aware of what is required to become an international trader. The matter of international trade is not a matter that affects the bread and butter of the average citizen in the community. In spite of that I am quite pleased that at least 50 per cent of the constituents support further expanded trade on an international basis.

The opposition's scare tactics are working to a degree but not to the benefit of this country. From an economic point of view, a job creation point of view, the job stimulus and economic stimulus point of view those kinds of tactics are hurting the economics of our country. I hope the opposition will take the time to sit back and just ask themselves what they are contributing to the economy of this country by uttering these phrases that contain so many non-truths.

There is another item that I heard used so often in the 1988 election and I hear again dealing with our loss of sovereignty. This is the contention that if we have a dispute with the United States we will have to solve it by its rules. If that is the case then tell me why, out of nine disputes we have had with the United States using the binding trade dispute settlement mechanism, have we won nine of them? It seems to me that yes indeed, the mouse has made the elephant roll over.

Government Orders

I think that with the inclusion of Mexico and the elimination of these non-truths I have highlighted from the debate we will find that Mexico to NAFTA is quite a bit like Portugal was to the European Economic Community. Portugal was deemed to be a backward country from a technological point of view. What did the rest of the European Economic Community have to gain? They gained the evolution and development of an economy of a country that is now contributing toward consumerism in the European Economic Community. The contribution of the Mexican people and economy will do the same thing for as Mexico becomes a stronger trading partner its expectations for a higher standard of living will grow and that in turn will make its people better consumers.

NAFTA and future trade evolutions can provide all of us with a much higher standard of living as a trading bloc. Perhaps we can step over the Pacific Ocean and develop a trading bloc with the Pacific Rim countries. We have learned from the example that has been given to us by the 360 million members of the European Economic Community.

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