Request for Emergency Debate – Foreign Investment

On Monday, October 29th, 2012 in Points of Order

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I rise to put forward a motion that the House do now adjourn under the provisions of Standing Order 52, in order to take up the pressing issue of the Canada-China investment treaty. In just my office alone, I have now received over 64,000 individual messages from Canadians asking that this matter be stopped or at least debated before Canadians find themselves bound to it.

As you will recall, Mr. Speaker, I made a similar motion on October 1. I believe the rules under Standing Order 52 are clear. This matter is an administrative responsibility of government. It is a specific matter of obvious and acute national importance and concern, and it is urgent. I hope that you do not mind but in the absence of reasons from you, and I understand that it is not traditional for the Speaker to provide reasons, I am inferring that perhaps on October 1, you recognized that there were many opportunities that might present themselves in which this matter might be debated. Under the rules the Speaker must consider the probability of the matter being brought before the House in a reasonable time by other means.

It is clear now that there will be no other opportunity. The 21 sitting days from September 26, when the treaty was first tabled, run out on November 1. We could face a ratification as soon as this Friday.

I did cite some authorities, particularly Professor Peter Hogg, on constitutional laws that even though a treaty of this nature does not require a vote in the House, it is very clear that traditionally a matter of this importance would have come before the House. I cite Peter Hogg:

Despite the absence of any constitutional obligation to obtain parliamentary approval, it has been the practice of Canadian governments to obtain parliamentary approval of the most important treaties in the interval between signing and ratification.

He goes on in that text to describe that governments in the past would place the treaty before both the House and the Senate for consideration and to vote, although there would not be a requirement for royal assent.

The current government has spoken of the fact that, since 2008, it has put in practice the tabling of a treaty for 21 sitting days. However, in the absence of any opportunity to debate or vote on the treaty, this becomes a ritualistic denial of democracy.

Given the great urgency and the fact that this treaty is clearly important, it will bind Canada until at least 2043. It has the potential to disrupt provincial, municipal and federal abilities of future governments to chart a course, to pass laws or to take steps that investors from the People’s Republic of China find to be arbitrary. The possibility of a chilling effect from this is also a threat.

I know that there are those who think this treaty is fantastic and support it fully, but they too would say it is important and if it is important, should it not come before the House? I beg of you, Mr. Speaker, with very little time left, at least allow a treaty of this importance, and in my view a dangerous document, to receive at least four hours of debate in this place tonight.

The Speaker: I thank the hon. member for raising this matter to the House again. While I have no doubt it is a very important issue and one with which she has great concerns, I still find that it does not meet the test under the Standing Orders

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