Weekly Committee Review – March 5 to 8, 2012

Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agrifood (AGRI)

This week the Committee finished its study of Growing Forward 2, and met in camera on Monday March 5th. The Committee decided to invite Minister of Agriculture and Agrifood, Gerry Ritz, to address the Committee in reference to the Supplementary Estimates 2011-2012, and the Main Estimates 2012-2013. The meeting will occur in Centre Block on Monday March 12th at 3:30pm.

Following this discussion, the Committee allocated a budget of $37, 700.00 to undertake a study on the food supply chain.

The study commenced on Wednesday March 7th, but the Committee only heard from two of the slated witnesses, and the meeting was dissolved for votes in the House of Commons. The Standing Committee did not resume following these votes, and will continue its study of the food supply chain on Wednesday March 14th.

Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (ENVI)

The committee met twice this week, in camera.

On March 6th, the committee resumed consideration of a draft report on the statutory review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The committee agreed that the report be adopted as amended and it was ordered that the chair present the report to the house. Interestingly, it was also agreed

That the Committee append to its report supplementary and/or dissenting opinions from members of the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party provided that they be no more than five (5) pages in length and submitted electronically to the Clerk of the Committee in both official languages, no later than Friday, March 9, 2012, at 12:00 p.m. (noon).

Although it remains to be seen what recommendations are tabled in the report, many critics fear that the government intends to gut the Act of its federal environmental assessment requirements to pave the way for a less regulated neoliberal model of economic development. The committee’s review of the Act was abruptly terminated in late November before many groups had a chance to appear before the committee.

For a critical view of these developments, click here.

On March 8th,  the committee began a study on a National Conservation Plan for Canada. The committee witnesses were Michael Keenan, Assistant Deputy Minister in Environment Canada, Robert McLean from the Habitat and Ecosystem Conservation division, and Mike Wong from Parks Canada. The committee outlined key issues that will need to be addressed in the study including guiding principles, areas of focus, outcome metrics, specific programs, and implementation strategies.  Parks Canada and Environment Canada witnesses provided the committee with updates regarding Canada’s progress on its conservation commitments and the committee also compiled a list of the different groups from which to call witnesses for the upcoming study. These groups include aboriginal groups, industry, ENGOs, conservation groups, anglers and hunters, academics and experts, and all levels of government.

Standing Committee on Finance (FINA)

This week the House Standing Committee on Finance split its time between a clause by clause consideration of bill C-25, which enacts legislation for the creation of Pooled Registered Pension Plans (PRPP’s), and opening its discussion on bill S-5. The committee has been examining PRPP’s for the last 5 meetings and this week members voted on the individual clauses of the bill and proposed amendments. While the government chose to take one of the opposition questions regarding the legal status of tax-exempted income for Aboriginals under consideration, the government voted down all the amendments offered by the opposition.  The bill ended up being supported by the government, with the NDP opposing the bill and the Liberals abstaining. The committee reported the bill back to the house the day after the meeting.

On Thursday, the committee turned its attention to bill S-5, commonly referred to as the Financial Systems Review Act, which the government described as a mostly technical bill dealing with upgrades to certain Acts that govern the regulation of financial institutions.  The bill was referred to the committee after its second reading in the House of Commons and was already introduced and passed by the Senate. The bill is divided into six sections: the first 4 sections make amendments to the Bank Act, the Cooperative Credit Associations Act, the Insurance Companies Act and the Trust and Loan Companies Act.  Section 5 makes amendments to other acts that govern the Bank of Canada, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC), amongst others. The bill would remove duplicative disclosure requirements for foreign customers of insurance companies, would give the final say to the Minister of Finance regarding large foreign acquisitions by Canadian banks, increase the fines that the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada can levy on misbehaving institutions, and increase the numerical size of the ownership threshold on the biggest banks in Canada.  Minister of State for Finance Ted Menzies appeared before the committee to introduce the legislation and answer questions from committee members.  Later on, representatives from the Canadian Bankers Association, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, OFSI and FCAC testified about the importance of passing the bill. Questions from committee members focused on the level of consultation with industry representatives the Department of Finance took when drafting the bill and the need for the continued regulation of the financial sector in Canada.

For more information on Bill C-25:


For more information on Bill S-5


Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)

On March 5th, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA) met in camera to resume study of the motion adopted by the Committee on September 29, 2011. They also resumed the study of A Framework for Success: Practical Recommendations to Further Shorten the Foreign Qualification Recognition Process. The Minutes may be viewed here.

On March 7th, the committee met again in camera to deal consider matters of committee business. The minutes can be found here.

Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (JUST)

The committee met twice this week. Pursuant to the Order of Reference of Thursday, 15 December, 2011, the committee resumed consideration of Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen’s arrest and the defences of property and persons).

On Tuesday, March 6th, the committee heard from justice officials Catherine Kane and Joanne Klineberg. Joanne Klineberg spoke to the bill and addressed concerns raised by witnesses concerning provisions in the bill. The two officials then fielded questions from MPS.

On Thursday, March 8th, the committee commenced and completed its clause-by-clause study of the bill. Most amendments were either voted down or withdrawn after further scrutiny, although two NDP amendments and one Liberal amendment were surprisingly carried. After completion of the clause-by-clause study it was ordered that the Chair report the bill back to the House and that the bill as amended be reprinted for the use of the House at report stage.

To see which amendments were passed, see the minutes for the meeting.

Standing Committee on International Trade (CITT)

The Committee met twice this week on March 6th and March 8th, 2012. The March 6th meeting was a continuation of the study on the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS). Witnesses from the aerospace industry gave presentations explaining how the TCS has been an important service for their respective businesses. There was a also a witness representing the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada who presented to the committee the importance of the TCS to Canada trading with China. This was the committee’s last day studying the TCS.

On the 8th, the topic of the committee was on Bill C-23, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The committees focus was on the Environment and Labour Cooperation agreements Canada has signed with Jordan.

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (FAAE)

This week the committee met with a wide variety of Ukrainian specialists on the issue of Ukraine’s eroding democratic and political institutions. Witnesses included academics, members of Ukrainian Parliament, Ukrainian NGO leaders and leaders of Ukrainian diaspora organizations in Canada. The primary concerns of the witnesses were issues with the current government of Viktor Yanukovych, the leader overthrown in the Orange revolution in 2006, who regained power in 2010. Mr. Yanukovych has done a great deal to erode the democracy of Ukraine by taking a large number of political prisoners, including the previous president of the country, Yulia Tymoshenko. This has caused problems for Ukraine internationally and has resulted in the country being downgraded from “Free” to “Partially Free” by Freedom Watch. The result has been that the European Union has become more hesitant to engage in trade and political agreements with the Ukraine due to the political situation.

There were also suggestions regarding how Canada could help the situation. CIDA is currently providing funds of civil society groups in Ukraine as well as Ukrainian diaspora groups and further involvement was encouraged by the witnesses. The witnesses agreed that these initiatives were important in keeping Ukraine engaged with the international community, which is preferable to isolation and closer ties with Russia. Another way that was suggested was for Canada to send a large number of election observers for the upcoming election, as has been done in the past. In general the witnesses were very positive about the efforts that Canada has made to date and expressed their wishes that such initiatives continue.

Standing Committee on Health (HESA)

The Standing Committee on Health has turned its attention to Bill C-300, An Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention.  Brought forward by M.P. Harold Albrecht, the Bill seeks to increase awareness about suicide and how mental illness, social surroundings and pressures can lead individuals to committing suicide.  Witnesses have included the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Department of Health, Public Health Agency of Canada and the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council among others.  Denise Batters, wife of late former M.P. Dave Batters, attended the committee to provide her experience in hope of establishing a framework regarding suicide prevention.

The minutes for both meetings can be found here  and here.