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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry

Issue 12 - Evidence - Meeting of May 26, 2014


OTTAWA, Monday, May 26, 2014

The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, to which was referred Bill C-30, An Act to amend the Canada Grain Act and the Canada Transportation Act and to provide for other measures, met this day at 7:04 p.m. to give clause-by-clause consideration to the bill.

Senator Percy Mockler (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Welcome to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. My name is Senator Percy Mockler from New Brunswick and I am chair of the committee. At this time, I would like to make sure that we introduce ourselves for the record, commencing with the deputy chair of the committee, Senator Mercer.

Senator Mercer: Terry Mercer from Nova Scotia.

[Translation]

Senator Robichaud: Fernand Robichaud, Saint-Louis-de-Kent, New Brunswick.

Senator Chaput: Maria Chaput, Manitoba.

Senator Maltais: Ghislain Maltais, Quebec.

[English]

Senator Oh: Senator Oh from Ontario.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: Jean-Guy Dagenais, Quebec.

[English]

Senator Eaton: Nicky Eaton from Toronto.

Senator Plett: Don Plett from Manitoba.

The Chair: Honourable senators, the committee has been convened this evening for clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-30, An Act to amend the Canada Grain Act and the Canada Transportation Act and to provide for other measures. To assist us with any technical questions we may have about Bill C-30, we have in the room departmental officials, who first appeared with the minister. I thank them for being with us this evening. Does the committee agree to invite officials to the table at this time?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: It is agreed that officials come to the table for clause-by-clause consideration with senators.

We have with us Greg Meredith, Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Lenore Duff, Director General, Surface Transportation Policy, Transport Canada, Surface Freight Policy; Sara Guild, Counsel, Justice Canada, Agriculture and Food Inspection Legal Services — AAFC; Demeena Kaur Seyan, Counsel, Justice Canada, Agriculture and Food Inspection Legal Services — AAFC; and Alain Langlois, Senior Legal Counsel, Transport Canada, Legal Services.

If there is nothing else, honourable senators, we will proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-30. Is it agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Bill C-30 proposes to amend the Canada Grain Act to permit the regulation of contracts relating to grain and the arbitration of disputes respecting the provisions of those contracts. It also proposes to amend the Canada Transportation Act with respect to railway transportation in order to, among other things, require Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway to move the minimum amount of grain specified in the Canada Transportation Act or by order of the Governor-in-Council, and to facilitate the movement of grain by rail.

Is it agreed that the committee proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-30, an Act to amend the Canada Grain Act and the Canada Transportation Act and to provide for other measures?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Thank you.

Shall the title, honourable senators, stand postponed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 1, which contains the short title, stand postponed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Shall clause 2 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Shall clause 3 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Shall clause 4 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Shall clause 5 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Shall clause 5.1 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

[Translation]

The Chair: Shall clause 6 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Shall clause 7 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Shall clause 8 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

[English]

The Chair: Shall clause 9 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Shall clause 10 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Shall clause 11 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Shall clause 12 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

[Translation]

The Chair: Honourable senators, shall clause 13 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Honourable senators, shall clause 14 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

[English]

The Chair: Honourable senators, shall clause 15 carry?

[Translation]

Senator Robichaud: Mr. Chair, the witnesses and experts around the table may be able to enlighten me.

I have a question about clause 15, titled Coming into Force. The Governor-in-Council is allowed to decide on the content of the motion that is put in both Houses of Parliament.

But the third paragraph of clause 15 reads as follows:

A motion for the adoption of the resolution may be debated in both Houses of Parliament but may not be amended. At the conclusion of the debate, the Speaker of the House of Parliament. . . .

I am not aware of any Speaker of the House of Parliament, only a Speaker of the House of Commons and a Speaker of the Senate. Is that the standard language used in bills?

Alain Langlois, Senior Legal Counsel, Transport, Legal Services, Justice Canada: First of all, this is not a very common clause. This language is used when a provision of this nature is included in a bill.

So since the resolution is put forward in both houses, ''Speaker of the House of Parliament'' clearly refers to the speakers of both the House of Commons and the Senate, who will call on their respective houses to vote on the motion.

Senator Robichaud: I see.

Mr. Langlois: But that is the standard language.

Senator Robichaud: But there is no definition explaining —

[English]

Who is the Speaker of the House of Parliament? We have a Speaker of the House of the Commons and a Speaker of the Senate. I just make the point.

[Translation]

Perhaps going forward, the distinction between the two speakers could be taken into account, given that both houses are completely independent of one another.

[English]

Senator Mercer: I agree with my colleague, Senator Robichaud. This is an ongoing problem that departments and drafters of legislation continue to ignore. They continue to forget to properly word the legislation. I don't think we will hold up this piece of legislation with this, but I think that both departments should take notice right now. Don't ever come back here again with another piece of legislation that does not contain the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Speaker of the Senate. Have some respect for this body, because we earned it.

[Translation]

Senator Maltais: I agree with senators Robichaud and Mercer. Having served in a different legislature, I can tell you that when the Speaker calls, it is the speaker of the provincial legislature calling. The provinces do not have senates; the Speaker in question is the Speaker of the provincial legislature, the National Assembly in Quebec's case.

Here, we have two houses. I realize this is a long-standing practice that has been followed for 150 years, but it would not hurt to blow off the dust and fine-tune the wording to make it easier for people to understand. This provision would not hold up before a judge. As lawyers, you all know full well that it would not hold up in court.

Thank you.

[English]

Senator Plett: I do also want to concur with what all three speakers have said. However, I do want to recognize that the beginning of that paragraph very clearly says ''may be debated in both Houses of Parliament.'' I think there is a recognition that there are two houses of Parliament. It should be cleaned up for the future, but I do not hold to the fact that somebody was trying to ignore the Senate. Nevertheless, I agree with you, senator.

Senator Robichaud: I didn't say that.

Senator Plett: No; I know.

Senator Eaton: For the future, we should pick up on Senator Robichaud's point. Before we even study bills, the wording should be looked at and, if it is not correct, we should send it back. That is all.

The Chair: The chair will recognize for the record what was said by all senators. Hopefully this will be transmitted, through the officials, to other people.

That said, shall clause 15 carry, in view of the comments that were made?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Honourable senators, shall clause 1, which contains the short title, carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Shall the title carry, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Shall the bill, with no amendments, carry?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Mercer: With observations.

The Chair: The chair has recognized, senators, that we will have observations.

To the witnesses, on behalf of the committee I sincerely thank you for appearing today. You may now leave the table, but please keep in mind the comments that were made previously. Thank you.

The chair is now recognizing that the committee wishes to discuss appending observations to the report. That said, honourable senators, rule 12-16(1)(d) allows us to go in camera to discuss a draft report. Does the committee wish to discuss the observations in public or in camera?

Senator Plett: I would suggest in public, chair.

Senator Mercer: It doesn't matter. That is all right with me.

The Chair: There is a consensus that the observations will be in public. That is agreed.

We are in public, and we are dealing with the discussions on observations. I now open this discussion period. Senator Mercer, would you please give us your comments on observations?

Senator Mercer: Thank you, chair.

I think that we have agreed on a whole bunch of things and we want to get this thing through. But I think enough was said by enough people that was common throughout that we should make some observations so that it does not go unnoticed in the future. To that extent, I wanted to add the following observations.

Many witnesses expressed concerns over the ambiguity surrounding service level agreements. While Bill C-30 gives the Canadian Transportation Agency the authority to regulate these service level agreements, the Canada Transportation Act does not provide for the definition of ''adequate and suitable'' or the term ''service obligations.''

Many stakeholders believe the bill accelerates the upcoming review of the Canada Transportation Act, scheduled to begin in June 2015. Consequently, the committee believes that during the upcoming review of the Canada Transportation Act, the examination should include an exploration of the definitions of ''adequate and suitable'' and ''service level agreements.''

The Chair: This is a proposal by Senator Mercer. Are there any other comments?

Senator Plett: I would endorse that observation. I think the senator is quite correct. I guess the term ''many'' is, of course, open for definition, but there were certainly more than one for sure. I am happy with the word ''many'' and I am happy, certainly, with the fact that we need this defined.

If there are no further comments on that, then I have a few observations that I would like to introduce as well, but I am certainly willing to hear more on this first.

Senator Robichaud: Should we agree to do these observations first or hear the others and put them in a package?

Senator Plett: My preference would be that we have one package, senator, but if you want to do it the other way, I am open to it.

The Chair: As for the question, the chair will recognize Senator Robichaud's comments on the basis that we can proceed as a package when we do make the report. In order for that to happen, I would ask Senator Plett to bring forward the observations from this side of the table, and then we will decide whether we go separately or in a package approach.

Senator Plett: As a bit of an explanation, the committee, in fact, held nine hours of study, hearing from 24 witnesses; that is what I have. There may be a bit of a discrepancy as to whether it was 24 or 25.

Clerk, do you have that number for me?

Kevin Pittman, Clerk of the Committee: Not at this time.

Senator Plett: Well, there were at least 24 witnesses.

While all the witnesses, with the exception of two, agreed that this legislation is necessary and were supportive of it achieving Royal Assent in an expeditious manner, the committee notes the following — and I have also used the same terminology as Senator Mercer, after admonishing him.

Many stakeholders believe that the Ministers of Transport and Agriculture and Agri-Food must consult with all stakeholders when establishing mandatory volume requirements and that these take into account producer car, short line and corridor-by-corridor requirements.

Many stakeholders believe that the Government of Canada implement the necessary regulations to give effect to farmer-grain company contracts, interswitching and service level agreements by the beginning of the new crop year of August 1, 2014.

And many stakeholders believe the mandated legislative review of the Canada Transportation Act should be accelerated so that legislative gaps can be addressed prior to August 1, 2016.

The Chair: Questions? Senator Robichaud.

Senator Robichaud: I heard the same words in the two observations. How do they come together?

Senator Plett: Sorry?

Senator Robichaud: In your observations, I thought I heard the same words.

Senator Mercer: Not quite.

Senator Plett: I think there is a very definitive observation in Senator Mercer's. Mine are probably a little more general in nature, so I really think that these observations, all four of them, could go into one package. If there is duplication, I don't see a lot of harm in that, but I don't think there is.

Senator Robichaud: I am asking because we have just been made aware of those observations now.

Senator Plett: I agree.

Senator Mercer: I think that the observations of Senator Plett are acceptable. I guess the question is how you order them so that they make sense to a future reader. Those of us around the table reading them would understand what we are talking about because we have been here through the whole debate. Senator Chaput is the exception.

I think there must be a logical way to put this into a readable format not for us but for the people who we are aiming this at, our future pieces of legislation coming forward.

The Chair: If there are no other questions on the matter, I will ask Senator Maltais for his comments.

[Translation]

Senator Maltais: I agree with the observations made by my colleagues, Senator Plett and Senator Mercer. The only thing left to do is address the grammatical aspect. I will leave the English in your hands, but for francophones, when you say ''de nombreux intervenants,'' ''de nombreux intervenants,'' ''de nombreux intervenants,'' Senator Chaput, you know as well as I do that that is not what Molière would have us say. I requested the language ''plusieurs intervenants''. The word ''plusieurs'' refers not to everyone but to the vast majority. And I think that is important, because there will be francophones who read the bill and lawyers who will have to interpret the observations. No one has a problem with that? Since everyone agrees, I propose that we make an insertion and that we ask the clerk to take care of it in the appropriate manner using proper English and French that can be understood by all. Given that these observations are directed at the minister's office, a carefully prepared educational tool is necessary.

Senator Mercer: I do not have a problem with that.

[English]

If we put this in the hands of the clerk, then we need a process whereby we have approval between the parties. We don't have a steering committee because Senator Buth is unavailable.

The Chair: I will recognize the process immediately after.

Senator Mercer: Okay.

[Translation]

Senator Robichaud: As far as the procedure to be followed goes, before reporting to the Senate, the chair, deputy chair and bill's sponsor should agree on the language for the observations to be reported to the Senate.

[English]

The Chair: I see we have a consensus and can agree on this.

Senator Plett: First, I do agree with that.

Having looked at the observations, both mine and Senator Mercer's, I would suggest that we delete my third observation. I think that would address Senator Robichaud's concern about the fact that there might be duplication.

Senator Mercer: Yes. You are saying the same thing.

Senator Plett: Those two are saying the same thing, so I am happy with deleting our third observation and simply putting Senator Mercer's observation in there, if that is acceptable.

The Chair: Senator Maltais?

[Translation]

Senator Maltais: I think we have a consensus. All that remains is the grammatical mechanism.

I think the chair, deputy chair, sponsor of the bill and clerk could come up with the right language to bring this before the Senate, ensuring that everyone is in agreement and that it be kept on record. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

[English]

The Chair: Therefore, with those comments, we will have three observations rather than four.

Senator Robichaud: He had three.

Senator Plett: I'm dropping one of mine so that yours goes in.

Senator Mercer: I have two observations.

Senator Plett: I read that as one observation, but if you think that's two — you have two paragraphs in it.

Senator Mercer: Okay, I have two paragraphs; you have two paragraphs. Fair enough, as long as we understand that.

Senator Plett: Yes. Your entire two paragraphs are in there.

The Chair: Is it agreed that I report this bill, with observations, to the Senate?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Then is it agreed that we approve the final version of the observations being appended to the report, taking into consideration this discussion, and with any necessary editorial, grammatical or translation changes as required? We will specify consultation between the deputy chair, Senator Mercer, and the sponsor of Bill C-30, Senator Plett, and the chair. Is that agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: The bill will be reported with observations to the Senate. Is it agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(The committee adjourned.)