Mr. Allan Lawrence (Northumberland-Durham) moved:
Motion No. 2.
That Bill C-42, to provide a means to conserve the supplies of energy within Canada during periods of national emergency caused by shortages or market disturbances affecting the national security and welfare and the economic stability of Canada, be amended in Clause 11 by deleting subclause (4) at page 6 and by renumbering the subsequent subclauses accordingly.
He said: Mr. Speaker, as we travel through the labyrinth of the various stages of this bill, I must say that 1 am astounded at the two-faced attitude, double-faced attitude, of members of the government with respect to this matter. On the one hand they put forward the face that they need to have this bill through before an election can be called-this bill and at least one other-and yet at just about every stage of the proceedings-in the committee, at second reading, and here again following the remarkable bit of theatrics just a moment ago by the minister-measures are put in the way of the speedy passage of this bill through the House. I can only come to one of two conclusions, and I will leave it to the Chair to decide. Either the government is afraid to call an election and therefore wants to use this bill as one means of saying to the people of the country that the bill did not get through even though it was needed before an election, or the government is not really interested in seeing this legislation get through the House.
In moving this amendment I feel that there are some very basic democratic and parliamentary principles involved with respect to this matter. First, as hon. members are well aware, we have two ways by which the government of the day can choke off further discussion of a motion, a bill, or other matter in this House. One is the old and cumbersome method of closure. With respect to a measure having to do with the oil industry many years ago, the Liberal government of the day eventually was defeated by the people of this country because of its abuse of the closure provisions of the rules of the House of Commons at that time.
Since that time there has been a smoother, easier and more effective way of choking off valid, in some cases invigorating, and in other cases deadly boring discussion in this House, and that is the use of the guillotine provisions in the rules of this House. I think that provision is Standing Order 75C under which, if the government of the day really wants to choke off discussion, it can, within a minimum period of time of, I believe, about three days. It can limit debate to one or two hours on each of those three days. The government can choke off discussion and limit the total length of time to three days and only a few hours on each day.
The clause of this bill which I suggest should be deleted by virtue of my amendment provides a special closure. There is a special form of guillotine. There is a special way of limiting debate on a motion respecting an order in council proclaiming that a national emergency in the energy field exists in this country. I think that that provision is entirely needless. There
seems to be a growing trend within the government to want to have, in a number of the bills which are coming forward and which have come forward in the last little while, an additional procedure by which to gag parliament. There is no other word for it. This procedure would limit free and open discussion of a very important order in council which would proclaim that a national emergency exists. Why do we need that type of limitation, that type of restriction, that type of closure or that type of guillotine in a bill such as this? There are already two other means of choking off discussion under the rules of the House.
I asked a question of the minister the other night in committee. As usual, we were dealing with a very taciturn minister who is not at all forward about giving explanations for what is going on. Certainly the other night in the committee the minister displayed that same type of attitude. There was no answer given as to why we really need the third way to gag parliament which is in this bill.
It is this specific clause which I suggest should be deleted. There is no need for it. It even extends the period of debate. If the government really wanted to stop debate, it could move under the guillotine provisions in our rules because, under the guillotine provisions, debate would be limited to three days, and only one to two hours at the most on each of the three days. Here there are three days of full and formal debate in the House of Commons on a motion of the government with respect to an order in council, and I just fail to see the need for this provision. There has been no defence put up. There has been no justification.
This bill contains very few guidelines and very few restrictions. There is very little laid down with regard to what would actually constitute a national emergency in the energy field, and I just feel that clause 11 (4) is completely redundant. I therefore ask the members of the House to consider this matter seriously. We really would be stripping parliament of its right to discuss this matter if that subclause were left in the bill. If there is no question that a national emergency in the energy field exists, then surely we can leave it up to the good sense, if not of the members of this House then of the citizens of this country who eventually have to judge whether a member of parliament or a party within this House should hold up the passage of a bill or the approval of a motion validating an order in council declaring a national emergency.
We simply do not need this additional gagging procedure in a bill of this importance, especially when, for instance, there is no definition in the bill of a national emergency. There is absolutely no provision or authority in the bill for any compensation to be paid with respect to the very extradordinary measures which might be taken by the proposed allocation board in the event that a national emergency exists, or an apparent one as far as the government is concerned.
There is another matter which has not yet been raised in the House. This bill has in it an additional defect. We will not necessarily even know what the allocation system or basis is, or the system that the government has approved. There is no
March 13, 1979
requirement in the bill that the actual terms of the allocation order itself be tabled, published, released or approved by members of the House. The only order that need be published under the terms of this bill is the actual order in council by the cabinet indicating that a national emergency exists or is apprehended. The board then has the power given to it under the act to allocate energy supplies in this country.
The point is that in every other jurisdiction I have been able to research in respect of domestic provisions 'as a result of the 1974 treaty, the allocation order itself must be released, must be published and must be debated in the national parliament, congress or legislature of the country involved. So far as I know, Canada is the only country in which the actual allocation order need not be released or published so that the people of this country know about it. I do not know if members opposite fully understand the distinction I am trying to make. I see a look of real puzzlement on the face of the parliamentary secretary to the minister.
The point is that the only order that need be laid on the table of the House, the only order that will be debated, is not the order indicating what the basis of the allocation is. The only order is the order in council of the government which indicates that a national emergency exists. In other words, no one in the industry, no one in the provinces and no one in the municipalities-do not laugh about municipal powers in regard to utilities in this country because they are fairly extensive-and no member of this House nor any member of the public at large, under the terms of this bill need have any idea whatsoever as to what the allocation order is or may be. I think that is a defect that should be rectified and, what is more important, it is another reason why there should not be a special gagging provision in this bill in the form of subclause (4) of this clause.
There are some members in the House who still have the vague idea that this bill only applies to petroleum supplies or products or, for that matter, even alternate energy supplies. If they believe that, they should take a much closer look at the bill itself, because this bill could apply to almost every field of endeavour in the energy field. Indeed, a technical interpretation of the act could carry its powers well beyond the energy field. It could apply to any field of exploration, of drilling, of development, of production, of transportation, of refining, of storage, of distribution, of consumption, of usage, of retailing, of pricing, of financing, and even into the manufacturing stage of products even remotely or dimly connected with the energy field, not just petroleum products. This bill sets up a dictatorial regime in the government. One clause of it even extends this dictatorial control to any product made even in part from a petroleum product.
I just ask you to take a look, Mr. Speaker, at what you are wearing tonight. Take a look at what you ate for dinner tonight. Take a look at the roof above you. Take a look at the textiles on your bed. In these days of synthetics, we have synthetic foods, textiles and fibres. We have synthetic building products, plastics, papers, gasses, liquids, not just fuels. It is
really hard to envisage a product or a manufacturing material, or, for that matter, almost any goods today that could not be touched upon by the control powers included dn this bill.
I say this is a very bad and a very sweeping bill. On the other hand, we believe that in times of a real national emergency-I emphasize "national emergency", and there should be a definition of what that is-respecting petroleum energy supplies, the Government of Canada, in consultation and with the co-operation of the provinces and of industry, and perhaps even of the municipalities because, as I said, in some areas there is municipal supervision of utilities, should have the necessary legislative framework to take charge and to show national leadership especially when, as is the case now, the defects of our energy industry are the result of a complacency and lethargy and the lack of a national policy on energy, especially of a policy on the distribution or delivery system of our own home grown domestic energy supply.
When we have, as we now have, a lack of Canadian policy to ensure that Canadian demands are met by Canadian supply, when that is compounded by the potential or real problems in our offshore supplies such as are occurring in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Mexico or other places, when we are precariously dependent, or a large section of this country is precariously dependent on this interruptable supply of oil, then the federal government unfortunately needs the legislative framework to enable that self-imposed emergency to be met.
What is the dilemma for members of the House, and especially for the conscientious members of the House who may not be bound by the iron discipline of the government party? Should we hold up a bill such as this in the dying days of a useless parliament and a decadent government, with possibly no emergency powers therefore during an extended election period, or do we consent to give the government this bill, arbitrary, sweeping, and bad though it is? On this side of the House we have opted for the latter, secure in the knowledge that this government will not be in power long enough to harm the economy and the energy industry that much longer, and that a new government will obviously start a comprehensive review of the energy field and the jurisdictions in the industry and put into place policies which would mean that such powers are simply not needed.
In getting back to the amendment of this clause, the deletion of the clause called for in the amendment in no way harms the operation of any other clause of the bill. I suggest to you, sir, that unless the members on the government side are determined to come up with a third procedure to gag open and decent discussion in the House on such a matter, which will obviously affect everybody, they should agree tonight to the deletion of subclause (4) of this clause.
Subtopic: ENERGY SUPPLIES EMERGENCY ACT, 1979 MEASURE TO CONSERVE STOCKS