Bill C-13 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (capital markets fraud and evidence-gathering)
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.
Irwin Cotler Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
The Royal Assent
March 26th, 2004 / noon
The Deputy Speaker
Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received which is as follows:
March 26, 2004
I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 26th day of March, 2004 at 11:01 a.m.
Secretary to the Government General
The schedule indicates that royal assent was given to Bill C-6, an act respecting assisted human reproduction and related research; Bill C-13, an act to amend the Criminal Code (capital markets fraud and evidence-gathering); and Bill C-18, an act respecting equalization and authorizing the Minister of Finance to make certain payments related to health.
February 12th, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.
Irwin Cotler Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-13, an act to amend the Criminal Code (capital markets fraud and evidence-gathering).
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to special order made earlier, I wish to inform you that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-46 was at the time of prorogation of the previous session.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
Assisted Human Reproduction Act
February 11th, 2004 / 3:10 p.m.
The Chair is satisfied that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-13 was at the time of prorogation of the 2nd session, 37th Parliament. Accordingly, pursuant to order made Tuesday, February 10, 2004, the bill is deemed adopted at all stages and passed by the House.
(Bill read the second time, considered in committee, reported, concurred in, read the third time and passed)
Reinstatement of Government Bills
February 10th, 2004 / 7:45 p.m.
Roger Gallaway Sarnia—Lambton, ON
I can hear members making comments about that. They are objecting to that observation, that the new party opposite has assumed two opposing positions in a very short period of months.
The bill passed this House and was sent to the other place just before prorogation. Bill C-49, as it was then known, passed this place literally unopposed. There was agreement across the House and among parties, but because of certain events outside the House, they are now opposed to something that just a few months ago they were endorsing.
That is an amazing revelation which I think should be brought to light, that an amendment to an amendment is itself a contradiction in terms.
There is an amendment to the main motion of the government that was also tabled by the party opposite. There is the main motion of the government which says to let us get on with the business of the country and let us get the House of Commons back to the affairs of the country.
It may very well be that members opposite would not like some of this legislation and I can understand that. In fact, I have already observed that legislation they did like they no longer like. Therefore, there may be legislation that they do not like today that they will like in the future. I cannot rule out that possibility.
What it all means is very simple, that members of the opposition are not interested in getting on with a real debate about legislation. They want to get into a debate about the procedures of this House.
I have heard members opposite decrying the fact that this reinstatement motion is before us. Let us go back to the standing orders, the rules of the House. Again, I will say that the standing orders were not intended to be a constraint on this place. The standing orders were in fact intended to give some order to this place, to make it efficient, because we want to do business in a good and timely fashion.
The end result is that as of 30 years ago or thereabouts we have our present standing order with respect to reinstatement. Reinstatement is the recognition that after prorogation bills that were before the House can return to the House in the same form and at the same stage as they were at when the prorogation was granted by the Governor General. The reason is that some 30 years ago there was a recognition that government was becoming more complex, that the affairs of the House were becoming more important and that we would not want to lose legislation that had passed second reading and committee stage.
We all know that committees invest a lot of time and a lot of resources in the whole study of a bill and if that is lost, much is lost in terms of progress of legislation and more important, in the agenda of a government or in the agenda of the country. To let that slide away could mean a loss of perhaps years in terms of very essential and important legislation that must be dealt with.
We have heard reference tonight to Bill C-13 which is commonly called the reproductive technologies bill. We are in a situation where if I were to follow the logic and succumb to the subamendment, or the amendment to the government motion, it would be lost. It would be gone. What would happen is that, I would dare say, thousands of hours of members' time, hundreds of hours of committee time and dozens and dozens of hours of House time, would be lost. We would go back to the beginning. It may be that we would have to reinvest all that time again to get back to a point and then beyond to pass that bill. That could be many months, if not a year away.
This would mean that a very quickly evolving area of life sciences, if I could call them that, would be lost. It would all be lost. We would be living in that domain which would be unregulated. Yet we are told by members opposite that they are quite willing to allow this very vital, integral and fundamental part of science, an area of great concern to many Canadians and to scientific research and development in this country, to slip away. They are quite willing to risk living in an environment that is unregulated. They are quite willing to play the game of the subamendment.
I go back to my original premise. Let us remember that the standing orders were created to give order and efficiency to this place, but what we are seeing now is a gamesmanship around this.
Certainly for every rule there is someone out there who is going to find an exception. What we are looking at now is the exception, the exception being that there is a subamendment and an amendment to the main motion. We are not debating one motion. We are debating an endless number of amendments and subamendments.
Clearly there is an unforeseeable number of subamendments which could be brought forward. It means that this is all tied up in process and not in substance. It means that members opposite can in fact shut down the affairs of this place, shut down the affairs of government, shut down the House of Commons simply by using a device, a device that is without meaning in terms of the substance, the substantive words of what they have laid down in the subamendment and in the amendment.
What the opposition is saying is that they do not care, they are not interested and that it is of no concern to them whether the government gets up and operating. They just want to continue to bring forward amendments and subamendments, and there are an infinite and indeterminate number of amendments they could bring forward. It is of no concern to them that we are now descending, if this is allowed to continue, into a form of deadlock. If we continue with this procedural wrangling, the government, which was elected to govern, will have no agenda. We will all become subservient to the agenda of procedural wrangling.
The standing orders are here for a reason. What the opposition members are railing against they had every opportunity to address on a number of occasions in the past. This is a form of posturing by using extraordinary devices, quite legal and quite proper in terms of our understanding of this place, but because they are using that there is also a procedural response available to us on this side, and we are moving on that procedural device simply because it is allowed and because as the government we must continue with the business of this place.
To be opposed to the government doing business is something I am certain anyone in the gallery or anyone watching this on public television would have a great deal of difficulty comprehending. Why would opposition members want to engage in days and days of debate about things that are meaningless, debates that are strictly contrived around procedure and around their view of what is right and proper.
Mr. Speaker, let me say to you, that what is right and proper is already laid down in the standing orders of this place. I know that the member opposite from Saint John would want to know that her predecessor friends, when her government was here from 1984-93, they had the opportunity to deal with that and they did not. We have had all kinds of opportunity but we are unaware that this has ever been raised in the place where it could be dealt with, which would be in a committee of the House that is charged to deal with it.
However, no. They like to suffer. I wish it were in silence but it is not in silence. They wish to suffer on the opposite side. Much cackling is occurring and a lot of monologue is going on over there but in the end it is meaningless. The vote that is about to take place will give to this place the kind of order that I am certain the members opposite want. After all, they belong to the party that espouses a law and order philosophy. We are simply following the law and order of the House of Commons as contained in the standing orders.
The end result is that we will be having a vote this evening which will bring to an end and lay to rest the misery that has been inflicted procedurally on this House by members opposite.
Reinstatement of Government Bills
February 10th, 2004 / 1:15 p.m.
Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to address the motion tabled by the government to reinstate bills that have already been passed.
Earlier, I had the opportunity to question the parliamentary leader on the real motives behind this motion. We on this side of the House could not help but come to the conclusion that there is no valid reason to put forward such a motion today, a motion that more or less seeks to gag the opposition and avoid debates on issues that we feel are fundamental.
This strategy is essentially a stalling tactic and a partisan ploy, and the opposition can only condemn it today.
I will read the reinstatement motion for the benefit of those who are listening to us today and who may be trying to understand why, a few days after the beginning of a new parliamentary session in the House of Commons, the government is resorting to such tactics to prevent the opposition from expressing its views on three bills, among others.
The motion reads as follows:
That during the first thirty sitting days of the present session of Parliament, whenever a Minister of the Crown, when proposing a motion for first reading of a public bill, states that the said bill is in the same form as a Government bill in the previous session, if the Speaker is satisfied that the said bill is in the same form as the House of Commons had agreed to at prorogation, notwithstanding Standing Order 71, the said bill shall be deemed in the current session to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation of the previous session.
In our opinion, this motion tabled by the government is nothing more than a tactic to prevent, as I said earlier, the opposition from expressing its views.
Over 80 motions of this type have been tabled by the Liberals since they were elected. One would have thought that, with the coming into office of a new government, the methods and strategies used would change. I should point out that this motion would not have been necessary if the government had not decided, in November 2003, to prorogue the House. If the government had let parliamentarians fulfill their role and carry on with the parliamentary business, as scheduled in the parliamentary calendar, today we would not be debating a motion to reinstate three bills.
As a result, it was possible for the government to avoid this motion, this gag order on three bills. How so? By continuing Parliament in keeping with the parliamentary calendar, not proroguing as they did last year.
On the one hand, the public would have preferred to see their MPs sitting. What can be more fundamental, when people have given a democratic mandate to their elected representatives, than to see them sit in the House and debate? No, here we are again today in a situation where we are debating a motion on bills which would very likely could have already been passed.
Let us review the political motives behind the government's decision to prorogue the House at the end of 2003. It wanted to show clearly to the public that there was now, in Canada, a new government with a new and different vision. That vision was expressed in the Speech from the Throne read on February 2.
When we see what is going on, in the light of our first few days experience of this session, can we honestly conclude that what we have before us is a new government, both in form, tactics and parliamentary strategy, and in its vision as set out in the throne speech? The answer to that is not long in coming.
On the one hand, as far as tactics are concerned, we have a government like the other. It is making use of what I have seen only rarely since I was first elected here in 1997: a fast way to gag parliamentarians on bills which of course, in actual form, are the same as before, but which are much changed in partisan terms.
Taking Bill C-49 on electoral boundaries, for example, when the former government introduced it, it was certainly not in the mind of the former government, that is the Chrétien government, to launch itself quickly into an election campaign. Today, why do they want to step up the process of implementing Bill C-49? Precisely because now the government wants to have an election soon.
Bill C-49 postpones the implementation of the new electoral map to August 26, 2004. That is the date that has been set. Why does the government want to hasten the adoption of this bill? Because it wants to call an early election in the spring, which was not what the previous government, the Chrétien government, intended to do. The political context and perspective in which we would have had to study these bills are different from the situation that exists today.
In terms of parliamentary strategy, we are basically seeing the continuation of the same type of policies from the old government to the new one.
Let us not forget that the prorogation of the House last November was supposed to give the government an opportunity to propose a new vision. However, what can we say about this Speech from the Throne, which is supposed to reflect the spirit and the policies of a self-proclaimed new government? A closer look at the throne speech shows that it is silent on many issues of primary importance to Canadians in their daily lives. There is nothing about what used to be called unemployment insurance and is now called employment insurance, even though everybody agrees that the EI plan and its management are nothing but highway robbery.
There is nothing in the throne speech to look at the integrity of the plan and to see to it that those who pay into the EI fund—whether they are young people, women or seasonal workers—are eligible for benefits.
There is nothing either for the workers affected by the crisis in the softwood lumber industry, for whom the Prime Minister is taking the trouble of travelling to the United States to try to improve their situation. The throne speech contains no vision with regard to solving the softwood lumber crisis in Canada, which is affecting various regions of Quebec particularly hard.
There is nothing for the farmers of Canada and Quebec with regard to the sad situation of the mad cow. In terms of these three priorities—employment insurance, softwood lumber and the mad cow crisis—there is nothing, no vision for the future, no partial or short-term solution to improve the lot of the people.
Neither is there anything to recognize the existence of the Quebec nation, even though this government took pains to prorogue the House and have a throne speech. While the new Prime Minister thinks he needs to establish partnerships with Quebec, closer collaboration with Quebec, there is nothing to recognize our identity as a collectivity and as Quebeckers in this Speech from the Throne. Of course, some nations have been recognized, and we are happy about that. Still there is no mention of the nation of Quebec, although there is a consensus in Quebec that it does exist.
There is nothing about the existence of the fiscal imbalance, which sees the provinces and Quebec losing $50 million a week. With those millions of dollars, Quebec would be able to provide essential care and services in health and education. There is nothing about that in the throne speech.
There is nothing about current issues. The issue of same sex marriage, in principle, could have been covered in the throne speech. But no, it was decided to send a fourth question to the Supreme Court, as if the government did not want to grant any importance to this matter, nor launch any great debates just before the election.
The government could have avoided presenting this motion to reinstate bills by not proroguing the House and continuing consideration of these bills, some of which were before the Senate. It most certainly could have avoided this motion to reinstate three bills: Bill C-17, an act to amend certain Acts of Canada, and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to enhance public safety; Bill C-13, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act; and finally, the infamous Bill C-49, which the government wants to see passed as quickly as possible in order to call an election quickly.
If that is not a partisan tactic, I do not know what it is. Let us not forget that the election process and the electoral boundaries readjustment process are not supposed to be partisan in Canada. That piece of legislation was supposed to come into effect on August 26, 2004. Bringing forward the effective date of a bill which, in principle, is supposed to be non-partisan is making the process a bit too partisan.
And what about Bill C-13? It deals with assisted reproduction and related research. Its main purpose is to protect the health and safety of our citizens who are using assisted reproduction technologies to start a family, and to ban unacceptable activities like human cloning.
As we know, Bill C-13 is currently before the Senate. I must remind the House that the Bloc Quebecois is against this bill although we support the principle behind it.
What would we have liked to do with Bill C-13, that this motion would reinstate? We would have liked to split it. We believe that Bill C-13 is an example of blatant interference in areas under provincial jurisdiction.
We are, of course, against some unacceptable technologies, especially human cloning; that is very clear in our mind. However, by setting up the assisted human production agency of Canada, the government is clearly interfering in provincial areas of jurisdiction.
At least a dozen acts passed by the National Assembly of Quebec are not in sync with Bill C-13. Sovereignists and Bloc members are not the only ones believing that this bill interferes in our jurisdictions. The new health minister in Quebec, Mr. Philippe Couillard, clearly said that he considers this bill as an encroachment on Quebec's jurisdiction and, on October 7, he added:
We have sent a clear message to the federal government that we are very cned about certain asoncerpects of the bill, which we see as a clear encroachment on provincial jurisdictions.
This statement was made by Quebec's minister of health, not a member of the Parti Quebecois, the Bloc Quebecois, nor a sovereignist. It is a statement by a Liberal minister in Quebec City, a federalist, who is judging a situation and assessing federal legislation, Canadian legislation.
If the government had been more generous and more logical, in order to respect the jurisdictions and establish this cooperation and partnership the new Prime Minister wishes to establish in Quebec, it could have given us an opportunity to split this bill. We could have voted in favour of it, based on its principle alone. The government could also have avoided encroaching on provincial jurisdictions.
Since I have two minutes left, I will come back to Bill C-49, an act respecting the effective date of the representation order of 2003. While the electoral process and representation orders have to be initiated in accordance with the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, it was always believed this entailed the implementation of the new electoral boundaries order, scheduled to take effect on August 26, 2004. It was set out in the order. There is a degree of independence in the electoral process that has been established.
Today, the government is going against this principle of independence and non-partisanship, which was agreed to by parliamentarians, whereby political parties and the government are not to interfere in this process.
What will the government achieve through Bill C-49? It will move up the effective date of the electoral boundaries legislation. This is totally unacceptable. It is a shameless intrusion in a process that has to be independent.
Today, I repeat that the government had a golden opportunity not to use such a motion and apply closure. It could very well not have prorogued the House in November, which would have prevented the need for putting forward this reinstatement motion, which, in our view, is totally unacceptable.
Reinstatement of Government Bills
February 10th, 2004 / 12:35 p.m.
Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC
Mr. Speaker, the reinstatement motion before us is a motion which, of course, does not at all satisfy the Bloc Quebecois, particularly in light of the events that have occurred over the past few months within the government and the Liberal Party of Canada.
This motion would have been totally pointless if, after the election of the new leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, the former Prime Minister, Mr. Chrétien, had decided to leave and had allowed the new Prime Minister, assuming he wanted to do so, to keep the session open. Instead, for reasons of politics, they preferred to prorogue, supposedly to allow the new Prime Minister to prepare the Speech from the Throne. However, when we look at the speech that was delivered, we immediately realize that this was an operation simply designed to prepare for the upcoming election.
Similarly, no one is fooled by the reinstatement motion. If we look at the bills that were selected, such as C-17, C-13 and C-49, it is obvious that the motion is only necessary for Bill C-49, because the Prime Minister's stated objective is to call an election as soon as possible once the new electoral map comes into effect.
So, we have this reinstatement motion which, as I mentioned, includes the following bills: C-17, on public safety; C-13, on assisted human reproduction, and C-49, on the effective date of the representation order. However, no mention is made of Bill C-34, on the ethics commissioner. According to this bill, the ethics commissioner should now be accountable to the House and not to the Prime Minister, as was previously the case. In my opinion, the review of this legislation is much more urgent than that of the bills included in the reinstatement motion.
This is particularly true today, considering that the Auditor General's report will be tabled in a few hours, if not a few minutes. I think we really do need an independent ethics commissioner who is accountable to all the members of this House.
Therefore, the Bloc Quebecois will oppose this reinstatement motion. First, as I mentioned, the motion would have been pointless if things had been conducted in a normal fashion, if the new Prime Minister had taken over Mr. Chrétien's duties within a normal timeframe, and not the way it was done, by using that time to avoid having to answer questions in the House.
We will vote against this motion on reinstatement, particularly since we had previously voiced our opposition to Bill C-17 on public safety. We have absolutely no interest in seeing this bill come before the House again. The public safety bill extends the responsibilities of the RCMP and CSIS. In November 2002, the privacy commissioner himself wrote, and I quote:
But my concern is that the RCMP would also be expressly empowered to use this information to seek out persons wanted on warrants for Criminal Code offences that have nothing to do with terrorism, transportation security or national security.
What is the point in reinstating this bill when the privacy commissioner himself considers it problematic.
The same goes for the bill on assisted human reproduction. This bill has been long awaited. Perhaps there is a serious need to adopt various rules on, for instance, cloning, but Bill C-13—true to Liberal government form—encroaches on the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces in terms of health.
On October 7, 2003, Quebec's health minister, Philippe Couillard, expressed concern that Bill C-13 encroached on Quebec's jurisdiction. He said,
We have sent a clear signal to the federal government that we are very concerned about certain aspects of the bill, which we see as a clear encroachment on provincial jurisdictions.
So, why would the Bloc Quebecois support reinstating a bill that, in the opinion of Quebec's own health minister, infringed on Quebec jurisdiction?
Finally, there is Bill C-49. Although our criticisms are known, they deserve repeating. If any area deserves the utmost objectivity and the most transparent neutrality—the need to set aside all partisanship with regard to the Canada Elections Act—if any legislation should be non-partisan, this is it.
These reasons, which are exactly the same as those leading to the fall prorogation, so a new Prime Minister could prepare a throne speech that was ultimately a failure, account for the introduction of Bill C-49. In other words, so that the effective date of the new electoral map could be moved forward, thereby allowing the new Prime Minister to go before voters in short order.
Consequently, as in the case of the last session, which was adjourned, and the reinstatement motion, it is for partisan reasons only that Motion No. 2 is being put forward. This is unacceptable.
It is all the more unacceptable that the strategy of the new Prime Minister and the Liberal government is to put off all the problems that are priorities for Quebeckers and Canadians.
For instance, the Prime Minister does not want to take a stand in the same-sex marriage issue so he asked the Supreme Court a fourth question. The answer will come after the election, of course.
In the Arar affair, the Prime Minister began by saying that the Americans must have had a good reason to deport Mr. Arar to Syria. Afterward, he realized that Canadians and Quebeckers thought this a rather weak response. He then spoke of a possible independent inquiry. Then he said that the Government of Canada had nothing to be ashamed of. Again he realized that public opinion was not with him. His next move was to call a public inquiry, the results of which will be made known after the election.
What came out of the meeting with the provincial premiers is that things are grim with respect to transfer payments to the provinces. Here again, the approach is to put things off. We are told a serious discussion will be held on this issue—which is urgent now, not six months from now, I would even say it was urgent the day before yesterday—but not until next summer, or after the election.
No one is being fooled by this strategy of postponing matters. The Prime Minister wants to keep all his options open and have carte blanche from this House, Canadians and Quebeckers to do what he thinks is best. This will not work because the opposition, the Bloc Quebecois in particular, will require him to provide answers now and during the election campaign.
I bet that with the tabling of the Auditor General's report on the sponsorship scandal, the Prime Minister will try to come up with some trick to postpone the findings and his positions until after the election. An independent inquiry will probably be recommended without any set date, again to ensure that the findings are not made public until after the election.
They said to us, “We have to shut down the House, because we have serious work to do; we have to prepare a Speech from the Throne to set a new direction for this government”, which, it seems, was worn out after its 10 long years in power.
What do we find in the throne speech? Nothing: nothing concerning the priorities of Canadians and Quebeckers. There is absolutely nothing to settle the fiscal imbalance. I remind the House that this is a very serious problem.
We do know that the agreement on health which was signed in February 2003 by the provincial premiers and former Prime Minister Chrétien will expire next year, and that the amounts have gone down considerably.
This year, even with the injection of $475 million for Quebec, which has been announced three times, or the $2 billion ad hoc injection for the health sector by the federal government, even with that, according to the study by Quebec's finance minister, Mr. Séguin, the Government of Quebec will receive 4.5% less in federal transfer payments. Equalization payments will decline by 38%.
We might have expected that the Prime Minister would at least tell us the schedule and what his guidelines would be concerning negotiations on the equalization agreement, which expires very soon, on March 31, in fact. That is not after the election, and so now is the time for answers.
Meanwhile, the provincial finance ministers and premiers have to juggle with speculation about the future of health financing. We know that health financing also determines all kinds of other choices to be made in government policy for the provinces, particularly for Quebec.
I will give the House an example. The Quebec finance minister, Mr. Séguin, told us several months ago that there was a shortfall of $3 billion, and that he did not want to touch either health or education. The Quebec budget, setting aside health and education, amounts to $9 billion. Can the Government of Quebec reasonably be expected to cover this $3 billion shortfall out of this $9 billion?
Because of the unwillingness of the federal Liberal government and the current Prime Minister to provide answers, the Government of Quebec will have no other choice but to reduce its health and education costs. Health and education are priorities for Quebeckers and I am sure for all Canadians.
We would have expected the federal government to tell us, in the throne speech, how it intends to deal with fiscal imbalance, whether it is through equalization, the social transfer for health or other sectors, or even through tax point transfers, which is, as you know, the option preferred by the Bloc Quebecois.
However, the throne speech is silent on this issue. It is not mentioned at all. As I said earlier, the announcement was like a lead balloon. We were told that $2 million would be forthcoming. The former finance minister could have made the announcement in his economic statement, last October 31. It could even have been announced as soon as the agreement with the first ministers was struck in February 2002, if my memory serves me well.
So, there is nothing for health. The throne speech does not even mention the fiscal imbalance as an issue that the government will have to deal with. There is nothing on employment insurance. This is rather odd, particularly considering that, back in June, the Prime Minister himself promised a coalition of community groups and unions called the Sans-chemise in the Charlevoix region that he would settle this issue. Not only is the issue not settled, it was not even mentioned in the throne speech as an issue for which the federal government needs to find a solution quickly.
As we know, seasonal workers will soon be entering the so-called spring gap. These workers will no longer qualify for employment insurance, but they will not have gone back to work yet. There is nothing for these people, who cannot get social benefits, because one must use up a significant amount of his assets before qualifying. So, these people will have to use up their savings, because the federal government cannot find a solution to a problem that it recognizes, since the current Prime Minister had pledged to the Sans-chemise coalition that he would find such a solution.
So, there is nothing on employment insurance and on the fiscal imbalance. As regards our seniors, the hon. member for Champlain conducted an extraordinary campaign on the guaranteed income supplement, and this resulted in thousands of Quebeckers and Canadians getting this supplement, because for years the federal government had been as discreet as possible about the existence of this program. Now, things are easier thanks to the Bloc Quebecois, although this supplement was not made fully retroactive.
Indeed, those who were deprived of the guaranteed income supplement for years and who just found out that they are entitled to it are getting 11 months of retroactive payments, when they should at least get the same retroactive period that the current Prime Minister gave himself with Bill C-28. As we know, Bill C-28 was passed in 1998, but was retroactive to 1995, the year when Canada Steamship Lines International transferred its headquarters from Liberia to Barbados.
Consequently, the Prime Minister gave himself a retroactive measure. However, in the case of the elderly, this retroactive measure would represent too much money for the federal government. Once again, we must say that, even if the surplus is perhaps lower this year, due to economic circumstances, the government will still have quite a major surplus.
Thus, this reinstatement motion is presented to us in this context. I believe that, in this context, the opposition has no choice but to oppose this reinstatement motion, because we would be playing the partisan game of this government and this new Prime Minister, who is absolutely not a champion of change. Indeed, he wants, perhaps through a veneer, to pursue the same type of operations that were taking place when the former prime minister, Mr. Chrétien, was here.
Indeed, let not us delude ourselves. The Liberal Party of Canada is a structure, a machine that has, unfortunately, governed Canada too often and for too long and that has a vision of Canada that in no way reflects Quebecers' interests. The only specific aspects in the throne speech that was presented to us reflect just that.
The Liberal Party of Canada has a centralizing vision of the Canadian federation. It is Ottawa that must make the decisions. For the federal government, the provinces—I said this once in front of mayors, and I will say it one last time to tell you this anecdote—are big municipalities at best. Of course, mayors in my region were shocked. So I then used another expression. Now I say that, for the federal government, the provinces are big regional boards at best. I can say this now that the Liberal government in Quebec City has abolished them. This no longer shocks anyone.
A number of means will be decentralized, but the federal government will still have control over the way the money is spent.
Reinstatement of Government Bills
February 10th, 2004 / 11:45 a.m.
Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on the motion before us. I listened to part of yesterday afternoon's debate and I found that there were many reasons to oppose the present motion.
I will begin with the issue of the current Prime Minister. I remember that what was behind the unseating of the former prime minister, the current Prime Minister's offensive against the former one, was that there would be a fresh, new wind sweeping through the House, a wind of change. Someone new was needed. And in order to have someone new, a new organization and a new cabinet were needed. And that is what happened. I think about 80% of the cabinet was changed to make the new one.
It was necessary, as well, to prorogue the House. The current Prime Minister probably has some of the best image makers, or spin doctors as they are known, and they tried to put the idea into people's heads that a new prime minister would be good for them. A whole system was developed by these spin doctors to ensure that all the government's actions are geared toward this fresh, new change.
Parliament was prorogued when the former prime minister resigned, to indicate that things would begin on a new foundation, with a new—80% new—cabinet, and a new philosophy.
It is hard to figure out why, in this context of change, we have a motion before us today to bring back all the former bills. Perhaps not all of them. Some people have been arguing since yesterday that the government has to have some flexibility, but flexibility within the list of former bills which died on the Order Paper with the prorogation.
I think there is a basic inconsistency in boasting about having a new prime minister, a new cabinet and a new philosophy, saying that Parliament is being prorogued because they want to start off on a new foot, and at the same time bringing back all these old bills. It is fundamentally illogical. As members of Parliament, it is our responsibility and our duty to evaluate what can and cannot be reinstated. I will get back to that in a moment.
First I would like to address some of the arguments made yesterday. One of these was change, but there is no real wind of change. It is all the same. Depending on one's view, the current wind is the same, if not worse, as the one that was blowing when the former prime minister was here. Personally, I think it is worse, because whether the answer is yes or no, it comes with a smile, whereas before it did not. That is about the only change I can see.
Some have mentioned the fact that considerable time was spent studying these bills and that it would be a waste of time to start everything over. I would like to remind those people that all the bills currently being considered for reinstatement have been subject to time allocation motions.
We have always maintained that time allocation is detrimental to democracy. It cuts short the debate, not all the witnesses are heard, the system or the bill under consideration is not fully considered, and the government immediately puts forward a motion for time allocation. It may take a little longer sometimes, but the result is the same: it puts an end to debate.
The fresh approach that was promised to us, once again, will change nothing. We are already subject to time allocation. Parliament has been back for barely two weeks and already the government House leader is bringing in time allocation.
I would like to remind the House that we in the Bloc Quebecois have always said we would oppose, and have always opposed, time allocation motions in a vote. It is important to us to get to the heart of the bills, to be allowed to consider the bills in their entirety, and to have a full and complete debate.
To do so, members, who represent the public, must not be told, “Ten members having spoken on the issue, to satisfy the Liberal government's political agenda, this debate has now concluded”.
This seems quite consistent with the previous regime. I have not seen many differences over the past two weeks, on matters such as time allocation.
Most of the bills that the government wants to have the flexibility of reinstating were subject to time allocation. Consequently, we are not prepared to give our consent to reinstating everything the government wants.
We have been victims of time allocation. They impose time allocation, now, to tell us to “Move on”, even though these bills must be considered. Yes, they must be considered, because when a decision is made to reinstate them—and we do not want to—we must consider what may be reinstated.
Since the start, there have been bills that we do not necessarily like. I can mention, among others, Bill C-13 on assisted human reproduction. Once again, this is consistent with the previous regime. There is no difference between the current and the former prime ministers with regard to the federal government's capacity to encroach on Quebec's areas of jurisdiction.
There is no difference. We saw it in the throne speech. We also see it in the government's intention to reinstate bills that intrude on Quebec's jurisdiction and that encroach on its areas of jurisdiction.
The Assisted Human Reproduction Act contradicts and conflicts with thirteen Quebec laws. We had asked that the bill be split. We were in agreement regarding the prohibition on human cloning. However, the moment they want to establish agencies and tell the provinces what to do in their own jurisdiction, we can no longer agree.
However, with regard to Bill C-13—and I think that the government has already floated some balloons—there was interest in eventually reinstating it. What will be reinstated?
Yesterday, we heard government members says, “We want some flexibility”. They already have too much power with a majority I consider tyrannical, because they are imposing time allocation. Now, they will say, “We will decide which bills to reinstate”. We are afraid that this kind of bill will be reinstated, and once again the areas of jurisdiction belonging to the provinces and Quebec will be trampled on.
Let me tell you about Bill C-17. I believe you are very familiar with that piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, since you chair the legislative committee studying this issue. As you know, we spoke against some of its provisions, including the incredible powers granted to the intelligence services where passengers are concerned. Some even went as far as saying, “We can even extend that to railway and bus transportation”. Under very little control, these companies would be able to collect information about their passengers and release it to the RCMP and CSIS. This is something that Quebeckers have always feared.
We all remember the 1970 crisis. The RCMP itself burned down barns and then blamed it on somebody else. Granting that kind of power to the RCMP and CSIS, even with a commissioner reviewing the issue once a year, is cold comfort. In fact, knowing that information about passengers is collected and then transferred to the RCMP and CSIS is of no comfort to me at all.
We do not agree with many other provisions found in Bill C-17 that could be reinstated. The new philosophy of the government is to align its policies with those of the United States. We have come to realize that our national defence and foreign policies are being aligned with those of Washington. God knows that public safety is Washington's top priority these days.
I think the bill was drafted to meet the concerns of the U.S. It grants greater power not only to intelligence services, but also to ministers in general, through interim orders. Under this bill, a minister could make an interim order without bothering to check if it is in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the enabling legislation and say, “I am making this decision”.
That puts too much power in the hands of one individual, a minister. Consequently, it is very important for us to say, “You have not listened to what we had to say. You have imposed closure on all these bills.” We cannot tell the government today, “We give you the right to reinstate these bills at the same stage.”
We want to have an indepth debate.
If the government is serious and if it wants to get to the bottom of things, it should reintroduce the bills at first reading. We will take the necessary steps and get to the bottom of things. We will not allow the government to make a selection, say they want to bring back only certain bills and expecting the bills listed to be brought back to the House.
There is also the bill respecting the effective date of the representation order. The Prime Minister said he wanted to see this bill passed. Again, what is the difference with the old regime?
At least before I could say that the current regime is going further and more to the right. It pays less attention to the democratic significance and input of the House, introducing a bill to advance the effective date of the representation order. It is interfering with legislation that should be non-partisan. The electoral officer should be the one setting the standards.
With a piece of legislation, this government wants to tell the chief electoral officer what he should do. In this bill, it says that the new legislation will take effect on April 1, instead of August 26. This is because the Prime Minister wants to call an early election. He knows that, if he does that and the new legislation takes effect of August 26, some Canadians will probably be upset. I think the number of ridings will be increased from 301 to 308. The government and the Prime Minister fear the reaction of Canadians, mainly in western Canada.
What does this bill provide? I do not want to talk at length about Canadian history, but when this federation was born, we had this concept of two nations. We never hear about that, nowadays. All we hear about is the Canadian nation and, sometimes, the aboriginal nations, but the Quebec nation has completely disappeared from the radar screen. The throne speech does not mention this at all. In the past, we had equal representation, because we had two nations. But with the development of western and of Upper Canada over the years, the representation of Quebec has been eroded, and it is still being eroded today.
We used to have 25% of the seats in the Commons. And then, some people tried to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. They told us Quebec had 75 seats and would never have fewer. But they changed the other side of the equation. Instead of reducing the number of members from Quebec, they increased the number of members from the rest of Canada. The net result is a constant erosion of Quebec's representation in the House and its impact. We are aware of that. That is what is provided in the bill the Liberals want to put before us. Originally, both founding nations were equal. Today, there is no longer equality, and not even fairness.
This is a constant dissolution and dilution of the powers of Quebec. We saw it coming for a long time, and we were right. That is, moreover, why we even signed a letter, along with the hon. member for Trois-Rivières, denouncing that attitude. This is just the kind of bill they will be bringing back to us.
We have a number of reasons to be offended, to raise objections. We are not here just so the government can bring back the legislation it decides to select for reinstatement, that same government that brings in time allocation to get it rammed through, often at the end of a session. The government was the one holding all the cards. If it was so keen on these bills, all it had to do was not prorogue, and have us sit in November and December. We were ready to do that.
Why did we not sit in November and December? Perhaps because the new Prime Minister's image makers told him that it was better to keep his halo untarnished, and enjoy his popularity. He did not have to answer questions from members, but could stay in his little cocoon. The image makers could work on polishing up his image, selling him as the man to bring in a wind of change.
Now people in Quebec are beginning to realize that there has been no wind of change, no breath of fresh air, just more of the same. That this federal regime cannot be changed, that no matter who is in the PM's chair, no matter who is in place in Ottawa or Quebec, nothing will change. The system does not work. People are beginning to realize this.
There is no difference between the former Prime Minister and the present one. We see the same political philosophy, the same federal system they are trying to defend. As a result, they are going to react by trying to introduce bills their way, at the same stage they were at before, when they are the ones responsible for prorogation. There is no difference between the old and the new regimes.
The government is still looking to protect the millionaires club. When I hear prime ministers saying that there will be income tax cuts, will anyone but the richest benefit from them? If we look at the behaviour of the current Prime Minister, we can say without doubt that he does not much favour the people in the middle and poorest classes. He has done nothing at all to correct the inequities surrounding the employment insurance fund and has used tax havens to shelter his own companies.
There has been no change. The millionaires-club is still being protected and the democratic deficit still exists. Even if they were to introduce a bill saying they were fixing the democratic deficit, nothing would get changed. Look at the government's attitude as it brings in closure on the item before us.
All that tells us this is still the same old thing. The same political philosophy is still there. The same attitudes are still there. The same muzzling of committees. The standing committees of the House have become very partisan. The Liberal majority controls the committees. The government controls what happens in the House of Commons. It is the government that imposes time allocation motions. It is the government that decides which bills will be reinstated. It is the government that decides when closure will be applied to bills. It is the government that decides when we will vote. It is the government that decides how we will vote, too, because with its often tyrannical majority, it is the government that sets out the whole course for all the bills.
We have many reasons to say that we do not agree with what is going on. Yesterday I listened to the hon. member for Yukon congratulating the Bloc Quebecois, whose members had not yet even spoken, which must mean that, in his opinion, they agreed with the party in power. I am sorry to break his heart, but we cannot agree with the motion now before us.
Moreover, we have expressed our objection to the government's time allocation motion, imposed on the motion to reinstate bills. Certainly, now that we will have a vote on the principle of the matter, we will not surprise anyone by saying that we are not in agreement with the continuity of the old regime.
Reinstatement of Government Bills
February 9th, 2004 / 5:55 p.m.
Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON
Mr. Speaker, the motion seeks to reinstate bills that died on the Order Paper when the previous session of Parliament ended.
As all of us know, the goal of the motion is a simple one: to spare members the burden of having to repeat work on bills that got as far as the committee stage in the last session.
This is especially commendable given the numerous pressures MPs are under and the limited resources available to us.
What features are contained in the motion? Simply put, under the motion a minister would be able to request during 30 sitting days after the motion's adoption the reinstatement of a bill that had reached at least the committee stage when the last session ended. Should the Speaker be satisfied that the bill is the same as in the previous session, the bill would be reinstated at the same stage as before.
Thus during this session we can skip all the stages of debate that have been completed so far. The work of the committees that are considering the bills would consequently be preserved. In short, this is a very appealing option.
Parliament relies heavily upon precedents which means we are constantly looking over our shoulder to ensure new measures are consistent with past practices. Is this motion in keeping with the longstanding practices of the House? It is in fact a practice we have had for over three decades.
On a number of occasions reinstatement motions have been adopted by consent and without debate. It is clear that today's motion is well within the bounds of accepted parliamentary practice. This is supported by Marleau and Montpetit's authoritative guide to parliamentary procedure which discusses this issue in some detail. While they recognize that as a general principle prorogation of a session means that all bills that have not yet received royal assent die on the Order Paper and must be reintroduced in the new session, they also recognize that “bills have been reinstated by motion at the start of a new session at the same stage they had reached at the end of the previous session; committee work has similarly been revived”.
One point that needs clarification is that this motion allows the government the flexibility to reintroduce certain bills. It does not require the government to reintroduce all bills that were on the Order Paper at a certain stage when Parliament prorogued. Let me give an example of some bills which the government would have the flexibility to reinstate if it so chose.
One is Bill C-7 on the administration and accountability of Indian bands. The new government has indicated it would like to revisit that whole question of governance but nonetheless, this motion would give the government the flexibility to reintroduce that bill should it so choose.
Another one is Bill C-10B on cruelty to animals which has received a lot of attention in my riding. Bill C-13, assisted human reproduction, as an example had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate and a great deal of the work that had been done here in the House of Commons would have to be redone. Bill C-17 on public safety was another bill that had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate.
Bill C-18, an act respecting Canadian citizenship, is another bill that the government if this motion passes will be able to reintroduce if it so chooses. Bill C-19, first nations fiscal management, was at report stage. Bill C-20, protection of children, was at report stage. Bill C-22, the Divorce Act, was in committee. Bill C-23, registration of information relating to sex offenders, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-26, the Railway Safety Act, was in committee. Bill C-27 on airport authorities was at second reading when the House prorogued.
Bill C-32, Criminal Code amendments, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-33, international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences, was at report stage when we prorogued. Bill C-34, ethics, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate where it had been amended.
These are bills that have gone through a lengthy debate and process within the House of Commons and some already within the Senate.
Bill C-35, remuneration of military judges, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-36, Archives of Canada, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-38, the marijuana bill, was at report stage and second reading. Bill C-40, Corrections and Conditional Release Act, was at first reading when the House prorogued. Bill C-43, the fisheries act, was at first reading when the House prorogued.
Bill C-46, the capital markets fraud bill, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. This is a bill that will help the government deal with the kind of corporate fraud that we have seen with Enron and many other examples. We want to make sure that our government has the ability to deal with these types of issues so that investors are protected from the fraudulent activities of the management of various companies and their directors.
Bill C-49, the electoral boundaries act had passed third reading and was in the Senate.
Bill C-51, the Canada Elections Act, and Bill C-52, the Radiocommunication Act, were at second reading when the House prorogued. Bill C-53, the riding name changes, had passed third reading and was sent to the Senate. Bill C-54, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act was in committee as was Bill C-56, the Food and Drugs Act, when the House prorogued. Bill C-57, the westbank first nation self-government act was also in committee.
There was a lot of work involved in getting these bills to this stage. The government is not necessarily committing to reintroducing all these bills, but we want the flexibility to reintroduce those bills which we support and not have to reinvent the wheel.
The amendment put forward by the member for Yorkton--Melville indicates that there are a number of bills that, given the government's flexibility, he would not like to have reinstated. That includes Bill C-7, the bill dealing with the administration and accountability of Indian bands. Our government may want to revisit that bill.
The member for Yorkton--Melville has said that Bill C-13, the assisted human reproduction bill, should be left alone as well. He names a number of other bills such as Bill C-19, Bill C-20, Bill C-22, Bill C-26, Bill C-34, Bill C-35, Bill C-36, Bill C-38.
I should point out that a number of these bills, Bill C-13 for example, passed third reading and was in the Senate.The member for Yorkton--Melville wants us to start all over with that bill.
He said that Bill C-34, the ethics legislation, should not be reinstated, yet that bill had passed third reading and was sent to the Senate where it had been amended. We all know about that bill.
He said that we should start all over again with regard to Bill C-35, remuneration for military judges legislation. That bill had passed third reading and was in the Senate,.
I do not know what is so contentious with regard to Bill C-36, the archives of Canada legislation, but the member for Yorkton--Melville wants us to start all over again with that bill. Bill C-38, the marijuana bill, was at report stage.
A lot of work has already been done in this chamber and in the other place on bills that, without the passage of this motion, would have to be started all over again. There is a long list of precedents for reinstating government bills and reviving committee work.
For example, in 1970, 1972, 1974 and 1986, the members of this House gave their unanimous consent to a motion to reinstate bills from a previous session.
In 1977 and 1982 members amended the Standing Orders to allow Parliament to carry over legislation to the next session. All of which testifies to the longstanding practice of the House of allowing the reinstatement of bills at the same stage as was the case in the previous session, which is precisely what the motion calls for.
It is interesting to note, and I have some personal interaction with this particular idea, that the procedure proposed in the motion is similar, in fact it is identical, to that which exists in the Standing Orders for private members' bills which the House adopted in 1998.
I have a private member's bill, Bill C-212, an act respecting user fees, that unanimously passed all stages in the House, was in the Senate, had passed first reading in the Senate and had been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on National Finance. Then we prorogued. Without this particular feature, I would have had to start all over again in the House of Commons after two to three years of work and a bill that had passed unanimously at all stages in the House of Commons.
With this particular Standing Order, the bill is already on the floor of the Senate. We did not have to reinvent the wheel here in the House of Commons. I am hopeful that it will be passed to the Standing Committee on National Finance shortly and then onwards from there.
We say that those rules are good for private member's bills, in fact they have the support of the House because they are now part of the Standing Orders. We say, on the one hand for private members' business, it is all right to reinstate these bills, but for the government's business it is not, this is a whole new thing.
The member opposite said that if we have a new government then why do we not have new ideas. I can assure the member that if he read the throne speech, and if he looked at the new democratic deficit paper, this is just the start. He will see that the government will be operated very differently.
However, having said that, there is no problem in my judgment to reintroduce those bills that make sense. There has been a lot of work done already. With this motion, the government would have the flexibility to deal with these bills that have been passed, where there is consent of the House, and send them to the Senate.
It is interesting to note that in 1977, a private member's bill was reinstated after Parliament was dissolved.
All of which inevitably leads us to the conclusion, as I said earlier, that if it is reasonable to reinstate private members' bills at the same stage, surely we have the common sense in this chamber to say that it is reasonable to follow the same procedure with respect to government bills.
What would be different about government bills? If we have adopted the procedure in the House for private members' business, why would we want different rules for government business, unless we are out to score political points or be partisan in our debate?
I should point out that this practice of reinstating bills is also practised in other mature democracies that have ruled in favour of bringing legislation forward from one session to another.
I think of the parliament in the United Kingdom from which many of our own parliamentary practices originally came. It has reinstatement motions to allow government bills to carry over from one session to the next.
The official opposition has told the media that it would oppose the motion for the sole purpose of delaying bills from the last session. This is patently unfair and contrary to House practices. The attitude shows it has little regard for the work of the House and for Canadian taxpayers. Opposition members will ask members of the House, at great cost to the public treasury, to come back and re-debate bills that have already passed this chamber and are in the Senate in many cases.
The bills that will be reinstated would include the legislation to accelerate the coming into force of the new electoral boundaries which was passed by the House of Commons and sent to the Senate.
We talk about dealing with western alienation. This particular legislation would allow more seats for British Columbia and Alberta. This is the way to proceed. Why would we want to delay that bill? Why would we want to have the debate all over again on something that is patently obvious.
We take the census and figure it all out, and draw the boundaries. This is not rocket science. This is done by Elections Canada. It redefines the boundaries. It recognizes that Canada is a growing country, that different areas are growing more quickly than others, and it redefines the boundaries.
If we have that bill when the next election is called, Alberta and British Columbia will have a bigger voice. I think Ontario would receive more seats as well. I am sure that there could be an amendment that could be put forward to deal with Nova Scotia perhaps.
There is the legislation to create an independent ethics commissioner and a Senate ethics officer, something that the members opposite have argued for vociferously for months, perhaps years. This bill could be reinstated very simply by agreeing and adopting this motion. We could have an independent ethics commissioner for the House and a Senate ethics officer.
The motion should have the support of the House. It is the practice in most mature democratic countries.
In conclusion, we need to be clear that adoption of the motion does not mean that all the bills that were on the Order Paper when we prorogued would automatically come back. It means that the government would have the flexibility to pick those bills that, in its wisdom and judgment, it sees fit to bring back. That would allow us not to have to reinvent the wheel and re-debate those bills that have the support of the chamber. Many of them also have the support of the Senate, at least at first reading stage.
The motion before us today does not represent a break with our parliamentary traditions. In fact, it is very much a part of our parliamentary traditions and it is entirely consistent with the practice of the House dating back to 1970.
Moreover, the measures described in the motion would greatly contribute to freeing up the members so that they can focus on the important task of developing new initiatives for promoting the well-being of Canadians.
With this in mind, I certainly intend to support this motion. I would urge other members to support it so we can get on with the business of the House, the important business and legislation that can be brought forward and reinstated and not have to be re-debated.
Reinstatement of Government Bills
February 9th, 2004 / 3:45 p.m.
Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am sure you will understand why it is difficult for me to resist the temptation to take part in this afternoon's debate. We have just heard a version of the truth that strikes me as very odd. It does not match at all what I understand to be the question at issue.
First, let us consider whether a precedent is being set today. In my opinion, that would be a good place to start. In fact, believe it or not, Mr. Speaker—you must know this, because you are so objective and non-partisan—the House has been adopting similar motions for 30 years. It has been 30 years; that is a long time. I know, because I have been here a long time as well.
In 1970, 1972 and 1986, not only did we have similar motions but they were unanimously passed by the House of Commons. Unanimously.
I am sure that my hon. colleagues opposite who have spoken against the motion had not considered what I have just said, and that, in the light of these facts, they might want to change their minds and vote in favour of the motion proposed by the hon. government House leader.
Moreover, in 1991, 1996 and 1999, and even as recently as 2002, the House adopted motions absolutely identical to the one proposed today. I know something about those, because in 1996, 1999 and 2002, I was the government House leader, and so I remember it well. We already know it is not without precedent.
I should add, because some hon. members spoke about what they see as a democratic deficit, that in fact the democratic deficit is on the other side of the House, and we see what has happened.
The hon. members opposite wanted a motion that would reinstate private members' bills—not government bills but private members' bills. The House, in its wisdom, passed the motion. That means that now, an hon. member—more often than not someone from the opposition—can rise in the House and revive a private member's bill, at the stage already completed. At the same time, they say, “No, this rule is good for us, but it is not good for you, over on the government side”.
There is a democratic deficit on the other side of the House. I will come back to that later. The hon. government House leader has moved a motion, and we have just established that it is exactly identical to, the same as, those in past sessions, many of which passed unanimously.
Yet, what does the opposition do? The hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River, who was an excellent parliamentary secretary and is a known expert on the matter, told us earlier, and rightfully so, that in fact the motion does not reinstate any bill. It simply authorizes the government to bring back a bill from the previous session at the stage already debated and approved by this House. That is all it does.
Then we are left to ask the question, if the House has already voted on a piece of legislation, the hon. member across who has said there is a democratic deficit, why is he against our accepting the fact that the House has already voted on it? Is it not the basic concept of respecting the democratic principles to accept the fact that we have already voted regardless of whether we voted in favour or against?
Surely the House has voted and that should be respected. However, the hon. member said that it does not count. He wants a second kick at the can.
Mr. Speaker, in the unlikely event that I have not convinced you, let me tell you what other scheme the opposition is up to.
The government moved a motion, the one introduced by the hon. leader of the government in the House of Commons. The opposition introduced an amendment. Some would say fair game; any motion can be amended. However the opposition does not want the House to vote on its amendment. Why do I say that? It is simple. I know a few procedural tricks myself.
The opposition introduced a subamendment. For the benefit of all colleagues and perhaps anyone who is listening to this debate, when we are dealing with a motion as opposed to a bill, an amendment can be introduced and then a subamendment can be introduced. When the subamendment is dealt with, a new subamendment can be introduced so that we never get back to the original motion so that the government cannot move the previous question. If the government cannot move the previous question, that means the debate will go on forever and the motion will never be voted on. That is exactly what it means and I challenge any member across the way to tell me it means anything else. It means that the first motion cannot be voted on.
The opposition has created a situation where the only way to resolve the impasse is for the hon. minister to invoke closure. There is no other way, otherwise the democratic principle of voting on the motion can never be achieved. It can only be achieved by putting a motion that the debate end at some time because otherwise it will not end. If the hon. member says that is not true, then let him remove the subamendment and let him remove the amendment and let us debate the main motion.
Obviously the opposition does not intend to do that because it has created the two scenarios to force the government to move closure and then the opposition members stand here and sanctimoniously claim that the government is otherwise undemocratic because it has moved closure. They are the ones who provoked it. Did they not think we would see through that? Did they think that Canadians would not understand what I have just said? It is crystal clear. I am sure all Canadians understand how Parliament works. I am sure they understand that what the opposition is doing here is not democracy but the denial of it. That is what we have before us today.
I look forward to the exchange with the hon. member in questions and comments later when he explains to us how he was pretending with crocodile tears that there was some sort of democratic deficit, as he referred to it, because the hon. minister moved closure.
The hon. minister proposed a motion which we recognize has already been voted on democratically by the House of Commons, a debatable motion, a votable motion. Not only did members across not want to vote to accept that which the House had already voted on, which they should, they did not want to accept the principle that the motion in question be debated because they introduced an amendment and then a subamendment to stop us from getting back to the main motion. That is crystal clear. It would take only a few minutes for anyone who understands anything about how this place works to determine that is the case.
Why is the hon. member across afraid of voting on the motion? Is it, as the hon. member for Scarborough--Rouge River astutely pointed to earlier today, that the opposition does not know whether it is in favour of the reinstatement motion or against it ? Does the opposition simply want to amend it and subamend it so that it can be debated for eternity and thereby force the government to use closure so that in fact we vote on the closure motion?
In the end this will be quite interesting. I do not know when the closure vote will take place but presumably it will be very soon. After we vote on the subamendment and the amendment, I will be curious to see how the hon. member votes on the main motion. If he votes against the main motion, that means he fails to respect the fact that members have already voted on that issue. If he votes for the main motion, then I am forced to ask the question, why did he bother to put the amendment and the subamendment if he was in favour of the original proposition unamended?
Canadians will have to ask themselves these questions about the behaviour of the hon. member across and all of his colleagues who have proposed the amendment and the subamendment.
I would be very curious to know where the Conservatives opposite get their facts. May I also remind this House, since the member has now declared himself a Conservative—I must say, better him than me, and he can be sure I will never try to take his Conservative title away from him—that the Conservative Party had moved similar motions in 1986 and 1991. Perhaps he could tell us if he is against these reinstatement motions.
Could it be that the Conservatives were wrong when they moved these motions in the past? If he is in favour of reinstatement motions, why did his party put forward an amendment and an amendment to the amendment to prevent us from voting on the main motion?
That is what is before us today. In conclusion, allow me to point out what bills we are talking about.
A number of these pieces of legislation are very important.
Bill C-57, the Westbank First Nation self-government bill is an important bill. Why does the hon. member and his colleagues not want us to pick up where we left off on it? What about the Food and Drugs Act amendments, Bill C-56, of the last session? What about Bill C-54, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act to transfer money to the provinces? Why is he against us recognizing the work that Parliament has done on these bills? Why is he against the Radiocommunication Act?
There was also the acceleration of the redistribution, Bill C-51. That is an interesting bill. We now hear that the so-called new Conservative Party, if that is not an oxymoron, is now against Bill C-51. It was the House leader of the then Alliance Party who asked for the bill in the first place in order to accelerate the redistribution. Now that party is against reinstating that bill and has threatened to amend the bill once it comes forward.
With regard to capital market fraud, the so-called Enron bill, why is the opposition against us wanting to increase transparency in the finance sector? What about Bill C-43, the Fisheries Act? What about Bill C-40, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act? It is interesting to note that this bill deals with tightening up security and the safety for Canadians, police work, et cetera. That party always alleges it is in favour of such measures, but it is not showing it.
What about Bill C-36, the Archives of Canada act. I remember a then Alliance member who worked very actively with me to amend that bill to make it go forward. I am looking at him right now, the critic for Canadian heritage of the then Alliance party. Why is he against us moving ahead with that bill when he worked so hard to get it improved and passed in the House? I do not understand.
What about the remuneration of military judges? What about Bill C-34, the ethics bill?
Not every one of these bills will be introduced by the government, but a large number of them will be. This is an enabling motion permitting the government to reintroduce every single one of them. Why is the opposition against that?
Let me go a little further by mentioning the international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences, Bill C-33. The opposition again, allegedly on the side of public safety, is against us moving ahead to bring that bill back at the stage it was at.
Criminal Code amendments should strike a chord with the folks across, but no they do not. I think principles have been overtaken on the opposition side. The hon. member across invoked so-called principles, but hon. members across saw an opportunity to, in their view, embarrass the government for moving closure very early when it came back.
As we have already established, once we have the amendment and the subamendment, we create the condition which can only be solved by having closure. One could argue very successfully, if it was looked at totally objectively, that it is the opposition that is forcing this closure upon the House, not the government.
Let me mention some more legislation. We have Bill C-27, the airport authority bill. Bill C-26, the Railway Safety Act, was in committee. Bill C-23, the registration of information relating to sex offenders, was passed at third reading and sent to the Senate. The opposition does not want us to reinstate that bill. It wants us to go back to the beginning presumably. What does the opposition have against us trying to improve the safety of Canadians by proceeding with the legislation in a more expeditious way, recognizing the work already done by hon. members of the House?
There are more bills. There is Bill C-7, the accountability of aboriginal communities bill. Surely hon. members would be in favour of that because they keep invoking it in speeches in the House of Commons. Assisted human reproduction, Bill C-13, was a bill that stayed for years in the House at various stages. There were white papers, preliminary bills, final bills, witnesses all over the place, and finally we received a conclusion to it and it was sent to the other place where it was not quite concluded there.
Why should we have to restart work that has already been done? Why can we not respect the democratic will of members who have seen fit to vote on that issue in the past and send it to the Senate. Surely that is respecting the democratic institutions, not the other way around.
Why does the hon. member not withdraw the subamendment and amendment? Of course we know that will not to happen because the opposition members are up to using procedural tricks to stop the government from proceeding with this. That is what they are doing. They are being excessively partisan again. The way they are behaving now it is a small wonder Canadians do not trust the opposition to form a government.
In conclusion, why do we not just carry the motion right now and reinstate those bills right where they were or allow the ministers in each case to reinstate the bills? It is not to skip steps in bills. It is merely to recognize the work already done by us, members of the House. What could be more democratic than that? That is what should happen right now, and surely that is the correct approach.
The hon. member's party itself gave unanimous consent for that exact motion before. I know because I put the motion to the House at the time. It passed without even debate in the House in the past. The hon. member knows that is correct.
Why does the member not remove the amendment and subamendment and carry the motion right now? Why does the member not stop this unnecessary foolishness of trying to force the government to do this in order to pretend that the government is moving closure whereas it would not have otherwise.
We know the truth. We all know what it is like. We want to recognize the work done by members on all sides of the House on all those pieces of legislation and recognize the value of their work.
I ask the hon. member again to allow this vote to take place right away. Then we can get to business, complete this legislation and proceed with other legislation, all for the betterment of Canadians. That is what we are for on this side of the House. Let us see if the hon. member across is in favour of his partisanship or is in favour of helping Canadians.
Reinstatement of Government Bills
February 6th, 2004 / 12:30 p.m.
Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB
Mr. Speaker, introducing new bills into the House and the Senate after prorogation is a serious issue. We must look at what was done with some of these pieces of legislation in the last Parliament.
One particular piece of legislation that I am very concerned with is Bill C-13. We had an unbelievable debate in the House on this. We sat in the chamber and voted on Bill C-13 dealing with reproductive technology for over two and half to three hours one evening. The bill was originally brought into the House at the beginning of the 37th Parliament as Bill C-56.
However, if we go to the history of where the bill came from, it actually died on the Order Paper as Bill C-47 in 1997. The bill was initiated by a royal commission in the early part of the last decade.
It is not that we should not have this legislation. In fact there is no question that such legislation is long overdue.
I will now talk a bit about the history the legislation. It is very important to understand its history in order to discern whether we should at this time be bringing it back after prorogation and just before an election.
I would not argue that we do not need the legislation. In fact I argued long and hard for the need to have it. Science is far ahead of the legislation on which we are presently working. Nevertheless, this legislation is flawed in many serious ways.
In committee we aggressively dealt with it. There were at least 100 amendments that we wanted to make to the legislation prior to it leaving committee. There was very tight voting on it. It pricks the conscience of every Canadian. All members who listened to the testimony at committee were very much involved in the debate. There is an emotional level that this subject brings to the conscience of most Canadians, especially committee members.
The reason I am talking about the legislation is because we worked on it for a long time as a Parliament. However, at the beginning of the 37th Parliament, the minister of health decided to bring a piece of legislation in and treat it somewhat differently in the House of Commons. It went directly to committee. That was the first piece of legislation of its kind that would go directly to committee, instead of going to the House of Commons for first and second reading and then to committee.
In a very non-partisan way we brought the best witnesses from across the country and around the world to give us their wisdom and present their testimony before committee. Then we would be able to discern how we wanted to draft and craft a bill reflecting the views of Canadians. We wanted this legislation to be the best in the world. That was the intent of the committee at the time. It was something on which we worked quite aggressively.
The committee listened to well over 150 witnesses. We sounded some of the pieces of information that came forward from some of the brightest minds in the world on the subject. The committee had international witnesses and we reviewed their legislation. The committee reviewed what was in the draft legislation. We worked very hard, openly and in a non-partisan fashion on the legislation. It was an exciting opportunity. As a new member of Parliament, it was my first experience on committee. I thought this was the way it should be done.
I have been here three years now and I realize that is not quite the way most committees work. My first awakening on that committee was at the very end of the sitting. For nine months we worked very hard on legislation that was very sensitive, and in a very non-partisan way. The most profound piece in the legislation was whether we should be able to destroy the human embryo or embryonic stem cell for research purposes. The committee was almost unanimously against this because of the witnesses and testimony which had come forward over the nine months.
I will never forget what happened, because at the last minute, at the eleventh hour, the minister cracked the whip and these individuals I trusted on the other side in committee--because of the witnesses and some of the testimony and some of the things they had said--changed their views 180° on whether to allow embryonic stem cells or not. I could not believe that on an issue such as this they would change their minds and yet that is what happened at that time. I believe it was the wrong decision in so many ways.
We asked to be shown why stem cells were needed. We asked why as a nation we should go to the place where human life would be destroyed for the sake of others. The science is not there. Scientists said they were needed because stem cells from embryos are more elastic and therefore they might be capable of being triggered to grow into any organ of the body. I challenged them by asking them to show us in animal embryos where that was a possibility. If it is a possibility then maybe we should go there even though it would be difficult for many Canadians to destroy human life for the sake of others.
Perhaps there would be some scientific validity to it if we want to change the ethic from where we protect human life from beginning to end, which has been a fundamental principle for Canadians for as long as Canada has been a nation. The legislation would change that ethic to “for the greater good of society”, which would change the ethic from protecting human life regardless of the cost. We should do the math and see whether we should proceed or not, and if it is for the greater good rather than the negative, then perhaps the math will be the guiding principle. If this becomes just about math, then we are on a very slippery slope in this nation. Not only will we be destroying human embryos, but as health dollars become precious in the upcoming years, we will be going to the place where we will perhaps be making decisions as to whether or not grandma should have hip surgery or heart surgery, or whether we look after comatose patients or the physically and mentally challenged individuals in our society.
These kinds of decisions will be made if we allow ourselves to be controlled by just the ethic of math rather than the ethic of protecting human life regardless of how fragile it is. This what I very much fear more than anything else in this piece of legislation: where it will vault us.
It is really amazing to me that when we went through all of this in committee we had agreement at that stage. We said we would put out a committee report reflecting our views. It was a very difficult time at that stage. The report had to be worded in such a way that it would not be exploited and would not take us down that path, because the legislation we were looking said that research should be done if it was deemed necessary. But necessary was not defined, and if we do not define necessary it means that whatever somebody thinks is necessary is obviously necessary. We thought we should put in the wording “only if no other biological material could be found” to do that kind of research; we thought perhaps that was the time we should consider it. We agreed on that wording collectively in committee and that wording was put forward in our recommendations.
Committee members said that we should hold off, as my party has said, for at least three years and put a moratorium on embryonic stem cell research while the science proved to us as a nation that it was the way to go. We are not there yet. The science is not there yet.
In fact, science is showing us that we could achieve much more promise in adult stem cells. In committee, that was our question to the scientists. We asked the scientists why adult stem cells could not be used. They said they could not be triggered into growing into any organ of the body. That has been proven wrong, actually, in the time that we have been working on this piece of legislation. A scientist in Minnesota has come forward to say that stem cells can be taken from bone marrow and triggered into growing into any organ of the body and then we can do the same kind of research that we wanted embryonic stem cells for.
The problem with embryonic stem cells, according to the research and science behind this, is that they are so elastic they cannot be triggered into growing into the appropriate organ. That is not the problem with adult stem cells. I am not a scientist, but I have been told by scientists that when adult stem cells are being grown they can be triggered into growing into the organ that scientists want them to grow into. There is much more promise on the adult stem cell side than there is on the embryonic cell side.
We should be very cautious of being led down the garden path in the sense of allowing us to do the research that is morally repugnant and goes against the morals that Canada and Canadians have had for generations.