Bill C-26 (Historical)
Appropriation Act No. 4, 2003-2004
An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2004
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.
Reg Alcock Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Budget Implementation Act, 2004
April 19th, 2004 / 1:25 p.m.
Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC
Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. It takes me a little by surprise, but it is a very good question.
My colleague, who has served on the Standing Committee on Transport, knows that the CPR, to give only one example, acts like it was above the law.
For example, in Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, in the centre of my riding, a rail line begins at Sherbrooke Street and goes right to the Port of Montreal, which is, of course, included in my riding. To meet the economic imperatives of just-in-time delivery of merchandise, and thus support economic development, the quality of life of our citizens has been given short shrift, so that that goods can be shipped around the clock.
That means that my constituents who live near the railway on Wurtele, Dézéry and Frontenac streets—even if it is 2 a.m. and they have to get up at 6—are exposed to noise, vibration, and noise pollution, not to mention the material damage that may occur. Dust and soot drift down all over. It is impossible to open the windows. I have heard some horror stories.
The railroad will not be expropriated, naturally, but Bill C-26 would have helped the parties learn to coexist. Houses will not be moved either. However, there has to be an agreement to end earlier.
I want to give an example. Trains are stopping in residential neighbourhoods and can be stationary for five or six minutes. They get turned off, with all the vibrations this means for the public. This is unacceptable. This harks back to the 19th century of Émile Zola. It is no longer acceptable in 2004 for such things to happen.
I know that, along with the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, we will make this an issue in the next federal election. We will not stop until the government takes appropriate action. At one time, the Liberals had a real government House leader. I know that the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell would have made Bill C-26 a priority. How is it that this bill has not been reinstated? It should have been. It would have been possible to come to an agreement rapidly, at least on this aspect of the bill.
If the government committed to introducing a bill in the next few days, I am certain that all the opposition parties would cooperate with all diligence to ensure its adoption, because this is a matter of quality of life and respect for individuals. Economic development cannot mean disrespect for individual quality of life.
Consequently, there is no word grand enough or powerful enough to express just how incensed the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel and I are to see that the government has abandoned people living along the railroad.
Budget Implementation Act, 2004
April 19th, 2004 / 1:10 p.m.
Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC
As my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel has said, the federal government is multiplying its intrusions into health but not putting the corresponding funding into it.
There is something even more serious. On a number of occasions I have spoken with the Minister of Health, the member for Papineau—Saint-Denis, a Montreal riding. The health minister is behaving as if the provinces, the main stakeholders as far as health is concerned, were not accountable themselves to our fellow citizens. It is as if there were no mechanisms for accountability.
The logic the federal government has been using since the Romanow report was tabled is to say that, even if it does not provide health funding, the provinces are accountable to it. Even if, with the exception of National Defence, veterans affairs, aboriginal affairs, and epidemics, the federal government has no valid jurisdiction for intervening in health, it would like to hold the provinces accountable.
Even Mr. Couillard, MNA for Mont-Royal and health minister in Jean Charest's government, who is not—as everyone knows—a Bloc Quebecois activist, had harsh words for the federal government. I would like to quote him. I remind the House that he is a minister in Jean Charest's government, one of the most spineless governments the National Assembly has ever known. Addressing the federal Minister of Health, he declared in the National Assembly:
It is not right for an organization that is somewhat of a minority shareholder at 16% to assume the right to oversee and audit health care systems in Canada when it does not make a firm financial commitment.
Ottawa provides 16% of health care funding.
Mr. Philippe Couillard, Quebec's health minister and MNA for Mont-Royal, has finally acknowledged that the Bloc Quebecois is right in the battle we are waging.
We agree that the health care system needs to be reviewed. So true is it that it needs to be looked at in a whole new light and changes taking place in the health care system accepted, that seven of the ten provinces have formed working groups to rethink the health care system.
In Quebec, this exercise was directed by the former PQ health minister, Mr. Clair. This resulted in the Clair report in 2001, which made a number of suggestions to regionalize the health care systems and establish family medicine groups that would group doctors together in some communities in order to provide services seven days a week, 24 hours a day. This is a reminder that in the health care system, family doctors were once closer to the communities than they may be at present.
Nevertheless, we do not need the federal government to come in and tell us how to reorganize our health care system. We do not need the federal government to come in and evaluate in real time how long it takes to get access to certain health care systems. The contribution the federal government should make is a massive reinvestment in the health care system.
As for the way each province organizes its health care system, the choice is up to each one. In Quebec—I do not know the other province's situations as well—it must be realized that there are four areas of accountability by which our fellow citizens can determine how the available health resources are being spent.
First, there is a patient advocate in the Quebec health care system. When people are in a health care institution, they can make official complaints if things are not as they would wish. My friend, the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, knows that in the Quebec health system there is a patient advocate who listens to citizens' complaints. It is not up to the federal government to intervene in this sector.
Second, the regional boards, which have become the health and social service agencies, submit annual reports in which they explain what resources have been used, what goals were pursued and what objectives were attained and implemented.
Third—and this is an accountability measure as real as any in Ottawa—there is the National Assembly's parliamentary committee on health, social services and social affairs.
The fourth area of accountability is, of course, question period in the National Assembly, where the opposition parties—the Parti Quebecois and the ADQ—can ask the government questions about the way in which the money allocated to health care is used.
Moreover, in 1995, the then prime minister, Jean Chrétien, set up and chaired a National Forum on Health. Its report was presented in 1997. One of the recommendations made by this forum was to establish a $300 million fund to sustain and improve the health care system. When the provinces' use of this money was evaluated, it was found that the province of excellence, the province that best used the health funding, was Quebec, of course. We can see how dark the future will be if the federal government does not live up to its responsibilities in the field of health.
Since I have two minutes left and the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel is with me here in the House, I would like to take a moment to say how disappointed we are that the federal government did not choose to reinstate Bill C-26.
I represent the riding of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve. There is a rail line that runs right through a residential area. Can you imagine my fellow citizens, the residents of Déséry, Darling, Wurtele and Bercy streets, having to put up with CN's round the clock operations? Trains pass three times daily, including at night. For years now, we have been calling upon the government to give more powers to the Canadian Transportation Agency to mediate community complaints.
Former Bill C-26, which was not welcomed by the railways, could have given our fellow citizens some real clout when it came to seeking quality of life for their community. Despite the study carried out by the Standing Committee on Transport, the government was vile, irresponsible and unfeeling enough not to make sure the bill got passed.
But it will not go unnoticed, because in Montreal, as in other parts of Quebec, the opportunity of the coming election campaign will be used to make an issue of the increased power that must be given to the Canadian Transportation Agency. Because federally regulated transportation companies are behaving like barons of industry, and not respecting people's quality of life, we will be sure of the support of our fellow citizens.
I am not angry, merely passionate about this. I have learned there is a difference. But rest assured, former Bill C-26 will be an issue in the coming election campaign.
Budget Implementation Act, 2004
April 19th, 2004 / 1 p.m.
Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on budget implementation. As you are aware, and I am sure the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell is aware, this is a bill to amend eight acts, including the Canada Pension Plan, the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act, the Fiscal Arrangements Act and, of course, the Employment Insurance Act.
As we know, employment insurance has been an indelible blot on this government's record, and I will speak about that later. I am sure that it will be an issue in the riding of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, where I just might do some door-to-door canvassing with my friend, the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, although it is not our highest priority, as the hon. member will understand.
Let us begin at the beginning. We will spare no effort to keep the major social issues front and centre. This is a budget that has not failed to disappoint in areas where expectations were extremely high, in terms of social programs, health care financing, the expected amendment to the Canada Health Act and parental leave.
I will speak about the issue of rail transportation later, but for now I will say that the government was expected to follow up on Bill C-26. When there was a real government leader in this House, Bill C-26 was a high priority. We were very surprised to learn, without any explanation, that the bill did not outlast the former House leader.
Let us begin at the beginning. First, there is health. We know that all our fellow citizens are concerned about health. We know that the provincial premiers, no matter what their political stripe, have carried out a campaign for reinvestment in health. That campaign is not the idea or the sole idea of the Bloc Quebecois or the Parti Quebecois. All the premiers—the Liberals in Ontario, the Conservatives in the Maritimes, the New Democrats in the West, and Gordon Campbell in British Columbia—have asked the federal government to shoulder its responsibilities and increase health transfer payments to 25% of the actual cost of maintaining a viable system.
This is all the more important since there is a consensus. The Romanow report asked that transfer payments be increased to 25% of what it costs the provinces to provide these services. As we know, this measure was deemed so important by the premiers that, in recent months, the provinces have run a campaign in all the major dailies in Canada and in Quebec to ensure that the message is heard.
This is why, within a few days, it was believed in the various provincial capitals that the $2 billion announced in 2003 would be a recurrent amount. This would have been a reasonable measure. Of course, even if this had been the case, the provinces would still have received much less than the 25% they are asking for. As we know, the federal government is currently contributing, through transfer payments, 16% of health care costs.
There is a paradox in the Canadian policy, at a time when health is the major challenge for public administrations. We know that this is because people are living longer. It is not rare, in our activities as members of Parliament, to meet with people who are 100 years old or more. About a month ago, I read in a magazine that there are over 100,000 Canadians who are one hundred years old or more. Today, we are no longer talking about the third generation, but the fourth generation.
Individuals, in the House and outside it, who pay attention to what are known as the determinants of health have a good chance of living to 76 or 80 years of age; for example, these individuals eat a healthy diet, do not smoke, do not drink excessively and exercise to some extent. We hope the Speaker will be as or even more fortunate; however, the health care system must still be able to rise to these new challenges.
The major challenge facing health care is home care. There are, in fact, two major challenges facing health care: Home care—how will we keep people in their communities longer? Second, palliative care—how will we assist people at the end of their lives?
These are clearly provincial responsibilities, but they cannot be adequately managed if the federal government continues to under invest in health. What is most disappointing to the Bloc Quebecois—and I am certain that my NDP and Conservative Party colleagues agree—is that we had every right to expect the federal government to provide appropriate funding so the provinces can meet the needs of the public.
What we are seeing instead is troubling, to say the least. The government wants to make health care a tool for nation building. In his speech in Toronto, the Prime Minister said again that, during the next election campaign, he would make health a major issue. If this is true, if the Prime Minister, who is a member from Montreal, wants to make health a dominant theme in the next election campaign, I hope that his first responsibility as member for LaSalle—Émard and Prime Minister, is to make a substantial investment.
I want to express a second wish: that the Ontario Liberal caucus will get through to the Prime Minister and that the members from Ontario, Quebec and all the provinces will make him understand that he has a responsibility to intervene with regard to reinvestment.
That is not what is happening. Instead of ensuring that the provinces, which are the primary caretakers of the health care system, have sufficient resources to maintain a viable system, the federal government is engaged in nation building. It is multiplying its interventions in areas outside its jurisdiction.
I will give you some examples. First of all, the federal government wants to set up a Canada public health agency, as if public health were its responsibility. Are you aware, Mr. Speaker, that in each of the provinces there are people responsible for public health? Even in Quebec, in what were the regional boards and are now the health and social services agencies, there are people with responsibility for public health in each of the areas in which these agencies have been set up.
Public health is, when it comes down to it, seeing that our fellow citizens' lives are lived in the best health conditions possible. This involves of course such issues as epidemics, cardiovascular and sexually transmitted diseases, diet and mobility. Health can be assessed according to a number of factors, but there is one thing that is certain: responsibility for it must lie with the provincial governments, along with the municipalities.
What explanation can there be for the federal government's desire to set up a Canada public health agency? So much so that the Prime Minister has appointed, in addition to the health minister, a parliamentary secretary responsible for the Canada public health agency. This is one more example, if one were needed, of the fact that what interests the federal government is not people's health, not the well being of our fellow citizens.
What the federal government wants to do with health is to make it into a media opportunity, a high-profile opportunity for political gain, and that is what is of concern to us. If the federal government were really concerned about people's health, it would have increased transfer payments for health.
Now for another example of federal interference in health. Imagine, they want to have an immunization strategy. They have established the Canada health infoway, the Canada health research institutes and a strategy on diabetes. Bit by bit, file by file, they are nibbling away at the sovereignty of the provinces, in order to achieve nation building.
Employment Insurance Program
The Royal Assent
March 31st, 2004 / 4:05 p.m.
I have the honour to inform the House that, when the House went up to the Senate chamber, Her Excellency the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill C-26, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2004—Chapter 5.
Bill C-212, an act respecting user fees—Chapter 6.
Bill C-4, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Ethics Commissioner and Senate Ethics Officer) and other acts in consequence—Chapter 7.
Bill C-27, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2005—Chapter 8.
Bill C-260, an act to amend the Hazardous Products Act (fire-safe cigarettes)—Chapter 9.
Supplementary Estimates (B), 2003-04
March 22nd, 2004 / 7:40 p.m.
Reg Alcock Winnipeg South, MB
moved that Bill C-26, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the Public Service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2004, be now read a second time and referred to a committee of the whole.
(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
Supplementary Estimates (B), 2003-04
March 22nd, 2004 / 7:40 p.m.
Reinstatement of Government Bills
February 10th, 2004 / 3:45 p.m.
Dennis Mills Toronto—Danforth, ON
Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by saying through you to the member for Rimouski--Neigette-et-la Mitis that as long as she is present in the House of Commons, Quebec's voice will never be diluted. As I reflect back over the last 16 years I have served in this chamber, one of my special joys has been meeting members from different parties for whom I feel great admiration for the work they do. The member is one of the special contributors to helping this place be a better place.
On the point of the motion, I humbly disagree with my colleague from the Bloc Québécois. It is important that we let Canadians know what we are trying to achieve. It is an easy thing to pick and choose the bills that we are trying to reintroduce to the House in this motion.
I heard one of the members from the new Conservative Party this morning put a big focus on Bill C-38, the marijuana bill. This is not about reintroducing just the marijuana bill. There are a number of bills on this motion that we are trying to reintroduce.
We should tell Canadians the reason we are trying to reintroduce these bills that lapsed in the last session is we want to pick up where we left off, especially with those bills on which we probably have a consensus, such as: Bill C-10B, cruelty to animals, which I will come back to in a minute; Bill C-17, public safety; Bill C-18, an act respecting Canadian citizenship; Bill C-20, protection of children; Bill C-26, the railway safety act; Bill C-33, international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences; Bill C-43, the Fisheries Act; Bill C-52, the Radiocommunication Act; and Bill C-56, an act to amend the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act. There are many more like these bills.
If we are going to be candid with the Canadian public who are listening to this debate today, we have to let them know that it has been a convention for hundreds of years that in a new session the government has up to 30 days to introduce bills that died on the Order Paper when the previous session ended. This is a convention that has long been practised. It does not mean that when these bills come back we will vote on them all at once. Members will have a chance to say yea or nay on each individual bill.
The idea of delaying this has an adverse effect on citizens in every riding of the country. Some of those bills touch every riding in the country. A case could be made on the electoral boundaries. We all know what that is about. That is an attempt to delay the election. I personally would not have any problem if we delayed the election for a while, but the reality is that we will have a chance to vote yea or nay on all of these bills when they come back. I do not think this delay tactic serves the opposition party well.
I want to talk about a very specific bill on the Order Paper that has concern in my riding and has had national attention in the last couple of weeks. It is Bill C-10B, cruelty to animals.
As hon. members may know, Withrow Park is in my riding. It is a fairly large park. It certainly would not be large by the standards of the member for Rimouski, but in my little community in downtown Toronto, Withrow Park is a major park and is probably about 10 to 15 acres big. About two weeks ago someone put poison in the park where people walk their dogs and from time to time let the dogs off the leash. The one that hit national media was T-Bone, a King Charles spaniel. He was quite well known.
In my constituency there are over 10,000 pet owners. Those pets are sources of comfort and have special relationships with many of the seniors and families in my riding. The attachment, the love and the affection for these animals is in many respects similar to that of parents with children. The notion that someone would drop poison is overwhelming. In fact the poison is not even available in Canada; it can only be obtained by licence in the United States.
It is that kind of insensitivity with which a bill like Bill C-10 deals. The notion that this House would work at delaying reintroducing a bill like that is not in my mind a constructive way to go.
I am hoping that through the motion that is on the floor today we can create some new consensus so that we can move forward on getting these bills back on track.
A lot of people would feel pretty anxious if an election was upon us and we let a lot of these bills die before the election. When we came back, I believe we would have to go through the entire process again. What is that process? Probably a lot of Canadians do not realize that hours and hours go into getting a bill to this stage. Witnesses come to the various committees of the House of Commons and give members of Parliament from all parties expert advice on designing the bills.
In the manufacture, preparation and formulation of a piece of legislation in the House, we do not just snap our fingers and a bill is put together by the legislative branch. Bills are built after receiving hundreds of hours of input from citizens across Canada. Some of them use their own money to come here to give expert testimony. The House of Commons committee system funds some of them to come here. The notion that we would just scrap all of that work is most disrespectful to the work of all of those witnesses we have heard with respect to the 40 or 50 bills that we are trying to put back on the Order Paper.
I would appeal to the leadership of the Conservative Party and the leadership of the NDP. The NDP should take a strong stand on this because I know there are bills here on which the NDP has had a strong influence. Those members should stand and say they support the government in moving these bills forward.
There are bills that affect every region of our country, such as the administration and accountability of Indian bands. Look at all the great work that went into putting that bill together. Look at all the travel time from every region of the country, especially the long distances from the north. Look at the ethics bill. How could the opposition not want us to proceed on the ethics bill? There is also the whole area of the Food and Drugs Act.
These are bills that affect the health of the citizens of every riding in the country. The notion that there would be opposition to bringing these bills back and passing them is counterproductive. It is part of the reason that people lose trust in this place, because stalling just for the sake of stalling I do not think serves anyone very well.
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 / 12:15 p.m.
Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK
Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by taking one of the points that was just made at the end of House leader's remarks in introducing this.
He said that this motion serves the interests of the House. There are bills that the government is bringing back that serve the interests of only the Liberal Party.
One of the bills he talked about had to do with the amendments to the Canada Elections Act and he said how important it was for Alberta, B.C. and Ontario to get these extra seats. However that bill contains a very undemocratic provision that does not serve the interests of Canadians, nor does it serve the interests of many members in the House of Commons. The provision is to have all the amendments apply on an earlier date. Rather than comply with the law of Canada and have these amendments take place on August 18, they are trying to bring it back and have the amendment apply on April 1. They want to ram this bill through the House and through the Senate in order to call an early election.
The primary purpose of that bill is to undermine and try to derail any ability to organize properly for a federal election; for our political party to get its policy convention and all of its statements in place. That is why they are trying to do what they are doing today. That is a very undemocratic measure and we in this place should strongly object to what the government is doing.
The Prime Minister claims to have formed a new government, yet with this motion he is claiming the privileges of being the former government of Jean Chrétien. He is bringing in everything that the former prime minister failed to get through here. Procedurally speaking, the Prime Minister wants to be seen, as most Canadians see his government, as the old Chrétien government, and that is exactly what he is doing by his actions today.
While we in opposition would agree with that definition, that they are an old government, we will argue that they should come up with their own legislation and portray themselves as new and show Canadians clearly what they stand for. This will not happen before April 1 because we will be debating old legislation. We will not be debating new ideas that the Prime Minister brings in. That should be abundantly obvious by what is happening here today.
I accept that there is a well-established practice for government to re-introduce a reinstatement motion in a new session, however it has not been established that a so-called new government in a new session can reinstate bills from the previous government. If this government claims to be new, what it is doing would definitely disprove that.
I have examined all the precedents and I could not find one example of a new government reinstating bills from a previous session. From Journals of October 21, 1970, at page 46, it was recorded that the House adopted a reinstatement motion. The prime minister was Pierre Trudeau and the motion reinstated bills of Mr. Trudeau's government from the previous session.
On May 9, 1972, at page 281 of Journals , we have another motion adopted and, once again, Pierre Trudeau being the prime minister in that session and the previous session.
On March 8, 1974, pages 25 and 26, there was a reinstatement motion that was adopted. It was the same circumstances as May 9, 1972.
On October 3, 1986, at pages 47 and 48, Mr. Mulroney's government introduced a reinstatement motion reinstating bills of the Mulroney government from the previous session. However it was the same government.
On March 4, 1996, at pages 34 and 35, and 39 to 41 of the Journals , Jean Chrétien's government reinstated government bills of the Chrétien government from the previous session.
Then we had November 12, 2003 and the government of Jean Chrétien once again successfully reinstating bills from a previous session, although he ran into a bit of a problem with his attempt to reinstate other business resulting in a Speaker's ruling that divided the motion into three parts.
Many arguments have been made against the practice whereby a prime minister reinstates his government bills from a previous session. It goes against the practice, consequences and reasons for a government to prorogue. It contradicts the notion of beginning a session with fresh ideas and a new direction. It contradicts the idea that a new government should have new legislation and bring in new ideas that we can debate.
Does the Prime Minister not do what a new government should do because he does not want Canadians to know what he stands for? Does he want to keep us guessing, making one statement one day and a different statement another day, backtracking on all kinds of things, and not introducing some meaningful legislation for us to debate that would indicate the direction his government is going to go? Is that the reason we do not have new legislation introduced?
What we are talking about here today is far worse than what I have been saying, I would argue procedurally unacceptable. The current Prime Minister is attempting to reinstate bills of another prime minister from a previous session and has the audacity to call this a new government.
When the Prime Minister promised democratic reform and made a commitment to do things differently, we thought he meant to improve how Parliament functions. So far the Prime Minister has behaved less democratically than his predecessors, something most of us thought would be impossible but it is happening before our eyes.
You know very well, Mr. Speaker, that I have been dealing with the Firearms Act for nigh on 10 years. Back in 1994 I began tracking a piece of legislation that I thought would long since be gone. However, now this Prime Minister is using a tactic that the previous prime minister used in keeping that legislation in place. He has stated quite clearly that this is not going to be a free vote in Parliament. He has stated quite clearly that this vote on the gun registry funding will be a vote on confidence in his government.
How can a new Prime Minister, who says that all his legislation and all his programs will pass seven tests before they will be continued, reintroduce a whole bunch of bills? How can he continue with a Firearms Act that breaks all seven of those tests that he has put forward? They are good tests. Do not get me wrong. I agree with him. I believe all legislation should be put that way. However, why bring in the tests if at the first opportunity they have to test them and put something before them, say “except for the Firearms Act”, but it will apply to all other legislation and programs before the House? Obviously democracy is not operating the way we have been given the impression it should operate.
On May 12 and May 16, 2003, a former government House leader raised the issue of parliamentary privilege, exempting members from being called as witnesses in any court. I raised this earlier with you, Mr. Speaker. The issue raised in that case was whether the prime minister could claim parliamentary privilege to provide legal protection, and I went through a whole bunch of arguments. Let me read at this point the ruling from the Canadian Court of Appeal. It stated:
--the parliamentary privilege of a Member of Parliament not to attend as a witness in a civil action applies throughout a session of Parliament, and extends 40 days after the prorogation or dissolution of Parliament and 40 days before the commencement of a new session.
That clearly is just being disregarded in this case.
I would just like to go through some of the bills that we would like to exclude from this reinstatement, for example, Bill C-7, an act respecting leadership selection, administration and accountability of Indian bands and to make related amendments to other acts. We would like to see that bill not included.
As well, we would like to see Bill C-19, an act respecting leadership selection, administration and accountability of Indian bands and to make related amendments to other acts, excluded.
We would like to see Bill C-20, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, excluded from this list.
Bill C-22, an act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcements Act, the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and the Judges Act and to amend other acts in consequence, we do not want included.
Then we have Bill C-26, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act, to enact the VIA Rail Canada Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. We would like that excluded.
Bill C-38, an act to amend the contraventions Act and the controlled drugs and substances act, should be excluded.
Then we have in the Senate Bill C-13, the human reproductive technologies act. Canadians have huge concerns with that. That is something that should not be reinstated clearly.
Bill C-34 is an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act. That provides for an ethics commissioner, a Senate ethics officer and other acts in consequence. This Prime Minister has made a lot of to-do about that bill. He talks about the need for an ethics commissioner and then the previous government brings forth legislation that applies to only backbench MPs and does not apply to the cabinet. The problems that we have observed here in Ottawa do not pertain to backbench MPs. They pertain to those who have the responsibility in the cabinet.
We have Bill C-35, an act to amend the National Defence Act (remuneration of military judges). It should not be brought back.
Bill C-36 is an act to establish the Library and Archives of Canada, to amend the Copyright Act and to amend certain other acts in consequence. We have huge concerns with all of these.
With regard to these, I would like to propose an amendment. I move:
That the motion be amended by adding:
“excluding the following bills:
I have listed them, but I will read them again for the purposes of this amendment:
C-7, An Act respecting the leadership selection, administration and accountability of Indian bands, and to make related amendments to other Acts.
I made an error in my first listing and I will correct that now.
C-19, An Act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Financial Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other Acts;
C-20, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act;
C-22, An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcements Act, the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and the Judges Act and to amend other Acts in consequence;
C-26, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act, to enact the VIA Rail Canada Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts;
C-38, An Act to amend the contraventions act and the controlled drugs and substances act;
Again for that one, Canadians have a lot of concerns.
C-13, An Act respecting assisted human reproduction;
C-34, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Ethics Commissioner and Senate Ethics Officer) and other Acts in consequence;
C-35, an act to amend the National Defence Act (remuneration of military judges);
C-36, An Act to establish the Library and Archives of Canada, to amend the Copyright Act and to amend certain Acts in consequence.”