House of Commons Hansard #16 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was recall.

Topics

House Of Commons Standing Orders
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Reform

Werner Schmidt Okanagan Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to address Parliament. The committee on parliamentary reform has put Motion No. 6 before the House. I wish to do a particular thing here, that is to reconcile the responsibility of a member of Parliament as a representative and the technological means that currently exist that would better facilitate the overall operation of this place.

I particularly wish to applaud the motion currently before the House to amend the standing orders. I suggest that these proposed changes are really but a tiny step forward. Given the task before us, now is the time to take not a tiny step but a big step forward. Now is the time to determine what aspects of the old way of doing politics should be kept as a tradition and what things should be changed so that we can improve and represent our constituents better in this place.

I am not talking about some kind of fantastical movie script. I believe it is time to leave the "Jurassic Park" era of governing without worrying about offending the old guard of "The Firm". We have surpassed the technological "Age of Innocence". As those who govern this land we want to improve our standards and efficiency of governing. To do that we must move forward at a pace similar to those we seek to serve.

As a member of Parliament I have a number of roles as does every member in this House. These include at least three areas: first as a representative, second as a legislator and finally as a source of legitimization. Let us examine each of these in turn.

Let us consider the words of the chairman and chief executive officer of Canada's largest chartered bank who described the new frontier before us as a multimedia universe of converging services ultimately coming into the home through a single carrier, smart phones, smart TVs, smart computers, smart VCRs, smart faxes and smart cards that let us pay bills, transfer money, make investments, play games, show pictures, selected products and services, take college courses and maybe even vote. Let me repeat those last words "maybe even vote". Electronic voting is one element which would greatly improve a member's ability to perform the duties of representation, legislation and legitimization.

Consider first the area of representation. Being the representative of Okanagan Centre incorporates three dimensions, mandate, proxy and trusteeship. The mandate function is determined by my political party whose principles and policies I support. By proxy I am bound to represent, to the degree that they can be determined, the wishes of the constituents in my area. In an instance in which that cannot be determined it is my responsibility to act as a trustee to make decisions that act in the best interests of my constituents. To be a truly effective representative we require a dynamic synthesis of all three roles.

After the debate in the House a decision is made on the matter. The decision is made by means of a vote. Where representation certainly takes place during the debate, actual representation happens when the vote is cast.

Because members are required to be away from this place from time to time it is not possible for them to be present at all times when a vote is called. When a member does not cast a vote

it can be argued that the member's constituents were not represented.

Let us recognize that we have the ability today to ensure that every member is able to vote on every bill from anywhere in the world. The technology can work for us.

Let us look at the second function, that of legislators. The decision to introduce legislation is not arbitrary but rather the development of implementation of legislative measures which reflect the goals of all Canadians. In its ideal form legislation is a result of consensus among Canadians. A recent example of consensus gathering was the pre-budget debate in this House. Another was the consultation of the Minister of Finance in four major urban centres in Canada. Although it is commendable that the minister sought the advice of Canadians it is unfortunate that this type of consultation does not occur before every major government decision.

Further, it is too bad that many Canadians were excluded and did not have the opportunity to participate in the finance minister's sessions. An electronic town hall meeting similar to the one recently held by U.S. Vice-President Al Gore would have enabled residents from every part of Canada to participate simultaneously in such consultations through technological interconnections.

A much wider and probably more representative consultation would have resulted without incurring the costs of air fares, hotels, meals and sundry items, to say nothing of the personal energy that was invested by the persons involved in travelling about this country.

A final function of a member is that of legitimization. Democracy requires that the rules which govern society are respected. Respect results from an acceptance, not necessarily agreement with legislation either past or present. The notion of legitimization comes from belief that a member will act in accordance with the rules of decorum and do the utmost to represent the riding.

Legitimization occurs as a function of the member voting on legislation, responding to constituents and fulfilling the promises made during an election campaign.

The notion of legitimization may be taken one step farther to include access to information. A government which voluntarily shares information as well as seeks the opinions of its people instils trust between government and the people. Failure to observe this relationship results in cynicism as was evident during the last federal election.

Open and easy access demystifies the political process and reaffirms the need for our existence. I am suggesting that we examine the contents of the technology treasure chest.

Technology can allow individuals to communicate more readily and easily with their members and with the government as a whole. My job as a representative of my constituents would be made easier if the federal government took a big step forward and provided greater integration, technological integration, within the House and outside the House.

Many Canadians know that both government and business leaders need to understand the drivers of change within our economic system. Those who understand the impact of technology and the impact that it will have will be the successful leaders of the future.

Many aspects of the tomorrow envisioned by Alvin Toffler in his works The Third Wave and Future Shock are upon us today. Technology affords us the right to expect bringing into existence, probably in the House, the concept of electronic democracy. It is this concept that should be incorporated into any discussion concerning parliamentary reform, particularly as we try to fulfil the many roles that members must undertake to represent their constituents.

We are taking small steps in the proposed amendment, but now is the time to take a big step and significantly alter the standing orders of the House of Commons to incorporate technology and thus greater involvement from all Canadians into the decision making process. Imagine electronic referendums and more direct, less complicated democracy, electronic interaction with constituents and with this place.

Now is the time. Carpe diem. Let us seize the day.

House Of Commons Standing Orders
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

St. Boniface
Manitoba

Liberal

Ronald J. Duhamel Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his address and I ask a couple of brief questions.

I listened rather carefully but I did not hear any reference, although there might have been, to other countries utilizing some of the concepts that he has put forward. Are there examples of other countries doing exactly that?

The other question is in terms of cost. Do we have any notion as to how costly this would be?

House Of Commons Standing Orders
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Werner Schmidt Okanagan Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the first instance there are other examples in which this technology has been and is being applied. A variety of examples can be made. For example, I referred to Vice-President Al Gore who conducted a town hall meeting electronically and people virtually from right across the United States, from one end to the other, were able to talk to one another in this particular instance via a computer network.

Of particular interest to me in that instance was the involvement of people unable to come to a meeting, who were physically disabled and had to sit at home in their wheelchairs. They were able to involve themselves as readily and as completely as someone not physically disabled. There was a great and wonderful opportunity for these people to be actively involved in the decision making and communication interaction process.

With regard to the second question of the hon. member as to the cost, the details of this have not been worked out. I do not

have the details of the costs, but there are two dimensions here. One is the dollar cost and the other is that if we really believe in democracy we should pay the price to have democracy that actually reflects our people's needs. We will do so successfully and it will not be an inordinate amount. To suggest that the present system does not cost money is false as well.

House Of Commons Standing Orders
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

Ron MacDonald Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I know the clock is ticking but very quickly I would like to ask the member a question. He is a new member who canvassed on a platform of parliamentary reform as some of us on this side of the House did. Does he not believe that some of the initiatives which have been undertaken by the new government have been positive?

An example is the fact that we have had so many free debates in the House on major issues. In the early days of this Parliament the government put forward some initiatives to start the reform of the political process.

House Of Commons Standing Orders
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Reform

Werner Schmidt Okanagan Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member had listened carefully to my speech, he would have heard that I did applalud the government's actions in my speech.

Kahnawake Band Council
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Kahnawake Band Council has issued a press release which is a full blown charge against Quebecers and their government. This press release refers to the hatred of the population, the persecution of English speaking Quebecers and the immorality of the Quebec government.

I want to say that Quebecers are a tolerant people and that, despite numerous exactions by armed native groups, they continue to have good relations with native people. Moreover, I would like to say that the Quebec government was the first to recognize the principle of self-determination and that the James Bay Agreement is still a model in Canada.

We have in Quebec a joint forum made up of equal numbers of representatives from various native peoples and representatives of Quebec society where current problems are being discussed. Instead of resorting to such unacceptable and provocative language, the Mohawks should join this forum.

St. John's Church
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, the people of St. John's Church, Peterborough are proud of their past and are planning confidently for the future.

A few years ago, the 150-year old church encountered damp and peeling paint on its walls. Studies showed that the proper cure involved major repairs to roofs and walls as well as repainting. Instead of simply trying to patch, members of the congregation embarked on an elaborate program to restore their church to the glory that it had a few decades ago.

Despite difficult economic times, the work has now been finished. The architectural heritage of the city of Peterborough has been greatly enriched. The new chimes bring a sound of hope to all citizens.

There is a lesson here for all Canadians. Like St. John's, let us be proud of our rich heritage and build on it not for ourselves, but for our children.

Grain Handlers' Strike
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Cowling Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today for the first time in this House to bring forward the concerns of the farmers of my constituency, Dauphin-Swan River, with respect to the grain handlers' strike on the west coast.

I strongly encourage the parties involved on the west coast to resolve their differences quickly because a large number of innocent third parties on the prairies are drastically affected by the work stoppage.

Cigarette Taxes
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, many of my constituents are greatly concerned by the suggestion that the government may be about to lower the taxes on cigarettes. The concerns range from the loss of revenue to the increase in health costs due to the effects of smoking.

Now the health minister for the province of British Columbia has added his voice to those of my constituents. The hon. Paul Ramsey predicts a 35 per cent increase in tobacco consumption by B.C.'s adolescents if the government follows through with its suggested tax cut.

In addition, Mr. Ramsey projects the measure will result in an increase of $130 million per year to his budget for the treatment of tobacco related illnesses.

Mr. Ramsey has requested the government take no action to reduce taxes until it is fully discussed at the meeting of federal-provincial territorial ministers of health tomorrow.

My constituents and I add our voices to that request.

Cp Rail
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, those of us who are proud Canadians are offended that CP Rail has decided to change its company logo into what in effect looks like the Canadian flag becoming or being subsumed into the America flag.

It is not just Canadians who are offended by this logo. This logo has also been challenged in the United States for defaming the American flag.

Regardless of CP's rights as a private company to choose any logo it wants, Canadians should have a voice in this matter. CP Rail is a company that Canadian taxpayers have helped to establish through subsidies, outright gifts of land and other means. I note that most of the track in eastern Canada is owned by CN and more precisely, the taxpayers of Canada.

Currently CN, which displays the Canadian flag on its trains, and CP are in negotiations for consolidation of rail service in eastern Canada.

I would like to bring this matter to the attention of the House so that we can convey our desire to have the Canadian flag and not the offensive logo of CP Rail flying over taxpayers' property in eastern Canada.

Cellular Telephones
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Patrick Gagnon Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, I would like to mention one instance where federalism was good for Quebec.

The Federal Office of Regional Development has recently announced a partnership between Canada and Quebec which will allow Ericsson Communications of Montreal to launch an important research and development project in the field of cellular telephone communications.

That partnership between the federal and provincial governments and Ericsson will maintain 400 jobs and create 140 new ones. The expected investments could exceed $94 million and will open important markets for many small and medium sized businesses in Quebec.

Thanks to such investments, Ericsson will be a world leader in cellular phone technology. That project reaffirms, once again, Montreal's position as the true telecommunications centre in Canada.

In conclusion, let me stress the fact that this company has been able to pursue its expansion in Montreal and in Quebec thanks to the Canada-Quebec agreement on industrial development.

International Year Of The Family
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Deshaies Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, 1994 is the International Year of the Family. This should be the opportunity for parliamentarians to become aware of the many difficulties Quebec and Canadian families are faced with, and for the government to respond to the crying needs of today's families. It goes without saying that the economic difficulties we are experiencing take a terrible toll on families.

According to Statistics Canada in 1990, 1.1 million Canadian children lived below the poverty line. No one can be indifferent to such alarming figures. Another international research organization estimates that 29 per cent of single parent families live below the poverty line, putting Canada in seventh place among industrialized countries.

It is high time we give back their dignity to Quebec and Canadian families so they can fully develop on a personal level and find total fulfilment worthy of a truly modern society.

1996 British Columbia Summer Games
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Reform

Jim Gouk Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House to announce that the neighbouring cities of Trail and Castlegar in the riding of Kootenay West-Revelstoke have jointly been selected as the location for the 1996 British Columbia Summer Games.

Kootenay West-Revelstoke is made up of many small towns and communities, the largest having a population of about 10,000.

The games are traditionally held in large urban areas but nowhere will visitors find the hospitality and enthusiasm that will be present during the 1996 games. The two towns are representative of the spirit and hospitality which can be found throughout the riding.

I would like to take this opportunity to invite all members of the House and all of their constituents to visit the most breathtaking area in western Canada and to enjoy the spirit of the games and the hospitality of my riding.

Crimes Of Violence
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Beth Phinney Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier today I had the pleasure of participating in a special presentation when members of CAVEAT, Citizens Against Violence Everywhere Advocating its Termination, presented petitions containing over 2.5 million signatures to the Minister of Justice.

These petitions ask that Parliament recognize that crimes of violence against the person are serious and abhorrent to society.

Mrs. Priscilla de Villiers suffered a tragedy in her family with the abduction and murder of her daughter, Nina, in 1991. Mrs. de Villiers was determined to turn tragedy into positive action. She formed CAVEAT and brought to national attention the deficiencies in the criminal justice system through media appearances and a petition which has elicited an overwhelming response from over 2.5 million Canadians.

We are honoured to have Mrs. de Villiers and some of the members of CAVEAT with us today. I am sure all my colleagues join me in saluting her efforts to bring about changes to the criminal justice system.

Serial Killer Games
Statements By Members

February 7th, 1994 / 2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of this House to the disturbing proliferation of killer board games and serial killer cards depicting perpetrators of violence.

Many Canadians have expressed concern about the insensitive glorification of violent crime that these games promote. The exploitation of human suffering for the purpose of financial gain is morally unacceptable.

Recognizing that the most expedient means of getting such products out of stores is to make them prohibitively expensive and that there may be freedom of speech issues in relation to our charter, I recently tabled a motion recommending $100 per unit tax levy on the manufacture or importation of such products which explicitly depict or promote actual or fictional perpetrators of homicide, kidnapping or sexual assault.

I urge this government to consider that motion as a means of preventing or limiting distribution of these products in Canada.