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 standing.

Topics

Multiculturalism
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent for the member's request?

Multiculturalism
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Multiculturalism
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Simon de Jong Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank you and the members of the House for giving me unanimous consent to put on record our position.

First of all I would like to congratulate the minister on her new responsibilities and position. I have worked closely with her in previous parliaments and I know she will do an excellent job. Her heart and mind are in the right place.

I also wish to congratulate the government for following through on its promise to have ministerial statements and new policy directions being made in the House rather than at press conferences.

It does not bode well for this Parliament when one hears the position taken by the Official Opposition party and by the second largest party in the House. The Official Opposition party is so narrowly focused in its own little world that I am afraid it misses the much larger point and the larger reality that most Canadians are living in.

The position of the Reform Party I also find most unfortunate. They suggest we should focus our efforts on the pride in being Canadians. I have always felt that my support of multiculturalism was my way of celebrating being Canadian. One of the major essences of Canada is the fact that we are not a melting pot and that we celebrate our diversity. In this diversity is our strength.

We see the ramifications of this all over the place. We see people of Ukrainian, Croatian, Chinese or Vietnamese descent opening up trade connections and possibilities with the countries of their origin. This has a tremendous economic plus for Canada.

It also is when one sees throughout history the rise of great nations, those great nations that embraced multiculturalism, different thoughts, different traditions and different ideas. This coming together made countries great. I believe if multiculturalism does its job in Canada it will help make Canada great.

I urge the minister to continue with her work and to redirect some of the things that department has been doing. It can be more successful in some areas. Certainly the concern of racism being on the rise is a legitimate concern. In hard economic times we will have that increase in racism. The department has an important task to fulfil. I extend to her and the department all of our best wishes.

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis Kamloops, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-211, an act to amend the Criminal Code (cattle rustling and range cattle).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present this private member's bill regarding cattle rustling and range cattle problems.

It sounds as though this is a bill that comes out of the 1890s but in fact cattle rustling in the last number of years has become a major problem not only in western Canada where I am more familiar with it but, I am told, across the country per se.

In spite of the reductions in staffing of the RCMP they do an admirable job but it is impossible for them to carry on the necessary surveillance. The various cattle organizations do their best in terms of range land patrol but not are not able to do the job required in such a vast country as Canada.

Over the years when cattle rustlers have been caught, very little normally happens. The case does not make it through the courts. Consequently today people are literally losing thousands of livestock to one form of cattle rustling or another.

The severity of the crime must be reflected by the severity of the punishment. This bill increases significantly the punishment for cattle rustling. It is not hanging. I do not support capital punishment. It goes a long way to making the point that this is a serious offence. It should be dealt with appropriately.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I know this is an issue of interest to other members. I simply want to say that if people are interested in providing seconders to this legislation, which of course is within the rules, they would be welcome.

Again this is not simply something coming from central British Columbia but it is a Canadian-wide problem.

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

That is a good point, but it is not a point of order.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Beth Phinney Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have petitions with over 5,000 signatures from people from every part of Canada to add to the over two and a half million signatures which have already been presented to Parliament. They are from citizens who feel that there are serious deficiencies in the criminal justice system.

These petitioners are calling on Parliament to recognize that crimes of violence against a person are serious and abhorrent to society. They ask that the Criminal Code of Canada, the Bail Reform Act, 1992, and the Parole Act be amended accordingly.

These petitioners hope that with a new government we will quickly see major changes in Canada's justice system.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

John Finlay Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition that I have received from several hundred of my constituents in Oxford county.

This petition has been duly certified by the clerk of petitions. Most of the petitioners are citizens of the city of Woodstock. They are requesting that the government ban sales of the serial killer board game and serial killer cards and prevent any other such games, cards or material being made available in Canada.

Questions On Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Milliken Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed that all questions be allowed to stand?

Questions On Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions On Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before recognizing the member for Dartmouth, I wish to inform the House that pursuant to Standing Order 32(2)(b), because of the ministerial statement Government Orders will be extended by 27 minutes.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

House Of Commons Standing Orders
Government Orders

February 7th, 1994 / 3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ron MacDonald Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure after five years of serving as the member of Parliament for Dartmouth to rise in this place to talk about the changes that have been proposed and put before us today with regard to the standing orders of the House.

When I first arrived here in 1988 I guess I was one of those people who wanted to change the world and do it rather quickly. But at the same time, because I had spent some time working for the previous Liberal administration, I knew that the rules of the House could be used either in favour of reform of the rules and progression of legislation or used to stymie.

Unfortunately, in the first four and a half years I was here the rules of this place were all too often used to stop that type of exchange and that type of debate and in actual fact to undermine the confidence Canadians had in this institution.

The Right Hon. John Turner, the member for Vancouver Quadra until the recent election and who chose not to seek re-election, often said that this place is the highest court in the land. It truly is. It is a pleasure to be sent here no matter what political philosophy one harbours at any time. Indeed it is an honour to be allowed to come to this place and represent one's constituents.

However, what happened in the last session at least, far too often the government of the day even without a great deal of consultation with its own members would decide with rules that were enacted in an archaic way so that only the executive branch of government had any right to know what in the name of goodness was going to take place. Bills were put before the House which were imperfect as most bills will be. Even on the government side good members, nearly all of whom were defeated or retired, were not allowed to have any input. They really saw what was going on when it went to their Wednesday caucus meeting. At that time there was no attempt to seek input so that as legislators or as representatives of the people we could better the legislation and put our ideas forward. It was the government line.

The bill would come down and members would be told: "That is it. You go in the House. You have your marching orders and you support that bill to the death". Members on the opposition side did exactly the opposite. Most times it did not matter if there was a grain or a whole beach full of wisdom in the bill members of the opposition opposed because it was viewed in

that type of combatant legislative set of regulations that was what they did.

The rule changes that are before us today are a step forward. We have seen a few steps forward since this Parliament was elected. We have seen the reform document that was tabled. When the Minister of Supply and Service and Public Works was our House leader, he put forward a number of reforms that we thought if we were the government we would like to try to pursue.

One thing was that we would have free debates in this House so that prior to the government making a decision members from all sides, not just the government side, but the opposition and other parties and the independents represented here would have an opportunity to put their position forward. Hopefully the minister or the government generally would listen and come up with better legislation, better regulations and better governance for the country. These rules start to do that.

I recall that in 1988 after I was elected committees were struck and all too often government members came in and supported bad legislation. As I said, in most cases opposition members would not support even good legislation. But there was one opportunity we saw for change. It was when the then Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs came forward to me as the critic and said: "Look, we have a Bankruptcy Act". It was Bill C-22. "We are going to introduce this thing in the House of Commons". I think the six or seven previous attempts to pass that had failed. It was clearly not in the public interest for anybody who was on that committee to see another attempt at reforming Canada's bankruptcy laws fail. We were in the middle of a recession and we were seeing unprecedented numbers of individuals and companies going bankrupt. I think the Bankruptcy Act dated back to 1948 or 1949. It had never been substantially reformed.

I said to the minister: "If you are prepared to allow us to pre-study the bill or give it to us after first reading and if you are prepared to tell your members on the committee that they have free rein to treat the bill as a draft piece of legislation, I will give you the assurance of the Official Opposition that our members will try to build a bill that can pass the House of Commons, that takes account of the special interests but comes forward with what is in the public interest". That worked and for months we studied that bill. The bill we came up with did not even look the same as it had.

Alas, when it came down to the crunch the government of the day decided it was going to become partisan again. When that happened the business of the committee shut down. That rare period of harmony in the committee changed. We became highly partisan and the bill hit the rocks. It was only because we were able to rediscover that sense of joint responsibility for legislation we were able to pull it off the rocks.

The country is better off today because there is a new Bankruptcy Act. Probably thousands of people are still employed in Canada because that act allows for reorganization of corporations and allows for reorganization of personal debt. It was a fine hour for the House of Commons when we did exactly that type of work.

The changes to the standing orders we are debating today go even further. I am an advocate of reform. If we are to gain back the respect of the people whom we are elected to serve it is important that we be allowed to do our jobs as parliamentarians. It means that members of the Bloc Quebecois, the Reform Party, New Democrats and the independents in the House be allowed as much input as possible into the legislative process.

The reforms before us today indicate that after first reading and before approval in principle when everyone is tied down to a position, bills can be referred to standing or special committees of the House. This has pushed us miles forward from where we were.

If we pursue this vigorously on important or contentious pieces of legislation or those which have various sides to them, members of the Bloc, members of the Reform and indeed members of the governing Liberal Party will be able without fear of reprisal from their whips-God love all the whips-to provide direct input. This is a very positive step for this Parliament.

Through the reading of the proposed amendments we are debating today I also get the sense that committees will or can be asked by a minister to come up with the general direction on a piece of legislation. In other words it can roughly formulate legislation which would then go to justice officials who would put it together.

As time goes on and in practice I hope that these committees will work together. I hope they will find areas in the public interest to conduct their own studies without necessarily a reference or request from a minister and come forward with what they believe is appropriate legislation addressing those concerns.

For example, in the last couple of sessions of Parliament members have come forward with private members' bills. Some of those private members' bills dealt with ingredient labelling. Actually the Deputy Prime Minister when she was in opposition had put forward a couple of those bills.

Suffice to say perhaps standing committees will be able to take that type of subject matter and formulate pieces of legislation. They could then be put before the House finding some process by which they could be properly debated and passed, if they are good pieces of legislation.

I could speak for days on this subject, but in closing I commend my government for taking the initiative so early in this new Parliament to put forward what I hope is the first of a

number of reforms. It will put some respect back into the parliamentary process and will also make this place more worth while for the members who serve here.

House Of Commons Standing Orders
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain Guelph—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I say to the hon. member for Dartmouth that I too feel this is a positive step in this new government. When we were campaigning during September and October all members on all sides of the House heard the same thing from the Canadian people. They are not happy with the way Parliament has functioned. They are unhappy with the tight and rigid rules.

This is a step forward, but I believe we do have a long way to go. We have many avenues to explore in order to make all our voices heard in Parliament. Any movement forward will be seen as positive by all Canadians.

I would ask the member for Dartmouth to comment specifically on the areas of reform, such as pensions. In general Parliament has taken a fair amount of heat particularly from the Reform Party in suggesting that perhaps Liberal members are not supportive on reform in the pension areas. I believe that is not true and that a good many members are quite supportive of practical measures to be reformed in the pension area.