House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was young.

Topics

Integrity In Government
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about trust; the trust citizens place in their government, the trust politicians earn from the public, the trust in institutions that is as vital to a democracy as the air we breathe, a trust that once shattered, is difficult, almost impossible to rebuild.

Since our election in October no goal has been more important to this government, or to me personally as Prime Minister, than restoring the trust of Canadians in their institutions.

When we took office there was an unprecedented level of public cynicism about our national institutions and the people to whom they were entrusted by the voters. The political process had been thrown into disrepute. People saw a political system which served its own interests and not those of the public. When trust is gone the system cannot work.

That is why we have worked so hard to re-establish those bonds of trust. The most important thing we have done is to keep our word. We said we would cancel the helicopter contract and we did. We had to be satisfied that NAFTA would meet our concerns before it was finalized and we were.

We said we would create a $6 billion infrastructure program with all three orders of government and we have.

We brought in a budget that restores hope for Canadians while meeting our campaign commitment of reducing the deficit to3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and we did; and we have addressed the stabilization of Canada's fisheries-particularly the Atlantic fisheries-and foreign overfishing as we said we would.

Honouring the promises we made is a key part of restoring the trust of Canadians. We have also worked hard to restore trust by restoring relevance to the House of Commons. We have given MPs a larger role in drafting legislation and greater influence over government expenditures.

For the first time ever, MPs debated the budget before it was tabled. We have also had policy debates on issues like cruise missile testing. We have had two debates, here in this House, about what should be the government's position on Canada's presence in the former Yugoslavia. Everyone agrees that those discussions have produced positive results; and they took place before the government made a decision.

Finally, we have worked to restore trust by showing Canadians that as far as this government is concerned, integrity is more than just nice words or photo ops, it is a way of life.

There is no better example of this than our cancellation of the Pearson airport deal. We sent out a strong, clear message that the integrity of this country's institutions is not for sale, that this government and this Parliament would serve the interests of all Canadians, not the interests of the privileged few, no matter how well connected.

Keeping our promises, giving a meaningful voice to the elected representatives in this House and putting an end to the politics of cronyism and secret back door deals is how this government has been restoring faith and trust among Canadians.

I am pleased to announce today that we are continuing to re-establish trust by delivering on a number of key commitments we made to Canadians during the election and by taking unprecedented action to open up the process of government in Ottawa.

Today we are introducing amendments to strengthen the Lobbyists Registration Act. These improvements are in line with the unanimous June 1993 report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Consumer and Corporate Affairs respecting the Lobbyists Registration Act.

These changes will force lobbying out from the shadows into the open and make it clear to everyone who is representing whom, on which issue, and what they are doing.

We have no disagreement with individuals or companies that choose to have someone represent them. That is their business and their right. But Canadians nonetheless have a right to know who is trying to influence elected and public officials.

Deals like the Pearson Airport deal must never be allowed to happen again. That is why, through our changes to the Lobbyists Registration Act, we will be able to force the disclosure of lobbying fees related to government contracts.

That is why we are building in tough penalties-up to and including prison sentences-for those who break these new rules. That is why we are prohibiting the inclusion of contingency fees in lobbyists' contracts. That is why we are appointing an official who will have the teeth to investigate and take action.

I am pleased to announce today the appointment of Canada's first ethics counsellor, the current assistant deputy registrar general, Mr. Howard Wilson. Mr. Wilson's experience and his well-earned reputation for probity and integrity make him an ideal choice for this important post.

The ethics counsellor will oversee and enforce both the strengthened Lobbyists Registration Act and a revised, more comprehensive conflict of interest code that will replace the old conflict of interest guidelines.

We have broadened the powers and responsibilities of the ethics counsellor from what we laid out in the red book. In the red book, the ethics counsellor was to deal with the activities of lobbyists, but as we started examining implementation, it became clear that this will only address half of the problem, basically from the outside in.

We wanted to be sure that our system would also be effective at withstanding lobbying pressure from the inside. That is why we have decided to expand the role of the ethics counsellor to include conflict of interest.

By merging the Ethics Counsellor's function with the Assistant Deputy Registrar General's existing role in enforcing guidelines on conflict of interest, we will have both a stronger and a more unified oversight role, one with real teeth and strong investigative powers. We will also avoid the wasteful overlap and duplication inherent in creating an entirely new office.

We also said in the red book that we wanted a Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament and Senators. This Code would guide their dealings with lobbyists. We will ask a Committee of Parliament to take this matter on and have a Code of Conduct in place as soon as possible, because I feel that MPs themselves must take responsibility for those decisions, as I myself have taken responsibility for the activities of the government, lobbyists, parliamentary secretaries and others.

We also consulted with the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Reform Party on the choice of the Ethics Counsellor a few weeks ago, and I know that they look forward to this person's annual reports to Parliament as much as I do. They know, as we all do, that trust in the institutions of government is not a partisan issue, but something all of us elected to public office have an obligation to restore.

I know they will work as hard as we will on this side of the House to build on the renewed trust Canadians are showing in Parliament and in the political process.

The steps we have announced today are important. They will go a long way toward guarding against the excesses of the past and making the system more transparent and open.

There can be no substitute for responsibility at the top. The Prime Minister sets the moral tone for the government and must make the ultimate decisions when issues of trust or integrity are raised. That is what leadership is all about.

As Harry Truman put it, the buck stops here. I vow to you, to this House, to Canadians, that I will never abdicate that responsibility. I will never pass the buck.

Of all the lessons we learn in life, many of the most valuable are the ones we learn at a young age from our parents. My father taught me early on that nothing, not wealth, nor social status, nor fame, nor glory, is more important than your good name.

In the end, it is all that we really have. It cannot be bartered or traded. When it is gone, it can never come back. My father's teaching has also been the credo of my political life. For more than 30 years it has served me quite well.

What is true for an individual is also true for a government. We pledge to you and to all Canadians that we will guard our good name with all that we can and that we will not betray the hopes so many Canadians have vested in us.

At the end of the first part of the session, I would like to pay tribute to all members of Parliament.

After a long career in politics, and in spite of some pretty tough debates and some pretty exciting Question Periods, I think that is what observers are saying; I would like to thank the Leader of the Opposition and his party-

I would like to say thank you to the Reform Party and its leader. This Parliament has operated a a level that was not known before. It is my duty to thank all members of Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Reform Party for having helped us to achieve that.

I think the finest compliment this Parliament has received since we opened this session in the middle of January was the poll taken by an American firm and reported in the newspapers here in Canada a few weeks ago.

A poll was taken in April in the world's nine largest democracies, including Mexico, the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France and Germany. Canadians were the ones who said they had the most trust in their government.

That poll is a compliment to all of us and we should take credit for it. During the campaign when I was trying to get candidates sometimes people were very reluctant to run in politics because of the disrepute unfortunately into which the profession had slipped. Today we have managed to restore the prestige of this institution. It is a credit to all members of Parliament who were elected, whatever their political opinions and options.

Public service is a great calling. Public service is a very honourable profession. A public calling is the desire of all of us to try to make society better for all our citizens. I have been a professional politician and I am very proud of it. I could not have had a better career because perhaps in my riding or travelling in the nation I have been able to do something good, making some progress in the quality of life. Every member of Parliament will have this experience.

I am telling hon. members that when they are alone and they think about it they will feel good that perhaps some people are happier because we have offered our service.

Integrity In Government
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Integrity In Government
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Lac-Saint-Jean
Québec

Bloc

Lucien Bouchard Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, nothing makes the job of a leader of the opposition who plans to criticize the government more difficult than being complimented by the Prime Minister first.

I would like to start by thanking the Prime Minister and expressing my appreciation for the opportunity he has given this House and Parliament as a whole of joining in consideration of an extremely important issue, the proposed legislation on lobbyists and the tightening up and improving of ethical standards in public life. I fully endorse, I echo, the Prime Minister's remarks just now on the need to maintain and promote respect for our institutions and especially for the institution of Parliament.

Parliament is the ultimate forum where democracy can speak out rationally, respectful of the value of others. It is here that our problems, whatever they are, must be solved, and solved in the right way. To this extent, the steps the government is proposing to take-with the opposition's co-operation, I am sure-to tighten up and strengthen standards of conduct within the federal administration, and on the federal scene, are most welcome.

I want to make clear right away that we fully support the appointment of Mr. Howard Wilson as Ethics Counsellor. We are aware that Mr. Wilson has had a praiseworthy career in the federal Public Service and that we can have every confidence in his ability to take the helm in this matter at a critical time.

Second, we are also fully in favour of the proposed combining of the duties and responsibilities of the Ethics Counsellor. It seems to me that the government is right to want to avoid duplication and to safeguard consistency and greater effectiveness in the implementation of provisions ensuring respect for ethical standards, especially as regards lobbyists.

I want to add that we also support-it gets tiring to keep repeating that the opposition agrees with the government-we also support the creation of a joint committee of the House and the Senate to define a code of conduct for MPs and senators, for everyone, in fact, who is not already covered by the existing guidelines, which are, I understand, going to be broadened and tightened up for senior public servants and ministers.

Now we have reached the nub of the matter before us this morning, the Lobbyists Registration Act. During the election campaign the government made a commitment to strengthen controls and improve the Act. The Act was a commendable first step, but it proved in practice to be too weak. A House committee considered the matter for quite a long time, worked hard under the chairmanship of MP Felix Holtmann, and tabled a report last June that found there was a need to change things to improve the Act. The government adopted the committee's proposal, since as we all know the red book promised that its recommendations would be implemented.

First, as far as the Ethics Counsellor is concerned, the powers of investigation attributed to him strike us as appropriate, a step in the right direction. If an Ethics Counsellor can on his own initiative launch investigations as soon as he has reason to suspect that a violation has been committed, that is a step in the right direction. Our examination has been purely preliminary;

naturally as the proceedings on the legislation unfold we will go into greater detail.

I understand that the Ethics Counsellor will be given powers of investigation, so that he will be able to summon witnesses, compel them to testify, and under oath, and that the evidence he obtains in this way will be admissible in court if a criminal offence has occurred. These provisions are more or less the same as the rules of evidence in the case of depositions to commissions of inquiry.

This having been said, I want to go on to some remarks that I think are very important, on the need to improve the legislation, because this bill has some serious shortcomings. I think the government can be persuaded of this. It is the opposition that will have to do this. We will of course have an opportunity to work with government MPs and we think we can persuade the government to change the legislation in a number of ways.

First, the Ethics Counsellor must be appointed not by the government but by the House of Commons. The government should have to submit Mr. Wilson's name to us. We know we will approve, it is not the individual who is at issue, we are committed to supporting his appointment. But the Ethics Counsellor should hold his mandate from Parliament. That would considerably increase his authority, his powers and his ability to intervene directly in anything related to the way government operates.

Remember, this is no ordinary appointment. This is the person who will have the authority to intervene in the way government manages its affairs, in Cabinet ministers' personal ethical conduct vis-à-vis their public responsibilities, even in decisions the Prime Minister might make; the person who will be able to make sure that the conduct of whatever Prime Ministers the future may produce will be consistent with the ethical standards that have been set.

So the person holding this position will be that much more comfortable, and the public will be that much more confident that he will carry out his duties as he should, if he is under the ultimate authority of Parliament. That is why I would urge the Prime Minister to consider the need, as I see it, to submit this appointment to Parliament as a government recommendation to be endorsed by Parliament, so that the Ethics Counsellor would be answerable directly to Parliament.

I do not want to run out of time before I have a chance to discuss two shortcomings in the bill that are, in my opinion, very serious. First, it maintains the distinction between two categories of lobbyists.

Reading the Standing Committee's report of last June, it is clear that the fundamental criticism the Committee made of the existing legislation-and there were Liberals on that Committee-was that the distinction between the two levels of lobbyists ought to be done away with, that a preferential system should not be maintained for lobbyists employed by big corporations over professional lobbyists.

The Act distinguishes between firms of lobbyists that identify themselves as such and take ad hoc contracts to make representations to the government and influence decisions, and other lobbyists, known as in-house lobbyists, whose official title might be "Vice President for Government Affairs" with a big company, and who might be based here in Ottawa, doing exactly the same work as professional lobbyists.

The existing legislation, which the bill being tabled this morning is supposed to amend and improve, provides that the lobbyists in this second category, the ones who work full-time and on salary for big corporations, do not have the same obligations. And when I skim quickly through the bill, as I said before, the distinction in requirements is still there.

For example, a Vice President for Government Affairs based here in Ottawa and working for a big company, whose sole job it is to lobby on his company's behalf, would not be obliged to divulge what contract he wants to obtain when he meets with senior public servants.

He is obliged to divulge the program and the type of legislation, but the others, the professional lobbyists, are obliged to divulge the contract. People are indicating to me that I am wrong. We will see. It often happens that people tell me I am wrong, but we will see as the proceedings unfold.

A second and I would say more serious, more fundamental shortcoming, is that lobbyists should be obliged, just as they used to be, to divulge the target of their interventions: whom are they going to approach? That way we know the nature of the role they are going to play. The Act simply says they have to divulge the names of departments and government bodies, but it is absolutely essential that they say which minister they are going to see.

Is a particular lobbyist going to see this or that senior government member, who may be in a position to exercise greater influence, for example, because he has something to do with campaign funds? It is important to know these things. It is the very essence of the legislation, it goes to the very heart of its effectiveness and the goal it is trying to achieve, that it should spell out very clearly, much more clearly than this bill does, in any event, the requirement that the individuals, the decision-makers who are going to be approached by lobbyists in the

course of their representations on behalf of their clients, be identified.

So there is plenty of work to be done. We are very pleased that this House has the opportunity to do it. We are going to work closely with other parliamentarians. We are not resigned to failing to convince the government of the need for improvements. I am sure that the government is open to these suggestions and that we will be able to give the people of Canada and Quebec a law that will assure them that there is a group of people in the federal Parliament who are working for their well-being and giving them every guarantee of doing so with the most scrupulous honesty.

Integrity In Government
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, the right hon. Prime Minister has correctly identified a need for trust in government. We too have found that many Canadians are disillusioned with government and cynical with its processes. But the question I want to ask is whether the statement of the government today is going in the right direction and whether it is going far enough.

Before I comment on the Prime Minister's speech I would like to make a comment on the process that has been going on here with respect to this legislation. I have found it extremely frustrating to try to build the response I am giving now because of the guarded secrecy which has surrounded this issue until today. I challenge the wisdom of operating in secret to this degree especially since the topic of the day is openness.

The Prime Minister has outlined some of the achievements of his government so far. There have been some minor cosmetic changes, some symbolism, but not much substance. The right words are being used but they have not in my opinion delivered anything substantial to this point.

The Prime Minister indicates that they have given MPs a larger role in drafting legislation and greater influence over government expenditures. Then he goes on to say that for the first time, MPs debated the budget before it was tabled.

If the question is whether the people of Canada through their elected representatives have power to control government overspending, the answer is a resounding no. We did in fact have an opportunity to speak, but no one heard. We gave many well documented facts and figures and they were ignored.

The government is continuing on its path to increasing debt despite the protests of the taxpayers who can see clearly that this is wrong.

No, there is little here beyond the fluff of correct terminology. There is not yet any substance to a promise of more open, more responsive, and more representative government.

The Prime Minister made mention of the Pearson airport deal. Indeed, this deal stands as a monument to the evil of backroom dealings without accountability. We must commend the government for taking prompt action to bring that deal to a halt, but now what is happening?

The Reform Party moved an amendment to the bill which would require full disclosure of any agreements entered into to terminate the Pearson deal. We felt that Canadian taxpayers should know the amounts paid and the recipients of those payments. Yet every Liberal in this House voted against that amendment, defeating it and preventing Canadians from possibly ever knowing what kind of backroom deals the present government engaged in to bring this project to a halt.

I seriously doubt that the measures being proposed today would have the effect of being able to prevent another deal like the Pearson deal.

The government is proposing to send this bill to committee right away. Hopefully all the members of that committee will have meaningful and substantial input into its final wording and impact. However, I want to remind the members of this House and all Canadians that this process was completed last year and the results of the Holtmann report have not been implemented.

I can only wish and hope that the government will not waste a bunch of time repeating the whole process. The red book promised: "A Liberal government will move quickly and decisively in several ways to address these concerns about conflict of interest, influence peddling and selling access".

The response we have today from the government is a beginning. It seems to me that the measures taken are woefully inadequate. We will be watching with interest to see if this committee work will result in a report which will actually be implemented in legislation, or if it will be like the previous efforts, much work for the backbenchers with little or no tangible results. We will be watching to see if the new committee will expand on the work of the Holtmann report and whether the government will implement its recommendations.

I note just in passing that among other things the Holtmann report has one chapter with six recommendations to remove the distinction between tier one and tier two lobbyists. I have not yet seen the bill because of the secrecy I was speaking of earlier, but I was informed just before I came in that this new bill does not even mention distinguishing between tier one and tier two. Maybe it is the lobbying of the lobbyist groups themselves that prevented this from getting in.

The Prime Minister has announced the appointment of an ethics counsellor to oversee and enforce the strengthened Lobbyists Registration Act. Since we know very little about the individual named, it is prudent on our part to wish him well. We will be watching his work with great interest.

Finally, I would like to ask a few questions, not to embarrass the Prime Minister or the government but to challenge them to really deliver what Canadians are expecting.

If the Prime Minister says: "No goal is more important to this government than restoring the trust of Canadians", then why is this government spending dollars hand over fist in the Prime Minister's riding for a theme park? Why is this government conducting polls in private, released only when a minister gives approval? Why is this government giving fat advertising contracts to old political buddies? Why is this government continuing to hedge and waffle on the much demanded overhaul of the MPs pension plan? These are items which would produce great leaps in the increase in trust by Canadians in their government.

Would it not be better if we had a government in which the members of Parliament were actually empowered to do what they were elected to do, to represent their constituents in a meaningful, effective way?

Would it not be better if all of us who are charged with the responsibility of forming government policy would do as I always do when approached by a lobbyist? I tell them that my constituents, the people who elected me, are my lobby group. I take my direction from them.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Leblanc Cape Breton Highlands—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development regarding Bill C-216, a private member's bill standing in the name of my colleague, the hon. member for Restigouche-Chaleur. The committee has examined the bill and has agreed to report it without amendment.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Pierrette Ringuette-Maltais Madawaska—Victoria, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

This first report is intended to be an interim report; we met with 11 witnesses. In September, we intend to meet with many additional witnesses and place more specific emphasis on certain crown corporations that will have to provide information on their programs regarding Canada's official languages.

Lobbyists Registration Act
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Minister of Industry

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-43, an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act and to make related amendments to other acts.

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

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Susan Whelan Essex—Windsor, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am tabling a petition signed by residents of Victoria, British Columbia which the hon. member for that riding has passed along to me.

This petition signed by hundreds of Victoria residents calls for the reinstatement of the Military Marching Navy Band at CFB Esquimalt or the relocation of one of the four remaining military bands.

The petitioners point out that in the absence of the navy band, western Canada will be without a military band as the nearest band is in Winnipeg.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Reform

Randy White Fraser Valley West, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege of presenting a petition, which I wholeheartedly support, from constituents of Fraser Valley West.

The petition asks that Parliament ensure that the present provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada prohibiting assisted suicide be enforced vigorously and that Parliament make no changes in the law which would sanction or allow the aiding or abetting of suicide or active or passive euthanasia.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Ronald J. Duhamel St. Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition which indicates that most people would acknowledge that young people are the country's greatest asset. Most people would recognize the number of pressures young people have encountered, for example, the breakdown in the traditional family structure, urban decay, youth unemployment, and difficulty in accessing the appropriate education.

These petitioners also ask that whatever social policy changes occur and whenever there is a reduction of the deficit including the debt that it must not be without recognizing the realities of these particular challenges to our young people.

They also say that job creation must continue to be the government's first priority.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Reform

Sharon Hayes Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour, pursuant to Standing Order 36, to present a petition from residents of the Port Moody-Coquitlam area.

The petitioners state they are concerned about the issue of euthanasia. Human life is sacred. Using active measures to bring about the death of an individual would lead to frightening situations in which individuals no longer deemed useful to society could be at risk in the hands of others.

We are against any act of Parliament that would legalize euthanasia.

I am pleased to present this and totally support it.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Rex Crawford Kent, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured once again to rise in the House, pursuant to Standing Order 36, to present a petition on behalf of the constituents of my riding who state an ethanol industry will provide definite stability for Canadian agriculture and the Canadian economy in general.

Whereas ethanol is one of the most environmentally friendly fuels available, whereas Chatham, Ontario was recently selected as the first site for a major ethanol plant, 20 times larger than any in Canada today, creating approximately 1,100 person years of work and contributing an estimated $125 million annual economic impact; wherefore the undersigned petitioners humbly pray and call upon Parliament to maintain the present exemption on the excise portion of ethanol for a decade, allowing for a strong and self-sufficient ethanol industry in Canada.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition signed by numerous members of my riding of Medicine Hat. The petitioners call upon Parliament not to amend the human rights code, the Canadian Human Rights Act or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in any way which would tend to indicate societal approval of same sex relationships or homosexuality, including amending the human rights code to include in the prohibited grounds of discrimination the undefined phrase sexual orientation.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to present a similar petition to my friend's across the way which asks not to amend the human rights code, the Canadian Human Rights Act or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in any way which would tend to indicate societal approval of same sex relationships or homosexuality, including amending the human rights code to include in the prohibited grounds of discrimination the undefined phrase sexual orientation.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

John O'Reilly Victoria—Haliburton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition which has been duly certified by the clerk of petitions and is signed by constituents of my riding of Victoria-Haliburton.

The signatures come from such places as Haliburton, Minden, Eagle Lake, West Guilford, Tory Hill, asking that Parliament not approve same sex relationships.