House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was promise.

Topics

Committee Of The Whole
Oral Question Period

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe there is an elementary rule in this House that the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and the assistant deputy speakers are people who must remain neutral, and I think it is really too bad that the hon. member opposite should question our ability to be logical and consistent as a servant of this House, referring of course to our position on the Constitution.

I find it rather difficult to understand this attitude, and I would like to give the hon. member the assurance that as parliamentarians, members of the official opposition have exercised their duties with a great deal of professionalism, and I am convinced that one of our members will be perfectly able to take on the role of deputy speaker of the House, although this person is as firm a sovereignist as I am.

Committee Of The Whole
Oral Question Period

3:55 p.m.

Reform

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, when we listen to the arguments put forward by the Liberal Party in the debate on this motion, we find that the arrogance sometimes comes out which we should not have in the House. I refer to the comments by the member for Fundy-Royal who said that we should not be attacking the process of appointing this particular person. Surely when motions are made in the House we are entitled to debate them. For them to even insinuate that we should not be debating a motion I find rather offensive to the democratic process.

He went on to say that we should not be using up House time. Again, I find it rather offensive that he would be opposed to using House time to debate a motion.

I would like to quote from the annotated Standing Orders of the House of Commons, page 19, regarding precedents for this: "The members appointed to the position of Chairman, Deputy Chairman and Assistant Deputy Chairman have almost always come from the government side of the House. The only exceptions came in the 13th, 29th and 31st Parliaments when in each case an opposition member was appointed as Chairman".

It does not say a member of the official opposition. It just says an opposition member was appointed as chairman. There is real precedence for the point we are trying to make.

I would also like to quote from the Liberal red book that has been waved in our faces so often over the last three years. Let me quote from Reviving Parliamentary Democracy; the Liberal Plan for House of Commons and Electoral Reform.

It states:

Mounting criticism of the House of Commons and its proceedings reflects the frustration of citizens and parliamentarians alike with the continuing failure of Parliament to address effectively the problems that face us.

Canadians, including those who are elected to serve in Parliament, expect the House of Commons not merely to discuss openly the problems of the nation, but also to advance solutions. They expect the Commons to explore Canada's problems rationally and to establish policies for resolving them. These expectations are not being met.

The House of Commons must take immediate steps both to enable itself to do what it is supposed to do and to be seen to be doing it.

For the member for Fundy Royal to say that in three years they have fulfilled 78 per cent so give them two more makes a mockery of the red book where it states that the House must take immediate steps.

Let us again talk about the red book's statement concerning familiarity with Parliament. Let me quote the Liberal red book:

In order to enhance the independence of the Chair and in an effort to reduce the level of partisanship, when the Speaker is from the government party, two of the junior Chair officers should be from the opposition, so that the four presiding officer positions are shared equally by government and opposition.

I would again like to point out that in that quote there was nothing about official opposition, just opposition. If I may go on to quote again:

One of the most significant results of the McGrath round of procedural reforms was the decision that the Speaker should be elected by secret ballot by all members. This has gone a long way toward assuring members of the independence of the presiding officer.

The three deputy Speakers, however, remain in effect government appointees. As a consequence, when one of the junior officers is in the Chair, his or her independence and authority is less well established. Their authority would be greatly enhanced and the non-partisan nature of the Chair greatly augmented if the British practice of alternating the Chair positions between government and opposition were adopted. Thus, if the Speaker were from the government party, the Deputy Speaker would be from the opposition, the next officer from the government and so forth.

The red book talks about electing the Speaker. You, Mr. Speaker, have done a marvellous job in the independence and integrity that you have upheld so well in this House. We would like to see that your colleagues in the Chair would enjoy the same independence and integrity without being tainted by being appointed by the government shall we say.

It was for that very point the Liberal red book promise was to alternate Speakers by secret ballot, next from the opposition, then back to government and so forth, simple, and it said it should be done immediately. Here we are three years later and the opportunity has presented itself today.

By the looks of it we are going to have division on this appointment which is unfortunate because the process that is being proposed is flawed and the process that is being used flies in direct opposition with what the Liberals proposed at election time. I would suggest to the member for Kingston and the Islands that should the amendment lose and we vote on this particular position that he seriously consider whether he does enjoy the confidence of the House.

This is unfortunate because he does have the qualifications and as an individual member of this House he enjoys an excellent reputation. However, if there is division in putting him in the Chair, then we have concerns about the perception of integrity, impartiality and independence if this is forced upon us. The perception is important if we are to ensure the integrity of this House. That is why I would think that the member for Kingston and the Islands would seriously consider whether he does enjoy the confidence of the House in the chair's position if he were voted in.

That is why the Liberal government should acknowledge the policy it wanted to introduce immediately and should support a nominee from this side of the House, which is the motion before us right now. It would ensure that its promise is upheld.

The person we have nominated, the hon. member for Mission-Coquitlam, has integrity, has a long experience of public service, perhaps not all of it in this House. She is a person of competence. While she may not have had years of experience here, I am quite sure there have been others who have had the privilege of sitting in the Chair as having been appointed to that position who have not had years of experience in this House and they have performed quite adequately. Therefore I have no fear whatsoever in saying that the member for Mission-Coquitlam would perform admirably in the Chair as well.

I suggest that the government seriously consider now that there is opposition to its nominee, that its proposal which was supposed to be implemented immediately can be implemented now. I am quite sure there would be no problems with the appointment of the hon. member for Mission-Coquitlam.

Committee Of The Whole
Oral Question Period

4:05 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague's intervention and he certainly put his points across in a very clear manner. My comments deal with some comments that were made during this debate.

Earlier the hon. member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore was heckling our hon. whip when he was trying to speak. She was asking which page of the red book we were referring to. Obviously for someone who ran on that red book and the promises contained therein, I would have expected that she would have known that we were actually referring to an appendix to the red book, a report that was appended to the red book.

Committee Of The Whole
Oral Question Period

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Augustine Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

You always have to find someone to attack.

Committee Of The Whole
Oral Question Period

4:05 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

My hon. colleague referred to the actual committee report.

The hon. member is insistent on heckling still. We are going to try to figure out at some point if she actually does know what is contained in the red book which she ran on but perhaps that will have to be on another day.

At this point it is very clear from the intervention made by my hon. colleague what we were referring to. It actually is a promise, much to the consternation of Liberal members, another broken promise.

I also refer to a comment made by the hon. member for Mississauga South. The only defence he could come up with for this appointment was that somehow the Liberal members who put forward the report that suggested the two deputy speaker positions should be from the opposition, that somehow that was done before the election. There were such astounding results in the election with the election of Bloc Quebecois members as well as Reform Party of Canada members that somehow it negates the commitment made in the red book to have the two deputy speaker positions actually filled from the opposition. He was looking for some little avenue that he could use to get out of the commitment made in the red book.

I wonder if my hon. colleague would like to comment on that. The only excuse the government can use is so pathetically weak: that we simply cannot allow a separatist member to be a deputy speaker. It is pretty pathetic to have to use that as an excuse for breaking a promise.

Committee Of The Whole
Oral Question Period

4:10 p.m.

Reform

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the comment by my hon. colleague.

The Liberal government in the red book did not give any qualification regarding their point number 10, the independence of the Chair. There was no qualification in the fact that it said: "The House of Commons must take immediate steps both to enable itself to do what it is supposed to do and to be seen to be doing it".

That was before the election. That was the policy that those people ran on. The Canadian people elected them on this and their other policy of jobs, jobs, jobs which was trashed along the way as well.

Regardless of the fact that we ended up with an official opposition who are separatists and of course we felt there was no way that the separatists should have been the official opposition. Again, this government had the right to choose after the election. It could quite easily have chosen a party that was represented in five provinces, that had 2.5 million votes and ran candidates in practically every province in the country versus a provincial party that only was represented in one province and that wants to break up this country. However, the government appointed that party as the official opposition.

That aside, there was no qualification. There was nothing said in the election that the government would break a promise under certain conditions. The government was quite emphatic that this red book is the plan. This past weekend the Prime Minister was waving the results of the plan and talking of 78 per cent accomplishment.

This is one promise that the Liberals said they were going to implement right away after the election. They had an opportunity to implement it right away after the election when the Speaker and the deputies were initially appointed. If I may be so bold, the government had an opportunity to fulfil their election promise when you, Madam Speaker, received the appointment to the Chair.

Now we have the same debate once again and once again the government is going to break the promise that it said it would introduce immediately. That is why my colleague is upset. That is why the people in this House are upset. That is why unfortunately we have got partisanship on this motion. It is quite unfortunate.

The independence of the Chair is fundamental to the governance of this House. That is why, if the subamendment is defeated and the member for Mission-Coquitlam does not take the position and the main motion is then debated and voted upon, I would hope that the member for Kingston and the Islands would withdraw his nomination.

We do want to ensure the integrity of the Chair, which you occupy, Madam Speaker. To quote from pages 18 and 19 of the Annotated Standing Orders:

The names put forward have met with opposition only on rare occasions. In 1911, the choice of Mr. Blondin, a Quebec nationalist, as chairman, was hotly debated-

It was suggested again today that a member from the Bloc would be hotly debated too. It goes on further:

-while in 1918, one member objected to the appointment of Mr. Boivin, a Quebec member who had opposed conscription. On only one occasion however, in 1962, was a motion to appoint a chairman ever brought to a recorded vote. In fact, in most cases the appointment passed with only a few laudatory comments about the nominee's special capacities for the post.

We have had laudatory comments about the member for Kingston and the Islands which I would support as well.

The point is partisanship, because the government has abused the process which has entered into the debate. The principle has not been upheld. Democracy has not been upheld. The policies on which they were elected have not been upheld. That is why we should have new nominees or we should elect the member for Mission-Coquitlam.

Committee Of The Whole
Oral Question Period

4:15 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

Madam Speaker, would the hon. member for St. Albert comment on a comment made by the hon. member for Fundy-Royal who said we are wasting the time of the House by debating this very clear matter of principle.

Committee Of The Whole
Oral Question Period

4:15 p.m.

Reform

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, the point is this House debates democracy. We are here to uphold democracy, to talk about principle and to challenge the government's point of view. For the member to stand up and say we are wasting the House's time

talking about something this important is an affront to everyone who sits in this House.

Committee Of The Whole
Oral Question Period

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. After consultation with the representatives of the other parties in this House, I have the unanimous consent of the House for the hon. member for Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans to table the official report by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Committee Of The Whole
Oral Question Period

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Do we have unanimous consent?

Committee Of The Whole
Oral Question Period

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees Of The House
Oral Question Period

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank members of the House for their unanimous consent.

As chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, I have the honour to present the third report of this committee.

This report deals with the famous question of what was called family trusts, in which the committee examined Chapter I of the auditor general's report of May 1996. This report reflects the opinion of the Liberal majority within the committee, and includes dissenting opinions by the Bloc Quebecois and the Reform Party, as well as a supplementary opinion by the Liberal member for Brome-Missisquoi.

In closing, I would like to say that, in my capacity as a member of the Bloc Quebecois, I subscribe to the dissident minority report by the members of the Bloc Quebecois, particularly the following recommendation: that a special commission of inquiry independent of the government be struck, with the mandate of fully investigating all of the events surrounding the decision of December 23, 1991, and the subsequent use of this tax loophole by other rich Canadian families.

In closing, pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee is asking the government to table a comprehensive response to the report.

Committees Of The House
Oral Question Period

4:15 p.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, if the House gives its consent I move that the membership of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be modified as follows: Bob Kilger for Don Boudria.

(Motion agreed to.)

Committee Of The Whole
Oral Question Period

October 28th, 1996 / 4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, I see the humour in this situation in listening to members of the third party, listening to hot air coming once again into this Chamber.

We are talking about promises and I recall the leader of the third party rising in this House and calling this Parliament one without precedent. He called the make-up of this Parliament one without precedent. They told us they were going to do things differently. Canadians and members of this House know that they broke that pledge. It is reflected in the opinions of Canadians when they are asked what they think of members of the third party.

If there were intellectual honesty in the motion proposed by members of the third party they would support a member of the official opposition's filling the position. That is not what they proposed. They proposed that one of their members should fill the position of deputy chair.

I would like to respond to the hon. member for St. Albert. We had an election for the chair of the public accounts committee. That position has by tradition gone to a member of the official opposition. I recall how vigorously they opposed and filibustered to stop that appointment from taking place. Now they are standing in the House talking about what they would like to be done. They are not dealing with reality.

Let me repeat that if there were intellectual honesty in their position they would be talking about a member of the official opposition's filling the position.

There is no question that the member for Kingston and the Islands is an excellent choice. He will serve the House well. He will serve Canadians well. He will carry out his duties in a very judicial fashion.

Clearly there is no question that if members of the third party had any intellectual honesty they would not have been self-serving and would have suggested that the position be filled by a member of the official opposition.

Canadians know that those members have been lusting after the status of official opposition. They have had opportunities. They have campaigned across the country in byelections. They said to the electorate in different constituencies: "We are the Reform Party. Elect us to Parliament so we can become the official opposition". They have gone to the electorate across the country time and time again. The electorate has said no, and with good reason. It is because of the string of broken promises, promises they did not fulfill when they got to the House of Commons. I am

disappointed, along with many other Canadians, that they have not fulfilled those promises.

I applaud the nomination of the member for Kingston and the Islands. He will serve the House and Canadians well.

Committee Of The Whole
Oral Question Period

4:20 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Madam Speaker, the member very eloquently talked about keeping promises. It is very interesting that when you are in the government you are able to fulfill your promises, if you will.

It would be wonderful if the member would listen to the question, as he is often not even in his seat as the commentary is unfolding. Would the member support the Reform Party motion if we called for a member of the official opposition to occupy the position of deputy chair?