House of Commons Hansard #119 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agency.

Topics

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are now on debate on the motions in Group No. 6. You may have notice that we proposed six amendments in this group: AmendmentsNos. 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 36, which specifically concern clause 13 of Bill C-60.

I would like to take a few moments to read clause 13, since this is the crucial clause and the amendments the official opposition is presenting this afternoon are specifically aimed at improving Bill C-60.

If the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food thinks this is obstruction, he is mistaken. I will read clause 13, and there is not a single municipal council in the smallest municipality in Canada that would accept a clause like this one.

  1. (1) The President has the authority to appoint the employees of the Agency.

I may recall that the president is appointed by the governor in council. And now the president, who will be a friend of the government, will appoint the agency's employees. This is a serious matter. When I was mayor of the municipality of Garthby, if I had appointed the municipal inspector and then told him to appoint all the employees of the town of Garthby, I would have been in an excellent position to get him to hire my brothers-in-law, my nephews and nieces, my friends or people who could be counted on to give generously to my campaign fund.

As the Prime Minister said so eloquently this week to people who were looking for work: "Good luck". I could tell people who are looking for work: "Stick with the president of the Food Inspection Agency and with the Prime Minister's party, the Liberal Party".

We also read in clause 13(2):

13.(2) The President may set the terms and conditions of employment for employees of the Agency and assign duties to them.

This is still the president. I will conclude with clause 13(3), the last part of clause 13:

13.(3) The President may designate any person or class of persons as inspectors, analysts, graders, veterinary inspectors or other officers for the enforcement or administration of any Act or provision that the Agency enforces or administers by virtue of section 11, in respect of any matter referred to in the designation.

I may recall that, as I said earlier, for the time being the agency does not have to abide by the guidelines that usually apply to this type of agency of department when hiring employees. It does not have to abide by a principle that is currently recognized and that is effective in that it affords some protection against patronage.

Our amendments are clear and specific. For instance, our amendment should be read here in connection with the amendment concerning the Professional Institute of the Public Service. We proposed this amendment because, in its present form, the agency will be a separate employer in the meaning of the Public Service Staff Relations Act. As a result, many of its employees will lose their vested rights.

We must not forget that this new agency created by Bill C-60 will have a staff of 4,500 in full time positions across Canada.

These employees will come from pretty much everywhere, but, if they do not suit the president and are considered incapable of doing the job or do not want to leave Halifax to come and work at head office, which will be here in the national capital, they will be replaced by other people the president can simply appoint. The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada will not be respected. So, a number of employees will be penalized by C-60.

This sort of behaviour by the Liberal Party headed by the hon. Prime Minister and member for Saint-Maurice is despicable. Just this week, his comment to a woman from Saskatchewan, who has three university degrees-two bachelors and a masters degree-and is looking for work, was, simply: "Good luck". It is disgusting.

So, to rule out any abuse or poor employee management and to make the hiring process transparent within the agency, which will have nearly 5,000 employees, we are calling for a detailed report on the hiring criteria used.

I would at this point like to return to this week's, in fact today's, oral question period. You no doubt followed the questions on the space agency in the region of Longueuil and Saint-Hubert. Mr. Evans is a personal friend of the Minister of Industry and was appointed by him. A fine example of patronage. Today, Mr. Evans is getting his minister into hot water up to his neck.

The amendments we proposed are aimed at protecting this party from potential abuse in the case of the food inspection agency. We are no longer talking about the space agency but about food inspection. Food is going to be inspected, and human health will be at stake.

The president and executive vice-president of this agency must be appointed not because they are friends of the Liberal Party, but because they are competent and able to do the job. Too often, unfortunately, in partisan appointments, the individual who has contributed the most to party coffers is given huge responsibilities. But in this case, we are talking about your health, Mr. Speaker, and that of your children and your wife. This is serious.

The report will have to be sent to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food one year after the establishment of the agency. Here again, we are concerned by possible patronage abuses on the part of the government and we want to be able to monitor this process closely and openly.

Before turning to clause 93, we repeatedly suggested and recommended in a number of our amendments that the agency consult with the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food. The members opposite refused.

I can see them, and I also see them in committee. Just this week, in a committee of which I am a member, I nudged my colleague from the Reform Party and told him: "See how bored the Liberal members seem to be today with the committee on agriculture".

Indeed, they seemed to be bored to death. Some did not seem to really understand the issue, others did not want to speak, fearing to drag things out even more, or to ask questions because they we not familiar with the issue.

My colleague from the Reform Party said: "Yes, unfortunately, it is not the top experts on agriculture they have sent to the committee", with the exception of the member for Malpeque, who always has questions or solutions to propose.

This having been said, for the amendments in Group No. 6, the critical issue was clause 13 of Bill C-60. To conclude, I remind you again that the Liberal government is going to appoint the president and the first vice-president for an indeterminate period. We do not know. I asked whether it would be six months, six years or twelve months, but they would not tell me anything, claiming they did not know. So, for an indeterminate period, the chairman and vice-chairman will be free to appoint anyone they like. In other words, they are telling people to look for "jobs, jobs, jobs", while the Prime Minister wishes them "good luck".

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I would like to raise a point of order. Since it is only 4.45 p.m., I would like to get the unanimous consent of the House to speak for another five or six minutes so I can explain to my Liberal colleagues across the way why Bill C-60 should be improved.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The member's time is up. Since he wishes to go on for five more minutes, does the House give unanimous consent?

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I see that my colleagues from the government party want to know more about the benefits of our amendments aimed at improving Bill C-60.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Beryl Gaffney Nepean, ON

And that is why we allowed you to speak in debate too.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Frontenac, QC

Thank you very much. I want to give special thanks to the member who convinced her colleagues to agree to my request.

I want to address clause 93 of Bill C-60. It is also quite important, but it should be amended. I will read it for the benefit of the House:

This Act, or any provision of the Act, or any provision of any Act enacted or amended by this Act, comes into force on a day or days to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

This reminds me that I heard-listen up, this is both funny and serious, but mostly sad-that according to the government's plan, Bill C-60, an act to establish the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, was to come into force on April 1 next year.

I told you that the Governor in Council would appoint the president, the executive vice-president, and the advisory board. It would appear that they have already found a president, an executive vice-president, and that the advisory board is just about complete. Some democracy! But I am still introducing my amendments.

Under clause 93, our amendment provides that the act will not come into force as long as the Minister of Agriculture has not prepared a code of conduct and ethics to govern the appointment of employees by the agency. We want a code of ethics, but not like the one the Prime Minister wanted for his cabinet. Whenever we ask him to read from his code of ethics or to provide us with a copy, we are told it is still being printed.

I challenge you. If you had a code of ethics in your private company, you would be proud to show it to me, to boast about it, to praise it, or better yet, to improve it if at all possible.

When the Prime Minister is in hot water, as was the case this afternoon during question period, when his industry minister was questioned about the space agency, is his code of ethics any good? We know how Mr. Evans was appointed chairman of the space agency in St. Hubert.

This code must be developed in conjunction with the union or unions of the future agency and the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food. The objective is to get rid once and for all of the patronage that might easily take roots within the food inspection agency. This is serious.

In the several months since we started examining Bill C-60 and I started raising these cases of patronage, I have received several calls from people supporting me. Unfortunately, when I ask them to testify before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, they are very reluctant because they fear retaliation from that party.

The Mulroney government did not go as far with patronage. Brian Mulroney, whom I consider to be among one of the greatest givers of patronage jobs, would never have created a new agency just to reward his friends. This is serious because there will be more than 4,500 jobs.

If the government votes against this amendment that we are proposing in clause 93, we will have to understand that it wants to control the agency, thus hurting the interests of the people it represents.

I doubt Canadians will have full confidence in this food inspection system that will be entrusted to an agency whose executives will not be appointed because of their capabilities, but because of their political allegiance and their past services to the Liberal Party.

I thank the Liberal members for giving me five more minutes.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Maurice Bernier Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise a second time this afternoon in the debate on Bill C-60 to establish the food inspection agency to point out not an anomaly, in my opinion, but rather a precedent.

At least it will represent a precedent in the federal public service. When I rose earlier, I said that, like my colleagues, I was against the minister having sole responsibility for appointing the members of the advisory board, because of an extremely high risk of patronage, which could discredit the advisory board and, consequently, any study submitted to this board and any opinion provided by the board to the minister.

Clause 12 of the bill, regarding human resources, states that:

The agency is a separate employer under the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

It says "separate", and each word is important because, normally, the legislator is not supposed to use a word or phrase that does not mean anything. When Parliament speaks, it is supposed to mean something.

If clause 12 states that the agency is a separate employer, that means that the agency will not be subject to the Public Service of Canada Act.

It states further, at clause 13, that "the president has the authority to appoint the employees of the agency". It is there in black and white. So, it is obvious that the president, as several members said-and the hon. member for Frontenac just did-who is appointed by the governor in Council, in other words by cabinet,

with all the risks attached to such appointments, such as appointing partisan individuals whose only qualifications would be their membership in the Liberal Party, once this president has been appointed, carefully chosen because he is one of their own-so he will do exactly as told-, this president will be totally free to appoint whomever he wants as an employee of the agency. They are civil servants. We are talking about civil servants who will go everywhere, in restaurants, in businesses, to inspect the food quality, the cleanliness of the premises.

Those are the people referred to. The bill provides:

  1. The Agency is a separate employer under the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

  2. (1) The President has the authority to appoint the employees of the Agency.

(2) The President may set the terms and conditions of employment for employees of the Agency and assign duties to them.

This is really a first. I would like a member of the government to stand in the House and explain who, when a minister gets such legislation adopted, gives such extravagant powers to an individual who can be appointed on account of his political views.

This means that not only is the advisory committee mentioned previously-which could be essentially partisan-thus discredited, but that the agency as a whole can lose its credibility. This is very serious. This means that any individual, any business owner or institution could question the quality of these inspectors' work.

I am convinced that no union, no shop steward representing public servants was consulted about this clause, which exempts the food inspection agency from the application of the Public Service Staff Relations Act. In other words, these people will not be public servants. They will be employees of the agency and they will always be governed by its terms and conditions of employment. This is what clause 13, which reads as follows, provides:

13.(1) The President has the authority to appoint the employees of the Agency.

(2) The President may set the terms and conditions of employment

This is unprecedented. Such a clause must be condemned. This cannot be tolerated. We must have absolute confidence in the inspectors' work, given the importance of their role in our society, which is to ensure that the food consumed at home or in public places is of good quality, and that it is prepared in a clean and healthy environment.

The agency must not become a haven for patronage. We not let this happen, otherwise the work of all these people, the work of the whole agency will come into question. This would prove that Quebecers are right to demand-not merely ask-that this inspection work be done by inspectors accountable to the Government of Quebec. We experienced a similar situation of distrust in the seventies.

Some will remember the tainted meat scandal in Quebec. At the time, food inspections were not conducted properly, and hardly anything was checked. The situation was brought to light and it was found that organized crime had infiltrated the food inspection sector.

Following a commission of inquiry, the Quebec government took a number of measures to correct the situation, including the grouping of all inspectors under a single organization, and the implementation of strict measures to give credibility to this activity.

The most serious harm that has been done at the time is that, because of some laxness in food inspection, for many years and even still today, some people have doubts when they see the seal "Quebec approved".

After 10 or 15, I do not know how many years, people in some circles still hesitate to put their faith in inspections by the Quebec government. That is exactly what will happen once we have an agency run by the government's buddies, those who contribute to its slush fund. Moreover, inspectors will be selected by these people.

I do not have to tell you what will happen when the time comes to hire inspectors. The first card one will have to show is not the qualification card granted by some college, but a small red card with a maple leaf on. That is the one to be shown. That is the way things will work.

And then, they want the agency to have some credibility. They want inspectors to go do their inspections anywhere they please and would have us believe that, after the officer from the Liberal Party has visited their business, people will feel really secure. That is sheer nonsense.

I cannot think for a single moment that such provisions will be maintained. My colleague from the agriculture committee is right to criticize the way Liberal government is proceeding in that regard. The government seems intent not on dealing with problems but on creating a lot more. They think the solution lies in leaving any future decision making to people they alone have confidence in, that is Liberal hacks. That seems to be the solution.

They could change the title of the bill and call it the Liberal Food Inspection Agency instead of calling it the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Then at least it would reflect a de facto situation and people dealing with those inspectors would know what is what. With the provisions as they are, there will be some doubts. People will wonder if the inspector is qualified, competent, if he took courses and was trained for the job, who hired him, and so forth.

We cannot accept such a situation. That is why, unless the amendments put forward by my colleague are accepted, we will not be able to support such a decision.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Essex—Kent
Ontario

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, many things have been said today that need to be clarified and corrected to a great degree.

When the hon. member concluded his speech he suggested that the government would not ensure that qualified, well respected people will get the jobs. In fact, that is exactly what will happen. We will make certain that qualified well respected people are doing the inspection jobs for food.

It has not been by error or by mistake, or any other way but good, strategic planning that Canada is recognized around the world as one of the countries with the safest food supply in the world. The federal inspection agency has been and shall continue to be the best inspection agency that the country can possibly put forward.

We know that when problems have occurred in other countries, Canada has been on the side of extra caution. We shall remain on the side of extra caution.

We are not talking here about political, partisan appointments. We are talking about a lack of arguments by the opposition to bring forward criticism that is valid for this bill.

A very partisan approach has been taken in the House today. I am certain not one person from the government, not one person in the House, and I do not care on which side of the House they sit, would jeopardize the safety of the food supply, food source for Canadians or internationally. That is paramount. That must be stated now.

Amendments have been put forward. Those amendments are in some degree to Americanize our system. The suggestion that an agriculture committee start holding hearings on people who will be coming to certain boards, going into the detail of how our system operates is somewhat different from a parliamentary system.

The responsible person in all the inspection systems in Canada is the Prime Minister, going down to his cabinet and to the ministers who are appointed to carry out that responsibility.

This agency is not being formed on a whim. A tremendous amount of consultation has taken place across the country. Well over a year has been spent looking at different aspects of agriculture, health, fishing as well as the inspection agencies that exist at the present time.

I know very well that some of our officials have been on this case over two years, trying to make certain that all the steps that are being put forward are done in consultation with the industry, in consultation with all the inspection services in the country, in consultation with all the departments in government to make sure a good, positive, protective system that will make certain our food supply is the best in the world is established.

The agency will make certain consistency is there and one source can be responsible for the inspection systems in the country. There is no question that there is overlap when you have three separate departments functioning with one agency to do the inspections.

Certainly, if there are laboratories that are doing the same work, if there are facilities that we have in an area that could do both the agriculture, the fishing and the health inspections at one time that is the most efficient way to do.

By forming an agency under the minister of agriculture, we have formed a single inspection agency reporting to one minister and one group of people who can look at the system and come up with solutions that would better the delivery of inspections across the country.

That is what has happened. We feel it is extremely important to have the proper steps in place, the proper people doing the job. Quite frankly, it is not an area where we are looking at partisanship. We are looking at placing the best qualified people in those positions that we can get. I believe that is most important for all Canadians.

I would like to address a few of the motions put forward that I have not addressed to this point. One has to do with common service providers.

A series of motions were brought forward. The purpose of the government's proposal was to give the agency the opportunity to find a cost effective way to deliver services in the program. However, before proceeding, the agency must seek Treasury Board and council approval to pay for those costs as the business proceeds. This is an area with a cross-governmental implication and therefore the minister should require and seek concurrence of his colleagues.

It is important that we look very carefully at the human resources issue with regard to this bill. The intention of clause 12 is to provide the Canadian Food Inspection Agency with separate employer status and not to make changes to collective agreements which are a framework for the public service. With the addition of subsection 12(a), this proposed amendment would open all matters to the bargaining process that are now within the employer's responsibility in the public service. In other words, some of the

amendments are opening up doors to employee-employer problems which may come in the future.

Certainly the department has looked very carefully at how the bill should be structured in order to make certain that there is a harmonious, fair way flowing from the present inspection system to the new agency so that all employees will have a reasonable understanding of what is happening and will be able to move from their present jobs into the inspection agency if they so desire.

I was a bit astounded when the member for Richelieu stood today. I recall the member for Richelieu being a very staunch member of the Conservative Party when Mr. Mulroney was here. It is not proper for him to stand and criticize the present government for partisan appointments. It seems that no one was more partisan, more prone to be dictatorial and oppressive than the former prime minister. It is very unfair for a person who sat in his caucus to go after the government for the policies and the issues we have brought forward.

Clearly the direction of this bill is to have the best possible inspection agency in the most cost effective and efficient way we can. We are looking at cost controls when we put an inspection agency in place. I have heard from the agriculture community, the fishing community and from all others that it will be a very positive move if we can save money.

One of the greatest considerations the industry has had in the past several months is the PMRA. The question of the PMRA is a matter of the industry being very concerned about cost and cost effectiveness. If this agency is put in place with a savings of $44 million, that will address cost savings and effectiveness not only for all Canadians but for the industry itself.

Although many criticisms have been brought forward, I believe unfairly, about some of the today's issues, the central focus of the government is on the efficient delivery of service and top quality service inspection. Food inspection is our number one priority. The people receiving that food inspection are the people who must be protected. It is important for this country to have the safest food inspection service in the world. We are here to deliver it.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Richelieu, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to take part in this debate on motions in Group No. 6, according to the groupings made by the Chair with the co-operation of House leaders.

The more we move along in the point by point study of the amendments to this bill, the more we realize this is the greatest exercise in improvisation we have seen these last few weeks. If improvisation, carelessness and arrogance have always been the trademark of this government over the last two years-almost three years, actually-instead of the openness all citizens are calling for, this bill really takes the cake.

It is unbelievable that they should simply brush off all our amendments. None of them is deemed acceptable, even though they could easily be accepted by anybody except this arrogant government.

We are simply looking for a better management of this food inspection agency. We are suggesting appointments should be made in consultation. But the government has done it again today: It has named a new lieutenant-governor without consulting in any way the government of Quebec, even if it could do it. This is a federal prerogative. I do not hold a grudge against the person who has be named, but against the office of lieutenant-governor and the way the government went about this nomination.

What we are seeing here, as discussed under other groups of motions, is that the government would like to appoint a dozen persons as administrators of this agency at the sole discretion of the minister. I can understand the shame members opposite feel when they see a minister grabbing the power to appoint. They know what kind of appointments will be made, patronage appointments, as always. The appointee will have to be a known Liberal. It could be profitable for the slush fund. After all, Liberals have always been at the service of the friends of their own party and never at the service of the people.

With its customary arrogance, the government wants the minister to appoint the 12 members of the board and rejects the very simple, concrete and sensible suggestion made by the hon. member for Frontenac, who said: "We would like the agency to be managed by people who have some experience in the agri-food area, so we would like the committee responsible for considering agricultural matters here, in the House of Commons, to invite people to send in their résumés. Then, with the assistance of the subcommittees and all the parties, we could screen candidates. Finally, we would make our recommendations to the minister, who, in turn, would be able to use his discretionary power to choose 12 members among a list of 20 candidates".

The minister could at least approve this solution. We think the committee should appoint the 12 members, but if the minister were to say: "Give me a list with 20 names on it and I will choose 12 members", that would be some type of compromise to the suggestion made by the hon. member for Frontenac, who is very efficiently overseeing this whole matter for the Bloc Quebecois.

In the proposal he brought forward, the hon. member for Frontenac is, in fact, saying: Our amendment has three objectives. First, that the 12 members of the advisory board be appointed by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, after due consideration. Second, that beforehand the provinces and the

representatives of the agriculture industry be allowed to submit to the committee the names of candidates for appointment to the advisory board. That is not too much to ask of the minister.

Third, that the membership of the advisory board take into account the weight of each province within the federation.

The government brags about being a national party and providing equal representation for all citizens. The hon. member for Frontenac is giving the government the opportunity to prove it. He said: "If a province has 25 per cent of the Canadian population, then it should have three seats out of 12 on the advisory board". That does not mean that the board would be controlled by a region or another. We will have achieved the balance all Canadians are striving for.

When we consulted our people on this, they asked why we were consulting them about it, because it was obvious to them that the minister should receive suggestions from the provinces, the agri-food sector, political parties in general and people who could sit on the advisory board. But the minister was so arrogant enough that he turned down this suggestion, which seems absolutely fundamental to me.

I understand why there is not a single Liberal member today who wants to speak in favour of such a thing. They say nothing and hide. There they are, their heads bowed down. There are so many that they cannot be missed. What do they say? I can see an assistant to the minister who is nudging a member to get him to speak on this, but I do not blame the member for heading behind the curtain. There is no justification for speaking against such logical and simple amendments, which would just facilitate the workings of any agency that we want to be effective and relevant and to do the work that all the members of this House want it to do.

So, to be sure, we say that we must consult the people involved in the agri-food sector and the provinces, which also have a very important role to play. But no, the minister has told his members say nothing or else they will be expelled, as was the member from Ontario who now sits as an independent member because he dared to say to the Prime Minister: "Mr. Prime Minister, you promised to scrap the GST, do you not remember?" He was thrown out of his party because he dared to talk to the Prime Minister. This is democracy in the Liberal Party.

This is an arrogant party, the party most given to pork-barrelling and the most corrupt party in Canadian history. It thinks of nothing but helping its political friends instead of serving the interests of Canadians and Quebecers. And the person who best personifies this corruption and pork-barrelling style of government is the Prime Minister himself. I am convinced that even the Minister of Agriculture received instructions to use such a dictatorial approach in appointing people.

The Prime Minister's list of party backers is a long one. The Liberals appointed 400 people last year to well paid positions. They will now appoint 500 or 600 more before the election and, particularly, before the holiday season. Since people will be busy partying, nobody will notice all these appointments, and there will be many of them.

The Prime Minister instructed the minister to set up the agency right away, to use his discretionary power to do so; he will be given the names of appointees later. There are still a few Liberal candidates who did not get a reward or a contract, and let us not forget that it is the wife of the former defense minister, Mrs. Collenette, who makes suggestions. Members will recall that the defence minister himself granted contracts worth $75,000 to one of his fund raisers to thank him and to ask him to organize his next election campaign.

This is what we are making a stand against today. I wonder why even Liberal members are hiding and refusing to acknowledge that what we are proposing is logical and that we should put an end to the arrogance they have been showing lately on every issue, especially on political appointments.

This is worse than the Mulroney years, because Mr. Mulroney took the time to consult the provinces even for the choice of senators, but the present Prime Minister's arrogance is obvious. Moreover, he admitted it publicly when he said: "I am the one who makes the appointments". He also told his minister of agriculture: "I will name them and I will give you the list".

The kind of patronage, so typical of the Trudeau years,is being reinstated and strengthened. But that is not what was said in the red book. The red book said that a Liberal government would give a greater role to members of Parliament to improve the democratic process in the House of Commons. Instead of that, we are going back to a dictatorship.

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5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have another opportunity to speak to this bill because the purpose of this group of motions is to protect the interests of those who will manage this system. The government wants to deny public service employees their vested rights. The other aspect is the one that the member for Richelieu, with his extensive experience, just mentioned so eloquently. He has seen it all, so the government must really have gone too far for him to make this kind of comment.

As the member said, the government, at the end of the session-and that is what Canadians must pay attention to-just before Christmas or just before Saint-Jean-Baptiste day, tries to ram some bills through the House so they will not come up again after the holidays.

The member for Frontenac, with his initiative, and his colleagues in the agriculture committee did wonderful work, and I want to pay tribute to them. Even though they sometimes seem a little too insistent in caucus or in their personal contacts with us, they do make us aware of the reality. They tell us how important agriculture is. But that is of no interest to the members opposite, who are uncharacteristically silent on the subject of agriculture, not only today, but most of the time. This issue concerns not only thousands of Quebecers, but other Canadians as well. Coming from a rural area, even though I now live in a semi-urban area, I know how important agriculture is, as do most Quebecers.

The member for Richelieu is right. Why is it that members opposite do not rise more often to speak to agricultural issues? Would it be because the Liberal government wants to ram his bills through the House? Would it be that it does not want its members to put forward too many arguments because it is afraid of our reaction, so it is trying to avoid debate? But is this democracy? Are we setting a good example? Is that the kind of behaviour we want our young people to see, a government that is acting as if there were no opposition, as if things had to go its way while it is in office? That is almost like a monarchy.

I am surprised that the member for Gander-Grand Falls has not said a word. He usually speaks up when he sees such a flagrant lack of respect for democracy. Without breaking the party line, he usually rises in this House to point out such inappropriate behaviour. He did not do so today, which is rather unfortunate.

However, since we do not have much time left, Mr. Speaker, all members of the Bloc Quebecois who are here today and myself wish to congratulate the member for Frontenac and his two colleagues, the members for Lotbinière and Champlain, for the wonderful work they do to support agriculture in Quebec. My thanks to the member for Frontenac.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
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5:25 p.m.

Bloc

François Langlois Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to raise a point of order, but I can do it later on, when the government whip and the whip of the Reform Party are in the House.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
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5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion for second reading of Bill C-236, an act to prevent the importation of radioactive waste into Canada.

The House resumed from December 11 consideration of the motion that Bill C-236, an act to prevent the importation of radioactive waste into Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Radioactive Waste Importation Act
Private Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

Before the taking of the vote:

Radioactive Waste Importation Act
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

As is the practice, we will be doing it row by row. Starting with the mover, all those on my left in favour of the motion will please rise.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)