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

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jean Charest Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, now that it has been confirmed that the Reform Party did enter into this agreement with the member for York South-Weston, my point of privilege is derived from the remarks that you have just made in regard to the functioning of question period.

I return to the principle that is the cornerstone of the operation of government, the principle of the recognition of the rights of the individual member elected in his or her respective constituency with all the rights and privileges associated with that election.

You have in your remarks, Mr. Speaker, just informed the House that if the House wished to review the operations or the functioning of question period, that there would be a consultation among the leaders of the recognized political parties.

What am I to draw as an individual member, considered at least in this place as an independent member, from the remarks that you have just made? If I am to understand them correctly, it means that my rights in regard to the functioning of question period is something that will be negotiated by the respective leaders of the recognized parties in the House of Commons.

Who will in that respect, Mr. Speaker, speak up for the rights of the individual member of Parliament? Who will at this point-

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

An hon. member

You are the one that made the deal, John.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jean Charest Sherbrooke, QC

Oh, please. Mr. Speaker, if I am allowed-

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

An hon. member

You have got your privileges too.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I want to hear the hon. member for Sherbrooke.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jean Charest Sherbrooke, QC

In this respect, Mr. Speaker, if the leaders of the respective parties are given the opportunity to debate, to decide, to influence you in your decision in regard to how question period must function, when and at what point will the individual members for whom this is a basic cornerstone of the operations of Parliament be given equal rights and equal time? Surely you can see from those remarks how the basic rights and privileges of each member are affected, in particular my own rights and privileges.

One remark, Mr. Speaker, with regard to rising or not rising. I hope the members will spare us the grand designs about members rising in this place when every day for the last three years members have been constantly designated for question period, not when they rose but actually were sitting right in their place and never rose. I hope we will be spared the great sermons about rising or not rising in their places.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

George Baker Gander—Grand Falls, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is an interesting question and I suppose you would have to rule whether or not it is a question of personal privilege, but certainly it is a question regarding the privileges of members of the House of Commons who keep the government accountable to the people of Canada.

Having said that, the rules of this Chamber, as all members should realize, and the hon. member who just spoke should realize, are rules that have come to us by custom, that have come to us by precedent.

Those very precedents on question period evolved over a long period of time and changed, Mr. Speaker, as you well know, very drastically in the past 10 years to the point where the major political parties do have assigned periods during question period. The role of the Speaker also has evolved to the point where the Speaker must follow those precedents and those customs as have evolved here in this Chamber, not in any other chamber under the so-called British parliamentary system, because each system is

different and each system has its own system of changing the rules of procedure for question period, as the Speaker so well knows.

I am very surprised that the hon. member would rise in the Chamber and bring this up as a point of personal privilege. It was approximately seven years ago that we adopted as a custom in this Chamber the point of respecting designated questioners by the major political parties in this House. It was so left up to the Speaker that if the person designated for that political party did not stand, the Speaker was free to choose, as is stated in the rules, the person who catches the Speaker's eye who rises first. The Speaker has to follow those customs.

The hon. member is perfectly correct. Perhaps we should take it under advisement and appoint a committee of people from outside the Chamber to examine the rules and to bring in some of the changes that are necessary to bring back the power of the individuals in the House of Commons. However, it is very surprising that the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party should be objecting to the very rules that were brought in while the Tories were the administration in power in this House.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to say also that I remember those days the member talked about. Of course I was an independent in the House seven years ago.

I find it unbelievable that the member for Sherbrooke is talking about being hard done by. He and his party used to laugh and cajole every time I would try to stand. I thank the Lord for John Fraser who was the Speaker then. He told me: "If you have a question, I will make sure that you get on". I did not get on very often. I know that in the 34th Parliament I had exactly 15 questions, precious few, three or four a year, which is a darn sight less than what the independent member for Sherbrooke gets. It is unbelievable that he would cry foul on this.

I know that our party as well as other parties in the House of Commons would be willing to make some of those changes so that independent members would get recognized more freely, but in the next Parliament so that it will not look quite so self serving that someone would want it now. There is nothing wrong with that.

Mr. Speaker, I want to bring to your attention something you said earlier. When you stood up and said that the member for York South-Weston was the only member on his feet, the member for Sherbrooke hollered out: "That is a lot of bull". He challenged you, Mr. Speaker and he challenged the position of the Chair. He was asked by one of my colleagues to withdraw.

I am asking you, because he respects the Chair as he certainly should, that he would withdraw the comment he hollered at you: "That is a lot of bull". He did not holler it at another member of the House, but at you and you should not stand for it, Mr. Speaker. Please make him withdraw.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am really torn with this issue. The members for Sherbrooke, Beaver River, Gander-Grand Falls, the Minister of Health and others have already spoken to the issue.

I think we would all agree that the direction the Speaker has given the House that if it is the wish of the membership of the House to reconsider some agreements or arrangements that were arrived at when we first came to this 35th Parliament approximately three years ago, that possibly it might be timely in the early part of the new year to sit down and have a discussion.

Now specifically to the point raised by the hon. member for Sherbrooke regarding members outside of the official parties. I do not have the records, Mr. Speaker, but I would deem and feel confident in saying that those members who are outside of the "official parties" at this time in this Parliament have had their privileges safeguarded, protected, defended by you the Speaker, and others as the member for Beaver River said earlier with regard to your predecessor, Mr. Fraser.

I would hope that if the House chooses, it would make that undertaking to have those discussions among the parties as suggested so that we could put this matter to rest for the time being. I think we are all fatigued, we are all stressed. But certainly there should be no doubt in the confidence of the Chair and its speaker.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, in my view this is a debate. I know all hon. members wanted to participate in it but in my view it is probably time to move on.

I would suggest to the hon. member for Sherbrooke, with all respect, that this point was brought up by the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona early in the Parliament. At that time I did do a lot of thinking about it. As your Speaker, I have tried to be as fair as I can with all the members and parties, especially the independent members. I have always felt that it was my responsibility to see to it that the independent members had as much of a chance as anyone in the parties. I will continue to strive to do that. I would like to move on at this point.

Is this a different point of order?

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

An hon. member

It is about withdrawing "bull".

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, I did not hear the word. I would just as soon move on from here.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-60, an act to establish the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and to repeal and amend other Acts as a consequence, as reported by the committee with amendments, and of Motion No. 5.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

December 12th, 1996 / 3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphan Tremblay Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am not raising a point of order. I will use the three minutes I have left to conclude my speech on Bill C-60, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act.

Earlier, I said I was very disappointed by what I heard when the hon. member for Frontenac asked members for their views on this legislation. The bill includes provisions that can certainly be associated with patronage. As I explained, the government appoints friends so as to remain in control.

I said I was very disappointed, because it is always the same thing whenever the government introduces legislation. It comes up with a nice bill and with the best possible intentions, but we can always see this will to keep control over everything.

The hon. member for Frontenac made very constructive remarks. I will conclude by saying that, in my opinion, the official opposition is not here only to oppose measures, but also to provide a different perspective, particularly since the Bloc Quebecois expresses the views shared by a large number of Quebecers.

I am anxious to see which ministers will vote against the bill. As usual, unfortunately, it is a bit like taking the views of Quebec and claiming that they are totally erroneous.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak to Bill C-60, an act to establish the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

First of all, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Frontenac who did a tremendous job. He introduced a host of amendments to the bill which, as was to be expected from the hon. member, are based on common sense and the public interest.

Although the subject has not been widely publicized, it is a very important one that affects the daily lives of Canadians and Quebecers. The bill merges the inspection services of three departments, health, agriculture and fisheries, which from now on will be consolidated in one and the same agency that comes under the department of agriculture or the minister of agriculture.

This agency will have an annual budget of $300 million-this is big bucks-for three years and a staff of 3,400 employees. That being said, now for the bad news: the three entities that existed before had a total of 4,000 employees, so we are losing 600 inspectors. When we say $300 million, we must not forget that this reflects a budget cut of $44 million. So there is every reason to be concerned, but I will get back to that later.

The general position of the Bloc Quebecois on this issue is negative. We are against the principle of creating this agency, because we in the Bloc Quebecois consider that constitutionally, this is an area that comes under provincial jurisdiction, in Quebec and in the other provinces. So we are against the very entity that will be established by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

We are annoyed and concerned. Annoyed because considering the powers given to the minister by this bill, the minister will be able to appoint the chairperson, the deputy chair and all the members of the advisory board that will be created along with this agency. We are concerned because, as other members have already pointed out, this is a new patronage mill, and when we make this kind of remark to the government, it is clear we are referring to the patronage appointments made by the Liberal Party of Canada.

When we talk about patronage and the Liberal Party of Canada, we know what we are talking about, and so does everyone else. In Canada, in Quebec, for instance, returning officers, who play a very important role in our electoral process, are still appointed on an exclusively partisan basis. Nowadays we would have to look far and wide in Canada to find a returning officer without solid Liberal roots.

We had another example today, when a new lieutenant-governor was appointed, a lady who probably comes from a good family and has the qualifications. I know she was president of the Quebec Office des personnes handicapées, but all of the insiders know that her greatest qualification is, no doubt, having been a Liberal Party of Canada candidate in the past. So her appointment today as lieutenant-governor of Quebec is because of her good Liberal connections, and we can be pretty sure that there has been no great consultation with the Government of Quebec.

We had another example this morning, and another yesterday in my very own riding. It was announced, a bit prematurely because the official announcement had not been made, that the port of Trois-Rivières would be recognized as a Canadian port authority. And who was on the guest list? Two people who could not have been representing anything other than the Liberal Party of Canada. When it comes down to it, it is like an opening ceremony for a section of highway, a Cegep, a hospital or a CLSC in Quebec attended by a representative of the Parti Quebecois.

That is not how we do things in Quebec, not even, I think, how the Quebec Liberals do things. Here we have an imperialist mentality, Mr. Speaker, which you no doubt recognize. We must speak out against it, because it is such a primitive notion, as if the Canadian state belonged to the Liberal Party of Canada.

Returning to Bill C-60, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the powers assigned to the Minister of Agriculture, there are certainly grounds for annoyance here. We know that this is just one more den of patronage that has just been created by the Liberal government to which it can appoint its buddies. Justification for annoyance, justification for concern.

Concern, because, as has just been said, when food inspection services affecting the daily lives of Canadians and Quebecers are cut, when 600 inspector positions are cut, when $44 million are cut from services, one cannot help but be concerned about the quality of services that will be delivered throughout the country in future.

We are all the more concerned because there is a trend to privatization in an area as vulnerable as food inspection. According to what we hear, a new system has been developed, which may well take the place of the present system, if we are not careful, rather than complement the government system. That is very important.

According to our information, the inspectors could be in conflict of interest or the business could be in conflict of interest with itself. One wonders whether private funds are involved. If the owner of a slaughter house has to provide direct or indirect payment to the inspector supervising his production and if the inspector is pressured by his employer, where does his loyalty lie?

Whose interest is the inspector going to want to protect, the private interest or society's? His employer, who has power over him, or the public whose interest and health he is paid to protect?

With this sort of privatization, which is so fashionable, in the neo-liberal context of deregulation, we are dealing with a basic issue: people's health. I would be very happy to be in my own skin rather than the government's in the event of public health problems involving poisoning as the result of laziness or some sort of lack of control in which the interests of the employer and those of the public are in conflict.

To conclude, I would like to reiterate the concerns of the Union des producteurs agricoles. It has significant reservations regarding this bill. It would like to have people from the agricultural milieu who know what they are doing, who are capable of making the distinctions and recommendations required in food inspection, rather than masses of pals of the Liberal Party.

Furthermore, the Union des producteurs agricoles wants all the budgets-and this may not be easy with the $44 million cut-currently with health, agriculture and fisheries to be transferred. The three budgets should be combined, and not cut.

There is the danger of cost recovery. It underlies all of that. We hope all of this will not be done on the backs of farm producers, and it is the hope of the UPA as well.