Debates of March 4th, 1996
House of Commons Hansard #5 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was opposition.
- Government Business
- Aquaculture Industry
- Mining Industry
- Human Rights
- Employment Insurance
- Gateway North Marketing Agency
- Highway 50
- Economic Recovery
- Status Of Women
- International Women's Week
- Middle East Peace Process
- Manitoba Medical Association
- Impaired Driving
- Crime Prevention
- Status Of Women
- Unemployment Insurance Reform
- The Economy
- Goods And Services Tax
- Quebec Citadel
- Agri-Food Sector
- Government Advertising
- Health Care
- Union Station
- Presence In Gallery
- Electoral Boundaries Commissions
- Indian Affairs
- Federal Elections, Fees, Tariff
- Government Response To Petitions
- The Middle East
- Standards Council Of Canada Act
- Bankruptcy And Insolvency Act
- Yukon Quartz Mining Act
- Constitution Act, 1996
- Program Cost Declaration Act
- Taxpayers Bill Of Rights
- Broadcasting Act
- Criminal Code
- Canada Labour Code
- Energy Price Commission
- Competition Act
- Committees Of The House
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Business Of The House
Ian McClelland Edmonton Southwest, AB
The Prime Minister's Office. That is the way our system works so we have to accept it.
During the last Parliament one of the promises the Liberals made to the people of Canada in order to get their support, to get their vote which gave them a majority in the House of Commons, was that they were going to change the way Parliament worked. They would make it more inclusive and would involve opposition parties in the day to day operation and would give opposition members as well as backbench Liberal members a say and a feeling they were participating in the affairs of the country. They promised to take the affairs of the government out of the backrooms and put the affairs of the country and government into the House of Commons and into the committee rooms.
Those promises were genuinely made and genuinely felt because the Liberals had just come through eight years in the wilderness. They had spent eight years atoning for the sins they committed while they were in government and in power.
Is it not funny how times change. It did not take very long before the government decided it was going to be absolute in its authority and in its control over all of the happenings here in Parliament. For the first two years in government, the Liberals knew they were facing a referendum in Quebec. The referendum would be on the question of whether Quebec should stay or go.
Charlie Penson Peace River, AB
Ian McClelland Edmonton Southwest, AB
In those first two years the Liberal government bent over backward to ensure it did not do or say anything that could in any way be interpreted as offending anyone in Quebec, more particularly the Bloc. The Bloc, whether the Liberals like it or not, represents many voters in Quebec, just as the Reform Party represents many voters in other jurisdictions. They were totally afraid of doing or saying anything that could in any way be interpreted as offending the Bloc. This included the election of officers in committee.
Think about it. There is a political party in the House of Commons, the Bloc, whose raison d'être is to take the province it represents out of Confederation. The Bloc's raison d'être is to break up the country. Its members have the perfect right to do so and they have the perfect right to be here. It is an expression of the strength of our democracy that they can be and that we can debate it. Nobody is shooting at anybody. That is a sign of strength in our democracy, not a sign of weakness. It is certainly my hope that at the end of the day Quebec will continue to be a province within Canada.
I will say that we are having a much more honest and open debate about the future of Quebec and the future of Canada today than we have ever had in the House. It is only through addressing things honestly that we are ever going to resolve the problems we have as a country.
While I do not concur and I did not appreciate it, I can understand the fact that the government in the first two years of its mandate bent over backward not to offend the Bloc, particularly in committee. However today is another day. The referendum was held in Quebec; the separatists lost. They lost on a question that was fuzzy. Here we are in the House of Commons today and have we started to take on the Bloc or the separatists head on? No we have not. The Liberals have gone right back to their attitude of not saying or doing anything that could in any way offend any member of the Bloc.
It seems to me we should be putting our efforts into making sure there is an honest representation of what the rest of the country feels rather than bending over backward to appease the people who would break up the country. It is time that everyone put all of their cards on the table and dealt with the issues as they are. I suspect that might be something the Liberals might be thinking of doing now because they know that appeasement has not worked. The problem is that the Prime Minister said this when he was out west. He mused about it, and now all of a sudden this is no longer part of the debate. What is part of the debate? Where is the debate? Why do we not have this on the table?
I will conclude by coming back to the fact that the government has the right and the responsibility to bring forward legislation it promised during the election campaign under which it was able to get the support of the people who voted for the Liberals. They should keep the promises they made and which they put in writing, like getting rid of the GST. Having made it, that is one of the promises they should keep. They have the right and the responsibility to bring that legislation forward.
The only avenue for the rest of us to have meaningful input into what we do here in representing our constituents is through private members' business. Private members' business and government business should be treated discretely. They should not be lumped together in an omnibus bill or motion and we are forced to vote against private members' business that we support. It is a kind of blackmail.
I will spend a couple of seconds talking about the how and the why. There is not very much that cannot be done here in the House of Commons with all parties if we treat each other with respect. If the government has an idea that it wishes to change the way the House of Commons works and how legislation is brought forward, then it would be appropriate for the government to come to the whips of the other parties represented in the House and say this is what it would like to do. Why can we not work together collegially, rather than having the government use the power of its majority, sort of a jackboot diplomacy, over the backbench MPs of its own side and of the opposition?
Jake Hoeppner Lisgar—Marquette, MB
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak on some of the issues the Liberals have tried to convince us are right. Finally we see the light of day and they see the light of day.
We are seeing that the electors in the last election were kind of double crossed. They are finding out they elected a party that does not keep promises, that is, a party that is not of action. It is a party of misguiding the constituents and the electors. That will change in the next election. It will be back in the opposition benches if at all.
One thing that really surprises me is that members on the other side were so honest and probably sincere with their comments in the last legislature that they were not afraid to get up and call a spade a spade, and try to run on that basis during the election.
As a farmer it has been a disappointment to me when I see they have made huge promises of how they would reorganize agriculture, how they would go to the farmers for some input in marketing, how they would allow these people to make the needed changes and yet did not fulfil those promises. I do not think they ever intend to.
When I see what is happening in the agriculture field today, they are trying to more or less digress from what they said and put more government rules and regulations into the system to get more control over food processing and agriculture marketing.
It was astounding to me when I read an article in the Ottawa Sun about a year ago when the former agriculture minister was a little upset. Mr. Whelan, a man I always respected very highly in agriculture during the early years when I farmed, said: ``We have gone from a corporate, capitalist, democratic system to a non-democratic, czarist, socialist system''.
Hold it a minute, boys. That is something I thought I would never hear from an agriculture minister who served in the House, a Liberal saying we had gone from a democratic, corporate system to an undemocratic, czarist system. That is what eastern European countries have experienced and we know what the results have been there.
Is this something the Liberal government will keep promoting in the House when I see, during the elections of the standing committees, we do not even have a ballot to elect a vice-chair? Somebody from the hierarchy dictates to the Liberals on the standing committees how to vote.
What does that remind us of? That reminds us of a Hitler or a Stalin telling his people exactly how to vote. Is that not correct? Democracy to me means voting by ballot in seclusion where nobody knows how we vote. It is supposed to be free.
Look at what has been done in the House over two reorganizations. Last fall we went through the same issues and the same principles. People were told how to vote. "We would rather have a separatist party siting as official opposition than you real Reformers".
Real reform is what the House needs; not just the word reform, it needs real reform. That is the only way we can start addressing some of the problem in the House. It will not be done by backbenchers moving their heads in conjunction with the rope those on the front benches pull. It is like puppetry.
That is not a democracy. That sounds more like a kids game, which is what I see happening a lot of times in the House. It seems we are not really trying to run the country, we are trying to control the minds of the people and their ideas by the way we influence one another, the same way cabinet influences backbenchers.
Backbenchers for some reason are trying to influence the opposition into seeing they are correct. They are trying to make us believe we really do not know what the issues are. That is very sad. When we start manipulating minds and ideas we go back to what the former agriculture minister said, an undemocratic csarist system. That really scares me. In all the countries where there has been that type of democracy, a csarist system, people began starving not just for food but for ideas and freedom to vote.
An hon. member
The Liberal benches are starving for that same freedom.
Jake Hoeppner Lisgar—Marquette, MB
They have been starving for 30 years now, ever since the Trudeau era. Mr. Trudeau ran not on ideas, not on philosophy but on charisma.
That is what we are trying to determine today. Can another election be won on charisma or on ideas? Which are we going to go for? It looks to me as though charisma and ideas are dead, and so Reformers will have to take over because we have something that has not been seen before in the House: honesty, accountability and the freedom to do what one thinks is right, not what the hierarchy tells us.
Democracy comes back to the idea that we vote on a ballot and nobody knows how we vote. Publicity can be put out saying: "I was against the government and I did not vote for it", but what was done behind closed doors? That is what I see in a lot of the backbenchers.
We do not agree with the frontbenchers. We do not agree with what the government is doing. When it comes time to make a decision, it is not willing or able or capable. Why? Has anyone ever thought why? The Prime Minister says: "If you do not do what I told you to do in the House, I will not sign your nomination papers in the next election". Does that not sound like coercion or intimidation? I would hate to have a leader who would tell me he will not sign by nomination papers because I am going after the wheat board and the commodity exchange because they are the sole entity of what I am doing.
Why are we even debating this? We should prorogue the House for the rest of the two years. We would probably do more good outside of the House than sitting here debating things we know are a fact and that we cannot change. That is the problem in the House.
What can I say to a Liberal government that does not want to listen?. We can tell the Liberals what was told to the Conservatives in the last election. The Liberals were not elected, the Conservatives were defeated. In the next election history will change and we will defeat the Liberals because the people will vote for the Reform Party. We will throw the Liberals out of the House once and for all. We will have a reformed House that is honest and accountable and that will really do something for this country.
Osvaldo Nunez Bourassa, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am rising of course in opposition to the government motion, the motion tabled by the Liberal government, a Liberal party which was outraged against a similar motion by the Conservative government in 1991.
The Liberal government has tabled Motion No. 1 which allows a minister, during the first 30 sitting days, with a mere statement when proposing a motion for first reading, to restore that bill to the same stage in the legislative process as it was during the previous session. The bill needs only be in exactly the same form in every detail as it was in the previous session. That is the rule.
The government has incorporated into the motion amendments concerning the period for examination of the Main Estimates for the fiscal year 1996-97. These amendments are related to prorogation of the House and are of a technical nature. There is no precedent for such a motion. The only precedent that exists dates back to 1991, when the Conservative government tabled a motion for debate on March 28 and moved closure on May 29.
Prior to 1991, Parliamentary precedent required such a motion to have unanimous consent of the House, and this was democratic. If all parties were in favour of this motion, there would be no problem in proceeding case by case.
It is interesting to review the speeches made in 1991 by various Liberal members, who were then in opposition. I will begin with the member for Cape Breton-East Richmond, today a government minister, who stated that they were opposed to the government motion because "the motion attempts to place before the House five separate and distinct legislative matters which do not lend themselves to being considered together. The government should have given notice of five individual motions and this motion seeks to circumvent, indeed to subvert, the normal legislative process of this House".
The hon. member for Kingston and the Islands, who often rises to speak in this House, not so much since prorogation but during the past two years at least, said in 1991 "They have to be reinstated in the usual course, but they ought to have been introduced and dealt with as new bills in this session". That is the tradition, the rule, the custom. He added that "any irregularity of any portion of a motion renders the whole motion irregular. For this House to adopt a bill without any debate, without any discussion at any stage is completely irregular and improper".
In 1991, the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell said "The implications of ruling this motion in order would be such that I fear we could render-if a government wanted to-this House of Commons totally irrelevant and redundant".
The member for Cape Breton-East Richmond, whom I already quoted today added, on pages 657 and 659 of Hansard: "The motion before us today in its substance is totally unacceptable-[and] is designed for the sole purpose of subverting the legislative rules of the Parliament of Canada". What the hon. member said at the time was pretty significant and fairly serious. Today, however, they are doing an about face and are saying the total opposite. Really coherent.
He went on to say: "-trying to reinstate legislation which has fallen dead as a result of the government's own ineptitude and subsequent action with regard to proroguing this Parliament". This is exactly what is happening today. The Liberal government decided on February 2 to prorogue the session. It knew where the bill was at. Why was it not debated in the previous session? Why did it not decide to prorogue at some other point?
The member for LaSalle-Émard, now the Minister of Finance, said, again in 1991: "We find ourselves in the situation we are now in. The bill died on the Order Paper. In its supreme arrogance and lack of understanding, this government comes to us and says: `we would like to reinstate it"'.
Next, I would like to quote the member for Halifax, who said in 1991: "The government should be ashamed. We are wondering today why there was a prorogation-the House leader is presenting us this pernicious motion-and I emphasize the word-in order to speed up the passage of five bills, in total disregard for the traditions of the House and the British parliamentary procedure and in disregard for the Canadian people".
The former fisheries minister, influential member of the Liberal Party, the member for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, now the Premier of Newfoundland said, again in 1991: "Parliament is being systematically destroyed by the government-in hundreds of years of evolution of parliamentary government, such a motion has never been put before any parliament-because [such a motion] is a form of executive dictatorship-Parliament belongs to the people-[government] uses the tyranny of the majority-to deny the elected representatives-[their responsibility] to be heard in the proper examination of bills".
I come back now to the member for Kingston and the Islands, who said: "The government wants to impose a new definition of democracy on Canadians, one of the greatest affronts to the House in years. It is immoral for the government to introduce this motion. The government is short-circuiting the legislative process to consider five bills. This behaviour is reprehensible. The government knows it. It has not produced a single tittle of evidence to support this gross breach of our practice, and I suggest that it is totally inappropriate".
Next, I would like to quote the member for Winnipeg St. James, who said: "No government would want to resurrect a bill that was
deemed dead some time in the past-if the government in effect says to heck with this House, to heck with the opposition, to heck with precedent, if that is the view of the government, how much more down the road can it go?"
Finally, to quote the member for Saint-Léonard, the riding neighbouring mine, and now the Minister of Labour: "If the government really intended to examine these bills, it should have done it before the prorogation of the House and that should have been negotiated."
In my opinion, this motion is anti-democratic. It runs counter to the rules, customs and traditions of British parliamentary procedure. I see no reason whatsoever for the government's decision to introduce this motion when two opposition parties are against it.
This motion will affect several bills, bill C-111 in particular. This bill on unemployment insurance I described in a previous speech as a bill on poverty insurance or destitution insurance, since its ultimate objective is to reduce benefits to the unemployed and to attack the jobless rather than joblessness, contrary to the Liberal red book's promise of "jobs, jobs, jobs".
Instead of creating those jobs, it has tabled Bill C-111 which is also anti-union and anti-worker and has been criticized across Canada. We have witnessed demonstrations in New Brunswick, in Quebec, in Ontario, and last week in British Columbia. The unemployed from the Outaouais region came here to demonstrate against the bill. I personally took part in a regional demonstration against the bill held in Montreal by three labour federations. Everyone felt that the bill would be considered to have died on the Order Paper. But now with this motion we find ourselves faced with the bill at the same stage, as if there had been no prorogation. This is unacceptable to all those who have worked against this bill, which is anti-worker and anti-union.
For all of the foregoing reasons, I am vigorously opposed to this government motion.
Ray Speaker Lethbridge
Mr. Speaker, on this government motion there are two issues that absolutely must be dealt with and addressed. First is the lack of integrity the government has demonstrated on this issue. My colleagues have said very clearly that when government members were in opposition they made a commitment not to do what they are doing today. That is issue number one, the lack of integrity the government has shown on this issue.
The second point I would like to make is with regard to the appropriateness of this motion relative to private members' business. Can private members' business be tied into this resolution as part of government business? The point I would like to
make is that private members' business is just that; it belongs to the private members.
Everything we do in this House, or in any legislative assembly should be to give the private member the opportunity to express his or her opinion on a special item, or an item relative to constituents, or an item relative to a special interest. In a free way, a private member should be able to express his or her thoughts without government control; without the government saying when something should be done or when it cannot be done; or the government taking away the agenda or giving the agenda to the private member.
That is exactly what is happening. The government has intervened in private members' business. Those are the two topics I will cover in my remarks in the few remaining moments.
First I will deal with the integrity of the government. As some of my colleagues have done, I will quote some of the remarks made by hon. members of the government when they were opposition members in 1991.
I quote the remarks of the current premier of Newfoundland, the former member for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, Mr. Brian Tobin, when he stood in this House. He spoke very clearly on a motion quite similar to the one we have here today. He said: "We see the decision by the government today to put this motion before the House as a confirmation of the destruction, and that is what it is, of our parliamentary system". No truer words have been spoken from this side of the House. If they are good on this side, they should be just as good on the other side of the House.
Mr. Tobin went on to say that by such a motion as we are looking at here today, the parliamentary system is being systematically destroyed by government. He went on to say that Canadians watching this debate are wondering what the fuss is all about. It is about destroying the parliamentary system.
We can look at what other participants in that debate had to say about the matter. I refer now to a current minister, Mr. David Dingwall, the member for Cape Breton-East Richmond-
I know we are just getting back in shape, but I would ask you please not to mention hon. members who are currently in the House by name.
Ray Speaker Lethbridge
Mr. Speaker, the current Minister of Health made these remarks while he was a member of the loyal official opposition. He said very clearly to the House at that time in words well spoken, as they usually are by our Minister of Health: "Third and finally, I contend that the motion is in principle unacceptable in that it seeks to circumvent, indeed to subvert, the normal legislative process of this House. In the past, this kind of thing has been done only by unanimous consent. Now the government is seeking to establish an omnibus precedent by attempting to force this procedure on the House. This is an offensive and dangerous departure from the practices of all parliamentary bodies and it is, I believe in accordance with Beauchesne's citation 123(1) and Standing Order 1, unprecedented violation of the checks and balances written into the rules governing the normal legislative process". That says it.
I could go on to quote other members of the House-
It being 2 p.m. we will now proceed to Statements by Members.
Statements By Members
Jean Payne St. John's West, NL
Mr. Speaker, the future of the aquaculture industry in Newfoundland is very promising. Announcements made by the federal aquaculture development strategy is evidence of this.
Also, the aquaculture steering committee's strategic plan for the development of Newfoundland and Labrador is further evidence. Additionally, a $100 million economic renewal program has committed $20 million to the industry to foster development.
Aquaculture in Newfoundland is entering a growth period where production is expected to rise dramatically over the next two to three years and well into the future. With this new growth, new jobs will be created in my riding of St. John's West as well as many other rural and coastal communities where limited opportunities exist.
Statements By Members
Bernard Deshaies Abitibi, QC
Mr. Speaker, I speak on behalf of thousands of citizens who consider the mining sector vital to the economy and the lifeblood of many regions in Quebec and Canada.
In December, the Bloc Quebecois supported the positions of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources in an interim report. The committee proposed practical solutions for improving mining's environmental accountability while improving the environmental assessment process to include, as in the Quebec scheme, firm deadlines for the various stages of the procedure.
Although we opposed federal interference in environmental assessment, the Bloc Quebecois must, for the good of the mining industry, ask the new ministers of the environment, fisheries and
transport to use better judgment than their predecessors with respect to the Canadian and Quebec mining sectors.
Statements By Members
March 4th, 1996 / 1:55 p.m.
Randy White Fraser Valley West, BC
Mr. Speaker, let me quote criminal defence lawyer Russ Chamberlain of Richmond, British Columbia: "Victim impact statements are just venting the spleen and don't serve justice and should be outlawed, banned completely". He also said that victims want to blame everyone else for their "pathetic" lives.
These kinds of lawyers and Liberal politicians-what is the difference?
Let me identify just a few of the unconditional victims' rights that will exist in a Canada governed by the Reform Party. Victims must have the right to choose between giving oral or written impact statements. Victims must be informed in a timely fashion of the details of the crown's intention to offer a plea bargain before it is presented to the defence, and victims must also know why charges were not laid if that is the decision of the crown or the police.
Criminals have far too many rights under the Liberal government. We must devote ourselves to victims' rights as we should have done in the first place.
Statements By Members
Audrey McLaughlin Yukon, YT
Mr. Speaker, on March 4, 1986, 10 years ago, then Minister of Justice John Crosbie promised his government would put sexual orientation into the Canadian human rights code. Ten years later we still have not seen a federal government willing to prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians in the Canadian human rights code.
The current Liberal justice minister said initially that it was pretty hard to do in pre-election time. Then he said we had to fight separatism and that is why he could not put it in the human rights code. The Prime Minister said he would like to see it in the human rights code but we were just running out of time.
We are not running out of time. The Liberal government has run out of guts, and I challenge the Minister of Justice for once to prohibit sexual discrimination in the Canadian human rights code. Seven provinces and one territory have done it. Surely the Liberal government can do it as well.