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.

Topics

Energy Price Commission
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon Regina—Lumsden, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-220, an act respecting the Energy Price Commission.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to introduce the bill respecting the energy price commission. The bill responds to the concerns and complaints of millions of Canadians about unfair gas pricing, unjustifiable price increases for gasoline and government tax hikes on gasoline.

The bill establishes an energy price commission to regulate wholesale and retail prices of gasoline. The purpose of price regulation is to avoid unreasonable increases that affect the cost of living, agricultural production costs and depressed business activity.

The bill will facilitate reasonable consistency in prices from province to province, allowing for production and distribution costs. The regulation further minimizes the risk of collusion in pricing and prevents dominant suppliers from setting unreasonable prices.

The bill also links the issue of price control to competition. Any investigation of an alleged offence under the Competition Act that is related to gasoline pricing is remitted by the Competition Tribunal to the commission for investigation and a report to the tribunal before it makes a determination or order on the matter.

Every one penny increase in gasoline takes about $375 million out of the economy. This commission will make sure the money is either justified or not.

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

Competition Act
Routine Proceedings

March 4th, 1996 / 3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rose-Marie Ur Lambton—Middlesex, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-221, an act to amend the Competition Act (illegal trade practices).

Mr. Speaker, the bill would amend the Competition Act by creating an offence for manufacturers and distributors of motor vehicles and farm equipment to engage in certain marketing practices with their dealers. In most cases franchise agreements provide that a dealer shall not carry any other line or "dual" without the written permission of the manufacturer. In practice that permission is rarely forthcoming.

The consequences of this restrictive arrangement are that the dealer's investment in one line of motor vehicles or farm equipment may substantially exceed the investment actually required to efficiently supply the sales and servicing demands faced by a particular dealer in his or her market.

By allowing the dealer to offer one or more new lines of new motor vehicles or farm equipment I believe the bill would produce two positive results. First, the investment of the dealer would be utilized more efficiently and effectively and, second, the public in the dealer's market would be better served.

I urge all members to support the bill for the benefit of Canada's business community.

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

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move that the first report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House on Friday, March 1, be concurred in.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I understand the motion before us is a debatable motion and therefore I would like to offer the following in debate.

If adopted by the House, the motion would establish the membership of the standing joint committee of the House. The Reform Party does not oppose the membership of any of the committees, but we do oppose the way the committees have been run over the first session of the 35th Parliament.

We have every reason to believe that there is nothing likely to change in this regard during the second session. The main question we are asking here is why this love-in between the Liberal benches and the Bloc Quebecois. We cannot answer that question. That is why we have taken the route to have a debate on the matter to expose some of the problems we see.

This situation is particular galling when it comes to the public accounts committee of the House which can be chaired and is chaired by a member of the opposition. In spite of our efforts we have found that the Liberal benches have deliberately contrived to have that chair taken by the Bloc Quebecois.

We have nothing against the individual members of the Bloc Quebecois. They are competent, professional people. What we have against it is that they are separatists. They want to divorce Quebec from Canada and we as federalists say this is wrong. It is wrong for the government benches to be saying yes, let they have all the vice-chairs, particularly the chair of the public accounts committee.

This is being done, led by the chief government whip, in spite of some of the quotes from the Prime Minister. In January 1994 he said: "I know very well that if members of the official opposition keep talking about separation and constitutional problems they are not living up to why they are here".

More recently he also said: "My blood is boiling when I see those separatists in front of me because I fought them all my life". The Globe and Mail quotes the Prime Minister as admitting that he would rather have the Reform Party leader as his official opponent. It was one of the few times that the Prime Minister has been so publicly clear about his displeasure over the powerful separatist role in Parliament. The words of the Prime Minister obviously do not square with the actions of his party, led by the chief government whip.

During the first session we attempted to bring these concerns to the attention of the House through various points of order. Each time our concerns fell on deaf ears. The Speaker's refusal to entertain our points of order has left us in a catch 22.

When we raised questions about the election of committee chairs and vice-chairs at the committee, we were told the Liberals were simply backing the Bloc because it was tradition. We have then been summarily dismissed by the Liberal majority. This leaves us with no choice but to take the issue up as points of order in the House. Having done that, they have all been summarily dismissed to date. We have been on this merry-go-round for two years and our members are frustrated. One can tell by the look on their faces that they have had it.

It is important for me to clarify once again that this frustration is not personal but is professional. Reform members are frustrated not for themselves but for the vast majority of Canadians who support a united country yet cannot have their views adequately represented in the committee hierarchy because of the persistent, unexplainable love-in between the government and the Bloc Quebecois.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The member raised an issue which is completely contradictory to the ruling of the Chair with regard to the position of the official opposition. Given the ruling by the Chair as to who constitutes the official opposition, the rules of procedure and the House rules clearly state the provisions with regard to chairs and vice-chairs of committees. The member clearly is arguing a matter which is challenging the ruling of the Chair and contrary to the standing orders.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

With great respect to the member for Mississauga South, I think the matter he is raising is one of debate. However, when the member for Nanaimo-Cowichan uses words like "summarily dismissed" it seems they are a veiled reflection that the Chair did not rule carefully on the matter. I ask him to avoid terms in further remarks that suggest the Chair was not doing its job.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

The summary dismissal I was talking of was on the part of the government benches and not of the Chair. Incidentally it may be clear that I simply do not accept the last argument put forward either.

From day one of the 35th Parliament the Liberals have displayed a total lack of regard for the legitimate election process by blindly backing the Bloc candidates while under the watchful eye of the government whip. In election after election of committees we have seen Liberals dismiss qualified Reform candidates. This trend has continued into the second session.

For example, on February 29th the procedure and House affairs committee held its organizational meeting for the purpose of electing a chair and two vice-chairs. At that meeting my Reform colleagues and I again attempted to secure the opposition vice-chair position. During the election process last week not one Liberal member attempted to determine which candidate was best

qualified for the post. There were no questions about the candidates background or character, only the same tired arguments we have heard for more than two years.

The main argument put forward by the Liberal whip in defence of his unabashed support of separatists over federalists is one of tradition. According to the chief government whip it is parliamentary tradition for the opposition vice-chair to be filled by a member from the official opposition. To hear the government whip argue this point one would think the practice of electing an opposition vice-chair goes back hundreds of years. This is simply not the case.

Standing Order 106(2) governs the election process and in part states:

Each standing or special committee shall elect a Chairman and two Vice-Chairmen, of whom two shall be Members of the government party and the third a Member in opposition to the government.

No reference to official opposition; simply opposition. This standing order came into effect only in May of 1991, not five years ago. Later that month the committees were established and held elections for chairs and vice-chairs. During those elections a member of the NDP, the third party in the House at that time, was elected the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Disabled Persons. A reading from the minutes of that meeting of May 29, 1991 will help illustrate my contention that this position is not reserved for the official opposition. Following the election of Dr. Bruce Halliday to the chair he stated:

I believe the new standing orders call for two Vice-Chairmen, one of whom shall be from an opposition party.

Notice the chair referred to an opposition party, not the official opposition.

I will quote from the same chair moments later: "We need a second vice-chairman who should be somebody from one of the opposition parties". The minutes of that meeting then indicate the member for Beaches-Woodbine, a representative from the third party, the NDP, was elected opposition vice-chair.

The minutes of this meeting clearly counter Liberal arguments. They demonstrate a precedent and show this practice has been in effect only since May of 1991. Further research shows that since this standing order was adopted in the third and last session of the 34th Parliament there was only one round of elections. That is because the committee chair and vice-chair appointments from the initial election of May 1991 were continued until the dissolution of that Parliament through a motion adopted by the House on September 21, 1992. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines tradition as a custom, opinion or belief handed down to posterity; an established practice or custom. Given the evidence I have just laid out it is clear the Liberal claim of tradition is faulty at best. The only tradition is the one the Liberals are creating and have been creating these last couple of years, and it is a dangerous one.

I also believe it is important for unity minded Canadians to know which Liberals are supporting separatists over federalists. We will continue to keep count. At the meeting of procedure and House affairs last week, which I referred to earlier in my speech, the following government members rejected a federalist in favour of a separatists: the members for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, Mississauga West, Kingston and the Islands, Ottawa Centre, Ottawa-Vanier, Ottawa West and Edmonton North. So listen in, Canadian public, to your members who are supporting a separatist vice-chair.

I will have to throw in another little bit to illustrate some of the intrigue that goes on in committees when they are electing chairs. Committees are masters of their own fate. For example, their members can agree to a secret ballot. We have proposed secret ballots in these committees to give the Liberal backbenchers who might be inclined to support a Reform vice-chair a chance to vote without incurring the wrath of their whip or their leader.

On every occasion we have proposed a secret ballot it has been rejected and the whip has put his firm hand on the Liberals saying no secret ballot.

What we are talking about is democracy, our ability as an opposition party to function properly within the committees of the House. We are being frustrated in them and we resent it.

I move:

That the motion before the House proposed by the government be amended by deleting all the words after the words "March 1, 1996" and substituting the following: "be not now concurred in, but that it be recommended to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs".

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion is receivable.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I simply want to make a few comments. Let us go back to the beginning of this Parliament, after the election held on October 25, 1993, because some discussions took place between the parties at that time.

I want to tell you about two statements that were made back then. One was to the effect that the Bloc Quebecois was coming to Ottawa to impede the proceedings of Parliament. However, as we have seen for a little over two years now, those who are guilty of filibustering are not Bloc members, but Reformers.

Since the very beginning, we have complied, rather closely I would say, with British parliamentary tradition. To be sure, our views differ from those of the Liberal Party. However, we agree to play by the rules. This is obvious to me, and I should point out that Quebec's National Assembly, which is the oldest parliament in

America, agreed to follow the same rules as the British Parliament as early as 1791.

I also want to say that I participated in the negotiations that took place between the parties to bring some changes in this House. We tried to settle the issues of office allocation, and Heaven knows how long that took, House agenda, speaking order in the House, as well as committee membership. At that time, the Bloc Quebecois showed that it was very open-minded and said: "Yes, we are prepared to give up a number of vice-chair positions". The Reform Party told us: "We want to provide the chairperson for the public accounts committee and the vice-chairpersons for finance, foreign affairs, national defence, agriculture and trade. Period. We will not accept anything else". How about some apple turnover with that?

This proposal made no sense. And with its "we take that or nothing" position, the Reform Party ended up with nothing, because it did not know how to negotiate.

Now, we are told about a love affair between the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois. Those who see a love story between the members opposite and the Bloc Quebecois certainly do not follow current politics very closely. Sure, we respect each other, but our views and our goals are certainly different. The only such attempt took place between the hon. member for Sherbrooke and the Reform Party.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Fernand Robichaud Beauséjour, NB

It was not consummated.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

It was never consummated, no. Absolutely not. It was wishful thinking, but they never got together. Out of sight, out of mind. The House was not sitting when this came up.

Looking at the way things have developed since then, we see that the Liberals in committee have just about all voted the same way, with a few exceptions when they could not agree on who to elect as chair or vice-chair.

The Bloc has always voted the same way and in each of the committees Reform members have all taken the same position and voted the same way. All the same. I would imagine then, if they are able of their own free will to think things through themselves and reach the same conclusions, that others are allowed to do so as well.

What is in question here and what is more problematical, I might say even with the potential to become dangerous if taken to the extreme, is that, regardless of personal qualities, regardless of the fact that they have been elected like everyone else, what is being said is that positions will be awarded according to what people think. From the outset, it will be decided that access to positions away will be denied certain people. That is the situation. They will say: "The people in the Bloc are competent and hard working, but they are separatists". Such a situation would be dangerous.

I suppose there is the risk that we would win all of Parliament over to our point of view. We do not expect that much, but we do think we have a point of view that deserves to be heard and that it is worthwhile for Canadians to hear, for the first time.

But now they have gone so far as to say that the ideas we espouse would keep us from those positions and, when it comes down to it, the whole concept of democracy is being jeopardized. What is the solution? They tell us there will be a secret vote. That is the only solution I have heard for changing the procedures, but it is tantamount to preventing the public from knowing how its elected representatives have voted. We, however, are not afraid to rise in this House to express our ideas, to be judged on our ideas, because there will be an election some day-there is one about every four or five years. We would then be told that we can sit in the House of Commons but, when the time comes to vote, we would not dare make a public statement. That is the Reform Party's position.

I think that this would be dangerous for democracy. There is an assumption that members who are not from the Reform Party cannot vote as they see fit, that we should hold secret ballots instead of publicly expressing our ideas. I will close by saying that this may be why an editorial in the Montreal daily The Gazette -which, as you know, is a staunchly sovereignist newspaper-expressed the hope that the Bloc Quebecois would win the election in Lac-Saint-Jean. Although it was an easy wish to make, The Gazette nonetheless felt that, at least, they would then be sure that the Reform Party would not be the official opposition.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak to and support the motion to amend the government motion concerning the list of chairs and vice-chairs of all the standing committees from the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

The points I want to make are all about common sense and fairness. The House leader of the Bloc Quebecois seemed to be saying that we were picking on the Bloc party. That is not the case at all. At least I am not speaking on this issue for the purpose of picking on the Bloc.

I want to point out that what is important in parliamentary tradition in a democracy is fairness, common sense and looking at the total number of seats in the House. As we all know, the government of the day is formed by the party that has the greatest number of seats. In this Parliament that is the Liberal Party. Thus, we have Mr. Chrétien as Prime Minister.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

4 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It must be monotonous to hear, but we are not allowed to refer to colleagues by their first or last names in the House.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I stand corrected. I would have been okay if we had had only four weeks off. That extra three weeks totally threw me and I have forgotten some of the rules.

The party that forms the official opposition is the one that has the second highest number of seats. When we came here in October 1993 that was the Bloc Quebecois and they formed the official opposition. We were the third party. Any party that has less than 12 members is not recognized as an official party in the House of Commons. Those are the rules and they are good rules. I stand by them and I would defend them.

Now there has been a drop in numbers. Representation in the House has changed since prorogation and at this time both opposition parties, the Bloc Quebecois and the Reform Party, have the same number of members. We both have 52 members. I personally do not disagree with the ruling of the Speaker as to which party should be the official opposition.

Now I proceed to standing committees. There is a difference between how the rules operate here in the House and how they operate in standing committees. As the House leader of the Bloc tried to point out, we negotiated in October 1993. The Bloc negotiated from a position where they had two more members than the Reform Party. Now we have the same number of members. When it comes to standing committees, each committee elects its own chair. It makes sense to me that the chair of each of those committees should be a member from the government side with the exception of public accounts because that would be construed as a conflict of interest. The chairman of the public accounts committee should be a member of an opposition party.

It does not say a member of the official opposition should be vice-chairs anywhere in Beauchesne. The standing orders do not refer to official opposition, it just says opposition. I wish members opposite in the government would look that up. I challenge them to quote me differently and quote me the standing order that says official opposition.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

An hon. member

It does not say official.