House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

Government Services
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Public Works and Government Services told us that the government has a new system for choosing the successful bidders on larger contracts, but there are Liberal Party organizers and campaign workers on this committee and they give government contracts to Liberal firms.

The Prime Minister cannot justify having patronage appointed Liberals on this patronage granting committee. Will he remove them?

Government Services
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel
Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, first of all, the members of the panel are appointed by the industry.

Again, maybe the member should speak to Mr. Brian Thomas, who ran the advertising campaign for the Reform Party. He said that he has no evidence the process is not fair or weighted in favour of Liberal political allies. Maybe he should consult the person who ran their last election campaign. He will give him the best advice.

Tobacco Act
Oral Question Period

October 7th, 1997 / 2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health.

Less than 24 hours after the Tobacco Act was passed and on the eve of the last election campaign, the Prime Minister partially recognized his mistake and promised to amend the legislation so as to remove certain restrictions on international racing event sponsorships.

Does the Minister of Health intend to keep his government's promise to make the legislation more flexible in order to satisfy international racing event organizers?

Tobacco Act
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, we intend to keep our promise. We are now in the process of drafting an amendment to the Tobacco Act. We are consulting all interested parties and I intend to take action when we are ready.

Transportation
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance.

I suspect that Canadians will be shocked later today when they find out that when the government decided to sell off the air navigation system to the private sector it only charged $1.5 billion when its own department said it was worth $2.4 billion.

Will the Minister of Finance explain to the Canadian people why he gave away almost $1 billion in this transaction?

Transportation
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we negotiated a very good deal. It is a good deal for taxpayers. It is a good deal for airline safety.

What better structure to have than those representing the aviation industry, the stakeholders, running the system, keeping the seamless safety record intact, one day with the government, the next day in a non-profit organization?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Canadian ambassador to Mexico resigned after making incendiary comments, including his reference to international business transactions between Canada and Mexico as being a joke.

The ambassador also referred to U.S. tactics regarding law enforcement in Mexico as hiding a darker U.S. reality.

Irresponsible comments like these can undermine our foreign policy legitimacy. I ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs if those comments were simply a diplomatic faux pas like the Prime Minister's at NATO or are these statements part of some emerging Canadian foreign policy?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre
Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to compliment the Prime Minister on his major diplomatic achievement at Madrid at the NATO meeting where he was able to secure an agreement.

Having put that aside, I point out that the ambassador to Mexico made his own decision that the comments he made which were published in a Mexican magazine, were inappropriate and were going to limit his effectiveness. He, therefore, requested he be reassigned to Ottawa. We agreed with that request. It reflects no policy position whatsoever of the government.

Frank McKenna
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, it is with regret that I learned today that Premier Frank McKenna of New Brunswick has decided to quite politics.

He has been a very good public servant for a long time. He has done a fantastic job in his province. He was elected for three terms. He changed the province by bringing responsibility to public administration and at the same time kept a social conscience, a balance that we all try to achieve.

He has gained the respect of the people of New Brunswick and all of Canada. In Calgary last summer he played an extremely important role in using his experience as the dean of the first ministers to develop a consensus that was very important for the future of Canada.

As a premier, he was always interested in the status of minorities. I had the pleasure of meeting him myself, because he vacationed at Cap-Pelé, in the riding I represented for a number of years. He has, for many years, spent his holidays with francophones. He always took a keen interest in the status of the French minority in New Brunswick and throughout the country, and of the English minority in Quebec.

I believe he served his province and his country very well and we wish him all the best in his future endeavours.

I would like to pay tribute to his wife and family for the wonderful support they gave him during his many years in public life.

Frank McKenna
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the official opposition I would like to pay tribute to Frank McKenna. The fact that he was premier of New Brunswick for 10 years certainly withstands the test of time for any leader.

Frank McKenna was one of the first premiers who acknowledged the need to balance the books in his province. This is being celebrated right across the country now and we certainly appreciate it.

He served his province and his region, especially as an advocate of free trade and private enterprise. This also has spread right across the country and we celebrate that because that is the only way we will be able to work our way out of the terrible debt situations we have all found ourselves in.

He also was a signatory and an important player just last month in the Calgary declaration. He endorsed the national unity process, the process the premiers were talking about in Calgary. He found it important to note that consultation is important, but also to recognize the equality of all provinces. We appreciate the fact that he thinks this is important and we want to move ahead in that area.

We want to wish him well. Again I wish to say on behalf of the official opposition that we probably have not seen the end of Frank McKenna in this country.

Frank McKenna
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, on the occasion of Premier Frank McKenna's resignation I rise today on behalf of my colleagues to wish him well. There are few Canadian politicians, in fact not one that I could name, that have to their credit having won 58 out of 58 seats in a provincial election or any election. This certainly has been an indication of the level of support the premier has had throughout his 10 years of office.

I note it is rumoured that Premier McKenna is thinking of leaving politics and perhaps going to work in Africa. The current prime minister should beware. When I stepped down as provincial leader in Nova Scotia it was my intention to go to Africa, not to go after the top job in the federal NDP. So one never knows where Frank McKenna may land when it comes to his future decisions.

During 10 of the 12 years that Frank McKenna was in the New Brunswick legislature, I had the opportunity to serve in the adjacent legislature in Nova Scotia. During that time we had differences of opinion as you might expect. There were a couple of particularly strong ones over his commitment to workfare, which I think has been proven to be something of a failure, and also over his commitment to court corporations into the province to create low wage jobs as long as they were subsidized by the public.

Despite my differences with Frank McKenna from time to time, I have never questioned his sincere commitment to serve the people of his province as he saw fit.

On this occasion I would like to wish him and his family well. Whatever he decides to pursue in the future I am sure he will undertake with the same kind of zeal and passion with which he has approached his job as premier of the province of New Brunswick.

Frank McKenna
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, as has been mentioned in the House by the prime minister and the leader of the official opposition party, Premier Frank McKenna will be stepping down effective October 13, which is the 10th anniversary of his leadership of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick.

Frank is very personable and he has tremendous family values. He is a man whose family comes first. His wife Julie and his children have given a great deal to Canada and to New Brunswick over the last 15 years. Frank was there as an MLA before he became leader of the party. He said when he was elected as the leader of the Liberal Party that he was going to be there for 10 years and that was it. He kept his word.

A lot of people are critical of politicians, particularly politicians who do not keep their word and Frank did. He worked very diligently for the people in New Brunswick. There are a lot of us here who live in that province. I served as mayor of Saint John for 11 years, so perhaps I worked with Frank more closely than anyone else in the House. Sometimes we agreed and sometimes we did not agree, but we always had great respect for one another.

We will miss Frank. I am hoping that he does not go to Africa. I am hoping that he finds something in Canada, preferably in New Brunswick so he can continue to work and promote our province. He is known probably better than any other premier we have had across Canada for his stance.

To Frank, to Julie and the children, we wish him good health and the best of luck. I am sure we will see him again.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege. It came to my attention yesterday afternoon that the office and position of legislative counsel has in a de facto manner ceased to exist. I would suggest that this in and of itself is a prima facie case of breach of privilege.

I need not remind members of the House that a breach of privilege occurs according to all the precedents when there is some improper obstruction to the member in performing his parliamentary work. The facts are that in 1993 there were seven legislative counsel and today there are approximately two point something legislative counsel. This is the improper obstruction.

I have three questions to ask. How can a member of any of the 18 standing committees be reasonably expected to have access to independent legal advice concerning the probable effect of specific sections of bills before a committee when no legal counsel is available? How can a member draft amendments to legislation when there is a six month wait for the same two point something people to draft private members' bills? How can a member who is sent here as a legislator fulfil that role without reasonable access and availability of legal counsel? In brief, to do the job, each member requires the tools.

The Privy Council in the case of Kielley v. Carson in 1842 when ruling on a question of privilege noted that members of the legislative body enjoy these privileges because the legislature cannot act or perform without the unimpeded use of the services of its members.

Yet members are in fact being impeded in performing their parliamentary work. Indeed I as a member have no reasonable access to the services of the legislative counsel's office. As a member of this House I have been disempowered in carrying out my duties.

As the guardian of the rights and privileges of this place, I implore you to give me along with others in this place the right to do our work. I am suggesting to you that this is not a matter for the Board of Internal Economy. That body functions in a realm that is defined by statute.

What I am asking of you is to uphold my rights as a member of this House and not my interests as a member of a particular political party which we know is reflected in the composition of the Board of Internal Economy. When the Board of Internal Economy meets, its members present the positions of their parties and members but do not speak or represent each and every member of the House. Only you, Mr. Speaker, as guardian of privileges can act in such a manner.

I am not asking for another business process review of the House staff and functions, nor do I believe that I should be forced to resort to individuals who have been subjected to four hours of training and are now called legislative clerks.

Finally, I am aware suggestions abound that the British Parliament uses legislative clerks to fulfil the function of legislative counsel and by extension the same could apply here. I would suggest that this kind of logic ignores 130 years of the evolution of this House to the point that we are unique and not a twin or clone of Westminster.

I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that a prima facie case of privilege exists and with your permission I would like to move the motion:

That the lack of legislative counsel to assist members in fulfilling their duties is a prima facie case of privilege and this matter shall be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I will wait for more discussions on this particular point of privilege but at least at this point, I will not accept the motion until I find if indeed there is a prima facie case.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I believe that, with all due respect for your decision, if you were to agree to consider the motion, you would find there was agreement. That is because each hon. member who has used the services of the legislative counsels in the past to draft bills knows just how time consuming that is, without the proper resources.

I know you have been extremely attuned in the past to our task as legislators, but how can anyone seriously claim in this House that our privileges are not being violated when the situation is such that gaining access to legislative counsel has become extremely complicated?

I remind you that a committee addressed this matter only four months ago, with the suggestion that more legislative counsels be added, contrary to what has been done recently. It is a fundamental privilege for each member to be able to act as the spokesperson for his community and to be able to introduce private members' bills.

Everyone is well aware that the complexity of the matters dealt with, the complexity of the subjects the hon. members must debate in order to properly speak for their communities, require us to have access to a level of expertise such as the legislative counsels possess.

I truly believe that there is unanimity in this House. Let us recall the time, not so long ago in parliamentary history, when private members' business was allotted far more time. If the work of the legislator is to have any meaning, it is important that we be equipped to be able to introduce private members' bills.

I believe our colleague deserves our gratitude today for bringing to your attention the fact that our privilege is being infringed upon by the lack of resources.