House of Commons Hansard #151 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was amendment.

Topics

Standing Orders Of The House
Private Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today on Motion No. 267 put forward by my colleague from Mission-Coquitlam. She has put forth a very interesting private member's bill which really goes to the heart of why we have certain problems within Parliament today.

The substantial changes needed in our country will not come from the legislation we put forward in this House. Before we make the changes in the country we first have to start with changes within Parliament, which is what my colleague is trying to do through her motion.

One major problem we have in this House and indeed in this country is that Parliament does not operate as a democracy. Rather, it operates more like a medieval fiefdom. The principles of democracy are repeatedly and continually trashed in this House. The government knows this and the government has ignored it. Perhaps the greatest example of this was a study which was done by members sitting in the House today, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Labour, the newly elected Acting Speaker of the House.

All these individuals put forth a very erudite study which basically took apart the structure of governance we have in the country today and said that we do not live in a democracy but here are some constructive solutions we could put forward that would bring the power of the people into this Chamber so their wishes, desires and ideas could be brought to bear on the legislation we debate in this House. They were ideas we would support and indeed they are ideas that members from the Reform Party have put forward repeatedly.

However, once these members and this group came into power as the government, these good ideas were tossed under a table and

have been ignored by this government. It has been a huge lost opportunity. There were such ideas as recall, giving members of Parliament the ability to represent their constituents through private members' bills, which is what my colleague from Mission-Coquitlam is putting forward. She is saying that private members' bills must become votable and that they must be entertained in this House in a very sensible and respectful fashion instead of being tossed under a table to be forgotten, as most of them are.

We are the only democracy in the world where private members' bills are non-votable. Why do we use taxpayer dollars, why do we use the efforts and the intelligence of members across party lines to put forward private members' bills only for them to have one hour of debate in this House and be made non-votable? Why do we have private members' bills, such as the one my colleague has put forward on victim rights, go through the system only to be held up by the government in committee? The government can and does block intelligent, compassionate and fair private members' bills in committee if it chooses to do so.

That is not a democracy. That is a trampling on the rights not only of the members in this House but, worse, it is a trampling on the rights of the public to have its wishes, desires, ideas heard in the House. That is what is happening.

We talk often about ideas and how we can strengthen our democracy, ideas on how we can put forward new solutions for our country. We will not have those changes, the substantial changes that our country needs to make it strong, to make it powerful, to make it as good as it can become unless we first begin to have changes in this House. That goes from justice to the national unity issue, to economics, to the environment and to health care. Each of these important issues is not going to have the effective solutions they require and demand unless the government says "Enough is enough. We are going to bring the power of Canadians into this Chamber. We are going to bring the power, the knowledge and the intelligence of members of Parliament to bear on the legislation that we debate here and we are going to make it effective".

If we do that we will be able to achieve the potential that our country can have. Until we do that it will not occur.

I ask every member in this House to support the very intelligent private member's Motion No. 267, put forward by my hon. friend and colleague from Mission-Coquitlam, to make private members' bills votable, to make them debatable, to make them transparent and to make us truly answerable to the people of Canada. If we do that we will certainly be doing Canada and Canadians a huge service, which at the end of the day is our role and responsibility.

Standing Orders Of The House
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

François Langlois Bellechasse, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak today in the debate on MotionNo. 267, which the hon. member for Mission-Coquitlam tabled in this House and which is a votable item.

It is followed by an amendment by my colleague from Rimouski-Témiscouata and an amendment to the amendment I myself tabled in the second hour of debate. The hon. member for Rimouski-Témiscouata and I are not in disagreement. An event led to the tabling of this amendment, and I will take the following minutes to explain it.

The aim of the motion by the hon. member for Mission-Coquitlam is to include in the Standing Orders of this House the requirement that every parliamentary committee-standing, legislative or special-report to the House on a bill referred to it. Obviously, the intent is to avoid having bills, especially those of private members, which have been approved at second reading by this House, disappear in the woodwork. The committees consider them without any set schedule or agenda, and we end up often months later without the committees having dealt with them.

The aim is commendable. The committees are the extension of this House, and this House is always entitled to know the fate of a measure it has approved in principle, which was then referred to a standing, special or legislative committee.

The problem is that a number of private members' bills literally collapsed before committees. The bill introduced in the first session of this legislature by my colleague from Mission-Coquitlam, Bill C-234 if I am not mistaken, was not reported to the House, and all its clauses were defeated in committee.

The hon. member for Vancouver East, who is in the House today, had greater success. The government supported the principle in her bill on polling hours across Canada, in view of the various time zones.

Formally, however, the House has no knowledge of what took place in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs during consideration of her bill. No report has been made, and the bill is in a sort of limbo before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, although we all know that Bill C-63, a government bill, settled the question of the different polling hours across Canada. It will apply in the next election.

Another bill, introduced by my colleague from Surrey-White Rock-South Langley, also died before the committee without the committee ever reporting on it. When we study a bill in committee, and I will use the example of the bill of our colleague from Surrey-White Rock-South Langley, and go over it clause by

clause, the last questions put by the chairman to the committee members are: Is the title of the bill adopted? Is the bill approved? Shall I report it to the House?

In the case of the bill I have just mentioned, all of the bill's clauses were defeated. It was the committee's basic right to defeat all the bill's clauses. However, when we get to the point of deciding whether the bill's title would be accepted, I think a substantial problem occurs when the House votes at second reading on a bill that has a title. Perhaps the title can be changed by a standing or legislative committee, but can it be withdrawn? Can we wipe it off the record? This is a question of substance that deserves closer study.

As to the last question "Shall I report it?", the answer is obviously yes. It is common sense that, when a bill has been studied, whether the committee has made amendments or not, or has rejected all the clauses in a bill, the committee must report promptly to the House since the bill belongs to the House.

Motion No. 267, as it stands, with the amendment I moved, would make it possible to have a report from the committee within sixty sitting days from the date of the bill's reference to the committee. Why is there a difference between the amendment moved by my hon. colleague, the member for Rimouski-Témiscouata, who called for a report within six months, and the sub-amendment I myself moved, calling for a report within sixty sitting days?

The reason is that between the time the member for Rimouski-Témiscouata moved her amendment and I moved mine, the Sub-Committee on Private Members' Business, which had received an order of reference to study, among other things, this very question of reports from committees, produced its report and referred it to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The Sub-Committee on Private Members' Business recommended unanimously, by consensus of all parties, that any bill referred to a committee be reported on within sixty sitting days.

The wording before us, with the amendment I moved following the tabling of the report of the Sub-Committee on Private Members' Business, is more or less the same as that recommended by the Sub-Committee on Private Members' Business. I say more or less, because the sub-committee's report contained the additional recommendation that, in the absence of a report, the bill be deemed approved by the standing committee or the legislative committee or the special committee, but approved without amendment.

This part is not repeated. I think that it is easier to reach a consensus in the House with the motion as written and with the amendment moved in the second hour of debate requiring a report within sixty sitting days. This issue was discussed for several months by the Sub-Committee on Private Members' Business and the report was unanimous. I think that this merely endorses a recommendation approved by representatives of all parties on this committee.

That ought to simply speed up and gain respect for private member's bills; in other words, a bill must be handled in the same way, whether it originates with the government or with a member. It is a parliamentary matter which must be handled with diligence, and which must not be swept under the rug to suit everyday preoccupations or agendas, whether short term or medium term.

It is obvious that people sometimes feel uncomfortable with voting against a bill, but they say to themselves that it will get held up in committee and then it will die on the Order Paper; it will get dealt with when there are only two weeks left in the session.

I believe that inclusion of new Standing Order 97.1 will be a step forward. I say a step forward because it will not solve the problem entirely. It will not solve the problem of the political will of those sitting on committees. If they have it in mind to reject a bill, reject it they will. Political will cannot be legislated. A standing order cannot create political ideas or orientations. It is a support which can, of course, help those who tend more toward weakness; it can serve as a guideline to committee members, but all the rest is political will.

Madam Speaker, you are indicating that my time is nearly up. Thank you for having the patience to put up with me for twenty seconds more. When the issue is put to a vote, I will be voting in favour of the amendment to the amendment, which I moved, and of the motion as amended, if the amendment passes.

Standing Orders Of The House
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, this is the hour allotted in the House to put away party politics and talk about, debate and discuss specific pieces of legislation proposed by members not as an extension of a party platform or part of a campaign promise but as a specific initiative directed at a perceived problem. That is why I am speaking today in support of the amendment to the amendment to Motion No. 267 proposed by the hon. member for Bellechasse.

The amendment to the amendment to the motion is entirely consistent with Recommendation No. 4 made by the subcommittee on Private Members' Business, namely that the present Standing Order 97 be changed to require the committee to which a private member's bill has been referred to report it back, with or without amendments, within 60 days, or with a recommendation not to proceed further with the bill, or to request additional time. Failing any of those, if it is not reported within the 60 days it is deemed to have been reported without amendment. In my opinion this is a proper recommendation and certainly an amendment worth supporting in this place.

We all know that to be referred to a committee a private member's bill must first receive approval by vote in the House. I

will not get into what precedes that, but it certainly must be voted upon and approved by the House.

Private members' bills are by their very nature smaller in size, narrower in scope and generally targeted toward one issue or what is regarded as a deficiency in the present law. It is the government which tables much broader comprehensive bills, the big ticket laws that define policy perspectives or the direction of the government. These large comprehensive bills can require considerable time in a committee in terms of hearing from witnesses, the department, experts and the minister. Often it is a very lengthy process followed by a clause by clause review and the amendment process. It can certainly be time consuming. In any event it is in the government's interest to pursue its legislative agenda, get a bill out of committee and get it back into the House for third reading.

With respect to a private member's bill a member has no one to push or pull it through a committee other than the collectivity of the House, and that by itself is not enough in a committee room.

By tradition committees give priority to government bills. As we know from the history of this Parliament on occasion they give no consideration whatsoever to private members' bills. Or, as we know by the history of this Parliament, they fail to report it back to this place after they have considered it.

Certainly there are any number of combinations that may occur in a committee hearing whereby a bill may be reported back as is, untouched, or may be reported back amended. It may be deemed not to be a good bill and in one sense not approved by the committee. Yet when it is not approved by the committee it is not returned to this place because the rules at the moment appear to say that if a committee kills a bill that is the end of it.

It is rather strange that a committee of 8, 10 or 12 people can, when it chooses to do so or for whatever reason, never deal with a bill. Or, if they choose to kill it or not to approve of it, they have authority and power greater than that vested in the collectivity known as the House of Commons. That is perverse and is wrong.

That is what Motion No. 267 as amended will stop. If we have any respect at all for the House, for our elected office in the House and for the work of sponsoring members who have done the work of getting a bill passed at second reading, that is no way to behave.

With this subamendment the committee will not be constrained but will be directed to do its job. There will be those in committee who will say their committee is very busy and they cannot get around to it. The subamendment says if they cannot get around to it for whatever reason they should explain that to the collective wisdom of the House which may in fact extend the time.

At the present time there are committees, sometimes properly and sometimes perhaps one could say improperly, that do not want to impose upon themselves the workload of dealing with Private Members' Business.

In those cases where a committee refuses, is unable or for whatever reason refuses to deal with a bill, the committee is saying to the House that it is not interested, that it is very busy and it chooses not to deal with it. That is an insult to the House, an insult to the member and an insult to the office of member of Parliament.

We are looking at this subamendment as empowering, which is probably a very overworked word, the average member of Parliament. We are saying that they were not elected to come here and simply speak in favour of their party principles. There is a time in this place to lay aside all of that. There is a time in this place when elected officials of the people can be legislators, make a difference, propose a law and attempt to sell the message of that law to the others in this place. When the majority in this place agree, a law can be passed. In reality that is probably about as great as my chance of winning the lottery tonight because there are a lot of forces converging against it.

I understand in every case the majority will not agree with the message contained within a bill. At the same time we have an opportunity to do something about it.

There is one final remark I want to make on this subject. Sadly it does not matter how many private members' bills we push out the door here and down the hallway into the other place. We also have to start talking to the people in the other place about how they regard the role of members of Parliament and how they regard this place.

I want to relate to the House the fact that I was just at a committee hearing in the other place considering a private member's bill which happens to be mine. The chair of the committee said that backbench MPs should not get involved in legislation.

I sent him a note which said that I appreciated the high regard in which he held members of Parliament. Notwithstanding this subamendment which I am totally and unequivocally supporting, all of the change made in this place becomes meaningless with this anchor called the other place down the hall.

I will certainly be here tomorrow to support the motion. I congratulate the sponsor of the motion and the mover of the subamendment.

Standing Orders Of The House
Private Members' Business

April 8th, 1997 / 5:55 p.m.

Reform

Daphne Jennings Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak on MotionNo. 267 in its last hour of debate.

The motion is about returning the business of the House to the House. At this time I thank Bloc members from Bellechasse and Rimouski-Témiscouata for the amendment and the subamend-

ment which add a time element to my motion, that is to have the committee "report on its work within 60 sitting days from the date of the bills reference to the committee". I feel this time requirement is necessary to complete Motion No. 267.

When one considers the amount of time members of the House have waited to see their bills emerge from committee and the total disregard by some committee members of the obvious wishes of the members of the House when they vote unanimously to pass private members' bills, one realizes we must have change in the process.

I believe that change will come best from the members themselves in establishing rules and guidelines within which we must all work, rules such as the subamendment that the committee must report the bill back to the House within 60 sitting days. In this way the committee shows respect for the House and respect for legislators.

Motion No. 267 did not come about because the subcommittee on Private Members' Business was undertaking a study on the disposition of private members' bills at the committee stage, while I am very pleased it is doing so. Motion No. 267 came about because a bill to which the House gave unanimous consent was literally destroyed in the committee stage. It was treated with disrespect. The words of witnesses from across Canada were treated with disrespect. The democratic will of the elected members of the House of Commons was treated with disrespect.

The motion came about because Bill C-232, also known as the grandparents bill which got unanimous consent from the House in May 1995, when sent to the justice committee was treated with such contempt that I wonder how the Liberal members of that committee can hold their heads up. Their total disregard for families, for children of divorce and for our seniors who are the longest paying taxpayers is inexcusable.

We had excellent speakers as witnesses: Grandparent's Rights President Nancy Wooldridge from British Columbia and long time family law practising lawyers such as Charles Merovitz of Ottawa, Barbara Baird of Fredericton and Sheila Keets of Vancouver. Their testimony alone demanded in our family law to have the Divorce Act changed slightly to address a need to keep families united and supportive in spite of divorce.

I am concerned by the lack of respect shown for testimony that is often shown for the testimony given by some very expert and well trained Canadians who come as witnesses to the committee. The justice committee voted down the grandparents bill. It voted down each clause and it voted down the title. Members of the committee were so arrogant that I realized we had a serious problem with our committee process.

There was the interference of the Canadian Bar Association, in particular the family law section chair Steven Andrew who advised members of the committee on what they should do. He presented himself as spokesperson for family law lawyers across Canada when in fact they had not been notified. They had not received a questionnaire. Nor had they asked him to speak on their behalf. Misrepresentation of the greatest latitude was committed by this person and by the umbrella representative, the Canadian Bar Association. When one considers most of the Liberal justice committee members are lawyers, one begins to question the fitness of these members to sit in judgment of any bills passed in the House and deferred to committee. If the Canadian Bar Association keeps close watch on every piece of legislation passed, and I am told that it does, are not these lawyer MPs in conflict of interest? What happens when an election comes around and they lose? Is not the Canadian Bar Association their mother organization again? Do they pay dues to keep their law degree in good standing while in office as a member of Parliament?

No, the need for change, in my mind, for the committee system began when a small group of elected MPs decided they could do what they wanted with the business of the House of Commons without just reason.

When the committee votes down a bill, its clauses, its title and votes down returning it to the House, the bill has in fact two lives. As far as the House is concerned it has not been returned to the House, so it is technically and procedurally alive, yet it is buried in committee and not allowed to emerge. Therefore, to the member, the bill is dead because he or she can do nothing more with it.

When the bill was resurrected after the February 1996 prorogation of the House, along with other bills which had passed second reading, the committee voted the bill, now known as Bill C-245, down again, without discussion and without respect for its content.

It was then that I knew I must put forward a motion in the House to seriously look at the way our committees do business. In the spring of 1996 my Motion No. 267 was introduced in the House. I am very pleased that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on September 19, 1996 adopted a motion that a subcommittee be struck to look at the way private members' items are made votable and to study the disposition of private members' bills at committee stage. I commend the three members of the subcommittee. The chair was the Liberal member for Mississauga West, and the Bloc member for Bellechasse and my colleague from Saanich-Gulf Islands were the two other members.

I also realize that recommendation No. 4 proposed by the subcommittee and revised on March 13, 1997, deals very closely with the content of my motion, especially with the subamendment which is now before the House.

Democratic reform is part of the Reform platform. As chair of the parliamentary Reform caucus task force in 1994 I put forward

private member's Motion No. 89 to ask the members to allow free votes in the House. The motion passed in the early spring of 1994. We have been voting freely on Private Members' Business since that time, but now we have another calamity. The members of the House have passed good private members' bills from all sides of the House and they are being buried in committee, without just cause and without reason given. Even a judge has to give reasons for his judgment.

The deputy House leader says that we cannot do things in a rush. There has certainly been no rush. It is now three and a half years down the road since we allowed freer voting in Private Members' Business and our bills are still buried, without just cause, in committee.

While the hon. member for Stormont-Dundas said: "The government has also taken a free vote approach to Private Members' Business," I would remind him that was in response to a Reform member's free vote motion which was passed in the House. It was not initiated by the government.

The member for Stormont-Dundas stated correctly that the government reinstated nine private members' bills after the first session was prorogued, but what was the point of the government making this grand gesture if it was going to allow these bills to be buried again in committee, without just cause? Was it all smoke and mirrors?

I must point out again to the member for Stormont-Dundas that the reason committees are taking so long to report bills back to the House is because they have buried these bills with no intention to report them back to the House. The member for Stormont-Dundas stated: "Perhaps the sponsor has not done everything to identify the bill as a priority for the committee's consideration". Let me explain.

First, a member must argue to make the item a votable item. The member had to convince other members of the House. Then the member should and did contact every member of the House to ask for their help and for any suggestions, not once but three times, before each hour of debate in the House. Then the member worked with all interested members of the House, with a gallery containing considerable numbers of grandparents watching each hour of debate. The members of this House gave the committee its directive: unanimous consent at second reading.

Then this member ensured that the witnesses the committee members heard were among the country's most experienced and competent family law lawyers from across Canada, as well as from the grandparents' groups, speaking on behalf of their grandchildren. That, as I see it, is the responsible way for a member of this House to get a private member's bill passed.

The members of the House in committee must be free to deliberate on the expert testimony of excellent witnesses, without side deals being made, without lobbying. They must be free to deliberate on what is presented by the witnesses.

Canadians want their members of Parliament to do their jobs, study the bills proposed, hear from a good slate of witnesses and then discuss and deal with clause by clause in an intelligent fashion. This was not done. It was not even contemplated.

The members of the committee did not even discuss the testimony of the expert witnesses brought from across the country or their findings. As the Reform member for North Vancouver stated: "The present system is designed to prevent Private Members' Business from getting anywhere". I am afraid at this time that is true.

I agree the amendment to change the reporting time to 60 sitting days by the member for Bellechasse is a good, practical amendment. I am glad members can work together to get good legislation before the House.

Motion No. 267 is badly needed at this time to encourage members of the House to work on private members' bills and motions and represent their constituents. As the member for Skeena stated in his submission to the subcommittee about the lack of respect shown for private members' bills: "Many members, such as myself, felt that under the current rules this respect is missing and consequently we do not pursue opportunities to advance bills or motions". This is a tragic state of affairs for democracy.

Therefore, I ask the support of the House to send a strong message to the government, a message that brings democracy back to the House in some degree. Please support Motion No. 267.

Standing Orders Of The House
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Anna Terrana Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise in support of this motion because I spoke earlier on the effect of private members' bills and the need to make them votable.

I believe that the role of a member of Parliament to represent his or her constituents can be reflected in a private member's bill. As members know, a private member's bill, no matter how short or uncomplicated, takes a lot of work and it is important that a member of Parliament be recognized for this work.

Changes have occurred in the House but we must move forward and be more innovative. I tabled two private members' bills. The first one took forever to be drawn. It was deemed non-votable but it was still important. It was a question of fairness. It addressed an amendment to the Elections Act which would make parties illegal if they did not slate 50 candidates in an election and asked the parties to liquidate all assets and disband.

The 75-year old Communist Party was deemed illegal and no longer exists. However, my private member's bill eventually collapsed with the adjournment of the House.

My second private member's bill was a lucky bill. I tabled it in June at 10 a.m. and at 1 p.m. on the same day my name was drawn. This is very unusual. It became votable and, with the assistance of all parties, it was sent to committee within 45 minutes of debate. It was later adopted by the government and became law. It was the staggering of hours across the country on election day.

I would like to conclude by saying that private members' bills are extremely important. They are one of the few tools for a member of Parliament and I feel they should all be considered votable and come to the House all in the name of fairness.

Standing Orders Of The House
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Cambridge, ON

Madam Speaker, let me congratulate the hon. member who moved Motion No. 267 and the seconder.

In this session members from all sides tabled private members' bills and I believe those ideas came from communities right across the country. As individual members of Parliament or, as this Chamber calls us, backbenchers, we do not have the same resources as the government or the ministers have. We cannot prepare and draft a bill as polished as the government does.

From my own experience, I have tabled three private members' bills. One of these bills has been stuck at committee for one year. I have been hearing excuses for one year that the committee is overloaded or is too busy with other issues. Then I found out that on many occasions the committee did not even sit. After complaining with some force, the committee finally moved on. Then we hear from hon. members some support for this motion.

I believe that the motion is very important for the democratic process of the House. We were all sent here by the people of Canada. I believe that if we come up with good ideas that those ideas should be dealt with here in the Chamber, not at the committee, and not by two, three or ten people on a committee. They should not have the power to stall bills and destroy the ideas which, in my opinion, are very valuable and important to building a democratic society.

I know that time is running out. Once again I declare my support for the motion. I believe that other members of the House will do the same so that the democratic process will lead to a stronger and better Canada.

Standing Orders Of The House
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Pursuant to order made earlier today, the question on the motion is deemed to have been put and a recorded division deemed demanded and deferred until Wednesday, April 9, 1997, at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Standing Orders Of The House
Adjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Len Taylor The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK

Madam Speaker, I still find it hard to believe that the government has allowed the railways to impose an additional freight rate increase on prairie farmers. On March 11, I rose in the House to express my concern and ask for a justification. Of course, there was no way to justify this insult to farmers.

Late last year, about November, grain was piling up in prairie elevators and elevator agents began placing orders for grain cars. In December when those cars did not arrive they started phoning to ask where they were. The railways reported to agents throughout the prairies that there were a few minor problems in the system, but the cars were coming in a few days.

In January, the agents phoned again, and again they were assured that the cars would soon be arriving to move the grain to port. By February there were some 50 ships in the port of Vancouver waiting to be loaded with grain that was still backed up in the prairie elevator system and on the farms.

The Canadian Wheat Board reported that the transportation problem was likely to cost the Canadian farmer some $65 million in demurrage charges and deferred sales.

The matter received some media attention at the time and I was the first to raise those concerns in the House by late February. At that time the minister of agriculture expressed some concern about the problem and said that the railways had to take some of the blame for the problem. For my part, I think the railways had to take a large part of the blame. After all, they did have the responsibility to move that grain.

The responsibility was all theirs because the Liberal government in the past three years had surrendered the Crow benefit and the guarantees it protected; had turned over regulatory authority of the system to the railways; had changed the way rail cars were allocated; had privatized CN so the public interest no longer had influence over the way the railways operated; had encouraged downsizing to the point where so many railway maintenance workers were laid off that they could no longer maintain the locomotives and cars needed to move the grain.

In a short three years, the Liberals had given away the store but were now still trying to sell the inventory.

Now in response to the railways' further demand for more money, the Liberals through the Canadian Transportation Agency have improved a further freight rate increase which will likely

result in an additional $15 million being taken out of farmers' pockets.

In the House the other day in March I called this a Liberal reward for the railways' poor performance. It is nothing less. The loss of the Crow benefit was an insult and this is an injury. On top of all this, I read in the Financial Post that the Liberals are considering even further railway deregulation as their answer to this problem. It is obvious that they do not understand deregulation is at the heart of the problem facing us.

When we had the Crow rate and the Crow benefit we did not have the problems we have today because there were performance guarantees required of the railways. Those guarantees are gone and so is the service. A number of provinces including Saskatchewan are calling for a public inquiry into the grain transportation system. I think such an inquiry is necessary. Nothing has been put in place to positively identify where the problems come from and nothing has been put in place to ensure that the problems do not exist again. After more than $80 million in additional transport related costs farmers deserve nothing less.

I ask the minister to justify how any of this is possible and to give us reason to believe that the interests of farmers are in good hands. I do not think he can do it.

Standing Orders Of The House
Adjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Hamilton West
Ontario

Liberal

Stan Keyes Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, despite the doom and gloom scenario and the obvious lack of knowledge exhibited by the member opposite on this issue and the work being done by the Minister of Transport on this very issue, the severe weather this winter has had a significant impact on rail movement in western Canada, in particular for grain deliveries to the west coast.

Unseasonably cold weather and heavy snow in November, December and January had a serious impact on rail operations at a critically important time of the year for grain deliveries. Fortunately the situation on the prairies and the west coast has improved. As of April 2 there were 14 vessels waiting for grain on the west coast compared with 20 the week before and 39 vessels the week before that. This marked improvement is the direct result of the combined efforts of all system participants to get the grain moving again.

However, the delivery problems encountered this winter show that the grain transportation and handling system continues to be vulnerable. We have a responsibility to ensure Canada has the most efficient, effective and reliable grain transportation and handling system possible.

This government intends to use this season's events as an opportunity. In this regard the Minister of Transport is currently evaluating several proposals designed to look at the entire grain transportation system with the objective of making it better. In the short term, the Minister of Transport is continuing to actively monitor the performance of the grain transportation system to ensure that any remaining backlog of grain is cleared up as quickly as possible.

Standing Orders Of The House
Adjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.18 p.m.)