House of Commons Hansard #62 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was education.

Topics

The Senate
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Right Hon. Prime Minister, of which I gave him notice a couple of hours ago.

Senator Thompson is only the last straw that broke the camel's back in terms of the public's intolerance with our Senate. Our Senate is undemocratic, unelected and unaccountable. It is a house of hacks, flacks and bagmen. Enough is enough.

Is the Prime Minister ready now to take the initiative to break the log-jam and introduce into the House a motion to abolish the existing unelected Senate? If he does that I assure him of our support.

The Senate
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we have always been in favour of reforming the Senate. We voted in this House on the Charlottetown agreement. We wanted to have an elected Senate, one that represented all the regions. Unfortunately the people of Canada did not accept that proposition. In particular, the Reform Party voted against it.

If there is occasion to reform the Senate, this party has always been in favour of a reformed Senate. However, we need to do it by amending the Constitution. In order to amend the Constitution in Canada we need the consent and advice of the provinces.

Bill C-28
Oral Question Period

February 18th, 1998 / 2:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with great regret, but important to remember, what the ethics commissioner said yesterday. We cannot ignore his testimony. He stated that he was called in to investigate the apparent conflict of interest between the finance minister who did sponsor Bill C-28. He also said that he contacted CSL executives to determine the impact on CSL.

Why did the ethics commissioner contact CSL to find out what the impact would be on CSL? Why did he not contact a tax expert?

Bill C-28
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I presume the ethics commissioner contacted everyone who had facts and asked them to make a contribution so that he could render the opinion he gave yesterday which was very clear.

“One thing is clear”, he said, “the allegations are completely unfounded. Mr. Martin—the Minister of Finance—is not in a conflict of interest situation”. In order to arrive at that opinion, he obtained all the information required to be able to give a clear opinion on the matter.

Sierra Leone
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

David Pratt Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa and it concerns the continuing crisis in Sierra Leone, west Africa.

The last 10 days of fighting have produced hundreds of thousands of refugees and a serious food shortage. Just yesterday a Canadian, Dr. Milton Tectonidis with Medicins Sans Frontieres, was seized by rebels.

Can the minister tell the House what plan our government has to provide aid to Sierra Leone and to help Dr. Tectonidis return to safety?

Sierra Leone
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Edmonton Southeast
Alberta

Liberal

David Kilgour Secretary of State (Latin America and Africa)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Nepean—Carleton for his question.

On the humanitarian aid I am very pleased to announce that Canada is going to send $600,000 to the international committee of the Red Cross to alleviate the horrible suffering in Sierra Leone.

With respect to Dr. Tectonidis, our high commissioner to Sierra Leone indicates that an Ecomog force has now been sent to Bo and Kenema to try to rescue the two men the hon. member just referred to. We wish them well in that voyage.

The Senate
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Independent

John Nunziata York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

It is quite clear that the overwhelming majority of Canadians do not support the Senate in its present form. It is nothing more than a posh country club for political hacks.

The Prime Minister in his previous answer suggested that the people of Canada rejected Senate reform when they voted against the Charlottetown accord. That is simply not the case.

Will the Prime Minister recognize that most Canadians do not support the Senate and will he undertake—

The Senate
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The Right Hon. Prime Minister.

The Senate
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I explained to the House that we wish to be able to reform the Senate, but under the Constitution of Canada the Parliament of Canada cannot reform the Senate alone. The powers and the numbers are subject to constitutional changes. We are willing to do that when the provinces are ready.

At this time some people are proposing an equal Senate, with the provinces having equal representation. In order to change the Senate we need the consent of the provinces and at this moment the provinces are not pushing—

The Senate
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Skeena.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Reform

Mike Scott Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister of Indian affairs.

Grassroots aboriginals are angry and upset that the minister's office leaks confidential letters and yet withholds information which might embarrass the department.

We have an internal departmental memo which directs a senior bureaucrat to withhold information requested by a band member under access to information because it might make the department of Indian affairs look bad.

Did the minister direct her bureaucrats to withhold this information? If not, did this directive come from her? Where did it come from?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, following the question from the hon. member yesterday I looked into the circumstances surrounding this letter.

First of all, it is two years old. Second, the contents of the memo are not considered to be protected. Third, the name of the requester is not in the letter.

The letter in question is, in fact, context and only context about the information request.

The letter should not and did not affect the decision to release the information the requester was entitled to.

Finally, the truth is that the bottom line of all this is that the requester got the information he asked for.

Sponsorship Of Sports And Cultural Events
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Quebec minister of finance recently announced that $12 million in tobacco tax revenues would be used to subsidize sports and cultural events in Quebec.

In order to avoid having sports and cultural events suffer because of the fight against smoking, when will the Minister of Health finally introduce the long promised amendments?

Sponsorship Of Sports And Cultural Events
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, we are working on them and we are getting there. We will act when we are ready.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appeal to you as the defender of parliamentary rights and protector of the right of everyone in this parliament to speak, not only in this House, but wherever our work as members takes us.

The members of the opposition were prevented from doing their work properly by various decisions taken by the chair of the Standing Committee on Finance. This is the subject of my remarks to you.

The chair of the Standing Committe on Finance categorically and systematically rejected a request by my colleague the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, who wanted to hear from witnesses in committee in order to better understand the entire scope of clause 241 of Bill C-28. The chair refused any witnesses.

The member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot also asked to have the ethics commissioner testify. The committee chair, contrary to all expectations and plans, shortened the appearance of the ethics counsellor, on his own initiative.

The third point I would like to raise with you, and which I consider quite extraordinary, is the fact that the chair of the Standing Committee on Finance rejected the request of my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for a special committee, a sub-committee, at least, to hear witnesses and clarify the matter of the apparent conflict of interest involving the Minister of Finance.

It is extraordinary, in our opinion, for a committee chair to use his powers, which should serve to enable parliamentarians to do their work, to systematically prevent the opposition from obtaining any information on this matter.

For the good of the Minister of Finance, if the opposition can query a number of specialists in order to clarify this important and complex situation, it seems to me the committee should be allowed to do its job.

I therefore appeal to you as the Speaker of the House and ultimate chair of all committees so that parliamentarians may be heard.