House of Commons Hansard #130 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Request For Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair has received notice of a request for an emergency debate by the hon. member for Roberval.

Request For Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for recognizing my privilege, my right to speak to this request and to give my reasons for making it.

I would like to say that you should examine this request in the light of the question of privilege raised a bit earlier. Allowing the question of privilege would automatically dispose of the emergency debate, because there would be a debate today, which would meet our objectives. If you were to rule the question of privilege out of order, obviously the matter of an emergency debate would remain an extremely pressing one.

On page 1 of the information commissioner's annual report, the hon. Mr. Justice Gérard La Forest, former judge of the supreme court, says—the words are heavy with meaning—and I quote:

The overarching purpose of access to information legislation...is to facilitate democracy. It does so in two related ways. It helps to ensure first, that citizens have the information required to participate meaningfully in the democratic process, and secondly, that politicians and bureaucrats remain accountable to the citizenry.

Page 2 of this report contains an extract from the Access to Information Act, subsection 2(1):

  1. (1) The purpose of this Act is to extend the present laws of Canada to provide a right of access to information in records under the control of a government institution in accordance with the principles that government information should be available to the public, that necessary exemptions to the right of access should be limited and specific and that decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently of government.

The reason I have requested an emergency debate is that, in the report submitted to parliament, because the information commissioner reports to parliament, it says, and I quote very briefly:

PCO claims now that it may exclude confidences from access without any obligation to certify to the Commissioner (as it must—

Request For Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. This is not an opportunity to make a speech on the matter raised by the hon. member for Roberval with respect to the debate this evening. It is merely a very brief presentation on the urgent nature of the debate.

I would ask the hon. member to restrict his remarks to that point alone, nothing else.

Request For Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Just one sentence, which will satisfy both you and myself. It reads as follows:

The Privy Council Office refuses to accept the clear words of Parliament giving the Commissioner the powers of a Superior Court of Record in the conduct of his investigations.

The Privy Council Office is the department of the Prime Minister. It is questioning the authority of parliament and its decision to confer upon the commissioner responsible for access to information the powers to investigate, audit and distribute documents.

This strikes me as so serious, given the words of Justice La Forest, that it is an attack on the very essence of democracy by the department of the Prime Minister. It is not a minor matter, but rather one which merits an emergency debate this very day.

Request For Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair has carefully considered the comments by the hon. member for Roberval, as well as his letter submitted earlier this morning on the matter.

As the hon. member has indicated, the Chair has already received a question of privilege from the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough and has taken the matter under advisement.

If the Chair decides it is a true question of privilege, as the hon. member for Roberval has indicated, there will be an immediate debate in the House on the motion by the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough. It is possible to continue that debate during regular sitting hours.

In my opinion, it is perhaps not necessary to consider the matter of an emergency debate this evening, because the Chair has already taken the matter under advisement. In my opinion, the request is not in order at this time.

Request For Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, from what I understand, the ruling on the point of privilege has not yet been brought down.

Does your response mean that you are maintaining my request pending a ruling later on? Because a favourable ruling disposes of my request, while an unfavourable one leaves it active and fully justified.

I would like to know where we stand exactly.

Request For Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Hon. members must wait for the Chair's ruling on another point of privilege. I must add, however, that it is standard practice to renew a request for an emergency debate daily.

Thus, if the Speaker's ruling is not brought down this afternoon, tomorrow the hon. member can request an emergency debate on this issue for tomorrow evening.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone Company
Government Orders

October 17th, 2000 / 10:50 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson for the Minister of Industry

moved that Bill S-26, an act to repeal an act to incorporate the Western Canada Telephone Company, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone Company
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of Bill S-26 is to remove from the laws of Canada obsolete provisions that restrain Telus Communications from operating throughout Canada.

Bill S-26 is a standard housekeeping bill in many ways. It would repeal an act to incorporate the Western Canada Telephone Company, known as the BC Tel act. It thus would remove restrictions that hinder BC Tel from competing across the country. These are restrictions only BC Tel faces.

This constraint was put into place in the bad old days of provincial monopolies. Today it is contrary to the competitive climate in which the telecommunications industry works in Canada. The Competition Act, the Telecommunications Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act will still apply to Telus.

We support the bill because it is consistent with Canadian Alliance policy that government should foster a healthy economic environment for the benefit of consumers by pursuing free and open trade at home and abroad, including eliminating interprovincial trade barriers.

The telecommunications industry is Canada's fastest growing industry. According to the Canadian business performance report revenues grew 50% in this industry between 1998 and 1999. This is tremendous growth. It is one of the strongest assets in Canada.

Canadian society is being transformed by the increasing use of technology. In their homes, businesses and schools Canadians are embracing technology and the changes it brings. Computer use in Canada jumped to a 36% national average in 1998 from 29.4% in the previous year. Governments in Canada at all levels are changing the way they do business by incorporating this new technology into their practices. Telecommunications companies provide the important ramp on to the information highway.

According to the Canadian Bankers Association, between November 1999 and January 2000 in Canada approximately 12.7 million adults, or 56%, used the Internet. That shows an increase of 13% since 1997. We can see this is a growing sector. The 43% who are not currently on the Internet anticipate getting online within a couple of years. We definitely need the infrastructure the telecommunications industry provides.

However it is not all good news today. Too many bright Canadian entrepreneurs have been forced to go to the United States to find capital for their ideas. Too many Canadian companies have been forced south or overseas by high taxes. Canada's personal income burden is the highest in the G-7. It is 21% greater than that of the United States. High taxes combined with a stagnant standard of living and an abysmal Canadian currency of a 65 cent dollar have been leading many individual Canadians to leave our country, in increasing numbers. It is quite disturbing.

This summer Statistics Canada reported that over 62,000 Canadians left the country this year, enough people to populate a medium size Canadian city. That is an increase from the 58,000 who left last year. This is accelerating, if anything. We know the U.S. high tech companies continue to look for people around the world. That will continue unless we get our house in order in Canada.

While those people were packing their bags the Liberals were denying that the brain drain existed. As recently as June the Prime Minister publicly rejected the notion that Canada was losing its best and brightest. He insisted that the brain drain was only a myth being perpetuated by his critics.

This year 65,000 Canadians do not agree with that. The brain drain problem must be addressed. The Canadian Alliance fair tax plan would address the main reasons behind the exodus. The Canadian Alliance would increase income for all Canadian taxpayers no matter how much they make. We would remove 1.4 million Canadians with the lowest incomes from the tax rolls entirely. We would encourage investment and savings for retirement. These measures would encourage Canada's best and brightest to stay and work here at home.

It takes quite a bit before a Canadian wants to leave this country. Our friends and families are all here. It is a major disruption. For the people who have immigrated to Canada over the years we know it has been a major traumatic experience. These people did not do it willingly. They were being driven out of their countries.

In addition to relieving the onerous tax burden, Canada needs a strategy to compete in the global economy. The Canadian Alliance would reduce business taxes and build a positive climate for doing business while ensuring Canada has a skilled workforce and a modern infrastructure. Part of that infrastructure is telecommunications.

Investors need confidence that government is getting the economic fundamentals right, and I would suggest that is not happening now.

To encourage more high tech investment in Canada's economy, the Canadian Alliance would lower payroll taxes so that employees would take home more money and businesses could hire more employees.

We would cut the capital gains tax on investing, which would take away obstacles that restrict investment and which would encourage the economy to prosper. We only need to look at the situation in Ireland as an example.

We would cut taxes on the high tech industry. The current system penalizes the new economy. The Canadian Alliance proposes to tax all types of companies equally.

In this day and age Canadians must be able to access government information and services online. We would appoint a senior adviser on technology to oversee a project to ensure that Canadian citizens could access the Government of Canada online.

We would increase support for Canada's research granting councils and co-ordinate scientific activities in all government departments to ensure that science, not politics, prevails. Canadians should not be left behind in the rush to do business online. Canadian regulations need to be modernized to reflect the reality of a new technology.

Bill S-26 is a straightforward piece of legislation which would allow Telus to compete on a level playing field with other Canadian telecommunication companies.

In an increasing global market deregulation of this kind is long overdue. In fact we have quite a bit better legislation and trade agreements in terms of international trade agreements than we have here at home because of our interprovincial trade barriers which restrict Canadians from doing business across provincial borders. That needs to be addressed. It is long overdue. I would suggest the government has not made much progress in that area.

It is time to give Telus the legislative freedom to do business in Canada. Therefore the Canadian Alliance is supportive of the bill and will be supporting it at all stages to allow it to go through the House today.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone Company
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My colleague from the opposition just mentioned the reason for my point of order. I think you would find unanimous consent in the House to proceed with all stages of the bill today, including consideration in committee of the whole.

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone Company
Government Orders

11 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to proceed with the bill as indicated by the deputy government whip?

An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone Company
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.