House of Commons Hansard #132 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Robert Marleau
Private Members' Business

4 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I join you and all our colleagues today in paying tribute to a remarkable man who has had an equally remarkable career here, in parliament, Robert Marleau.

When I first met him, he was a young man from Cornwall, in the riding of Stormont—Dundas—Charlottenburgh, represented by the chief government whip. I remember this ambitious young man from eastern Ontario who was just beginning his career.

I myself had just arrived here, in the parliamentary restaurant, as I often say. As for Mr. Marleau, he was starting out with the committees. At the time, his hair was not as grey. As for me, I still had some. This was the beginning of a brilliant career that lasted over 30 years and culminated with his appointment to the position of Clerk of the House of Commons.

Throughout his career, Robert Marleau has displayed extraordinary professionalism and professional ethics, which he has been able to pass on to his colleagues and successors. It was great to work with Robert Marleau over the years. While we were somewhat surprised to learn that he was retiring, something which no one wanted him to do, he definitely deserves it. I would like to wish Mr. Marleau—Robert, if I may call him that—all the best and offer him my heartfelt congratulations on a brilliant and successful career.

I am a bit jealous that some people will miss Mr. Marleau's golf game because I know no one will ever miss mine.

Robert Marleau
Private Members' Business

4:05 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure also to rise to pay tribute to someone who was the first man that I met when I was elected here in 1993. He helped me sign in. In that parliament, you will remember, Mr. Speaker, there were over 200 new people. We did not know where our seats were, we did not know how to sign and we did not know anything. Bob Marleau helped us to do that and helped us to do much more as we learned the rules and learned the ropes here in the House of Commons and I think learned to respect the House of Commons in part because he respected this place so much.

I think too of the procedural book that he co-authored with Mr. Montpetit. I turned to it today. I thought that I would look in it to see what it is that the clerk is supposed to do. There are three full pages of work and duties of the Clerk of the House of Commons. I switched right away over to the House leaders and there is one line in there about the House leaders. Therefore, there is more work to be done on the procedural book yet, I am sure. That procedure book I think will become a standard not only here in the House of Commons but increasingly as democracies around the world look to Canada and look to this House of Commons. They will pick up the book co-authored by Mr. Marleau and say this is a way that democracy can be enhanced and be respected.

I think overall that the biggest tribute perhaps to Mr. Marleau is that although all members of the House of Commons are equal, we all know that while that is traditionally true many members in the House have much more power than others. That is just a fact. Some are far more aggressive than others. Some are far more demanding than others. However, through it all I have never seen Mr. Marleau blink as far as being absolutely fair, absolutely impartial, absolutely act with dignity and absolutely bring grace and sort of a calmness to this place in everything he did.

Also, if I could, I think Bob would permit me to talk about our coffee together that we had just by coincidence the other morning in the cafeteria. I asked him “What are you going to do when you retire”, because he has not really retired yet; he is heading that way. He mentioned a few things that he had on his mind but even in retirement the things that he is considering have to do with helping charities, helping developing countries, helping people in need, helping out Canadian organizations and lending the organizational expertise that we have come to admire so much.

I thought it is a great tribute to the man. The organizations will be lucky people and we have been very fortunate to have him in our midst. Thank you, Bob.

Robert Marleau
Private Members' Business

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to add my words to those of my colleagues who have spoken before me, all of them reflecting, I believe, what we all feel toward Mr. Marleau, who has left us, or will soon be doing so.

I would, however, like to say, in order to be fair to Mr. Marleau and Mr. Montpetit, who were directly attacked a few moments ago, that I feel otherwise: the work they have produced shows the full importance of the chief whip in that there is more reference to that position than to that of the House leader.

While that position may not have all the visibility and all the deference owing to it, at least in the joint work of Mr. Marleau and Mr. Montpetit we see the full importance, the full essence of the position of chief whip of the various parties.

Joking aside, I wish to express here the great admiration I personally and my fellow Bloc Quebecois members have for the work that has been done by Mr. Marleau, not just as Clerk of the House of Commons, because the Speaker also mentioned his long parliamentary career.

He started here in 1969 as clerk of committee. He then joined the parliamentary relations secretariat. He served as principal clerk, director of committees and private legislation, clerk assistant and, finally, in 1987, was appointed Clerk of the House of Commons.

He therefore has very broad experience, which he has shared with all of us here in the House. We are all indebted to him for his contribution to this Chamber, for what he has done for us individually and as a group.

Earlier the Speaker was saying that he will soon be leaving the House of Commons. On that score, I can say that he will never really leave it, that there will always be a seat for him here, because we have unanimously agreed to reserve for him the distinction of honorary clerk of the House of Commons. He will thus be able to join us and take part in the work of the House when the mood strikes him. I invite him to do so as often as possible.

What is particularly sad is knowing that this House will lose a part of its corporate memory. There is no denying that there have been a number of inroads on that memory in recent years.

In addition to Mr. Marleau, some very capable individuals have left us. There is Mary Anne Griffith, Camille Montpetit and Diane Davidson, who, through a chance administrative reorganization, has moved on to the Department of Justice and is now with the Chief Electoral Officer. She also shared with us her vast experience and considerable professionalism, as did Ms. Griffith and Mr. Montpetit.

Here we have much of our corporate memory leaving us, and we will have to make up for this loss one way or another.

I know that I myself and my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois have given Mr. Marleau, young retiree that he is, a few white hairs.

Nevertheless, since 1987, although the Bloc Quebecois was not around then, Mr. Marleau has weathered some rather stormy situations. However, being a fine helmsman, he always maintained a steady course and captained his ship exceptionally.

If we in fact did give him a few white hairs on occasion, I must say right off that it was not our intention and that we had the highest respect for his person, his duties and his contribution to the House of Commons.

People move on and the institution remains, I think. However, the memory of these people remains and does so for a long time.

Thank you for your contribution to the House of Commons. I think your presence here and your contribution will long remain within these walls. Thank you very much and congratulations. May your well deserved retirement be a good one.

As my friend, the House leader of the official opposition put it, I know full well that you are retiring, but you are not retiring, because you have also told me what you plan to do in your retirement.

I wish you good luck. I have not had the good fortune to golf with you, but you have had the good fortune not to golf with me.

Robert Marleau
Private Members' Business

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, today seems to be the time for goodbyes and of course those who have the good fortune to choose the time of their retirement or resignation have the blessing of an opportunity for colleagues to express themselves about them.

I am sure that there are at least some in this place who will not have that opportunity. They will just go reluctantly into that good night on November 27. I say to Mr. Marleau that I am glad we have had this opportunity before parliament ended. He resigned in the summer and we did not have a chance to do this. I was certainly anxious that we would have an opportunity to put our thoughts on the record.

One always feels a bit more melancholy about people retiring when they are kind of close to your age and when one has been here almost as long as they were. I feel almost that this clerk is someone of my own generation. Certainly we have served in the House together for 21 and a half years. He has been a part of our collective lives here, part of my life here, and certainly part of that life I will always recall with great affection.

I appreciated his sense of humour. I appreciated the care he often demonstrated for this institution and the integrity with which he carried out his duties. I appreciated the work he and Mr. Montpetit did to put together the procedural book.

I hope against hope he will not write a memoir, gathering together the most eccentric behaviour he witnessed on the part of members of parliament over the 30 years. However it might be a best seller, one never knows.

I hope he will write a book on parliamentary reform. I notice he has already authored an article or two in some journals about this. Free of the constraints of the Table, and I say this with all due appreciation for the Chair and the Table, he might be able to offer us even better advice on how we might improve this place than he was able to do as Clerk of the House of Commons.

Robert Marleau
Private Members' Business

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Report stage.

Robert Marleau
Private Members' Business

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Report stage is just what I had written down here. Maybe that was the reason he retired; he could not face another marathon vote. In his retirement, if he could crack that nut for us, that would be a good idea.

The clerk is obviously a party to many of the rulings. You also are leaving, Mr. Speaker. I will tell both of you, given that you probably conspired together on this, that only once did I profoundly disagree with both of you. That was with respect to the treatment of independent members and the whole question of party status in the previous parliament. Even though I did not agree with you, I never once doubted that you were acting as you saw best and out of a sense of integrity and commitment to your own view of what was appropriate.

I wish Bob and the members of his family, who have much to be proud of, all the best in the future. Future clerks, including our new clerk, have big shoes to fill. Bob has left a legacy of service we will always cherish.

Robert Marleau
Private Members' Business

4:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is also a great pleasure for me, a young member of parliament, to join my colleagues in paying tribute to Mr. Marleau.

He was perhaps one of the first people I met when I arrived here, completely confused and overwhelmed by the tasks that lay before me. Parliament and parliamentary procedure can sometimes be described as navigating an incredible labyrinth and untying a Gordian knot at the same time. Mr. Marleau was very quick to come forward and offer advice and calm support. He was always very deliberate and supportive any time I had the pleasure to meet with him or request assistance.

Mr. Marleau offered that help on a very non-partisan level, as has been alluded to. There was never a nod or a wink or any indication that any member of any party of the House, regardless of title or personal connection, received anything other than an impartial and straightforward word of advice.

Mr. Marleau has also distinguished himself as an author. He has made a very lasting contribution to this place through his writings. He and his co-author, Mr. Montpetit, have left with us a legacy that will serve this parliament and perhaps all parliaments in the land for many years to come. The House of Commons will no doubt miss his wisdom and his steady hand, but through his writings he will be with us for many years to come.

I would describe Mr. Marleau as the consummate impeccable, professional clerk. His approach as viewed from a distance was always very steadying in its influence on this place. Most would be quick to agree that sometimes this place borders on the raucous and out of control atmosphere we have come to accept. Through it all Mr. Marleau was there, very much at the wheel, very much guiding us through the important work done in this Chamber. The old adage that quiet, calm deliberation disentangles any knot comes to mind when I think of Mr. Marleau and his stewardship in the House of Commons.

For his years of public service to the House of Commons we are very thankful. As well, we must pay tribute to those who were with him at the table.

I do not want to mix the tributes, but it has been my distinct pleasure to have been in a parliament over which you have presided, Mr. Speaker. I have had the honour to work with Mr. Marleau. I hope it will serve me regardless of what happens in the days to come.

On a personal level, it has been my great honour to say that I know the man. I admire the diligence and patience he has shown with new House members, including me, and with the many others who have expressed an interest in our parliamentary procedure. I believe he went above and beyond his service and the strict professional definition of clerk when it came to inquiries from outside this parliamentary precinct. He was always there, and for that we can be very thankful.

I know his family is present. His family was always near, always close to him. I remember being in his office and hearing him speak with beaming pride of his sons. He also has great love for and admiration of his wife and her support. I wish Bob, his wife Ann, their two sons and their whole family many years of happy retirement. I certainly hope we will cross paths again.

Robert Marleau
Private Members' Business

4:20 p.m.

The Speaker

I am hosting a reception in honour of Bob, his wife and his two sons in my chambers, 220 North. I invite all of you to join me. We can continue this conversation there.

Bob, on behalf of all of us here we thank you for your great service to the House of Commons.

Business Of The House
Private Members' Business

October 19th, 2000 / 4:20 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the House leader's job on Thursday is to ask the Thursday question, which is about upcoming business.

Canadians want to know what the business will be for the rest of the day, for tomorrow and for the weeks to come. The government made a lot important claims. It claimed it wanted to change financial administration. It claimed it wanted changes to immigration and citizenship. It claimed it wanted to change the Young Offenders Act. It claimed a lot of things that are not getting done.

Canadians want to know why an election when there is so much important legislation we could be working on over the next couple of weeks.

Business Of The House
Private Members' Business

4:20 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to answer that question for the Leader of the Opposition, who called for an election, but unfortunately I cannot. I can only deal with the business question, which I will do.

This afternoon we will deal with Bill C-44. Tomorrow we will consider Bill C-15, water exports. We will continue debating that item on Monday. I wish to designate next Tuesday an opposition day.

In the unlikely event that I am not able to participate in the opposition day debate next Tuesday, when I would want to speak on this subject, I want now to take this opportunity to thank the the House leader of the official opposition, the member for Fraser Valley; the hon. member for Roberval; the hon. member for Winnipeg—Transcona; and the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough for the excellent work they have done in their capacity as House leaders for their respective parties.

By tomorrow this institution will have passed 111 bills, I believe, since the last election. Perhaps there will be more to come in the next few days and weeks. Who knows? We succeeded in having parliament function well, given the five party system and so on, largely because of the excellent work and leadership provided by the people I have just named. I thank them for their co-operation and dedication in making this great institution work.

Business Of The House
Private Members' Business

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I take the point the government House leader makes that the so-called pizza parliament has worked out better. I would not say it went from being a pizza parliament to a peaceful parliament but somewhere in between the dire predictions that were made.

Obviously the business of the House for this week continues unabated. I wonder if the House leader could explain to me why there were no Liberals present a few minutes ago when the auditor general appeared before the public accounts committee, which meant that the auditor general, who has made a report that everyone is interested in, could not be questioned by opposition members.

It seems to me this has to do with government business. It has to do with a matter of parliamentary business. It is very shameful that no government members were there and the committee could not meet. Perhaps the government House leader could explain that.

Business Of The House
Private Members' Business

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

It is difficult for me, as a relatively junior member compared with the hon. member for Winnipeg—Transcona, to intervene in this regard. However, I am aware of the fact that committees are creatures of their own invention. I do not know it is appropriate that this is part of the Thursday question or a point of order associated with the Thursday question.

If the government House leader would care to respond I am sure there would be no problem.

Business Of The House
Private Members' Business

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it would seem to me that only God is a creature of his own invention. Committees are creatures of the House, and therefore somebody has to be answerable when the government is behaving in this very peculiar way.

Business Of The House
Private Members' Business

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Perhaps the government whip will be able to shed some light on this.

Business Of The House
Private Members' Business

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am at a loss for words. I will certainly look into the matter. If what the member for Winnipeg—Transcona has reported has occurred, and I am sure it is accurately reported, it is totally unacceptable. This is something I would hope would never happen. I regret if it did happen, and certainly I will give it my utmost attention.