House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

10 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

moved that Bill C-44, an act to amend the Aeronautics Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-44, amendments to the Aeronautics Act, concerning the provision of information to foreign states. This is another important step in the government's fight against terrorism.

Before September 11, it was assumed that individuals who were planning to hijack a plane would bring traditional weapons with them. Since September 11, it is obvious that this is absolutely not the case.

As members well know, last week I introduced Bill C-42, the Public Safety Act. This bill has been shaped by bringing forward amendments identified during normal reviews of several of the 19 existing acts, including the Aeronautics Act.

All the reviews dealt specifically with the prevention and response provisions in a time of increased security concerns.

The basic objective of Bill C-44 is to ensure the Government of Canada has the proper authority to establish and maintain an appropriate security program for the protection of Canadians.

In Bill C-44, which was created by removing a small section from Bill C-42, the government proposes to amend the Aeronautics Act. I want to thank the members of the opposition parties at this time for agreeing to extract the proposed amendment of section 4.83 to the Aeronautics Act with respect to the provision of information and putting it in its own bill, standing in its own right so that we could have early passage. I think that by doing this we will be able to enhance the ability of Canadian air carriers to work with their international partners, in particular our American friends to the south, to take other positive steps toward deterring and detecting terrorists.

The particular amendment contained in C-44 addresses the provision of passenger and crew member data to our international partners in the interest of transportation security. I believe the proposed amendment allows for the capture of just enough of the data held by Canadian carriers to provide for increased passenger safety through the intelligent use of modern information technology.

On November 19, the day before we put Bill C-42 on the notice paper, the president of the United States signed into law a new act which requires, among other things, that advance passenger information be provided in respect of all flights entering the United States.

I want to stress that the information the Americans have asked all airlines to automatically provide is the same as that which is now provided by individual passengers to U.S. customs officials when they land in the United States today.

Indeed, the majority of Canadians entering the United States do so through U.S. pre-clearance facilities at major airports and so are already providing this information to American authorities prior to the departure of their flight from Canada.

The information to be automatically provided is quite basic: the name of the passenger, the gender, birthdate, citizenship, passport number and visa number if applicable with country of issuance. On a person by person basis, however, additional information could be requested.

As I said, the American legislation requiring this information was signed by Mr. Bush on November 19, the day before my colleague, the government House leader, advised the House that we would be bringing forward an omnibus bill on public safety and the bill was put on the notice paper.

MPs were briefed on Thursday, November 22, and the bill was introduced at 10 a.m. that day. Since that time, we have been informed by our friends in the United States that they have indicated a desire to implement the data provisions of their new act quickly. Currently they will deal with the situation either by receiving the information or by carrying out extensive hand screening of carry on and checked baggage upon arrival of flights into the United States, which we can appreciate would be very time consuming.

By advancing, as Bill C-44, this portion of our public safety act, Bill C-42, which deals with provision of passenger information to foreign states, we will be able to prepare regulations that will allow Canadian air carriers to provide approved information to approved countries.

In answer to a question from the hon. member for Roberval the other day in question period, I assure him that we would have available draft regulations today for hon. members to look at because it is a very crucial issue. I regret the fact that I was in Vancouver until late last night and I only just signed off on them. They are now in the process of final preparation and we hope to give them to the House leader for distribution within the next hour or two. I hope hon. members will take that as a sign of good faith on the part of the government that we want to work with all members to ensure that the information that is to be provided is both appropriate and conforms with our privacy legislation and the expectations of Canadians that private information pertaining to them and members of their families be only made available to other governments in the most extreme of circumstances. Of course the circumstances surrounding the events of September 11 are well known.

The fact is that Canada is among a handful of countries that were legally impeded from making this information available. Therefore I hope that Canadians do not think that somehow we are doing something that is inappropriate or out of the norm. The fact is that we are really conforming to the practice of most nation states in making this information available.

I should state as another principle, in case any people in the country feel that somehow the U.S. is extracting some kind of a commitment or influence over our own decision making, that every country in the world has the right to know who is coming into its nation's borders and the Americans are no exception. However, certainly since September 11, they are particularly sensitive about this and they certainly have the right to this information. By swift passage of the bill, we will be able to comply with their own domestic legislation which really does not have a degree of flexibility. Should we not pass this and have it proclaimed into law by early January, then our carriers would be subject to extensive delay, and no one wants that given the state of the airline industry. No passengers want it and I certainly do not think the governments of the United States and Canada want that.

I hope members will send the bill to committee where there will be a thoughtful discussion. The government certainly remains very flexible on dealing with all the various concerns that may be raised, especially those dealing with privacy.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in favour of Bill C-44 which is what we are discussing today. In the aftermath of September 11 there has been a blur of legislative activity on both sides of the 49th parallel. In the United States a mere 10 days after the horrendous attacks Senator Ernest Fritz Hollings of South Carolina introduced Bill S. 1447, the aviation and transportation security act.

In one bold act congress sought to restore the confidence of the American flying public. Passengers, baggage, mail and cargo were to be screened. In-flight crew were to be mandated new training to deal with air rage or terrorist crisis management. Air marshals were to appear on U.S. airliners. A complex passenger profiling system was to be enhanced.

Despite an anthrax attack on Capitol Hill which shut down congressional offices, consensus was quickly reached to prove that while America led an impressive fight against terrorism abroad the fight at home would be fought with even more strength.

The bill moved through both houses of congress faster than a rumour through the press corps. President Bush signed the bill into law a mere eight weeks after its introduction.

In Canada the blur of activity was akin to the way tires spin during the first winter snowstorm. There was a lot of noise and a touch of smoke but little action. The government was about as agile and surefooted as a newborn calf. Unlike the calf, however, the Prime Minister and transport minister are seasoned politicians with nearly 50 years of parliamentary experience between them. The lack of leadership would have been funny if it were not so dangerous and destructive to the air industry.

The Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations was promptly mandated to look into aviation security but the government quickly put forward what it saw as more urgent matters. The Civil Aviation Tribunal needed to be extended to cover mariners. Air Canada's 15% share limit needed to be raised so people who owned less than 10% of its shares could somehow be encouraged to buy more. The Warsaw convention of 1929 needed to be amended for the third millennium. All these were important priorities but they were not priorities at all for the air industry or Canadians.

The standing committee was paying attention to the matter of aviation security. I will not omit that. However while witnesses from Air Canada, the pilots association and CUPE were advocating air marshals and other security measures the government was desperately trying to be seen to be acting although it was in no way sure what it wanted to achieve or how.

On the eve of the standing committee's scheduled November 26 to November 27 trip to Washington, D.C., the rumour mill began to swirl with promises of action. On November 20 at about 5.25 in the evening the government House leader sought unanimous consent to suspend the standing orders to introduce a government bill at 2 o'clock the next afternoon.

The bill, an act to amend certain acts of Canada, and to enact measures for implementing the biological and toxin weapons convention, in order to enhance public safety, would be complex and a briefing to staff would be offered.

Two months had passed since Senator Hollings introduced the aviation and transportation security act. There was now a flicker of hope that our government would react and do something.

At 2 p.m. on November 21 the promised bill was nowhere in sight. Last minute problems delayed its introduction. The bill, Bill C-42, was introduced the next day on November 22. It contained some 19 parts dealing with everything from money laundering to the implementation of a 1977 treaty on biotoxins. A miniature section on aviation security was thrown in for good measure and optics.

With the same deft touch which marked the bill's introduction, this past Wednesday at 3.05 p.m., within a week of Bill C-42's first reading in the House, the government House leader was again on his feet to state that unanimous consent had been obtained to delete section 4.83 in clause 5 from Bill C-42 and introduce a new bill under the guise of Bill C-44 introducing that section immediately, and that the new bill be ordered for consideration at second reading for today, Friday, November 30, less than two sittings days later.

Yesterday the House ran out of things to say and there were calls to adjourn early. On the one hand the government agenda is light, but the need to add the contents of section 4.83 in clause 5 of former Bill C-42 to the Aeronautics Act is urgent. Given the recent directionless hurry up and wait antics of the government one must wonder why one clause would matter so much.

There is a saying that everything makes sense. In other words, if one examines a situation long enough, hard enough and carefully enough eventually one will understand why it is the way it is. For this reason we need to look at the clauses of Bill C-42 which deal with the type of information an airline or other transport authority may provide to authorities.

Essentially there were three clauses. First, section 4.82 of clause 5 would allow the Minister of Transport to require any air carrier to provide him with information that is in the air carrier's control concerning persons on board or expected to be on board an aircraft for any flight to which the minister believes there is a threat.

Second, section 4.83 of clause 5 would allow a Canadian airline operating an international flight to a foreign state to provide to a competent authority in that state:

--any information that is in its control relating to persons on board or expected to be on board the aircraft and that is required by the laws of the foreign state.

Third, section 69 would add a new section, 88.1, to the Immigration Act. The new section would read:

(1) A transportation company bringing persons to Canada shall, in accordance with the regulations, provide prescribed information, including documentation and reports.

The summary which accompanied Bill C-42 said the first two clauses:

--require air carriers or persons who operate aviation reservation systems to provide information to the Minister concerning specified flights or persons.

The same summary stated that the third clause:

--requires transportation companies bringing persons to Canada to provide prescribed information, which will enhance the Department's ability to perform border checks and execute arrest warrants.

Sections 4.82 and 4.83 of clause 5 had a different purpose than section 69 so it is perhaps not a complete surprise that they address different types of information. However it may come as a surprise to some members of the House that airlines maintain two different types of files on their passengers.

First, there is the passenger name record or PNR. This is the file the airline creates when it reserves a flight for a passenger. It contains information such as the passenger's name, address, phone number and form of payment. It also contains reservation information regarding boarding city, destination, connections, flight numbers, dates, stops and seat assignment. Based on this information the manifest is prepared for each flight showing who is sitting where. At present the information is routinely handed over to authorities when there is an airline accident.

Second, there is the APIS or advance passenger information system. It includes five different fields: passenger name and date of birth, citizenship or nationality, document issuing country, gender and passport number or document number. Other than the passenger's name this information is not normally collected by the airlines. Unless passports are machine readable much of the information must be entered manually.

For this reason airlines only collect the information when they must provide it to immigration authorities. Currently the United States requires this type of information for U.S. bound Asian passengers transiting through Vancouver under the Canada-U.S. memorandum of understanding which allows such passengers to go to U.S. customs without first passing through Canada customs.

It is my understanding that sections 4.82 and 4.83 of clause 5 of Bill C-42 would have required the airlines to give PNR information to the Minister of Transport and section 69 would have required them to give APIS information to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Let us contrast this to the U.S. legislation. The new U.S. aviation and transportation security act mandates the administrator of the federal aviation administration to require air carriers to expand the application of the current computer assisted passenger pre-screening system, CAPPS, to all passengers regardless of baggage. Passengers selected under the CAPPS system are subject to additional security measures including checks of persons and carry-on baggage before boarding.

Both PNR and APIS information is sent electronically to the U.S. customs service supercomputer in Newington, Virginia, where the CAPPS system enables the passenger profiling that keeps America's skies safe.

The U.S. is actively fighting a war on terrorism. It is walking the talk, unlike the Government of Canada which is not. Thus it is instructional to read section 115 of America's aviation and transportation security act. It states:

(1) IN GENERAL--Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, each air carrier and foreign air carrier operating a passenger flight in foreign air transportation to the United States shall provide to the Commissioner of Customs by electronic transmission a passenger and crew manifest containing the information specified in paragraph (2). Carriers may use the advanced passenger information system [APIS]--

(2) INFORMATION--A passenger and crew manifest for a flight required under paragraph (1) shall contain the following information:

(A) The full name of each passenger and crew member.

(B) The date of birth and citizenship of each passenger and crew member.

(C) The sex of each passenger and crew member.

(D) The passport number and country of issuance of each passenger and crew member if required for travel.

(E) The United States visa number or resident alien card number of each passenger and crew member, as applicable.

(F) Such other information as the Under Secretary, in consultation with the Commissioner of Customs, determines is reasonably necessary to ensure aviation safety.

(3) PASSENGER NAME RECORDS--The carriers shall make passenger name record information available to the Customs Service upon request.

Subsection 4.83(1) of clause 5 of Bill C-42 would amend the Aeronautics Act by adding this to it:

Despite section 5 of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, to the extent that that section relates to obligations set out in Schedule 1 to that Act relating to the disclosure of information, an operator of an aircraft departing from Canada or of a Canadian aircraft departing from any place outside Canada may, in accordance with the regulations, provide to a competent authority in a foreign state any information that is in its control relating to persons on board or expected to be on board the aircraft and that is required by the laws of the foreign state.

If we boil this down to its essentials it means that an operator of an aircraft departing from Canada or a Canadian aircraft departing from any place outside Canada may provide to a competent authority any information that is required by the laws of the foreign state relating to persons on board.

For example, the words “operator of an aircraft departing from Canada” would allow Air Canada to give the U.S. customs service the information that section 115 of the U.S. aviation and transportation security act would mandate with respect to passengers on its transborder routes.

Similarly the words “Canadian aircraft departing from any place outside Canada” would permit Air Canada to give the same information with respect to its flights from Australia, New Zealand and Honolulu en route to Canada.

Members will remember that I said everything makes sense. I was trying to figure out why after several aborted attempts by the government to improve aviation security in Canada Bill C-44 was being rushed through with such haste. I had a look at section 115 of the U.S. aviation and transportation security act and I think I found my answer.

There are two concepts in it that are important. First, it would apply to both U.S. and foreign carriers flying to the United States from other countries. It would therefore apply to Air Canada and charter flights operated by Air Transat, WestJet and Skyservice.

Second, section 115 of the U.S. aviation and transportation security act would come into force not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of the act which was signed by President Bush on November 19.

That means it would come into force January 18, 2002, before the House of Commons has returned from Christmas break. If Canadian carriers are to be able to comply with the U.S. legislation the House must add the text of section 4.83 of clause 5 of Bill C-42 to the Aeronautics Act before it rises in the third week of December.

We are discussing the clause today not because of any desire of the government to make our skies safer or show leadership through decisive action. We are discussing it because the U.S. acted and Canada's airlines told the government if it could not lead it should at least follow the U.S. and do so quickly.

Canadians can thank the U.S. congress for the bill. To the extent that it would keep our skies safer, credit should not go to the government but to the air industry for leaning on the government to follow the United States.

In the meantime Canadians are left waiting and wondering when a hint of leadership about the broader questions of airport and airline security may tumble out of the government and cabinet and into legislation. It has been 13 weeks since the terrorist attacks and no serious legislative action has yet been taken by the government.

It makes one wonder. Our airport security system has been clearly documented to be inadequate in terms of security. New security regimes are being put in place in countless other countries. There are public demands for a new security system. Air carriers are demanding new management of airports and airline security. Pilots and flight crews are demanding new security regimes. There has been a massive drop in consumer confidence in flying, not to mention terrorist attacks and a war.

If this environment is not enough to inspire action from the government one must wonder if it will ever get off its backside and show leadership on the issue of airline and airport security. I am not holding my breath.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-44.

First, I would like to try to explain how the Liberal federal government has been having a bad week since last Thursday. At the same time, it is important for Quebec and Canadian people to understand how we can go from the 98 page bill tabled last week to the one page bill tabled in a rush today under a new number.

It is important to understand that because there has been numerous discussions on Bill C-36, the Anti-terrorism Act, and on Bill C-42, the Public Safety Act.

Right from the start, we noticed that Bill C-42 on public safety contained no aviation security provision. No investment, no measure was announced in it. That was our first finding. Besides, people had great expectations that the bill sponsored by the transport minister could reassure them with regard to airport security and aviation safety, but it failed to do so. The minister candidly admitted to it for that matter. Budget measures will re required, which the finance minister will hopefully put forward on December 10 next.

Why did he introduce this voluminous 98 page Bill C-42? As the transport minister told us earlier, it is because the U.S. government had tabled a legislation on aviation safety the day before. The Canadian government, which was working on a public safety legislation, tabled it on the next day.

At the outset, as I already told Quebecers who are listening, there was nothing new announced about airline security. There were, however, major announcements the new powers which the government wanted through interim orders, without the authorization of the House. The words interim order were invented to allow the health, agriculture, environment and other ministers to make from time to time emergency orders, which would have the force of regulations and which would be implemented immediately, without going through the regular review procedure, especially the security procedure enacted by the government through the Privy Council to determine whether those orders are consistent with the Canadian Charters of Rights and Freedoms. This was the first main thing we saw.

Second, there was the issue of military security zones, about which the Minister of National Defence gave wonderful speeches this week.

The Bloc Quebecois, as an opposition party should, did its homework, went over the bill and asked questions in the House directly to the Prime Minister. First, we asked a very simple question to the Prime Minister “What would Bill C-42 allow you to do that you did not do in September?” Of course, the Prime Minister let the Minister of Transport answer the question. They were not able to tell us what they could not have done in September, why we should have this bill and how it would allow us to respond in a better way. The minister gave a very evasive answer.

There was obviously no answer to the question, because intervention occurred under the current regulation. Since the public sought some reassurance, the government used legislation under its jurisdiction. Ministers used the powers they had. Apart from a few mistakes, by the Health Minister, for instance, the government managed rather well. It did not, however, need new legislation to deal with such tragic events as those of September 11.

We have to understand that for many years ministers, departments and officials have had expectations, and would have liked more power. Bill C-42 was probably a good opportunity for the ministers to include all the traditional demands of their departments and officials so that they can have control without the members of parliament being involved and without any parliamentary process, something which is too cumbersome for some. For others, of course, this process is necessary.

This is what happened with Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism bill. The government proudly said “See, we have introduced a bill that has gone through all the legislative stages. Members of parliament have been able to debate the bill at second reading, in committee, and at third reading. They had the opportunity to move amendments.”

The legislative process has been so well followed that, last Wednesday, the government gagged the opposition. The government prevented us from going on with the debate to better explain to the citizens the content of Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism bill. We were gagged.

So, on Wednesday, the debate ended because of the Liberals' decision to issue a gag order. Bill C-36 was passed in virtually the same form as it was introduced, despite the fact that the Bloc Quebecois alone had moved 66 amendments, of which only one was retained. That amendment was to include the word cemetery in the list of objects which could be considered as being part of hate crimes. We have to hand it to the government for having included the word cemetery.

However, there were some very important issues, and some very important discussions. There were more than 80 witnesses heard by the committee who asked, almost unanimously, that some significant restrictions be added. Among the restrictions was the sunset clause, proposed by the Bloc Quebecois, to limit the bill in time to a three year period, given that the bill creates new provisions and new limits to personal freedom. This did not happen. We wanted an annual review. The government did not retain this idea.

Once again, the government used the legislative process. For Bill C-36, the government used the process to say, “listen, the committee worked on the bill and you had your chance to be heard. In the end, we will not retain anything”. This is clearly this government's motto: zip, we will not retain anything. This is how the Liberal government operates.

It is especially difficult when, in the same week, there is debate on bills as important as Bill C-42, which introduces interim orders. It grants exceptional powers to ministers, to individuals. Take the example military security zones. It provides the Minister of National Defence with the power to establish, on his own authority, military security zones, without the provincial attorneys general even requesting it, which was the case until now.

Quebecers who are listening should know that, thanks to the good work of the Bloc Quebecois, and the other members of the opposition in the House, Bill C-42 will not be passed before the holidays. This is why we are debating Bill C-44.

They have taken the only urgent measure, the only truly urgent measure, from Bill C-42, and that is obviously what the minister has introduced today. An independent bill has been created, Bill C-44, an act to amend the Aeronautics Act, in order to comply with U.S. requirements for air carriers taking passengers to the United States or through U.S. airspace.

This is indeed the only measure that was really necessary and urgent in Bill C-42, as I said at the beginning of my speech. How, within one week, can a bill of 98 pages be introduced? Finally, and everyone agrees on this, the only true emergency measure is the single page representing clause 4.83. That is the change that has been made and I will address that shortly.

So that is what the Liberal government's difficult week has been all about. It has once again tried to pull a fast one on all Quebecers, all Canadians, in the guise of a concern for national security.

It is sad because, when it comes down to the bottom line, if Bill C-42 had been passed this week, the terrorists would have succeeded in what they were trying to do from the start, which is to directly attack the very foundations of our liberal and democratic society.

This is the worst of it. Rather than discussing real security problems, announcing measures, announcing budgets, the government has introduced a bill. The Minister of Transport could very well have caused a real hullabaloo in the House by pressuring the Minister of Finance, by saying “This is what we need to have enhanced security, and this is what it will cost, according to a number of people who came before us in committee. This is what the people of Quebec and of Canada need”.

That is not what was done. A bill was introduced. It was just smoke and mirrors to distract Quebecers and Canadians, and all because last Wednesday the U.S. government introduced a real air security bill.

This is why today, before Bill C-44, we are all to understand that it was an emergency measure. This is why the Bloc Quebecois told the House on Tuesday of its clear desire to debate a bill that gave Canadians some security. This measure alone, which was contained in C-42 and which we are debating today, is intended to harmonize Canadian legislation with American legislation that came into effect on November 19 in the United States.

I will read the American text, so it will be clear what the Canadian legislation should include:

Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act [American], each air carrier and foreign air carrier operating a passenger flight in foreign air transportation to the United States shall provide to the Commissioner of Customs by electronic transmission a passenger and crew manifest... to provide the information required by the preceding sentence.

(a) the full name of each passenger and crew member;

(b) the date of birth and citizenship of each passenger and crew member;

(c) the sex of each passenger and crew member;

(d) the passport number and country of issuance for each passenger and crew member, if required for travel;

(e) The United States visa number or resident alien card number of each passenger and crew member, as applicable;

(f) Such other information as the Under Secretary, in consultation with the Commissioner of Customs, determines is reasonably necessary to ensure aviation safety.

This is therefore the request the Americans are making of all foreign countries whose airlines are passing through the United States either carrying passengers to the United States or passing over American airspace.

Of course, since our American friends are asking, it is important that we, as responsible neighbours, comply with their requirements.

As for the bill before us, the Bloc Quebecois will support this measure to standardize the information to be provided on passengers. However, we have to be careful. The American legislation, which I have read, is clear, but the bill introduced in the House today is not so clear.

I will quote clause 4.83 of the bill, for the benefit of Quebecers. In any case, there are only four paragraphs in the bill.

4.83 (1) Despite section 5 of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, to the extent that that section relates to obligations set out in Schedule 1 to that Act ... an operator of an aircraft departing from Canada or of a Canadian aircraft departing from any place outside Canada may, in accordance with the regulations, provide to a competent authority in a foreign state any information that is in its control relating to persons on board or expected to be on board the aircraft and that is required by the laws of the foreign state.

So, this first paragraph says that we will provide the information requested by foreign states. However, the second paragraph provides that:

(2) The Governor in Council may make regulations generally for carrying out the purposes of this section, including regulations:

(a) respecting the type or classes of information that may be provided; or

(b) specifying the foreign states to which information may be provided.

So, regulations will have to be made and this is why the Bloc Quebecois asked the Leader of the Government in the House yesterday if, considering that the clause before us is not clear as to the information to be provided, we could have the regulations which, among other things, will govern the type or classes of information that may be provided.

We had indeed been told that today we would be provided with a draft or at least with the speech notes on the regulations. This is what the minister seems to have promised for noon today. We could certainly consider those notes or the first draft of the regulations the government intends to propose and pass. We hope to have the opportunity to discuss the matter before the House adjourns for the Christmas recess.

It should not be forgotten that under the U.S. order that I was reading earlier, Canada has to adopt some measures before January 18, 2002 and it must be able to produce the regulations and the list of information that the Americans might demand regarding the carriers transporting passengers to the United States or flying over U.S. air space.

I am repeating it again to all Quebecers and Canadians listening to us, we started off last week with a 98 page bill from which we extracted the only emergency measure contained in Bill C-42, that is the measure regarding the information on passengers that we will have to submit if we want our airline companies to be authorized to continue to do business in the United States, and we drafted a separate bill.

It was a very difficult week for the federal Liberal government because, once again, it tried to present a distorted picture of Quebecers and Canadians. We are much more on the ball than people in many other countries around the world.

The Liberals are lucky enough to have opposition parties that know how to read legislation and guess at the intentions of ministers, who too often take advantage of crisis situations, such as the events of September 11, to try to make some old dreams come true. For the Minister of National Defence, the dream is to have his army operate anywhere in Canada, and particularly in Quebec, even if the governor general or the provinces have not asked that the army be called in.

It is hard for opposition parties in this House to put up with situations like what happened last week, when we were gagged and unable to debate Bill C-36. We are prevented from speaking. The following day, the proceedings of this House were interrupted for two hours because there was nothing to debate. This is what the Canadian parliament has come to. Canadians and Quebecers who are listening must realize this.

As things stand now, the federal Liberal government is too strong and believes it can do as it pleases. Once again, I trust Quebecers and Canadians. They see what is happening, just as we do, and they will increasingly trust the Bloc Quebecois and the opposition parties to defend their interests.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-44 on behalf of the NDP caucus.

The bill is clearly part of a much broader agenda with respect to phase two of the government's determination to pursue broad, wide sweeping and very comprehensive legislation. On the one hand the bill appears to deal with issues of security, issues which we all share, but on the other hand very much impedes civil liberties and human rights.

We will be consistent on the issue. We have said from day one with respect to Bill C-36 and now with respect to Bill C-42 that the government has crossed the line between balancing those two concerns, between standing up for measures that actually address in real terms the threat of terrorism and respecting Canada's longstanding traditions and historic developments in civil liberties and human rights.

It is good that the Minister of Transport has introduced Bill C-44. He has carved off one specific section from the massive piece of anti-terrorist legislation for our consideration today. In the process he has left us presumably some time to deliberate, to discuss with Canadians the full ramification of the provisions in Bill C-42. I hope that is the case. That was certainly our concern with respect to Bill C-36.

The minister may talk about the time given to the House to deliberate on that very massive piece of legislation which impacts on almost every aspect of our lives. The government came in with a heavy hand. It gave a window of opportunity to hear some testimony from Canadians but then without due consideration to the amendments being proposed by those organizations or by opposition members, the government proceeded as it had originally wished, with the exception of some housekeeping amendments. That is clearly unacceptable. We have said that over the last few days.

The events leading up to yesterday's developments and the commotion in the House yesterday speak to that precisely. It was a fascinating day yesterday in the House. There have been fascinating developments over the last couple of days.

The Conservatives in the House have gone through a remarkable conversion from a position of support for Bill C-36 to a position yesterday of strong opposition to Bill C-42. Many have questioned how this is possible. A Conservative member has said that it was a logical thing to do. That is what we are searching for; we are trying to find some logic in the Conservative position.

At least in the case of the Bloc members who voted for Bill C-36 at second reading, they wanted to reserve judgment at third reading based on the testimony and concerns raised. Bloc members listened and acted on those concerns and ended up opposing Bill C-36.

In the case of the Conservatives, my goodness, they spoke with such opposition to Bill C-36 and ended up supporting it at third reading. One has to wonder, as someone said to me, if they woke up the morning after having slept with the Liberals feeling guilty and had to do a quick change in position based on those feelings of guilt. I hope instead that it is a case of the Conservatives seeing the light of day and realizing just what kind of pervasive stranglehold the government has over our society as a result of Bill C-36 and with respect to Bill C-42.

It is clearly an issue today of trying to find a balance between civil liberties and dealing with serious threats. No one here is suggesting that the threat to our security as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks is not real nor that action should not be taken to address those threats. That is exactly what we have been trying to do in the course of debate, to find that balance.

We have been trying to persuade the Minister of Justice and now the Minister of Transport to find that balance and truly represent the concerns of Canadians. It is the kind of balance we hope will be achieved in the final analysis at least with respect to Bill C-42. It may be too late for Bill C-36 although it is still in the Senate and who knows what can happen. It is certainly not too late for Bill C-42. We now have a much greater consolidation of concern on the part of the opposition, with the exception of Alliance members who feel that even these major intrusive measures are wimpy. It is hard to imagine that kind of viewpoint is alive and well in this Chamber but it is.

This is probably the most draconian piece of legislation in the history of the country and the Alliance finds it wimpy. The Alliance claims it does not go far enough. It wants to see tougher measures. It wants to take away all our rights and liberties in the interests of terrorism. That is certainly a marginal position. It is not even on the table. The work of the majority of parliamentarians with cool heads and rational judgment is to find the common ground to balance security with civil liberties.

Bill C-44 represents one small part of the wide sweeping, major anti-terrorist legislation, Bill C-42. We in the NDP certainly support the legislation going to committee. It should be studied and dealt with expeditiously. However we have some concerns. There are real questions about what Bill C-44 means in terms of privacy in Canada and in terms of protecting individual rights and freedoms.

It is very disconcerting not to have a clear understanding from the Minister of Transport as to what it means for Canada to provide passenger lists for every airline crossing into American airspace. What does it mean to collect all that information and where does it go? What does it mean when the government says it will release the passenger lists and crew data to a foreign government where such information is required by the laws of the country? What laws and according to what standards, values and principles? When do we draw the line between providing necessary information to ensure the threat of security is addressed and allowing foreign invasion of individual rights to privacy?

There is no question that some action has to be taken in terms of security at our airports. Our caucus has been very clear about wanting beefed up security at our airports. We have raised numerous concerns about the chaos in the airline industry. We would like to see some real leadership from the government about the crisis at Air Canada, about the collapse of Canada 3000, about the turmoil and uncertainty facing air travellers and the chaos at the airports themselves.

It would be good to have a comprehensive piece of legislation from the minister dealing with the crisis in the airline industry and a comprehensive plan on airline and airport security. This kind of patchwork, ad hoc response is not that helpful in dealing with the bigger picture. It is not apparent to us how this kind of initiative will fundamentally address the root causes of terrorism.

Given the incidents over the last few days and weeks, we are concerned about racial profiling. We are obviously concerned about what happens to passenger lists, given the incident recently reported about a member of our Sikh community travelling by air and being pulled off the plane because of the way he looked. This was done clearly not taking into account cultural mannerisms and not being sensitive to the diversity of this nation.

What happens if an airline en route from Winnipeg to Ottawa travelling through American airspace has a couple of Sikh names or Arab sounding names on that list? Are these people singled out? Given past experience are we looking at people being identified and under suspicion because of how they look, the colour of their skin, what they are wearing, what their body language is and what their facial expressions are?

We have legitimate reasons to be concerned given what has happened in the last few weeks. The number of people who are being detained as an ethnic group and questioned on the basis of their ethnic origin raises suspicion. Suspicion is also raised when people are being detained without access to legal assistance and an understanding of why they are being detained without evidence of any wrongdoing. All that gives us great concern.

It makes us wonder how the government will go down this path and ensure that our diversity is respected and individual rights and freedoms are preserved in Canada if it cannot handle the situations we have had over the last few weeks.

We will support Bill C-44 going to committee. We want to hear answers to many questions and raise concerns. NDP members want to give a cautionary note to the government about Bill C-42. This is broad, sweeping legislation that tips the balance in favour of security over civil liberties and human rights.

We are asking the government why it is trampling on rights and freedoms in order to achieve greater security in this country. I do not think the government has an answer for that. In many ways it has leapt into this area with the determination to have a quick response without thinking through the final impact of its decisions.

The government has to sit back, look at the situation and start to act in the interests of Canadian traditions and values. It must know full well that we have the means, the ability and the tools to attempt to offer security to all Canadians without taking away basic rights and freedoms.

We look forward to having the legislation debated in committee. My party will be raising many concerns at that point. The New Democratic Party hopes the government makes a commitment in this process to allow Canadians to be heard on Bill C-42. All members should work together to achieve the balance between protecting people against the threat of terrorism and standing up and protecting the rights and freedoms of Canadians.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord
Québec

Liberal

André Harvey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking all the members of the Standing Committee on Transport with whom we have had the opportunity to work. After the many hearings we held on issues having to do with the terrorism crisis, I can say that airline safety in this country is considered among the best in the world.

All the work done since September 11, both by the Minister of Transport and all his colleagues, and by all government agencies, is the envy of many other countries.

We were also able to visit Washington and hold hearings there. The way airline safety is handled in this country is considered second to none right now. There are still improvements to be made. We will make them, and are making them daily.

I do not want everything to be lumped together here this morning. There was reference to Bill C-36, to which substantial amendments were made. It is a shame to hear otherwise. If there were marks for exaggeration, many members of this House would have no trouble passing. They are lumping all the bills together.

We are looking at Bill C-44. I would like to ask the New Democratic Party member what she means—

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the honourable parliamentary secretary, but he will be able to continue with his comments and his question after oral question period and routine proceedings today.

Crohn's and Colitis
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I inform the House and all Canadians that November has been designated Crohn's and Colitis Awareness Month by the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada.

Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are chronic digestive disorders of the small and large intestines. Approximately 100,000 Canadian men, women and children are affected. The severity of symptoms can vary dramatically and the disease often results in frequent illness, hospitalization and surgery. The cause and cure for this disease remain unknown.

Through education and fellowship the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada offers support to those affected and raises public awareness. I extend best wishes to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada and its thousands of volunteers across Canada for a successful public awareness campaign during the month of November.

Softwood Lumber
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the softwood lumber crisis has risen to crippling proportions for Canadian mill and forestry workers. While Canadian officials sit back and wait for the referee to climb into the ring, the U.S. commerce department has our industry in a stranglehold.

Why is the government allowing the provinces to go like vassals with cap in hand to the Sheriff of Nottingham, Washington, without any central focused stakeholder game plan? Why has there not been a national stakeholder meeting? Why do we not at least put an equal 32% tariff on raw log exports?

It is unconscionable that our mill workers are idled while U.S. mills are geared up to process our logs. In Port Alberni mill workers are incensed to see truckloads of raw logs rolling out to be processed in U.S. mills. Angry workers are ready to block the roads and stop the trucks. If the government does not act soon, it is clear that the people will.

George Harrison
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, today the music loving world mourns the loss of one of its giants. George Harrison, lead guitarist of the legendary Beatles, passed away last night at the age of 58 from cancer. Known as the quiet Beatle, he was often overshadowed by the great Lennon-McCartney team, but Harrison managed to shine in his own right contributing such musical classics as Here comes the sun and Something .

Harrison was also cognizant of the world around him having organized the famous concert in New York City with proceeds going to humanitarian causes in Bangladesh. George Harrison has left us much too early. As the world mourns his passing, his family reminds us that “He left this world as he lived in it, conscious of God, fearless of death, and at peace, surrounded by family and friends”.

I join Beatles fans everywhere and all music lovers across Canada today in celebrating the life achievements and contributions of George Harrison.

National Hemophilia Month
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Hélène Scherrer Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to remind the House and all Canadians that November has been designated National Hemophilia Month by the Canadian Hemophilia Society.

Hemophilia is a genetic disease, which occurs primarily in boys. One newborn boy in five inherits the disease.

The Canadian Hemophilia Society is devoted to providing support and service to Canadians with hemophilia and their caregivers. It also raises awareness of the disease among the general public and health professionals, and encourages self-help among hemophiliacs.

I trust you will join with me in thanking the Society and its many volunteers throughout the country for their ongoing commitment and contributions. Let us hope that this month will have been a great success in raising hemophilia awareness.

Saguenay Municipal Elections
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

André Harvey Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, last Sunday, the voters of Saguenay elected Jean Tremblay, the first mayor of their new city.

I would like to congratulate him on this victory and to indicate my confidence in him as he begins to fulfill this new mandate. It is a major challenge, but one he will meet with vigour and honesty.

My congratulations also to all the municipal councillors of this new city.

Mayoralty candidate Daniel Giguère also merits congratulations, as do all those who ran for the 19 seats on council.

This new city will continue to offer all the attractions the region has in the past for prosperity and innovation.

To Mayor Tremblay and all the councillors, may I wish the best of luck. I pledge my co-operation as we continue to build our wonderful region.

National Defence
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, militia units in British Columbia are facing a financial crunch with one unit completely out of funds, another which will run out of funds on December 1, and another which will be penniless on January 1. Another unit does not have enough money to buy ammunition to fire a salute.

The minister has been told repeatedly that $1 billion per year is required to keep the armed forces at status quo. The SCONDVA report said the issue of underfunding for those who are expected to make a sacrifice for this country is urgent and critical.

While the minister can find no money for frontline personnel and militia units, he can condone 100 commanding officers from western Canada holding a meeting on December 2 at the Crown Plaza Hotel on the tab of taxpayers and on the backs of those he asks to serve on the frontline.

I guess the Greisbach Barracks in Edmonton, which is a perfectly suitable facility, is not good enough for a one day meeting for the champagne tastes of the commanding officers. Some example they are setting for the young Canadians who are being asked to sacrifice their lives, if need be, in Afghanistan. Some gall. Surely money earmarked for the British Columbia militia will not go to the Crown Plaza in Edmonton to feed and water the commanding officers.

Bluma Appel
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Bluma Appel on receiving the William Kilbourn Award at the recent 2001 Toronto Arts Awards.

The 2001 Toronto Arts Awards recognize the outstanding contributions to the arts and culture of greater Toronto and represent the wide diversity of Toronto's artistic community. Bluma Appel was a recipient of this award for a short documentary film profiling her life and work.

For over 40 years Bluma has championed the arts and has made a major contribution to the cultural life of Toronto. In 1950 she produced her first play by Jean Genet entitled The Maids . She has tried both acting and directing but has always come back to producing. She was also the recipient of the Order of Canada in 1998 and the Order of Ontario in 1997.

I congratulate and thank Bluma Appel for her enormous and generous contributions over the years to the arts.

Bal des moissons
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the 26th annual Bal des moissons, organized by the Conseil régional des sociétés d'agriculture du centre du Québec, MAPAQ and the Caisses populaires Desjardins of Central Quebec, was an event to celebrate agricultural leaders in this region.

According to the jury of five farmers and professionals in the field, the high level of candidates made it very difficult to award the prize in the youth category.

I am therefore particularly proud to congratulate Gilbert Perreault and his spouse, Chantal Brodeur, of Saint-Germain-de-Grantham, this year's winners of the Gerbe d'Or trophy, in the youth category.

As well, despite all of the controversy surrounding hog production, the hog business Ferme des Rêves, owned by Roger Tessier and Réjeanne Ménard, won the Céres trophy in the agricultural practices category for its overall good management practices.

And finally, Martin Courchesne, of Lefebvre, won the Méritas Élite award for young farmers.

I would like to congratulate the winners and all of the nominees from the Centre-du-Québec region for the various categories. They have helped the field of agriculture to improve, innovate and perform.

Religious Organizations
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Bramalea—Gore—Malton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Sikh community in my riding and around the world is celebrating the 532nd birthday of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first guru of the Sikh religion.

The teachings of Guru Nanak are a model to all people, especially following the events of September 11. Sikhs believe in non-violence, peace, human equality, justice and democracy. Guru Nanak taught the importance of selfless service, tolerance, compassion, love, equality and well-being for all people.

The goal of a Sikh is not only the spiritual growth of the individual but is also the advancement of every human being regardless of creed, colour or race.

Gun Control
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government's firearms registration system has proven to be a dismal failure. The law has only served to harass law abiding gun owners and consume an ever expanding budget.

The system was supposed to cost $85 million. The cost has ballooned to $680 million. This is while police forces across the country are starved for resources. The latest scheme from the justice minister is to rebate $10 to eligible gun owners. A conservative estimate of the administrative costs of the rebate program is $15 per cheque. This is typical Liberal mathematics: spend $15 to send out a $10 cheque.

The gun law has not worked except for its secret agenda of attacking rural Canada, hunters and tourism. What will it take to have the Liberal government scrap this useless program?

Volunteers
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Larry McCormick Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the United Nations International Year of Volunteers draws to a close I recognize all the Canadians who contribute their time and skills to their communities.

We know that more than 6.5 million Canadians serve a wide range of voluntary organizations. In addition, 16.2 million Canadians volunteer their time informally by providing occasional caregiving relief or by driving an elderly person to the grocery store. They provide the simple but generous things that improve the quality of our lives. Given that we are a nation of fewer than 32 million people, this is an amazing rate of volunteerism.

The rural communities across Hastings, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington are typical of the generous spirit and caring of Canadians. For example, on November 23 the Napanee Rotary Club celebrated its 75th anniversary. Since 1926 Rotarians have partnered with others in the community to support diverse initiatives, from creating recreational spaces to contributing to the children's wing of the local library.

Although the International Year of Volunteers is coming to an end, the work of volunteers will continue. Please join me in saluting all Canadian volunteers.

World Aids Day
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the last three years have seen a 91% increase in the number of aboriginal people living with HIV-AIDS in the country. Three hundred and fifty new cases each year means that one aboriginal person per day is becoming infected.

On December 1 we recognize both World AIDS Day and Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Day because the HIV-AIDS pandemic is growing at an alarming rate in first nations communities. Twenty per cent of all AIDS cases in Canada are aboriginal people, yet less than eight per cent of all funding for prevention and care is targeted to aboriginal communities. Perhaps even more worrisome is the age of aboriginal persons living with AIDS. Fully one-third of them are under 30 years old.

We need to give special attention to the alarming crisis of HIV-AIDS in the aboriginal community. I urge the government to increase its efforts in the prevention and care of aboriginal people in first nations communities.

Human Rights
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, this Sunday, December 2 is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. Article four of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that no one shall be held in slavery or servitude and that slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms, yet there are places in the world where this article is not respected.

Slavery comes in many forms: the sexual exploitation of children; child labour; migrant labour; domestic labour; forced labour; slavery for ritual or religious purposes; and trafficking. We must meet the difficult challenges perpetuated by these injustices and eradicate slavery in all of its manifestations.

Slavery is an affront to the values and ideals that Canadians and freedom loving people around the world hold dear. Indeed it is an affront to all of humanity. I invite all hon. members of the House and all Canadians to join in commemorating December 2, the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

Bill C-394
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphan Tremblay Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, QC

Mr. Speaker, a few minutes ago, I held a press conference with Ken Georgetti, the president of the Canadian Labour Congress, a group that represents some 2.5 million workers.

Mr. Georgetti was there to support my bill on socially responsible investment, the objective of which is to increase corporate transparency and accountability with respect to the use of the billions of dollars invested through pension funds.

By requiring pension fund administrators to provide an annual report describing social, ethical and environmental considerations made when choosing investments, Bill C-394 will foster a growing interest among workers in how their pension fund savings are being used.

In addition to my bill, it is important to mobilize workers in order to implement socially responsible investing, which could turn out to be a significant tool in influencing globalization.

Hepatitis C
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, Joanne McCallum from Colchester county, Nova Scotia contracted hepatitis C from a blood transfusion in 1986. Incredibly her daughter Michelle also received contaminated blood from a transfusion and has now passed away.

Joanne has applied for compensation under the terms of the settlement agreement. Although she is devastated physically, emotionally and financially, she is subjected repeatedly to irrelevant questions, treated to bad attitudes and confronted with problems when she applies for help to get through the red tape. In response I contacted the Minister of Health and asked him to intervene but he referred me back to the source of the frustrations in the first place.

If the government can send our soldiers to war, if it can create new taxes and create new laws that allow arrest without warrant, surely it can help find a way for Joanne McCallum to get through this red tape. I ask the Minister of Health to put the full weight of his office behind this effort and follow it through until it is completed successfully.

Osteoporosis
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, November is Osteoporosis Awareness Month. Osteoporosis is a medical condition where the bones become thin and weakened, making fracture more likely, especially in the hip, spine and wrist. It has long been thought to affect post-menopausal women but in fact men can also be at risk of osteoporosis.

Approximately 1.4 million Canadians suffer from osteoporosis. One in four women over 50 suffer from the disease. Seventy per cent of hip fractures are related to osteoporosis. In fact, osteoporosis related fractures result in more deaths of women each year than breast and ovarian cancer combined.

The risk factors for osteoporosis include diet, inactivity, being underweight, smoking and too much caffeine or alcohol. I encourage Canadians to inform themselves about the ways in which they can prevent osteoporosis and to participate in events sponsored by the Osteoporosis Society of Canada.

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla
B.C.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, thanks to the good work of the FBI and none of the good work of our government, the evidence against Samir Mohamed is very compelling. He lied to a refugee board; he was a member of a terrorist organization; he committed criminal activity in our country; he sent passports to Germany to help terrorists there; and he talked about bombing a Jewish neighbourhood in Montreal.

Our government is embarrassed about getting into a big fight and continues to tolerate this type of refugee claimant. Will it at least commit today to immediately extradite this man to the United States to a government that is proud to get into a big fight against terrorism and to a government that will not tolerate--

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Deputy Prime Minister.

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the government is not tolerating terrorists. The Canadian government arrested this individual months before there was a request by the Americans for his extradition. We are acting vigorously to protect the interests of Canadians.

I do not know why the hon. member is always running down his country and its security agencies. This is totally unjustified and unwarranted, and he should be embarrassed by this.

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla
B.C.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, we love our country. We are concerned with the government that is running it down.

This terrorist applied for refugee status in England. He was turned down. He applied for refugee status in Germany. He was turned down. He got into Canada. When we found out he was lying, when we found out he had a huge record, what did the appeal board here do? It granted him another refugee hearing.

When will the government clean up its act and stop with these ridiculous insults about who loves Canada?

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the hon. friend's indignation is not based on the facts. The government did not accept him as a refugee and that is the fact. We acted the same as the other countries.

The hon. member ought to recognize that Canada is acting vigorously in support of the security of its people, and the hon. member has no business running down our agencies in a totally unjustified manner.

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla
B.C.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Leader of the Opposition

We are running this government down, Mr. Speaker. Other countries refused him. We took him. When he failed his application, we gave him another one. Do not tell me that we are doing as other countries do.

The FBI revealed that Samir Mohamed, a member of the same terrorist cell as Ahmed Ressam, in Montreal, not only intended blowing up certain sectors of Montreal, but as well that others were probably working for him at the Canadian passport office.

How can the Government of Canada convince the public that there are no spies working in the passport office?

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the hysterics of the Leader of the Opposition do nothing to inform people of the facts. The facts are that this is old news. Many investigations are underway. The allegations that the Leader of the Opposition is making are clearly wrong.

Canada and the United States are working very closely together. Whenever we identify individuals who pose a security threat, we keep them in detention and take appropriate action. That is exactly what is happening in this case.

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, let us look at our record in terms of capturing and prosecuting terrorists. Who caught Ahmed Ressam? It was U.S. customs. Who warned us about this Montreal bomber? It was the FBI. Why is our record in capturing and prosecuting terrorists just so dreadful?

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Cardigan
P.E.I.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that the opposition just wishes to condemn our RCMP and security intelligence agencies.

Let us remember the Canadian police and security agencies played an important role in ensuring the conviction of Ressam.

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the RCMP and every officer in this country who has stood for them while the government cut their funding. The Canadian Alliance stands for them. We hear that the new budget will only have $600 million per year for CSIS and the RCMP.

Will the solicitor general show his power at the cabinet table and get the proper resources for CSIS and the RCMP?

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Cardigan
P.E.I.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I will defend the RCMP and CSIS because it is not a very big job. They are one of the most respected security and intelligence agencies in the world.

Also, it is important to note that including and since the last budget the government has put just under $2 billion into the public safety envelope. Not only do we promote but we make sure they have the financial support and the technology available and secured, so we ensure we have the safest country in the world in which to live.

Public Safety Act
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, the definition of a military security zone varies from one day to the next. After saying that these zones served to protect military materiel, the minister has acknowledged that, at the Quebec City summit, they could have included the city itself and the National Assembly. He then added that such zones could encompass Kananaskis, and, even, a nuclear plant.

Instead of getting stuck in a slough of ever more contradictory versions, will the minister acknowledge that the only solution for him is to withdraw his bill right now and do his homework first.

Public Safety Act
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

York Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, it does not change on a day to day basis. It is in writing in the bill; it can be seen. They can analyze it. They can come to the committee. They can make some suggestions, if they think it needs to be better clarified or improved in any way. The government is very open to looking at the suggestions of any members of the opposition or the public.

Public Safety Act
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, we know what the government has done with suggestions from the opposition up to now.

The minister says it is not his intention to transform an entire province into a military security zone and continues to say we are exaggerating. I remind him that the judges will be interpreting the law and not his intentions and that, moreover, the minister cannot guarantee that his intentions will not change one day.

I again ask the minister why he is not withdrawing his bill, which reeks of improvisation?

Public Safety Act
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

York Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the government put the bill forward for the safety and security of Canadians. We have no intention of withdrawing it.

We want to make sure, though, in putting these provisions forward that we properly safeguard the rights and freedoms of Canadians, while at the same time bring about better security. If the opposition or the public have some suggestions on how we can improve on that, the Prime Minister has quite clearly said that we are quite receptive to looking at those possibilities.

Public Safety Act
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government said the same thing about Bill C-36, but did not listen to anyone. We are not naive.

The Bloc Quebecois has been saying since the beginning that, when faced with exceptional situations, we must strive to maintain a balance between freedom and security. However, the minister's bill does not meet this requirement, and the extemporaneous nature of the legislation is obvious.

Does the Minister of National Defence realize that, with his bill, he is falling into the trap of terrorists by forgetting that our best weapons to fight terrorism are democracy, human rights and freedom?

Public Safety Act
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

York Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, more exaggeration from the opposition. The bill codifies and clarifies responsibilities which fall to the Government of Canada already. The bill does not violate the charter of rights and freedoms. The government is as interested and as concerned with ensuring that we take into consideration the rights and freedoms of Canadians, together with their safety and security.

It is this government that brings about a balance. It is this government that amended Bill C-36 and listened to the various representations which were made. We are prepared to listen to representations again.

Public Safety Act
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister said that the worst thing to do would be to undermine our values and curtail our freedom, because we would then play into the hands of the terrorists.

Does the Minister of National Defence realize that if he does not withdraw his bill, he will fall into that trap?

Public Safety Act
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

York Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, absolutely not. I agree with exactly what the Prime Minister said. That is what we have taken into consideration. All of this is subject to proper scrutiny and review. Judicial review can certainly determine whether there is any need for tightening up any of the provisions in terms of where we apply this law. However it requires that we be reasonable and be confined to dealing with that which is in fact lawful and in the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada and the Canadian forces.

The Budget
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, there has been an interesting development. We have learned that the government is actually considering a second budget for the spring.

After two years, surely the government realizes that it is time to bring in a full budget that includes a stimulus package. Surely it knows that Canadians cannot wait for the spring.

Will the government ensure the House that there will be only one budget on December 10 to deal with both security issues and the current recession? Could the government do that?

The Budget
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, certainly we are facing great challenges in terms of the global economic turndown and its impact on Canada. We also facing threats to our national security.

The member is quite right that these issues will be addressed in the budget which will be presented to the House at 4.00 p.m., on Monday, December 10.

The Budget
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I did not hear a clear answer about whether there would be one budget on December 10 or twin budgets. When will the government start reinvesting in Canadians?

Mike Harris and the Prime Minister are playing the blame game right now. It does not hide the fact that both are guilty of privatizing health care while Canadians are caught in the crossfire.

The government should stop blaming Mike Harris and make him shut up by doing its job. Will the government do that by putting money back into health care in the upcoming budget?

The Budget
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting to see this epiphany. All of us will follow it with a great deal of interest in the days ahead.

Having said that, let us look back about 13 or 14 months to the historic accord that was reached by the Prime Minister with the premiers of all provinces and territories to increase health care funding by over $23 billion over five years. This shows that our confederation can work.

Bill C-42
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, under Bill C-42 the government is dramatically changing the rules of our democratic society. Ministers will have the power to act unilaterally without checks or balances.

The only other time this kind of power can be exercised is under the Emergencies Act. Even then, quite properly, the decision to use that power has to come back before parliament for debate and approval. If coming before parliament is good enough for the Emergencies Act, why is it not good enough for Bill C-42?

Bill C-42
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has not done his homework. He does not fully understand the provisions of the Emergencies Act. The Emergencies Act is designed for a broader long term emergency. Certain procedures are prescribed, including the devising of the order in council and consultation. All of that is provided for in the statute.

When there is a localized one time emergency ministers need to act quickly. That is what happened on September 11. Had there been further terrorist attacks and the country was in a state of apprehension then obviously the Emergencies Act would have been invoked.

Bill C-42
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have no problem with ministers acting to protect Canadians. We just want parliament to have a role in knowing what is going on.

Yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister claimed that Canadians need not worry, that ministerial decisions taken under Bill C-42 were subject to judicial review. That is simply untrue. There is no judicial review in the bill. There is no oversight committee and there is no role for parliament.

Bill C-42 gives absolute power to the ministers and we all know what absolute power does. Why would the government once again bring forward legislation that compromises the rights and freedoms of Canadians and belittles the role of parliament?

Bill C-42
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend had better take his questions back to the drawing board. I have been advised that there is authority for judicial review under provisions outside the proposed bill and that it does not have to be specifically mentioned in the bill.

My hon. friend's accusation is totally wrong. If he has any decency, he will withdraw it.

Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, for eight long years we in the Canadian Alliance have been calling for improvements to Canada's immigration and refugee system, changes like stopping economic migrants from claiming refugee status, common standards in co-operation with the U.S., ending refugee claimants from safe countries like the U.S. and hiring more frontline immigration officers.

The minister of immigration has personally attacked us for calling for these things, but now the Liberal chair of the immigration committee is calling for exactly these changes. Will the minister of immigration just admit she is wrong and make these changes?

Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I reject the premise of the member's question. When I appeared before the immigration committee I said very clearly that I thought a safe third agreement with the United States could be beneficial and that we were pursuing those discussions. I have said that in the House.

I have also informed the member that we received $49 million. During the security concerns we have been able to add over 100 new immigration officers on the frontline to secure our borders. The member's question--

Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Lakeland.

Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, the minister rejects the premise of anything anybody in the opposition says. The fact is that she has not stopped economic migrants from claiming refugee status. The fact is that she has not ended refugee claims from safe third countries. The fact is that she still has not put in place common standards with the United States. She has not done that. Those are the facts.

Will the minister of immigration finally admit that she has been wrong, that the chair of the committee is right, and make the changes we have been calling for, for eight long years.

Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has been a member of the immigration committee for quite some time. He should know and understand that while the Geneva convention allows for agreement between countries for a safe third provision, no country can or should act unilaterally.

I have said to him and to others that Canada is interested and has been interested for some time in negotiating a safe third agreement. I think there are a number of items that the member as a former member of the committee should understand.

Air Transportation
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, in response to a question we asked him yesterday about airfare in the regions, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport said, and I quote:

All the measures taken... by the various departments promote fair competition.

If fair competition should lead to reasonable prices, does the Minister of Transport find it reasonable to have to pay $1,191.12 for an Ottawa-Mont-Joli return airfare, when one can fly to Europe for half of that amount?

Air Transportation
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, since the airline system was deregulated 15 years ago, consumers have been getting a good deal because prices have come down.

However, the fares between major cities are one thing, but those between smaller communities are another matter. The hon. member is right, small communities do not have the same advantages as larger ones in this country.

For that reason, we are going to encourage competition country-wide.

Air Transportation
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the minister that this is also a problem in northwestern Quebec.

In Abitibi, for instance, a round trip between Rouyn and Montreal cost $483 in 1995. Today, the same ticket costs $743. Is a 60% increase fair competition?

How can the minister say, as he did last week, that fares are cheaper and that there are more flights, when it is plain that the opposite is true?

Air Transportation
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, before September 11, the policy of competition in the airline industry was working extremely well. Seventy-five per cent of Canadians were within two hours driving distance of airports where there was choice, where there was competition and where there were fares that were quite acceptable. Had we not had the events of the 11th and the competition that emerged, the smaller communities gradually would have had a much better regime.

I was in British Columbia yesterday and the smaller communities in British Columbia have that competition. Unfortunately this is not uniform across the country and that is why we have to look at our policy to encourage further competition.

Justice
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, following Catherine MacLean's tragic death just 10 months ago the foreign affairs minister said publicly that immunity should apply only in the course of a diplomat's duties. Yet the Liberals have been giving out blanket immunity in cases where it is not required by the Vienna convention.

Break and enter, sexual assault, drunk driving and other actual crimes against Canadians have nothing to do with diplomatic immunity, nothing to do with diplomatic duties.

I would like to ask the government in how many of the 90 plus cases in the last five years has Canadian justice been served by the waiving of diplomatic immunity.

Justice
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford
Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, this question has been asked a number of times by the hon. member. It has been answered many times. It has been answered in the House since the bill came in. It has been answered in committee. It has been answered here just recently.

I would like to tell the hon. member that he knows full well we have a zero tolerance policy, that we have brought that into place in the Department of Foreign Affairs and that it is below contempt that he would continue to use the MacLean incident in a cheap political manner.

Justice
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, the honest answer if the member chose to answer the question is three times. Three times diplomatic immunity has been waived, only three, which means that more than once a month a Canadian individual or a family is victimized by someone to whom the government has given immunity, and that causes genuine heartbreak.

The minister can do more than express regret after it happens. Genuine compassion means preventing hurt, not just reacting to it with crocodile tears after it happens.

This bill guarantees there will be more victims of crime so I want to ask the government if it will show compassion for the Canadian people and scrap the bill.

Justice
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford
Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, one could only deduce from the comments across the floor that if he had the power the hon. member would in fact reduce and gut the entire Vienna convention so that we no longer are able to operate diplomatic relations with any country.

Immunity is a necessary condition to the ability of our Canadian diplomats abroad and our foreign diplomats to work. His continued inference that the people who come here to represent their countries are criminals is utterly disreputable.

Air Transportation
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, while he said he wanted to strengthen air transportation in Canada, the minister has to face the fact that the quality of service provided by air carriers has deteriorated and the complaints commissioner has received 2,912 complaints this year, an increase of 33%.

Where is air transportation in Canada headed and how does the Minister of Transport intend to reverse this deplorable trend?

Air Transportation
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, in giving his report yesterday I think the commissioner gave the answer. The fact is that parliament through its good sense provided for the first time a complaints commissioner. This provides someone that passengers across the country can go to. That is why we are having such a large number as compared to before.

However, if the hon. member would look at what he also said, the airlines are dealing with these complaints and they are improving their service. The intent of parliament is indeed working.

Air Transportation
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, the services provided by air carriers is deteriorating, in general terms, and the mediocrity of services in the regions, the exorbitant costs and the infrequency of flights is a threat to their development.

Is the minister going to continue to pretend everything is fine or will he assume his responsibilities and demand that air carriers correct the situation soon?

Air Transportation
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, unlike in western Canada where there still remains very healthy competition, the hon. member is right. There are certain communities across the country in rural Quebec, in northern Ontario and in parts of Newfoundland and Labrador which do not have the same degree of competition.

Unfortunately this has been set back because of the events of September 11. We have to ensure that our policy going forward encourages further competition, and that is indeed what the government is working on.

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, recently a business card belonging to 4-U Enterprises of Surrey, British Columbia, was found in an abandoned al-Qaeda hideout in Kabul. Amir Mohamed Hamad, reportedly killed in a bin Laden camp, and Essam Hafez Marzouk, now in an Egyptian prison, formed that company in 1998.

Could the solicitor general tell us if 4-U Enterprises or either of its founders were known to his ministry before that business card was found?

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Cardigan
P.E.I.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times in the House, the RCMP and CSIS are working with their United States counterparts to make sure that any of these people are brought to justice. However what I cannot reveal is the message of an investigation. It would be inappropriate.

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC

Here we go again, Mr. Speaker. Just yesterday a suitcase full of what appears to be middle eastern currency was found in a dumpster in Surrey and turned over to the RCMP. There is a report that cash is from Iraq.

Could the solicitor general confirm the country of origin of that cash? Could he tell us if there is any connection between that cash and the business card found in Kabul?

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Cardigan
P.E.I.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I have respect for my hon. colleague for sure, but the fact of the matter is what I cannot do as solicitor general is reveal information that is involving an investigation.

My hon. colleague is fully aware all that would do is be harmful to one of the biggest, if not the biggest, criminal investigations in the history of the world.

Summit G-20
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the solicitor general. A few weeks ago barricades went up around the American embassy in Ottawa. Some of us thought initially that they would be removed once the G-20 event was over, but they are still there.

They are a hindrance and are affecting businesses. Are we to take it that these barriers are there permanently? If not, will he tell us when we can expect them to be removed?

Summit G-20
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Cardigan
P.E.I.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly aware, as is the RCMP, that these extra security measures around the United States embassy have been an inconvenience for the citizens and merchants of the Ottawa area.

We certainly thank them for their patience and assistance. I can assure them also that these measures will be in place only as long as they need to be for the security of the embassy.

Patent Act
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, while the government keeps dragging its heels over reproductive technologies, it could at least be banning private patents on life forms. Even its own appointed blue ribbon advisory committee on biotechnology has just recommended that companies should be banned from having patents over human beings.

Will the government today finally show some leadership and say that the patenting of human beings and all life forms is just not on and immediately introduce such changes to the Patent Act?

Patent Act
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Bonavista—Trinity—Conception
Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Brian Tobin Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is raising in the House the advice given in the advisory panel's interim report which recommends that there not be the possibility under Canada's legal structure that will allow for the cloning of human beings. The government absolutely agrees.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, more resources are desperately needed in the aboriginal community to cope with a 91% increase of persons living with HIV-AIDS. Fully 20% of new cases are aboriginal people, yet only 9% of the funding from the Canadian AIDS strategy is directed towards them.

When will the funding scale of the Canadian AIDS strategy match the changing face of the AIDS pandemic? Why does the government not fund the AIDS crisis in the aboriginal community to the same degree that they fund the general population?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the government is taking the issue of HIV-AIDS very seriously. Today is World AIDS Day, or at least it is over the weekend, and we are honouring that today.

In May 1988 the Government of Canada launched a collaborative new approach in which it gave $42.2 million to the Canadian HIV-AIDS strategy. We continue to monitor the work that is being done by all interveners in the health sector. We will continue to support that domain.

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, on September 17 we asked the Prime Minister if there were terrorist cells operating in Canada. He said no. Canadians had to learn that terrorist cells did indeed operate in Canada, not from him or Canadian officials but from Larry King Live .

We had to learn from the American FBI that there was a serious terrorist plot to bomb a downtown Montreal site.

Is the Prime Minister always the last to know about these serious threats or does he just always keep Canadians in the dark?

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Cardigan
P.E.I.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague should be well aware of what was said many times in the House, that the terrorist web not only extends in Canada but worldwide. What took place in Montreal clearly shows that we have a very effective police force and security intelligence agency.

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is certainly not very comforting.

Today we learned from documents released in American courts that Ahmed Ressam, a convicted terrorist, had a friend in the passport office that apparently provided blank documents for a team of al-Qaeda terrorists.

We do not know how many documents have gone missing and if they have been recovered or if any arrests have been made. Either the Prime Minister knew of this latest breach in security and withheld the information from Canadians or he does not have a clue what is going on in his own government. Which is it?

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Cardigan
P.E.I.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, we have an excellent passport system and we take every measure to protect it. If there is any indication or allegation of wrongdoing we have a very effective and efficient police force to investigate the situation.

Industry
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the industry committee heard testimony from witnesses, such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and others, that the private sector would like to have more input into the so-called innovation agenda. These organizations have proposed a number of low cost initiatives that the industry minister should consider.

Will the Minister of Industry follow through on the recommendation of the Canadian Alliance and submit a draft of the innovation agenda to the standing committee for consideration?

Industry
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Bonavista—Trinity—Conception
Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Brian Tobin Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, certainly the government's position with respect to innovation is that we ought to work very closely with all sectors of the economy interested in innovation in Canada, such as universities, the various high tech or enabled sectors of Canada's economy.

Of course we want to work very closely with members of the standing committee, whose advice is always most useful and most appropriate.

Industry
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the reality is, many witnesses said that the minister was not consulting them on the innovation agenda, that it was being drafted in the department and would be presented as a simple document that they and the committee would have to accept.

Will the minister commit to fully involving these people as stakeholders, involving Canadians as citizens and involving the standing committee, including his own Liberal members, in the implementation and drafting of the innovation agenda?

Industry
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Bonavista—Trinity—Conception
Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Brian Tobin Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the member opposite lives in a little world of his own. The government members on the standing committee on industry are consulted regularly and closely with respect to the government's agenda, as are all members of the committee when I appear before the committee.

The member opposite may choose to be anti, may choose to be contra, may choose to support the view of members of his own party who believe, for example, that rural Canada has no place and no business in ever being on the Internet or ever having a computer, but that stone-age view does not resonate on this side of the House.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the United States appears determined not to ratify the Kyoto protocol, despite international agreement and the establishment in the provinces and Canada as a whole of an action plan to fight climate change.

Could the Minister of the Environment tell us whether, under certain provisions of NAFTA, for example those on free trade, a firm could legally challenge Canada's statutes and regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gases?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Kitchener Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Karen Redman Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member opposite is asking for a legal opinion from the House and I am not able to give that. However I would reiterate a statement made by the Prime Minister as early as November 21, it is our goal to sign the Kyoto agreement.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand that the parliamentary secretary cannot give us a legal opinion, but she can, however, look at precedents in connection with the bill on MMTs.

Tomorrow in Montreal, the Minister of the Environment will be chairing the fourth intergovernmental meeting on international governance of the environment in preparation for the world summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg, in September 2002.

Does the minister intend to take advantage of his chairing the meeting to include on the agenda the importance of bringing the Americans back into discussions on the Kyoto agreement?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Kitchener Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Karen Redman Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, we have had many triumphs through the Bonn negotiation as well as the ones at Marrakesh keeping alive the Kyoto protocol. In the main that has been largely because of the leadership of the Minister of the Environment in Canada and part of the umbrella group.

We have maintained all along that it is very important to continue to invite Americans to the table because this is a global problem and they will continue to be a positive force for us in reaching this worthy goal.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, the right of individual producers to load their own grain cars is a fundamental competitive tool for farmers.

Because of licensing decisions made by the Canadian Grain Commission last July, some farmers are concerned that this right might be taken away.

Will the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food reassure those farmers that the right to producer cars will continue to exist?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington
Ontario

Liberal

Larry McCormick Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, our government's number one concern is to protect our producers' interest and maintain grain quality.

The Canadian Grain Commission has become aware of the fact that many facilities wish to be designated as producer loading sites. Interest has been expressed by both producer groups and major companies. Therefore the Canadian Grain Commission has decided to initiate a consultation process to determine whether such facilities should be regulated and in what way.

Until those consultations are finished, any of those people who are now using such facilities will not be required to become licensed.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Grain Commission has been unsuccessfully studying this issue since July and now wants additional months of review.

Once again the government is playing catch up to the industry, which has already moved well past this point.

Commission spokesperson, Paul Graham, has stated that a new kind of handling system is developing and the regulatory system must evolve to meet people's needs.

Will the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food commit to having these regulations in place by Christmas?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington
Ontario

Liberal

Larry McCormick Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, between now and Christmas, or until the studies are finished, our producers will be able to access these facilities without having a licence, and that is very important because access to producer cars is an important right for farmers. This right will be maintained.

The consultations will determine how the new type of facility can best accommodate the grain handling and transportation system to protect the producers' interests and maintain grain quality.

A key consideration will be to determine how to do this. We do not want to add any costs to the producers. Our main concern is the producers of this country and the safety of our great food.

Research and Development
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Wood Nipissing, ON

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

Will the minister tell the House this morning what the government is doing to support research and development in universities as part of its innovation program?

Research and Development
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bonavista—Trinity—Conception
Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Brian Tobin Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, in January 2000 the Government of Canada announced a Canada research chairs program worth $900 million.

Yesterday, McMaster University was able to announce another 97 new chairs at 34 universities across Canada, worth $98 million, for research and development in Canada.

Our commitment to innovation remains strong and our commitment to excellence in our centres of research is undiminished.

Forest Industry
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Natural Resources tried to make us believe that the only responsibility of the Government of Canada in fighting the mountain pine beetle infestation in British Columbia was to deliver the science. However the government has a clear responsibility for infested federal lands like the Riske Creek military reserve where those beetles are spilling out into provincial forests and nothing is being done in that area to control them.

Does the government recognize its obligation to fight the infestation on its own lands?

Forest Industry
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Timiskaming—Cochrane
Ontario

Liberal

Ben Serré Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, the member well knows that forestry is a provincial responsibility. Having said that, this government has been working very closely with the B.C. forest industry and the government of B.C. to solve the issue.

The popularity of the member's party in the polls in B.C. is lower than the interest rate and ours is rising. It is because we have been working very closely for and with the B.C. people.

Forest Industry
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, ministers of the crown in British Columbia have approached me to help them with this issue. This is not a new problem.

Years ago I pressed the government to deal with the fir bark beetle spilling out of the same military reserve west of Williams Lake. Nothing but nothing was done then either. Members should see the devastation now.

Why is it that when Bombardier thinks it might need a couple of billion dollars it gets the cash? When Quebec has a flood or Ontario has an ice storm the government comes rushing in but in British Columbia not even constitutional responsibilities are met. Why is that?

Forest Industry
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Timiskaming—Cochrane
Ontario

Liberal

Ben Serré Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the B.C. ministers have the name and address of the Minister of Natural Resources of Canada. To this day we have not received any formal request for assistance. If one is forthcoming we will take it into consideration with regard to our budgetary requirements and our federal responsibilities.

Natural Resources
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Gazoduc Cartier project would represent a wonderful contribution to the regional development of New Brunswick and Quebec.

Yesterday, the Minister of Natural Resources told us that his position was to develop the natural gas off Sable Island, in order to take advantage of export opportunities.

Does the position of the Minister of Natural Resources not contradict that of the Prime Minister? During the first phase of the project in June 1996, the Prime Minister expressed hopes that “this natural gas would be used to meet the needs of the people of New Brunswick and Quebec first, before being piped to the United States.“

Natural Resources
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Timiskaming—Cochrane
Ontario

Liberal

Ben Serré Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, the government's policy on oil and gas pipelines is very clear. It is market forces that determine whether a pipeline does or does not need to be built.

If Gaz Métropolitain believes it is not getting its fair share of the market, let it contact the National Energy Board, which has the responsibility for this.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Julian Reed Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the National Pollutant Release Inventory is a tool that allows Canadians to find local environmental information by simply entering a postal code, a facility name or a particular substance. The Minister of the Environment recently announced further additions to the list of substances that industry will be required to report in this public registry.

Could the parliamentary secretary tell the House what impact the announcement will have on the health and safety of Canadians?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Kitchener Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Karen Redman Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the recent announcement by the Minister of the Environment includes the fact that industries across Canada will indeed be expanding their reporting next year on the emissions of key smog and acid rain pollutants. The announcement is part of our 10 year strategy for cleaner air in Canada.

The minister is using the powers under the 1999 Canadian Environmental Protection Act to track and control the substance and the toxins that cause the most harm to the health of Canadians. The National Pollutant Release Inventory helps track our progress as we react to the release of substances that are most harmful to Canadians.

Air Canada
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, former senior PMO official, Peter Donolo, forwarded a letter to members of parliament last night from Air Canada's banker, BMO Nesbitt Burns, concerning potential amendments to the Competition Act. The letter is nothing more than an attempt to threaten parliament. The fact that Air Canada views an attempt to strengthen anti-competitive legislation as an attack on its airline speaks volumes about its business practices.

Will the minister confirm that the government will make legislation in the best interests of all Canadians, not just--

Air Canada
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of Transport.

Air Canada
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Canada Post
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, postal workers in my riding are concerned about the threat of anthrax coming in from U.S. mail. We understand that the U.S. mail comes into Canada from 11 sorting points within the United States.

My question is for the parliamentary secretary to the minister of public works. Can he assure the House and all Canadians that all the mail coming in from the United States is clearly tested for anthrax and that any test results that have been done have been given to CUPW and also to Canada Post?

Canada Post
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Mississauga South
Ontario

Liberal

Paul Szabo Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, Canada Post has worked closely with its unions to ensure the safety of the employees.

In this particular case which occurred on October 29, the mail was held to ensure the safety of the employees. Once the mail was considered safe after consultations with Health Canada and with others, it was returned for delivery. Employees in this case who still had safety concerns were offered work elsewhere. They refused and therefore were laid off. They will be put back into the rotation once they decide to come back to work.

I want to assure the House and all Canadians that no mail or parcels in Canada have had anthrax.

International Aid
Oral Question Period

Noon

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, recently, the Minister for International Cooperation told us that even before September 11, the Canadian government was helping Afghani women reintegrate their place into society.

Could the minister explain how that help was provided, considering that the Taliban were in charge at the time, and can she also tell us how, in Afghanistan's new political context, Canada intends to increase its efforts to rehabilitate Afghani women?

International Aid
Oral Question Period

Noon

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine
Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member opposite for her question.

I am very pleased to say that, indeed, Canada has a relationship with Afghanistan that spans several years. So far, we have contributed $150 million in aid to that country, plus an additional $16 million since the September 11 events.

The money given to Afghanistan as international assistance was not paid to the Taliban, but to NGOs working with women—

International Aid
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Speaker

The hon. member for Crowfoot.

Correctional Service Canada
Oral Question Period

Noon

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, unanimously the Ontario legislature passed a motion yesterday denouncing Correctional Service Canada's decision to transfer cop killer Clinton Suzack from one medium security penitentiary to another. The solicitor general and his parliamentary secretary have both insultingly defended CSC's decision despite the repeated demands from Ontario's 13,000 police officers for justice in the name of their fallen colleague Joe MacDonald.

Will the solicitor general right this wrong? Will he send Suzack back to maximum security?

Correctional Service Canada
Oral Question Period

Noon

Cardigan
P.E.I.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times, when individuals are arrested in this country, they are placed in an institution and evaluated as to whether they should be in maximum, medium or minimum.

In this situation the individual was in one institution. The decision was made by Correctional Service Canada after evaluation to transfer him to another institution.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

Noon

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to raise a question of privilege. During oral question period, I had the opportunity to ask a question. While I was doing so, some Bloc Quebecois members took it upon themselves to suggest to me, if I can put it that way, to speak French.

If Bloc Quebecois members choose to speak French exclusively, it is their choice and I respect it. Similarly, I hope they will respect my decision to reflect the linguistic reality of the constituency that I represent. I am asking that they stop harassing me when I address this House in either one of the two official languages of the country.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Speaker

All hon. members are well aware that they can address the House in either official language. At least in this case the language used is not unparliamentary.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Also, in accordance with its order of reference of Tuesday, November 20, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade is happy to present its 14th report to the House of Commons on Bill C-41, an act to amend the Canadian Commercial Corporation Act. The committee agreed on Thursday, November 29, to report it without amendment.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine
Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, Question No. 79 will be answered today.

Question No. 79
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

With regard to the Sydney Tar Ponds environmental cleanup, can the government identify which federal departments have provided funding, and for each department involved advise: ( a ) how much funding was provided; ( b ) when the funding was provided; ( c ) who received the funding or will be receiving the funding; and ( d ) what is the specific purpose of the funding?

Question No. 79
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

I am informed by Environment Canada, Health Canada and the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation as follows:

Environment Canada and Health Canada

Environment Canada and Health Canada are the federal departments that have contributed funding toward the Sydney tar ponds and former coke ovens cleanup. The answers below pertain to both departments.

(a) Environment Canada and Health Canada contributed jointly to a cabinet submission to secure $37.9 million in federal funds, part of a three year $62 million cost share agreement among the federal, provincial and municipal governments. Environment Canada is the custodian of these funds.

(b) The funding, announced in May 1999, was to be spread over the three years of the cost share agreement.

(c) Recipients of the funding were the Nova Scotia department of transportation and public works, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality CBRM, and the joint action group JAG, through the CBRM.

(d) The purpose of the funding was to support the administration and operation of JAG through the JAG secretariat to complete the required environmental and health evaluation and assessment work on issues associated with the Muggah Creek watershed and to undertake initial remediation projects, all through contracts with private sector companies.

Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation

In 1997 Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation provided $522,180.22 under the Canada--Nova Scotia infrastructure works program to the Cape Breton regional municipality for the construction of an interceptor sewer, phase I, in the Muggah Creek, the Sydney tar ponds.

Question No. 79
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The question enumerated by the hon. parliamentary secretary has been answered.

Question No. 79
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

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

Question No. 79
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Question No. 79
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-44, an act to amend the Aeronautics Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

When we broke before question period the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport had the floor, on questions and comments.

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary wish to finish his comments?

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord
Québec

Liberal

André Harvey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, my comments were in response to my colleague from the New Democratic Party. Thank you, there is no need. I will allow debate to resume.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre wish to respond to the comments made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport?

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, just before question period the member made a statement. He did not actually get to a question, but I would be pleased to address his comments with respect to our concerns when it comes to Bills C-36 and C-42, both of which we consider to be draconian legislation. They do not ensure the balance between protecting people against the threat of terrorism and preserving our fundamental rights and liberties.

We have said before and we will continue to say that we reject any kind of legislation that takes us down the path that leads to Canadians feeling that they are under suspicion, that they are being watched and that the very idea of operating under privacy laws and according to basic human rights principles is not upheld.

Our concerns continue, although we are prepared to send Bill C-44 to committee for consideration. We understand the pressure the government is under as a result of the decree from the United States suggesting that it will not let our airplanes fly in American airspace if we do not produce the passenger lists. We appreciate the dilemma the government is in.

We will send the bill to committee and perhaps even support that provision, holding our noses. We know very well that behind it all is a very insidious attempt to invade people's privacy and to put people under suspicion by virtue of their commitment to speak out on certain issues, to engage in peaceful protest, to practise non-violent demonstrations in this country.

That is our position. That is the dilemma we are faced with today. Where does the government stop? When will it actually refrain from this kind of intrusive, insidious initiative that does not respect our fundamental rights and freedoms which we fought so long and hard for? Did we not learn from the reaction to Japanese Canadians in World War II? Have we not carried that shame long enough? Why do we continue to operate on the basis of treating people with suspicion and bringing that shame to our nation?

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was going to say, far be it from me to defend the government, but to equate Bill C-44 with the internment of Japanese in the second world war is more than hyperbole I think.

I have a question on one of the final comments made by the member from Winnipeg. She said that we were following the insidious steps of the United States in the draconian laws that it has in requiring passenger lists. My question is regarding the consistency of the position of the NDP and I am sure she will be glad to answer it.

When debate came up with regard to the World Trade Organization specifically as it has with regard to the meetings in Doha, the NDP said that big international organizations like the World Trade Organization impugn the sovereignty of individual nations to pass their own laws for their own economic, social and national interests.

The United States passed its own aviation security legislation precisely because it viewed accurately after September 11 that it was under attack from terrorists. The U.S. is trying to exercise its own sovereignty over its own national security. Here the NDP is saying that it is somehow an odious thing for the United States to ask foreign countries to respect the statutes that it has to respect its own national security.

How does the NDP hold a consistent view? On the one hand it says we should not have these international organizations because they impugn domestic sovereignty of states. On the other hand when the United States is trying to exercise sovereignty over its national security, the hon. member from the NDP says it is odious. How is that consistent?

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, if the member had listened carefully to my remarks, he would know that he has not at all reflected anything I said in true form. I did not suggest that the measures in Bill C-44 could be equated with the internment of Japanese Canadians, nor did I say that it is the draconian steps of the United States legislation that has led us to this point.

What I did say was that in terms of Bill C-36 and Bill C-42, which are the two umbrella pieces of legislation by the government dealing with anti-terrorism, there are broad sweeping provisions that go beyond the question of ensuring security for Canadians and invade the privacy of people in this country.

I refer the member to the statement made by a United Church minister here in Ottawa who said, “I deplore terrorist acts whoever commits them, but I have deep concerns about Bill C-36 as a response. When we react from emotional fear, we are very likely to make choices which violate human rights. I cite the October crisis, the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II, the McCarthy era in the U.S.A. as examples of what can happen when nations overreact xenophobically to perceived threats”.

That is what I was attempting to suggest to the House. I would hope the member would not misinterpret my comments.

Finally, let me just use the words of one Canadian individual who has written all of us on the issues of Bill C-36 and Bill C-42. She put it so well and so poetically. She said, “If we believe in beauty and compassion and the possibility that good will overcome evil, then we are taking steps in the wrong direction. We are on the brink of selling out almost every important and essential component necessary to realizing our common goals of life, liberty, empowerment of the individual, celebration, joy and creativity”. I think that says it all.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is quite apparent from what my colleagues have said that confusion occurs when a government uses the omnibus bill process to move legislation through the House. It is quite apparent from the comments my colleagues have made that in some of these bills there may be an aspect of things that should and can be supported. Because there is support for some of the amendments, the government also tries to put through other legislative amendments that are not acceptable and are very difficult for Canadians to support. We saw that in Bill C-36 and we see it again in Bill C-42.

The reason for the comments from my colleagues on Bill C-42 is because that is the origin of this section that has now found itself in Bill C-44. This section was originally in Bill C-42 as a measure to advance airline security and to respect the legislation that the United States government passed through its congress.

Quite frankly, it is a fairly good piece of legislation in itself in the one aspect it deals with. I think we will likely find that there is almost unanimous support for this piece of legislation.

If this was the intent by the government or if this is what was necessary in the first place, why did it dump it into an omnibus bill that brings a whole lot of other issues to the table at the same time? This bill should have been introduced by itself without being put in the omnibus bill. That omnibus bill probably should not have seen the light of day. Various sections should be brought to the House that deal specifically with the issues pertaining to defence, the health department or to transport provisions under the Aeronautics Act .

This part of the bill respects the law that the United States has put in place as a result, I would suggest, of the demand by its citizens to respond in some strong measure to answer the concern of safety and feeling secure and confident in using the airlines after September 11. Americans perhaps have more pressure than we do in Canada because they were the victims.

Yes, Canada had individuals who were killed in the towers. Yes, Canada helped the United States in responding to September 11. After visiting Washington and talking to people who lived there and worked in buildings near the Pentagon, we will probably never appreciate the damage that it did to the psyches or souls of Americans or the impact it had on their vulnerability.

Because of that, the American government had to respond in a way so that the American people could feel their government was in control and would prevent this from happening again. In response to that, the American government, the congress, the senate and the administration came up with a very concise and precise bill outlining what safety measures they were going to be taking.

One of them was the requirement for all international flights coming into the United States to provide to competent authorities passenger manifests prior to landing in the United States. That is a legitimate request. As a country, it has the right to ask for that.

Therefore, Bill C-44 was introduced by the government to respond in kind to the American legislation. This legislation will be enacted on January 18, 2002. Because of that, Bill C-44 must also come into effect prior to January 18, 2002 to be in compliance with section 117 of the U.S. aviation and transportation security act.

That is the reason the government removed this section from Bill C-42. Again, if this was timely and an important part of that legislation, then why did it not enter a separate piece of legislation in the House prior to putting Bill C-42 on the table?

The question arises as to what this manifest will contain. Why would a person be concerned about this information being made available? We heard from my colleague from the NDP of how people are concerned about the invasion of their privacy and of information they feel no one has any right to know.

We should make it clear that we are talking about the full name of passengers and crew; the date of birth; the sex; the passport number and country of issuance for each passenger, and crew if necessary; and the U.S. visa number or resident alien card number for each passenger, or crew if applicable. This information must be transmitted by the air carrier to U.S. customs in advance of the aircraft landing.

I do not know that this is really all that invasive. For the most part, this information is pretty widely known and is quite obvious in many cases. However the legislation, other than allowing the manifest to be transmitted before the landing of the aircraft, also permits the disclosure of information to other countries that the cabinet may designate by regulation.

Right now we know the Americans require this in legislation, but we are not aware, or at least I am not aware, of any other countries that might be contemplating similar legislation. I would like to have some idea, and I think Canadians would like to have some idea, of just how widely spread this kind of sharing of information will be.

Another amendment in Bill C-42 relates to changes in the Immigration Act that Canada will require air carriers bringing passengers to Canada to provide similar information by prescribed regulation to Canadian authorities. Obviously what we are doing in Bill C-44 is allowing Canada to send the manifests to the United States and other countries, when we ourselves, in Bill C-42, will be asking for the same kind of manifests to be sent to Canada from carriers bringing people into Canada. It is a quid pro quo and certainly something that is necessary after September 11.

I would like to reiterate that the Americans have reacted this way in a very strong show to their citizens that their government is in control and their government is acting in a very responsible way. Canadians have to realize that this is not new for us and that it will have very little effect, if any, for most Canadian travellers to the United States.

Eighty to ninety per cent of all airline passengers travelling to the United States go through one of seven major airports in Canada where U.S. immigration and customs services conduct pre-clearance before boarding. This pre-clearance basically gives the Americans all the information that they are requiring through legislation now. For most Canadians flying to the United States, this will not be any different than what happens now.

One thing we did hear when we were in Washington was that it had the same problem as we had in Canada where intelligence agencies did not share information with each other. Although this information will be flowing to the United States and to Canada, neither of us have a competent system to deal with that information and ensuring that all agencies, which may have an interest in certain people and threats posed by individuals, have the information in a timely manner. Something we and the Americans have to address is how to use this information, not only in an appropriate manner but in a manner that will make a real difference in the fight against terrorism.

Over a month ago, the coalition proposed a plan on public protection and border management. We put before Canadians and before the government a concept of how intelligence information could be shared, not only with our own agencies but with agencies in the United States as well. We feel this is a very practical approach, an approach that manages intelligence in an effective way, in a way that is useful and meaningful in attacking terrorism and terrorists themselves. We feel our proposal would go a long way to providing a practical application for what the Americans are asking and potentially, through Bill C-42, for what Canadians are asking.

The bottom line with Bill C-44 is that American legislation requires this change for all international flights landing in the United States. A failure to allow Canadian carriers to forward passenger manifests would prevent them from flying into the United States.

I would suggest that Canadians might perceive this legislation as a response to the American demand that Canada put it into practise. The embarrassing thing with this legislation is that it would appear that the Canadian government is once again responding to something coming from the Americans rather than the Canadian government taking a leadership role and putting in place a process that would address this issue. The Canadian government should have shown leadership. It should have shown initiative. It should have stepped out in front of the pack instead of trailing along behind the pack.

I would suggest that the concept put on the table a month ago by the coalition should be given serious consideration. Information collected on airline manifests could be used in a meaningful way and put into a system where it would be dealt with in real time. This would ensure that those individuals, who threaten the security of not only the United States, but of all the free world, could be dealt with in an efficient and expedient manner.

The government will find support for this legislation. We see the need to have this legislation in place. However it is a very small step in the road that has to be travelled to make sure that intelligence information is shared by all necessary agencies and dealt with in an expedient manner to address the issue of terrorist threats.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Mississauga South
Ontario

Liberal

Paul Szabo Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the member has laid out a vision of how security and safety procedures could be enhanced. She knows from her trip to Washington that even the legislation passed by the U.S. on November 19 was rushed. It was a hodgepodge and piecemeal response to the need to have legislation in place by the American Thanksgiving.

The member has been talking about the idea of having over the long term a database with co-operative sharing. This is what we have been supporting. However she then said that the government was not showing leadership by bringing forward this one piece of legislation. She cannot have it both ways.

Would the member like to comment on whether or not she feels that the strategy of any government should take into account longer term security requirements rather than rushing forward irresponsibly with legislation that would not be effective or achievable in the long term?

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly feel the government should be always looking at long term planning and at the implementation of plans. If the member had heard my comments, he would realize that I had indicated that Bill C-44 arises out of a very hastily put together Bill C-42 omnibus bill which, I would suggest, should probably not have seen the light of day because it would appear to have been too quickly put together without great consideration for what the ramifications might be.

I would also suggest, in response to his question, that not only did the United States react just to show the citizens that it was out there doing something but this government has done the same thing and could be accused of putting legislation on the table that has not been well thought out, its ramifications have not been well considered and it has done so just to appease Canadians that it is actually doing something.

What I suggested was that Bill C-44 probably should have been addressed long ago, a month or six weeks ago, when the Americans made it quite clear what direction they going. Why is it that this government always has to wait for the Americans to move first rather than being bold and taking steps in front of the Americans in doing what should be done for the good of all Canadians and all North Americans?

My concern is that the government does not show initiative nor a great deal of foresight or planning. It seems to be always running behind and knee-jerk reacting to things that other countries and other people do.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved that Bill C-43, an act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-43, the technical amendments bill. In the unlikely event that some members are not totally familiar with what the technical amendments bill does, it makes some minor corrections to a number of statutes.

Most of the provisions of the bill before us today were in the draft Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act. During the draft bill's review by the House and Senate committees, requests were made for additional information on a number of provisions. I understand this information was given to the committees but in view of the concerns expressed during the committee meetings, several provisions which were not objected to were nevertheless not incorporated in the Miscellaneous Statue Law Amendment Act which the House passed a few weeks ago.

Additional information also has been provided to parliamentarians and the public in the communications material for the bill. As a result, I believe the House could proceed quickly with these provisions. I initially wanted to do all readings of the bill today but I understand the House is not quite ready to do that. I guess it will have to go to standing committee now but hopefully it can be dealt with quite quickly and then brought back to the House.

In the period since the draft Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment bill was tabled last spring, a few other technical amendments have been brought to the government's attention. The bill proposes to amend the Special Retirement Arrangements Act to address incorrect references and cross-references which were omitted in the 1999 public sector pensions legislation that was passed by parliament. These changes do not affect the policies or substance of existing statute but simply ensure that internal references are corrected.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Peterson Willowdale, ON

That is a very good idea.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I am pleased to have the support of the secretary of state.

The Lieutenant Governors Superannuation Act would also be changed to respond to a request from lieutenant governors to bring their pension arrangements in line with those of the federal public sector by allowing them to receive a pension at age 60 instead of age 65. I understand they are the only group in the public sector that has this particular requirement right now. It would bring it more in line with others because of course a number of people can retire at age 55 and so on.

I want to assure the House that there are no changes to the overall pension policies or arrangements for lieutenant governors.

Given the other large files we are studying this fall in the House of Commons, the amendments in this bill do not in themselves really merit separate bills. These are minor amendments after all. They are therefore grouped together in this bill.

The government therefore decided to introduce this bill so as to use parliamentarians' time more effectively and, of course, to ensure that our legislation is as accurate and up to date as possible.

By going ahead without further delay with this technical amendments bill, parliament can examine minor legislative amendments without waiting for other bills, which would make fundamental changes to the same bills, to be introduced.

I would now like to go over certain provisions of the bill. A number of amendments have to do with the Fisheries Prices Support Act. If members are wondering what purpose this act serves, it is a good question because this piece of legislation is obsolete. The Fisheries Prices Support Board is dissolved. Because it is obsolete, it has served no purpose for a good number of years.

These provisions were part of the draft amendment act to which I referred earlier. The committee had requested additional information about them while they were examining this bill. That information was provided and, in its report, the committee did not object to our going ahead with these provisions. However, because of the concerns raised during committee study, they were not incorporated into Bill C-40 passed by the House a few weeks ago.

Since we have now provided the information requested, it should be possible to go ahead and examine these provisions without delay.

With respect to Bill C-40, it is interesting to note that the structure that was established was that if one parliamentarian objected to a clause, it was simply removed from the bill at committee study stage. In return, Bill C-40 was passed at all stages in the House without debate. This is the structure which is always used for amendment acts. It is why we are examining some of these amendments today.

Under clauses 5 to 15 the name of the Canadian Film Development Corporation would be legally changed to Telefilm Canada. I was quite surprised to hear this because I for one, and probably all members of the House and the Canadian public, generally thought that Telefilm Canada was the legal name. It appears that it was not inserted in the law although it was the commonly used term. Telefilm Canada is the name that the corporation has used since 1983. It is bilingual and clearly identifies what the corporation does and the name change would be included in the legislation.

The National Capital Act would be amended to take into account changes to the Ontario and Quebec municipal structures. I note that the changes to the Quebec municipal structure only take effect on January 1, 2002. If parliament were to pass the technical corrections bill this fall, the final clause of the bill would allow a national capital provision to be brought into force on or after January 1.

For those members who are not from the national capital region, we have had amalgamation of municipalities. The regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton in Ontario is now the city of Ottawa. Almost the same thing occurred on the Quebec side in the national capital region. It is now one city bearing the name Gatineau. However I understand the jury is still out on that.

Therefore we have to change the National Capital Act for the number of seats to be on the National Capital Commission as a result of the amalgamation of municipalities in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

The National Film Act would be changed to allow the National Film Board to administer its human resources in the same way as other separate employers. At the present time it needs a special governor in council approval for certain appointments. That is over and above the treasury board oversight which exists for all similar organizations. The amendment would simplify its hiring practice while not removing the government's oversight of the expenditure of public money.

In other words, we have two cabinet committees reviewing the same thing: the committee that does orders in council, which is called a special committee of council, and treasury board. This would be streamlined since they were essentially doing the same thing twice.

The Nuclear Safety and Control Act would be amended to allow the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to set terms and conditions of employment in the same way as other separate employers and to fix the amount of service contracts. I assure the House that the commission would remain subject to treasury board policies on contracting similar to other federal employers.

There is also an inconsistency in the English and French versions of the Yukon First Nations Self-Government Act which would be corrected as part of the bill.

The bill contains in part technical corrections but substantive changes are also included to a degree. The fact that the city of Ottawa is no longer called the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton is something that has to be fixed along with bills that no longer have a use. The bill is a mixture of all these things.

These amendments are minor and technical in nature and do not reflect any significant policy issue. None of the provisions of the bill are substantive in nature, at least not to a major degree. Almost all of them were in the draft miscellaneous statute law amendment bill, 2001.

I understand that the information provided to committees addressed the concerns noted during the committee study regarding the information required for those parts that were in the MSLA. Further material on these provisions has been included in the communications material for the bill. I understand that all parties received this documentation.

I hope all members would support the timely passage of these housekeeping amendments. This would ensure that our laws are up to date and in order. I indicated earlier that if the House were agreeable we could have done all stages of the bill today. I am told that it was not agreeable. Therefore we will not.

We will send it to committee. I hope the committee would give it speedy approval. We could bring before the committee the officials we have prepared so that they are available to answer the technical questions hon. members might want to ask.

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12:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This goes to the hon. government House leader's description of the bill and the technical amendments including fish, pensions of lieutenant-governors, film, municipal structures, nuclear safety control and Yukon first nations. He mentioned the bill would be referred to a committee. What committee would the bill be referred to?

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12:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I refer the hon. member to page 25 of the order paper where it states that it will be referred to the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations. There was mention of the justice committee earlier and perhaps that is where confusion arose, if I am not mistaken.

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12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Madam Speaker, it was interesting to listen to the government House leader today. He said that the acts were precise and as up to date as possible, which was the reason for the bill. I cannot help but wonder, if the bills were done properly in the first place, that we would not have to be doing some of this stuff and taking up the time of the House.

Bill C-43, an act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act, amends the following: Access to Information Act, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Act, Canadian Film Development Corporation Act, the constitution of Telefilm Canada, Financial Administration Act, Lieutenant Governors Superannuation Act, National Capital Act, Nuclear Safety and Control Act, Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act, Privacy Act, Public Service Staff Relations Act, Special Retirement Arrangements Act which I am sure would excite people watching live this afternoon, and Special Retirement Arrangements Act.

The committee will have to get together to make sure there are no special arrangements for MPs pensions or senior bureaucrats. The bill also amends the Telecommunications Act, Yukon First Nations Self-Government Act and repeals the Fisheries Prices Support Act.

We are told the bill proposes minor technical corrections that do not involve any policy changes. I agree with that. The reason the government's legislation is so riddled with mistakes is that it rushes it through the legislative process claiming lack of time. Yet the House adjourns early every other day.

Here is a question we could ask. How many high priced lawyers do we have in all these government departments drafting legislation? It is rather unfortunate that we still have all these mistakes.

I recall being on the justice committee and we had scads of lawyers, 10, 20 or 30 of them. They were all looking at the Extradition Act. I had to hire two professionals to look at the act. About nine or ten amendments were approved that time because we as the opposition hired some top notch lawyers to look at the bill.

I asked these lawyers why, If we could hire two lawyers to do this work for us and come up with amendments the government lawyers accept, they would not pick up on this. They said that government lawyers tended to like things to go to the supreme court for decisions rather than make laws that would never go there under the charter. I sometimes wonder how legislation is drafted that necessitates what we are doing this afternoon: taking up a couple of hours of parliament's time. It is a disturbing trend and this bill is a by product of that trend.

Yesterday the Liberal government attempted to adjourn government orders early due to the lack of government business. Ironically the day before it limited debate to less than two hours on the most important bill to hit the House in years.

I found this to be so offensive, as did most of my colleagues on this side of the House, that we refused consent to adjourn early, giving the Speaker no choice but to suspend the sitting until 5.30 p.m. when private members' business begins. The House was in a state of limbo with no business before it for a couple of hours.

So far this fall the House adjourned early for the same reason on November 22, November 20, November 2, October 26, October 25, October 24, October 22 and October 19. This is why we have a bill like Bill C-43 before us. It is not necessary because we do not have time to deal with legislation in a thoughtful and thorough manner.

Time allocation is not necessary in most cases. In fact there was a time when the Liberal leadership in the House shared that view. As recently as December 29, 1992, on CBC Prime Time the Prime Minister who was then the member for Saint-Maurice declared:

We have closure in Parliament now every day. I think it's completely wrong...And we will have to restore parliament...the parliamentary democracy that existed before.

On January 19, 1993, the same member made the following comment at a press conference in Ottawa. I see that the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary is wondering if I am in order with some of these comments. There is a reason that we talk about bills which are being updated. It is because of mistakes and that is why we have to press these issues. Before becoming Prime Minister he said on January 19, 1993:

I think we should let members of parliament speak their mind as long as it is possible.

If we had the opportunity to get the proper witnesses before committee and took the proper time on some of these bills, we would not make mistakes. It would mean we would not have to be back here bringing in a bill with all these mistakes and trying to correct them.

On October 25, 1989, the Toronto Star reported that the present government whip who in those days was in opposition said she felt the Tory government's use of closure showed it had no respect for the public process--

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
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12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member for Cariboo--Chilcotin.

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12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Yesterday we did not have business to do. Today we do not have members to do business. I call quorum.

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12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
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12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I see a quorum.

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12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Madam Speaker, I will go back to October 25, 1989, when the present government whip was in opposition. She said she felt the Tory government's use of closure showed it had no respect for the public process, no respect for parliament and no respect for the opinions of the public.

On November 16, 1992, according to Hansard , the present government House leader said in the House that he was shocked by the conservative government's use of closure.

The government he was talking about used closure or time allocation about 23 times. The present government has used them 73 times. Rushing legislation through 73 times is one of the reasons we have a bill like the one before the House today. Mistakes are made and corrections must be made. We should spend the proper time looking at these bills.

The three members I have referred to, the Prime Minister, the government House leader and the chief government whip, are key players in the House of Commons today.

We in my party support Bill C-43 because it would make the necessary changes. However we would like the proper time to be taken in the House and the proper assistance to be given to members to make sure mistakes do not happen.

Parliament does not need to rush 73 bills through on closure. We should let parliament do its job. If it takes a little longer than the government hopes, that is one thing. We would prefer to avoid making mistakes in the first place. This would be achieved by careful drafting.

As I mentioned, when I was on the justice committee a number of opposition amendments to the extradition bill were approved. This proves my point. The member for Red Deer, our environment critic, has had numerous amendments approved in committee. This shows that if we let the opposition and the government work in committee and give them time to do what they must do, we will have better legislation.

Using the heavy hand of government to invoke closure does not bring about good legislation. Bill C-43 is a good example of that. It is a waste of taxpayer dollars. The money should have been spent making sure the legislation was done properly in the first place.

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12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to speak today to Bill C-43. As my Canadian Alliance colleague mentioned earlier, this bill amends various acts.

While reading this bill, which is approximately 15 pages long, one realizes that the government is using a parliamentary instrument, which it is entitled to do, to amend a number of acts.

Several amendments are included in this bill which, to a certain extent let us admit, is of minor importance, but at the same time is rather important in view of the number of acts it amends.

The amendments concern a number of acts and instruments. The government House leader is shaking his head. If you will allow me, I will list the acts Bill C-43 seeks to amend. I am thinking of the Access to Information Act, to which I will come back later, but also of other acts parliamentarians, citizens and journalists commonly use.

Amendments could have been made to this act, which were not merely cosmetic but would have made it easier to use by citizens, parliamentarians and journalists. For us parliamentarians, this act is a very useful and necessary tool to help us do our work.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Act, with which some of our colleagues in the House are very familiar, is another act amended by the bill. Few from Quebec know this act because, of course, the Bloc Quebecois represents Quebec citizens.

The Canadian Film Development Corporation Act, to which I will get back later on in my speech, is also amended. It is a fairly important act. We need only look at all the events surrounding the CINAR case.

The government had the opportunity not just to change the name of the Canadian Film Development Corporation for the name used since 1994, namely Telefilm Canada, but also to go even further than that and to provide resources.

The Financial Administration Act, the Lieutenant Governors Superannuation Act and the National Capital Act are also amended. What perspective does this debate on Bill C-43 give us today? It is an opportunity to remind everyone that, in reality, the national capital is not bilingual.

The National Film Act and the Nuclear Safety and Control Act are amended as well. This bill amends the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, and it so happens that we had an in-depth debate about nuclear waste yesterday. Today, we have an opportunity to debate this amendment. I recognize, of course, that it is not the same bill. However, we must remember that each debate that we have in the House must be put in perspective, and that perspective does not go back very far since it was just yesterday that we had that other debate on this subject.

This bill also amends the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act, the Privacy Act, which the government House leader should know pretty well, the Public Service Staff Relations Act, the Special Retirement Arrangements Act, the Telecommunications Act and the Yukon First Nations Self-Government Act.

Even though the government says—and it is right to a certain extent—that all this bill does is change a few names, members can see that it does amend several acts.

This is why we are against fast tracking this bill. We want to be able to study it.

I also rise today to speak to the second reading of Bill C-43, introduced by the hon. government House leader.

Needless to say that our statutes must be consistent and updated, if we want their enforcement to also be consistent. In order to meet this obvious need, the Miscellaneous Statute Amendment Program was implemented in 1975. This program allows for minor amendments of a non-controversial nature to a number of federal statutes without having to wait for a more in-depth review.

The main purpose of the bill is to correct discrepancies between the French and English versions of statutes. In addition, it repeals certain provisions, which is an excellent idea. But how do we explain the fact that we are required today to study a bill, Bill C-43, to correct, I repeat, discrepancies between the French and English versions of statutes? Does this not denote, indeed, the lack this government's of commitment, and fundamentally, of Canadian governments past, and an unacceptable lack of insight when it comes to the French reality in Canada?

The first purpose therefore is to correct discrepancies between the French and English versions of statutes. In addition, it repeals the provisions regarding the Fisheries Prices Support Board. I remind the House that this board has not been operational since 1982. This is really quite unbelievable.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
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12:55 p.m.

The hon. Don Boudria

Exactly.

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12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

The government House leader says “exactly”. Since 1982, this board, the Fisheries Prices Support Board, has not been in existence. Now, in 2001, we are discussing and debating a bill that, essentially, changes certain provisions regarding a board that has not been operational for more than 18 years. I also have to point out that the mandate of the Fisheries Prices Support Board was to stabilize prices by providing financial support to buyers.

And finally, the bill substitutes the corporate designation of the Canadian Film Development Corporation to the name that it has been using since 1994, Telefilm Canada.

This is where it becomes evident that the government has nothing to propose to us in terms of a legislative agenda, so it has come up with a bill, Bill C-43, which basically is making adjustments to an office that has not been operational since 1982, and amends a statute which officializes the use of the name Telefilm Canada, which it has been using since 1994. This government is proposing to us nothing but these bills, which are basically nothing more than making cosmetic changes, when what we expect of it is proactive efforts, acting like, and being, a government of which the people of Quebec and of Canada can be proud.

While there are important issues to be dealt with in Canada, fundamental debates that must be carried out, it has come up with a bill that makes some cosmetic changes.

The changes to the National Capital Act offer the Bloc Quebecois the opportunity to remind hon. members that the national capital is not bilingual. The Bloc Quebecois again draws attention to the failure of the federal language policy.

The failure is all the more flagrant because it is played out in the Canadian capital, which should reflect linguistic duality better than anywhere else in Canada. I believe that—

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1 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
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1 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Order, please. It is very difficult to hear the member. The member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie.

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1 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I think I have been patient so far in listening to the invectives hurled by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and I will now continue with my speech.

It must be said also that the National Capital Commission is not a model of transparency, as evidenced by its in camera proceedings. It has the nasty habit of keeping the public away, even though its decisions have repercussions on more than 1 million people on both sides of the river.

Amendments made to the legislation regarding Telefilm Canada indicate the need to modernize that organization. An expert report tabled in September 2000 proposes stricter controls on the use of funding allocated to the motion picture and television production industry.

I will quote from a report on the management practices of the federal government, where the head of the auditing team at Canadian Heritage said “We will work more closely, share information and increase the number of audits”.

This statement comes from a report on the management practices of the federal government. The government had a golden opportunity to amend this act to meet the expectations of the Auditor General of Canada, Anne Scotton. She was clear, and the quote is rather eloquent in that respect.

Furthermore, as I was saying earlier, the matter involving Cinar speaks eloquently of the need to clean up the grants attribution system, for example, once and for all.

We will recall this matter and the work of my colleague for Verchères--Les-Patriotes in this regard. It was—we must face the facts— a major issue that revealed the way grants were awarded. I think it is more than ever important to restore transparency so that the government may truly reveal everything in granting funds.

We will remember that the Bloc Quebecois revealed at the time that Cinar had used false names to obtain tax credits. Cinar had had access to various tax credit programs of Telefilm Canada and the Canadian television fund, and had also received government funding earmarked for productions by Canadian craftspeople.

I am happy to note the arrival of the Secretary of State for International Financial Institutions and I hope he will remain around a long time. We do, despite what is being said today, not only in the papers, but on the hill. I thank him for arriving two minutes before the end of my speech in order to hear my remarks.

I would like him to know that we would have expected from this government major amendments, and not cosmetic ones. We would have expected this government to act in the interests of the people of Quebec and Canada.

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1:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I simply want to remind the House that the first three speakers who address a new motion can speak for 40 minutes.

I also remind hon. members that they must not mention the absence or the presence of other members in the House.

The hon. member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore.

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I will put on the record that I will limit my time so that my colleagues to the left of me will have more time to speak to the hon. House leader about what their concerns are regarding Bill C-43.

First, I could not help but notice that yesterday we had two hours in the middle of the day with not much to do. In about 20 minutes we are going to be debating a very important bill that would make parliamentarians much more accountable to their constituents. It is called the floor-crossing bill. If a member crossed the floor to another political party, that seat would become vacant. We would then have to go back to the constituents to see if they wish to--

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1:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I know the hon. member is very passionate about his private member's bill but we are not in private members' business. We are on Bill C-43 and I would ask the hon. member to please get on with his speech on Bill C-43.

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, it should have been part of Bill C-43 but my point was accountability. That is the whole point of this particular bill.

I could not help but notice that the term ACOA is in the bill. We have been asking that ACOA, which is very important in my region of Atlantic Canada, become more transparent and more accountable to the taxpayers of Atlantic Canada to ensure that the funding dollars are definitely meant for job enhancement and infrastructure enhancement.

We also noticed that the National Capital Commission is in the bill. We are asking the government House leader to ensure for example that the cities of Ottawa and Hull will have more consultation and more openness and transparency in what happens at the National Capital Commission. That is all we are asking.

With respect to the National Film Act, the National Film Board is a great institution in Canada. Anything that diminishes this in any way, shape or form would not be a good thing for Canada.

Lastly, regarding nuclear safety and speaking strictly for myself, the greatest way we can protect Canadians from concerns about nuclear power plants is eventually to start dismantling the power plants across the country and start bringing in alternate forms of energy for Canada.

We still have not decided what to do with nuclear waste. When we hear that there could be missiles surrounding Point Lepreau in New Brunswick to protect it, that accelerates the danger and anxiety for all Canadians. What the government should be doing, what we all should be doing, is looking at alternate forms of renewable energy so we can enhance our power capabilities and reduce the risk to all Canadians.

Basically what we are asking for is full, open transparency on all the acts in the bill. If the government does that, we will look forward to supporting the bill as it is. We look forward to the bill going to committee if at all possible for further discussion where my other colleagues in the party will have an opportunity to elaborate on it further.

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1:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a distinct pleasure to rise on a Friday afternoon to direct some comments on such an important and momentous bill as Bill C-43. To the hon. NDP member who just spoke, I would like to say at the outset that I do believe there is nobody further to the left of him other than perhaps the heritage minister. I would like to clear that up right at the beginning of my remarks. Although we are physically located to the left of him, we certainly do not believe on the political spectrum that we are.

This is quite an issue that has seized the House this afternoon. As has already been noted, Bill C-43, an act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act, is an omnibus bill, perhaps a bit like so many others in the sense that it addresses many different issues all in one bill. As has been noted by the hon. government House leader and the House leader for the official opposition and other members before me, primarily it brings about technical amendments to a number of acts. The list is quite long.

The bill affects the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Act, the Canadian Film Development Corporation Act, the Energy Monitoring Act, the National Energy Board Act, and on and on it goes. Bill C-43 is quite comprehensive and makes what has been referred to as minor housekeeping amendments.

The issue I want to address in my remarks on Bill C-43 stems from how we got to this point with this piece of legislation being brought forward by the government. It might interest members and the viewing public to know that amendments similar to these were contained in a previous bill, Bill C-40, which passed through the House. However, because quite a number of concerns were raised by opposition members at the justice committee, these particular amendments were dropped out of Bill C-40. That bill then progressed through the House and went on to the Senate. To my knowledge, Bill C-40 is still currently before the other place.

One of the things that is of interest, and I just say one, is that both the House and the Senate committees raised concerns, not specifically to the amendments themselves in some cases, but to the lack of background information being provided for the rationale for the amendments themselves. During his brief remarks the hon. government House leader referred to that. He duly noted that this time around when Bill C-43 was brought forward, additional information and material was provided to parliamentarians to support the necessity for some of these amendments.

The one amendment I wish to pick up on in the bill deals with clauses 17 and 18. Clause 17 is an amendment to the Lieutenant Governors Superannuation Act which is just one of the myriad of acts Bill C-43 addresses. Clause 17 states:

The definition “deferred pension” in section 2 of the Lieutenant Governors Superannuation Act is replaced by the following:

“deferred pension” means a pension that becomes payable to a person at the time he or she reaches sixty years of age.

What is interesting to note in this regard is that the Senate committee on legal and constitutional affairs in its report on Bill C-40, the forerunner to Bill C-43, raised a concern. It asked why in clauses 17 and 18 the government decided to lower the age from 65 to 60 for a deferred pension for lieutenant governors.

It believed it might be a minor change, but it behooves all of us to understand the rationale behind that. Is it to bring it into line with other pensions and if so, did there at least appear to be a reluctance on the part of the government to provide that rationale? Would it not have been appropriate to have that brought forward at that time?

I picked that one example because clearly what the committees in both houses have targeted in this type of legislation is that to do a proper job of overseeing these types of amendments, they clearly want to understand exactly the rationale and perhaps from time to time have an expert witness come before the committee to provide testimony. For example, when a particular clause is being dropped from an act, they want to make sure that is an appropriate thing to do.

In the time I have remaining I want to refer to the whole issue of why we are debating this bill today. Yesterday, as the House leader for the Canadian Alliance noted, the House rose with two hours of time remaining for debate. We could have been debating legislation, Bill C-43 which we are debating today or other bills.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
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1:15 p.m.

An hon. member

Such as Bill C-36.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
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1:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

My hon. colleague from Manitoba mentions Bill C-36. Of course the whole country if not the whole world is now aware that the government brought forward the dictatorial power it has to enact closure and time allocation and crush any debate.

I pointed out yesterday that the coalition had amendments that did not get one minute of debate on the floor of the Chamber before those amendments were put to a vote. That was at report stage.

Then at third reading of that legislation, both the New Democratic Party and the coalition did not get the opportunity to put up even one speaker before the government shut down debate. It basically eliminated the opportunity for Canadians to have their elected representatives bring forward concerns about the legislation. That is completely unacceptable.

There is more than a touch of irony that today, a couple of days later, we are debating Bill C-43 which makes, as the hon. House leader quite rightly identified, technical or minor amendments to a myriad of other acts.

I was going to end my comments at this point but one of the government members took it upon himself to say that it was so unacceptable that the coalition, or at least the majority of our members, voted for Bill C-36. That bears a bit of explanation and I thank the hon. member for his heckling from across the way to remind me of that.

On controversial issues like that, clearly there are parts of an omnibus bill that we believe are going in the right direction. This is true for so much of the legislation that comes before the House. Then there are other parts that we are vehemently opposed to and have very serious concerns about. Members, and I would suggest not just opposition members but indeed members of the governing party as well, are constantly caught in a quandary of whether to support the legislation as brought forward by the government or whether to vote against it. Oftentimes there is some good and some bad in the same legislation and we have to weigh the pros and cons.

Unfortunately, what inevitably happens, and the same would be true of a bill like the one we are debating today, Bill C-43, is that there may indeed be some good and some bad in a bill like this. It is an omnibus bill. It is making, as I said, a whole range of amendments, termed as minor amendments by the government, to a whole range of laws and statutes. The reality is that often times we are caught where we have to make a judgment call as to whether there is some good, some bad and which way to go on a particular way of legislation.

The only way to get around that is what the government is at least at this point willing to do with Bill C-42, the next omnibus so-called anti-terrorism bill. The government brought it forward. Then, within a day, it was before the opposition party claiming it needed to draw out one or several clauses and get them through the House, such as the clause dealing with airplane manifests and passenger lists, and then just let the remainder of Bill C-42 sit there for the time being and not debate it in the House. Rather it would have the House rising early, as the House leader for the opposition stated. Nine times so far in this fall session the House has adjourned early for lack of legislation put forward by the government.

This is a growing concern, I believe, not just to the opposition but indeed to a number of government backbenchers as well in the sense that the--

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Peterson Willowdale, ON

Nonsense. It does not bother me a bit.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
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1:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

The junior minister of finance says it does not bother him a bit, but I am sure he does not speak for all of his colleagues. It does bother some of them. The way this government is continuing to govern with its dictatorial and arrogant manner I think it is of great concern to a great many Canadians. That is the simple reality of the situation.

When the government perceives the least bit of opposition from Canadians and from the opposition parties to try to improve a piece of legislation, instead of trying to work with those groups and those political parties, it just brings down the heavy hammer and after there has been a couple of hours of debate it rams it through the House of Commons. It does not matter that certain parties did not even get a chance to speak at third reading. It does not matter that some amendments did not even get a minute of debate on the floor of the Chamber. The reality is the government rams it through using closure or time allocation.

These are the same members in many cases, because of their longevity, who ranted and railed against those uses of power by the preceding government. Yet now that they are in power they have used it far more than the government before them.

Why Bill C-43 is before the Chamber today? In some cases there are legitimate errors, or omissions or adaptations that were necessary to this myriad of statutes and laws. However in some cases, as my colleague from the Canadian Alliance already pointed out, it is sloppy work. One of the trademarks of this government, over the eight years that I have been in this Chamber since the fall of 1993, is sloppy work. We hear this from a great many people. Certainly a great many parliamentarians who have a lot more history either in this Chamber or in the other place than I have are remarking that never before in their political history have they seen such sloppy work from a government. It brings forward legislation, amends it before it almost gets to the House, then it changes it.

Bill C-36 is a prime example. There were 100 amendments, it was still deeply flawed and the government had to rush it through. It will still be a mess and create problems when it gets to the Senate. The senators will probably amend it and send it back.

The government seems intent upon forcing through legislation, whereas if it just took a bit more time, worked in a more co-operative manner with the opposition parties and seriously considered some of the amendments that are brought forward both at committee and at report stage, we would see a lot better legislation passed through this House. We would see a functioning parliament. We would see a legislature working for the people instead of against the people. That is the reality of the government and a sad legacy for it.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Would the House agree to take the question and send the bill to committee, so it could be done next week?

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is the House ready for the question?

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The question is on Bill C-43 at second reading. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It being 1.30 p.m. the House will now proceed to consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

moved that Bill C-218, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it has been a long time since I have had an opportunity to formally speak on this bill in the House of Commons, although I have been giving it plugs throughout my three year career.

Bill C-218 would allow the voters and our constituents a little more power over what we do in our lives and would allow a little more democracy in the House of Commons

In essence, if a member of parliament is elected as a member of a recognized party and during the mandate of that parliament decides to cross the floor to another political party, for whatever reason, and his or her seat becomes vacant, a byelection would be called in the constituency. That individual would have to run in the byelection to allow the constituents to decide whether he or she should run under that other political banner.

I have had many consultations with many people in my riding and throughout the country about this and they believe this to be a very fine piece of legislation. The reason why it is so important is that it will make all parliamentarians more accountable to people, people who put their faith in their elected officials to represent their interests in the House of Commons. When people choose to vote for members, they believe they are voting for people who belong to a political party with specific ideology.

I ran for election as a New Democrat. I told the ladies and gentlemen of voting age in my riding that this was who I am and this was what I would do in the House of Commons.

During my term of office, if I decide, for whatever reason, that I can no longer abide by the principles and policies of the party, or have a falling out with my leader or for a variety of other reasons, and feel I would serve the best interests of my constituents by being a member of another party, then I should not make that decision alone. I should go back to the constituents in a byelection and tell them that I am now a Tory, or an Alliance, or a Bloc or a Liberal member and ask them to vote for me on that premise. That is accountability and that is democracy.

Many Canadians have a jaundiced view of members of the House. In the last federal election 40% of eligible voters did not vote. Millions of Canadians have said they do not care who we are, or what we do or what party we belong. They simply have a very jaundiced view. That is unacceptable.

Canadians must be given the right to approve or disapprove of the actions of their member of parliament. That is called democracy.

Some may wonder why I am bringing this bill forward. The fact is the NDP has actually gained members over the years. Since our party's inception, we have lost four members of parliament to other parties, but we have gained nine in the process over time. Since 1867, 137 members have crossed the floor.

I have heard people say outside the Chamber that byelections would cost too much money. In the last parliament one member was given a Senate posting and another one was given an international posting. Both were Liberals. There was no hesitation to call byelections in Quebec for those members seats. There were no worries about the costs at all. In fact, the current heritage minister stepped down a few years back on a point of principle, ran again in a byelection for the same seat and was re-elected at the cost of about half a million dollars.

The government did not seem to be too concerned about the cost of those byelections, so it should not be very concerned about the cost of a byelection when members of parliament decide to do something that their constituents may question.

It is not that difficult to understand. We are elected to represent our constituents. We are held accountable by our constituents.

I have to admit that when I first came here I was extremely naive on this whole issue. When the member for Burin--St. George's was a Conservative, he sat in our fisheries committee and lambasted the Liberals every chance he got.

One day I awoke and there he was at a press conference with the hon. member for Gander--Grand Falls. All of a sudden he was a Liberal, just like that.

That is when I introduced the bill. I asked my House leader how easy it was to do that. He said I could do that within an hour. If members go to another party and it accepts them, bang they are in. Not once do they have to go back to their constituents to ask them. Not once are they held accountable. Only at the next general election down the road is that the case.

That is political opportunism at the worst. We get paid very well for what we do. It is an honour and a privilege to be in the House of Commons. We should never ever abuse the rights and privileges we have from our constituents and never be perceived to be doing that. Perception is extremely important. If we cannot set examples for our constituents there is no other place in the land that it can be done.

It is quite clear that our constituents, in fact Canadians around the country, are asking us to be more responsible and to be more accountable. They are asking us to listen to them and bring their concerns to Ottawa. They do not like flippant answers. They do not like members of parliament who take advantage of the situation. They do not like political opportunism and they do not like political cheap shots either. They want the House of Commons to work together for the benefit of all Canadians.

It is simply unacceptable when members of parliament cross the floor to another political party when they ran against that party in the general campaign. If they feel they must do it, they should go back to their constituents, run in a byelection and let them decide if they are good enough to fly under another political banner.

That is responsible democracy and that is what we should be doing in the House of Commons. I could not believe when I brought this issue before my peers on the votable committee that it was not even deemed votable. In fairness to all the other bills and motions that were put forward, not one was deemed votable.

If any bill in the House of Commons should be votable, it is this one. If members of parliament are shy or nervous about talking about their individual responsibilities to their constituents, they really should not be here in the first place.

When I first became a politician I realized, as well as my other 300 colleagues in the House, that everything we say and do can and will be used against us in the court of public opinion. When we do something of this nature like crossing the floor to another political party it is a very serious decision. Some political parties win and some political parties lose, but the ones who really lose are the constituents in the voting public. They are the ones who say there goes another one and ask what else is new.

If we are to encourage the other 40% of Canadians who currently do not vote to come back to the ballot box to vote for their representatives, this piece of legislation would assist in that matter.

There are other questions about if members of parliament have a major falling out with their party whether they can sit as independents. Absolutely. Individual members of parliament, in the event of very moral decisions on issues such as capital punishment, abortion or whatever serious issues arise, may have a very serious or moral reason for not supporting the party position. That may put the individual MP in a bit of jeopardy with other concerns of that party. Then the individual should be able to sit as an independent.

It would also allow the leaders of political parties the opportunity, if a member of parliament all of a sudden decides to become a one person show or a bit of a renegade and very disruptive of their political parties, to force the person to sit as an independent.

The reality is that we ran under a political banner. There are three reasons we are sitting here today, why we were elected. The first is the leader. The second is the party and the other is the individual. We could argue about the percentages that are allotted to each one of those but those are the three reasons we were elected. If members cross the floor they basically tell their constituents that they do not honour two of them. That is simply unacceptable.

I encourage the House and all members of parliament to look inside themselves and go back to their constituents to ask them if they support this type of legislation, because I have and they do. If I go back to my riding and I tell my constituents that I am a New Democrat, a Liberal, a Tory or an Alliance or a Bloc member, would my constituents say that they do not mind? I tell members to ask them. I can save them a lot of time. They can do this by making this bill votable so we can stand in the House to debate the issue.

We could have had two extra hours yesterday to do it but we took a little nap. We had a little siesta here yesterday. We had a wonderful opportunity to debate this very important bill.

It is incredible that the bill is not votable. I will be asking at the end of the hour to make it a votable item. I encourage all members of parliament who will speak to this bill not to think just of themselves. They should think of their constituents, the taxpayers who pay our salaries and benefits for us to be here. Members should think of the constituents whom they represent.

To the nth degree I honestly believe that all members of parliament are here to represent their constituents under a certain political banner. If for whatever reason they cannot fly that political banner, they cannot fly that flag anymore, that is understandable. It happens. However members should have the decency and the honesty to go back to their constituents and ask them if they have the right to do that. The best way to do it is through a byelection.

If members did that, they would know if they were right. They would know that they had the backing and the trust of their constituents. They would know that they are being open, transparent and democratic. The reason we are all here is for democracy. That is why we represent Canadians in a democratic manner.

If a member uses political opportunism, if he or she tries to play with the rules of the game, it simply will not be effective. The member needs to tell his or her constituents “I can no longer abide by the principles of this particular party. I am going to cross the floor, but folks, you are going to have the final say. I am going to run in a byelection, put my name under a new banner and you will decide”, not the member of parliament.

Members are to be held accountable at all times by their constituents. It does not matter whom we are with or where we are from in Canada. The end game is responsibility to our constituents. That is the key to this debate.

I look forward to hearing what my colleagues from various parties have to say about this issue. We can be proven right. We can get more people back to the ballot box. We could be held in a better view by our constituents if we made this bill votable and gave it speedy passage.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague from Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore. This is an issue that merits debate in the House and I agree with him on that.

I am not necessarily in agreement with making it votable. My colleague has raised the debate but there are a lot of issues here. If we went back and looked through the history of this place, I suspect that every political party in the House has had members who have crossed the floor. I would not have named the bill the floor crossing bill. I would name it anything but that.

However, for lack of a better name, the bill has to be called something. Floor walkers and all kinds of other analogies can be drawn from that. Certainly we could not use those analogies in this place.

A number of things are problematic with the principle. We must raise those issues and questions. It hurts for a political party to lose one of its members, for a member to lose a colleague or for any party in this place to lose one of its colleagues. We have been through that. It is difficult and hard to accept.

Yet at the same time should we take away the rights of the House to recognize a member who is duly elected by the constituents of a riding in Canada to represent those constituents? As much as we may like to think otherwise, there are many factors that affect each of us being elected to the House of Commons: the ability of the individual, the political party he or she runs for and the political climate of the day.

The reality is that most of our constituents do not belong to a recognized political party. Most of our constituents vote for a political party most of the time but not all the time. If only 2% of Canadians belong to and are affiliated with political parties that is not saying the system is wrong. It says that all Canadians do not participate in the political party system. Not all Canadians are members of the PC/DR coalition, the New Democrats, the Liberals, the Alliance or the Bloc Quebecois. That is a fact we have to deal with.

For members of the House to tell members of parliament duly elected by their constituents that for reasons perhaps beyond their control they cannot cross the floor becomes an ideological issue. They may not agree with the ideology that the party has accepted or has perhaps changed.

The NDP went through that this past weekend. What would happen if that party changed its name? Would we expect all members of that political party to stand down and stand again for re-election if its name or constitution were changed? I somehow do not think so. That would not be responsible action as members of parliament.

I recognize the angst and the anger caused when members of a party move to another party. As difficult as it is to say, I also agree with those individual members having that right. We do not have the right to control the thought processes of a person's mind.

There are a number of other issues. The member spoke about consultation, openness and transparency. The member spoke about parties and MPs and how they stand for re-election. The reality is that every member of parliament who crosses the floor, if they run again in another election, has to stand for re-election. They are judged by their peers and by the people they represent. Whether or not they made the right decision to leave one political entity for another does have a judgment day. It may not be that week or that month but a judgment is made.

Another statement made was that everything we say and do will be held against us in the court of public opinion. It also may be held in our favour in the court of public opinion.

I have sat in this place with colleagues who have crossed the floor. I understand the bitterness that arises from that but somehow or another we hopefully have to rise to a higher level. An individual member of parliament who moves from one party to another and accepts that party's values, its leader or its ideology, and who runs again, is judged again. We cannot nor should we control that.

The member for Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore made the statement that 137 members have crossed the floor. I would judge they were all held accountable for their actions. Only their constituents and their immediate electorates have that right.

The other question that arises is how we account for other political systems and other jurisdictions. We work on a first past the post jurisdiction. I have heard many of my NDP colleagues in the House praise the idea of proportional representation. With that system members of parliament could be appointed to this place. I was always of the opinion that proportional representation had no place in the Parliament of Canada, yet when we look at that process and talk to people from other countries, especially the Scandinavian and European countries such as Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland and Germany, they all have proportional representation. It is a matter of thought. To be honest, if we had proportional representation in the House today we would not have a majority government. We would have a government that would be much more reflective and would more closely represent the thought processes of the general public in Canada.

If we had proportional representation, could we apply that process? I would argue that it would not be fair to apply that process because now we have members who may belong to a political party but are appointed by that political party to the position they hold.

I am not trying to trivialize the member's presentation. I recognize why he brought the bill to the House but I would hope that it is not brought back to parliament again. I hope we can debate it and put it to rest.

It is important for members of parliament to not only stand for our political parties, our positions and our jobs, but we also need to recognize that it is always, although it is argued by the parties that lose a player, opportunism when members cross the floor. Sometimes it is a personality conflict and sometimes it is a real issue which the member of parliament simply cannot accept.

In closing, I will summarize some of the points I have made. We are all elected to this place, not by political parties but by our constituents, and they always have the opportunity to judge us again.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, first, to put things in a proper perspective, the bill introduced by the NDP member asks us to think about something important. It forces us to think about the nature of the trust relationship that exists between those who elect us here to represent them, and what happens when members change parties during their mandate.

This raises a very relevant question as to whether the meaning of the vote is altered. Are voters hurt when they vote for the candidate of a political party and, once here in Ottawa, that candidate decides to join another party?

Under the proposed bill, a member who leaves his party could only sit as an independent. If he wants to join another political party, he would have to face voters by running in a byelection to get re-elected under the new banner.

This gives us something to think about and the bill has positive elements.

There is a problem in that the public is now very cynical about politics. I am one of those who believe that elected representatives play an extremely important role in society, and that includes the role of parliament and the legislative branch. Therefore, it is in our interest to do our best to restore a degree of confidence. This is one aspect, but it is not the only one.

One criticism that we often hear, even if it not necessarily a personal one, is that “politicians are all basically the same”. When people see members change political parties, this tends to prove them right. I know that some members here did so just before the last general election, but they were members from Quebec. And that is true.

There are people who say “Yes, but someone who does that should have to face the voters anyway”. This is true but, in the context of a general election, there are so many factors which come into play.

We know that the leader, the party, the ideology, if any, are important factors which influence which party people vote for, and they are not necessarily able to pick a particular individual, as would happen in the case of a member who decided to change parties in the middle of his mandate and who would have to answer to his constituents.

I think that this raises a very important issue. All the comings and goings before the last election really bothered me. People give the impression that all they are trying to do is get re-elected, that they are checking out which way the wind blows just before an election and saying to themselves “Ultimately, with which party do I stand the greatest chance of getting elected? That is the party I will join and try to increase my chances”. These people know very well that many other variables come into play in a general election besides what the candidate has to offer in a riding. So they think they might come out on top this way.

In this regard, I can only be sympathetic to the idea that a way must be found. Is this the best one? I do not know. But at least it has the merit of showing that there is a problem and that it must be resolved.

There are other problems. Because I can also understand those who leave a political party at a particular time. It can happen, for good reasons, that an elected MP leaves a party because they feel that it is not honouring the commitments it made to the public. An MP who is a member of a political party but no longer feels comfortable in that party and feels that it is not living up to its mandate might feel the need to leave it.

From there to joining another party is another dimension entirely. During election campaigns, when I introduce myself as a Bloc Quebecois MP and my main adversaries in Quebec are from the Liberal Party, I can hardly see myself saying part way through my mandate that I have suddenly had a change of heart and am becoming a Liberal. I would understand if my constituents were to be extremely skeptical and cynical about me if ever I were to do such a thing. And this has happened.

One may think that some parties are very similar. Ideologically, some are closer than others. For example, on the Canadian right, the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance, even though there are some differences, are not that far apart. One might assume that crossing from one to the other would be somewhat more understandable. It would be less of an about face than if a Canadian Alliance member crossed the floor to sit with the Liberals or if a Liberal member joined the Bloc Quebecois.

I would really like the Quebec Liberal members to join the Bloc Quebecois but, at the same time, it would raise the issue as to whether it was the only mandate they got from their electors.

The bill says that when a member resigns, he or she may sit as an independent. They may go as far as to announce that during the next election campaign, they will be running for another party, but for the time being, they will belong to no other party than the one they ran for.

On the other hand, let us not be hypocritical; we must realize that when it comes to ballots, people say “Yes, but it is members that we elect”. How many members here would like the name of political parties to be removed from ballots? Not many. We like to know people can identify the party we belong to.

In Quebec, at the provincial level, even if it does not concern us directly, there is one party, the Action démocratique, which adds the name of its leader on the ballots to make sure people can identify the party properly.

In my riding, when people vote, they vote for Pierre Brien, Bloc Quebecois MP. The two are indissociable. They are a single entity. I cannot image myself saying “Well, I have changed my mind and I am going elsewhere”. If that were ever the case, it seems to me that the people need some other recourse than just to say “We will just wait another three or four years”. This raises that issue.

There are other variables as well. For example, improving the democratic process or the connection of trust would mean that many other variables will have to be addressed as well: the very nature of the MP's role, the real power of an MP, the omnipresence or heavy control of the Prime Minister or the executive over all of parliament.

Even if this may seem a bit theoretical, when it is reduced to such practical dimensions as the imposition of votes along party lines and the like, it gives rise to some serious reflection which might lead to a review of the way our political system operates, with its rather surprising resistance to change. As far as the public is concerned, they appear to be ready for major change. When people are in power, however, they are not much tempted to want to see change, because they came to power under the existing system.

I know that in his bill, the hon. member could not espouse all causes at once. He focused on one specific object. I believe, however, that it would be worthwhile for us as members of parliament to have a repository for such ideas.

Parliament cannot pronounce specifically on this bill because it will not be votable, but I believe it would be a good thing if we did not lose sight of this idea and were able to discuss it within a framework in which everyone would address improvements to our political structures. I know that some are, for instance, in favour of a proportional vote system. I have a number of reservations on this, but I can understand people wishing to raise ideas of this kind.

Why not debate this, why not have some sort of forum where we could put these issues out on the table and involve members? Many groups outside of politics do this. It is as though we, those of us in politics, refuse to discuss these issues, even though we do have opinions. I am sure that most members are able to discuss these issues in a non-partisan manner. The same can be said for the democratic system. Regardless of the options before us, everyone agrees that there are some problems and that there is a way to improve the existing system.

In closing, this is about turncoats, people who cross the floor to other political parties. I am pleased that the New Democratic Party member had the courage to bring up this issue. Even if, in fact, his party has already had members switch, one way or the other, he is telling us that there is a problem with this type of situation.

Let us try not to see that in partisan terms, to look at the latest movement between parties and who was involved. Let us look at this generally, let us look at the principle, what it means in terms of our democratic values. I hope the discussion will not conclude at the end of this hour and that we may have other occasions on which to debate it and propose other measures in order to improve the variables, such improved representation of women in politics. I know there was a conference in the region yesterday that looked into the matter. It is a very relevant one and important question of what we must do to ensure that parliament better reflects society.

We need not look long to see that very often cultural communities and groups are under-represented. Women are the most obvious example. While they represent 50% of the population, they barely represent 20% of the population of our political institutions. You might say this is true in other sectors, but we are working here to improve the political system. If we are to continue to do so, we must look at these avenues and topics.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Madam Speaker, I congratulate the NDP member for Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore for bringing forward this private member's bill. It brings a good debate to the House.

It is unfortunate the bill is not votable. I believe, as do a lot of members in the House, that all private member's business should be votable. The Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary over there is working hard with members of the House to work toward that. It would be interesting to have a vote on issues like the one we are debating.

It has been interesting sitting here listening to the debate. I was thinking of all the people who have been here during my career in politics. I remember Paul Hellyer leaving the Liberals to join the Tories. I remember Pauline Jewett, a member of the NDP party who joined the Liberals. Some NDP members today may be too young to remember Ms. Jewett.

Other parties have had the same changes. In the last parliament Tories went to the Liberals and to the Canadian Alliance. In this parliament members of my party have gone to sit as independents. I will talk about that a later.

It is a tough decision. Most members of parliament probably think we are the reason we are here. The reality is that few of us would be here if we did not have the support of the party for which we ran. People tend to vote for that.

I have watched pretty good people get defeated. They might get elected once as an independent like John Nunziata. He ran on an issue and his constituents supported him, but in the next election they quickly left him and went back to the party of their choice.

As important as members may think they are, they should realize this. Their egos might tell them they are more important than their party, especially after they have been here a while. The reality is that the party is the most important thing.

I respect the rights of individual members of parliament to change parties if need be, if they think that is what their constituents want. I imagine there are not many who have done that without first sitting with people in their constituencies to discuss their thoughts and why they were doing it.

The member of the Bloc talked about members switching. His party would probably not be here if it had not been for some Tories who started that movement. Byelections would not have been the way to start that party. It started because of the real feelings of members of parliament who could not get along with whatever they could not get along with.

We have to respect the tradition in this place that members have the right to make these decisions. The voters at the next election would be the ones who decide whether a member made the right decision.

The summary of Bill C-218 reads:

This enactment provides that a member's seat in the House of Commons will be vacated, thus precipitating the calling of a by-election, if the member, having been elected to the House as a member of a political party or as an independent, changes parties in the House or becomes a member of a party in the House, as the case may be, at any time during the term for which he or she was elected. A member's seat will not be vacated, if the member, having been elected as a member of a political party, chooses to sit as an independent at any time during the term for which he or she was elected.

The principle is similar to a former Reform caucus policy involving members wishing to cross the floor and join a party without losing their seat. It would reduce the temptation for members to experiment with other parties. If members were to jump to another party they would need to be sure they had the support of their constituents, otherwise their careers would be cut short.

The people who elect members to the House have a fundamental right to reassess their support if the member crosses the floor. It could be argued that this opportunity would take place at the next election. Not only electors would be allowed to express their opinion, but the party could do so as well. Through a candidate selection process the party would be given the opportunity to accept or reject the crossing of the floor.

Crossing the floor is part of our history. It is sometimes cause for procedural debate in the House. Our practice accepts members changing parties. Sometimes a change occurs voluntarily when a member simply crosses the floor. Sometimes it is involuntary and involves double crossing.

The confusion over our most recent crossings in the House may be properly compared to cross-dressing. Like gender identity disorder, some members of the House have party identity disorder. Politically it is no longer clear if they represent the right or the left. I am not sure how the bill would address such dressers. It is not always clear if they joined another party.

I am talking of course about the status of the PC/DR coalition. The PC/DR claimed party status as a party of 20. The speaker ruled it was a group of eight independents and a party of 12 and could only be afforded the resources to which a party of 12 was entitled.

How would Bill C-218 treat members of the DRC? Technically they are independents so no byelection would be required. Ethically DRC members, particularly those who were once Reform members and believed in this principle, should support subjecting themselves to a byelection. They were elected Alliance members and are now trying to be recognized as a separate party while working in a coalition with another party.

Another question that needs to be answered is how the bill would deal with Reform Party members who became Alliance members in the last parliament. They technically changed parties, but I do not think the intent of the bill is to cause over 50 byelections to take place as a result.

These are the issues that are important in Bill C-218. I will use the cost to the taxpayer as an example. In the last parliament over 50 members changed parties. If we had forced a byelection in all those areas it would have been at great cost to the taxpayer. We must think carefully about the ramifications of a bill like this one if there is major political change. We may see it happening in the country now. It happens once in a while to a great degree.

I thank the member for bringing the matter to the House. It is an interesting debate and one that deserves discussion. I hope in the future we can have a vote on something like this so it can go to committee and we can work together.

That is what parliament is all about. We are here to work together for the benefit of all Canadians. Sometimes certain members feel the urge to do something different. It is a good debate for the House to have. It is unfortunate there will not be a vote on it.

Let us remember that we are here because of our parties. Crossing the floor of the House of Commons is a serious decision, but it is the right of members to make that decision after consulting their constituents.

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Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Leeds—Grenville
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Jordan Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to speak today to the bill which provides that a member who wishes to cross the floor of the House of Commons to join another party must vacate his or her seat so a byelection can be called.

I thank the member for Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore for his interest in the matter and for his interest generally in matters of parliamentary reform. He quite rightly pointed out that this place was sometimes viewed with jaundice by the general public.

We all have a responsibility to look at the rules and procedures of this place and the methods by which we arrive here to see if we cannot constantly improve them to engage and re-engage with our constituents.

We finished a debate after question period on some technical amendments to a bill. The debate essentially turned into a discussion and a spin of what the government business was yesterday in terms of having a two hour break where there was no business before the House.

Members stated some of the facts, but the fact that they did not give the whole story leaves people with the wrong impression. They said we adjourned for two hours and that we have adjourned early nine times.

That is true, but we have added hours to debates in a number of cases. I do not know how many take note debates we have had to increase the opportunities of members to speak. In this case we offered the opposition a take note debate on the bill but it refused.

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Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I can understand the government's excessive and obvious defensive positioning regarding the waste of time yesterday, but--

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Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

That is a point of debate and not a point of order. I would reiterate on behalf of all members that we should be sticking to the subject at hand.

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Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, my point was simply that the member of parliament who put his sweat into getting this bill before the House of Commons pointed out that one of the reasons was to address that disconnect in the attitude that exists among Canadians. I am speaking to the root causes of why that attitude is there.

The opposition members forgot to mention in their ramblings that the government had legislation yesterday. However out of courtesy and convention in this place, we do not bring legislation before the House until the opposition agrees so its critics can be in place. That is not a rule; it is a courtesy. That did not come out in the press conference which the opposition scheduled this morning.

The opposition also forgot to point out that time allocation--not closure; we want to get the terms right--was brought in not to clear the legislative calendar but to get the bill into the Senate so it could be law to protect Canadians before Christmas. It had nothing to do with the government's agenda.

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2:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Moving on to the topic.

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2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Leeds—Grenville, ON

This is an important topic to Canadians.

This particular bill deals with the tendency of people to change party affiliation and whether or not there should be implications for members when that happens.

One thing which struck me when I looked at the bill was that under the old rules, when political science was taught or books were written on political theory, political party parameters were very clear. Parties existed on the left, the centre, and all across the political spectrum in Canada. They generally held their ideology whether it had to do with fiscal policy or social policy. There was a lens through which they saw public policy. That set of parameters existed for a number of years in Canada.

I would argue that lately those lines have become blurred. Parties will sometimes be right of centre fiscally and left of centre socially. That is a natural evolution of the fact that globalization is putting pressure on national governments. We have to show a certain amount of flexibility.

There is a geopolitical aspect to this as well. It depends on where someone is in the country as to what the labels sometimes mean. A Liberal in Atlantic Canada may mean something else in British Columbia and something else in Ontario. I look around the Chamber for examples.

The member for Port Moody--Coquitlam--Port Coquitlam if I am not mistaken was a card-carrying member of the executive of the Young Liberals of British Columbia. It is a free country. The member for Calgary Southeast, the Alliance finance critic was also. People go through choices and transitions in Canada.

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2:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

To the hon. member for Port Moody--Coquitlam--Port Coquitlam, I know what is coming but I think it is a point of debate.

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Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister almost dislocated my jaw with that slap in the face by saying that at one point I was a young Liberal. In fact, I was not. For the record, it should be known that I have never been a member of any other political party except the Canadian Alliance.

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Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, I apologize to the member. I mistook him for the member for Calgary Southeast.

The issue is that the bill seems to put us at the top of a rather slippery slope where we are addressing the freedom of members to act in this place. I would point out that other major countries do not force their party members to resign if they switch parties between elections. In the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill was a member who switched parties. I would not want to think of the consequences if it had a law like this one which would have forced him into a byelection that he would have lost and we would have gone into the second world war without him.

Canada has a precedent for the concept of going back to the constituency to validate changes. It used to be that if members were appointed to the cabinet, which generally took place in a matter of weeks after a general election, they were called upon to hold a byelection to reaffirm their constituents' belief that they should assume that position. In fact, Sir Wilfrid Laurier lost a byelection under those conditions. I think it was deemed through second thought that perhaps that regulation, and I would say this one, was unnecessarily restrictive.

The member talked a bit about costs. I think elections officials have said that a byelection costs about $480,000. I do not think we should be driven by those costs but it is a factor. Let us take, for example, the member for Saanich--Gulf Islands. I just did a quick calculation. He started with the Reform then switched to the Alliance. I must say that my tendency was to be against the bill but I had second thoughts when the Leader of the Opposition said that it would cause all the Alliance members to go to a byelection. We may want to re-think this.

The member for Saanich--Gulf Islands started off as Reform, morphed into Alliance, spun off into a rebel caucus, for which we had no exact definition, and then he sort of attached himself to the PC, which then turned into the PC/DR. He is back in purgatory and is not done yet because I assume he will go back to the Alliance. Not only would that little journey have cost the taxpayers of Canada $2.5 million, but his constituents would have been without a member for 240 days, which is the writ period for each election. This is assuming that he won.

A number of very interesting arguments have been put forth but I do not think there is a consensus. It has been a very interesting topic to debate. I will not be supporting the bill but I will continue to support the member who put it forward with what I think was a sincere attempt to critically examine the rules of this place.

I will end on the issue of the votability of private members' business. Not a private members' debate goes by without motions being put to the floor on whether a motion or a bill should be votable and it is usually framed in rather partisan language about the Liberals deciding not to make it votable. In actual fact the private members' subcommittee on procedure and House affairs is one of the few committees in the federal system that does not have a Liberal majority. It is a committee of backbenchers. It is a committee of our peers.

There is a system in place essentially because the number of private members' bills and motions exceeds the number of hours available for debate on those topics. There is a system in place that has to make some very tough decisions but they are tough decisions that have been made by all parties. It is not a process that is controlled by the government. We are in the process of reviewing that but I would hope that when people talk about votability of private members they keep in mind that it is certainly not the long arm of the government. It is our peers. If a motion or bill has been determined non-votable then a member may want to take that up with his or her peers.

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Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, I have been told that less than 2% of Canadians have a membership in any given political party. Therefore when we represent our political party we put ourselves in a very small select group of people. When we put our political party ahead of the views of our constituents in any way we are in a sense misrepresenting the wishes of our constituents, not representing them.

I understand what is behind the proposal and I understand the nature of it. I accept and share the member's desire to see types of electoral democratic reform advanced. My personal bias would be more toward a system of a transferable ballot rather than a proportional system but I believe the key concern is that we get the view of the majority of people more closely attuned to its representation in the House. I think that is a worthwhile goal.

Unfortunately, for example, in the 1997 federal election two-thirds of the members of the House were not supported by a majority of voters in their own ridings. In fact, we have displaced the principle of majority will from the reality of the representation in the House. That gives Canadians the sense that their votes do not matter as much. I think that is part of the root cause of the declining participation in elections in Canada.

Another cause of course is the unjustified majority government that we have and the fractured opposition on this side.

What we need to do is make every effort possible to search for common goals. We in the opposition have an obligation to present a more unified front whenever possible to present an alternative to the government. I accept the goal that many of us have to do that.

In the final analysis, we are more accountable to our constituents than we are to our party. The reality is that any decision any of us make as individuals will be one that is judged by our constituents, as has been the case in the past and as will be the case in the future.

Edmund Burke said that as public representatives we owe people in our constituencies more than a blind allegiance to political organizations, that we owe our constituents our very best judgment. If we understand that principle and abide by it, then I think that supremacy of idea must take priority over blind loyalty to any given political organization at any political time.

The price of being out of touch with the views of one's constituents will be paid in a following election. However, if one understands the dynamic nature of Canadians' decision making processes and the fact that the vast majority of Canadians do not have blind loyalty to one political movement or another, then one must understand that our first obligation is to reflect the shifting dynamics that exist within our riding and to be sure we are in touch with those more so than in touch with any consistent loyalty we may have to certain colours, certain symbols or certain possessions of any given political movement at any given time.

Canada has been governed for the past eight years by a political party that has certainly not been reflective of any significant consistent principle. The reality is that we have a broad spectrum of beliefs, very divergent from one another, represented by one political party. I do not think we need another party like that in Canada. We need another political organization that clearly stands for certain fundamental principles and values and that would juxtapose nicely and give Canadians a real choice.

People who choose to go to the Liberal Party do so for their own good reasons and they should be respected. If they choose, however, to leave that party and go to another, their judgment should be respected as well. In the final analysis, their constituents will make the judgment on whether that was the right step to take.

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Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I thought the debate was fairly straightforward. If one gets elected as a member of a political party and decides during the mandate to cross the floor to another political party, the seat would then become vacant, a byelection would be held and the people would decide.

It would not stop a member from crossing the floor. Maybe some of the other members of parliament in the House are confused. This bill would not stop a member from crossing the floor. It says that if a member believes that what he or she has to do is right, that person should go back to the constituency and let the people decide on it in a byelection.

It is obvious that the PCs or the Liberals would not support something like this as the status quo works in their favour. They love the status quo. However, I am more than shocked to hear members of the Alliance Party, of the Reform Party that came here in 1993 and said it would change things and be more accountable, say that they would wait for the next election. That argument could be used in every case. I am quite surprised at the fact that the Alliance Party of Canada would not support this type of initiative.

I also have to say for the member for Leeds--Grenville that I think he is the only one in the House of Commons who could bring Churchill and World War II into this debate and that my parents were liberated by Canadians and that if this bill had been in effect that may not have happened. It was hysterical at the very least, but I do respect the member's opportunity to speak even if he was off topic.

This is not that difficult. The bill does not say anything about what happens if a party changes its name. That is not part of the discussion. The discussion is about if one is elected under a political banner and decides to leave that banner and go somewhere else.

I ran against Liberals, Tories and Alliance members in the last election and I think of Bruce Stephen, a good guy who ran for the Liberals and gave us a very good fight. He was a good challenger. What would he think if I woke up this morning and decided to cross the floor and be in the Liberal Party? What would his executive think? What about the people who supported him? What would he do? It absolutely flies in the face of democracy.

I ran as a New Democrat and will stay a New Democrat. If I felt I could not do it any more, if I were going to cross the floor to the Tory-Alliance coalition or the Liberals, I would at least have the decency and honesty to go back to my constituents and ask them if they would give me the permission to do that. I would ask them “Am I right?” and then I would say let us call a byelection and do it.

When the member for Leeds--Grenville talked about another member and how a byelection would cost $2.5 million, it simply was stretching it to the extreme. The fact is that if he had to run once, I suspect he would have lost that election and we never would have heard from him again. That little journey the gentleman was on is quite adventurous, there is no question, but the reality is that I think his constituents would have spoken loud and clear about his actions.

It is unfortunate that this is not votable. If possible, I would like to move a motion to ask the permission of the House to seek unanimous consent to make Bill C-218 a votable bill.

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2:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is there unanimous consent?

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2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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2:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has not been designated as a votable item, the order is dropped from the order paper.

It being 2.30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2.30 p.m.)