House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was speech.

Topics

Business Of The House
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, let me start by responding to the last point. The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was constituted by order of the House. I am sure we were all here when it occurred two days ago. Whether or not it wants to discuss any topic is its prerogative. In view of the tremendous independence exercised by that committee, I am sure it will discharge its responsibilities appropriately.

We shall continue today and tomorrow with the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. Tomorrow the government intends to introduce a number of government bills on which some progress had been made before the dissolution of parliament.

On Monday it is our intention to consider the second reading of the employment insurance amendments. I hope that bill will be completed at second reading before the end of the day. If such is the case, I would then intend to call the marine liability bill, Bill S-2, referred to the House by the other place earlier this day.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday of next week we shall have the final three days of the address debate.

I would like to designate Thursday, February 8, as an allotted day.

The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to have the opportunity to reply to the Speech from the Throne. It is also a privilege to have the opportunity to return to Ottawa once again to represent my constituents in Toronto—Danforth.

I will begin by thanking my constituents for the trust they have placed in me, in my team in Ottawa and in my team in the riding. I consider it a real privilege to be entrusted to bring the concerns and ideas of my community to the Chamber.

I have referred to this room many times before as the nation's boardroom. If we work constructively together in this room I believe we have nothing to worry about in terms of achieving a quality of life for Canada that will continue to rank us as the best country in the world in which to live.

In the last election my constituents brought a couple of issues to my attention. I feel I must bring them to the floor of the Chamber and tell my colleagues on both sides of the House that they will be an important preoccupation for me.

The first is affordable housing. Not a day passed during the last election campaign when my constituents did not urge me to spend time and energy to call attention to the fact that in the province of Ontario, and more specifically in the city of Toronto, there has not been a single affordable housing start in the last 10 years.

Regrettably in 1985 we devolved housing to the provinces. Ontario has had a very hard time meeting the needs of families who in many cases do not have access to affordable housing. In a city as rich as Toronto over 3,000 people live in motel rooms. It is unbelievable in a country as rich as Canada, in a city as economically vibrant as Toronto, that so many families live in motel rooms.

On November 1, during the election campaign, the Prime Minister announced that anywhere between 60,000 and 80,000 affordable housing units would be built in Canada over the next five years.

On behalf of my constituents I will bring all my energy and focus to bear in ensuring that the ministers responsible for that government commitment, not only during the election, not only in the red book, but in the Speech from the Throne, will implement it as soon as possible.

There are a number of issues we have to face as a nation over the next while. As members of parliament we have to blend our time with the needs and desires of our constituents. We also have a responsibility to work on emerging issues that require preplanning. We should listen in committee to expert witnesses from our own country and around the world. We have to plan, lay out a design for the future.

One issue has emerged and another is about to emerge in a serious way. The first is food security. I believe parliamentarians have a responsibility to put the issue of food security on the front burner of the legislative agenda over the next year or two.

The food security issue was tabled in the throne speech and has been touched on by the Prime Minister. He has said quite categorically that it will be on the agenda in the next 72 hours or so during his meeting with President Bush. He is the first G7 leader to meet with the new president.

It is important not only for Canadians to recognize this but that we as the House of Commons reflect and create an environment where food security becomes the central issue of parliament.

It is not only an issue that concern rural members. Farmers from every region of the country have been visiting members of parliament. My seat mate, the member for Egmont from Prince Edward Island, is meeting with a group of potato farmers. How many Canadians realize that potatoes from Prince Edward Island do not have access to the United States market? It is hard to imagine such a state could exist today.

When we speak in the House we are not only speaking to each other. We are also speaking to our constituents. I would say humbly that many urban constituents do not fully appreciate or understand the challenges and difficulties that family farmers in Canada are going through today.

As an urban member of parliament responding to the Speech from the Throne, I state clearly and with no hesitation that one of the priority issues I will be speaking about in parliament in the next year and a half will be a commitment to food security. I hope to work with members on both sides of the House to ensure this issue becomes something that we as a parliament moves forward in a meaningful, constructive way for the benefit of all Canadians, both rural and urban.

There is another issue that I will personally be spending a lot of time on in parliament. I spoke about it in my first speech 12 years ago when I was first elected. We were debating in a very forceful way the free trade agreement which had seized every member of the House.

At that time I was in opposition. I had just completed my campaign. One of the reasons why I believe I was elected in that campaign, separate and apart from the fantastic leadership of the Right Hon. John Turner who was then leader of the party and did a magnificent job on the free trade debate, was that I sent out signals of alarm to my constituents that the whole issue of water was going to be something that we as Canadians and we as legislators must get our heads around.

In that very first speech, I asked the prime minister of the day, the Right Hon. Brian Mulroney, if he would consider asking President Reagan for a one page protocol letter that we could attach to the free trade agreement, wherein President Reagan would state that water was in no way, shape or form part of the free trade agreement. Needless to say, I did not get that protocol letter. However, over the last 12 years I have continued to be concerned and obsessed with this whole issue of water.

It is very important for us to realize that the first free trade negotiator for the United States of America was a gentleman by the name of Clayton Yeutter. Clayton Yeutter completed his doctoral thesis on North American water management at the University of Nebraska in 1961. He also, as a young assistant in congress, worked for Congressman Jim Wright, whose sole preoccupation was water and in fact wrote the book, The Coming Water Famine .

I am absolutely convinced that water is going to be a central issue in our relationship with the United States of America in the near future. I believe that we, as a parliament, in committee, in the House, must begin a very serious, focused campaign, a plan and a study of exactly where we as a nation stand on control of our fresh water in this country. We must look at the relationship of water in regard to the provinces, the municipalities and on an international basis.

I am happy to see that the Speech from the Throne states on page 13 that:

It is Canada's responsibility, as steward of one of the world's largest supplies of fresh water, to protect this critical resource. Safeguarding our water is a shared task among governments, industry and individual Canadians. The Government of Canada will fulfil its direct responsibilities for water, including the safety of water supplies on reserves and federal lands.

I was so delighted to see that last portion, wherein the safety of water supplies on reserves and federal lands is addressed. As we know, under the Indian Act the minister has a special constitutional prerogative to make sure that quality of water and standards of water on reserves are ultimately under the authority of the Government of Canada, this Chamber.

I believe that if we act soon on the particular authority that the minister and the House have, then we can set a bar for quality of fresh water that could affect every province and every municipality. I believe it is the duty of the House to make sure that we act on this file immediately.

I realize there are many other issues that have been dealt with in the Speech from the Throne, one in terms of the child poverty challenge that we as a House of Commons have to face.

There are also issues related to safety in our community and issues related to making sure that the anti-gang laws are reinforced. As one can imagine, in downtown Toronto this is a critical piece of legislation. It is not an issue just in the province of Quebec. Now that we have a merger of the Hell's Angels forces, it is very important that we seize the legislation and make sure that there are proper resources with which to enforce the legislation.

I highlight the fact that the legislation would give the customs and revenue department special authority. I have sought counsel on this matter from Mr. Yves Lavigne, who has spent most of his life working with the issue of the Hell's Angels. He is the author of Hell's Angels at War and has given me the direct advice that the best way to deal with these gangs is to make sure that the customs and revenue department has the proper resources with which to do its job.

That pretty well sums up my focus, but I want to repeat to my colleagues that I have always considered it a privilege to work with everyone in the House.

I say to my constituents that the issues of affordable housing, food security and making sure of Canada's trust in dealing with the precious resource of water will be my central focuses in the next year and a half.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, there has been consultation among House leaders and, in the continued spirit of parliamentary reform, I think you would find consent for the following motion to be adopted without debate and unanimously. I move:

That Standing Order 104(2) be amended to read as follows:

(2) The standing committees which shall consist of the number of members stipulated below, and for which the lists of members are to be prepared, except as provided in section (1) of this Standing Order, shall be on:

(a) Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources (sixteen Members);

(b) Agriculture and Agri-Food (sixteen Members);

(c) Canadian Heritage (sixteen Members);

(d) Citizenship and Immigration (sixteen Members);

(e) Environment and Sustainable Development (sixteen Members);

(f) Finance (eighteen Members);

(g) Fisheries and Oceans (sixteen Members);

(h) Foreign Affairs and International Trade (eighteen Members);

(i) Health (sixteen Members);

(j) Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (eighteen Members);

(k) Industry (sixteen Members);

(l) Justice and Human Rights (eighteen Members);

(m) National Defence and Veterans Affairs (sixteen Members);

(n) Procedure and House Affairs (sixteen Members);

(o) Public Accounts (seventeen Members);

(p) Transport and Government Operations (sixteen Members).

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

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

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, and of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

February 1st, 2001 / 3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, I offer you my best wishes for success in your duties in the Chair. We are all, of course, aware of your attachment to this House. My dealings with you have always been excellent, and I am sure that you will have the trust of your colleagues.

I also wish to congratulate the new members, those beginning their first term of office. Obviously, the member who just spoke does not fall into this category, this being his fourth or fifth term, if I am not mistaken. I congratulate him as well.

I have two questions for him. I agree with what he said about organized crime. This is a major problem for large cities and we both represent large city ridings.

I am a member from the east end of Montreal and he is a member from Toronto; we both know that a certain number of conditions must be in place for organized crime to operate. Naturally, it requires communities with wealth, and communities with bureaucracies, especially now that there are charter rights, as well as communities with rapid means of communication.

Proceeds from organized crime are estimated at over $200 million. Given the state of organized crime, would the hon. member agree that we as parliamentarians should consider the possibility of using the notwithstanding clause to outlaw members of biker gangs?

The RCMP and the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada have estimated that there were 38 biker gangs in Canada, and I am not sure that we can outlaw them under existing legislation. So I ask him: Would he agree to join us in giving some thought to the possibility of using the notwithstanding clause to outlaw such groups?

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, I suggest to the hon. member that it is categorically no on the notwithstanding clause. However, as I mentioned, I think we need to make sure that the customs and revenue unit, which is an instrument of the government, is given the proper resources and tools. That is how we will shut these people down in no time flat.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to sit in the House and listen to the speeches summarizing the views of members about the throne speech. I most enjoy the speeches of my hon. colleague from Toronto—Danforth because he usually speaks so passionately about issues. I notice he did so again today, especially on the water issue.

However, I remember a time when I worked quite closely with my hon. colleague. He spoke very passionately at that time about the importance of this Chamber and the importance of parliamentary reform, especially because he had written such documents as “A Single Tax”. Even before the official opposition adopted that sort of policy as its own he was the author of that document. As well, he talked about changes to immigration along the lines of some things that I have suggested in the House.

Is my hon. colleague still committed to those issues as passionately as he was in those days when he was still a rookie in the House? Is he still committed to parliamentary reform? Would he actually push for free votes in the House of Commons, an issue that was neglected in the Speech from the Throne?

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, I feel like I am being presented with a gift when I get such a lob ball question.

Is there anyone in the House who would doubt my commitment to parliamentary reform? I actually called one of the journalists from The Hill Times last night and congratulated him, reminding him that six months ago we put forth a pretty forceful article on the whole notion that the House of Commons had essentially degenerated to a point where we were nothing more than voting machines. I think the House leader was referring to my comments today in his question.

What we have today is a Prime Minister who has become seized with this issue. It is critical because it involves every member of the House. In the first press conference after the Prime Minister was re-elected, he was asked about the issue of parliamentary reform. His answer was, and I call it the Chrétien challenge—

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I am sorry but the member's time has expired.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think that this issue is so critical that I would like the concurrence of the House for one more minute.