House of Commons Hansard #81 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was coalition.

Topics

National Defence
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

York Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, we took the troops out of Bosnia simply because they were close to the scene and they were needed there immediately. It was the handiest thing to do and it was something that the United States and the other countries that are involved in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia wanted us to do. We have responded.

We responded at the time of the Kosovo air campaign and we have responded on numerous other occasions, including the present crisis, and we will continue to respond. We will continue to work with our allies, including the United States, in this campaign against terrorism.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, one way the minister says we certainly can respond is with our F-18s. He has pointed out that often as an example.

We have some of the best people in our forces, but because of government cuts to our military we no longer have the experienced pilots, the logistical support people, the smart bombs or the air to air refuelling that we need. We cannot now meet even the small commitment that we made in Macedonia if we are asked to do it.

The minister knows full well that we have lost more than half of our experienced pilots from the Kosovo campaign. What I want to know is where we are going to get the pilots to fly our F-18s when it comes time to meet that commitment of our allies.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

York Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, all countries in the NATO alliance are experiencing a shortage of pilots. It is not just Canada. I will say that while we are trying to get more pilots and keep the pilots we have, we were able to respond to a request from the United States last week that asked us to put more of our CF-18s into the NORAD system to help in the protection of North America. We said yes. We did it.

Airlines Industry
Oral Question Period

September 19th, 2001 / 2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the result of the recent terrorist attacks, airlines have suffered significant losses, and the Bush administration intends to give them financial support.

Air Canada has also asked the Government of Canada for compensation to cover the revenues lost as the result of increased security measures, which the Minister of Transport is preparing to analyze.

Will the minister promise before the House that any compensation paid to Air Canada will not be used to cover the airline's lack of administrative ability as may be seen in the poor quality of services offered in French and its deplorable lack of service to the regions?

Airlines Industry
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, as I have explained, I discussed the problem with the heads of all the airlines across the country. We are very concerned about maintaining the viability of the airlines.

However, we must have all the facts before a decision is made. Up to now, we have reached no decision on financial assistance, but we are studying the matter in its entirety.

China
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Monday, September 17 negotiators agreed to terms allowing the People's Republic of China to join the World Trade Organization.

I call on the Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific to explain the significance of China's WTO accession.

China
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Winnipeg North—St. Paul
Manitoba

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific)

Mr. Speaker, Canada welcomes this historic event. As the agreement is fully ratified, China, our fourth largest trading partner, becomes a member of the rules based international trading system and therefore is bound by the provisions on transparency and the rule of law.

As the Minister for International Trade earlier indicated in another avenue, it means more enhanced business between Canada and China and also more opportunities, and therefore economic and social benefits for all Canadians.

Foreign Aid
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, the war against terrorism must also be fought on a non-military front. If we want the developing countries as allies to join us in this war, we also need non-military assistance. It is amazing that the government is overlooking this crucial area. What is the government doing to provide real assistance beyond its usual token contributions?

Foreign Aid
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine
Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I assume that the hon. member on the other side was not listening. I announced in the House today that the Minister for International Cooperation just made an announcement of $1 million in humanitarian assistance to the millions of Afghani refugees who have fled to Pakistan and Iran.

We have a tradition in Canada of providing humanitarian assistance to displaced persons and we will continue to do so.

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

I want to ask the minister whether the Prime Minister in his conversation with President Bush next week will not only reiterate the profound concern of Canadians that those who are responsible for terrorist acts will be brought to justice, but also that it be done fully in accordance with international law. Specifically, will the Prime Minister urge the President that the evaluation and assessment of the evidence of responsibility for these appalling acts be made by an international tribunal and not solely by the United States or NATO?

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, I want to restate the fact that support for the creation of the international criminal court is a key part of Canada's foreign policy.

Unfortunately we do not have the signatures of 60 countries on the treaty of Rome at this point. The court does not exist. It would not have retroactive authority if it did come into existence. The hon. member can be assured that we expect that any action taken will be in conformity with international law, particularly article 51 of the UN charter.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

During the summer adjournment, certain reconfigurations occurred on this side of the House. On September 12, I wrote you advising that 20 members had united to establish--

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, Oh.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. I know the House has looked forward to this moment with some anticipation. However, it is very important the Chair be able to hear all the arguments advanced on every side. The Chair is very keen to hear the hon. member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough who has the floor at the moment.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, maybe those less interested in reconfiguration can reconfigure outside.

Mr. Speaker, on September 12, I wrote to you advising that 20 members had united to establish the PC/DR coalition to function within the machinery of the House of Commons. I sent a full list of members of the House who are members of the PC/DR coalition. Earlier today we held our fourth caucus.

I also advised you in that letter that the officers of the coalition are the right hon. member for Calgary Centre as leader, the member for Fraser Valley as deputy leader, the member for Edmonton North as caucus chair, the member for Prince George--Peace River as whip, and myself as House leader.

Mr. Speaker, first I want to thank you for your assistance in getting us seated in the House for the very important business that confronted us on Monday. My colleagues have been able to discharge their essential parliamentary functions thanks to the efforts of the Chair.

I now need to raise several issues that so far have not been capable of resolution with the whips of other parties. I do so with considerable regret because as you recognize Mr. Speaker, it is always better for the harmonious workings of the House that these matters be settled through parliamentary machinery.

The first is the matter of the location of our seats in the House. Second is the allocation and precedence of questions in question period. Third is the allocation and precedence of speaking times during debate. Fourth is the allocation of supply days.

Mr. Speaker, the PC/DR coalition asks that you grant changes. These changes would recognize us as the fourth largest political entity in the House. The PC/DR coalition is comprised of 20 members of the House. All 20 members recognize the right hon. member for Calgary Centre as our leader and we sit in opposition to the government. As such, our leader assigns critic roles, names House leaders and provides leadership to the caucus as a whole. My colleague, the whip and member for Prince George--Peace River similarly acts for the 20 members in facilitating the working of our caucus.

As House leader, I speak for 20 members of the House. In my capacity as such I perform many functions on their behalf, including the presentation of this argument today. We are a single unit of 20 and we have collectively taken the decision to present ourselves in this fashion, but at present we are being treated as a group of 12.

In contrast, the Canadian Alliance has parliamentary resources, speaking time, access to supply days and financial resources based on a membership of 66. In fact its membership has now been diminished to 58 seats. Nearly a million Canadians represented by members who now sit in the PC/DR coalition are having their access to parliamentary representation compromised by the practices that no longer conform to the proportionate parliamentary realities. Certain decisions taken at the beginning of this parliament are no longer applicable. We suggest that they should now be revised.

I would add this imbalance is not fair to all other parties in the House. The Alliance enjoys a disproportionate allocation in relationship to all other entities in the House of Commons, not just the coalition. The changes I am requesting have no serious impact on any other party in the House. The resources and allocation of the numbers of questions and opportunities for participation in debate for Liberal members will not change, nor will they change for the Bloc or the NDP.

The Bloc and the NDP will not have their allotted days, questions or debate time reduced. Let me say that again for emphasis. The Liberals, Bloc and NDP will not have their allotted days, questions or debate time reduced.

We are however now the fourth largest political entity in the House and claim all of the privileges and rights associated with that position. The Alliance currently has resources to which they are not entitled and these resources should therefore be reassigned on a per capita, proportionate basis.

There will be no additional political entities created which would require additional negotiations or resources or consultations with the government. What we are doing is simply working within the system to facilitate the work of the House of Commons.

Mr. Speaker, while I recognize this is not an issue before you, I want to point out that we will be asking for fair and equitable financial treatment through reallocation of existing resources. That, however, is a matter for the Board of Internal Economy.

Mr. Speaker, we contend that the guiding principle in your decision should be equitable treatment for the rights of individual members to act individually and collectively here in the House of Commons.

As individual members we are free and have a duty to come to the House to consider the business before the House and vote on questions put to the House by the Speaker for decision. In so doing we may seek to participate in the proceedings and debate, and may try to influence decisions.

All of us act as individuals and indeed all of us act as part of collective organizations within the House of Commons which exist to help facilitate the organization of the business before the House. Accordingly, when individuals choose to act collectively, the threshold for access to certain parliamentary rights is set out by the Parliament of Canada Act at a minimum of 12 members. We have met and surpassed that threshold. We are 20 members.

Mr. Speaker, we view ourselves as a whole and simply request that you do likewise. We have chosen the name PC/DR coalition because we feel this describes the collective will of the group. It accurately depicts our origins and defines our common purpose. For the purposes of the House of Commons, we participate and vote just as do other political entities, such as a party, an alliance, a bloc, a confederation, or a union. I choose these descriptive words that other political entities have used in parliaments past and present to illustrate that parliamentary entities come in many forms and configurations.

Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, there is no precise definition of a party in the Parliament of Canada Act.

Let us examine for a moment what political parties and bodies do in the House of Commons. Political bodies are an important part of the machinery of this House. They are vehicles to communicate the collective will of the members, but foremost they provide assistance for the Chair and the House in the organization of the business of the House. Individual members have delegated certain authority to other members to act on their behalf, which we have done. The nature of that relationship is defined between those members. The existence of that relationship is signalled to the Chair by various means, some implicit and some specific.

I am not aware of any other instance when members who, having formed a group of 20, have had their collective rights challenged or denied.

Members who have crossed the floor or changed allegiances have never been asked to prove their political affiliation, abandon their past, or produce political membership cards to the Speaker to justify their existence. What we call ourselves outside the House should be of no concern to the Speaker. It may be a delicious tidbit for journalists or others, but within the walls of this Chamber and the precinct of parliament, external political labels should be left outside. Membership cards that may or may not be found in my wallet do not fall within the Speaker's jurisdiction.

All of us arrived here as equals in response to a writ of election. As equals we have rights; as equals we are free to associate as we individually choose. Indeed the right to associate freely is guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I am not suggesting that the Speaker will rule on a constitutional legal question. Rather I want to make the point that members of the House of Commons, as free Canadians, have the right to belong to whatever lawful organizations they choose, both inside and outside the House.

Mr. Speaker, I completely understand you do not rule on questions of law. However, I do suggest that in considering past practices, the Speaker is entitled to take notice of the important charter rights that were given to Canadians in 1981. In fact earlier this week the Prime Minister referred to the importance of the charter, which protects all Canadians. This certainly extends to all members of the House of Commons and the Parliament of Canada.

On June 1, 1994 my friend, the member for Winnipeg--Transcona, stated in this Chamber, and I quote from Hansard :

Parties present themselves to the House as parties and are not created or disposed of by the House itself. Our membership in our respective parties is a matter between ourselves, our fellow caucus colleagues, our extraparliamentary organizations and ultimately our electors. We can leave our parties or be asked to leave our parties. We can create new parties, merge two parties into one, as did the Progressives and the Conservatives, or change the name of our parties as we in the New Democratic Party did.

I will not comment on the fact that they are still calling themselves new after 30 years. My colleague then went on to say:

The tradition of this place has been for the Speaker to accept the party affiliation that the parties and the members report to him or her.

That is what we have done. I agree with my colleague and fellow House leader that it is not for anyone other than the participants to decide how to label the parliamentary group. It has been stated in the past that it is a privilege to be seated anywhere in the House. It follows that having been elected to the House members have the privilege to be affiliated and seated anywhere they choose.

There is no requirement in the Parliament of Canada Act that any member must belong to any political party, as evidenced by the number of independent members we have seen in the Chamber in the past. This concept is also defined on page 186, chapter 4 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice , edited by Marleau and Montpetit, which states:

Although most Members are elected with a party affiliation (a very small percentage of Members are elected as independents), Members are not obliged to retain that party label during the whole of their mandate.

What we have decided to do and call ourselves is strictly a matter of choice so long as we are not seeking to duplicate an existing name. The various titles that are used in the House, whether a group styles itself a caucus, an alliance, a bloc, a confederation, a union or coalition, is a matter of internal decision.

That title is used to convey whatever stylistic information the members of the group wish to convey. Even the Liberal caucus has contained members of another party, the Liberal Labour Party. We choose to call ourselves the PC/DR caucus coalition. We do not define other parties. Nor should they define us. We have taken the conscious decision to perform and present in a cohesive manner, and our name reflects that decision.

Some members may argue that this is a matter which should be referred to a committee, as occurred in 1963 in the case of the Social Credit-Ralliement créditiste split. I suggest that it would be dangerous to go down that road. That would mean that government supporters would determine the fate of an opposition party. Government sanctioned parliamentary opposition is unworthy of our contemplation.

Given the nature of government domination of committees, we do not want to enter into a world where government licensing of the opposition side of the House is the rule of the day. Our actions will eventually be judged by our party supporters and by the electorate on another day.

Fortunately precedents since 1963 indicate that no group of 12 or more members has ever been denied party status. This is the basis upon which we make our argument today.

Coalitions have been formed in the past under the parliamentary system. It is understood that this is done for the good of the country and to further the cause espoused by the members who believe in that cause. When it has happened in the past it was understood that it was done for the furtherance of the public good and in the best interest of the Parliament of Canada.

My colleagues in the coalition are here to do the important business of the House. I genuinely regret that the Speaker has had to become involved. The House and the speakership would have been better served if this question were not placed before you. However the 20 members of the coalition have been left with no option. We seek equitable treatment for the members of the coalition, for the good of parliament and Canada.