House of Commons Hansard #136 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was youth.

Topics

Member for Calgary Southwest
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand before the House on behalf of the Canadian Alliance caucus to bid adieu to the member for Calgary Southwest as he takes leave of parliament today.

The member for Calgary Southwest has a long political legacy beginning at the feet of his father, the late Ernest C. Manning, premier of Alberta, who believed that the strength of Canada rested in the honest representation of all its people.

On this principle, perhaps some might say in defence of this nation, he emerged as a politician who was prepared to state what others would not admit: that Canada's system of governance was failing Canadians. From his distinctly western perspective he knew that people west of the Manitoba border felt shut out. Yet he and many others believed that the solution lay not in mere protest or separation, but in developing a list of short and constructive changes to the Canadian federal system. If Canada's governance was to serve the people as it should, it must undergo reform.

Along with words like prairie populism and grassroots, the word reform became meaningful in the Canadian political vocabulary. Not only would it materialize into one of the fastest growing political parties in Canada, the Reform Party, but it would become synonymous with fiscal responsibility and constitutional and parliamentary reform, ideas that would drive the political agenda for the next decade and beyond.

In him, Canadians across the country found a man who not only understood their frustration but was willing to do what was needed. He persisted in the face of incredible odds. The media denied him any success and insisted that there was no possibility he would achieve any meaningful accomplishments on the federal political scene. Today as I stand here as a member of the official opposition, we know that is not true. I believe the history books will characterize him as a member of parliament who had an extraordinary impact on Canada and its government.

Political colleagues and foes alike know that in the member for Calgary Southwest, Canadian politics took on a newfound integrity.

From the first time I met him I was struck by his extraordinary abilities: his knowledge and understanding of Canadian history and politics; his passion for good governance; his vision and ability to see further than others see; his tremendous patience; his determination and his energy, all the while maintaining a sense of perspective and humour. Most important, he is a man with a deep faith in the common sense of the common people.

As we in the House of Commons say farewell to the member for Calgary Southwest, we would be remiss not to acknowledge the support and sacrifice of his wife Sandra and their children. Despite the long hours spent on his work, he is a deeply committed family man. Thank you Sandra, Andrea, Avryll, Mary, Nathan and David.

While we are bringing to a close the public life of the member for Calgary Southwest today, we take comfort in knowing that we are delivering him back to his family and a private life. The thought of him enjoying some of his favourite pastimes, fly fishing Alberta's legendary trout streams and trail riding with Sandra in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, brings us pleasure.

In the days and years to come, Canadians will understand what politics and parliament are losing today, a man of deep faith with a profound belief in this country.

In closing, on behalf of the Canadian Alliance, we wish the member for Calgary Southwest great success in his future endeavours. He has served his constituents and the country well. We know he will continue to make a significant contribution to the politics of the country.

Preston, please accept our most heartfelt thanks.

Member for Calgary Southwest
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to join those who today are paying tribute to a remarkable man in many respects.

Preston Manning is a true democrat. He is a man for whom politics is a serious matter, and who could express very passionately his admiration for democracy as the underlying principle of our societies. He patiently sought to convince his fellow citizens of the soundness of his ideas, and he was brilliant at using the political arena to do so.

Preston Manning is a man of action. He proved it, but he remains first and foremost a man of ideas, ideas we did not always share, far from it. These disagreements on the substance, something which is normal and healthy in a democracy, should not prevent us from paying tribute to his intellectual honesty or to share the principles he has always promoted, namely transparency, democracy and respect for others. One must also salute his determination to discuss, at length if necessary, issues that were important to him and his constituents.

His belief that in a democracy everything is possible allowed Preston Manning to go as far as he did in politics. He started, nearly on his own, without a political base, to tirelessly explain his ideas, and little by little he managed to convince several of his fellow citizens to join him.

After many years of hard work he was successful in building a major political party. He came to be the Leader of the Official Opposition and, as such, played a major role in this chamber. But faced with the fact that his party, his Reform Party, had reached an impasse, he did not hesitate to scuttle it, sacrificing both his party and his personal status, still with a view to advancing his ideas. This obviously required exceptional courage and audacity.

This House must feel honoured to have had the likes of Preston Manning as one of its members. As for me, I am honoured to have had the privilege of locking horns with him.

My time being short, I will sum up what I feel about Preston Manning in these four words: courage, audacity, honesty and respect. I wish him all the best in his future endeavours.

I would also like to add something to what the deputy minister had to say. As witness the picture taken yesterday at the hockey game, after many years in parliament, he has finally discovered that there are senators in Ottawa who get things done and make themselves useful, the only senators in Ottawa to do so.

Member for Calgary Southwest
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased on behalf of our leader, the member for Halifax and our New Democratic Party caucus, to represent the caucus in paying tribute to the member for Calgary Southwest.

I have to confess at the outset that offering best wishes to someone who led another political party so effectively, one with which we have had so many fundamental disagreements, is not a particularly easy task. The fact that the political party that the member founded and led for 13 years has enjoyed so much more recent success at the expense of our political formation makes it even more difficult.

It must be acknowledged today, as it certainly will be when the history books are written, that the member for Calgary Southwest did indeed change the face of Canadian politics. For example, observers of the political scene were incredulous that a western-based party with a primary appeal to rural Canada would openly advocate a cheap food policy. Yet that is exactly what was offered by the Reform Party and the rural electorate in western Canada, with a few exceptions, have largely returned as Reform Party members and subsequently as Canadian Alliance members to this House.

I was briefly a reporter at the Edmonton Journal in the mid-1960s when the member's father was winding down his very successful career as the premier of Alberta for 25 years. Political reporters would gather over tea and crumpets at the Yale Hotel and even then were intrigued with what the premier's son was up to and wondered not if but when he would directly enter the political fray. The fact that it took more than two decades for that to happen would have astonished those reporters at that time.

Although I never had the opportunity to serve with the hon. member on committee, my colleague from Winnipeg North Centre, who is here today, said that she was always appreciative of the member's commitment to the democratic process which he continually demonstrated in committee.

There was also a genuine interest by the member, who is retiring today, in other members with whom he served, regardless of political affiliation, their daily struggles and the personal hurdles that they may have had to scramble over to be here contributing to parliament.

I noticed the article in today's paper as well as the picture. I noted that the member for Calgary Southwest was expressing regret that the changes he sought did not go further faster.

I would say to him that the changes we have witnessed in Canada since the Reform Party arrived in impressive numbers in 1993, perhaps in part because of the profound and undue influence his party has had on three consecutive Liberal majority governments, have for the most part been too far and too fast for some Canadians and certainly for those in our caucus.

Margaret Mead once said:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

Although Ms. Mead is undoubtedly not referring to the hon. member for Calgary Southwest and the Reform Party, her remarks are most apt.

Without hesitation, on behalf of our caucus, I congratulate the member for Calgary Southwest and wish him the very best in his future endeavours.

Member for Calgary Southwest
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is entirely appropriate that I will be sharing my time today with the hon. member for Edmonton North.

It is a real privilege for me to rise to honour a colleague and a fellow Albertan and to pay tribute to his contributions to our country and to the contributions of Sandra Manning. As a partnership, they have set a great example for this country.

The hon. member for Calgary Southwest and I have known each other for many years. It goes back to the days when we were both students at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton. Our paths have often crossed and our views have often differed. But he created a political party that became a force in the country and the official opposition in parliament.

The hon. member also brought a broad vision and an inquiring and rigorous mind to Canadian public life. It is no accident that the banner under which he ran was the banner of reform. He came into public life to change things, and he changed them, not perhaps as much as he would have wanted to, none of us ever does, but he has changed fundamental Canadian attitudes toward fiscal policy. What may be even more important is he has changed attitudes toward our democracy itself and how we must change it to save it.

The member for Calgary Southwest started a movement that can lead to profound changes in the way our democracy works. When those changes come, as I am confident they can and must, history will know that their architect was Preston Manning.

He is taking his talents and his high reputation out of this parliament but into other domains of public service. Those of us who come from Alberta know the extraordinary tradition from which he springs. However what is most notable about my friend from Calgary Southwest is that whatever his connections to the proud past of our province, he has always been a man and a visionary of the Canadian future. I thank him for that contribution.

I wish him the very best in years to come.

Member for Calgary Southwest
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, how does one put 15 years into two minutes? I do not know, but I will give it a whirl.

Once in a while in the life of a nation there arises an individual of such stature and character that a country is changed forever. I think all of us sense that today.

Historians will document 1987 to 2000 as a period of reform in Canadian federal politics. As my colleague just said, I love that word reform. A person of vision, principle, sound judgment and uncanny ability has been among us leading this movement. Defying great, odds he succeeded in organizing an army of volunteers and voters that grew from nothing to the official opposition status in less than 10 years. It is unprecedented in Canadian history. I was one of those volunteers and one of those who became part of the official opposition alongside him.

When I think back to his campaigning on horseback to motorcycles to the reform air force to the passing of our family football, it made such a tremendous impact on him and all of us. We always have had fun campaigning.

I think back to the ride we had in the byelection in Beaver River and about him sitting in the back of his van in 30 below zero weather at Lac La Biche, folding pamphlets on his knee so I could get out there and hand them out to the people in Lac La Biche, and wondering just what in the world was going on. What a memory for me and for all of us on which to think back. Here was a man who had such an unbelievable vision, doing whatever he needed to do in the campaign. If that was making sure I had the pamphlets ready to hand out, he was folding them on his knee.

He then went on of course to become the leader of Her Majesty's official opposition against all odds. I know that for many of my colleagues who have sat with me in the House of Commons for years, it surprised all of them, and probably us too, that we were ready to take on the task. Preston did a magnificent job as Her Majesty's loyal leader of the opposition, and we celebrated that.

Preston is a visionary with an ability to look far down the road. He is a long term planner and thinker. Those of us who are in this game think about the next batter up. Preston thinks about the ninth inning way down the line.

Thank you, Preston, for sharing yourself with us and all of Canada. Thank you Sandra and your whole crew for sharing Preston with us all. I know there have been days that have not been easy for all of us, yet they have been good and I know you celebrate that.

Preston, Canada is a better country because you have been here. We all wish you the very best. May you never be far away. Thank you for the memories. We love you. Lord bless you.

Member for Calgary Southwest
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Edmonton Southeast
Alberta

Liberal

David Kilgour Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific)

Mr. Speaker, it is difficult to pay a fair tribute to our colleague from Calgary Southwest in two minutes. A man of vision, he has played an important role in building our national agenda.

How many current or past members of the House have founded not one but two successful political parties? Believe me, as someone who has campaigned against Reform and Alliance candidates in three elections in our province, I know how strong the appeal is for our dear colleague for Albertans of all ages and backgrounds.

He took a cloud on the western horizon and turned it into a political tornado felt across the country. “The west wants in” was more than an election slogan to our colleague. Having followed our colleague's career with much interest and at times much fear, I am convinced that the major reason he founded the Reform Party in 1987 was to advance the west's leadership in national affairs.

His goal was never to polarize the country. On the contrary, he fought passionately for a strong and united Canadian voice.

He comes from a family that is well respected in western Canada.

How many colleagues know that the late Ernest C. Manning, during his 25 years as premier of our province, was for a period simultaneously premier, treasurer and attorney general?

My own father, a Winnipeger, told me in the sixties that Ernest Manning ran the best and most honest provincial government in the country.

The man we honour grew up unspoilt, working every day on the family dairy farm milking cows.

When Sam Okoro came from Nigeria to study in Edmonton in 1975, knowing no one, he found himself sitting beside our colleague on a flight from Toronto. When they reached Edmonton he and his wife Sandra took Okoro to their home and gave him the best room in their home to sleep in. To this day they remain dear friends.

The accomplishments of our colleague's caring family are equally impressive. Sandra is a realtor and one of the most special people anyone could ever meet. Andrea is a lawyer in Calgary; we can forgive her for that. Avril is a registered nurse in Grande Prairie. Mary Joy is a Harvard MBA and works as a securities dealer in Manhattan.

Nathan is studying religious history in France.

David studies medicine at the University of Toronto.

The House and the country are better places because the hon. member has graced them.

I salute our colleague. We wish him the best for the future in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto.

Member for Calgary Southwest
Oral Question Period

January 31st, 2002 / 3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Preston Manning Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, my main purpose in rising at this time is to, first, thank the electors of Calgary Southwest and, second, to thank my colleagues for the very gracious tributes given today. They probably would have helped me if I had received some of them a little bit earlier. I thank my hon. colleagues for the sentiments they have expressed. They mean a great deal to myself personally and to my family.

I would like to make a few comments, looking back but also looking forward. My remarks will be brief because, as many members know, I have a particular interest in economy and budgets. The budget of the House is getting close to $300 million and we spend about a thousand hours a year here, which means that if one takes even 15 minutes of the House's time that is about $75,000. I am feeling fiscally irresponsible already for the time we have taken.

It was almost 15 years ago that a small group of people in western Canada decided that we would try to change the national agenda by using the tools that democracy gives to every citizen: freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the opportunity to try to convince fellow citizens to support a political program.

In our case, as members know, we used those tools to advance on the national agenda such ideas as debt reduction, budget balancing and tax relief, and also to demand a greater clarity and rigour on the part of the federal government with respect to secession and the revitalization of federalism.

Other Canadians and other members of the House may have different concerns and aspirations. We all do. I would hope that the experience of the Reform Party would inspire democrats in every party and in every part of the country to believe more passionately and actively in the tools and ideology of democracy itself.

That ideology and those tools still constitute the best way in my judgment to change the country. I trust that our activities will inspire people.

Like all members I am indebted to many people for anything I have been able to accomplish politically. I acknowledge that debt today. To the thousands of faithful party volunteers, supporters and workers without whom our democratic system would grind to a halt, I offer my deepest thanks and appreciation.

To the voters of Calgary Southwest, who never insisted that I attend any social, community or even political event in the riding as long as I kept working for their interest on the national stage, I offer my deepest thanks. It has been a privilege to be your representative in the Parliament of Canada.

To all the administrative and support staff in our party offices, parliamentary and constituency offices, and to the officers of this House, pages, security and maintenance people I offer my deepest thanks. Most of us politicians can look bad on our own. To look good we need the help of a lot of people and these are the ones who give it to us.

To all my colleagues, past and present, in the Reform, Canadian Alliance and democratic representative caucuses it has been a great honour and a privilege for me to campaign with these parliamentarians in the federal elections of 1988, 1993, 1997 and 2000, and to serve with hon. members in this place.

As Deborah said “I love that word reform”, and just as I was convinced that reform was the right word to describe much of the dynamics of what had to be done in the 1990s, I am equally convinced that the building of strategic alliances and principled coalitions will be the key to getting big things done in the next decade of this century.

How to operationalize that concept in practice is not yet clear. I wish the builders of strategic alliances and principled coalitions every success in the days ahead.

To the Prime Minister, and I had a chance to visit with him yesterday before he left for New York, to the members of the cabinet, to the leaders of all the parties and to all my parliamentary colleagues on both sides of the House, it has been a privilege for me to serve with them in the 35th, 36th and 37th parliament.

My only regret is that I did not get to know and appreciate more hon. members on a personal basis because the longer I observe life in politics the more I appreciate that it is the relationships we form in the course of our activities, more often than the activities themselves, that are the most important and enduring thing.

Actually I was always a little afraid that if I got to know some hon. members better I might get to like them better. If I got to like them better, it might make it more difficult to challenge their positions and policies with the vigour with which they deserved to be challenged.

Most important of all I acknowledge the constant help and support of my wife and family, without whom I would have long ago lost my balance and my desire to persevere in public life. I thank Sandra for her love, her encouragement, her advice and for being my partner in politics and in life.

To my colleagues from Quebec, personally, my limited knowledge of the French language always prevented me from getting to know you better and from having real heart-to-heart talks with you. But, politically, there is a potential connection between western Canadians and Quebecers, a connection that is promising for the future and that I want to point out today.

In Canada, two great regions have always supported political innovation by creating new parties and by calling for systemic changes to our federal state. These two regions are Quebec and western Canada.

In Quebec, there was the Bloc populaire, the Union nationale, the Ralliement des créditistes, the Parti québécois and the Action démocratique. In western Canada, we had Riel, the autonomy movements, the Progressive Party and the parties that were born during the depression, the Social Credit and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, which later became the New Democratic Party.

This trend reappeared in the 1990s with the birth of the Bloc Québécois in Quebec and the Reform Party in the west. Each has a platform that calls for fundamental changes. However, our platforms are so different that we were unable to work together.

I hope the next generation of agents of change in Quebec and in western Canada will have better luck and will be able to form strategic alliances and to implement the reforms that are essential to revitalize the federation for the benefit of all Canadians.

So much for looking backward. My real interest and preoccupation these days is in looking ahead.

Thanks to the good graces of several Canadian think tanks and universities, I am looking forward to exploring and addressing, from a non-partisan standpoint, some of the major public policy concerns of the present and the future.

My thanks especially to the Fraser Institute and the Canada West Foundation for providing me with senior fellowships at their institutions and to the University of Calgary and to the University of Toronto for inviting me to be a distinguished visitor at their institutions. Those hon. members who have sometimes suggested in debate that I should be institutionalized should now be happy.

I should also mention that I will be working with McClelland and Stewart to publish a book this fall describing my adventures in politics and parliament over the last 10 years.

Various hon. members of the House will be mentioned in the book. As in all good westerns, they will either be classified as villains or heroes. Those wishing to influence their characterization may wish to slip a brown envelope under my door.

Looking ahead, there will be a chapter on the next prime minister. Sealed bids will be gratefully received from anyone wishing to ghostwrite that chapter.

Several years ago, I was going back to Calgary on a Saturday morning flight and I sat beside a gentleman who introduced himself as Jerry Potts, Jr. He was a direct descendent of the original Jerry Potts, the great Metis scout who provided indispensable guidance to the early North-West Mounted Police when they brought peace, order and good government to the western frontier.

The more unfamiliar the territory and the more uncertain the future, the more crucial is the function of the scout, the person who will ride out ahead of the main company, study the weather and the signs of the trail, carefully note the dangers and the opportunities that lie ahead and then come back to the main company and try to help it make the right decision as to which path to take.

Once I am clear of my political responsibilities and my constituency responsibilities, I intend to do a little scouting on the frontiers of the 21st century, just as Jerry Potts scouted the last great frontier, the 19th.

Like many members, I sense dangers up ahead, dangers for Canada and Canadians, and want to explore the best paths for avoiding them or diffusing them.

Internationally, of course, we know there is the threat of terrorism and war in the Middle East and in Asia. What is the best path for peacekeepers, under those circumstances and on those frontiers?

Closer to home, there is the declining confidence of the Canadian public in the Canadian dollar. What is the course of action that preserves sovereignty in the face of globalization and perhaps a single North American or even hemispheric currency?

Even closer yet to home, to this House, 15% fewer Canadians voted in election 2000 than voted in the 1988 federal election. By what means do we restore the faith of Canadians in parliamentary democracy itself ? It affects us all; it is beyond a particular party.

Like many members, I also sense great opportunities ahead and want to explore the best paths for capturing them for Canada and Canadians. The frontiers of the knowledge and information economy are as vast and as exciting as those of the frontiers of the old west. What kinds of educational reforms and science policies would enable Canada to advance on that frontier?

There is now a public appetite, at long last, for health care reform. There is action on that front by the provinces. By what path will the new balance between federal and provincial or public and private resources in health care be achieved?

We are conscious of this in our own family, and many members are also, that a new generation of young people have grown up with as deep a commitment to environmental conservation as many of us in our generation had to economic development. What is the course of action that strikes the balance between the two?

These are some of the frontiers that I intend to scout, in the company of others like-minded, in the days ahead. As one scout who is somewhat familiar with the interests and capabilities of this unique company, if I see or hear something that may help members in parliament to deal with those challenges, everyone can be sure that I will let them know.

Finally, one of the signs that a democracy has fully matured is when it is able to wisely handle not only the social or economic or environmental or administrative dimensions of the public interest, but the ethical and spiritual dimensions as well.

In this country for a long time we have tended to avoid moral and ethical issues in the public arena for fear that would divide us rather than unite us or for fear that we would be misunderstood as trying to impose our particular values on others. Likewise, we have virtually banished expressions of religious faith largely now to the private or personal sphere because we simply do not know how to handle expressions of faith in the public arena. Two recent developments should cause us to rethink those positions.

First, this parliament will soon legislate on how to regulate the genetic revolution, one of the most exciting and potentially advantageous developments in the history of mankind. However because that science deals with the beginnings and the intergenerational transfer of human life itself, it cannot help but have moral and ethical dimensions of the most profound kind which parliament must openly and seriously discuss. I for one think this is a good thing, not something to be feared and avoided, but an opportunity to be embraced. I want to wish this parliament openness and honesty and wisdom and success in those deliberations.

Second, in the hours and days after the terrorist attacks on September 11, our Prime Minister and other world leaders rightly declared those actions to be acts of evil and the misguided faith of the terrorists to be a counterfeit faith. Such declarations have the effect of pulling at least certain aspects of defence policy and external affairs policy and justice policy on to moral ground and they oblige us as parliamentarians then to say by what standards we consider this act to be evil or this policy to be good or that expression of faith to be counterfeit and this expression of faith to be genuine.

In days past we would have avoided a debate like that like the plague. While it is a mistake to see moral issues where they do not in fact exist, I suggest it is an even greater mistake to fail to see them when they do actually arise.

Responsible leadership in such circumstances will require parliamentarians to engage in those types of issues honestly, openly, respectfully and cautiously but to engage nonetheless. Again I wish this House the courage and wisdom required to venture forward on that frontier.

In the spirit of the necessity to express ourselves openly on matters of faith and morality, I leave members with my favourite prayer by a 19th century statesman and democrat who wrestled long and hard with these types of issues and which he gave on the occasion of his departure from his political friends:

Trusting in Him who can go with me and remain with you and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

Member for Calgary Southwest
Oral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Member for Calgary Southwest
Oral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

The Speaker

I wish to advise all hon. members that there will be a reception following in room 216 where members may come and greet the hon. member for Calgary Southwest and say their farewells.

I thank the members for the remarks they made this afternoon and I look forward to seeing you shortly in room 216.

I want to make it clear to all hon. members that the liberties taken during the last 40 minutes, bandying about members names and passing in unusual places in this House, are quite contrary to the rules and will not be tolerated by the Chair for the remainder of today's sitting or indeed at any future sitting. It was not a good precedent and I want to make sure all hon. members understand that.

Normally members of this House may not be referred to by name.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is my duty at this time to ask the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons what business he has for the remainder of today and the following week.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3:50 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this is my first reply to the customary Thursday question about House business. I want to thank all the House leaders and deputy House leaders of the other parties for the manner in which they have received this newcomer into their fraternity of House leaders. I look forward to a constructive relationship.

This afternoon we will continue with Bill C-7, the youth justice bill. If this is completed we will proceed to report stage of Bill C-30 respecting courts administration.

Tomorrow we will debate second reading of Bill C-48, the copyright legislation.

Monday we will continue with unfinished business and Tuesday will be an allotted day. Next Wednesday, we hope to be able to start the debate on second reading of the budget legislation.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, at noon today the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights violated Standing Order 39(5)(b) which deals with a committee's responsibility with respect to unanswered questions on the order paper.

Before I get into the details of the violation, I point out that while committees are the masters of their own proceedings, they cannot create rules or operate in ways which go beyond the powers granted them by the standing orders. This is very similar of course to the legal doctrine of ultra vires where regulations cannot go beyond the scope of the statute that authorizes the making of the regulations.

Mr. Speaker, I refer you to two rulings, one from June 20, 1994, and another from November 7, 1996. The Speaker ruled:

While it is a tradition of this House that committees are masters of their own proceedings, they cannot establish procedures which go beyond the powers conferred upon them by the House

The standing order in question reads:

39.(5)(b) If such a question remains unanswered at the expiration of the said period of forty-five days, the matter of the failure of the Ministry to respond shall be deemed referred to the appropriate Standing Committee. Within five sitting days of such a referral the Chair of the committee shall convene a meeting of the committee to consider the matter of the failure of the Ministry to respond.

The explanation of this standing order is contained in the first report of the modernization committee which was adopted by the House. The committee proposed:

If the government does not respond within the forty-five day period, the failure to answer would be referred to the appropriate standing committee. The committee would be required to meet within five sitting days to investigate the delay and report the matter to the House.

The committee must investigate the delay. Since the House adopted this explanation, it represents the will of the House with respect to Standing Order 39(5)(b).

When I attended the justice committee at noon today, I filed a motion which requires 48 hours notice to deal with the sufficiency of the answers provided by the minister after 45 days in breach of the rules. That notice of motion giving the 48 hours notice is separate and apart from the issue of delay. That motion deals with the sufficiency of the answers provided.

I certainly did not ask for them to be there and I do not know who did, but at the same time there were justice officials present to deal with the issue of why the answers that were provided were provided late. It has nothing to do with the sufficiency of the answer, only to deal with the issue of lateness. This is what the House has directed the standing committee to inquire into, that is, to investigate the reasons for the delay. The investigation requires the hearing of the evidence in accordance with the rule.

The Liberal members on the committee voted down the order from the House to investigate the delay and report the matter to the House. There was no evidence taken from the witnesses present. It was simply voted down and it was said that it was not necessary to investigate the delay. The Liberal majority apparently and mistakenly believed it was not necessary to investigate the matter. Their decision completely subverts the House order by refusing to hear from the justice officials. Certainly, in speaking with the opposition House leaders, the Liberal majority destroyed the intent of the new rule and ignored the directions of the House.

The justice committee went beyond the powers conferred upon it by the House this morning when it disobeyed Standing Order 39(5)(b). It had a question referred to it. It had a duty to investigate the delay with evidence that was present and it did not investigate the delay. It did not prepare a report to the House as the modernization committee intended it to do.

This is a matter of first instant. This is a matter that is incredibly important. Members of the House and House leaders spent an awful lot of time looking into the issue to determine the most appropriate way in which the failure of a ministry to answer questions could properly be reported back to the House.

What the justice committee has done, through the vote of the Liberal majority, has been to subvert the direction of the House. The Speaker has an obligation to consider this subversion of the House rules and call upon the justice committee to carry out the order of the House. It is the servant of the House in this respect.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

4 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I feel compelled to add what I can to this point of order that has been raised by my friend. I am both a member of the committee of which he speaks and a House leader.

I did not bear witness to the entire chain of events but I believe what he has put before the House and the manner in which he has recited the facts do fairly represent what occurred in terms of the intent of this new procedure, of which the Chair himself would be very familiar having served on the modernization committee which produced the report that was tabled in that instance.

What is unfortunate is that this was the very first time in which this new procedure was invoked. The Chair and all members will be quick to realize that what is behind the exercise that is found in Standing Order 39(5)(b) is to bring about accountability and some form of process to call the government to account when it does not comply with the 45 day rule.

In this particular factual scenario, the question on the order paper that led to the referral to the committee dealing with firearms legislation was not complied with within the 45 days.

The witnesses from the Department of Justice, who would be tasked with answering the questions that were tabled by the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville, were present in committee today. It would seem logical to me that we would separate these two processes. What they were going to say in response is a separate issue. What they were going to do today, in my understanding, was give an explanation to the committee as to why the 45 days had not been complied with. That was their sole purpose.

What becomes, I am afraid, somewhat muddy is that it would appear that the actions of the hon. member on the committee, by tabling a motion, seemed to have some triggering effect that by and large negated this separate process of inquiry as to the lateness of response. I would strongly urge the Chair to find those two issues as separate and distinct. In my view that is how they should have been treated by the Chair of the committee.

However there appeared to be, for lack of a better word, manoeuvring going on which negated the responsiveness and accountability of this process in determining why the 45 days had not been complied with.

I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, through the devices of your Chair and your office, to inquire further. I expect we will be hearing from the government House leader.

I am very concerned as both House leader for the Progressive Conservative Democratic Representative caucus and a member of the committee that, to use the hon. member's words, the process of accountability has been subverted. As this is the first instance, there is a dangerous precedent that can attach to what occurred today in the justice committee.

What we want are explanations. The Chair is very familiar with the discussions around this issue. Our intent is to bring about accountability for lapses of time on these questions on the order paper.

What occurred today in the committee was unfortunate. I believe by revisiting the issue and by having an opportunity to hear from the justice officials, we can remedy this issue.

I thank the hon. member for bringing it forward because it does set what I consider to be a precedent that would negate the entire spirit and intent of this new standing order procedure.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

4 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would first note the civility with which this debate is taking place. It is done in good faith on all parts to make sure that we get this new process right.

A couple of points need to be established. As chair of the justice committee, being made aware of the requirement that we meet, we called a meeting specifically for this purpose. I personally invited representatives of the Department of Justice to be available in the event that the committee wanted to hear from the officials from the Department of Justice. That is why they were there.

The committee was also aware of the fact that the government response to the question was made the day following. That informed the committee's decision, as well as the fact that the member for Provencher brought forward a notice of motion to give 48 hours notice to discuss the substance. I accept the positions stated by both members that those are two distinct aspects of this, but I think that they had the effect of causing the committee to be aware that the issue would in some fashion remain alive and that did bear on the decision.

In any case I believe the committee members are masters of their own destiny. They made a decision in good faith. I do not think there was any particular motive behind that, other than since the answer had been given one day late, and since we were going to be discussing it the following week, I genuinely believe the committee made the decision that we could move forward and be in compliance with the standing order which caused us to have this discussion and decided at that moment that it was unnecessary to proceed further.

My own view as chair, and the advice I received, was that as long as the committee entertained this discussion and was aware of the fact that the department had not responded in the appropriate time, it was then up to the committee to decide what action to take. In the face of the circumstances I just articulated, the committee in a majority vote decided not to hear the witnesses and to move on.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to make sure it is clear, that it is on the record and when you do the investigation that you realize that no evidence was given. Conclusions were reached at the committee. A vote was taken by members of the committee before any evidence could even be heard. No investigation was made into why the rules were violated. That is contrary to the very intent of the rule that was set up to govern this kind of thing.

I would hope it would be clear. It tends to counter what my colleague has just said. That is what concerns me.

A lot of what happened was in relation to the question I had put on the order paper. That is why I rise to express my concern that we follow due process here, that we do not thwart democracy and the ability for the opposition to do its work properly. That is why this is so important. We need answers from the government but we also need it to be done in a timely fashion and according to good process. That is what concerns us and that is why this whole question is being raised.