House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was lobbying.

Topics

Lobbyists Registration Act
Government Orders

10 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria on behalf of the Minister of Industry

moved: That Bill C-15, An Act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

Lobbyists Registration Act
Government Orders

10 a.m.

Beauharnois—Salaberry
Québec

Liberal

Serge Marcil Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the motion moved in the House today is to allow parliamentarians to discuss important proposals in Bill C-15 as soon as possible.

In fact, Bill C-15 reflects the excellent work accomplished by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology as part of its study of the Lobbyists Registration Act, and found in its 2001 report.

Earlier this week, the government followed through on a promise made by the Prime Minister to increase the confidence of Canadians in our public institutions. The government presented three supplementary elements of its eight point action plan on government ethics. The bill to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act is one of these elements.

The bill provides a clearer definition of lobbying; provisions to strengthen the enforcement of the Lobbyists Registration Act; simplified requirements for the registration and strengthened requirements for revoking registration through a single registration process for both corporations and non-profit organizations.

I will begin the debate by giving an outline of the current legislation. I will review what has happened since we followed up on the commitment that we made during our first mandate. Members will see that we have set up an effective and transparent system. Then, I will describe the bill, its impact on the lobbyists registration system in Canada, and its importance in the context of the eight point action plan.

Allow me to describe this system. The Lobbyists Registration Act is based on four major principles.

First, freedom of access to crown institutions is in the public interest.

Second, lobbying public office holders is a legitimate activity.

Third, it is advisable to give public office holders and the public the opportunity to know who is trying to influence crown institutions.

Fourth, a registration system for hired lobbyists should not impede freedom of access to crown institutions.

The act currently defines three categories of lobbyists. I want to point out that, in all cases, these are people who are paid to perform lobbying activities. They are not volunteers or people whose civic duties lead them to get involved in issues that are important to them.

The first type is the consultant lobbyist. These people are paid to lobby for their clients.

Then, there is the in-house lobbyist of a corporation. This is an employee of a business for whom lobbying for his employer is an important part of his duties.

Finally, there is the in-house lobbyist of an organization. This is an employee in a non-profit organization in which at least one employee performs lobbying activities. The total time spent on lobbying must be a significant part of the employee's duties.

In its current wording, the act specifically targets any attempts to influence the making, development or modification of legislative proposals, bills, resolutions, regulations and policies or programs of the Government of Canada. It also deals with attempts to influence the granting of subsidies, contributions or other federal financial benefits.

The act applies to lobbying as it relates to “public office holders” of the Government of Canada. These include my colleagues in the House of Commons, our staff, our colleagues in the Senate and their staff. They also include officials and employees of federal departments and agencies, and members of the Canadian Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

A lobbyists' code of conduct was developed in support of the act. This code sets out the standards of conduct lobbyists must follow in dealing with federal public office holders. In addition, the act specifies the nature of the information lobbyists must provide concerning clients, businesses or organizations whom they represent, as well as their activities.

This system is based on a government online model. I can say this because 98 out of 100 lobbyists register online.

Also, Canadians can consult the information posted on the lobbyists registration website. If they want to know who is lobbying which department or agency, and on which subject-matter, this information is available on the Internet. Such a system is a real success story.

While this system is successful, our government thought it was important to review it regularly. We made a commitment in this respect in the 1995 legislation, which resulted in a review in 2001.

The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology looked at operation of the Lobbyists Registration Act and at how it could be improved. The committee heard testimonies and reached an important conclusion: the system is working well and has made lobbying activities at the federal level transparent.

Indeed, many of the committee's recommendations call for no changes to key aspects of the current system, and it made others that the government found to be quite thoughtful and constructive.

Like any amending bill, Bill C-15 contains a number of changes designed to update the wording of the enactment, and others to correct minor inconsistencies between the French and English texts.

This bill does, however, propose three major changes. The first one concerns the definition of what makes activities subject to registration under the act. My hon. colleagues will remember that, a moment ago, I mentioned that the existing legislation targets a specific type of action, namely an attempt to influence a public office holder. But what exactly does “attempting to influence” mean?

It may be difficult to define this concept and to enforce the legislation in that respect on the basis of experience to date. The thinking has always been that some individuals might not register as lobbyists because they do not see their lobbying activities as attempts to influence someone.

The standing committee recommended that the registrar of lobbyists, the office of the ethics counsellor and the justice department hold more extensive consultations on this matter. This was done, and the bill is proposing a major change.

Generally speaking, we are proposing that any communications between a public office holder and an individual who contacts this public office holder as part of his or her job be considered as lobbying. This individual is then required to register as a lobbyist.

We will not have to worry about possible hairsplitting on whether something was or was not an intent to influence. If it is a communication by a person paid to lobby with a public office holder, it is lobbying.

In order to avoid being too broad in scope, the bill clearly indicates that simple requests concerning facts or requests for information, such as those that any citizen may reasonably submit to his member of Parliament or to a federal employee, will not require registration.

For example, it will not be necessary to register if we phone Environment Canada to find out what the weather will be.

We are also proposing to implement a related change recommended by the standing committee. Under the existing act, if a public office holder initiates contact, the contacted person does not need to register. The committee saw this situation as a possible loophole that goes against the transparency that we are seeking. The government agrees and would like to eliminate this loophole.

So, regardless of who initiates contact, registration is mandatory.

Ultimately, these changes will make it less confusing for those who must register. They will ensure that the compliance rate of those who work under this legislation, and we believe this rate is already high, will be even higher. These changes will further increase transparency.

The second series of important changes relates to the registration process. One of these changes deals with the various systems that currently exist for people who lobby as in-house lobbyists for a corporation or as in-house lobbyists for a non-profit organization.

In the case of a corporation, if an employee spends at least 20% of his time lobbying, then that employee must register. In the case of a non-profit organization, only the senior officer must register if the time spent lobbying by any of his employees amounts to 20% of the work done by a single employee.

Some of the witnesses who appeared before the standing committee did not want to see a change to the system for businesses. They seemed to be concerned that businesses would face administrative burdens.

But another study was conducted later on. It involved counsel working for large corporations. It showed support for a change toward a more consistent approach with respect to all in-house lobbyists. We suggest that Parliament take that approach.

Whether the organization is for profit or not, if employees spend collectively at least 20% of their time lobbying, then this organization is required to register.

As far as we are concerned, what matters is that the chief executive officer or another officer registers on behalf of the organization. Yes, the names of those normally engaged in lobbying would be specified, but the chief executive officer would the one signing the registration and the one answerable before the law for compliance with the Lobbyists Registration Act.

This kind of accountability will undoubtedly help increase the transparency of the system.

The second of this series of changes concerns the rules governing how often registration information is to be updated.

Here, we are proposing a new registration system, which is once again in keeping with the recommendations of the standing committee.

At present, the various categories of lobbyists are subject to different requirements and timeframes. If Parliament agrees, and I think it will, a single system will apply.

All lobbyists will be required to renew and update their registration at least every six months; otherwise, it will be cancelled. They will also have to update their registration more frequently if their clients or the purpose of their lobbying activities changes. But in this way, the information will be updated more regularly.

The third major change that I want to mention is a new requirement for the ethics counsellor and for the counsellor's staff.

Bill C-15 contains a proposal for a new provision in the Lobbyists Registration Act. If the ethics counsellor investigates a possible offence under the lobbyists' code of conduct, and discovers a possible offence under another act, the counsellor would be required to inform the police of it, so that they may take action.

In closing, the purpose of these amendments is to take a system that works well right now and make it work even better in the future. Indeed, when Canadians want to find out who is lobbying which department about what issue, they will be able to find this information on-line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Our government is proud of how it has handled this issue. We said that we would take steps to shed light on lobbying in Ottawa, and that is what we have done. And we have done so in a manner that respects the legitimate role that lobbying plays, as well as the public interest in this activity. We have now taken another step in this regard.

Bill C-15 will give Canada a lobbying registration system that is clearer, more transparent and more enforceable. It will be one of the most rigorous systems in the world. It will make up one of the key elements of the eight-point action plan, which, as the Prime Minister mentioned, will help win the trust of Canadians.

I hope that the committee will be able to study the bill as soon as possible.

Lobbyists Registration Act
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10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address Bill C-15, an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act. First, I would like to go through exactly what this bill would do. Second, I will offer some specific comments and then address some general issues with the ethics package as a whole.

What will this do? First, it would remove the expression “attempt to influence” from the Lobbyists Registration Act to make clear that all communications covered by the legislation constitute lobbying and therefore require registration. That seems very reasonable to us.

Second, it would clarify that registration is not required for simple inquiries or administrative requests for information, again a reasonable amendment.

Third, it would clarify that lobbying occurs when a public office-holder initiates contact with anyone who could be lobbying the public office-holder, or his or her organization. This applies to all forms of communication and is in response to a recommendation by the standing committee report of June 2001, again a sensible amendment.

Fourth, it would require the ethics counsellor to notify the appropriate police authorities if, in the conducting of an investigation into an alleged breach of the lobbyists code of conduct, he or she has reasonable grounds to believe that a criminal offence has been committed.

Here are some specific comments. Obviously the bill is in response to the standing committee report of June 2001 and is primarily administrative. It would remove the exception for communications made in response to requests by public office-holders, which we support. It would also provide that communications that are restricted to requests for information are not subject to the act. The enactment would require lobbyists to file a return for every six months and opposes new registration obligations on in-house lobbyists for corporations.

We should point out that the bill would make a number of minor improvements to the Lobbyists Registration Act based on a parliamentary study conducted in 2001. It would improve the communications between the lobbyists registration branch and those who are registered. We would highlight at this point that the bill will go to committee before second reading, which is certainly a positive sign. However at this point section 7, subparagraph (1)(a)(v) does not refer to the wording of government contracts directly and we would like the committee to look at that.

I have three points I want to make that relate not only to this bill but to the entire ethics package. In particular the bill is not and should not be presented as a part of a new ethics package. The reality is that the committee studied this and produced a report in June 2001. The government response was by former industry minister Tobin in November 2001. At that time he stated very clearly that he would amend the Lobbyists Registration Act to deal with the committee's recommendations.

This bill deals with those promised amendments and the government is being a little disingenuous by saying that this is part of its new ethics package. The fact is since former minister Tobin was considering this, I hardly see how the government can present this as part of a new ethics package.

My second point is that the bill does not deal with the main criticism of the laws and regulations concerning lobbyists; that is, that there is not an effective mechanism in place to enforce the code. We heard over and over again at committee that while we had all these regulations saying that they must register, there was no effective enforcement or any consequences of not registering. Therefore what is the motivation to register other than a person's good will?

We have some concerns. This shows that the legislation was drafted before because of the way it refers to the ethics counsellor in this piece of legislation specifically. The ethics counsellor, Howard Wilson, enforces the lobbyists code which requires that lobbyists follow the registration act. There were obvious questions, even from government members of that committee, about the effectiveness of Mr. Wilson's ability to enforce this code because of his perceived lack on independence from the Prime Minister, as was stated by many witnesses and many members before the committee at that time.

Lobbyists Registration Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

An hon. member

That's nonsense.

Lobbyists Registration Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

In June 2001, the unanimous second recommendation of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology was that:

--the Act be amended to create a new office, which shall have the exclusive responsibility of investigating and reporting to Parliament on alleged violations of the Lobbyists Code of Conduct

The member says it is nonsense that the ethics counsellor is perceived as not being independent. Then why did government members agree to that unanimous recommendation as well? Why is that not acted on in this piece of legislation.

I know some government members will say that the creation of the new independent ethics commissioner will address that. That remains to be seen. I will keep an open mind on that. However when I read through the bill itself I got the impression that it was referring very much to the old ethics counsellor and was not taking into account the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister proposed somewhat of a more independent ethics commissioner. At least the Liberals should look at making the legislation compare with each other.

My second main point is that we have all these regulations forcing lobbyists to register. That is fine. We have no problem with that, but we need to ensure that there is an effective mechanism in place. Democracy Watch is one group that points to many examples in which that effective mechanism is not in place, and we need to have that.

The final issue I want to raise is the fact that the bill should really be a separate bill dealing with lobbyist registration. It should not be part of the ethics package because the bill simply does not address the ethical issues and problems raised by the situations of the former solicitor general, the former defence minister and the two past public works ministers. If government members believe that this legislation will deal with those ethical situations, I would like them to explain it, because when I go through the bill, those situations do not seem to be addressed at all. It is incumbent upon the current government to address those current ethical problems. Beyond that, the bill and the entire ethics package does not address what I see as a systemic problem with ethics and with the government.

In a society in which politicians will determine who will succeed in business and who will fail, to me corruption is inevitable and endemic. There is just no way to escape that. We have to snip the tie there between government and corporations.

As long as governments are involved in all major economic decisions and active players in the management of the economy, there will be tremendous pressures upon legitimate businesses to curry favour with key players in the government. That is simply a reality to ensure their success or their survival.

I would like to finish up with a quote from someone whom I think has written very astutely on the ethics problems of the government in a very responsible way, Andrew Coyne. In an article in National Post , he said:

--the whole system is one big conflict of interest--a political conflict of interest. It is not necessary to show that any specific act of government was made in exchange for any specific political contribution. It is enough that a reasonable person might suspect the two were linked

He went on to say:

Hence the case for a...model of reform...that does not seek merely to police the relationship between government and private interests, but to disentangle them altogether--to “snip the wires” of money and influence that lead between them, in both directions.

Therefore we are obviously supportive of the government's intent to move this to committee before second reading, because we look forward to proposing a lot of substantive amendments there. We appreciate some of the amendments made and some of the responses to the committee, but we do want Canadians to know that we very much see this as incomplete. We very much see the ethics package as a whole as incomplete. We do not want this seen as part of a new ethics package. We want this seen as what it is. It is a response to the committee report of June 2001.

Most of all we want to ensure that we deal with the ethical situations that have been presented to us in the last year and a half. However we also want to see, particularly with regard to this legislation, an effective mechanism to deal with the registration of lobbyists. It is fine to have all sorts of regulations stipulating that lobbyists must register but we need to ensure that there is an effective mechanism in place to ensure compliance with the system.

Lobbyists Registration Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-15 and I am telling the House at the outset that my party will support its referral to committee. I am sure that my colleague from Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques will see to it that the bill is improved through the many amendments and suggestions that the Bloc Quebecois has already proposed at the drafting stage but that were not included in the bill.

We applaud some of the improvements presented earlier by the parliamentary secretary, but they are only minor changes. What can be said about these changes to the Lobbyists Registration Act is that lobbyists are powerful in curbing more substantial reforms with regard to the laws and regulations that affect them.

In fact, what we want to know when we talk about improving control over lobbying activities on Parliament Hill and in the various departments is the intensity of such lobbying and anything related to this intensity, meaning the ability of lobbyists to influence decision makers, whether it be senior officials or ministers themselves.

Who are these lobbyists? What is the history behind each of these lobbyists? What ability does a lobbyist have to influence decisions that might be made, included in a bill and introduced in the House of Commons? This is the most important thing. What is the relationship between this lobbyist and the government, some members of the government, some members of Parliament, some ministers or some deputy ministers? This is what is important.

We agree with the broadening of this act. We agree with the removal of some ambiguities that existed and that will continue to exist before this bill on the registration of lobbyists is passed. We agree with the streamlining and harmonizing of the rules concerning for profit and not for profit businesses. That is not the question.

The question is to determine whether the legislation will really ensure that we reach the goals intended by the bill. The question is not only to have an independent ethics commissioner appointed by the House of Commons. It is also to have a commissioner who can enforce regulations that have real teeth.

Let me remind the House of some amendments that the Bloc Quebecois has already suggested to the Lobbyist Registration Act, to determine the intensity of lobbying and also to ensure that we know who we are dealing with when there are lobbying activities.

First, what we want in this new bill—and we will again be proposing this amendment—is for lobbyists to be required to disclose their meetings with ministers and senior officials, not just with the department concerned, but also with individuals, that is, senior officials, public servants, middle managers and the minister himself. Any lobbyist can go to a department, but if we do not know with whom he had dealings, it is impossible to know just how much lobbying went on, and to analyze the decisions made by this government as a result.

Second, for the new lobbyists registration bill to have teeth, consultant lobbyists as well as in-house lobbyists must be required to disclose their professional fees. We ought to know the price we pay for these lobbyists to attempt to influence the government.

Third, we would like to see in the new bill a provision explicitly prohibiting any sort of conditional fee, regardless of the activity performed. Such a provision is important so that we do not end up with earnings proportional to the amount of the subsidy a firm could get from the government and which, let us remember, is money which belongs not to the government but to taxpayers.

We would also like the new bill to include a provision whereby consultant lobbyists and in-house lobbyists would be required to disclose positions they have held and the employment period as it corresponds to a federal administration or political party. They should also have to disclose unpaid executive positions with political parties, the number of hours of volunteer work, in cases of more than 40 hours per year for a party, or leadership candidate for a party, or riding association.

We also want to know what kind of mandates these lobbyists received as elected representatives at the federal level as well as which election campaigns they took part in, including the unsuccessful ones, and last, how much the various candidates received from their political party.

In other words, as I mentioned at the beginning of this debate, we want to know who exactly these lobbyists are. Knowing exactly who they are enables us to have an idea of how influential they might be and better assess government decisions. That is what we want to know.

Sometime by a sheer fluke we find out there is a link between a decision made by the government and how much money was given to the Liberal Party of Canada. We often draw this kind of parallel. Major corporations were the beneficiaries of a particular government policy and later on we found out, in the report tabled by the chief electoral officer, that these corporations had supported the Liberal Party of Canada to the tune of several tens of thousands of dollars.

This kind of information is of public interest. In a democracy, this kind of information should be made public so that people can better assess decisions made by the government, often involving the money they contributed to the federal government as taxes. It is important to know that.

At the present time, under the current legislation on the financing of federal political parties, we only have a partial picture of the contributions made by firms engaged in lobbying since it is only during elections that we get a clear picture. Outside of electoral periods we can be told anything at all; there is no control over the funding of federal political parties.

The strengthening of the Lobbyists Registration Act should include changes, further reforms, both to improve the way federal political parties are funded so that the system is more transparent, more open with regard to the disclosure of contributions, and to know who exactly are the lobbyists who meet with the government, ministers and senior officials, and who might influence the government's decisions.

Those are only a few of the changes we will continue to push for in committee, but you can rest assured that we will not be satisfied with a few cosmetic changes such as these. We want to see a real reform to increase transparency and openness in the government, and to know who exactly are these people who lurk in the hallways day after day trying to influence the government. They meet with ministers without our knowing it in order to influence the direction of government policies.

We may on occasion be surprised at the actions taken by the government, but if we had information on the nature and identity of lobbyists, we would have a somewhat better understanding of why a government may choose directions that on occasion seem illogical to us, but are in fact extremely logical, given the meetings they have had with lobbyists the week or month before.

It is, I think, a matter of our desire to have a transparent legislative process, to be answerable to the public, and to be able to evaluate the actions of the government.

I would like to cite an example from this morning's newspapers. They report that a senior official of the Department of International Trade, who is also a negotiator for the Free Trade Area of the Americas has recommended that chapter 11 of NAFTA be extended, despite what the minister has said in the House. This chapter makes it possible for large corporations to sue the government for measures they see as having the potential for losses in the areas of the environment, education, health and so on. Why is the negotiator defending this position so vigorously? Since the minister knows only too well, why is he hiding it from us?

If we were aware of whom the minister, or the senior official, had met with in the past two years of the FTAA negotiation process, we might have a slightly better understanding that there could possibly be some big business interests behind all this.

There are, perhaps, interests involved which lead the government to go in a certain direction that is totally contrary to the public interest and totally contrary to the defence of the interests of the public it claims to represent. Perhaps what lies behind all this is a powerful lobby of transnational corporations.

We would like to have a clear picture of the situation, in this case and in many others besides.

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10:35 a.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today to speak to Bill C-15, an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act which is part of the long overdue ethics package.

On the one hand I welcome the first steps of these amendments. This city has a serious case of lobbying abuse. It is clear in so many ways that lobbyists and bureaucrats have more influence on the policies of the government than do parliamentarians or the public.

I welcome the following steps: First, the removal of the expression “attempt to influence” from the definition of lobbying. This removes an ambiguity in the legislation and makes it clear that any communication covered under the act constitutes lobbying and requires legislation.

Second, the clarification that lobbying can occur when the communication is initiated by a public officeholder. This is in response to a specific recommendation of the committee. As well, adding a requirement for the ethics counsellor to notify the appropriate police authorities if he or she has reasonable grounds to believe a criminal offence has been committed.

The NDP supports changing the registration process to require corporations and their employees to meet the same requirements as non-profit organizations and the requirement that corporate officers whose employees are engaged in lobbying activities register formally.

Those are small steps in the right direction but they are also inadequate considering the way power works in Ottawa. If the government were serious about bringing in legislation that would restore Canadians' faith in the process of governance it could, at a minimum, include in Bill C-15 the following recommendations from the standing committee.

The committee recommended that a new office be created with the exclusive responsibility to investigate and report directly to Parliament on alleged violations of the lobbyists code of conduct.

The committee also recommended that further study be given to the proposal that lobbyists be required to disclose the amount of moneys spent on lobbying campaigns. Such a requirement would go a long way toward providing the kind of transparency Canadians ought to expect.

I had the pleasure of being on the heritage committee as it studied Bill S-7, a bill that would give support to non-profit and community groups allowing them to be part of the policy making that occurs in the CRTC and to have a real impact on changes and to make their concerns known about broadcasting decisions being made. It is clear at this point that there is an uneven playing field for large media corporations versus small community groups that want to have a say in the kind of media they are experiencing in their communities.

I also had a meeting the other day with many of the civil society groups who went to Johannesburg for the world climate change conference. I heard over and over again that there was no level playing field for environmental groups or advocacy groups. They are unable to act in an advocacy role in Ottawa with parliamentarians. They are being silenced. By the kind of funding they are getting they are not able to come here and make the same kind of representations as are big corporations. There are major problems in that area that have to be addressed if Canadians are going to have confidence that all voices are being heard here on the Hill.

The committee also recommended that the role of private sector consultants in developing government policy be examined by Parliament with a view to promoting transparency and eliminating conflict of interest. At this point in time a private company, which today is employed to lobby government for certain legislative changes, could tomorrow be hired by the government to consult on the advisability of such changes. The potential for conflict of interest is obvious and yet it is not addressed in the legislation. It is quite incredible that we see that lapse not being addressed.

The NDP would view the bill in the overall context of the recently announced ethics packages from the Liberals. The Prime Minister announced a few small baby steps, such as amendments to the Parliament of Canada Act, to create a single ethics counsellor appointed by Parliament in the same way as the Auditor General. The post would be for a five year, non-renewable term responsible for the Prime Minister's code for cabinet ministers and parliamentarians. The commissioner would have the same power as the Auditor General.

The commissioner would be able to dismiss frivolous complaints but would be required to report them. This is a great improvement on the current long-standing ethics comedy starring Mr. Wilson. I welcome the announcement of a draft code of conduct for parliamentarians that requires disclosure of interests by MPs and senators but not spouses. The immediate family disclosure requirements for ministers and parliamentary secretaries remain.

The commissioner would be required to administer this code and to report to committees of the House and Senate. The exclusion of spouses is a serious flaw but it is not the only flaw. Let us look at the case of ministers.

The commissioner would report to the Prime Minister, the minister in question and the originator of the complaint. The commissioner would be required to report on all matters disposed to him or her annually in Parliament. In the end, the Prime Minister could overturn the findings of the commissioner. This means we would have a long, involved ethical process which would exist at the whim of a single politician. This is the situation we are trying to get rid of.

The Liberals have no credibility on the issue of ethics. Be it the Prime Minister or the former finance minister, we see constant abuses of government power in the government.

Today a Senate committee is making recommendations to increase funding to the private sector to deliver health care. The chair of this committee sits on the board of Extendicare, a private company which would greatly benefit if this recommendation is implemented. This is just one more example of the fact that the government has no moral credibility on the whole ethics file and that is the crux of the problem.

Ethics in government do not exist because we pass a law in this place. Ethics in government exist because people who are in public life strive to put the public interest ahead of their own interests and personal or political ambitions of the day. Ethics in government exist when we work to make government an instrument used to help the public, not used as part of an advantage.

Using this standard, the Liberals have failed and even when they change the Prime Minister they will continue to fail. Regardless of who is the leader, the Liberals continue to have the same crew in place and they have lost the moral authority because they continue to use their position of public trust to make their party or their faction look better.

It has been shameful to witness scandal after scandal by the government. It has been shameful to see the official opposition attempt to use these scandals as an excuse to further discredit the concept of government for the public good.

I have tried to be an advocate for the arts and for people with disabilities in this place. However, it has been painfully clear that the approach of the government to both issues has been to put its own agenda ahead of the needs of those vulnerable communities.

Artists are used by the government as a backdrop for ministers. People with disabilities are given great rhetoric but more often than not are used as a place to find savings for other government initiatives. For me, this is proof of the death of the unethical roots of the government opposite. When these cynical manipulations are done away with, the House will see me rise and give wholehearted support for an ethical package from the Prime Minister of the country, or from the member for LaSalle—Émard, or whomever is in place when that finally happens. However, I am not holding my breath at this point.

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10:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure today to speak to Bill C-15, an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act.

Let us recognize in fairness that lobbyists perform an important function. In a democratic society there is an information gathering activity and an educational responsibility where the participation of and the active role that lobbyists play can help us as legislators understand issues in a more fulsome and educated way.

On almost every serious or significant issue facing this House, we have interactions with lobbyists representing both sides or multiple sides on almost all those issues. I, for one, have found that role to be a constructive role for the most part and one that has helped, in my case as well as other members of my caucus, to present or develop and ultimately defend tenable positions. There is an important role there.

There are some transgressions in terms of lobbyist activities that have been questionable. For example, the activities of René Fugère and his involvement through the granting process or helping facilitate or lubricate the granting process for particular companies from HRDC and Industry Canada. His role in Shawinigate is well known. These types of egregious examples of an individual lobbyist's activities do not represent by and large the quality or the level of ethics that is practised by most of the lobbyists here in Ottawa or in any of the provincial governments in Canada.

We do not have the same amount of potential for abuse of power or unfettered power of lobbyists that exists in the U.S. Thank goodness we do not have the level of Political Action Committees (PACS) that exist with legislators in the U.S. That has created a system by which individual legislators, congressmen and senators gain significant levels of personal wealth through the use or their work with lobby activities and political fundraising. That is clearly unacceptable.

There are concerns in a leadership selection process within an individual party. For example, the degree to which fundraising can actually have an impact, particularly when the leadership selection process is to select a leader of a governing party, because that individual who is being chosen as the leader of that party may become Prime Minister immediately after that process.

The speculation now regarding the huge numbers of fundraising events that are occurring on the Liberal side in terms of the perspective leadership race does raise the question that there could be significant abuse of power. I am not saying that is the case but I have heard some numbers, I think $9 million, potentially having been raised for the member for LaSalle—Émard in his quest to be leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. That does raise some questions. He will be elected as not just leader of the Liberal Party but will be immediately Prime Minister and that does raise some question. When there is that huge amount of money being directed to one candidate above another, we have to question that a little bit. That does concern us.

The fact is that lobbyists have, by and large, not been the source of ethical woes. They have not provided the examples of breaches of ethical behaviour over the last several years in Ottawa. The rules that have been broken, by and large, have not come from the backbenchers or the Liberal Party members but by members of the cabinet. Every breach of ethical behaviour which has occurred has occurred within that cabinet.

The Prime Minister has lost a significant amount of his moral authority to enforce a reasonable code of ethics with his own personal activities, as his own lobbyist on behalf of a hotel in his riding which was adjacent to a golf course. Clearly in his lobbying efforts of the president of the BDC, the inordinate pressure placed on the president of the BDC and the subsequent firing of the president of the BDC, the Prime Minister lost the moral authority to enforce a code of ethics at his own cabinet table.

There have been other breaches of public trust from that cabinet, all of which emanated from the Prime Minister having lowered the bar and having set a bad example for ethical behaviour.

We agree with the elements of the Lobbyists Registration Act. They are appropriate and reasonable. However, they do not really deal with the transgressions that have occurred over the last several years which have occurred largely based on a Prime Minister who himself has not raised the bar, and in fact has lowered it, for ethical behaviour, and has not demonstrated the kind of intestinal fortitude to defend a strict moral code of his own or of his cabinet.

This Lobbyists Registration Act would not in a significant way improve the ethical behaviour of governments if in fact we have a Prime Minister like the current one who does not consistently set an example of ethical excellence.

The ethics package for MPs in general does not deal with the cabinet. It deals with backbenchers on the Liberal side and with members over here. However the backbenchers on the Liberal side and the opposition members over here have not been the problem. Due to the concentration of power in the Prime Minister's Office the opportunity for a Liberal backbencher or a member of the opposition to effect the kind of change which would attract the kind of money that some would speculate might come from lobbyists for that sort of activity would not make a great deal of difference.

The member for LaSalle—Émard referred the other day to the forces of darkness and evil in the Prime Minister's Office or something like that. If we play his tape backwards, it does say the forces of darkness and evil in the PMO.

That being the case neither these changes to the Lobbyists Registration Act or the new ethical code for parliamentarians address the core issue of the government and ethics, and that starts with the Prime Minister's own activities and the activities of his own cabinet.

While it is a good idea to have more stringent rules around lobbyists' behaviours or MPs' behaviours, it would not solve the problem of a cabinet and a Prime Minister not dedicated and devoted to upholding the strictest moral codes and behaviour on a day to day basis.

National Block Parent Week
Statement by Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is National Block Parent Week. This organization works to prevent crime in our country.

Through its distinctive red and white sign in the window of homes, Block Parent helps out hundreds of Canadians every year. Whether children, seniors or others who are lost, frightened, or in distress, everyone benefits from the services of the Block Parent program.

The commitment of some 50,000 volunteers enhances the security and compassion of Canada's communities. It is important to acknowledge their contribution and their importance.

I wish to pay tribute to the Block Parent volunteers. Knowing they are there is most reassuring.

Abortion
Statement by Members

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, on October 3 the health minister said in the Saint John Telegraph Journal , “Our view is that obviously abortion is a medically necessary service”. I have a letter from her department which says that it does not have any evidence showing that abortions are medically necessary. Maybe the minister would care to share the evidence she obviously now has with members of the House.

I also have letters from the federal government and 10 provincial and territorial ministers of health stating that they have not completed a risk benefit analysis on abortion. How can the minister claim that all abortions are medically necessary and how can she justify funding all abortions with public money if these analyses have not been done?

For many years we have asked the government for its list of medically necessary services. Is abortion the only service that is on the government's list?

Laurentian Leadership Centre
Statement by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the House to the newly opened Laurentian Leadership Centre. Located here in Ottawa on Metcalfe Street in the home of former lumber baron John R. Booth, the centre provides an environment for future leaders to learn about and interact with Canadian businesses, government and media leaders.

Established by Dr. Don Page, the centre is associated with Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. The centre houses up to 23 students and provides classrooms, housing and dining facilities for the students. The program consists of three classes taken at the centre and an afternoon internship at the offices of MPs and businesses throughout Ottawa.

Although the students come from a variety of backgrounds, they all share one common desire, to lead.

I therefore ask all members of Parliament to consider hosting an intern in their office to provide them with an inside look at the work of a member of Parliament and the Government of Canada.

National Youth Justice Policing Award
Statement by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate Staff Sergeant Scott MacLean, one of the winners of the 2002 Minister of Justice National Youth Justice Policing Award.

Staff Sergeant MacLean is a 21-year police veteran who has shown a strong commitment to youth justice in the Niagara region. One of his major accomplishments was the creation of a youth justice committee for the communities of Port Colborne and Wainfleet. The committee's goal is to give youth who have committed minor, non-violent, first time offences a community based alternative to the formal court process. “It is nice to see good kids who have made some bad choices get that second chance”, Scott commented. That is an excellent philosophy indeed.

The committee has been so successful that he has been chosen to develop a youth justice committee system for the entire Niagara region.

Congratulations to Staff Sergeant MacLean on receiving the Minister of Justice National Youth Justice Policing Award 2002. I thank him for taking an interest in the future of Canada's youth.

Literacy
Statement by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the six national literacy organizations and their delegates from across Canada for a very successful Literacy Action Day held yesterday on Parliament Hill.

I, along with many of my parliamentary colleagues and senators, met with literacy representatives to discuss how literacy issues touch the lives of Canadians and how literacy can play a role in developing public policy, including its connection to our national productivity, employment, health, citizenship, justice and other issues.

We recognize that literacy is the foundation for further education, training and employment. We believe that the investment we make in literacy initiatives today will have economic and social benefits tomorrow.

Again I applaud the hard work of our national literacy organizations. I along with my colleagues look forward to working together to raise the level of literacy in Canada so all Canadians can benefit from our new economy.

Falun Gong Practitioners
Statement by Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the House unanimously voted for the Prime Minister to raise the matter of 13 Falun Gong practitioners who have been jailed in China and in some cases very badly mistreated for nothing more than peacefully practising their spiritual beliefs.

Each of these 13 individuals has close personal ties to Canada. Lizhe He, imprisoned at the Seventh Labour Farm, New Qianjin Prison, is the husband of a Toronto resident. Mingli Lin, imprisoned at the Dafeng Labour Camp, has a brother in Montreal. Yueli Yang, imprisoned at Xinan Women's Labour Camp, is the mother of a Toronto resident. Jiangang Huang, imprisoned at Dafeng Labour Camp, is the brother of a Canadian citizen who lives in Victoria. All the others have husbands and wives, brothers and sisters here in Canada.

We ask the Prime Minister to do all that he can when he meets this weekend with the President of China to ensure that these peaceful individuals can be reunited with their loved ones on Canadian soil as soon as possible.

Access to Internet
Statement by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to see that, once again, programs developed by the Government of Canada will directly benefit the residents of Laval West.

The people of Laval can now visit 69 centres throughout Laval and have access to computers for free to surf the web. This program has been made possible through an initiative by the Réseau Formatclé, a non-profit organization based in Laval, and Industry Canada's Community Access Program.

This will allow more Canadians to search and learn using this wonderful source of information: the Internet.

Journées québécoises de la solidarité internationale
Statement by Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, for the past six years in Quebec the Journées québécoises de la solidarité internationale have offered an unparalleled opportunity for collective reflection on the meaning of international solidarity and its underlying values, namely the right of the six billion inhabitants of Planet Earth to justice, equity and dignity.

The shock wave from September 11 continues to make us aware of the fragility of democracy. This year's theme, choices for a just peace, is intended as an appeal to all of us to assume responsibility.

Only our unflagging commitment will ensure the implementation of a civilized globalization in which the world's wealth is shared equally and there is true social justice.

Only an acute awareness of the precarious nature of our environmental resources will reduce the huge risks of armed conflict over the control of water, land, fossil fuels and mineral resources.

Together we can counteract these cycles of violence and terror, thereby contributing to the implementation and maintenance of fundamental rights throughout the global village.

National Dystonia Awareness Week
Statement by Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Judi Longfield Whitby—Ajax, ON

Mr. Speaker, dystonia is a neurological disorder that causes powerful and involuntary muscle spasms which may affect as many as 300,000 to 500,000 people across North America. Unfortunately, most of the public knows little about dystonia and victims often go for long periods of time without seeking medical assistance because they are unaware of the disorder.

However there are organizations, such as the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation, that are working hard to discover the cause of the disorder and to eventually find a cure. In addition, there are groups of volunteers in communities across the country that are working hard to promote a greater awareness of this disorder.

I would like to extend my appreciation and gratitude to all those dedicated to creating a better understanding of the disorder and to acknowledge National Dystonia Awareness Week during the month of October.

Political Anniversaries
Statement by Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, this week is the anniversary of two significant events that have had a major impact on Canadian politics.

Fifteen years ago I was one of 262 delegates who founded the Reform Party of Canada in Winnipeg. From this small group and through the hard work of countless dedicated volunteers, we were able to become the official opposition in less than 10 years, a significant accomplishment.

While there have been some bumps along the way of our evolution to the Canadian Alliance, our influence has been undeniable. We have forced a Liberal government to do the unimaginable: balance the budget and maintain a surplus for five years. Now we even hear that the leading contender for the Liberal leadership is espousing our long time policies of democratic and parliamentary reform.

The second major event is the ninth anniversary for the large group of members of the House who were first elected in 1993. I think we would all agree that it has been one heck of a ride.

Sylvie Fréchette
Statement by Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Yolande Thibeault Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, October is Women's History Month. This year's theme is “Women and Sports--Champions Forever!”.

I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to draw attention to the accomplishments of Sylvie Fréchette. This synchronized swimmer, a native of Montreal, is a true Olympian, and a glowing example of the strength and drive of which human beings are capable. She has inspired many Canadians with her determination, grace, and ability to overcome obstacles.

In December 1993, she was at last presented with her richly deserved gold medal, 16 months after the Barcelona games, where a controversy arose over a judge's error. At the next Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, she was one of the members of the team that won silver.

In addition to her competitive victories, Sylvie has received numerous awards in recognition of her contribution to sport in Canada. She was named Quebec woman athlete of the year in 1992 and 1993. Synchro Canada created an award in her honour, and in 1999 she became a member of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame—

Sylvie Fréchette
Statement by Members

11:05 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Dartmouth.

Persons with Disabilities
Statement by Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak on behalf of Canadians with disabilities.

Last year the CCRA demanded that over 100,000 Canadians reapply for the disability tax credit even though for most, nothing about their disability had changed. Limbs had not suddenly grown back and genetic disorders had not suddenly disappeared. Tens of thousands of Canadians have lost this valuable tax credit simply because they were unable to fill out the complex forms properly.

On top of that, the finance minister has proposed changes to make it even more difficult to get this already small tax credit. Considering that many people with disabilities already live in poverty, this is truly astounding.

Because of this, the NDP has launched a nationwide letter writing campaign to the Prime Minister, asking him to withdraw the proposed amendments and to have effective consultation before making any further changes.

I call on the government to show compassion to the vulnerable people in our society, instead of taking away what very little they have.

Women and Sports
Statement by Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, this year, Women's History Month is dedicated to the physical and sporting activities of women and girls. This year's theme, Women and Sports--Champions Forever!, pays tribute to women who have reached the heights of victory.

During the 2nd Olympics in 1900, women were integrated into the Olympic Games. Since then, women have distinguished themselves in the sporting arena. Women like Sylvie Fréchette, gold medallist in synchronized swimming, Manon Rhéaume, the first woman to play in the National Hockey League, Chantal Benoît, gold medallist in wheelchair basketball, are among the Quebeckers who have shone in recent years.

The Bloc Quebecois wished to thank all women who have participated in games of the Olympiad since the beginning and highlight the determination and courage of these champions, who, thanks to their tenacity and their accomplishments, have become examples for society.

Claire Macaulay
Statement by Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, education has always been a fundamental Canadian value.

The strength of education depends on the dedication of the teaching body that shapes our youth. I would like to pay tribute to the principal of Mont-Bleu primary school in Hull, Claire Macaulay.

Through her courage and dedication, Ms. Macaulay established the first international studies program at the primary level in the Commission scolaire Des-Portages-de-l'Outaouais. Exceptionally generous and dedicated, Ms. Macaulay has established this program that encourages Canadian culture and invites students to discover the outside world as well. Ms. Macaulay and her students have taken part in a number of projects, including digging wells in India, three of which have been named for Mont-Bleu school. They carried out a project to distribute school supplies for children in Mali and in Benin and another to open a library in a Benin refugee camp.

Hats off to Ms. Macaulay and bravo to Mont-Bleu school in Hull.

Kyoto Protocol
Statement by Members

11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Gary Doer Government of Manitoba wants the federal government to ratify the Kyoto agreement in haste. Unfortunately, Manitobans have not been consulted by the Doer government on this issue. There are many questions that need to be answered by the Manitoba NDP government.

Premier Doer, how will ratifying Kyoto benefit all Manitobans? What will be the costs to Manitobans in terms of jobs and economic benefits? How will Kyoto cost individual Manitobans living in Manitoba? Premier Doer, when will Manitobans be consulted on a province-wide basis in a transparent process?

Manitobans are too smart to be led by the Doer government's blind faith approach to supporting Kyoto.

Annual Flu Awareness Campaign
Statement by Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House and all Canadians that the 2002 Flu Awareness Campaign was conducted in September.

Every winter, almost 25% of Canadians are infected with influenza. Thousands become seriously ill, and thousands die from flu related complications.

Most people who want to improve their chances of having a flu free winter can benefit from the annual flu shot. The flu shot cannot give a person the flu, and side effects are minor.

At high risk are seniors, adults and children with chronic diseases, and their caregivers. WIthout vaccination, they may face the possibility of serious or even fatal consequences, should they get the flu. A yearly vaccination is the only preventive measure that has been proven to reduce mortality rate from influenza.

I encourage all Canadians at risk to protect themselves and others. Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent flu infection.

Thank you, and do not forget your shot.

Grain Transportation
Statement by Members

11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, as prairie farmers try to salvage their crops they are faced with a lockout at the grain loading facilities in Vancouver.

The Minister of Labour claims that we have to allow the collective bargaining process to work, but this completely ignores the fact that it is not working. Grain handlers have been without a contract since December 2000 and have been locked out by the employer since August.

Substituting final offer arbitration as a dispute settlement mechanism in place of a lockout or strike does not cancel further negotiations. It does not impose a settlement and it does not rule out any other non-disruptive method of settling the contract. It simply provides a specific settlement mechanism if no other agreement can be reached.

For the government to do nothing until grievous harm has occurred and then impose a settlement, as it has in the past, is doubly irresponsible. The harm cannot be undone and the imposition of a settlement is unfair to the labour participants.

I hope the minister will protect farmers, grain workers and all people affected by the current impasse by acting responsibly in imposing a non-disruptive settlement mechanism that will not interfere with the provisions of collective bargaining.

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, six out of ten provinces are on record as opposing the Kyoto accord. That number will grow as it becomes clear how ruinous this scheme will be to their economies.

There was a time when the Liberals boasted that they were a national consensus party. That was forgotten in 1993 when consensus building was seen as less efficient and more time consuming than prime ministerial rule.

My question is for the Prime Minister. How can he justify proceeding with this ill-conceived and economically dangerous accord when 60% of the provinces are opposed to it?

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's preamble to the question is not correct.

The fact is that we are striving to get cooperation with all the provinces and territories. The hon. member fails to point out that 14 first ministers, every first minister in the country, in 1997 after the Kyoto agreement instructed their ministers of environment and their ministers of energy to work together to come up with an implementation plan.

These are facts which he conveniently ignores in coming to the inaccurate conclusion that he does.

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is quite interesting. Yes, they wanted to do it but after two years of the government messing up they got nowhere and they want to cancel it.

The Premier of Ontario says that the Prime Minister has no intention of implementing Kyoto because he knows it is unworkable and would throw hundreds of thousands of Canadians onto the unemployment lines. That is the Premier of Ontario saying that today and he has seen the two year plan. All we got yesterday were gross generalities and nothing in terms of what the real true economic impacts will be. Instead of blowing smoke in the faces of Canadians, when will the government release the true cost estimates of Kyoto?

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the document we tabled yesterday does in fact indicate what the economic effects are of implementing the Kyoto protocol, as prepared through the modelling we have done. Of course we say, quite correctly I think, that we cannot anticipate every cost because we do not know the interest rates in the future and we do not know other factors in the economy in the future.

As far as we can, we have the best figures that are available and we have done that in cooperation with the private sector.

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons the ministers and the premiers across Canada do not understand this minister is that even in his own riding he has a million gallons a day of raw sewage going into the ocean, including that from his own home, yet he is trying to tell us he now wants to clean up the air. It is the same kind of situation. It is hard to understand what the Liberals are really talking about. Canadians are worried sick that the Liberals are going to put them through the wringer with this accord. They are understandably worried about soaring heating costs and fuel prices.

How does the government intend to force consumers to shoulder the responsibility for 20% of the emission reductions?

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, this is an example of the scare tactics that the hon. member so often uses.

The fact is that the figures he asked for, which I mentioned in my response to the earlier question, indicate that the extra cost for conventional crude is in the neighbourhood of 3¢ a barrel. There are 200 litres in a barrel of oil, work it out. For the non-conventional, for the synthetic crude, the figures are about 14¢ a barrel. Even if these figures are out by some margin, say it is double, that is 30¢ a barrel of 200 litres and the price of oil at the present time is $30 a barrel.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Kirby report has just come out and it is like a breath of fresh air when it comes to the health care system. One thing that is suggested is new money for medicare, medicare that in fact the Liberals have starved.

I would like to get a commitment from the finance minister today, a commitment that if there is new money to be found for medicare, and that is a laudable goal, that it will not be found by raising new taxes.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we will review the report carefully.

If the hon. member would like to be part of the prebudget consultations, I invite him to do so. I would be very interested in hearing him make very specific suggestions about where he thinks any additional spending ought to come from. If he is not prepared to do that, then we will just make the decisions based on the consultations we have on our side.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, let me make a specific suggestion: that we take it out of the wasteful spending of the government.

The Deputy Prime Minister somewhat jokingly said that he would rather jump off the Peace Tower than raise taxes. I have a little news for him. He would not have to jump off the Peace Tower. He would be pushed off the Peace Tower by the millions of Canadians who are fed up with the taxes that the government has raised.

My question stands. I would like a commitment from the finance minister today that he will not raise new taxes to put money into medicare. It should come from the wasteful spending of the government.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I realize that this is a place for a lot of rhetoric, but the spending on programs, out of total government expenditures, is 37¢ on the dollar. Before that come transfers to the elderly and to the provinces as well as payment on interest on the debt, which we have brought down quite sharply since we have been in office.

If he wants to be specific, yesterday they were asking for us to transfer the air security charge to the overall taxpayer. They want us to increase defence--

Health
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans.

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, at the Johannesburg summit, the Prime Minister categorically stated, and I quote:

Before the end of the year, the Parliament of Canada will be asked to vote on the ratification of the Kyoto protocol.

However, yesterday, the Minister of the Environment only talked about having a debate in 2002.

To make sure we are not taking a step backwards, will the Minister of the Environment state again the Prime Minister's commitment and confirm that Parliament will vote on ratifying Kyoto in 2002?

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. It is very important to know that there will be a vote in this House, following a debate during which all members will have the opportunity to express their point of view. It will happen in the year 2002.

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, as we can see, the minister is qualifying the comments he made yesterday in this House when he told us he was hoping that the debate in the House would take place before the end of the year.

However, I will remind the minister that on October--he might have read the House of Commons Debates --, during question period, the Prime Minister made things very clear and said, in answer to a question, “There will be a vote before the end of the year on the ratification.”

Are we to understand that the Minister of the Environment is committing today, on behalf of the government, to ratify the Kyoto protocol in 2002? Is that right?

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, in South Africa, in Johannesburg, the Prime Minister clearly stated that before the end of the year we will have a debate in this House, as well as in the Senate, on the ratification of the Kyoto protocol.

Since then, he has talked about the vote and said that it would happen before the end of the year. For my part, as a minister, I welcome both things the Prime Minister wants to do.

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, on July 23, 2001, the Prime Minister pledged to ratify the Kyoto protocol by the end of this year.

Yesterday, the Minister of the Environment justified his implementation plan by saying that the government did not have to reward again, as if it had already done so, those businesses that took it upon themselves to become more energy efficient.

Does the Minister of the Environment realize that his statement confirms that the government is totally ruling out, in its implementation plan, as we feared, the polluter pay principle?

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I answered this question two, three or four times. The polluter pay principle is very important. However, there are a number of other principles that are also very important, including setting the lowest possible price. Now, this is something important, as is not to disadvantage any region of the country with a plan.

Yes, I take the polluter pay principle seriously, but we must not forget the other issues that are important for other Canadians.

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, in a unanimous motion, the Quebec National Assembly called the federal implementation plan inequitable, because it does not take into account the efforts already made and because it unduly favours the oil industry at the expense of Quebec's manufacturing sector.

Will the minister admit that the territorial approach is the only one that can guarantee that the players will be treated equitably under the Kyoto protocol implementation plan in Canada?

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Quebec National Assembly voted in favour of a resolution, which provides in part that the province intends “to do its fair share under a strategy to reduce greenhouse gases in Canada”.

I fully agree that we must have a plan under which each province will do its fair share.

Justice
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Solicitor General. I want to congratulate him on his appointment.

Amanda Zhao, a young Chinese student living in Burnaby, was murdered last week. This followed brutal attacks on a number of Korean women in the months immediately preceding. It took over a week for the RCMP to publicize Amanda's disappearance and the Chinese consulate was not informed as international protocol requires.

What steps is the minister taking to ensure that there will be a full, vigorous, public review of the circumstances that led to the unacceptable delay in reporting this? What steps will the minister take to ensure it--

Justice
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Solicitor General.

Justice
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Malpeque
P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to Ms. Zhao family and friends for their loss under such tragic circumstances.

As the member probably should know, the RCMP is conducting an internal review of the matter and it has already indicated that it will make the results of that review public.

Halifax Harbour
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans who makes the Halifax harbour clean-up announcements.

The government is currently committed to paying one-third of the cost of the clean up of St. John's harbour, but only 10% of the cost of the Halifax clean-up. Without the same funding as St. John's, Halifax-Dartmouth residents will have to pay a significant increase in their water bills over the next five years.

Will the minister put the same one-third commitment into the Halifax project as into the St. John's project and stop the unfair tax hikes in the HRM water bills?

Halifax Harbour
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the regional-municipal council for its action in improving water quality conditions in Halifax harbour. It has made the decision not to phase in the project but to advance immediately. We are contributing $30 million toward that project in partnership with the province, matching the province. I have indicated to the mayor, on behalf of the Minister of Industry, that if the council should wish to phase in the program over a number of years, like many other programs are done, then we may be able to assist in further phases and we will consider doing so in the future.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, the Kirby report today states that any new federal money must be used to buy change not merely to support the system as it is presently structured. The report talks about $5 billion.

My question for the Deputy Prime Minister is: Where will the $5 billion come from and where will it go? Does he support, as he and his cabinet colleagues have suggested in the past, a national sales tax increase of 1.5% or, as Kirby suggests, a variable national health care insurance premium? What is it, a premium or a tax increase?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, if I understood what the member said, he suggested that somehow or other cabinet supported an increase in the sales tax. That is simply not true. I have said repeatedly that I have no intention of proposing an increase in the GST. It is a tax that his party brought in. It is a tax that Canadians continue to hate. It is a tax that we do not intend to increase.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, does that mean we should immediately cancel the parachute that we ordered for the Deputy Prime Minister for his anticipated jump from the Peace Tower?

The fact of the matter is that the money has to come from somewhere. What is it? Is it a tax increase or a premium? Will the minister state very clearly in the House today so we will know? There has to be a level of honesty in the answer to that question. Does he approve a tax increase or a premium? What is it? It is one or the other. He should not dodge the question.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would have thought that the parachute that they had already bought for Mr. Lord was available. In any event, they did not need to cancel anything.

Senator Kirby has provided us with a useful report. It will take some time to consider it. Mr. Romanow is preparing his report. The Prime Minister has indicated that he will meet with the first ministers early in the new year and after that we will present a budget. I do not intend to do so today.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, the government has a track record of applying rules selectively, especially when it comes to its friends, and nobody knows that better than prairie grain farmers.

In less than a week the government will be jailing prairie farmers for doing what is perfectly legal in the rest of Canada: selling their own wheat. Why does the government insist on denying prairie farmers the same marketing freedoms that are given to farmers in the rest of the country?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Mississauga South
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, let me quote from a letter written by Mr. Ken Ritter, the chair of the Canadian Wheat Board's board of directors. He said:

Misinformation has been rampant since a small group of Alberta farmers declared that they will choose jail over paying fines associated with a 1996 border protest.

No one wants to see farmers go to jail. Unfortunately, being jailed is the choice of these farmers to draw attention to their political concerns.

The Minister of Public Works cannot and will not intervene in any due process of law.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, despite what the minister would like the House to believe, farmers are not in control of the Canadian Wheat Board. It is the minister who appoints the CEO. It is the minister who appoints five of the directors. It is the Wheat Board Act that disallows farmers their freedom to choose. Even if all 15 directors supported favour of choice, the act will not allow it thanks to the government.

Will the minister give the farmers their rightful freedom to market their wheat in a manner they choose?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Mississauga South
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the member continues to provide misinformation. Ontario farmers also must obtain licences through the Ontario Wheat Producers Marketing Board.

Two-thirds of the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board are western Canadian farmers and they control the policy and strategic direction of the Canadian Wheat Board.

International Trade
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, one of the FTAA negotiators stated that Canada wanted to replicate chapter 11 of NAFTA in the agreement between the three Americas. This is the chapter under which businesses can sue governments for lost future profits and, so far, it has led to some abuse and is open to misinterpretation.

How can the Deputy Prime Minister reconcile this statement by the negotiator and the one made by the Minister for International Trade, who said repeatedly that he wanted to replace this chapter by one that would not allow investors to sue states?

International Trade
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

London—Fanshawe
Ontario

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is quite clear that Canada does not advocate the replication of the chapter 11 clause that exists in NAFTA, in the FTAA or in other international agreements.

Having said that, obviously our investors need protection for their investments overseas. There has been a remarkable increase in Canadian investment overseas and that investment must and will be protected.

International Trade
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, under chapter 11 of NAFTA, companies have already announced their intention to sue the Government of Canada for an amount of at least $1 billion.

How many more lawsuits and claims will it take for this government to recognize that the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism in chapter 11 is a mistake and agree to sign no agreement containing any such provision, as decided by the Government of Quebec last June?

International Trade
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

London—Fanshawe
Ontario

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, maybe the hon. member is giving us a new revelation on Bloc Quebecois policy if he is telling us that it is not interested in protecting the investments of Canadian companies overseas. I certainly hope he is not telling us that.

I repeat, we are opposed to the replication of chapter 11 as it is written in the FTAA or other potential bilateral or multilateral agreements, but we can, we will and we must protect Canadian investors abroad.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, in 1989 the Iron Curtain fell in Europe and democracy brought a brighter future. It celebrated the ability of people to decide how they wanted to conduct their own lives. They buy and sell their property and products in a free marketplace, a marketplace that ensures they get a fair market price.

In 1996 Canadians were charged for freely selling their farm products. Now they are going to jail charged, not by a Communist hold out, but by the Canadian Wheat Board.

Why does the government defend the Canadian Wheat Board in its undemocratic actions instead of our prairie grain farmers?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Mississauga South
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, first, the people need not break the law to have their voices heard, and that is the point: Do not break the law; change it.

The member should also acknowledge that 85% of western farmers support the Canadian Wheat Board.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I can say that I am one of the members in the House that has the Canadian Wheat Board permit and I understand it more than he does.

The government is jailing our grain farmers for selling their own grain a decade after Communism fell. The Prime Minister offered advice to the Ukraine. He said that monopolies were not worthy of a great nation and a great people, that we must create a class of entrepreneurs to break away from the Communist legacy.

Why will he not follow his own advice and get rid of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Mississauga South
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, two-thirds of the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board were elected by western Canadian farmers. If western Canadian farmers want to change the Canadian Wheat Board, they have the means to do it and they should take care of the problems that they have.

International Trade
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister for International Trade has always depicted himself as a model of clarity and transparence with regard to his negotiating positions on the FTAA. However, the remarks made yesterday by a senior official contradict the federal position stated on the Internet, which says, and I quote:

Canada is not advocating the replication of the NAFTA investor-state dispute settlement mechanism in the FTAA.

How can the Deputy Prime Minister explain the fact that the position of a senior official can be in total contradiction with the official government position as stated on the Internet?

International Trade
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

London—Fanshawe
Ontario

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, on trade policy, the Minister for International Trade speaks for the government in the House of Commons. He has repeatedly said, as I repeat again now, that the government is not interested in replicating a chapter 11 investor clause in FTAA or other multilateral agreements. However we know that we must have protection for Canadian investors abroad.

Is my colleague telling us that the Bloc Quebecois is not interested in protecting Canadian investments overseas?

International Trade
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are certainly not against protecting investments, but we will never accept being exposed to legal action by multinationals. This is totally irresponsible.

My question is for the Deputy Prime Minister. Is this contradiction due to the fact that, in reality, there are two scenarios: the reassuring one that the public can find on the Internet, and the real one, the one that is on the table, the one that is hidden from the public and that says that Canada wants to replicate chapter 11?

International Trade
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

London—Fanshawe
Ontario

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting to hear the hon. member say that his party is interested in protecting investors but he does not want to give investors the right to sue or take legal action.

How would he propose to protect Canadian investors overseas who might be dealt with in a capricious and unfair manner by a foreign government? Obviously they must have recourse to the courts.

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, at the APEC conference this weekend in Mexico, 11 Asian countries, along with Australia and the United States, have signed on to a coalition to shut down the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah, the group believed responsible for the 200 bombing murders in Bali.

Why was Canada not included on that coalition list? Was it because of the Liberals knee-jerk anti-Americanism, or is it because of the Liberals' soft approach to some terrorist groups right here on our soil?

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the government of Australia sought Canada's support for listing Jemaah Islamiah as a terrorist entity by the UN. We reviewed the request. We, along with 20 other countries, including the United States, European countries and Asian countries, submitted a letter of support for this listing to the United Nations.

We expect that the group will be added to the UN list by the end of today, at which time it will automatically be designated by Canada under our own UN suppression of terrorism regulations.

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, we finally have a flip-flop on the Liberal side with which we agree. It took a lot of pressure from this party, from our leader and from Canadians to get the Liberals to finally do this. We are losing influence around the world internationally with a number of groups; at NATO because we do not properly fund national defence and now at APEC because of the foot-dragging.

Will the Prime Minister agree to list the other groups that many Canadians want to see listed, including Hezbollah, a terrorist group. Will he add them to the list?

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that we seem to have caught the hon. member by surprise with the answer. If he had called in advance we might have been able to inform him that his information was incorrect.

We have taken the lead, with several other countries, in our listing of entities under the UN suppression of terrorism regulations. We differ in our view of how to list certain entities. However there are three countries that have listed Hezbollah: Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. We have done exactly the same as has the United Kingdom.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Julian Reed Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the federal government is the custodian of an unknown number of environmentally contaminated sites. My question is for the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board.

In view of the recently tabled findings of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, what is the Treasury Board doing to ensure all sites are identified and there is a proper evaluation of the cost of remediation?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Durham
Ontario

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, the Treasury Board has, through its guidelines to other departments, requested them to inventory their contaminated sites and 85% of this work has now been done and is displayed on our Internet site. In addition, over $100 million a year is now being funded through various departments to ensure that we identify the remainder of those sites. By July 1, 2003, we believe that the balance, from 85% to 100%, of those sites will be identified and a plan for remediation will be in place.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Deputy Prime Minister who tabled this week the government's new ethics package.

Could the Deputy Prime Minister tell this House whether the package is intended to cover situations in which parliamentarians advocate public policies that advance their own corporate interests?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, of course, some of the situations may prove to be rather complex so I do not want to give an off-hand answer. However there is a definition in the code that does try to catch private interests, including private pecuniary interests of parliamentarians, as being those with which they ought not to be advocating. That is distinct from a broader advocacy for interests that might be financial in their regions, for example.

I would commend the member to read the code and we will try to ensure it is clear in application.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, then let me ask the Deputy Prime Minister specifically about Senator Kirby who just released a report today which is a recipe for privatization and commercialization.

Given Senator Kirby's involvement as an active board member in Extendicare, which is a private for profit health company, could the Deputy Prime Minister explain how the government has been silent on that report and Senator Kirby's very obvious conflict of interest?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

The Speaker

I do not think that the question relates to the ministerial responsibility to the government.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Kirby committee recommends raising the additional revenue for health care through a national health care insurance premium, and I quote:

--these new revenues will be earmarked and dedicated. The money will be spent on the health care of Canadians and health care only.

The current finance minister, the previous finance minister and the transport minister have all stated in the past that the Liberal government is opposed to a dedicated tax approach. Will the government be reversing this position by introducing a dedicated health care tax?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the member is correct in saying that our general approach has always been that we do not favour a dedicated tax, that it is better that revenues be collected and then applied to the priorities as determined by Parliament from time to time. Tax revenues can increase on a particular source and do not necessarily, if they are tied to an expenditure, reflect appropriate levels of accountability.

That being said, I am prepared to consider the recommendations of both Kirby and Romanow. I think the outcome of the first ministers meeting will be important and I look forward to the views of members of the House with respect to how to deal with those recommendations.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the government spends less than 10% of gas tax revenues on highway infrastructure and pillages over $5 billion from the EI surplus for general spending. What guarantees will the government make that dollars raised for health care will be spent on health care? Why should Canadians trust it to not use dedicated money for health care for general Liberal spending?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the member has to some extent illustrated the problem with a dedicated tax. I presume from what he is saying that he thinks 100% of all revenues from fuel taxes should be spent on highways. We do not know whether that is the right amount, too much, too little, or anything else. We know that highways are primarily the responsibility of the provincial governments.

When we consider whether we should impose a dedicated health tax, not only is there a question of how do we assure people that is where it will go, but is it the right amount, is it the right source and what do we do with increases in the amount of revenue that comes in for such a charge.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister stated that Standing Order 111 provides for the election by the House of Commons of the ethics commissioner. In fact it does not. It allows instead for the intended person's appointment to be referred to committee. After 30 days the proposed appointment would be put under routine proceedings. That is then decided on without debate or amendment.

There is no true election and no true influence by opposition parties on the outcome. Will the government commit to true, all party participation in the election of an ethics commissioner?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I do not know of any one else in the House who would think that an election is not a vote. Most of us think that it is. The member should recognize that under that Standing Order it is put to the House after a 30 day period so people can examine the candidacy. Then there is a vote. That is an election by the House for the individual by democratic majority, those principles with which the people across the way do not seem to be familiar.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to explain this. Perhaps the member could think of the days when he was in opposition. He would probably remember the anxiety that he felt from time to time when overwhelmed by a government majority. This choice will be made by a government majority and not give a true influence to opposition parties on a person who can rule on their behalf.

The last thing we need is an ethics commissioner who is a damage control officer for the Liberals and attacks people in opposition. Will they commit to allowing some true representation on this from opposition parties?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I want to respond to this as seriously as possible. Yes, there needs to be consultation with opposition parties. Undoubtedly that is the case. That would occur before the name was even put to a vote in the House of Commons.

I would also say, however, that I would not recommend to the government that there be the ability by opposition parties to somehow prevent the choice of an ethics commissioner for reasons that are unrelated to that person's abilities, credibility or otherwise. I am interested in suggestions about things that would increase the credibility of the commissioner, including suggestions that were put forward by the leader of the--

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Charlevoix.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, despite the announcement of a plan to assist workers in the softwood lumber industry, the disastrous effects of the trade dispute are multiplying, while companies are left on their own to fight it out and deal with the crisis.

What is the Minister of Industry waiting for to offer these companies loan guarantees, which would allow them not only to protect jobs, but also to save their investments while waiting for the crisis to end.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Laval West
Québec

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the government announced more than $246 million in assistance to help workers, communities and companies affected by this dispute.

I would remind the member opposite that this figure is in addition to the $450 million in employment insurance benefits that have already been paid out to workers in the forest sector, every year.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, what is preventing the minister from living up to his responsibilities and setting up a loan-guarantee program, knowing that this specific measure does not contravene WTO rules?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Laval West
Québec

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I believe the member opposite is mistaken in his choice of question.

I have already explained to the House what the government has already done, and what it intends to continue to do. I would add that the measures announced by this government will help ensure that workers have the skills they need in order to find and keep a job. I think skills are more important than lending them money; we are giving them the means to find and keep new jobs.

Government Loans
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, three industry ministers have assured the House that the loans made by Technology Partnerships Canada would be repaid. Now we learn that Industry Canada's own documents reveal that, at best, only one-third of the loans will be recovered.

Will the government finally come clean with taxpayers on this corporate welfare scheme?

Government Loans
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Beauharnois—Salaberry
Québec

Liberal

Serge Marcil Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, first of all, these were investments, not loans. This program encourages businesses to put good Canadian ideas into application. What must be understood, however, is that as investments they are not short term. The return on this investment will be made in the coming years.

Government Loans
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, government documents revealed at the end of January that only 2% of the loans up until that point had been repaid. Now the government's own internal documents projected out to 2020 show that at best only one-third of the loans, investments or whatever we want to call it, will be repaid.

Is that acceptable to Canadian taxpayers, the cabinet of this House and to the government to continue this corporate welfare scheme?

Government Loans
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Beauharnois—Salaberry
Québec

Liberal

Serge Marcil Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, we have always made it clear in the House that the majority of the partnership projects are still at the developmental stage and will not generate any major repayments for some years.

That said, repayments have doubled in each of the past two years and they are about to do so again this year, as well as the next two probably.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister tabled last Wednesday a draft bill pertaining to ethics and a draft code of conduct for parliamentarians.

Could the House leader tell us when we can expect the other elements of the Prime Minister's eight-point plan, in particular the changes with respect to electoral financing?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:55 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 House will know the Prime Minister presented earlier this week, together with the Minister of Industry, the fifth and sixth elements of the eight-point plan. Two remain, one dealing with the public service which will done very shortly.

I am working very closely with colleagues, and I would like to offer before the end of the year, or at the earliest opportunity, improvements to the Canada Elections Act thereby confirming the commitment that the Prime Minister made to the House on the ethics package.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, five years ago the government committed to expand Canada's Emergency Preparedness College which trains disaster response teams, and is located in Arnprior.

Despite the $396 million specifically allocated to national security after September 11, not one cent of it has gone toward teaching police, firefighters and municipal leaders how to protect our citizens.

In this week's Arnprior News , a staffer from the Prime Minister's office confirmed that the closure of the college is imminent. When will the Minister of National Defence stand up to his boss and demand that the money meant for Canadian protection be released in his department and keep the college open?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Haliburton—Victoria—Brock
Ontario

Liberal

John O'Reilly Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, in response to the new security environment, the Canadian Emergency Preparedness College is expanding its training program. The December budget allocated significant funds for this purpose. Much work has been done but no final decision has yet been made. We are considering all possible options.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of National Defence refused to acknowledge in this House that our military needed more resources.

Well, today is another day. In his speech to the Toronto Board of Trade, the minister said, “We should be spending more than is currently planned”. He went on to say, “Our most valuable members of our forces will quit if this issue is not addressed”.

My question for the Minister of Finance is simple. Will he invest the $1.5 billion his defence minister, the head of the navy and others are asking for so that our--

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Deputy Prime Minister.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I know that in his speech the Minister of National Defence also acknowledged the significant increases in the defence budget that have occurred over the last number of years, in fact about 30% over the last five years.

I will take note of the fact that the Alliance Party wants us to spend more money on defence. It wants us to transfer the cost of air security to the general taxpayer and it does not want us to increase taxes for health care. We will try to square that circle to the best of our ability.

Ingrid Betancourt
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, Ingrid Betancourt, a former candidate in the Colombian presidential elections and sister of a resident of Quebec, is still a prisoner of the Colombian guerillas. She has been ever since her abduction on February 23. Reports of her precarious health indicate that it is urgent she be released.

Has the Minister of Foreign Affairs intervened with Colombian authorities to ask them to resume discussions with the guerillas in order to reach a humanitarian agreement to free Igrid Betancourt? If so, what was the outcome?

Ingrid Betancourt
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Brome—Missisquoi
Québec

Liberal

Denis Paradis Secretary of State (Latin America and Africa) (Francophonie)

Mr. Speaker, President elect Uribe was here last June. We raised the matter with him at that time. We are greatly concerned by the rumours of Ms. Betancourt's deteriorating health. She is one of 3,000 prisoners, including six former government ministers. We have stressed to President Uribe that the FARC must release Ingrid Betancour, considering her reported health problems.

Literacy
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday was Literacy Day on Parliament Hill. As we know, reading and writing skills are key to individual growth and development.

Could the minister inform the House of the role played by the Government of Canada in supporting literacy organizations such as Alpha Laval and in ensuring that all Canadians have the necessary skills to participate actively in the knowledge-based economy?

Literacy
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Laval West
Québec

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my hon. colleague from Laval West for her excellent question and to inform the House that, each year, we invest no less than $30 million in support of 500 literacy projects throughout Canada.

With this investment, we help develop learning material and help people access learning programs, because the skills of reading, writing and numeracy are essential to social and economic success in Canada. These skills play a key role in the prosperity and quality of life of Canadians.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

Noon

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Prime Minister.

When we had the ice storms in this country the government moved quickly. When we had the floods in the Saguenay the government moved quickly. Western Canada is experiencing the worst drought since the great depression. The throne speech made absolutely no mention whatsoever of this great disaster. Existing government programs, including NISA, are totally inadequate.

When will the government announce an emergency--

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

Noon

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, on June 20 the Prime Minister announced some $5.2 billion in new federal investments to ensure growth of the Canadian agriculture sector and of this, the hon. member will know, $600 million is flowing into the producers NISA account to help them deal with challenges such as the drought. This year almost 110,000 producers have also bought crop insurance which will reach $2 billion worth of benefits.

Finally a number of us, including his own colleagues and I, have worked in the Hay West program, which is a volunteer effort of all Canadians to--

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Speaker

The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette-et-la Mitis.

Copyright
Oral Question Period

Noon

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, on October 4, the Bloc Quebecois asked the government to refer the report on copyright to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, rather than to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, as it was rumoured at the time.

Could the Leader of the Government in the House confirm that a decision has been made and that this report will indeed be reviewed by the heritage committee?

Copyright
Oral Question Period

Noon

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her continued interest in this issue and for her representations in the House today.

The government is about to announce to which parliamentary committee this report will be referred.

Copyright
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Speaker

The Chair has notice of a point of order from the hon. member for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

Noon

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, following up on other comments we have had about ministers, this morning in Toronto the Minister of National Defence made a major address to the Toronto Board of Trade reporting the state of Canada's military. This is the minister's first major address and, like many other government announcements, it was made outside of the House.

As all hon. members know, the report of the modernization committee recommended that these announcements be made inside the House. The report was adopted unanimously by the House. It seems to mean nothing to the government.

Yesterday, at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, the Chief Government Whip flanked by a gang of parliamentary secretaries filibustered a motion to allow for secret ballot elections in committees. They argued that the secret ballot process would produce inferior results. I took offence to that remark, as maybe the Speaker should also.

The leadership over there is not interested in reforming Parliament. It cannot even follow through on its previous commitments to make announcements in the House.

So far the government leadership has been successful at beating down the efforts of those members who want to reform Parliament in a meaningful way, but now after nine years it appears there may be more of us than there is of them.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

Noon

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is on one hand asking for respect for the rules of the House and then refers to debate going on in committee which has not yet even been reported to the House. The Speaker will no doubt recognize the contradiction in the statement the hon. member just made.

First, in relation to the speech made by the hon. Minister of National Defence, this was a speech made by a minister speaking before a board of trade. It was not a new policy announcement.

Second, in the modernization committee report it never said that every government announcement ever made anywhere would always be made in the House of Commons and that ministers would cease to make speeches across the country, nor is it expected that opposition critics would do that either. That was not the point of the modernization effort. It was to increase statements in the House.

We had an excellent example of that the day before yesterday when the hon. Deputy Prime Minister made an important speech in the House with contributions of all parties, some of them I would argue more constructive than others, regarding the ethics package. Those were made on the floor of the House of Commons.

There will be another one shortly when I introduce the Elections Act amendment that I referred to earlier during question period. Those things are being done.

If it were to assist the Speaker, I would be prepared to table the speech made earlier today to the Toronto Board of Trade by the hon. Minister of National Defence. I am sure Mr. Speaker will recognize that there is nothing in there that would contravene the rules or the practices of the House.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has dealt with this matter before. I have made it very clear that in the view of the Chair the point of order raised by the hon. member for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast is not well taken.

He does refer to the report of the modernization committee and on that he is quite correct. My recollection was that the report urged ministers to do this, but did not recommend any change in the House of Commons rules that would enable the Speaker to somehow rule whether or not a minister had breached his or her obligations if the minister made a statement outside the House.

In the absence of some change in the practice or rule, I can only say that the past practice has been that members and ministers are free to make statements inside or outside the House. It is not for the Chair to decide on the propriety of the choice of locale for these statements. Accordingly, I find the point of order not well taken.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre is also rising on a separate point of order.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to raise with you concerns about your decision to rule my supplementary question today pertaining to Senator Kirby and the health report that was just unveiled as out of order.

The Chair will know that my supplementary was simply to clarify the answer provided by the Deputy Prime Minister regarding the ethics package. Yet his answer was ruled in order and my question seeking further clarification was ruled out of order.

As the Chair well knows, the government just tabled in the House a code of ethics which directly relates to not only members of Parliament, but also to senators and very clearly outlines provisions demanding disclosure for any conflict of interest where a member or a senator has a private interest in a matter that is before the Houses of Parliament or a committee.

I believe the Speaker will find that my question is relating to clarification of that code of ethics. It seeks an answer from the government regarding Senator Kirby's interest in a private for profit health care company, that being Extendicare, and requests the government to consider the validity of a report just tabled by that senator in light of that conflict of interest.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The question of whether there is any conflict of interest obviously cannot arise because the code of conduct has not yet been adopted. It is very difficult, it seems to me, for the hon. member to ask a minister, particularly a minister, if the code of conduct is one that governs all parliamentarians and is to be enforced by some other officer. To ask a minister whether or not somebody else has breached a code that is not yet enforced strikes me as entirely hypothetical and certainly beyond the jurisdiction of the government.

As I understand the plan that has been introduced, and I have not gone through it in great detail, it is something that will be part of the rules of the House, both this House and in the other place, and not therefore something that is under the control of the government. In fact it is under the control of the House. If that were the case, I do not see how a question to a minister could be in order and that is why I ruled the hon. member's question out of order.

I am prepared to examine the blues when they are available and if I have a change of view I will get back to the House, but in my view the question is quite out of order and I had no reluctance whatever in saying so.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Mississauga South
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 13 petitions.

VIA Rail Commercialization Act
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-255, an act respecting the commercialization of VIA Rail Canada Inc.

Mr. Speaker, this is a reintroduction of a previously introduced bill dealing with the privatization of VIA Rail.

VIA, as a crown corporation, is subsidized in the amount of about half a million dollars a day, and recently had an injection of over $400 million. The transport minister has admitted that the private sector has indicated a will to run this without subsidy. The bill addresses the fundamental problem that it is wrong for the government to subsidize a business which competes against other private sector transportation sectors.

I hope the government will see the light of day, recognize the error of its ways and support this bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canada Health Act
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-256, an act to amend the Canada Health Act (conditions for contributions)

Mr. Speaker, this is also a reintroduction of a bill that I had previously introduced in the House. It addresses a serious problem for health and emergency response workers in the country who often risk being exposed to infectious diseases while in the course of their duties.

There are absolutely no provisions to provide them with notice if it is later discovered that the victims they had attended had infectious diseases.The bill is designed to provide a simple protocol that would allow those people to be notified while still protecting the confidentiality of the people who were infected themselves and with whom they had come into contact.

I hope the government will see fit to pass this quickly for the benefit of all those who put their lives on the line to protect all Canadians.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

First Nations Governance Review Act
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-257, an act to establish a First Nations Ombudsman and a First Nations Auditor to assist with administrative and financial problems

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to reintroduce this private member's bill entitled an act to establish a first nations ombudsman and a first nations auditor to assist with administrative and financial problems.

The first purpose of the bill is to establish the office of an ombudsman to assist persons if they consider that they are being dealt with unfairly or unreasonably. This is something that all members and every Canadian have access to, but the aboriginal living on a reserve does not. In order to maintain some equality across the country, this bill would correct that situation.

The bill would also provide for an official from the Auditor General's Office to be appointed as a first nations auditor, to carry out audits to communities that are insolvent or where impropriety or mismanagement is alleged.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-258, an act to amend the Criminal Code (arrest without warrant).

Mr. Speaker, this is the reintroduction of a private member's bill in regard to arrest without warrant. It is based on a number of meetings I have had with police officers across Canada in which they have repeatedly stated that they need more power in order to enforce the law to make society safer. They have also made their presentation on the Hill when they come here for their conventions.

This would assist peace officers by giving them the power to arrest, without a warrant, a person who is in breach of probation or conditions of parole. At present peace officers can only notify parole officers and with this time delay another crime is often committed. The bill would prevent that from happening.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-259, an act to amend the Criminal Code.

Mr. Speaker, the bill is being reintroduced on behalf of the families of Craig Powell, Amber Keuben, Brandy Keuben and Stephanie Smith, who were all killed instantly by a drunk driver on June 23, 1996, near Morley, Alberta as they returned from a camping trip.

The drunk driver in this case was Christopher Goodstoney, who was charged with four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing injury. At his hearing the judge was required by law to refer to Section 718.2, which states in regard to sentencing that the judge must take into account whether or not the offender is aboriginal. In our view and the view of the people we are representing, we believe that those who commit a crime should serve the time, no matter who they are. We should stop this discrimination within our criminal code.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Hazardous Products Act
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough East, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-260, an act to amend the Hazardous Products Act (fire-safe cigarettes).

Mr. Speaker, I am reintroducing the legislation to amend the Hazardous Products Act pursuant to Standing Order 86.1. The bill would add cigarettes that do not meet flammability standards to the regulations that list prohibited products under the Hazardous Products Act. The effect would be that fires could not be started inadvertently by careless smoking or by people falling asleep while smoking.

Simple changes in flammability standards could save the dozens of lives lost and the millions of dollars spent because of careless smoking, so I hope that the House will see fit to pass the bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Hazardous Products Act
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair is of the opinion that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-236 was at the time of prorogation of the first session of the 37th Parliament. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86(1), the bill shall be added to the bottom of the list of items in the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to present three separate petitions on behalf of the good people of Dauphin--Swan River.

The first petition calls on the government to focus its legislative support on adult stem cell research to find the cures and therapies necessary to treat the illnesses and diseases of suffering Canadians.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls on the government to protect our children by taking all the necessary steps to ensure that all materials that promote or glorify pedophilia or sado-masochistic activities involving children are outlawed.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, the last petition, signed by hundreds of petitioners, calls on Parliament to enforce the laws of Canada so that those who take advantage of their status and who breach the federal laws be held accountable for their actions. This is in regard to unlimited net fishing by aboriginals. The petitioners believe that Canada needs a single justice system for all citizens.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dick Harris Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to present petitions containing over 5,000 names of Canadians living in the Prince George--Bulkley Valley riding. They want the House to know that the creation and use of child pornography is condemned by a clear majority of Canadians and that the courts have not applied the current child pornography law in a way that makes it clear that such exploitation of children will be met with swift punishment.

The petitioners therefore call on Parliament to protect our children by taking all necessary steps to ensure that all materials that promote or glorify pedophilia or sado-masochistic activities involving children are outlawed. I support all of these petitions.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order. The Chair must remind the House that while tabling petitions it is contrary to the rules of our chamber to either associate or dissociate ourselves from a petition, in fact presenting the petition without making a representation either in favour or otherwise. I simply wish to remind members of that good order.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table a petition this afternoon which is signed by many residents of my constituency of Burnaby--Douglas and others in the lower mainland. I particularly pay tribute to my constituent, Iris Schwenneker, who was involved in this petition on the subject of ethical stem cell research.

The petitioners raise concerns about the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who suffer from debilitating illnesses and diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, diabetes, cancer, muscular dystrophy and spinal cord injury. They note that they support ethical stem cell research, which has already shown encouraging potential to provide cures and therapies. They raise concerns about the use of embryonic stem cells: ethical problems and immune rejection. They call upon Parliament to focus its legislative support on adult stem cell research to find the cures and therapies necessary to treat the illnesses and diseases of suffering Canadians.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions signed by a number of Canadians, including residents of my own riding of Mississauga South.

The first petition relates to fetal alcohol syndrome. The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House the fact that fetal alcohol syndrome and alcohol related birth defects are 100% preventable and that the consumption of an alcoholic beverage impairs a person's ability to operate machinery or an automobile. The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to require health warning labels on the containers of alcoholic beverages.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

The second petition, Mr. Speaker, has to do with the definition of marriage. Again it is signed by a number of Canadians, including residents of my own riding of Mississauga South. They want to draw to the attention of the House their opposition to the redefinition of marriage. The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to defend the existing definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

The third petition, Mr. Speaker, relates to stem cell research. It is also signed by a number of Canadians, including residents of my own riding of Mississauga South. The petitioners simply want to point out that they support ethical stem cell research, which has already shown significant potential in finding cures and therapies.

They also want to point out that non-embryonic stem cells, also known as adult stem cells, have shown significant research progress without the immune rejection or ethical problems associated with embryonic stem cells. The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to pursue legislative support of adult stem cell research to find those cures and therapies necessary for Canadians.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, today I add 73 more names to the petitions of people in my riding, from Sherwood Park in the south all the way to Newbrook in the north. Many people are saying that we need to stop child pornography. The issue of the petitioners is that they deplore the inaction of the government in addressing this problem in a meaningful way to actually stop it. That is what the petition is about and I am very honoured to present it on behalf of the petitioners.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Mississauga South
Ontario

Liberal

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

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed. .

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jacques Saada Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent of the House for the following motion:

“That the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources be authorized to hold an organizational meeting pursuant to Standing Order 106(2) on Monday, October 28, 2002, at 3:30 p.m., and that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs also be authorized to hold organizational meetings pursuant to Standing Order 106(2) on Tuesday, that is October 29, 2002, at 9:30 a.m.”

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the Deputy Government Whip have the consent of the House to present this motion?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yes.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Lobbyists Registration Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Judi Longfield Whitby—Ajax, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to join in the debate on the motion to refer Bill C-15, an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act, to committee before second reading.

In 2001, the all party industry committee reviewed the Lobbyists Registration Act and made a number of suggestions for change. I am very pleased to learn that the government wants to refer the new Lobbyists Registration Act directly to committee before second reading so that all members of the House from all parties will have an opportunity to review, to discuss and to make amendments to the bill.

Today I want to focus on some of the details of the bill. Bill C-15 is about taking a system that works well and making it work much better. It is a bill that draws on the experience of our lobbyists registration process to date in order to make an even stronger system. The bill includes the usual technical amendments, of course, but the core of the bill is the changes that it proposes in three major areas. I would like to comment on each of them now.

The first issue is about clarifying what kind of lobbying the law covers and who has to register as a lobbyist under the act. The law as it stands now makes it clear that people who are trying to influence government solely as citizens or as members of some voluntary group, and who are not getting paid to influence government, are exempt from the act. The focus is on people who are attempting to influence the government as part of their paid employment. They may be consultants who lobby on behalf of other clients. They may be government relations officers or companies or associations or some non-governmental organization. These people need to register. The question is, what triggers the requirement? What constitutes lobbying?

Right now the act states that someone needs to register if they are making an “attempt to influence” a public office holder. There are concerns that this definition is too vague to be well enforced. The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology recognized this. When that committee examined this act in 2001, it recommended that the Registrar of Lobbyists, the Office of the Ethics Counsellor and the Department of Justice consult on this issue. That has happened. We have the results before us today.

The act states if there is communication with a public office holder, there is lobbying, plain and simple. Quite simply, the act of communication brings about the need to register.

Clearly not all communication is the same. The bill focuses on communication about legislation, regulations, policies, programs, grants, contributions and contracts. That is lobbying and the rules are clear.

On the other hand, if a person calls a public office holder for basic facts or information, there is no attempt to influence, so that is not lobbying and it is exempt.

The bill takes another step forward because it also cuts out something that the standing committee saw as a potential loophole in the act as it stood. This was the exemption when it is a public office holder who initiates the contact instead of a lobbyist. In essence, the concern was that if it is an attempt to influence, when all is said and done what difference does it make who made the first phone call?

The overall result is to clarify what lobbying is under the law and the requirements for registration. The bill will end confusion that may result when people who should register do not. That will be an important contribution to an even more transparent system.

I would now like to turn to the second major change. This one relates to creating a single registration system for corporations and non-profit organizations, along with simpler registration requirements and stronger de-registration requirements.

As things stand now, the act sets out two different systems. One covers people who are employed by businesses. The other covers people who are employed by non-profit organizations.

For businesses, the registration requirement kicks in if an employee spends 20% or more of his or her time lobbying, so normally only government relations staff and some other senior people may need to register. For non-profit groups, things are different.

The senior officer of a non-profit group has to register on behalf of his or her organization if the total time that staff spent on lobbying is 20% of the time of the single employee. Under Bill C-15 all organizations will follow the process now in place for non-profit groups. Whether for profit or not for profit, if the amount of time spent lobbying by all employees adds up to 20% or more of the working time of a single employee in that organization, then that organization has to register. It is a simple consistent standard for every organization, public sector or not.

To make it even more consistent, it will be the responsibility of the chief executive officer or the equivalent person to register. Under the law all persons who normally do lobbying would be listed too, but by making the CEO responsible for the organization's registration, that leader will be responsible for making sure that his or her organization is meeting its obligations under the law.

There is another element of the registration system: clear rules on how often lobbyists who are consultants need to update their registrations. Under this bill, a consultant who lobbies for clients has to register within 10 days of taking an assignment or a project. These consultant lobbyists would also be responsible to update their registrations at least every six months.

The third and final point that I want to make is a new provision in the law that relates to situations that are uncovered that may point to possible law breaking. Bill C-15 would explicitly direct the ethics counsellor to contact the police when he or she suspects that the law is being broken because of information turned up in one of his or her own investigations on lobbying activities. It could be the Criminal Code. It could be some other federal or provincial law. The result is the same: a requirement to contact the police.

These are the only major changes that would be brought about by the Lobbyists Registration Act. Of course, they are not the only changes. There are other minor technical changes here and there. Some take care of small wording problems. Others resolve inconsistencies between the English and the French versions of the law. However the key point is simple. Bill C-15 makes Canada's lobbyists registration system stronger, more transparent and more effective.

I urge all members of the House to pass the motion promptly so that these proposals can be sent to committee and discussed where all members of the House, all members from every party can make recommendations and examine the provisions under this bill.

Lobbyists Registration Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's comments about this bill which amends the Lobbyists Registration Act. Our major problem with the bill is it goes to the heart of the ethics issue because who is responsible for enforcing this toothless act? It is the ethics counsellor, who is appointed by none other than the Prime Minister and who is answerable to none other than the Prime Minister. That is a serious problem.

The government is pretending to roll this act into its “new ethics package”. However members from all the opposition parties, and indeed many government members, have repeatedly asked the Prime Minister for an independent ethics counsellor, one who is appointed not by the Prime Minister and his office but appointed by the majority of the members in this House who are here because of the wishes of the Canadian public.

This also speaks to a larger problem in Canada, which is that we do not have a democracy. This country is ruled by a king who sits in the Prime Minister's Office. He appoints not only the ethics counsellor but every cabinet member on the front bench. He appoints the deputy ministers. He appoints the senators. He appoints the supreme court justices. He appoints the assistants to every cabinet member. The public would be shocked to learn that the assistants to the ministers are appointed by none other than the Prime Minister's Office. That is not a democracy.

The best thing that could happen would be for the government to listen to members across the House and implement solutions that would democratize the Parliament of Canada. Then the Canadian people would have a voice through their elected officials, and not the current situation where cabinet members are answerable to and are forced to do what the Prime Minister's Office tells them to do.

Cabinet is toothless and impotent to implement solutions to deal with in a meaningful fashion the problems Canadians care about. Whether it is health care, economics or the environment, cabinet members cannot do their job right now. They cannot innovate, no matter how good it is, because they get their marching orders from the Prime Minister's Office.

Today in Canada today we see a clash between the old way of doing politics and hopefully, a new way of doing politics. With the old way a party in power says, “We will buy the votes of the Canadian public by pouring money into constituencies, by favouring people who sponsor and put money back into the party”. In return, people get electoral favours when the party gets voted in.

We have seen that occur in the Department of Public Works and Government Services, and in the Department of Human Resources Development. That also exists unfortunately in CIDA where large sums of money which were supposed to go toward helping the most impoverished people around the world ended up in the hands of people mostly here in Canada. The Canadian public would be shocked to know that most of our aid money is actually being spent here as opposed to dealing with the big problems of corruption, conflict and lack of capacity in primary health care and education that the most impoverished people in the world are facing.

We do not see that in industry. If the government were really interested in implementing solutions that are good for industry and therefore for jobs, it would lower our taxes. It would also remove the existing onerous restrictions that prevent business from moving forward and creating jobs so we can build a tax base to pay for health care and the other social programs we enjoy in Canada. That is something useful the government should do.

Over the last few years we have also seen what can only be termed as the massive theft of savings from the middle class through scandals such as Enron, Livent, Andersen accounting, and many others. A small number of individuals have removed billions and billions of dollars from the hard-earned savings and moneys that the middle class, the poor and indeed the rich have acquired over the last few years. This was done knowingly. We do not have a system that protects the hard-earned money and savings of Canadian citizens. This ties into the Lobbyists Registration Act and I will explain why.

We need an act that will protect Canadians from the rapacious, illegal theft of their hard-earned savings which took place by the aforementioned companies and many more. The impact has been massive. There has been the loss of jobs, the loss of capital, and the loss of confidence and a disruption in the stock markets. There has been a massive downward trend, a massive downward pressure on our economy. This was done by a very small number of individuals in this country and south of the border who stole money from innocent investors.

What needs to be done? We need provisions that will protect people from this type of white collar crime. I would recommend that we look at the Sarbanes-Oxley act which came out in 2002 in the United States. There are 11 parts to the rather large 1,100 page bill.

There are a few major points I wish to make. The first is that the government ought to establish an independent auditing oversight board in this country for security. Second, it should beef up penalties for wrongdoers so those who steal money will meet with stiff penalties. Third, it should require faster and more extensive financial disclosure on the part of companies. Fourth, it should create avenues of recourse for aggrieved shareholders.

The Canadian public would be shocked to know that we are one of very few western countries where auditors make the accounting rules. It is a bit like having the fox guard the chicken coop. That is what we have today. We have a system with a lack of protection for investors and one which does not have the proper controls.

The following are things the government could employ in an act to protect investors and by extension, the savings of Canadians. One is that there be a public accounting overseeing board that is absolutely independent from those who are involved in securities issues. Two is that there be an independent auditor to analyze the issues. Three is that there be a code of corporate responsibility that is transparent and doable. Four is that there be a system of enhanced financial disclosure. Five is that there be a system that clearly articulates conflict of interest rules. Six is that there be a system of corporate and criminal fraud accountability. Seven is that there be a system of white collar crime penalty enforcement. Eight is that there be corporate tax return rules that are clearer and more transparent. Nine is that there be corporate fraud and accountability provisions within our legal system.

In closing, if the government were truly interested in having a system that is more accountable and transparent and which protects the public and enables the House to do its job and by extension enables we parliamentarians to do the job for the Canadian public, the people who sent us here and who pay our salaries, the government would implement a package of solutions. That package would democratize the House of Commons.

That package would have a Lobbyists Registration Act that had a clear code of conduct for lobbyists and for members of Parliament. It would have a governance act that deals with corporate governance in the private sector. Investors would know exactly what was happening. Financial accounting statements would be transparent and believable and would truly represent what was going on in the company.

If we had that type of package, we would have a stronger economy and a stronger democracy.

Lobbyists Registration Act
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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, who I have great respect for, drives me crazy when in attacking governments he attacks Parliament and the democracy in this place.

Canada, as you know, Mr. Speaker, is one of the oldest democracies in the world. We had a democracy when they were all monarchies and dictatorships in Europe. We have held one of the largest land masses together with the greatest ethnic diversity. We are a country of two official languages. The whole world knows that Canada has the most admired democracy in the world and one of the most successful democracies.

The member complains, as an example of a lack of democracy, that the Prime Minister appoints senior officials to government. How would he have it? The Prime Minister is elected. Would he have unelected people appoint these people?

It just drives me crazy because we do have a democracy and it is the best democracy in the world. The reason the government appoints the officials is that the government is elected by a majority to take these actions.

Coming to Bill C-15, the amendments to the Lobbyists Registration Act, I will not go over the debate that went on here earlier because I think all would agree that the bill that is before the House is a good bill. I do not think there is anything in the bill that is contentious and that should not go through the process and be passed into law.

However I do agree with the member from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, who, I point out, is a member on the opposition side, that the bill does not go far enough. I am not satisfied that we took advantage of the opportunity, when were reviewing the legislation, to make it stronger and to throw more light on the way lobbyists operate in government and how they influence government.

My connection to the legislation goes back to 1994, to the previous review, when I served on the industry committee at that time. I said it then, and I have proposed it at various times in the intervening years, that the shortcoming of the legislation is that it provides for transparency in terms of who it is that is lobbying the government but that it does not provide the identities of those who are being lobbied in government.

As a former journalist, I am not particularly interested, either as an MP or a former journalist, in who is doing the lobbying so much as I am interested in who is being lobbied. I have had occasion to use the Lobbyists Registration Act and the Access to Information Act on various occasions, particularly in connection with the animal cruelty bill, Bill C-15B, in which I was very concerned that there was policy being implemented that was coming from lobbyists. I wanted to trace not only who was putting the influence on government but who was reacting to the influence. I could identify the International Fund for Animal Welfare as the lobbyist but I could not figure out how it was getting to government.

The problem, and it is a serious problem, is not whether or not lobbyists are reaching senior bureaucrats, ministers or politicians. The danger is when lobbyists are reaching mid-level officials, mid-level officials who may be preparing policy papers which they are going to send up the line. There is no way of determining whether these lobbyists are getting in the back door and influencing the deputy ministers because they have been lobbied.

One of the proposals I had at the time, and on which you can be ready, Mr. Speaker, because I will be moving an amendment in due course, is that I believe we need to have a situation where the officials keep a log of the lobbyists who approach them. We, not the senior officials, need to know what these lobbyists are doing, how they are making contact, how they are influencing the mid-level bureaucrats and the extent of that influence.

I can say that I was very concerned regarding the animal cruelty legislation that there was improper lobbying in my view, that there was lobbying behind the curtains that had got to low level bureaucrats, low level officials who had influenced the people up the line.

Another aspect that we need to address in the legislation, and one I hope we can address through an amendment, relates to what I have been saying, the influence that former members of Parliament, ministers and former bureaucrats have on the lobbying process.

One of the ironies is that when the industry committee studied the Lobbyists Registration Act in 1994, the chairman of the committee became a lobbyist. He now lobbies government. I can cite former ministers who are lobbying government and cite senior bureaucrats who are lobbying government.

There is no problem, in my view, with allowing those people to lobby. They are recorded under the Lobbyists Registration Act. However, in the interest of transparency and in the interest of understanding how policy is developed, we want to know who they are lobbying. The Lobbyists Registration Act is entirely silent on that. We can find out that they are lobbying the Department of Justice or Environment Canada but we cannot find out who they are lobbying.

I would suggest that if bureaucrats and officials were required to keep logs of the lobbyists who approach them, and by that I mean a telephone log or a mail or solicitation log, and if these logs were accessible to the public so that we could see which officials were being approached, I think we would have a better grip on how policy is made in this place. It is of great concern to members of Parliament that decisions are being made and influence is being brought to bear in ways that give the advantage to those who are paying for the influence legally and to the disadvantage of those of us who are here representing Canadians and the points of view of Canadians. That is a major change that I would bring in.

I actually put that forward in 1994 and the government responded that it felt that it would be too much of a burden on officials to keep lists of the lobbyists who approach them. I submit that in the eight years intervening computer technology has advanced so far and so fast that there would be little problem in keeping such a record. Indeed, in my own constituency office I routinely record all the telephone calls that come in for some very good reasons.

Years ago when I was at the Toronto Star that was again a routine procedure made much easier now because we can put it right into the electronic file. I do not see any reason why this cannot be done. If the officials have nothing to hide, and indeed they should not have anything to hide, then I think this is something that the government could consider. I can assure the House that I intend to put it forward as an amendment.

One final point is that Professor Stanbury, when he appeared before the committee in 1994, pointed out that it would be very advantageous to know how much money is being spent by an organization to lobby for a particular point of view. It is not the lobbyist and the hiring a lobbyists that is so interesting, what we really want to know is how much money someone will spend behind the scenes to influence officials in order to get their way. Members of Parliament really have nothing but this place in order to bring influence to bear, to change legislation or to act in the public interest.

Lobbyists, on the other hand, or organizations that hire lobbyists, have vast sums of money and I think the public is entitled to know when vast sums of money are being used to influence public policy.

So those are two changes that I hope the committee and the government will consider before the legislation comes back to the House.

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12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in Canada's House of Commons once again to discuss an important issue.

I have been quite interested in lobbyists and this type of legislation for quite a while, basically ever since I came here when one of my first jobs was to work on the same committee that the previous member just mentioned. I, too, find it curious that the chair of that committee subsequently himself became a lobbyist.

First, I would like to say a few things about the actual motion that is before the House today. Most of the speakers today have talked about the bill itself but the motion is, as I understand it, to refer the bill to a committee prior to second reading. I would like to make a few comments about that because I am not as enamoured with that process as are some people.

I think that came about as a response by the Liberals when they first became government, having dealt with it under the Conservative regime, where over and over they experienced the Conservative government sort of jamming legislation through. They seemed not to have enough influence on it because if a government tables legislation from then on it just seems to be sort of lockstep, everybody salute on command, the legislation then goes in and amendments from opposition parties generally are not accepted.

When the Liberals took power, to their credit, they said that they wanted to do something about that and they thought, and I believe those members who supported it thought correctly, that if a committee could be involved in a bill prior to its final etching in stone, so to speak, there would be more ready openness to actually shaping the bill according to the wishes of the legislators.

I would like to comment briefly on that process because I have been very disappointed in it. I have found that the process has actually reduced the amount of debate and reduced the amount of influence. We find that instead of debating in this House on the principle of the bill, we end up going in and dealing with the details right away. Because of the fact that the committee structure in a Parliament that has a majority, as this one does, is dominated by the majority of the government members, those government members are either ignored or whipped into action.

In the end it makes no difference because what the minister and his minions come up with as legislation is jammed into existence anyway. Even if the committee comes here with other proposals, the government will make amendments. It has done this. We all know the examples where it has actually gone to work and introduced amendments that would undo every act of a committee in studying a bill.

I was part of the finance committee in the ill-shamed event where a member actually was persuaded by good logical arguments to favour an amendment that we were proposing. That member, before the amendment came to a vote, was replaced on committee by the government whip. Unless we are going to actually open up committees to truly be free, I think this process of referring a bill, whether it is before second reading or after second reading, really does not make that much difference.

Way back, before I was a member of Parliament, I used to think that lobbyists should be outlawed. I wanted to know who needed them. The impression I had of lobbyists prior to my life as a parliamentarian was that their only function was to unduly influence parliamentarians in passing laws or giving contracts that should be done by a better process. To a degree, I am still of that opinion in certain areas of lobbying.

I do not know if anyone within the sound of my voice today read the article I wrote, as a special article to The Hill Times , more than a year go about the role of lobbyists in Parliament. I said that there really are two kinds of lobbyists. One kind is very healthy for us. As an MP, I would much rather deal with one representative, for example of the forest association, than 2,000 individual practitioners in the forestry industry.

It is good for these different organizations, like the chambers of commerce, the taxpayers federation, the citizens' coalitions, the industrial coalitions such as the Chemical Producers' Association and others, to hammer the issues which are most important to them at a convention or in their own meetings instead of 2,000 organizations bringing us 100 different issues. It is good for them to get together, take these 100 issues and bring them down to the six that are of the greatest priority. Having then honed them down, their representatives can present them to us as members of Parliament. It increases its forcefulness and impact, and as a result of that, Canada can become a better place because we can respond to the most important issues that these different organizations bring to us.

To a degree, I also agree that it is important when it comes to other parts of legislation. For example, in some of the social issues, instead of dealing with many organizations, we would deal with that group which represents all of them.

That is the positive aspect to it. However there is a very negative aspect to it as well. When they go beyond just simply providing information and start putting some great pressure on parliamentarians, particularly when they put those pressures on members of cabinet, their deputies and other people in the bureaucracy who can influence these decisions so greatly.

I also feel there is a reverse lobbying that has come into play under this government, which I have found rather bizarre; issues like the Prime Minister phoning the president of the Business Development Bank. This is reverse lobbying where the Prime Minister uses the influence of his power to try to overcome the issue of making decisions in a pseudo-government agency. That type of thing should also somehow be regulated or exposed and ceased.

Decisions should be made, as much as possible, on objective criteria. If those criteria are met, the decision will go one way. If the criteria are not met, it should go a different way. It should not matter who has lobbied on behalf of the individual; it should matter what the facts are. I would like to see lobbying controlled in that area as well.

I have real concerns with the ethics package of the current government. It seems to be focusing on individual members of Parliament. I know of no cases that have come to the attention of Canadians as being an untoward issue from ordinary MPs. There have been many from those who have the real power. It seems to me that the package is not properly addressing the real issues.

I appreciate the opportunity to make this presentation. We will of course be adding as much influence as we can in committee. I simply would appeal to the government, to the people who make the final decision, to please listen to what the committee discovers by listening to witnesses and giving reasoned thought to the whole bill so that Bill C-15 will become an act which truly and properly will serve the well-being of the people of Canada.

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1 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to join in the debate on referring Bill C-15, an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act, to committee before second reading.

I want to take a bigger picture view in our debate over Bill C-15. Quite rightly, some of this debate has centred on the details of the bill but a lot has focused on the entire subject of the ethics of lobbying. That is easy to understand. The entire notion of lobbying is linked to questions of how decisions are made in government.

Having said that, it makes sense to talk a bit about the realities of lobbying. It makes sense to comment on how Bill C-15 and the entire lobbyists registration system works to build transparency and trust in our system of government.

Let us start with one basic reality. Lobbying is a fact of life for government and it is not an inherently bad thing. It is lobbying when my constituents contact me about legislation or about their opinions on government programs. It is lobbying when a business in my riding contacts me about the impacts of a decision on its interests and on the jobs of the people I represent. It is lobbying when a community organization of whatever kind gets in touch with me to comment on government policies.

The simple fact is government decisions affect many aspects of everyone's lives. In a healthy democracy governments should not make decisions in a vacuum. Lobbying happens when people try to bring information relating to government choices to those of us who can do something with that information. When people say “lobbying is bad” , what are they really saying? They must be suggesting that people in the public service, or cabinet or even in Parliament are so knowledgeable about every possible impact of every single law, or regulation, or policy or program that we do not need to hear from anyone else. They must be suggesting that we should make decisions with no outside contact. Not so.

People who are involved with making decisions in government need to hear from people who have different perspectives and who have other information and insights. It does not make sense to say that decision makers and the people who help develop the ideas for them should be off in some ivory tower somewhere. That is why lobbying is a reality for government and always will be.

I have just responded to the kind of black and white rhetoric we have already heard on this issue. I know that when pressed opposition members will admit that lobbying is a basic fact of government life and a legitimate and routinely useful one. In fact I think we also share the belief that this issue is not whether lobbying is good or bad, but how to bring transparency to that lobbying. It is about doing what makes sense and what is necessary to ensure that Canadians know who is in touch with public office holders, whether elected ones or officials. That is what the existing Lobbyists Registration Act does. That is why Bill C-15 will enable it to do even better.

Our government took a system that it inherited from the Mulroney era and brought it in line with what Canadians wanted, expected and deserved. We took a system that did far too little to end the days of deals behind closed doors between people who could operate with little transparency and brought it into the light.

That is why we have a system that deals with people who are paid to lobby, not those who are fulfilling their responsibilities as citizens with an interest in public policy. Our focus is where it deserves to be. It is on people who are paid lobbyists, whether they are consultants lobbying on behalf of someone else or lobbyists who are regular employees of a business, an association or a non-profit group.

After promising Canadians that we would do this in the 1993 election campaign, we came to Parliament in 1995 to improve the lobbyists registration system that we inherited and to improve it considerably.

The Lobbyists Registration Act that Parliament passed in 1995 and came into force in 1996 was built around four principles. The first principle states that free and open access to government is an important matter of public interest. The second principle recognizes that lobbying public officer holders is a legitimate activity. The third principle makes clear the desirability of public office holders and the public being able to know who is attempting to influence government. The fourth principle points out that a system of registration of paid lobbyists should not impede free and open access to government.

The idea is to throw light on lobbying, to show who is lobbying whom and about what. The public has a right to know these things because public policy and public choices affect them. This approach underlines the fact that if everyone can see what is going on, including lobbyists on all sides of an issue, then lobbying is not something that takes place in the shadows, but something that is legitimate enough to take place in the open.

For instance, I note that the member for Red Deer, the new Alliance environment critic, recently explained why his party opposed Kyoto. I quote from the National Post of April 5. He said, “I think it will help our fundraising”. The Canadian public would like to know who is lobbying the Alliance Party on this issue.

Of course, it is not good enough for people to register and for the information to be available. It has to be as easily and readily accessible as possible. This is one of the real strengths of the process that our government brought in. If a person wants to know who is lobbying who and about what, it is all on the Internet now.

The lobbyists registration system was one of the first federal activities to move online. All these forms are there and approximately 98% of registrations take place online. That is not just a question of making it easy as possible for lobbyists to register. It is an important step that makes it easier for Canadians to look up lobbyist information.

Does the system work? Yes, it does. That is what the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology said when it reviewed the act last year. Let me quote from the report to the House, it says that the act:

--provides precisely the kind of transparency for which it was created... we can find out who is lobbying what department and exactly what they are discussing.

Could the system work better? Yes, it could. This is the point of Bill C-15. It draws on the advice of the standing committee. It draws on related study and research. It fits with the overall commitment of the Prime Minister to enhance the trust of Canadians in our public institutions through his eight-point action plan on government ethics.

I suggest that my hon. colleague should take a real look at lobbying in Canada, recognize the issue is transparency and support a bill that will take a solid piece of legislation and make it stronger still.

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1:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a few brief comments before this debate draws to a close. I have been listening all morning to the comments that have been made on this side and on the side of the government side with regard to the Lobbyists Registration Act. I find it very interesting to make parallel comparisons between this and the gun registration scheme that was implemented in 1995. That scheme was supposed to control guns. By giving bills certain labels or giving them certain descriptions, the government tries to give the impression to the public that that is what it is. It gave the impression that this was somehow gun control. When members looked and scratched beneath the surface, they found it had nothing to do with gun control. It was simply a bureaucratic exercise.

Now we have the Lobbyists Registration Act being introduced as part of an ethics package as if it has got something to do with ethics. Again, the label really has nothing to do with the content of the bill.

Back in 1995 I thought how could we oppose gun control. Then when I began to look at the actual content of the bill, I found out that it was simply a registration process. It was simply laying a piece of paper beside every gun in the country.

Maybe this is just putting a piece of paper on the wall of a certain lobbyist. How can that piece of paper prevent things from happening behind the scenes which are very unethical? I do not think it guarantees anything of the kind.

How can we oppose an effective ethics package? We cannot and I would not, but the lobbyists registration scheme is not equivalent to preventing abuse.

I would ask this. How does putting a piece of paper on the walls of lobbyists prevent them from pressuring the government to give a certain corporation, individual or individuals special considerations? It does not in any way let us know what is going on behind the scenes or behind closed doors. That piece of paper does not control anything any more than a gun registration controls what is happening with the gun.

How does it prevent taxpayer money from flowing to the wrong individuals and the government receiving kickbacks at election time? It does not.

I want to make that comparison and I have not heard a single explanation from that side of the House today as to how this actually will be an improvement in ethics in any way.

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-15. I am delighted to see my colleagues on both sides of the House show so much interest in this issue and participate so positively in the debate that has taken place here today.

This is not a new issue. It is an issue that has been debated by my colleagues on both sides of the House as well as in both Houses going back to 1973. A number of reports have been tabled before the committee that was in charge of looking at this issue. One of those reports was tabled here in the House as late as 1997. That was the Milliken-Oliver report.

That report was extensively debated and there were lots of consultations before it was brought to the attention of the House. Unfortunately, as a result of the election, we were not able to proceed with it. Nonetheless, it is better late than never. The government has revisited the issue as part of an overall package that deals fundamentally with ethics, lobbying and the establishment of an ethics commissioner.

This package on the surface is very comprehensive but nonetheless, like every proposal that comes before Parliament, it would have to be referred to the proper committee where the committee would have to go in depth to study the issues, make changes or amendments or perhaps bring it back without any changes or amendment.

It is with that spirit in mind that this particular package was introduced in the House. It was done on a non-partisan basis. It was done with the interest of the public first as well as the House of Commons and the Senate. It is extremely important for us as we move ahead with this package to put all of the partisan issues aside and to focus on what is proposed. The package is good. I support it, and it is my hope that my colleagues will do the same.

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1:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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1:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

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1:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

(Motion agreed to and bill referred to a committee)

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1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe you would find unanimous consent to see the clock as 2:30 p.m.

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1:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent?

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1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed

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1:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1:16 p.m.)