House of Commons Hansard #19 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was opposition.

Topics

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, obviously my colleague from across the way was not here a little earlier, so I think it is important that we re-emphasize some facts about the committees as they were.

Before I do that, I also want to reference the government whip's remarks that it would make it hard for the government to ensure gender and regional balance among committee heads if they were elected. We all know, although obviously the member across does not know, that within committees right now, without the members being elected, there is no gender balance. There is no regional balance. Of 22 committees, 17 are chaired by men. Twelve of the vice-chairs and chairs are from Ontario. Where is the regional representation? Where is the gender balance?

There is a problem on that side. It is all the way across. If their own members, their own chairs, do not know what the heck is going on they need to take a look. It is a problem.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, let us take the point on Ontario. The member suggests that 12 of the vice-chairs are members from Ontario and asks where the regional balance is. She is probably correct. In terms of mathematics it should be more than 12 because two-thirds of the Liberal caucus are members from Ontario. It is not that there are too little from Ontario, it is that there--

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order. I heard the question, but I am having a great deal of difficulty hearing the reply. Please, let us just give each other the courtesy of listening and we will try to proceed with the remainder of the debate.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member wants to get it to committee. I am not sure I agree that it would be easy to achieve gender and regional balance at each and every committee. Quite frankly, I have been on committees where it was difficult to get quorum. I have been on committees that have been dysfunctional. We have work to do in terms of making sure that each committee does its job. In a cabinet scenario I certainly am very supportive of regional representation and gender balance. As we get down the line, certainly capable, qualified, respected and leadership people ought to be holding chair positions, and I will do what I can to ensure that we have the best possible people representing our committees.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:50 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on this debate on the motion for concurrence in the report of the procedure and House affairs committee, a report that calls for changes to the way the chairs of committees are elected. We have an amendment to that which would return the issue to the committee and ask it to reconsider it and report back to the House in 15 days. We have a further subamendment which would have the committee report back in one day.

It seems to me what we are really talking about and what we have heard a lot about in the last year or so in relation to democratic reform has been the question of the power of government backbenchers. We have heard constant criticism from the opposition, and concerns from members on this side as well in some cases, about the question of whether or not backbenchers on the government side, members of Parliament who are not members of cabinet or parliamentary secretaries, have the kind of power they ought to have. I think that is really what members, certainly on our side, are interested in dealing with and interested in addressing. I guess the question is, how do we do that?

There is a variety of views on how we go about considering the question of how to give members of Parliament who are not members of cabinet more control over how government operates so that they can be more accountable to the public and so the public can see that the people they elect to Parliament are in fact having some say. I do not think the discussion that I have heard in the House or elsewhere has been about whether opposition members have had enough power. That is not the discussion I have heard. It has been about whether government members who are not in cabinet have enough power. It seems to me that this is what we have to focus on here. Within our own party we certainly are having discussions of late about the question of what we can do and how we can improve our own operations within our party and our caucus to ensure that the views and concerns of members of Parliament who are not in cabinet are fully taken into account and that they have much more power.

When we consider the results of the last election and consider what the polls tell us, it is clear that the public prefers the Liberal Party as government. As my friend from New Brunswick Southwest pointed out a few minutes ago, the government was elected with something like 40% of the votes of Canadians across the country. But I want to suggest that when we look at the question of who is the second choice, if we ask Canadians who would not vote Liberal who their second choice would be, they would say the Liberal Party. I think that tells us that if we had what is called an ordinal system of elections whereby there is a runoff or a preferential ballot and the voter marks the first choice candidate, the second choice and so forth, we would in fact have even more Liberal members because members of the public as their second choice would more often choose Liberals.

What I am suggesting is that members on this side reflect much more clearly the views of the vast majority of our public than do those in opposition parties. Let us take for example the Alliance Party, which has, we have seen in polls, the support of something like 9% of Canadians. Are we suggesting that the members across the way in the Alliance who have that very small proportion of the voting public on its side really ought to be controlling how government operates? That is what this is about. This is what they have been trying to tell us today. It is all about them saying that in fact they are non-partisan, that they are not going to be partisan, that they want a non-partisan process. I think the idea of having the whip uninvolved in the process of choosing chairs is one where we are probably going in that direction. We will have to work on how it is going to work among ourselves but it is a positive thing. But clearly the suggestion that they should be controlling it does not make sense to me, and I do not think it is what the public is looking for.

I heard members yelling the word “dispense” earlier today. It seems to me that if members really believed in democracy, they would recognize that members in the House have the right to speak. Democratic reform involves everyone in the House having the right to speak their view. We should be able to have disagreement. Even within our party we clearly have disagreements on issues. That is valuable. It is important that we have those debates, but if members are suggesting here that it is unfair for a member to stand in this place and disagree with them, how can they claim to be democrats at all? It makes no sense at all. I cannot imagine where they are coming from.

When we talk about committee chairs, it is also important to realize that their role is a little different from the role of the Speaker. We do have a secret ballot for the election of the Speaker which was decided on a few years ago and which has worked very well. It is important that we look at this further and work out where we will go with this issue. We have to consider that a chair of a committee, unlike the Speaker, remains in caucus. He does not become independent in the way the Speaker does. A committee chair remains in caucus.

In Britain it is interesting that the Speaker, when the member is chosen as Speaker, does not usually have to run and does not have to re-offer against someone. The person is often unopposed. The tradition in Britain has been that the Speaker is not opposed in the next election. The person remains Speaker until retirement basically, so the Speaker truly becomes independent.

I do not think anyone is proposing that the chairs of committees do that. They have a different kind of role and it is important that we consider that.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I will interrupt the member, but of course he will have time to resume his intervention after question period. On a point of order, the hon. member for Peterborough.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to ask for unanimous consent to revert to presenting reports from committees for the purpose of presenting the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the selection of votable items in accordance with Standing Order 92.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member for Peterborough have unanimous consent to present his motion?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Tanzania
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to draw to the attention of the House a developing conflict between people on the island of Zanzibar, part of the United Republic of Tanzania. The matter was brought to my attention by a Canadian working in Africa and by Human Rights Watch.

On January 27, 2001 police and military on Zanzibar responded to political demonstrations at four locations by shooting and killing 35 persons and wounding 600.

I raise this now because I recall with sadness a human rights conflict question raised with me about 12 years ago involving a certain problem in Rwanda and where we failed to act and which evolved into one of the ugliest genocides perpetrated in the 20th century. We cannot make this mistake again.

I call upon the Government of Tanzania to act on the results of the commission of inquiry it has put in place, and ensure that conflicts based on class, race and religion are not exacerbated. I call on Canada and the Commonwealth partners to collaborate with Tanzania in ensuring that measures are taken that will induce political and racial harmony in that country before the price of neglect becomes more than humanity can pay.

Oil and Gas Industry
Statements By Members

October 31st, 2002 / 1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, development of the oil and gas deposits off Canada's west coast could be a significant contributor to the economic recovery of British Columbia. Progress to date has been prevented due mainly to provincial and federal restrictions currently in place.

Offshore hydrocarbon deposit developments are safely taking place around the globe: off the east coast of Canada, in the North Sea off Scotland and Norway, in the Gulf of Mexico, even off the coastlines of California and Alaska, just to name a few areas. The technology for safe, environmentally sound, offshore operation of the oil and gas industry is available, as has been proven worldwide.

I urge the B.C. provincial government and the federal Liberal government to move quickly toward lifting their moratoriums thereby allowing this potentially valuable resource the opportunity to proceed to the exploration stage.

James Bay Cree
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, the James Bay Cree will be able to deal with governments as equals in the application of commitments under recognized treaties.

This is the result of a ruling just handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada quashing an appeal lodged by Ottawa on September 5, 2001, against a Quebec Appeal Court decision. This was a decision recognizing the right of the James Bay Cree to deal with governments as equals vis-à-vis educational funding.

Grand Chief Ted Moses described this as an important ruling, because it puts an end to a years-long battle by the Cree to obtain the right to deal as equals with Canada and Quebec in decisions affecting Cree rights, in particular their cultural and language rights.

Acrylique Weedon
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Gérard Binet Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, during SME Week, Acrylique Weedon received the Entrepreneurship Award of Excellence at a gala organized by the CLD of the Regional Municipality of Amiante.

Acrylique Weedon, manufacturers of top of the line acrylic tubs and showers, is a company with commitment, imagination, creativity and determination. Using cutting edge technologies, and premium quality raw materials, Acrylique Weedon produces superior products at highly competitive prices.

Entrepreneurs like Richard Couture, Marc Dussault and François Vaillancourt are an example of the entrepreneurial determination and audacity any region needs for development.

Bravo to Acrylique Weedon. Frontenac—Mégantic is proud of you.