House of Commons Hansard #29 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was place.

Topics

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is borderline as to whether that has anything to do with the business statement. I said no such thing. I said we would not be putting the motion before the House before November 21, the day that had been set aside for a federal-provincial ministers meeting. We would not be debating the motion before then. I have now put the motion before the House for debate next week which I also had indicated would happen at the House leaders meeting.

Canada Transportation Act
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, due to illness, the member for Lethbridge will be unable to reinstate his private member's bill, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act, formerly Bill C-436 from the last session, before the deadline pursuant to Standing Order 86.1. I request that it be deemed introduced by the member and that it enjoy the same status as it did in the last session pursuant to Standing Order 86.1.

Canada Transportation Act
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent that Bill C-314 standing in the name of the hon. member for Lethbridge, entitled an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act, be deemed to have been introduced, read a first time and ordered to be printed, and reinstated at the same stage Bill C-436 would have been at had we not had a dissolution of the previous session?

Canada Transportation Act
Routine Proceedings

November 21st, 2002 / 3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Bill C-314 deemed introduced, read a first time and ordered to be printed, and reinstated to the same status as in the previous session)

Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday a point of order was raised by four of the five parties in the House by different members of those parties concerning the disruption at the unveiling of the portrait of a former prime minister on Tuesday of this week. The members who spoke requested that there be a report back to the House.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, as chair of the Board of Internal Economy, the board did consider this matter last night. The board agreed unanimously that there would be a report of its discussions to the House at the end of question period today. It is regrettable that one of the parties who also sits on the board chose not to respect that agreement but I do think, given that the request came from the House, there should be a fuller explanation of what was discussed and what action was taken on behalf of members of Parliament by the Board of Internal Economy.

As I attempted to say earlier today in a response, what did happen was, in the view of the board, and I am sure all members of the House, totally unacceptable. The fact is that an intruder was able to gain access to an event and get close enough to present a risk to both the current and a former prime minister. That is obviously cause for concern and appropriate action.

In that regard, the Board of Internal Economy thoroughly reviewed the incident at its meeting yesterday with the Sergeant-at-Arms and directed the Sergeant-at-Arms to undertake additional measures to ensure insofar as possible that such a situation does not happen again.

As I pointed out, and as the House leader indicated yesterday, I am not prepared to discuss details of any additional security measures. I believe that only serves as a source of information for others who might seek to evade them and cause further risks to security for the House, those who work here and visitors.

Since the question was raised in question period in relation to this incident, I also want to make it very clear that the information I have and any information the board was given does not support media reports today that a staff member of the government House leader's office escorted the intruder into the event. It is clear however that after leaving the gallery, the person in question sought direction from someone working on contract for House security and was mistakenly guided to the government House leader's office. It is recognized that this person went beyond his clear and limited responsibilities and inadvertently contributed to the situation. Security management is taking appropriate measures to deal with this issue.

I want to thank the members of all parties, including those who sit on the Board of Internal Economy, for their concern about this matter. I trust that this report from the board does respond to those concerns.

Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, in my role as opposition House leader, I take great offence to the government whip saying that, and I assume that she was talking about me, that somebody in the opposition chose not to respect this agreement. I was not at that meeting last night because I was doing some investigative work on this issue and got tied up and could not be there.

I have not talked to the other member from my party about this issue since that meeting for the sole reason that I think there are questions that need to be asked. I may have asked them at that meeting last night if I had been there.

There are conflicting reports with regard to this issue. It would seem there are two different stories. It would seem that if somebody from the government House leader's office did not escort that person from that office to the event, more questions have to be asked than just how he got up on the stage. How did that person get from that office to the event? How did he get in the door? If he walked down the hall, then there is more to this.

I would think that the public right now is looking at this as a cover-up somewhere. Why can we not have the right to ask those people questions, under oath, as to how this happened? It should not have happened in the House. I asked in question period whether the government would be prepared to send this to the privileges committee of the House, so we could get to the bottom of this issue and not just shove it under the rug as seems to be happening right now. It is obviously not your role, Mr. Speaker, to do that because we do not have a motion to that effect but I will be asking this question of the government House leader because it is very, very important.

I do not want to be part of anything that looks like a cover-up in the House. A short discussion in a Board of Internal Economy meeting is not adequate for this security breach that could have been a lot more serious than it was.

Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is very important that both the House and the public be very clear on this. The government does not direct how the House is operated. That is done by the administration of the House under your direction, Mr. Speaker, and under the direction of the Board of Internal Economy on which all parties in the House of Commons are represented, including the House leader of the official opposition.

The House leader for the official opposition admits this is a very serious situation for the House and one that has to be avoided at all costs in the future. It is regrettable that rather than being present at a board meeting that was taking responsibility to investigate and inquire into and hopefully take corrective measures around that situation, he chose to miss that meeting to pursue his own interests. He has nobody but himself to blame for his failure to be at that meeting.

Frankly, I find it unbelievable that his party's other representative on the Board of Internal Economy would not have reported to him the conclusions of the board's discussions, especially since he is officially the second spokesperson for the board.

The government in no way directs the House or the administration of the House. The government cannot refer this matter to a committee. However, we as members of Parliament and members of that committee can certainly bring it to the attention of the committee, and I invite the member to do so.

Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

I do not think we need to hear any more. The point of order if anything here was brought by the chief government whip when she made her report. We have had a reply. We have had an answer to the misunderstanding. We have heard enough on this point. There is a disagreement and we could go on all day on it. I am not prepared to continue. We will leave it at that and move on to orders of the day.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Parliamentary Reform
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier.

As we talk about modernization once again, I want to put forward a few points that, as we talk about it over the coming years, might be put into the discussion, and some points which may not have been raised before.

Sometimes I get frustrated with the time we spend talking about procedures here when we are on the verge of a war where our sons and daughters and many innocent citizens could be killed, when people do not have shelter or enough food to eat, when many people in my riding and in others are unemployed, when fishermen have no fish and when farmers are in a drought. Hopefully we can get back to dealing with some of those issues quickly.

However, in that we have set aside two days for this debate, I would like to put out some ideas to think about in the coming years.

Last week I was in Washington observing the U.S. congress until it closed at three in the morning on, I believe, Thursday night. It is not that I am recommending we copy the American system, but there is an interesting structural difference in the shape of both of those houses, which are different than the two houses here. As we know, here we have sort of a confrontational system. In case the public does not know, we are actually a distance of two sword lengths from each other and, with the passion of today's question period and others, they might see why.

In the United States congress the houses are built in a half circle, with both parties sitting in the half circle facing a speaker in the centre. One can symbolize that as common people from a common country facing a moderator with a procedure or a problem. They are all trying to address a problem together as partners with different points of view, but the opposition is the problem facing the country, not each other. Whether or not that works, I think it might be interesting for further consideration.

Another thing the members of the U.S. congress can do, which is quite interesting, is share their time in debate. One of the previous speakers who spoke in the debate this morning had a 20 minute time slot. A person can get through a lot of points in 20 minutes. I will probably get through about eight or so in only 10 minutes.

In the American system, officials can stop and lend their time to one, two or three other people to make an intervention and then carry on. What happens then is that they get quite an animated debate with several people from each side offering different views on the point as it arises. It is quite interesting and something to think about.

Another long term thing to think about, although I am not necessarily advocating it but putting it on the table to consider, is finding a way of ensuring that members in cabinet have the technical expertise in cabinet, especially in an ever increasing technical world. For instance, in the American system and in the French system, which is a hybrid system, unelected members of cabinet or members who were experts in their field can bring a great deal of expertise to the portfolio, which has of course the deterrence of not having the moral authority but the advantage of having the technical expertise to lend for consideration.

We also should at some time consider the possible disconnection with the bureaucracy in the House, especially with people who are outside cabinet or a parliamentary secretary responsible for a particular department. If one were to go to a political science class and ask what the legislative branch of the federal government is, the simple answer that person would be given is this body. However that is really only the tip of the iceberg. The legislative process involves several hundred thousand government employees and ultimately the population, and reference to similar legislation in the world community.

In the months and years it takes the experts and employees of the government bureaucracy to develop legislation, a lot of knowledge, a lot of rationale and a lot of consultation with citizens of our country and other countries have gone into the legislation. When it gets to the House, members are rushed. They must deal with dozens of constituents, address many bills and attend many committees and meetings. I am not sure they have adequate time to ask questions, to consult or to have interaction with some of the people in the bureaucracy who have the expertise on a particular bill to be able to justify or explain any misconceptions. On the other hand, questions being asked by Canadians could then be asked of the experts who would have to respond, explain or do further research.

I also want to make a brief comment on the sitting schedule. I of course am the worst case in this situation because I am on a plane 6 out of 14 days. Perhaps the House should look at a way of having a longer number of days together, 10, 14 or more. We could then have more days off for travel time. I know there will be all sorts of varying opinions on that.

I also wish to comment on the take note debates which have been and can be a very successful medium for dealing in more depth on the urgent matters of the day. These matters have sometimes been left by the wayside as we carry on with the regular procedures on long time law-making of things that are worked over decades. The perfect example is September 11 when we were in the process of discussing some poison for ground squirrels and a take note debate for a number of days allowed us to spend time on a very serious issues at the time, given the appropriate time and input from all members of parliament because it can go on late into the night.

However, if we do hold those debates, which I think have been handled very well so far, I think it is incumbent on all the participants, and that includes not only the people in the House but the people in the government departments who are responsible for the particular area, to carefully analyze the many hours of debate and extract the salient points. As well, the employees of the minister should be taking notes so the minister and other decision makers can have those salient points to look at in a reasonable time without sifting through all the extraneous material. They can use that information to improve or solve the situation. The purpose of the whole debate is to find a better solution to the problem by using all the good ideas that come from all members of the House.

I believe this has been done to some extent in the take note debates so far. I hope that will become a practice, where there is that involvement and that sifting out of the very valuable information from all sides of the House.

One of the parties had suggested advance time on opposition day motions. Once again this makes eminent sense. Legislation can take months and years to prepare. If a motion is proposed the day before, how will Canadians know that we have made a thoughtful, reasonable and well researched decision on a major issue?

Those are some of my ideas. I would be delighted to entertain questions.

Parliamentary Reform
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, earlier today during question period my colleague from Mercier asked a question of the government House leader concerning, in many respects, one of the most important and most fundamental decisions that a body of elected representatives could make, and that is the decision of whether or not to send Canadian men and women off to war.

Many of us on this side of the House are asking that we have an opportunity, as elected representatives, not just to debate this issue, not just to have these famous take note debates, but to actually have an opportunity to vote, to voice our position on behalf of our constituents on this fundamental issue of whether or not Canadian men and women should be sent off to war.

I want to ask the hon. member, who I believe chairs the foreign affairs group of the Liberal caucus, whether he agrees that on an issue as fundamental as the right of parliamentarians to vote on the sending off of men and women to the possible war in Iraq, and God knows many of us hope that this will not happen, we should be able not just to debate that issue but to vote as well.

Parliamentary Reform
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, it is a very timely question because, as a matter of fact, our foreign affairs caucus addressed that issue this morning.

To be honest, I will not answer yes or no to the question because it obviously requires a larger debate. I am glad the member brought it up because it is important for people to consider here. However I can say that there are a number of ways that all of us, as the member has, can eloquently express some views on this. I have on a number of occasions already. As I said, we were working on it as early as this morning. There are various avenues to get the very diverse views of our constituents across to the decision makers who ultimately have to make the decisions.

There are a number of things involved, partly for timing reasons and partly for confidence reasons. Members have been elected by the people and cabinet is elected to ultimately make certain decisions. However, I think through the methods that we have talked about, those lengthy take note debates, debates in the House on this issue, as well as opposition day motions and question period, the mechanisms are there to get the views of the people, which, as he knows, are very controversial on this particular topic, as it is on all important topics, and bring these views forward to the group of people that Canadians have selected to make that ultimate decision. I think it is very important to get those views to the decision makers.

Parliamentary Reform
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great care to the hon. member's answer but, with respect, he did not answer the question. He talked about opposition day motions, question period and take note debates.

The question is very straightforward. Does he or does he not believe that we, as elected representatives in the House, should have the right, not just to debate but to vote on the issue of whether or not Canadian men and women should be sent off to fight a war in Iraq? Yes or no.

Parliamentary Reform
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, with respect, the member did not quite listen to all of my last answer. I explained that I would not give a yes or no answer to his question. However, there are yes or no votes on opposition day motions on such items.

Parliamentary Reform
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also listened very carefully to what the member for Yukon had to say. I would like to ask him about something that is a little different. Perhaps he has had experience with it in the committees on which he has been involved and could comment on it.

One of the positive changes that has already occurred is the way committees can be televised. In addition to having one and a half rooms equipped for television, which we have always had, it is now possible for any standing committee to be televised by any television company with appropriate notice, and the notice is minimal. For example, if the chair of the committee is advised the night before, a TV group, following the rules, can put a camera in the room and televise the whole proceedings.

My concern, however, and it is one of the reasons I have mentioned it a couple of times in the House, is that there is no real sign of either the media or the committees taking advantage of what I think is a wonderful opportunity to strengthen committees and make people more aware of committee work.

I wonder if the member has any ideas on how we can stimulate interest in televising committees.