House of Commons Hansard #196 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was legislation.

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The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-34, an act respecting royal assent to bills passed by the Houses of Parliament, as reported without amendment from the committee.

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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

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

moved that the bill be concurred in.

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The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Some hon. members

Agreed.

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Some hon. members

No.

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The Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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Some hon. members

Yea.

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The Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Some hon. members

Nay.

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The Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

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The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

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An Hon. member

On divison.

(Motion agreed to)

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Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on the third reading of Bill S-34, the royal assent bill. This is my first opportunity to speak on legislation since my reappointment as Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, which I have referred to with exaggeration, perhaps, as my home, to the extent that any member can call this place his home. Of course it really is not. This House is not our home, because we reside here only so long as our constituents decide that we do, but in my case it is very close to home. I am approaching the 36th anniversary of the day that I first came here as a House of Commons employee.

I am very proud to have the opportunity early on to speak not only to this bill, but to a bill that involves of course parliamentary democracy and the non-partisan efforts and wisdom of parliamentarians to work together to make the House a better place.

Of course we had our modernization committee about a year ago. That was very successful. It enjoyed the unanimous support of the House. I repeat today the thanks that I gave at the time to other colleagues.

Today, arguably, this is a smaller issue, but nevertheless one that involves modernization of a parliamentary institution again. The royal assent bill is based on the advice and recommendations of the 1985 McGrath committee, as well as the contribution of many members on both sides of the House and in the other place over the last nearly two decades. No one said that these things are done in a hurried way.

I would like to mention in particular, and I will refer to them by name here because they are members of the other place, Senator John Lynch-Staunton, the leader of the opposition in the other place, who has been speaking about this issue for years and years now and on whose bill this bill is modelled, as well as the hon. Senators Murray and Gauthier for their efforts to develop a workable solution to the royal assent problem. Obviously I also want to congratulate and thank the sponsor of this legislation in the other place for his continued efforts in assisting us in this regard.

The current ceremony of royal assent is based on conventions established over the centuries in the United Kingdom. It is therefore appropriate that this bill, Bill S-34, should reflect legislation adopted by the U.K. in 1967, authorizing royal assent by written declaration.

I know that my colleague from Lanark—Carleton has concerns about this bill because he wants our traditions preserved. I must tell him that I support him in this initiative to preserve our parliamentary traditions. I am one of those who believe that, in a young country like ours, we perhaps have less tradition than certain other democracies do. Our traditions for protocol and other things must therefore be as carefully guarded as they are elsewhere. After all, by definition, our relatively youth means that we have far fewer than some other countries.

That said, we really should not think that we need to preserve all traditions and never modernize them. There must be a happy medium somewhere. I believe that we have found that happy medium with this bill.

First, this bill would preserve the royal assent ceremony as an important tradition. I am very pleased with that. The bill would require the ceremony to take place on two occasions every calendar year, one of these being for the first appropriation bill of each session.

We are aware of the importance a parliament such as ours assigns to budget appropriations, so the first such bill would be the subject of a traditional royal assent ceremony, if I might call it that. Second, this existing tradition must be maintained at least one other time in the year.

The purpose of all this is to ensure that we are not rushing into a new initiative that could be prejudicial to the parliamentary traditions we all want to preserve.

Second, the bill would authorize royal assent by written declaration.

I know that the current ceremony, which is based on the customs and conventions developed in previous centuries in the U.K., is significant to members of parliament and, to a degree, the public, as it should.

At the same time, the scarce amount of time available for debate means that the interruption in the business of parliament caused by the traditional ceremony has led to calls by many, including the all party report of Mr. McGrath many years ago, for an additional streamlined process of royal assent.

Just to remind all members, at the present time if we have royal assent on a particular day and two days later we pass another bill, we could be in a rather curious situation of interrupting parliament twice in the same week for royal assent. That is a bit much under the system we have now. Actually we are the only parliament in the Commonwealth that has a system as strict as the one we have.

Bill S-34 would establish a balance between the traditions and the modernization of parliamentary procedures. I do not think it goes very far but it goes that distance. Should we want to go further someday we could. I would prefer that we do it that way rather than go too far and then have to reinstate those provisions because it would be in the interest of preserving our parliamentary traditions. This is why the bill enjoys the support of all parties in the House.

I know a few members are still concerned even though their party position is to support the bill. I do not in any way pretend that their arguments are invalid or that their wanting to preserve tradition is somehow less valid. I know their arguments are as heartfelt as the arguments made in the other place. While most senators thought we needed to modernize this procedure to the limited extent that we were advancing it, some thought we should not touch it at all. That is okay. Perhaps having a few members with that kind of careful reticence at the end is a reminder to all of us that we should not go headstrong into some of these things that could, if abused, which I do not think they do in this case, damage the traditions that we hold so dear.

I would like to emphasize that Bill S-34 is procedural and only relates to the form of signifying royal assent. The Governor General or her deputy would of course still continue to exercise the royal prerogative and it is only in that way that it can be done.

The royal prerogative of assent is retained in the Senate chamber when royal assent is done by way of a ceremony or by a written declaration of the Governor General or her deputies when the written declarations are reported to the Speakers of both Houses of parliament. Both procedures respect the convention that all three constituent elements of parliament are involved: the Crown, the Senate and the House of Commons assembled in parliament. That is our constitutional definition now and it would be preserved by this process.

It has also been pointed out during consideration in the House that Canada is the only Commonwealth country that uses the traditional royal assent ceremony. Among the provinces, the Ontario legislature in 1973, through an all party agreement, waived the formality of summoning the lieutenant governor to the chamber for royal assent. Everyone knows that in Ontario, the province I represent, our motto is loyalty to our tradition. Translated from Latin I believe it states: Loyal she began, loyal she stands. The insistence of the preservation of that is very strong in the province I represent in the House. The most important highway in the southern part of Ontario is even called the Queen Elizabeth Highway, the QEW. Even though the traditions are very strong in the province of Ontario those traditions have been modernized there.

Quebec also uses the written procedure which is done in the office of the lieutenant governor general.

Bill S-34 would modernize the procedures of parliament in a way that would draw upon the advice of members of the House and of the other place, and which is based on the experience of other jurisdictions, including the U.K. and of course a number of provinces.

In conclusion, I am pleased to say that the bill received the support of all parties at second reading and in committee. The bill enjoys support on all sides of the House and would remove a significant interruption in the business of the House to the benefit of all members, while at the same time preserving the royal assent ceremony as a tradition of parliament and, I would like to add, as a very significant and important tradition of this great institution.

BIll S-34 is the result of careful study and recommendations by members of parliament and senators over a period of 20 years. It is consistent with the practices of Commonwealth countries and of our provinces.

For those reasons I would like to invite all hon. members to join me in supporting the passage of the bill. I want to thank the sponsor of the bill in the other place and all those who produced parallel and previous private members' bills in this House and in the other House toward modernizing this institution.

I see the hon. House leader of the official opposition and I would like to take this occasion to say that I look forward to working with him over the next while, as we have done for a long time in the past. We both changed positions for awhile and somehow ended up across from each other some time later doing precisely the same function that we did in some previous political incarnation. I salute him at the same time.

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10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill S-34, an act respecting royal assent to bills passed by the Houses of Parliament.

I will be speaking against the bill but, for the sake of clarification, I will be speaking against it on my own behalf and not on behalf of the Canadian Alliance as a whole.

I want to begin my comments by congratulating the government House leader for resuming his role. I know he has a deep appreciation for this place and its traditions. In our discussions prior to this debate, we reviewed together some of the provisions of the bill, which he supports and I do not, but I do know that he has a deep appreciation for the history and traditions of the House, and I can appreciate that.

I want to now turn to the three points I want to make about the bill. First, I will give a brief review of the contents of the bill. Second, I will talk a little bit about the role of tradition and of state ceremonial in our system and indeed in all systems. Third, I will talk to the broader question of the reform of this place and some of the dysfunctions that have crept into it.

Bill S-34 would provide an alternative to the formal royal assent procedure currently used in the Canadian parliament. It would provide that royal assent can be given by a written declaration similar to that which is used in Canadian provinces, in Australia and in the United Kingdom, and which has been used in some of those jurisdictions for a number of years.

The provisions of the bill allow for one traditional royal assent ceremony to be held per year. However, the bill carefully states that should such a traditional ceremony not take place there would be no consequences. I think that is definitely a mistake. If the bill had gone through committee and through report stage in this Chamber where amendments could have been made, I would have proposed an amendment to that effect.

Those procedures would take place during the parliamentary session in which both Houses passed the bill.

Those are the general outlines of the legislation. The formal ceremony for royal assent, of which many Canadians may not be aware, occurs, at most, once per session and perhaps not at all.

The way it works now is that when a bill is assented to, the Governor General, or the Queen if she is present in Canada, takes the throne in the Senate, members of the Senate are assembled, the Usher of the Black Rod comes down to the House of Commons and invites all members present to join in the ceremony of royal assent. A parade of members walk over to the Senate and the Governor General or the monarch, as the case may be, gives formal assent to the legislation in question.

I want to talk a bit about the value of this kind of tradition and indicate why this is a key part of my opposition to this bill. I oppose the bill because it represents one small part of the steady erosion in Canada, which has been going on for a number of decades, of the traditional state ceremonial that exists and the respect for the traditional forums in which we enact our laws, carry out our daily lives and carry out the functions that make us part of a body politic, a polity, a community that is not simply a state but something that has an organic existence of its own. Those organic relationships develop slowly. They maintain the value in bringing a solemnity to what we do.

The institution we see eroding bit by bit as these changes take place tends to be the monarchy which is the capstone of the Canadian constitution. Under our constitution and traditions, this is a central part of the parliamentary system. In fact, parliament is not composed under our system of two houses, the Commons and Senate, but rather of three parts: the Commons, the Senate and the Queen. That is why we refer to the Queen in our formal documents and pronouncements in parliament.

We are intended under our original constitution to be a republic in the classical sense. A republic is not in the trite modern sense a state without a monarch. Rather a republic is a mixed government which consists of elements of a monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. It seems to me that the erosion of the traditional monarchial element is a very dangerous process, particularly when the natural form, and this goes back to ancient philosophy, of all institutions is to develop elements of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. However when one is taken and shaken from its traditional foundations the danger is that it will shift to a caricature of itself. When we replace the traditional monarch with another institution, another person who starts to fill that role unofficially, the danger is that the person can become a kind of caricature of the monarch, filling that monarch's proper role.

All great and stable democracies have understood this and have been very careful to move and change those institutions with extreme care and caution, or perhaps not to change them at all but rather to put the necessary time and effort into ensuring that those institutions will be resuscitated, revived and made a part of the daily lives of citizens, particularly of our young citizens. We see that pattern we see in the United Kingdom of course which as long ago as the 1860s, was referred to by the great writer Walter Bagehot in his book, The English Constitution , as a republic, meaning a republic in the classical, traditional sense.

It is the tradition that was followed in the United States when it was founding its constitution. The Americans were very careful to give a role not only to the democratic element but to the aristocratic element which they embodied in their senate, and to the monarchy. They very much understood that their monarch, which they referred to as their executive, would have a power placed and formalized in the president and also limited in the president.

We have not done that. We left the form of the monarchy surrounding the monarch herself. We have steadily eroded the pomp and circumstance around that office and gradually moved it to the real executive, who of course is the Prime Minister, and we are gradually putting more and more pomp and ceremony around that individual.

I believe that leads to a corrosion of not only our respect for the monarchy itself but our respect for other institutions of our system of government and that includes this place. I have said on previous occasions, the House functions not as a legislative body but as a parliamentary body which considers all bills, debates them and proposes amendments and sends them to committee. We are not doing that on this bill.

In so eroding this institution we have turned into effectively an electoral college which sits in perpetual session and which is repeatedly called upon to renew its vote of confidence in the Prime Minister. That was not the original purpose of this House. I think that is a dangerous trend which has deprived us of the great wisdom that was read into our original constitution and that we inherited from our ancestors, our forebearers, in the parliament in Westminster.

This bill is a very tiny step in that direction but I think again any step in that direction ought to be avoided and we ought as much as possible to reverse that trend.

The value of ceremonial in a broader sense throughout our society is emphasized by any number of scholars. The one who comes to my mind most easily is Joseph Campbell, the great explorer of traditions and comparative sociologies. He made the observation that in each society the glue that holds it together is always the least tangible, the least touchable and the most formalized part of that society. When that is eroded and stripped away, it is formalized but formalized without law and formalized in the minds of the people.

When that is eroded, it always leads to deleterious effects for that culture. He looked at cultures that had largely been untouched by western society that were just, as he wrote in the mid 20th century, coming into contact with western society and western civilization and which saw a rapid erosion of their traditions and forms. He saw tremendous damage being caused to them. It seems to me that in a much lesser degree the same sort of thing can occur here.

In the third part of my remarks I want to address some of the objections that were raised in support of the bill by the government House leader and by others who have spoken in the other place about this bill.

First, the observation was made that many countries with a Westminster style government had abandoned the royal assent ceremony and that Canada was now unique among the parliamentary democracies on the Westminster model, or at least among the more populous ones, in retaining this ceremony in its tradition form. As long ago as 1958, it was observed that “the Canadian ceremony seems to be that which most closely resembles the original”.

This has been presented in the House as being something of a negative. I would say this is actually a very positive thing, that our retention of the ceremony in its original form is something we ought to rejoice in, in the very same way that we place a great deal of value in some of the other symbols in the House.

Of course the symbol of the mace and the power it represents is taken very seriously. We have a parade every day in which the Speaker, accompanied by the Sergeant-at-Arms, brings the mace into the House. The various officers of the House come in wearing either their three cornered or two cornered hats, as the case may be. These are ancient traditional robes of office. They do not serve any practical purpose in making the Speaker, the Clerk or other officers of the House more effective. They serve to remind us of the great and ancient traditions that we have established in this place.

They are the glue that holds us together. They are the glue that in our constitution holds us together. That is why we always have to read our constitution with the understanding that many of the most important aspects of the constitution are not written anywhere. They are understood and held in our hearts.

The very office of the Prime Minister or the institution of cabinet responsibility to parliament, neither of these things are in the constitution itself. They are understood. They are conventional in the same way that the form of the traditional royal assent ceremony is conventional. It is only now in this law being written down, changed and limited.

Without those conventional aspects to our constitution, we would not merely be a much inferior place. If we took our constitution seriously, we would be a virtual dictatorship written as it is without looking at any of the conventions that give it its depth, its breadth, its heterogeneity, its compassion and its flexibility which make it, when taken as a whole, one of the finest in the world, an example to so much of the world.

The preamble of the bill reads as follows:

And whereas it is desirable to facilitate the work of Parliament and the process of enactment by enabling royal assent to be signified by written declaration;

Then it goes on to state some other things. It talks about the need to facilitate the work of parliament by stripping away a bit of ceremony and by enabling royal assent to be given without this ceremonial. This bit of ceremonial, which is supposed to be an intrusion on the effectiveness of our operations here, is something which is no more elaborate than the ceremony that takes place here everyday, and it took place less than an hour ago. It seems to me that rather than stripping this away we ought to consider doing something which is very much the opposite.

Let me suggest that we could, for example, have the current ceremony and whenever a bill is assented to bring in Canadians to see it. We could announce in advance when the ceremony would take place. We could contact local schools and invite school groups to come to the Senate Chamber to see royal assent being given. I think that would be a valuable exercise.

As someone who grew up in this area and could have been brought to such a ceremony as a youngster, it is a great shame that this was never done and that we were not investing this traditional ceremony with the public attention it deserved.

To make this much clearer, I would like to point to another ceremony that occurred 20 years ago on the Hill when the Queen came to sign our constitution, our new charter of rights and amending formula into law.

I was then a high school student. I came down on my own with a friend that day. I took the bus to the Hill. Only a small crowd gathered to see the event. I still have those memories which are a very precious part to my personal attachment to our system and our constitution.

No effort was made to have school groups go to that event. We have all kinds of excuses when we talk about the lack of national feeling that exists in Canada and the lack of natural attachment Canadians have to their country. We are a federal state. We are a continent sized country. How can we expect it? There is the draw of the United States which is so much larger than us. There are two languages in this country. How can we expect Canadians to feel this kind of loyalty to their country?

I would argue that I can find counter examples for everyone of those excuses. We are the size of a continent and we have no sense of loyalty to our country. The Australians are the size of a continent and they have an intense sense of loyalty to their country, as do the Americans. We have more than one language. So do the Swiss and they have an intense sense of loyalty to their country. We are faced with a larger and culturally powerful neighbour which steals away the affections and emotions of our people which is a more exciting place. Look at Switzerland. It is surrounded by three of the most dynamic and exciting cultures in Europe: the Italians, the French and the Germans. Again, the Swiss feel a greater loyalty to their country than do probably any people in the world. I believe this is largely because of the tremendous respect that they show for the traditions and forms of their constitution and of their many cantonal constitutions of all the ceremonial of their state. Some of these ceremonies go back many centuries before the discovery of the continent but they are treated with tremendous respect even when they are slow moving and inconvenient. That is something we need to appreciate and respect.

I have only been to one traditional ceremony for royal assent. With regard to the question of whether this is an inconvenient matter, this ceremony was for Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism act, a law I voted against. However the ceremony was to take place and I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to attend. I was in my office, which is in this building. I saw that something was going on so I went in. There was no inconvenience involved. Parliament was not sitting at the time. It was after the House had risen for the Christmas recess. I, the acting Speaker and the member for Yukon were present.

There was no inconvenience involved at all. If the member for Yukon and I had not been there, the procedure and ceremony would have gone ahead. There was no inconvenience to the House. This ceremony does not slow down the business of the House if we do not want it to. It can be dealt with at a time that is convenient and it is a simple matter with which to deal.

Again, there was something fundamentally wrong with the idea that the putting into effect of this law, probably the most important piece of legislation on which members of the House in this parliament will get a chance to vote prior to the next election, would be done with very little notice on a day during the Christmas holidays when no attention was given to it. If it is as important as we say it is, we ought to treat it with the appropriate respect. We should have treated that law with the appropriate respect. We should have treated the ceremony by which it was enacted with the appropriate respect.

Her Majesty's loyal opposition supports parliamentary reform. We believe in reforming private members' business. We believe in allowing parliament to have greater freedom by giving greater powers to standing committees, greater powers to special committees, allowing an ethics commissioner to be appointed who would report to the House as opposed to reporting to the Prime Minister, having standards of ethical behaviour written down and available so that parliamentarians know what they are. We do not have to guess at what binds the cabinet.

We would like the Prime Minister to enact some of the rules that he promised to enact nine years ago when he was elected. It has been left to the opposition to push the government to bring forward the red book promises which it made almost a decade ago. That is very unfortunate.

We have seen promises recently that some kind of parliamentary reform will be forthcoming. This measure today is presented as an example of parliamentary reform and from one perspective perhaps it is. But it is not a parliamentary reform which empowers this House or which allows us to be more effective representatives of the people who voted for us and sent us here, or which allows us to resume our proper and constitutional role as the democratic arm of our country.

Our country deserves to have a legislature which is genuinely independent and in which genuine debate takes place. Our country deserves to have a legislature in which a variety of points of view are expressed and in which legislation changes as members present their points of view in order to reflect not only their own views but the views of the various communities they represent. None of that occurs because of this measure or because of the other watered down measures the government has been bringing forward.

Last June it was left to the official opposition to put forward a motion instructing a committee to come up with proposals to reform private members' business. On that occasion the government supported the motion, but at committee the government majority voted not to comply with the wishes of the House.

While Bill S-34 does represent parliamentary reform of a sort, watered down and a decade late, it is not enough. Canadians deserve better.

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10:40 a.m.

Bloc

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

Madam Speaker, I have bad luck, as every time I wish to speak and you are in the Chair, there are always questions on the interpretation of the standing orders. I suppose it is coincidence.

I rise today to speak to Bill S-34, to modify the procedure of royal assent to bills passed by parliament. I know that I have 40 minutes for my comments. Unfortunately, there will be no period for questions and comments following my 40 minutes. I will try to speak for the full 40 minutes, since I have many things to say on this topic. If I run out of time, I will ask for the unanimous consent of the House to go beyond 40 minutes.

First, I wish to say that our party will be supporting this bill to modernize parliamentary procedure. The government could have introduced this bill in the House, rather than going through the other chamber.

The House of Commons is the elected chamber, while the other place, the Senate, does not have the same legitimacy as the elected members of this chamber. This is the opinion of the Bloc Quebecois, one that is shared by most Quebecers.

While I did say that we would be supporting the bill, there is one thing that I would like to comment on, something that I have already spoken about before, and that is the whole issue of the legitimacy of the other chamber. Every four or five years, as set out in Canada's constitution, those who are watching from the galleries or on television have the opportunity to judge the value of the work we do here in the House of Commons. Every four or five years, citizens have an opportunity to say—and this is the democratic action they take—whether or not they want their member to continue representing their interests. They can say “Yes, I want to keep my member”, or “No, I do not want to keep my member”. This explains how members are elected or defeated. This is democracy.

But the people in the other chamber, the Senate, are appointed by the Prime Minister as a political reward. Usually, they are people who have proven their worth in provincial legislatures, as leader of the opposition or of the party in power. They are people who are good political organizers for the government in power. Members will note that I have not yet mentioned the Liberals. In my opinion, it was exactly the same when the Progressive Conservatives were in power. But since the Liberal Party has been in office, there have been certain appointments. I would like to mention a few of them.

We had, as a senator, Jean-Louis Roux, who is now Chairman of the Canada Council. He was made a senator. Right now, we have Senator Jean Lapointe. We have surgeons. I give these examples because they are people who, in addition to sitting in the Senate, continue to do their regular jobs.

When Jean-Louis Roux was appointed, he was on a Quebec-wide tour with a theatre company. Senator Jean Lapointe is still doing shows. In addition to performing in the Senate, he appears in various regions of Quebec.

I challenge all of my colleagues in the House. Before becoming an MP, I practiced law. I still get calls from members of the public and friends who require my services as a lawyer. I tell them that I cannot practice law because my duties as an MP keep me busy full time.

Without getting into party politics, I could take the minister of intergovernmental affairs as an example. He was a university professor. I might ask him whether he would still have the time, with all his ministerial duties and responsibilities, to teach three hours a week at the University of Montreal or at Laval Univeristy.

Could he find the time? He is shaking his head, and I believe him. My comment is pertinent. What about my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, who was an economist for the UPA. Does he have time for any outside activities such as carrying out studies and analyses on contract in his capacity as an economist? The answer is no.

Why is it that the senators—such as Senator Jean Lapointe, or another who is a heart surgeon and still has time to do heart operations—have the time to continue in their prior professions?

It is because being a senator is an honourary position; senators are often considered professional lobbyists or bagmen. As recently as Monday of this past week, or perhaps the previous week, Senator Leo Kolber organized a $10,000-a-ticket fundraising session—I think the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs was there, and the Prime Minister was meant to be as well, but had to cancel at the last minute—to add to the coffers of the Liberal Party in Quebec.

They are professional lobbyists who are not registered under the Lobbyist Registration Act. All of this is happening and it has the effect of diminishing the office as well as discrediting politicians and politics in general.

When we are out and about on the weekend, when we go to the mall, or to do our own groceries, as I do, we get stopped by people who say to us “These scandals are incredible. It is incredible how they mock us, how they take us for fools”. An outdated institution such as the Senate validates this idea.

Let me get back to the bill to modernize royal assent by allowing bills to receive royal assent by written declaration instead of the traditional parade. We agree that this is an exercise that we could easily do without.

The government should look into what Quebec did. During the quiet revolution, the government of Quebec went ahead with major changes to the parliamentary institution. In fact, on November 29, 1968, Quebec's legislative assembly passed a bill that abolished the legislative council, the equivalent of the second chamber of their parliament. This bill was passed very quickly.

For all of these reasons, we will vote for this bill, and the time has come to abolish the other chamber.

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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Madam Speaker, I will speak for only a few minutes so that my colleague from Brandon--Souris has a chance to speak before 11 o'clock as well.

I want to say first that we support the bill before the House today, which will change the procedure of how bills achieve royal assent. Our party supports the bill and I gather that all parties in the House support the bill as well. It is a very minor and very timid step toward parliamentary reform of this great institution of parliament.

I do object, in terms of parliamentary reform, to the fact that the bill to reform parliament originates in the Senate, a place that is not elected, not democratic and not accountable. It is rather ironic that a bill to reform this institution comes from a House that needs reform or, in my opinion, abolition, because those people do not have any legitimate authority when they are not elected like members of parliament. They have no accountability. They are senators until the age of 75 and are accountable to absolutely no one. Even their estimates are not very accountable to the House of Commons because the chair of the committee of the Senate that is responsible for Senate spending has refused to appear, or at least has refused to in the last two years, before the appropriate House of Commons committee.

This is my first point : We have to abolish the other place and have a parliamentary system that is totally democratic and accountable to the Canadian people.

In terms of the bill before us today, it is kind of ironic that this bill was in the works for the last 20 years. It has gone through all readings in the other place and now is before the House of Commons. It amends a procedure that has been part of the parliamentary system for about 500 years. For many years here we had a person called the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod who would always knock on the door here whenever royal assent was required. A tiny change was made recently when a woman began doing the procedure. She is called the Usher of the Black Rod. We are about the only parliament in the world that does this for royal assent after every single bill. The British, the Australians and the New Zealanders have made changes to speed up the process by having written royal assent. We have not done that yet in Canada, so we are finally catching up with the times in terms of this procedure.

I also want to say at this time that I think we need pretty radical parliamentary reform to make this place more relevant to all the citizens of this country. We need electoral reform in Canada as well, but this morning I want to talk about parliamentary reform.

In our country, the executive, the Prime Minister, has far too much power, not just at the federal level but at the provincial level as well. Our Prime Minister appoints all the ministers, the parliamentary secretaries, the head of the army, the head of the national police, the head of every important agency, all the senators, the people on all of the important commissions and agencies, and the justices of the supreme court, the federal court and so on. That is awesome power that is given to the Prime Minister under our constitution.

What we need is a parliamentary reform package that would in many cases allow the Prime Minister or the government to nominate someone and have the relevant parliamentary committee ratify or reject the nominee from the federal government. This is the kind of process that we need to take away some power from the executive, from the government.

We also need to take away the power of the government to set election dates whenever it wants. Many democracies in the world have a fixed election date. That should be the case in our country as well so that the Prime Minister does not play with the election date for partisan purposes.

We should have a fixed budget date. With a fixed budget date we could have more planning in terms of the provinces knowing when the federal budget will be delivered. As well, the school boards, the hospital boards and the municipalities then would know when provincial budgets would be delivered. That would be a planning process which would work well on behalf of the people of the country.

We should have a fixed date for throne speeches, fewer confidence votes in the House of Commons, more power for parliamentary committees, more independence for parliamentary committees and more power for individual MPs. That is the kind of democratic reform package we need here in the House of Commons. This bill is just one little timid step in the direction of reforming this institution.

We should also reform the voting system in Canada to bring in a system of proportional representation so that each and every single vote would be equal. Equal citizens would have equal influence. If a party gets 15% of the votes it would have 15% of the seats. As it is now, we are one of only three countries in the world that have more than 8 million people and still use a pure first past the post system, the others being India and the United States.

About a year and a half ago in the United States, George W. Bush got 550,000 fewer votes than Al Gore, but who is the president of the United States? George W. Bush. Historically we have had the same distortions here in this House of Commons.

Even Britain now has started to reform the process, bringing some PR into the Scottish and Welsh parliaments in electing all their MPs to the European parliament through a system of proportional representation.

These are the things we should be doing: reforming parliament, reforming the electoral system and reforming how we finance election campaigns to bring in more public financing. Today's bill is just a small step toward making our system more accountable and more democratic for the ordinary citizens of this country.

Royal Assent Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I would like to commend the member for Regina--Qu'Appelle for two reasons, first for allowing my brief intervention before we go to question period and also for the thought provoking comments he made with respect to democratic reform.

I say that because we as the Progressive Conservative Party have just put out a discussion paper on democratic reform. The member could have helped us write that paper. I will send it to him, because a lot of what he said with respect to parliamentary reform as well as electoral reform is encompassed in the paper.

I agree that there is a need. We see it more every day with the ability of the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister's Office to take the government and the country in a direction that the majority of Canadians really do not want, yet there are no checks and balances.

I will take a little exception to the comments of the member for Regina--Qu'Appelle, because there is a need for a backstop. The only backstop we currently have in our system is that of the Senate. It may not be a perfect backstop but certainly it is the only institution we depend on for that sober second thought, because we see across from us right now a majority government that is not prepared to listen to the opposition, not prepared to listen to committees and not prepared to listen to the general public. It simply will push through legislation that is not right. The only backstop we have now is the Senate.

I say that because Bill S-34 was brought forward by the Senate. By the way, it was first brought forward by Senator Lynch-Staunton, who is the opposition leader in the Senate. It was brought forward on numerous occasions, but at that time the Senate decided that because it was a thought coming from some other individual in the institution, it probably did not have any real bearing to it. However he persevered. In fact the legislation that now has come forward looks an awful lot like the legislation that was proposed by Senator Lynch-Staunton. I give him full credit for at least making this small step in trying to adjust the traditions we have in the House.

The second thing I would like to say is that this is probably one of very few pieces of legislation that will have the total support of all parties in the House, which means that all parties have a desire to move forward with this type of reform. This is a small step. It is a very positive step, but small nonetheless.

As was mentioned earlier by a lot of members in the House, the bill has to do with royal assent, a symbolic process we have whereby we walk from this House to the Senate to get royal assent for bills that have been passed. There are a number of reasons why this tradition has outworn itself. We know full well that in the Commonwealth we are the only ones to still have this procedure and formality. There are ways to make the House more efficient and the legislation would in fact do just that. It would make the House more efficient.

We should take this as an example. We should take this as the ability to have all party consent in other areas of making the House more efficient. The member for Regina--Qu'Appelle mentioned that perhaps we should look at committees being much more efficient. Perhaps we should be looking at making voting in the Chamber much more efficient. Perhaps we should look at the possibility of electoral reform in Canada, which certainly would make our system more efficient .

There are four problems, but I know I do not have a lot of time before question period. The problem with this obviously is that the tradition has worn itself out. There is very little support right now for the tradition of royal assent. I am happy to say that there is all party support for this. Certainly our party, because of the ability to develop some efficiencies in the House, will support it.

In closing I once again would like to thank Senator Lynch-Staunton from the other place for putting forward the bill. Perhaps if we do get other bills coming from the Senate that speak to democratic and parliamentary reform, we will look at them in as favourable a light as we look upon this piece of legislation. The Progressive Conservative Party will be supporting this legislation.

Government Grants
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the solicitor general just do not get it. They cannot see any problem with the solicitor general lobbying his employee, the RCMP commissioner, for a grant for a college run by the solicitor general's brother. Conflict, what conflict?

Let me try to explain to the ethically challenged across the way.

Fairness dictates that grants should only ever be awarded on the basis of merit. They should be awarded only to projects that have certain universally applied and predetermined criteria. Anyone who stands to gain politically, personally or directly through his or her family should not influence the decision making.

What is considered to be fair, decent and common sense on Main Street seems to be incomprehensible to the Liberal minister, but then again, the fish rots from the head down. If in the eyes of the Prime Minister this is just an MP doing his job, then we should not be surprised when that rot spreads throughout the entire Liberal government.

Asia Pacific Business Association
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Sophia Leung Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, last week I was proud to attend the 9th annual gala dinner of the Richmond Asia Pacific Business Association. With over 600 people in attendance, the dinner raised funds to support the association's non-profit community activities for many charitable organizations.

I would like to congratulate President Ian Cheung and the board of directors of the Richmond Asia Pacific Business Association for all their hard work in making this association a leading organization promoting business and serving community needs in health and social services in Richmond and across the greater Vancouver region.

South African War
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Madam Speaker, today marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the South African war, also known as the Boer war, a war for which more than 7,000 Canadians volunteered and 277 gave their lives.

It is important that we remember the brave men and women who were some of the first to leave their homes to defend the values that define us as Canadians. They began what has become a long tradition of Canadians serving the cause of peace around the world.

The South African War Book of Remembrance lists the names of all Canadians who lost their lives serving in the war and rests in the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower. Veterans Affairs Canada has recently amended the book to add the names of 11 soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice in this war. The book can be viewed online on the Veterans Affairs website, where visitors will also find a South African war feature that includes a brief history of the war and Canadians' involvement.

May we never forget.

Housing
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise in my capacity as chair of the Ontario caucus. Yesterday was a very good day for Ontario. The Deputy Prime Minister and the Ontario minister for housing, Chris Hodgson, signed an affordable housing program agreement.

This has been a long time coming. The Liberal caucus fought to get a commitment to affordable housing included in the Liberal Party platform in the last election. After the election, the Prime Minister included it in the throne speech. From there, $680 million was allocated in the budget and then the negotiations began.

The government's negotiations with the Government of Ontario were particularly difficult and protracted. The Government of Ontario has no ideological or monetary interest in affordable housing. The Deputy Prime Minister, however, was determined that with or without the co-operation of the province the people of Ontario would receive their share of the money. Yesterday was that day.

I wish to express many thanks to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the parliamentary secretary from Mississauga West, and the chair of social caucus and member for Don Valley West. It was a team effort. It was--

Housing
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar.

Agriculture
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Madam Speaker, I am sure that the agriculture minister would like to give himself a pat on the back after seeing recent Statistics Canada reports on cash receipts for farmers. While the numbers appear positive for the year, the reality is that continued drought and low commodity prices will guarantee that incomes for Canadian producers will once again fall in 2002.

The incomes of Saskatchewan producers in 2002 will be half of what they were in 1978. Input costs continue to rise and incomes continue to fall.

While Canadian producers are struggling to survive, the government continues to talk about solutions. Agriculture in Canada has been hurting for years. It is time for the government to stop talking and start acting. Instead of rewarding its political friends, the government must focus on Canadians.

Agriculture is a national industry and must be a national concern. Canadian agriculture deserves the attention of the government.

Mérite Stellaris
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Hélène Scherrer Louis-Hébert, QC

Madam Speaker, the Mérite Stellaris gala organized by the Charlesbourg—Chauveau chamber of commerce was held on April 26, at the Capitole, in Quebec City.

The Mérite Stellaris honours businesses and people who have excelled all year long, and it recognizes those who sometimes work behind the scenes to keep the business world thriving in the dynamic region of Charlesbourg—Chauveau.

The finalists and winners are small and medium size companies that do their utmost to be first, by offering innovative, creative and quality products and services to their clients. The Mérite Stellaris is the only event in the region that underlines the work done by businesses, thus giving them an opportunity to get to be known.

The Government of Canada gave the award in the Arts and Culture category. The eighth edition was held under the honourary presidency of the Hon. André Ouellet, the CEO of Canada Post. A special “Tribute to a builder” award was given to Jules Dallaire, from the Fonds de placement immobilier Cominar, which is a real estate investment trust.

I congratulate the organizers for making a success of this event and I say to them “See you next year”.

Lachine Canal
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, I had the honour of representing the Government of Canada at La Grande Parade du canal Lachine, on Saturday, May 25, in Montreal.

Thousands of people gathered along the Lachine Canal to celebrate its reopening after being closed for 30 years, and to watch close to 150 boats specially decorated for this great event go by.

I want to mention the exceptional contribution of a number of stakeholders, including Paul Bourgeault, the founding president of the Berges de Lachine, who came up with the idea of organizing La Grande Parade; the Lachine lock operators for their efforts and talent for amusing the crowds during La Grande Parade; and Benoit Havard and the Jeunes explorateurs internationaux.

La Grande Parade was a tremendous success and I congratulate all its organizers. It is with great enthusiasm that I look forward to the 2003 edition of La Grande Parade du canal Lachine.

Parliamentary Confederation of the Americas
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC

Madam Speaker, I wish to draw the attention of the House to the presence today on the Hill of the President of the Parliamentary Confederation of the Americas, Laura Pavòn Jaramillo. Now a representative of the Federal Congress of Mexico, she was formerly a representative of the Congress of the State of Mexico, mayor of Toluca, senator of the Republic, and president of the Senate.

Ms. Pavòn Jaramillo is the first woman to chair COPA, a permanent and automous forum of parliamentary assemblies of unitary, federal and federated states, regional parliaments and interparliamentary organizations of the Americas

COPA encourages further exploration of and follow-up to the discussions at the summits of the Americas and in other forums. Here in this country, a group of friends of COPA has just been formed. I encourage all members of the House to join it.

Canadian Forces Day
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

David Pratt Nepean—Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, on April 25 the House unanimously passed a motion to proclaim the first Sunday in June as Canadian Forces Day. This Sunday, June 2, marks the first official Canadian Forces Day.

The purpose of this day is to recognize the tremendous contribution made by the Canadian forces both at home and abroad. I was delighted to see that one of the first official statements by our new defence minister was to draw attention to Canadian Forces Day, to encourage citizens to celebrate the contributions of our military, both regular and reserve forces, and to encourage local communities to get involved. Because this motion was passed just a few short weeks ago this year's Canadian Forces Day activities will likely be fairly modest.

I am pleased with the comments by our new minister that “in the next and following years, the first Sunday in June will become the focus for better developed plans to celebrate this wonderful day.”

Foreign Affairs
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Speaker, Taiwan is a democracy which respects the rule of law. Its people enjoy true freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion. Taiwan is one of Canada's important trading partners and its free market economy provides its citizens with a relatively high standard of living.

Yet the federal Liberals ban Taiwanese cabinet ministers and certain Taiwanese officials from entering our country. Just last year the government denied the Taiwanese health minister the right to visit our country. Taiwan's minister of foreign affairs is banned by the federal Liberals from entering Canada. While we recognize the importance of good relations with China and the importance of developing a free market system there, surely allowing Taiwanese cabinet ministers to visit Canada should not be a hindrance to our other relations.

We are not imposing our own views on the one China policy between Taiwan and mainland China. What signal do we send to the world when we deny Taiwanese democratic representatives the right to visit Canada? We allow supporters of communism to visit our country. We should not slam the door on those who support democracy.

Atlantic Canada
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, regardless of political affiliation and province, business persons, trade unionists, academics, public servants, community activists, athletes, and artists from Atlantic Canada have come together over the past three days in a unified response to the opposition leader's divisive and baseless comments about our region.

Early in the last century Atlantic Canadians sacrificed a north-south Atlantic trade based economy in the interest of building an east-west nation. Since then, whether during war, depression, drought, or providing skilled labour throughout Canada, Atlantic Canadians have been there. We are anything but defeatist.

I join editorialists and civic leaders from across our region and call on the Leader of the Opposition to apologize.

Canadian Forces Day
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, on April 25 the House of Commons proclaimed the first Sunday in June as Canadian Forces Day in recognition of the great contribution by the Canadian forces both at home and abroad in our NATO and Norad commitments, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, search and rescue, peacekeeping and peace support operations.

Over the years I have been honoured to be part of other special days spent with veterans and peacekeepers who carry the scars of their struggle for democracy within their bodies and minds, and with the families on the Halifax jetty as they have said hello and goodbye to their loved ones leaving for tours of duty in a violent world.

I was present at the funeral for Nathan Smith, one of our Princess Pats killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. He was a young man who loved soldiering, loved his life and country, and the values of freedom and justice which he held deep in his soul.

Canadian Forces Day will join Remembrance Day, D-Day and the many other days of the year that we remember to thank the brave and selfless men and women for their love and loyalty to this great country.

Claudette Carbonneau
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate Claudette Carbonneau on her election yesterday as 13th president of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux. Ms. Carbonneau, who held the position of vice-president for 11 years, made history by becoming the first woman to lead the second largest labour federation in Quebec.

Her tireless commitment to the union movement and her willingness to serve the CSN have won her the trust of members. There is no doubt that her talents as a negotiator and unifying force will breathe new life into the federation.

I wish to assure the new president that the Bloc Quebecois will maintain its close co-operation in the defence of the rights of Quebec's workers.

On behalf of my colleagues, I congratulate Ms. Carbonneau and wish her the best of luck in her new duties as president of the CSN.

Bilingualism
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Alliance has never been a national party, and that is even more obvious than usual today.

The Alliance is demonstrating a total lack of knowledge of Canadian reality. Not only do they insult Atlantic Canadians but they also deny the presence of two majority languages in Canada.

The leader of the Alliance associates biligualism with a religion, denouncing it, to quote his own words, as a “god that failed”. He goes on to say “Canada is not a bilingual country. In fact it is less bilingual today than it has ever been”.

The people of Canada who are in minority language situations are totally outraged by this. The Alliance's policy is aimed at dividing our country.

Since the Liberals adopted their bilingualism policy, the situation of minority language communities has improved a great deal. Members of these communities are now able to live in their language, particularly because access to services and to education has been greatly improved.

We on this side of the House respect all Canadians regardless of where they live and, particularly, what language they speak—

Bilingualism
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Brandon—Souris.

Agriculture
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the minister of agriculture appeared before the agriculture committee. Despite our best efforts to get a commitment for additional support for agriculture, there was no commitment forthcoming.

He did indicate there would be another ad hoc program, a feeble attempt to offset the U.S. farm bill. What he did not, could not, or would not tell us is how much it would be, when it would be forthcoming, and how it would be distributed. This is probably because the last time he promised a program he was blindsided by the Prime Minister. He promised $900 million and only delivered $500 million.

Another serious issue is how Canadian agriculture will be affected by country of origin labelling now proposed in the U.S. farm bill. At the meeting yesterday the minister had at best count about 50 members of his ministerial and departmental staff there.

When I asked the question if they knew how this would impact Canadian producers, the answer was that they knew how it would affect American producers but not Canadian producers. Does the minister need to hire another staff member to give us the answer regarding Canadian producers?

Baltic States
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, May 22 I had the honour to co-host the 25th annual Baltic evening on Parliament Hill.

This multicultural event began in 1973 when members of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian communities in Canada invited parliamentarians and other representatives of government to participate in the launch of Toronto based Estonian author Arved Viirlaid's internationally acclaimed book Graves Without Crosses . The book depicts the tragic experience of the Baltic nations during and after World War II.

After 1973 the Baltic evening evolved into a regular event sponsored by the Baltic federation and it came to be a reassertion of Canada's non recognition of the illegal Soviet occupation of the Baltic states and the significant role played by Baltic Canadians in the economic and cultural life of Canada.

I would like to congratulate the Baltic Federation in Canada on their 25th anniversary of this unique event.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, in reference to the government sponsorship program, the Prime Minister said that a few million dollars may have been stolen in the process. He said that this corruption could be justified in the name of Canadian unity.

Does the Prime Minister really believe that corruption helps the federalist cause in Quebec?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, once again, this is not true. The Prime Minister did not say this. He simply said the same thing that he has said several times in the House of Commons.

Which is, that if there were abuses, those responsible would be brought to justice. In the end, if administrative changes to the sponsorship program are called for, we will certainly make them. If there are people who have committed crimes, they will be held responsible.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister went much farther than he went in this Chamber. Last night he said “a few million dollars might have been stolen in the process”. He went on to say that this was done in the name of national unity and therefore he would never apologize for it.

The Prime Minister has admitted corruption in his government. Is the reason we have this corruption that at the highest levels of the government the Prime Minister is prepared to tolerate it if it serves his political objectives?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, it is patently absurd to respond to a question so full of falsehoods. However there is no question that the Prime Minister has said that his first priority is the unity of this country.

If the day ever comes that the Leader of the Opposition becomes Prime Minister of Canada I think we know from his recent statements what he would do about the unity of this country. He would destroy it.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, this country would be a lot more unified if every region had equal economic opportunity and were not dependent on ridiculous programs.

Yesterday the Prime Minister threatened to get back at anyone, cabinet ministers, caucus colleagues or senior bureaucrats, who leaks information on unethical, corrupt or criminal behaviour in the government.

Is it not the obligation of senior elected officials and public servants to ensure that any such information is public and in the open?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, in his call for transparency I hope the Leader of the Opposition is signalling a new day on his behalf, because what we have had from him has been a pattern of evasion.

He will not tell us who contributed to his leadership campaign. He will not tell us who contributed to the National Citizens' Coalition. In fact he is in the courts in the case of Harper v Attorney General of Canada trying to hide the dark money that is behind his past campaigns.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I suppose that kind of diversion might work somewhere else but it will not work with Canadians.

Here is what else the Prime Minister had to say. He said that he was looking for those who were double-crossing his cabinet. In fact it is not the activities he is concerned about, it is the poor little cabinet.

Why does the Prime Minister not recognize that the unethical actions of the government is the problem, not the people who are exposing it?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, I think the time has come for a little transparency on that side.

We have heard the Leader of the Opposition say that he is opposed to Canada's support for an international treaty stopping landmines. Why? Because the United States might not like it.

Who are his contributors? Who is behind the National Citizens' Coalition? Are they even Canadians? We do not know.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think the word “diversion” will have to be used a lot. The people who expose government scandals are traitors to the Prime Minister.

In his own words, “I would like to have the names of those who are double crossing the rest of the caucus and the cabinet”.

Does the Prime Minister not recognize that people who expose government scandal are heroes to the taxpayers of this country?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, I do not think we need to take any lessons from members of the Alliance Party on caucus unity, that is for sure. I think there are a few of them who still have not come back.

If they are going to live in a glass house, they had better be careful what they do with their stones because the time has come for them to live up to the standards of probity that Canadians expect. Why now are they resisting referring back the Milliken-Oliver report to be updated in order to look at a standard of behaviour for members of parliament?

There is a pattern forming here. They want to obscure the issues in order to talk about something else because they must have something to hide. Well they can run, but they--

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

The Speaker

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

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, we thought we had seen and heard everything from this Prime Minister. Yesterday, in Winnipeg, he made a statement that is surprising, to say the least, when he said, regarding the sponsorship program, and I quote:

Perhaps there were a few million dollars that might have been stolen, but it was for a good cause: Canadian unity.

Does the Deputy Prime Minister realize that, considering the ethics shown by the Prime Minister, he is telling all politicians that stealing may be justified, as long as it is to defend national unity?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, this is utterly false. The Prime Minister simply repeated what he said several times in the House.

There are programs in place and if mistakes were made, we must correct them. If there are people who committed crimes, they will have to face the courts. This is normal, and this is what the Prime Minister said.

But he also added that the sponsorship program exists for several reasons. There are a number of members in this House, even Bloc Quebecois members, who support the sponsorship program.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister obviously did not read this morning's newspapers. With his latest comment, is the Prime Minister not confirming that the double billing, the reports paid for but impossible to find, the reports billed three times, the commissions paid to thier friends, all this is not serious stuff, because it promotes Canadian unity?

Is this what we are to make of the Prime Minister's remarks, namely that it is not serious if it is done for Canada?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, I can understand that the hon. member would be opposed to Canada's visibility in Quebec. I can understand that he is a bit disappointed because the Parti Quebecois is now in third place in Quebec. I am sure that he is disappointed by the fact that support for separation is very low.

However, I believe it is because Quebecers now understand the costs of separation. They now understand that Canada is—

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Joliette.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, after trying to play down the entire sponsorship affair, now the Prime Minister is resorting to intimidation, demanding names and threatening to discipline those who leaked the horrors of the sponsorship program.

Does the Deputy Prime Minister find it acceptable that the Prime MInister is more interested in disciplining those who denounce abuses than those who commit them?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, that is certainly what the Prime Minister said. He said that we were going to correct the abuses and that those responsible will have to be held accountable.

The real problem for the Bloc Quebecois is not this program, or even the abuses. The problem for the Bloc Quebecois is that there has been a decline in the number of people who support them and their cause.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, not only does the Prime Minister think that stealing is fine, provided that the end justifies the means, but his remarks in Winnipeg yesterday show that he is ready to cover up for those responsible and support them.

Does the Deputy Prime Minister realize that, by saying what he did, the Prime Minister is admitting that theft may have taken place, as well as confirming his intention to gag those who might wish to denounce the perpetrators?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, we are the ones who asked the auditor general to conduct an investigation. The auditor general can carry out a public investigation. She is in a position to do so. We were the ones who agreed to refer the files to the RCMP.

There are therefore no problems with that. The transparency is there.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said yesterday:

Give me the names of the guys who are leaking to you and you will have a great story.

The Prime Minister appears desperate. He is now threatening those who have the courage to tell the truth about the unethical behaviour of the Liberal government instead of threatening those who may have been committing some wrongdoing in this country.

I want to ask the Deputy Prime Minister a substantive question. Will he now bring in whistleblowing legislation to protect public servants who have the courage to bring the issues of wrongdoing to the public's attention and be protected in doing so?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, I believe the President of the Treasury Board responded to this question already this week indicating that in fact whistleblowing rules are in place to protect public servants who disclose wrongdoing that they encounter in the course of their duties. Those principles are respected.

I do not think there has been any shortage of information that is flowing to the public in any event through all of the means that are available to obtain it.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, those comments were made before the threat of the Prime Minister yesterday outside the House of Commons. The legislation we now have in this country does not have any teeth.

The government has also been hiding behind the RCMP and the auditor general in terms of public inquiry. Yesterday the auditor general said before a committee of the House that she would have no problem whatsoever with a parliamentary committee having a hearing on this particular issue in terms of it not interfering with her investigation of government advertising.

In light of that comment, would the Deputy Prime Minister now agree to a public inquiry, since the auditor general would not have any problem with this in terms of her investigation?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, the member might want to have a look at the legislation that creates the office of the auditor general. She has all the powers that are necessary. We have made her reports public. I do not think there is any reason to duplicate the efforts that are already being undertaken by the auditor general.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is on record now a number of times stating that his Liberal sponsorship programs kept the country together. In fact he has also now admitted that there is possible criminal wrongdoing in doling out the dough to Liberal donors.

Can the Deputy Prime Minister point to one single piece of evidence that somehow proves that pumping hundreds of millions of dollars to friends and relatives of the Liberal Party has anything to do with national unity?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting question coming from the Conservative Party.

In nine years in office we saw the Conservatives strip the word “Canada” off everything from the post office to postal boxes. We saw ministers like Marcel Masse and Lucien Bouchard contribute to the disunity of this country. We saw the disappearance of Canadian flags and symbols in the province of Quebec because it might give offence to some who were supporters of the Conservative Party.

I suggest the hon. member--

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, this is coming from the Deputy Prime Minister who wants to wrap himself in the flag and was against Meech Lake. He should spare us the righteous indignation.

When will the Deputy Prime Minister stop rolling his eyes, shrugging his shoulders, blaming journalists, bureaucrats, his own caucus and the opposition and do something to show some ethical leadership?

Last night the Prime Minister said he admitted to gross mismanagement of taxpayers' dollars. What is his plan to recover the money? Will he turn over the evidence to the RCMP? What will the Deputy Prime Minister himself do about it?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, it will be hard to stop rolling one's eyes while that member is asking questions.

On the substantive issues, the truth is that we saw support for separatism rise in Quebec and we saw the visibility of Canada disappear during nine years of Tory government. We saw appeasement by Mulroney as he brought people like Lucien Bouchard and Marcel Masse into his cabinet repeatedly.

If our Prime Minister wants to wrap himself in the flag, I can say that everyone on this side of the House is prepared to wrap ourselves in that very same flag with him.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister declared to reporters:

If you want to have a good story, give me the names of the guys who are leaking to you. You will have a lot of foul words. And you will have a lot of very easy stories for many months to come.

Then last night he used a $300,000 fundraising dinner to leak the new information that “perhaps there were a few million dollars that might have been stolen” from his national unity sponsorship campaign.

Is the Prime Minister saying that new information on the extent of Liberal corruption should only be publicly released at Liberal fundraising dinners?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister said the same thing that he has been saying in the House. In a $170 billion a year organization mistakes are going to occur. They occur in the public sector. They occur in the private sector. Really what is at issue is transparency.

Once again, when is the Alliance Party going to truly buy into transparency? When is it going to support transparency in election campaigns so that the contributors of all those who participate in campaigns, even through the National Citizens' Coalition, are made public? Why is the Leader of the Opposition in the courts trying to hide money that goes into election campaigns?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

We are of course, Mr. Speaker, most eager to see the list of $25,000 donors to the members of the leadership campaign.

Last weekend the Prime Minister had to skip a $10,000 per guest cocktail party in Montreal in order to sack his disgraced Minister of National Defence. Happily the minister of immigration was able to make the party where he apparently enjoyed a temporary respite from the laryngitis that affects him every question period.

Given that the immigration minister has still not come clean on which of the two completely contradictory stories about his sleeping arrangements is true, to which fundraising event should we buy tickets to find out what the truth is?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

There are a lot of drive-by slimings in that one, Mr. Speaker, but what about the Alliance's $25,000 fundraiser? The member for St. Albert thought that was okay. He said:

People tend to think that people who are well heeled are not grassroots, but they are individual Canadians with only one vote and therefore no different from anyone else in the country.... These people happen to be affluent and we're going to represent them as well as represent anybody else.

The member for Wild Rose said:

That's the way you do politics nowadays, you have to have money.... As long we keep reminding people, no matter who gives support and who comes aboard, it's one person, one vote.

Then they said their position on Kyoto was going to help them with their fundraising--

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Laval Centre.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister admits that there may have been a theft, but in the same breath follows up with an intent to cover it up, by intimidating those who blow the whistle on abuses. As for the minister of justice, he is trying to have us believe that he has no influence whatsoever when it comes to identifying the companies that are getting nice fat commissions for the sponsorship programs.

How can the Deputy Prime Minister justify this attempt to make official this political interference and this trading of favours in the process of awarding contracts?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated in the House and outside on many occasions, all previous sponsorship files between 1997 and 2000 are currently under review by officials in my department. I am also currently reviewing all pending sponsorship applications for 2002 as well as the criteria and delivery methods for the program.

These reviews are also on top of the value for money audit that was announced earlier by the auditor general. As well, if any matters come to our attention that merit inquiry by the police officials, that will be done.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, instead of condemning the theft of public funds and putting a stop to it, the Prime Minister is getting riled up about the leaks that are bringing the sponsorship program frauds out into the open.

Does the Deputy Prime Minister not think that, if the Prime Minister is convinced that millions have been stolen, the first and only reflex he ought to have had is to punish the guilty parties rather than threatening those who have brought the situation out into the open?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I have been very clear and the Prime Minister has been very clear.

Where there have been administrative mistakes, those will be rooted out and corrected. If there have been any overpayments, they will be recovered. If crimes have been committed, they will be prosecuted.

Government Grants
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, the solicitor general's lobbying activities extend far beyond passing along one grant application. Now we learn that he lobbied Correctional Service Canada for another grant of $3.7 million for Holland College on the same day he lobbied the RCMP commissioner. An aggressive political agenda to centralize Correctional Service Canada staff training for all of Canada at Holland College in P.E.I. has been revealed.

How can the government continue to tolerate the minister's serial lobbying of his own department for his brother's college?

Government Grants
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

It will be news to Mr. MacAulay that he owns a college, Mr. Speaker. It is a public institution in Prince Edward Island.

I note that the Conservative premier of Prince Edward Island said “The justice institute at Holland College has been recognized as the justice training centre for Atlantic Canada for over 20 years, long before Alex MacAulay was president or the present solicitor general was in his portfolio”.

I think what we are really seeing here is the corollary of what the Leader of the Opposition said “There is a dependency in the region that breeds a culture of defeatism”. He does not think that Atlantic Canadians are capable of it--

Government Grants
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Crowfoot.

Government Grants
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, not only is the solicitor general guilty of conflict of interest in lobbying on behalf of his brother, he is also guilty of breaching one of the most fundamental responsibilities of a minister of the crown, to act in the best interest of all Canadians regardless of what part of the country they come from.

Canadians have lost confidence in the solicitor general. Surely the Prime Minister cannot condone that kind of behaviour. Will the Prime Minister demand the solicitor general's resignation today?

Government Grants
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, I think Canadians are able to make their own judgments on this.

That party claims that passing on an application for a public institution, not just Holland College but Sheridan College and the University of Moncton together, is somehow offensive whereas going to court to try to hide the names of contributors to election campaigns is okay.

I think the Canadian people are quite capable of smelling what is going on over there, and it is not nice.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister wants the public to ignore the scandals that are undermining his government. But reality is catching up with him, because Gosselin Relations Publiques, a branch of Groupaction, was imposed upon the organizers of the Francophonie games by the federal government and pocketed $335,000 for the year 2001-2002. This was all totally pointless because it did nothing to help the organizing committee find partners.

Is the Deputy Prime Minister going to keep on denying the need for a public inquiry?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the cultural nature of that particular initiative, the Francophonie games, fit well within the parameters of sponsorship activities. I have been advised that all appropriate administrative processes with respect to that matter were fully respected.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, what does not fit is the fact that it was money for nothing. According to Le Droit , it would appear that other events in this region, such as Winterlude and the Tulip Festival, were victims of the same manoeuvre.

Is the Deputy Prime Minister going to finally admit that nothing but a public inquiry is going to cast light on the way the Liberal network operates?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the issue that the hon. gentleman is raising is essentially the question of what value was received for the money invested. Surely it is the Auditor General of Canada who is in the best position to answer that question, and she is doing a government wide inquiry.

Government Grants
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, the solicitor general claimed that he was simply the messenger for Holland College. Now we learn that he was also the school bully pressing Lucie McClung to cave in and grant the grant to his brother's college.

On May 14 the solicitor general lobbied the correctional service commissioner four months after the college grant application was denied. This is clearly a conflict of interest.

The facts are that he and his political aides used political pressure to assist family members. When will the minister come clean and admit that he broke every rule in the book to help his brother?

Government Grants
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, as we have said repeatedly in the House on this issue, Holland College is not a private institution. It does not belong to somebody's brother. It is a public institution. It is publicly funded. It made an application in consort with two other public institutions, Sheridan College and the University of Moncton.

To pass on that application to the appropriate agencies was something the minister was perfectly entitled to do.

I think what we are seeing here is a failure on the part of the Alliance Party to understand just how good things can be in the Atlantic provinces and how good Atlantic Canadians are at the things they do.

Government Grants
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, they are good if they are a Liberal.

Canadians provide the solicitor general resources to serve as their solicitor general. He represents Canada. No one pays him to be a political minister for Prince Edward Island, yet he hides behind this phantom title.

He understood that by raising the issue of Holland College with the RCMP commissioner and the commissioner of correctional service he was in a conflict of interest, and yet he proceeded to do so.

Is it not time that the Prime Minister expels the count of Cardigan from P.E.I., and when will he do so?

Government Grants
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, I have late breaking news for the hon. member. Premier Binns is not a Liberal and he came out publicly to support Holland College and the minister in the efforts he made on behalf of a public institution in that province, one for which the province and region is proud.

When will members on that side start being transparent and open? They run down Atlantic Canadians. They say that our problem with the United States is that we are not cozy enough. Yet they will not disclose who the contributors are to their leadership candidates. They go to court to try to hide the money that is being spent in election campaigns. That is wrong.

La Soirée du hockey
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Hélène Scherrer Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages.

The media are alluding to the possibility that Radio-Canada officials may appear before the committee to explain the decision not to broadcast the Montreal Canadiens' hockey games during La Soirée du hockey , as has been the case for 50 years already.

Can the co-chair confirm that Radio-Canada officials will soon appear before the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages?

La Soirée du hockey
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that, as part of its proceedings on part 7 of the Official Languages Act, the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages will hear officials from Société Radio-Canada on Tuesday, June 4, at 3.30 p.m., in the room adjacent to this chamber, namely room 253-D.

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member states of the European Union are ratifying the Kyoto protocol today, including G-8 members France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. That means that 70 countries, including 18 developed countries, will have ratified Kyoto. In addition, Japan, Russia and New Zealand are soon to follow.

Canada has long since given up any chance of taking a leadership role on the international stage on this issue but it is not too late to do the right thing. Will the Minister of the Environment today take the opportunity to join all these other countries and commit to ratifying Kyoto once and for all?

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada intends to continue with the plan that was laid out back in 1997, which is of course to consult fully with Canadians, including the provinces and territories, to make sure we have a plan in place for ratification of Kyoto which does not disadvantage any particular region of the country and then to make up our minds on the ratification issue.

I appreciate the hon. member's support for ratification but I think it is appropriate that we continue with the process of consultation and that we come to a decision for Canada which would have the appropriate input from provinces, territories, industries and the general public.

Airport Security
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

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

On May 10 the U.S. congress rejected a plan to double the U.S. security fees at airports. On May 14 the European parliament passed legislation to have security costs come from general revenues and not from airports or air travellers. In both cases wisdom prevailed to protect their air and tourist industries.

The Liberal government is penalizing hundreds of thousands of Canadian travellers with this air travel tax, which is the highest in the world and which threatens to cripple our tourist industry. Will the minister listen to reason, follow our U.S. and European allies and change this unfair tax?

Airport Security
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Oak Ridges
Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, the government responded after September 11 with a security package for which $7 billion was put forth. Over $2 billion dealt with the airline industry. The minister has indicated very clearly and repeatedly in the House that he will review the charge.

In the meantime, we are seeing an expansion in the airline industry. We are seeing very positive things. Again the minister has said that he will review this charge and come before the House in the fall.

National Unity
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, does the minister of intergovernmental affairs agree with his leader, who said that the millions of dollars saved the country's unity?

Likewise, how does the minister feel, given that, in a way, he has been relegated to playing a supporting role when it comes to national unity? Is this the new formula, millions instead of a minister?

National Unity
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, how does the member feel as a member of a party that served as a political springboard for Lucien Bouchard? How does he feel as a member of a party that was afraid of showing its pride in Canada? How does he feel?

National Unity
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

I feel terrific, Mr. Speaker, because his party was the one that opposed the Meech Lake accord.

I remind the minister that during a famous Liberal Party leadership race, supporters of the current Minister of Finance wore black armbands.

Is the minister proud to belong to a party that was against Quebec, a party that opposed the Meech Lake accord and a party that is against national unity?

National Unity
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the member knows very well that the Prime Minister of Canada was not against Quebec. He has worked all of his life so that we Quebecers can thrive within Canada.

The insults that the member just made only detract from his own stature, but add to that of the Prime Minister of Canada.

Government Grants
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, the solicitor general abused his power by pressuring the RCMP to show preferential treatment to his brother. At the same time he was pressuring Correctional Service Canada, in both cases after the grant applications had been turned down.

Will the Prime Minister explain why his government is tolerating this abuse of power?

Government Grants
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, there is no abuse of power. There is a public institution. This application for funding was passed on to the appropriate authorities. The funding was turned down. That is the end of the story.

That is very transparent. We know about that. We do not know very much about fundraising on the other side.

However we do know that the member for Red Deer said that fundraising considerations would be affecting their position on the Kyoto accord. That is why we need to know where their money comes from.

Government Grants
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, here is what sources said about the minister's plan to rip off taxpayers on behalf of his brother, and I quote:

There was no rationale or financial basis for it. It was just so blatant. They were there to bring back for P.E.I. whatever they could, whether it was good for taxpayers or not.

Will the Prime Minister send a message to his ministers and all Canadian people and fire the solicitor general?

Government Grants
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, I presume the source is the Alliance research department, which gives us very little to work with.

My source is the premier of Prince Edward Island. He says that the justice institute at Holland College has been recognized as a justice training centre for Atlantic Canada for over 20 years. That is the source on which I will rely.

When will that party, though, live up to the standards of transparency that Canadians expect of them? When will they stop this drive-by smear campaign and live with the degree of transparency they want for others?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois wrote to the Minister of Public Works asking him to end the sponsorship program and to immediately turn it into a true support program for events.

Will the Minister of Public Works pledge to make this change, which would eliminate the useless go-betweens and unnecessary commissions, and which would ensure that all the funds are used for the events, thus benefiting the general public?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, that is one of the very matters I have under review at the present time.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister downplayed the fraudulent schemes in the awarding of sponsorships. In addition to undermining the credibility of his government, these actions have a very tangible impact, and several organizers are worried that they will not get the necessary funding to hold their events this summer.

Will the Minister of Public Works end the sponsorship program and turn it into the true support program for events it was originally meant to be, this for the benefit of the public?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, over the last week or so I have heard from a number of members of parliament, including, the member for Louis-Hébert, about the value of the sponsorship program to community organizations in their various ridings.

There is concern, obviously, about the delivery mechanisms. That is what I am inquiring into.

At the same time, I want to ensure that we provide the means to support community organizations and, in the process, build Canada.

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Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, every day there is a new revelation concerning the ethics of the government but the Prime Minister continues to be in a state of denial.

With the RCMP launching investigations and the auditor general continuing her investigations into the government, the public has a right to know who turned a blind eye to these corrupt practices.

Since the Prime Minister admitted last night that there was theft in the government's advertising and sponsorship program, why will the government not do the right thing and call a public inquiry right now?

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Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, once again we have a total distortion of what the Prime Minister said.

We also have the auditor general with the capability and having been asked by the government to do so, to look into the issues about which the member wants to complain.

What is fair on one side is also fair on the other. Again I put to them: How often are they going to ask questions about transparency when they are refusing to provide vital information?

They do not want to talk about policy. Every time the Leader of the Opposition opens his mouth on policy he gets into trouble, whether it is Canada-U.S. or Atlantic Canada.

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Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, all our leadership candidates complied exactly, fully and completely with all the laws of this land and will continue to do so.

The Prime Minister yesterday asked for names of people within his own party who questioned his leadership. The Liberal member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot yesterday put forward a motion to call senior public works officials to testify about why they broke rules in issuing government advertising contracts to a Liberal-friendly firm. Clearly members on that side are calling for a public probe. It is needed.

Why will the Prime Minister not call a public inquiry to clear his name and provide Canadian taxpayers with the accountability--

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Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Deputy Prime Minister.

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Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, excuse me but the Leader of the Opposition is in court because he does not like the laws of Canada with respect to election expenses. That is what Harper v Attorney General of Canada is all about. It is about transparence. It is about having limits on election expenses.

Every time he talks about anything of substance, whether it is Canada-U.S. or the role of Atlantic Canada in the Confederation, he puts his foot in it. That is why all he wants to do is try to smear the reputations of people. He wants to avoid substance and not only that, he wants to hide his own position on important issues with--

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Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Saint-Lambert.

Official Languages
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Yolande Thibeault Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is vital that Canada's minority language communities have access to all services of the Canadian government in the language of their choice. Only then will all Canadians be able to contribute fully to Canadian society.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development tell the House what measures she has taken recently to help ensure that the language rights of the English speaking community in Quebec are respected?

Official Languages
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Laval West
Québec

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, contrary to what members of the Canadian Alliance and the leader of the official opposition think, Canada's linguistic duality lies at the heart of our Canadian identity and represents a key component of our dynamic society.

I would like to remind the House that the Government of Canada recently spent more than $24 million over two years in order to ensure that francophone and Acadian communities outside Quebec and the anglophone community in Quebec would have access to Human Resources Development Canada programs and services.

In addition, I am pleased to inform the House that we have just launched a website for Quebec's anglophone community featuring the various regions where anglophone--

Official Languages
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Cypress Hills-Grasslands.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, like so many of his cabinet colleagues, the minister of agriculture does not have his priorities straight. The agricultural industry is in a crisis. Farmers are facing a U.S. farm bill, another year of drought and an agricultural plan with no details after two years of consultations.

When will the minister finally act on these issues which, due to his own mismanagement, are devastating Canadian producers?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings
Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Soon, Mr. Speaker.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, there is a hot wind on the prairies and a cold shoulder in Ottawa. The drought continues to get worse. The minister continues to consult. The farmers continue to lose their farms. When will the minister finally act?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings
Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I find the hon. member's questions very contradictory. He stood and asked the government to react quickly. I stood and told him that we would be. Then he stood and said he did not want us to do that.

École de médecine vétérinaire du Québec
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, a few months from now, the École de médecine vétérinaire de Saint-Hyacinthe could lose its North American accreditation. This means that the expertise of veterinarians in herd health and food safety would no longer be recognized. Quebec's livestock and meat exports to the United States, now worth approximately $800 million, could also be at risk.

Given the urgency of the situation, will the minister of agriculture tell us whether or not the federal government will do its part, as the Government of Quebec has already done, and come up with the $59 million needed by the school quickly?

École de médecine vétérinaire du Québec
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings
Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question because what he is doing is recognizing that the federal government does have an involvement here, even though members of his own party have said that they do not want the federal government being involved in education.

They have said they do not want the federal government involved in such things as the millennium scholarships, but the federal government recognizes the importance of post-secondary education. Even though post-secondary education is the primary responsibility of the provinces in the country, we are looking at it and I am confident that we will be able to support the value and the importance of veterinary colleges in Canada.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, each year on May 31 the World Health Organization sponsors a World No Tobacco Day.

Will the Secretary of State for Children and Youth highlight what the government is doing to promote the important message of no tobacco day?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Western Arctic
Northwest Territories

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew Secretary of State (Children and Youth)

Mr. Speaker, this year's World No Tobacco Day theme is “Tobacco Free Sports - Play it Clean”.

The Government of Canada is leading events across the country, promoting the benefits of physical activity and smoke-free lifestyles. For example, Health Canada is sponsoring “Summer Active”, a national community based physical activity campaign that focuses on the benefits of a smoke-free lifestyle. It has also launched a new interactive youth tobacco website featuring an improved self-help quitting resource called “Quit for Life”.

In addition, we are asking advice from young people on their ads and the winning ads will be launched on MuchMusic--

Health
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Calgary West.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday all Liberals on the House of Commons national defence committee recommended the government address the serious budget shortfalls in the department. Liberal MPs recommended a major injection of funds. Last year the Deputy Prime Minister said that when the bill came in we could not just go hide in the washroom.

Will the minister be content to stay in the bathroom when the cheque arrives?

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, first, the government thanks the committee for its hard work and for the many meetings that it had. As with every report the government receives, the new Minister of National Defence will review it, will study it and will act on it. We will act on what is best for Canada and what is best for the Canadian forces.

Community Television
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, all community television stations in Canada, and the independent community stations in Quebec in particular, are experiencing serious financial problems. The coming into effect of the Broadcasting Distribution Regulations in 1998 is in large part responsible for this funding shortfall, because it withdrew the existing obligation for cable companies to provide proper funding for the community channel.

Can the minister of heritage tell us if she is aware of this problem and what solutions she intends to propose to those in charge of community television?

Community Television
Oral Question Period

Noon

Parkdale—High Park
Ontario

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her question because it is a very timely question. The whole issue of community channels and community networks is currently being studied by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

We have undertaken a review of the Broadcasting Act to see how it can best serve Canadians, all provinces, but most important all communities, and how we can ensure that we reserve a green space for all channels throughout Canada.

Whistleblowing
Oral Question Period

Noon

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, if we are ever to get to the bottom of these sponsorship scandals, we need public servants to feel comfortable coming forward with whatever information they have. They are not likely to do that with the Prime Minister threatening them from the front page of the newspaper. Anyone with information, as of today, has gone to ground.

The Liberals have promised whistleblowing legislation since 1993, yet they have blocked six private members' bills to that effect and have now put a weak substitute in place. Even the integrity officer is worried that he does not have the teeth to really protect whistleblowers.

Will they grant a general amnesty to any public servant--

Whistleblowing
Oral Question Period

Noon

Durham
Ontario

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, as the member suggested, a public service integrity officer has been appointed by the government for the very purpose of protecting those civil servants.

Look at what the member is saying. He is saying grant a general amnesty for anyone involved with this. That is exactly what we do not want to do. The government wants to get to the bottom of this mess and it will not do that by giving people a general amnesty.

Fisheries
Oral Question Period

Noon

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans does not understand the problems facing Canso, Nova Scotia, or perhaps he has chosen to ignore them.

The Canso Seafreez plant does not have access to reasonable quantities of enterprise allocations. The minister's assertions regarding the 45 tonnes is wrong and uninformed. If he would take the time to read a letter from the president, Bill Barry, he would realize this.

The minister has in his hands the ability to change this inequity. When will the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans commit to finding a long term sustainable solution for Canso? Will he do something quick?

Fisheries
Oral Question Period

Noon

Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok
Québec

Liberal

Georges Farrah Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, we agree that the situation in Canso is a complicated one. As the minister has indicated on a number of occasions—he has moreover gone to Canso to meet with the people there—we cannot, obviously, provide them with fish that is not there.

Consequently, this is why we are working along with the minister responsible for ACOA to ensure that solutions are found, which will diversify the economy of Canso and ensure that economic development will ensue within the very near future.

Ultimately, while we cannot produce fish that is not there, we are aware of the situation in that area.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of His Excellency M. Morshed Khan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of Bangladesh.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

Noon

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Parkdale—High Park
Ontario

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

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

Nuclear Safety and Control Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe
New Brunswick

Liberal

Claudette Bradshaw for the Minister of Natural Resources

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-57, an act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.

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

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology on the main estimates 2002-03.

The committee reports the same, less the amounts voted in interim supply.

Divorce Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-469, an act to amend the Divorce Act (shared parenting).

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Fraser Valley for seconding this important bill.

The purpose of the bill is to amend the Divorce Act so that in the event of separation or divorce the court will grant child custody to both parents, except in cases of proof of abuse, neglect, mistreatment or if it is not in the best interests of the child.

All too often children are used as pawns during emotional divorce proceedings. The bill would stop that by putting both parents on an equal footing. Automatic joint custody would increase the probability of support payment compliance, reduce court appearances by one parent trying to gain access to their child and reduce the likelihood of one parent denying the right of the other to see their children.

Four years ago a special joint committee on child custody and access recommended that shared parenting be included in new legislation. It is yet to be introduced. Children are still waiting for this government to act.

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

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-470, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Cypress Hills--Grasslands for seconding my private member's bill.

I rise to introduce my private member's bill which, if enacted, will amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to provide that any person who receives a sentence as a result of being convicted of an indictable offence while on conditional release is obliged to serve the remainder of the original sentence and at least two-thirds of the new sentence.

In addition, the bill provides that if a person has been convicted on more than one occasion of an indictable offence committed while on conditional release, that person is not eligible for conditional release in respect of any new sentences.

This private member's bill is introduced out of respect and to honour the hard work of the Canadian Police Association, representing some 26,000 police officers. The Canadian Police Association diligently endeavours to make this country a safer place.

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

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of constituents in the Canyon and Creston area of my riding. The petitioners note that the creation and use of child pornography is condemned by the clear majority of Canadians and that the courts have not applied the current child pornography law in a way which makes it clear that such exploitation of children will always be met with swift punishment.

They call upon parliament to protect our children by taking all necessary steps to ensure that all materials which promote or glorify pedophilia and sadomasochistic activities involving children are outlawed.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the pleasure and the honour to present a petition on behalf of constituents in northern Nova Scotia, particularly in Guysborough county, from areas such as Guysborough Town, Canso, Halfway Cove, Cooks Cove, and Seal Harbour, The petitioners call upon the government to revisit its approach, and the minister of fisheries in particular, towards Canso and the way in which enterprise allocation has been treated.

The people in this part of Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada do not want to be dependent. They certainly do not want to be defeatist in their attitude. They want an opportunity to be full participants in the economy. They want a chance to work. Saving the Seafreez Canso plant will save the town. I hope the minister of fisheries will respond appropriately.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, I have a petition signed by about 82 people from the city of Wetaskiwin and the surrounding area. They have a concern that the courts have not applied the current child pornography law in a way which makes it clear that such exploitation of children will always be met with swift punishment.

The petitioners call upon the Parliament of Canada to protect our children by taking all necessary steps to ensure that all materials which promote or glorify pedophilia or sadomasochistic activities involving children are outlawed.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the privilege to present to the House two petitions signed by concerned constituents of my riding of Crowfoot. More specifically, these two petitions come from the area of Camrose, a city in my riding, and also from the community of Three Hills.

Both petitions call upon parliament to protect children by taking all necessary steps to ensure that all materials which promote or glorify pedophilia or sadomasochist activities involving children are absolutely outlawed. I fully support these petitions which reflect the opinion of a majority of Canadians in condemning the creation and use of child pornography.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park
Ontario

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-34, an act respecting royal assent to bills passed by the Houses of Parliament, be read the third time and passed.

Royal Assent Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is the House ready for the question?

Royal Assent Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Royal Assent Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

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

Royal Assent Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Royal Assent Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

Royal Assent Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Competition Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe
New Brunswick

Liberal

Claudette Bradshaw for the Minister of Industry

moved the second reading of, and concurrence in, the amendment made by the Senate to Bill C-23, an act to amend the Competition Act and the Competition Tribunal Act.

Competition Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the Senate's amendment to Bill C-23, an act to amend the Competition Act and the Competition Tribunal Act. Bill C-23 is before us today in the form of a Senate amendment which corrects a small technical problem between the English and French text in subsection 106.1(4) of clause 14.

Bill C-23 is vital economic legislation designed to strengthen and modernize our existing competition laws to the benefit of consumers and businesses alike. For example, the legislation would prohibit the sending of deceptive prize notices which target the most vulnerable members of our society. It would enable Canada to gain access to evidence in other countries concerning civil competition matters. It would broaden the scope under which the competition tribunal may issue interim orders. It would improve the competition tribunal process. It would allow individuals and businesses to apply directly to the competition tribunal for relief from certain anti-competitive conduct. In addition, it would provide additional measures to protect competition in the Canadian airlines industry.

The bill has been carefully reviewed by both Houses of Parliament. The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology carefully listened to a broad range of witnesses and concluded that Bill C-23 takes a balanced approach. Members will recall the bill passed the House of Commons with all party support on December 10, 2001.

Section 106.1 of Bill C-23 would allow for the possibility of a consent agreement between a person, other than the commissioner of competition, that has made an application to the competition tribunal for an order to be made under sections 75 or 77 of the Competition Act and the person against whom the order is sought. This provision would provide that such an agreement can be registered with the competition tribunal if the terms of the consent agreement are consistent with the provisions of the Competition Act. However, any consent agreement made under that section would have to be published in the Canada Gazette to give third parties an opportunity to examine the consent agreement.

During its consideration of Bill C-23 the Senate committee on banking, trade and commerce suggested that a minor discrepancy existed between the French and the English translations in subsection 106.1(4) of clause 14 of the bill. Indeed, according to the English version of the subsection 106.1(4), a person could within 30 days after its publication register a consent agreement. This would not leave a third party any time to make an application to have the consent agreement cancelled or replaced or to even examine the agreement. This would defeat the obvious purpose of the provision which was to allow third parties a chance to challenge the consent agreement.

The French version however indicates that the consent agreement can be registered only 30 days after its publication. The French version gives an appropriate effect to the provision. On May 2, 2002, the Senate committee reported back the bill with one minor amendment to subsection 106.1(4) to correct this discrepancy. The English version of subsection 106.1(4) has been corrected to that effect and now reads that the consent agreement “shall be registered 30 days after its publication”.

It is now up to members in this place to adopt this minor amendment and provide for speedy passage of Bill C-23. In so doing we will enhance the competition law enforcement in Canada to the benefit of consumers and businesses alike.

Competition Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the Senate amendment to Bill C-23, an act to amend the Competition Act and the Competition Tribunal Act. The Senate amendment is a minor amendment which removes the word within from clause 14, subsection 106.1(4). Subsection 106.1(4) states:

The consent agreement shall be registered within 30 days after its publication unless a third party makes an application to the Tribunal before then to cancel the agreement or replace it with an order of the Tribunal.

The amendment takes the word within out to read: “The consent agreement shall be registered 30 days after its publication...”.

We are supportive of the amendment as we were supportive of the bill at all stages of its proceeding. The bill was sent to the Senate at first reading on December 11, 2001, and at third reading in the Senate it was sent back to the House of Commons on May 9, 2002, to remove one word, which as I see it, does not really alter the intent of the clause. That really makes one question what the purpose of the other place is as presently constituted. It again makes a call for a truly effective Senate which can only happen if it has democratic legitimacy.

The official opposition has been supportive of Bill C-23 at its different stages. The process the bill went through was certainly superior to the manner in which most bills are passed by parliament because it was sent to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology before second reading which typically indicates that the government was open to substantive amendments. The bill was substantively amended in committee. The most significant amendments, as many members know, concern the creation of a new right of so-called private access which is the right of a person or business to seek a legal remedy against the anti-competitive conduct of another.

This takes away the ability of the competition commissioner to act as a gatekeeper before the tribunal. People can access the tribunal regardless of whether the commissioner agrees the case should go forward or not. We should point out that the commissioner himself was in favour of this change when he appeared before the committee two separate times.

There was a consensus in committee among all members that this limited right of private access, and it is important to note that it is quite a limited right of private access, is not extensive. It was a reasonable step toward improving Canada's competition policy regime. The Canadian Alliance continues to believe that competition itself is the best form of discipline for people, for citizens and for businesses. Competition law cannot replace the effect that competition itself has on the economy.

We strongly support the view that competition law must not be set up to protect certain businesses. That is not the purpose of competition law. Competition law must do what it can to facilitate competition against itself. That was one point that the commissioner made over and over in his presentation to us.

The official opposition is satisfied that the bill is a step toward these broad goals and therefore supports the bill as amended by the Senate.

Competition Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-23, an act to amend the Competition Act and the Competition Tribunal Act, and the amendment proposed by the Senate.

As we know, Bill C-23 was made up of three private member's bills. There were some very interesting features. Before the proposed changes included in Bill C-23, only the commissioner of competition could file a complaint before the competition tribunal.

Bill C-23 now provides for a private access that will allow people to directly launch court proceedings, on their own behalf, regarding competition issues. This new provision of the act will apply to four areas: refusal to deal, exclusive dealing, tied selling and market restriction.

However, while these changes were interesting ones, they did not revolutionize the way of doing things in Canada when it comes to competition. The provisions of Bill C-23 remain weak, and they do not go to the bottom of the issue of competition in Canada.

In its 2000 election platform, the Bloc Quebecois said, and is still saying, that the Competition Act should be amended to guarantee competitive prices to consumers. This is the basis of the issue of competition.

It is all well and good to allow third parties to argue a case on their own before the Competition Tribunal, but if the Competition Bureau does not have the adequate means to carry out its investigations, what good does it do? We must not circumvent steps. Ensuring truly competitive pricing to consumers must remain the cornerstone of our actions.

For this reason, I had moved a motion in the House that would have reviewed the implementation of section 45 of the Competition Act and reviewed the word unduly. The current wording in this section allows multinational corporations to raise prices, particularly in the case of gas.

Allow me to give an example. On a street with five gas stations, the prices all go up at the same time, and at the same hour. Under the current law, the Competition Bureau cannot launch an investigation based on this observation. There must be written proof of collusion. This is virtually impossible to obtain these days. Unfortunately, Bill C-23 does nothing to correct section 45.

However, I have not lost all hope. The Standing Committee on Industry published a report on April 23, in which it proposed some good amendments to the section. The Minister of Industry should seriously consider these proposals.

The Standing Committee on Industry said the following:

That the Government of Canada create a two-track approach for agreements between competitors. The first track would modify the current criminal provision (section 45) in two ways and allow the criminal justice system to deal with “hard core cartels”, in other words conspiracies that have no compensatory social value.

This would remove the word unduly from the phrase “to lessen, unduly, competition”. As such, horizontal agreements between competitors should not have to limit competition unduly or deliberately in order to be considered a conspiracy against the public interest. Such an amendment would be welcome.

Therefore, I am pleased, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, to support this amendment from the Senate. It is very important, particularly since, from a legal perspective, the French and English versions are often different. As a result, it was important to make this change, and I congratulate the members of the other chamber.

This is also an opportunity to point out how much progress we have made when it comes to competition; however, there remains work to be done. I hope that the minister will take note of this and make amending section 45 a priority for his department.

Bill C-15B, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Order 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the third reading stage of Bill C-15B, an act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stage.

The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to the amendment made by the Senate to Bill C-23, an act to amend the Competition Act and the Competition Tribunal Act.

Competition Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to make a few comments on the proposed changes to Bill C-23, which now comes to us by way of the red chamber.

First let me say that the amendment made by the other place seems to be minor, so I plan to comment on some of the larger aspects of the bill. I will start with some of the long overdue changes that the bill makes in the powers of the Competition Tribunal and the commissioner as they relate to air competition.

I had hundreds of constituents stranded when Canada 3000 collapsed. As members will recall, Air Canada's new subsidiary, Tango, had just been launched and the Competition Bureau was on the verge of slapping Air Canada on the wrist when Canada 3000 went under.

I am not confident that the minor baby steps the bill takes in the right direction will result in better or cheaper air service in Nova Scotia. I am encouraged by the new carriers that say they will be braving the skies to compete with the reality of the virtual and quite brutal monopoly held by Air Canada in Atlantic Canada, but I fear and I know that many of my constituents also fear that we will see a repeat of the Canada 3000 fiasco.

Bill C-23 does nothing to stop Air Canada from using its new subsidiaries Tango or Jazz, or whatever new dance step name it comes up with, to simply undercut new competitors and drive them out of business by having the deep pockets to survive an expensive fight. I fear that in a year we will back where we are now with travellers in Atlantic Canada paying very high prices for poor service provided by an Air Canada monopoly.

I wish that the government and the Senate had come up with real regulations that would have stopped Air Canada from effectively killing competition. I wish that the Minister of Transport had a vision of air service in Canada that went further than the office of Robert Milton. Bill C-23 does nothing to tell me that he does.

On another change that Bill C-23 makes, I congratulate the government. The section dealing with protecting our seniors from unscrupulous direct mail and telemarketers' offers that lie to people as a way to steal their life savings is long overdue. The problem is not unique in Canada, but our laws seem to have been well behind the times.

As the Library of Parliament brief on the bill correctly notes, in June 2001 the U.S. senate permanent subcommittee on investigations heard testimony from victims of and experts on telemarketing fraud. Almost all of them described Canada as a haven for such fraud. The committee heard that phone scams swindle more than $35 million every year from Americans, mostly seniors, and although apparently some fraud originating in the U.S. is aimed at Canadians, it is only a small fraction of the amount aimed at Americans.

Experts praised the U.S.-Canada working group on telemarketing fraud that has reportedly caught a few of the perpetrators. Project Colt was formed in April 1998 to co-ordinate efforts among the RCMP, the U.S. customs service, the FBI and various arms of the Quebec police. Since its inception the project has returned $12 million to victims. Law enforcement officials on both sides of the border met in Ottawa in June 2001 to discuss these and other related issues.

The creation of an offence of deceptive notice of winning a prize will help protect poor and vulnerable people. It is easy for those of us here who make a good salary and who have a huge infrastructure to support us in our work to simply warn people that if someone is promising something for nothing they should not believe it, but there are so many Canadians who live with poverty, who are seniors with inadequate pensions, who have a lack of education and struggle with minimum wage jobs or live with disabilities. They live in a society where culture is based on success, with happiness equalling wealth. When we look at TV or read the sage opinions of our opinion leaders, who are all business leaders because pro-business leaders own all our media, we see that the only goal in Canadian life is to be wealthy, that this is how Canadians would be happy.

This culture leaves those who are poor desperate to become rich, not only so they can get better things, but because it is a culture that says if a person is poor, that person is a failure. Therefore when someone who is poor gets a notice in the mail falsely saying they have won money, the joke is extremely cruel.

When these notices are being used to try and take money from those who already have too little money, then it should be a crime. The creation of this criminal offence in the bill and the mandating of officials to proceed with the prosecution of this crime as a criminal and not an administrative offence is a very good thing.

One last section of the bill I wish to comment on is the increase in international co-operation to investigate competition offences. With globalization becoming a greater reality, we need to have international codes of conduct that transnational corporations have to live by.

Too often companies are using differences in laws and differences in the way that records are kept to escape basic responsibilities, like the paying of a fair share of taxes as good corporate citizens, protecting the environment, and treating workers safely and fairly. I would hope that the provisions of the bill that deal with requests by foreign states for assistance in gathering evidence in Canada required for prosecution of competition offences in a foreign country are a first step by the government to creating rules for the international corporate community.

Using the bill, with references to agreements for foreign states, Canada may enter into an agreement if the Minister of Justice is satisfied that the laws of the foreign state are similar to Canada's; that the confidentiality laws of the foreign state are similar to Canada's; that the agreement will contain provisions for circumstances where Canada can refuse assistance and applicable confidentiality provisions.

As well, the agreements will contain undertakings that the foreign state will provide similar assistance to Canada. Information will not be used for any other purposes. Information will be returned or with consent destroyed. All information will be confidential. The Minister of Justice will be informed if there is a breach of confidentiality. The agreements will contain a termination provision.

The act further states four different judicial orders by which evidence may be gathered for use in a foreign proceeding. These orders are: search and seizure order, which is search and seizure of the evidence; evidence gathering order, which is the examination under oath of a person; a virtual presence order, when a person's virtual presence is requested by video link or similar technology; and finally, lending exhibit order, which requests the loan of an exhibit admitted as evidence.

Let us see these forms of international co-operation as a beginning in the real regulation of all international corporate activity.

I hope that the next step the government brings forward is a Tobin tax, an international environmental protection standard that international companies must respect and enforce in order to have truly international enforceable labour standards.

Competition Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to speak to this bill and to follow my colleague from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. As is always the case, she delivered a very thoughtful and insightful speech regarding this legislation.

Bill C-23 amends the Competition Act and the Competition Tribunal Act. Its purpose is to maintain and encourage competition in Canada, surely something this government, as previous governments, should be actively pursuing. It therefore plays a central role in our Canadian economy. The role is becoming increasingly important because we are becoming more global as a nation in terms of our trade, direction and access to foreign markets. The number of mergers is increasing and many sectors of activities are converging in the business world.

The amendments which will be brought about as a result of Bill C-23 were proposed to make it easier for the government to co-operate with foreign competition tribunals. Specifically, it is fair to say the global economy is more important now. Governments have the ability to co-operate with each other when dealing with multinational organizations. Bill C-23 was introduced to streamline the competition tribunal process. Any process dealing with quasi-judicial bodies must be streamlined to make it more effective.

The bill was introduced to broaden the tribunal's ability to issue temporary orders. The competition commissioner and tribunal need to be able to react immediately to situations, even if the actions are temporary, to put cease and desist orders in place and to allow some kind of remediation to occur.

Bill C-23 has tough new measures to deal with anti-competition practices in the airline industry. It is very timely. Canadians across the country know the difficult times the airline industry has been through. The demise of Canada 3000 is a case in point. Although the competition commissioner was in that instance prepared to put cease and desist orders in place, the process of applying for the order and having to put it in place is often not quick enough to stop the damage that takes place through the predatory and overtly anti-competitive practices that sometimes occur.

One concern about the Competition Act coming from the House industry committee process is that the privacy rights to access are questionable. Private parties must have the right to apply directly to the competition tribunal for remedies concerning refusals to deal, tied selling, market restrictions and exclusive dealings.

It is important for people to be able to challenge what is considered to be fair practices by the competitor trying to put out smaller competitors simply through the use of these kinds of tactics. It is also important to the well-being of members of the small business community to be able to fight back. This legislation will provide them with an opportunity to challenge larger businesses that are trying to put them out of business. It levels the playing field and arms the small businesses with a form of protection, a blanket approach.

It is important for companies, corporations and small businesses as well as individuals to have the ability to advance their causes even though the competition tribunal may not think they are as important as other issues. They are permitted under this act to force that issue at times when they may be giving lesser priority.

As in many cases, once something is put on the back burner the damage may already be done for delay can be the deadliest form of denial. Private access also means that if the competition commissioner feels that something is not as important as, say, airline restructuring, it can go through the process and not be tied up for years.

In many instances we have seen, coming from the field myself, that the lawyers who get involved use the process as a weapon essentially against their adversaries, such as tying the issue up, filing motions, making appeals, dragging the issue out. The costs are often prohibitive. Very often in civil cases and in certain instances in the criminal court the costs can result in a real injustice, an injustice that never sees resolution or the light of day.

Bill C-23 will create additional case law that will provide the business community with a better understanding of what the laws of the land are and how they might fall under the practices considered not to be in the best interests of competition. It will also develop case law that can be used for the furtherance of fair business practices. It would result, I suspect and submit, in precedent and stare decisis in the court that will set the bar, set the standard.

The act inevitably will result in a flurry of legal activity and challenges that will test the parameters of the bill. That is healthy and to be expected. Members of parliament should understand fully that passing new laws will result in challenges. That should never be a bar or attempt to dissuade lawmakers from doing what they are expected to do.

Bill C-23 in particular will put in place new penalties, including fines of up to $15 million for an airline acting in an anti-competitive fashion. This could result clearly in taking someone out of the competition altogether and should act as a real deterrent. To use the criminal and civil codes as a standard, deterrence is an important element in putting these parameters in place for the way in which businesses conduct themselves.

One of the concerns that was voiced about the Competition Act was that the legislation had no teeth to allow the competition commissioner to respond in a way that would stop predatory behaviour. The legislation finally will contain some teeth so that the competition commissioner will have meaningful input into keeping anti-competitive behaviour at bay and real consequences when that line is crossed.

The ability of the competition commissioner to extend cease and desist orders beyond the current 80 days is also very important. It is important because of the time it takes to prepare a case and to bring the complaint against the competitor. It is also very timely and allows the application, which sometimes has not been processed before the cease and desist order expires, to come forward.

In conclusion the Progressive Conservative Party is very pleased to see the extension. We are pleased to see the amendments contained in the bill. It makes the process and the legislation more meaningful. It adds more pith and substance to what is currently in place to protect competition and businesses, large and small. It is an important bill for those reasons that have been set out and the reasons enunciated by other members of parliament.

We must ensure that the bill is passed in a timely fashion. To do otherwise would be irresponsible. As the clock is ticking and time is running out, we urge the government to undertake to pass the bill forthwith. We must make sure that competition, particularly in the airline industry, is real and is healthy. For those reasons the Progressive Conservative Party fully supports Bill C-23.

Competition Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is the House ready for the question?

Competition Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Competition Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

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

Competition Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Competition Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, amendment read the second time and concurred in)

Competition Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Devillers Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe you would find unanimous consent to see the clock as 1.30 p.m.

Competition Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is there unanimous consent?

Competition Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Competition Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from May 9 consideration of the motion that Bill C-292, an act to amend the Criminal Code (selling wildlife), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

12:45 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine
Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-292.

Bill C-292 is the proposed legislation to deal with the selling of wildlife and wildlife parts. I would like to say to the member for South Surrey--White Rock--Langley that her motivation behind the bill is admirable.

However, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation and on behalf of the government, I want to express the government's views as well as my own views because I have read the bill quite carefully and have researched the criminal code to see what actually exists in it.

As the government we fully support, as I do personally, ensuring that wildlife is preserved and protected in the best possible way, and that preservation and protection certainly has to extend to species at risk.

In fact there are many years of conservation actions behind us in Canada, and there are a number of statutes that are already on the books that accomplish the goal that the member for South Surrey--White Rock--Langley seeks to address with Bill C-292.

Let me speak about the tools that this particular private member's bill would create. The proposed legislation would create three indictable offences under the criminal code for selling wildlife or wildlife parts or for killing, capturing or possessing wildlife or wildlife parts for the purpose of selling them.

Under the proposal there would be exemptions from prosecutions for people who sell wildlife in accordance with a licence permit or an exemption order. The bill also says that the sale of threatened or endangered species would mean high penalties and that all offences would be subject to the money laundering provisions of the criminal code.

As the House may have noted at the outset of my remarks, these are admirable objectives and I commend the member for her bill. I cannot deny it. I do not think anyone else would deny that these objectives are in fact admirable.

I applaud, and I am sure that my colleagues would probably be unanimous in applauding, the notion behind these objectives. However we want to make sure that there is a good fit with other legislation in place or pending. This is very important.

I am a lawyer by training and I have had the privilege of practising in the area of administrative law. I know firsthand the difficulties that can happen at times when drafters of one piece of legislation have not done complete and adequate research of all the legislation that could impact on or have some bearing to a particular area or jurisdiction and we end up with anomalies.

That is one of the reasons even the government, either through the Senate or by its own bill, brings in bills to clean up, clarify or correct errors in past legislation that has already been adopted.

Looking at Bill C-292 and looking at the provisions that already exist under the criminal code for example, as well as other legislation, clearly Bill C-292 is not a good fit with the legislation that is already in place. I am not even talking about legislation that may be pending before the House at this time.

Therefore I would like to point out that in the Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1994 and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, known as WAPPRIITA, there are dual procedure offences. These are also found in the Canada Wildlife Act.

Dual procedure offences mean that they can begin with a summary conviction or with an indictment. The maximum prison term set out for proceeding by indictment in both statutes do not exceed five years.

Let us also consider a piece of legislation that is currently pending, the government sponsored Bill C-5, the species at risk act. That bill as I mentioned, currently pending, is at report stage in the House of Commons.

One of the offences created in Bill C-5 is the prohibition on the killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking of a wildlife species that is listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened. Bill C-5 also includes a prohibition on the possession, collecting, buying, selling or trading of a wildlife species listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened.

There is some overlap between this offence and the ones outlined in existing legislation, as well as the offences set out in the bill we are discussing today, Bill C-292.

Bill C-292 provides only indictable offences. The maximum prison terms vary from two years to eight years, depending on whether the offence is a first or subsequent one and whether the wildlife involved is an endangered species.

The question here is not that we need to do this. The question here is whether it is already being done and, if it is already being done, is it being done in a better way.

Is Bill C-292 the best way to accomplish the goal? Are the provisions about prohibiting behaviour that is traditionally associated with parliament's exercise of its criminal law power. Or perhaps we should say that Bill C-292 is describing a public welfare offence traditionally associated with regulatory matters in a civil context.

That is why I believe this approach is inconsistent with the classification of offences elsewhere in the criminal code.

The sale of wildlife, as I have previously mentioned and hope I have demonstrated, is well covered in existing legislation. Therefore Bill C-292 is a duplication and in my view is not necessary. I also submit that in many cases we would be using the heavy hand of the criminal code for some sales that would be considered quite minor, such as the sale of a few muskrat pelts or of one skin. I truly believe we do not need such a heavy approach.

Let me explain further. The offence of sexual assault is classified as a dual procedure offence, which means that the crown may elect to proceed by summary conviction or by indictment. From a policy point of view, it would appear inconsistent to classify the selling of wildlife as an indictable offence when other offences considered much more serious by Canadian society are classified as dual procedure offences.

I will not get into the cost implications to the provinces and territories if they were straight indictable offences, but I do call on the members of the House to remember that under the Canadian system provincial governments are those with the constitutional powers to regulate the use and protection of wildlife on provincial land.

I will not be supporting the bill but I do commend the member for White Rock--South Surrey--Langley for her good intentions with this.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

12:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to my colleague's private member's bill, Bill C-292, an act to amend the criminal code in relation to the selling of wildlife.

First, I would like to acknowledge my colleague from South Surrey--White Rock--Langley for her staying power in seeing the bill through to this point. Having a private member's bill deemed votable is no easy task and hanging in there since 1996 is to be commended.

As an aside, I need to state for the record that there has to be a better way of conducting private members' business. It is ridiculous that the work of a member of parliament took six years and two elections to come before the House of Commons for debate.

Our procedure for private members' business is long overdue for a complete overhaul and this is a perfect example why. We have only to look at the frustration expressed by our colleague from Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca at government actions surrounding his private member's business. In the 36th parliament the Liberals attempted a similar tactic with one of my initiatives.

I am sure that there is concern on all sides of this place with the seemingly never-ending problems associated with the way in which we conduct private members' business. The time for meaningful reform is long overdue. That aside, I would like to speak to the merits of my colleague's legislation.

This is a well thought out piece of legislative work that addresses the very serious issues of poaching Canadian wildlife to sell on the black market. If we were to look at other places, for example in Africa where poaching went on for a long period of time without serious consequences, many species either became extinct or exist at the brink of extinction. I do not believe we are quite at that point in Canada but we are dangerously close with some species. The bill would go a long way toward ensuring that we never face the same problems experienced in other parts of the world.

Take the bear for example. In 1995 the street value of a bear paw, which is apparently used for making soup, was upward of $800. A bear gall bladder went for $1,000.

Fines for the illegal sale of animal parts are simply looked upon as merely a cost of doing business. Just two years ago there was a case involving two Surrey residents who were convicted for the selling of 18 bear gall bladders. Their penalty was a mere $7,000 and 17 days in jail. Assuming that they made the going rate of $1,000 per gall bladder, they still come out ahead over $10,000.

Certainly there may have been other costs, such as legal fees incurred, but that is not the point. Is anyone naive enough to believe that the 18 gall bladders they were prosecuted for were all they actually poached? What of the parts other than the gall bladders? Put in that context and the potential profit to be made, $7,000 and 17 days in jail seems like a reasonable cost of doing business.

The bill would make the offence of poaching for the purpose of selling animal parts much more serious. In my opinion it would act as a significant deterrent to the crime. The legislation would provide the tools that are necessary to combat poaching and the illegal animal parts trade.

It is appropriate to give the courts the ability to impose fines of up to $150,000 and a jail sentence of up to five years. Of course we would hope that the courts would see fit to utilize these maximums but that is another discussion. By taking the profitability out of the crime, we would go a long way toward eradicating the problem.

The next hurdle would be to ensure that adequate resources exist to do the enforcement work to apprehend those who would threaten our wildlife. Providing a criminal code deterrent is one thing. Having the resources to enforce the law is altogether another. Let us deal with one thing at a time.

My reading of the legislation is that it would simply close loopholes that currently exist in provincial laws. It is my understanding that currently, for the most part, the provinces are obligated to prove that the animal or its parts were destined for international trade or interprovincial transport before serious sanctions could be imposed. Unless wildlife officers or police catch the culprits actually transporting their products, this is an extremely difficult thing to prove. That is not to mention that the penalty structure I alluded to earlier is somewhat of a joke and in light of the current legislation is not adequate.

By making this amendment to the criminal code, provincial authorities would have the discretion to pursue the most serious cases of poaching either through the criminal code or via their respective provincial legislation as they see fit. It is important to note that the bill would not infringe on provincial jurisdiction. The provinces would still have the sole discretion to determine how these activities would be prosecuted.

Contrary to what some have suggested, this law would not trample on provincial rights. This legislation should be considered similar to serious driving offences. Even though the provinces have sole jurisdiction to determine what the rules of the road are, parliament feels that there are certain driving offences that deserve criminal code offences. Impaired driving is a good example of this.

Lastly, it is extremely important to emphasize that this bill would in no way affect people who were legally harvesting wildlife as sanctioned by the provinces. Persons with valid licences, permits or exemption orders would not be affected. Canada has a long proud tradition of hunting and trapping for the purpose of survival and livelihood and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this legal pursuit. It is those people who practise outside the law who must be stopped.

I would like to conclude by saying that this legislation deserves to be studied further in a committee setting. It is very clear to me that the principle and purpose of this bill are sound. Few pieces of legislation are ever drafted perfectly the first time and I would like to see what the experts, both pro and con, have to say in a more detailed study. That is why I encourage all members of the House to vote in favour of Bill C-292 at second reading and allow it to go before the justice committee for further study and possible amendment, if required.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, I wish to thank the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley for introducing such a bill. Much as the member for Châteauguay did, I will say right out that we have a few reservations about this bill.

We fully understand the spirit of the bill. Under the proposed legislation, there would be stiffer penalties than at present for killing or capturing wild animals in order to sell their organs or parts.

I listened carefully to the speech given by our colleague in the first hour of debate. She provided statistics. For example, she said that, in 1995, 25% of bears killed were killed illegally, for a total of almost 1,300 bears, including 90 grizzlies. Parts can fetch thousands of dollars and the fines handed out are weak deterrents. I can understand that in some provinces in Canada this is a situation demanding action.

I was also very sensitive to the example that she gave. She talked about black bears that venture into people's backyards in her community. People kill them not because they are hungry, not because these animals are a direct threat, not because they want to use the meat, but because they want to sell certain body parts. We are talking here about gall bladders or other body parts that are extremely popular on the market.

Even though our colleague said that the purpose of this bill is not to replace provincial legislation, I think there is a certain degree of inconsistency in her bill. I would like to be sure that I understand correctly.

Let me quote what the member said in her speech:

WAPPRIITA does not cover any offence that takes place in one province. Only the provincial legislation is in place for these offences. What I am hoping to do with Bill C-292 is to fill this loophole, ensuring that all offences of this type can be prosecuted under federal legislation.

It is difficult to say that the purpose of the bill is not to replace provincial legislation while saying at the same time that this particular bill is being introduced to fill a loophole since the federal act does not cover offences that take place in one single province.

We looked into what this bill would mean for Quebec. As my colleague, the hon. member for Châteauguay, said, in Quebec there is the act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife. This act was passed by the national assembly and its elected representatives. It applies, accordingly, to all of Quebec.

I believe that the goal sought by the member is no doubt quite commendable and appropriate; no one wants a wild animal organ market to develop. It is up to legislators to take measures designed to deter people from doing this kind of thing. I agree that the fines in place are not sufficient to deter people, but I wonder if it would not be right, from a constitutional perspective, to let the provinces increase these fines. We know perfectly well that even though criminal law comes under federal jurisdiction, the provinces can impose fines.

In the Quebec legislation, the act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife, section 69 covers this. Hon. members will agree with me that these provisions respond quite well to the concerns raised by our colleague.

Section 69 reads as follows:

No person may sell or purchase an animal the sale of which is prohibited by regulation. Authorized sale. However, the Government may, by regulation, authorize the sale of an animal referred to in the first paragraph according to such norms and conditions as the Government may determine.

I would also like our colleague from South Surrey—White Rock—Langley to know that the Quebec statute also contains provisions, in sections 165, 167 and 172, for penalties of up to $16,000.

The hon. member mentioned a case where a fine of $7,000 was imposed on a person for killing bears. In Quebec, fines are much stiffer. They can go up to $16,000. Jail sentences can go of up to a year and there are administrative penalties that can result in the cancellation of a licence.

For all these reasons, we believe that if the hon. member's bill were passed, it could result in an intrusion into a provincial jurisdiction. We are used to seeing the government doing this, whether it is with the millennium scholarships or in the health sector. Now, the government is about to propose an early childhood policy and a palliative care policy. So, we are used to this from the government.

There is even a very big rumour—and you will not believe your ears, Madam Speaker—that the federal government will create a Department of Urban Affairs to deal directly with municipalities.

So, we are used to seeing the federal government getting involved in provincial jurisdictions. However, when we, the opposition parties, propose private member's bills, we must be extremely vigilant and ensure that there is no intrusion into provincial jurisdictions.

Members know that I have taken courses in constitutional law. I even took a course given by Professor Benoît Pelletier, who is an excellent professor of constitutional law at the University of Ottawa, although I obviously do not share his views on the national issue.

In constitutional law, one certainly learns that there is the double aspect doctrine. It is in fact possible for one government or the other to intervene if necessary in a field of provincial jurisdiction, whether it be the federal government or a provincial government.

However, in the case we are debating this afternoon, if the federal government could impose fines and intervene when the species in question were within provincial boundaries, when there are already wildlife conservation laws, we do not think that this would be secondary interference. We think that this would constitute a precedent which could involve the federal government in matters relating to ecology, environmental law. It could set unfortunate precedents, which could be detrimental to the provinces.

In conclusion, I thank our colleague for her bill. I understand her motivations very well. Unfortunately, we will not be able to support her.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today, like a number of other speakers, to acknowledge the work that the member of the Alliance for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley has put into the bill. It is one that I am happy to support.

When I first saw the bill it brought back to mind a trip that I had taken to the United Nations program in Nairobi, Kenya where there was a United Nations conference on biodiversity and a number of other issues. While we were there the delegation was taken to a national wildlife park which was adjacent to and almost a part of Nairobi. We were taken to this one site to see some of the wildlife.

There was a plaque there commemorating the burning of elephant tusks. This was the response of the Kenyan government to the international trade in ivory. It undermined in a significant way that trade by destroying a great deal of ivory. This was ivory which had been confiscated after the poachers had been apprehended. I am told, although I must say it is secondhand information, that it was just a huge pile. There were literally tonnes of tusks of ivory that were burned at that time.

When I saw the member's bill it brought back that image because at the time I thought how desperate that government must have been for it take that action. I then look at some of the arguments that we are hearing, particularly from the government, about the bill going too far and how it cannot support it.

It makes me wonder if we as a government ever want to find ourselves in that type of a situation. Obviously the answer is that we do not. Therefore, the House must take all necessary steps within our legislative, constitutional and criminal law framework to protect the wildlife in this country.

It is important that people understand the role that Canada must play in the protection of wildlife on the planet as a whole. We make the mistake, because of the familiarity of our own situation, of looking to Africa and saying that it has a lot of work to do to protect its wildlife because it is under such pressure. That of course is true. We may do the same thing if we look at Australia. The reality is that Canada is in a similar boat. The biodiversity that we have is among the greatest in the world. We have a stewardship responsibility to protect and enhance wildlife. Bill C-292 is a way of doing that.

Just within the last week or 10 days there was a rather in depth report which came out of the same United Nations office in Nairobi. Scientists were sending back information and having it compiled about the threat to wildlife around the world. Their estimate was that no matter what we do and how hard we push right now, today and into the future, we will lose 25% of all species across the globe.

There were something like 1,000 scientists around the globe who contributed to that study. These were the top environmentalists in the world on the issue of biodiversity and the whole issue of protecting the environment for our wildlife. No matter what we do we will lose 25%.

I come back to the bill and say it is a very small part. When I hear the government say it cannot even do that little bit, I ask where is our responsibility? Are we upholding our responsibility? Where is the stewardship role? Is Canada and the Canadian government responding properly to it?

We are not responding properly to it because all we have to do is look at what happened with Bill C-5, the species at risk legislation. It was promised by the government in one of its red books in 1993. There have been three incarnations of it and it is stalled in the House because the Liberals cannot get their act together.

The bill came back to the House significantly amended and reflected a great deal of hard work by members from all sides of the House. There was a serious attempt on the part of the minister and his department to gut it, to minimize it, and not to provide any protection at all for our wildlife.

We have been working for over nine years on that bill in one form or another and we still do not have it. We promised this at Rio in 1992. We have signed a number of protocols since then as a country, committing ourselves to protect the biodiversity of the planet, in Canada's case, and we have done an abysmal job of living up to those responsibilities.

It is a simple bill which says if a person were to trade, sell or kill wildlife for the purposes of profit, that person would face criminal charges. I probably would have said to the parliamentary secretary in law school that he is nitpicking on this issue of whether the bill should be a dual procedure offence. If he felt strongly about that, he should support it and send it to committee and move an amendment to include it both as a summary conviction offence and an indictable offence. It is a simple solution and not a basis to oppose the bill.

I take umbrage on the whole argument that it is a regulatory function and not a criminal matter. I totally reject that. The member may want to take a look at the supreme court decisions on Hydro-Québec and the more recent Hudson case in its analysis as to what it is prepared to allow. To suggest that it would be constitutionally unsupportable flies in the face of the logic, reasoning and basis for both those court decisions.

The Supreme Court of Canada is saying it would bend over backward on any legislation if it were to protect the environment and our wildlife. That is what the bill is about. It would go some distance to send a clear message, assuming the government would then take the second step to enforce it, to tell people who are prepared to traffic in animal and animal parts that we will not put up with it any more.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-292. I am also pleased to follow the hon. member for Windsor—St. Clair. He has given an insightful and informed commentary on this legislation as he so often does. I respect his opinion immensely.

Bill C-292 is meant to bring about changes to the criminal code. It is aimed specifically at the issue of selling wildlife. The hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley has put a great deal of time, effort and passion into bringing this issue before the House of Commons. I applaud and salute her for that.

The bill would make it an offence to sell wildlife, wildlife parts, as well as threatened or endangered species. The bill's most noble purpose is to protect wildlife and, in particular, endangered species that are on the verge of disappearing from the planet.

The Speaker of the House is a great lover of animals. I suspect all members of the House of Commons and a majority of Canadians would embrace anything that would move towards protecting and ensuring the continued survival of these species, these important residents of the global village.

The intent of the legislation is to act in accordance with, not contrary to or not to supplement or in any way undermine provincial legislation. It is meant to work cheek and jowl with existing provincial legislation.

According to the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, the bill is meant to cover acts not carried out with a licensed permit. It is not meant to apply to acts carried out with a licensed permit or exemption order. There is a specific attempt by the drafter to address the jurisdictional issue and the issue as it pertains to aboriginal peoples.

Bill C-292 would give provincial wildlife authorities and crown counsel the option to proceed by way of provincial wildlife legislation or with the new sections of the criminal code. The jurisdictional issue is there and is optional. It is within the discretion of the provincial crown to work in conjunction with police or wildlife enforcement officers.

Anyone convicted under the offence of the criminal code would be guilty of an indictable offence and subject to the maximum two year sentence on the first offence and three years of incarceration for a subsequent offence.

It was mentioned by the member for Windsor—St. Clair that there is some question as to whether we should amend the hon. member's legislation to make it a hybrid offence. Should we allow the expansion of the sentencing range that could be meted out? Surely there are greater and lesser offences as they pertain to wildlife. There is greater gravity in terms of the volume, the number of individuals and the number of animals affected by the offence itself.

If the animal in question were a threatened or endangered species, the maximum would increase to four years and eight years for subsequent offences. By giving a greater range of sentence it might have a greater degree of deterrent effect.

It is important to promote animal welfare which this does. The bill encompasses and embraces that sentiment. There are groups around the world doing good work, such as the World Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, many others. I am sure she will find great support within their ranks.

The point was well made that the world is expanding. We look at endangered species in all parts of the world, not just within the Canadian jurisdiction, but in the jungles of Africa, the oceans of the world, the fields, the forests, and in all regions. There is a larger responsibility that should be taken up by governments in every nation.

The legislation includes such activity as the enterprise of crime that sadly is happening at a disproportionate rate in some countries, wherein individuals are purposely targeting the sale of wildlife, whether it be hides, tusks, trophy heads or body parts. This is insidious greed and the motive behind much of the activity surrounding the sale of animal parts.

It is very timely that this legislation is coming forward. It is something that I certainly believe deserves greater examination at the committee level because it keys in on and enunciates in the criminal code a deterrent effect. It puts into legislation this type of specific crime.

As was noted earlier, the punishment scale is one that is important to examine and the author of the bill might consider this latitude and perhaps an examination of greater latitude. Making offences indictable might tie the hands of the prosecution when considering plea bargains as well as those of the sentencing judge when determining the appropriate measures that should follow. A balanced approach, I suggest, would be to make this a hybrid offence, giving the prosecution and the enforcement officers greater ability to bring about the deterrent and the desired effect with a greater latitude in sentencing.

The bill attempts to define the threatened or endangered species, which I think is an important substance to the bill. The author of the legislation seems to have taken, and I hope she takes no offence to this, a bit of a Liberal approach when giving the Minister of the Environment the ability to designate an animal or endangered species that is threatened. That is consistent with the species at risk bill. It may be an unintended effect that the hon. member has included in her bill, because the clause in essence states:

Where, after consulting with the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, the Minister...is satisfied that a species of wildlife is threatened with imminent extinction, the Minister may...designate the species to be...endangered--

The language contained in the clause needs to be tightened up. It needs to perhaps take away the sole power of the minister to make these decisions. It is one that is inconsistent with science and with the work that has been done at the committee level to date. The phrase “consulting with” seems ambiguous.

A change could be along the lines of replacing those words with the following: based upon the recommendation of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, the minister may, by regulation, designate the species to be an endangered species for the purpose of this part. That, I suggest, would be more in keeping with what experts, scientists and those working in the field have recommended in relation to the current endangered species act.

Having said that, let me say that no private member's bill is perfect. Clearly no government bill is perfect. I think the hon. member is fully aware of the process and the opportunity that exists at committee level to address some of these issues. This is not to take away in any sense the merit and the value of the bill she has placed before the House. We do support a science based approach to the listing of species. Scientists, not politicians, are far better placed to decide which species are truly at risk.

I do want to refer in my remarks to the comments made by the member for Dauphin--Swan River, in particular when he spoke of the issue as it pertains to aboriginal people. I think he addressed the issue in a very straightforward way and the bill does encompass that approach. Its intent is to clearly indicate that it will not abrogate or derogate from any existing aboriginal treaty rights of aboriginal peoples in Canada who would be covered under the current situation.

The bill speaks to that issue. There has to be a clear approach for aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians when we are going to these extraordinary lengths of identifying the problem when it pertains to endangered species. In many cases the necessity to protect endangered species overrides having a specialized approach as it pertains to the treatment of animals in particular. There should be no exemptions and again that is perhaps something that should be examined. We should be hearing from the aboriginal community on that issue.

In conclusion, I support the hon. member's bill, as do members of the Progressive Conservative Party. We look forward to seeing the bill brought forward. We suggest and hope that all members of the House of Commons will similarly voice their support. She has brought forward a good bill with a straightforward objective. This is exactly the type of legislation that we should be dealing with in private members' business.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Julian Reed Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I must issue a disclaimer at the beginning of this debate, that is, I am not a lawyer like my learned hon. friend from Windsor--St. Clair, the hon. member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough, or my colleague, the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce--Lachine.

However, the arguments I will be putting forward were prepared for me and will demonstrate that there are arguments to be made on both sides of this issue. I hope that the words I have to say will complement the argument put forward by the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce--Lachine. We all may find we have differences of opinion here but that is to be found in any area of law.

The fact that illegal poaching is undesirable is not the issue. The issue is whether the bill in its present form is the most appropriate mechanism for addressing illegal poaching. To answer this question, it is necessary to identify the particular harm being addressed and then examine what it is about the current response to this harm that is lacking.

For example, is the problem one of inadequate penalties in provincial wildlife regulatory schemes? If that is the problem, then the solution can be addressed in that context by provinces adjusting their penalty regimes so that the fines imposed do not become the cost of doing business for poachers.

On the other hand, if the problem is that there is a gap in the law, it is necessary to identify the particular social harm that needs to be addressed. This in turn requires an assessment of whether the response required is one that in its essence is regulatory in nature or involves the creation of a true crime.

The Supreme Court of Canada, in the case of R v Wholesale Travel Group Inc., expressly recognized that:

...the common law has long acknowledged a distinction between truly criminal conduct and conduct, otherwise lawful, which is prohibited in the public interest--

Mr. Justice Cory expounded upon this distinction further and stated:

Regulatory legislation involves a shift of emphasis from the protection of individual interests and deterrence and punishment of acts involving moral fault, to the protection of public and societal interests. While criminal offences are usually designed to condemn and punish past, inherently wrongful conduct, regulatory measures are generally directed to the prevention of future harm through the enforcement of minimum standards of conduct and care.

Madam Speaker, you can tell by the way these words are constructed that they are not words of my creation. I am only an actor on this venerable stage.

In her remarks on May 9, the hon. member for South Surrey--White Rock--Langley suggested that in Bill C-292 the approach to selling wildlife is “very similar to the way serious motor vehicle offences are handled”. The hon. member went on to explain and stated:

The bill would give the provincial authorities an opportunity to determine when something is serious enough and they want to have steeper and stiffer penalties to try to stop it from occurring.

With all due respect to the hon. member, it is not accurate to suggest that a rationale for creating a criminal code scheme in respect of selling wildlife is similar to the interplay between driving offences in provincial legislation and those outlined in the criminal code.

For example, the offence in section 259 of the criminal code regarding the imposition of driving prohibition orders is not simply a provision that gives police access to penalties higher than those available in provincial legislation for driving while prohibited or disqualified.

The prohibition order provision in the criminal code has an independent rationale for its existence. It is logically related to sentencing objectives for a range of driving offences in the criminal code. These offences are not simply replicas of offences that exist in provincial legislation. The rationale for their existence is entirely consistent with parliament's exercise of its criminal law power. The offence of impaired driving causing death, for example, condemns morally blameworthy behaviour and addresses a well recognized social harm.

Although the issue has not yet been addressed by the Supreme Court of Canada, there is case law at the provincial appellant level which states that where an offence carries the possibility of imprisonment, the constitutionality of a provision outlining a criminal offence can be challenged on the basis that there is insufficient evidence of a reasoned apprehension of harm to other individuals or society to justify the use of criminal law as opposed to other less intrusive measures.

In this context it is not sufficient to suggest that the rationale for creating an offence at the federal level is to provide police with access to greater penalties for more serious cases of an activity that is regulated by a provincial scheme.

Bill C-292 does not have the appearance or elements of a true criminal law scheme. The scheme in Bill C-292 more closely resembles a regulatory scheme that is being proposed for inclusion in the criminal code. As noted by constitutional law expert Peter Hogg, a criminal law ordinarily consists of a prohibition which is to be self-applied by the persons to whom it is addressed.

There is not normally any intervention by an administrative agency or official prior to the application of the law. Typically, offences in the criminal code prohibit a particular morally blameworthy behaviour. The breadth of the offence may be circumscribed by reference to a defence such as without lawful excuse.

In the context of the criminal code, the application of an offence provision however usually does not rely upon whether a licence to conduct the prohibited activity has been issued by a federal or provincial authority. In this regard, Bill C-292 expressly provides that the offence provisions in respect of wildlife that is not a threatened or endangered species do not apply to persons who act in accordance with a licence issued pursuant to a federal or provincial statute or regulation.

Another feature of the criminal code offences is that they almost always apply to everyone. It is extremely rare for a criminal code to specify exemptions for criminal liability in respect of particular offences. Nonetheless it is extremely rare to specify exemptions that depend upon the exercise of discretion by a member of the executive branch of government.

In this regard I note that section 447.8 of Bill C-292 grants discretion to the Minister of the Environment to issue an order exempting “any person or class of persons” from “application of all or any” of the provisions in respect of a threatened or endangered species.

Section 447.8 of Bill C-292 states that the test for exercising this discretion is met if “in the opinion of the minister, the extension is necessary or in the public interest”. This provision may be at risk of being challenged on a constitutional basis on the reason that the criteria are so subjective and in general that they do not provide any real limits on the behaviour to be exempted. This feature is not at all typical of offence provisions in the criminal code.

While I commend the hon. member for her intent and her concern with regard to the bill, it really does not fit and scope in the area in which she intended.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, back in 1996 I brought forward a bill that was more specific than this in that it dealt only with the illegal sale and transportation of illegally poached bears and bear parts, about which many Canadians are concerned. It is my pleasure to support the bill today.

It is my hope and the hope of all of us that as time goes on poaching will become less of a problem in Canada. Perhaps by the time my grandchildren, Morgan and Brennan, grow up they will not have to worry about it at all. It is our hope that they will live in a world where this becomes a decreasing problem.

It is a problem right now. In 1995 it was estimated that approximately 1,200 black bears and 90 grizzly bears, an endangered species, were illegally poached in Canada. Every time that happens we know that a black marketeer is involved and that money is exchanged illegally. A bear gall bladder for example will fetch $1,000 in Vancouver. Bear paws are close to a $1,000 apiece. It can be a pretty lucrative business. In case after case, when one of these rings has been busted, an incredible number of animals have been sacrificed because of somebody's idiosyncrasies, old traditions or frankly just improper management and use of our wildlife.

I am not proud of this but in my province of Vancouver a number of businesses have been raided in recent years. Police and conservation officers have turned up, in some cases, evidence of hundreds of animals that have been killed. Often a very small part of them is used for some sort of herbal medicine, often to do with an old tale that it might improve some part of a person's life. That is a terrible misuse and abuse of animals.

Penalties already exist in Canada, both provincial and federal, for illegally using animals and animal parts that are part of the wildlife management system. Unfortunately this legislation generally only covers offences where there is illegal international or interprovincial transportation of animals and animal parts and it is often difficult to prove exactly from where these animals came. By making it a criminal code offence, the bill would make it easier to prosecute people involved in this illicit activity and would allow both provincial and federal authorities to bring these people to account and make them pay the penalty.

Two years ago two residents from the riding of South Surrey--White Rock--Langley were fined $7,000 and served 17 days in jail for selling 18 bear gall bladders from animals that were illegally killed. Generally fines average about $3,000. The maximum fine is $5,000. That is not enough to deter people who are making that much money sometimes on a single animal. Like many first time offences, they are plea bargained. People are fined a minimum amount and get a slap on the wrist. It does little to deter people, ironically, making a killing at this.

Bill C-292 eliminates the need to prove international or interprovincial transportation. As a section to the criminal code, it does not create any new offences. The provinces will still have sole jurisdiction and therefore we respect provincial jurisdiction to manage wildlife. However I think the provincial authorities will enjoy the bill, if it becomes law, because it will give them the tools necessary to crack down on these international-interprovincial rings.

The bill would give provincial wildlife authorities the option of proceeding with charges under the relevant provincial legislation or, if they thought it is a very egregious case, they could proceed under the criminal code. It is important that it does not contradict our current species at risk proposals. Although it may involve endangered species, it does not contradict that legislation but complements it. It gives again parliament's stern warning about how much we value species at risk and will allow officers and provincial authorities to do what they need to control the situation.

The bill is designed to target the organized poaching of big game animals. It is consistent with current legislation that is before the House. I do believe it will enhance rather than harm provincial authorities. I urge all members of the House to support the bill when the vote comes.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

It being 1.46 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1.46 p.m.)