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.

Topics

Royal Assent Act
Government Orders

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

May 31st, 2002 / 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.