House of Commons Hansard #210 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was public.

Topics

Code of Conduct
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I believe the amendment would address questions like this now, in the future and would have in the past had it been there. I have not seen the words to the amendment but based on what I have heard, it sounds like it would address and resolve the issue we have raised and continue to raise. Again it would move toward honouring the Prime Minister's promise that he made back in 1993 but which he has never honoured.

Code of Conduct
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the motion that is before the House today.

Perhaps we should remind ourselves what it is we are speaking to. It has very little to do with some of the issues that have been raised in the last little while.

We are being asked to speak to the following proposition: That the report of the Special Joint Committee on a Code of Conduct, the Milliken-Oliver report, be brought back to the attention of members to be updated and, hopefully, as updated, changed, modified or improved, to be approved by the House and the other place as a code of conduct for all of us. That is the motion that is before us today.

Later on today the question that will be asked of all of us is whether we are in favour of or against having a code of conduct for members of parliament in principle. If we delay this by using manoeuvres to stop it from moving ahead, Canadians will know the truth. They will know that those who have trust funds and other things do not want them reported. They will know that those who receive funds for running their campaigns from sources undisclosed to all of us do not want it reported. They will know that some of the money that comes in to keep them in operation will go unreported because they do not want a code of conduct for themselves and others in the House.

We will find that out some time later today if either the members across do not want this item voted on or if they use methods in order to avoid us voting on the principal issue that is before us this afternoon.

The moment of truth will come to the attention of all hon. members in the House later today. I am anxiously waiting to see whether all members will say, yes, that we need to review the report that was made, and yes, we want to use that as a base for having a code of conduct for all of us, the way our Prime Minister wants us to have one, or whether we want something that is something else, like not disclosing anything because it suits our own selfish ends.

A little earlier today we had a rather curious amendment proposed on the floor of the House. I am technically speaking to the amendment right now. It says that the Leader of the Opposition refuses to study having a code of conduct because he wants the Prime Minister to implement the code of conduct before we study the details of how we should make it work.

Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition could explain to all of us why he feels it is appropriate that we would implement that which we should do and consult him later.

If that was not confusing enough for most of us, let me get to the next proposition. He said that the committee should not have until October 31, that it should have 30 days.

This is the second last or last sitting day, depending on how we look at it, before we have the summer recess. When we come back on September 18, 30 days from then would give us until October 18. We are offering October 31. He is offering an amendment to avoid debating it on the pretext that he would save five sitting days. That is the phoniness of the amendment that is before us. He is pretending that he wants to report five days ahead but what he really wants is to cause a second division vote on this item to occur only next fall therefore preventing us from proceeding with the issue that is before the House today.

The Leader of the Opposition has a choice. He can withdraw that amendment and vote on the main motion to create this committee to report on October 31 or he can pretend that he wants 30 days, which really means that the committee would be reporting earlier, so that he would not have to disclose any other source of outside income, if he has any, any other source of outside financing for his leadership or other such finances.

Code of Conduct
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

An hon. member

Does he have something to hide?

Code of Conduct
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I have no idea whether he has anything to hide. That is not for me to say. However let us vote on the motion and start with the process.

An opposition member says that there should be an ethics counsellor who reports to the House. Well, that is fine.

I have here a news release dated June 11, 2002 from the Right Hon. Prime Minister which says, and I quote:

New Appointment Procedure for the Ethics Counsellor

The Prime Minister announced today that the Ethics Counsellor will be appointed after consultation with the leaders of the opposition parties, serving for a term of 5 years. Further, dismissal could only take place with the concurrence of Parliament.

So it is not just this House but both Houses which will have to do it. This is even more prudent of the Prime Minister.

The release goes on to say:

In addition, the Ethics Counsellor will inquire into complaints, or other matters related to a Minister of the Crown, referred to his Office by any member of Parliament. As promised by the Prime Minister on May 23, 2002, there will now be an annual report on the activities of the Office of the Ethics Counsellor that will be presented to the Speaker of the House.

Code of Conduct
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

An hon. member

He does report to parliament.

Code of Conduct
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

That is the point. The Prime Minister has said that he will report to parliament. The opposition is asking that this official report to parliament. That has already been announced. The opposition is asking the government to do something that it has already doing. If it was not doing that, it would be doing what I just said, which it is.

Let us go to the 1993 red book. Let me bring this to the attention of hon. members. It states in particular that “a Liberal government will appoint an independent ethics counsellor”. He is independent. This is an individual who has consultation with both sides of the House. He has served the Canadian public for decades as a senior civil servant. He advises both public officials and lobbyists on the day to day application of the code of conduct for public officials, public officials being defined as those who hold public office; in other words cabinet ministers, secretaries of state and of course parliamentary secretaries. They hold what is known in parliamentary parlance as public office.

It states further that “the ethics counsellor will be appointed after consultation with the leaders of all parties in the House of Commons and will report directly to parliament”. He was already subject to this consultation with leaders. Everyone recognizes that and remembers it.

As a matter of fact some people are summarizing how long the conversation took place between the Prime Minister and leaders of other political parties when that was done. Now, given what I just said about the Prime Minister's press release, he will report directly to parliament. Therefore that was fully delivered once again by the Prime Minister of Canada who always delivers on the promises that he makes to Canadians as we all know.

That is not the issue before us today. One member from the New Democratic Party also raised something that is important. In the past Bloc members have also raised this.

The issue in question is reform of the Canada Elections Act. I agree with them. This has nothing to do with the motion before us, but I do agree with them. We can amend the elections act. In fact, I am the minister responsible for the act.

Just the day before yesterday, I consulted with the chief electoral officer. Next week, I will be going to Alberta and Manitoba to consult with people about reform of the elections act. I intend to do the same thing across Canada during the summer, with the goal of tightening the act up.

For example, should there be limits on the size of contributions? I think there should. Who should be allowed to contribute? The issue raised earlier by the member for Winnipeg—Transcona is an important one. I agree that there need to be rules about this.

When it comes to financing leadership campaigns, I would want to know not only who within my party is raising money—obviously, this is interesting—but also when the leader of the opposition—Lord knows there have been enough of them in recent years—will be replaced by another leader—this will no doubt happen again soon—I would like to know if the next leader's campaign will be financed by interests outside of Canada. This should not be the case. It should be done with money from Canadian taxpayers, whether it be in selecting the leader of the government party or the opposition party, it is the same thing. Only Canadians should have the right to contribute to this type of campaign. Is this the case right now? We do not know. It is an interesting matter.

There should be amendments to the elections act to deal with all of these matters. Incidentally, I would like to congratulate the member from the New Democratic Party for raising this issue, because the member is right. In the past, in response to other reports, members of the Bloc Quebecois have raised similar issues, and they were also right. I agree with them that we must make the elections act more transparent. We did so the last time we made changes to the act.

For example, there is the third party issue. I do not want to mention the National Citizens Coalition—but I would if I could—that has challenged the existing rules of transparency. I wonder who led this initiative by the National Citizens Coalition at the time to challenge the rules regarding who is spending money in an election campaign on behalf of these third parties.

I think that Canadians have the right to know. They have the right to know who is telling people to vote against a particular candidate. If, during a campaign, people have the right to know who is funding a campaign in support of a candidate, they should also have the right to know who is asking voters to vote against a candidate. This is my position, and that is what I included in the latest version of the elections act.

Who challenged it? The National Citizens Coalition. A well-known member of this House used to work for that organization. I would like to know what that member thinks of the actions of the National Citizens Coalition, which is against the rules of transparency regarding those who fund campaigns against certain candidates. Canadians have the right to know.

All this is related to the elections act, but the time will come to deal with that. It will be in the fall. It will be a bill that I will have the honour and privilege of introducing in the House of Commons, with, of course, the consent of the Prime Minister of Canada, who has appointed me—and I thank him for it—Minister of State and Leader of the Government of the House of Commons, which means that I am responsible for the Canada Elections Act.

Let us get back to the issue before us today. A report was prepared a few years back on whether there should be a code of conduct for members of this House and the other House. In opposition I worked on such a code. I remember that the spouses of government members at the time were working against me. I was supporting the government but the Parliamentary Spouses Association at the time was in disagreement with what I was saying about the registration of assets.

It is a difficult issue and I recognize that. I recognize people have a right of privacy. I recognize those issues can be very complicated and they have to go back to a parliamentary committee.

House leaders discuss issues from time to time. I will not say what one said versus another about whether we should adopt the package that is before us today. Needless to say, even some House leaders of various parties are afraid that components of the Milliken-Oliver report could go too far while others say we could do more. This nonsense that we should immediately adopt all this today and then think about how it will work later will not work.

Members of the House need to have that kind of structure. I believe there should be a jurisconsult, an officer of parliament. I believe it should be mandatory for the officer of parliament to be physically located inside the building so members can consult that officer at all times with such things as, “Jurisconsult, a family member of mine works for a certain corporation. I am called upon to vote tomorrow on such and such a bill. Is it okay that I do so?”

What about a member of the Senate or a member of this place, if dissatisfied with that, being able present himself or herself before their peers in a parliamentary committee called upon to review these things and to plead with colleagues about how such rules of conduct should be administered in the event of a dispute? Why not have that kind of structure? Why not have these kinds of appeal mechanisms to one's own peers? That is what we are talking about here.

Why not have these kinds of structures? Why do we not all vote today, hopefully in unanimity, about creating a parliamentary committee which will review these draft rules, which were put in place five years ago at a time when many people were not even in this Chamber? Why not let the committee say that yes, in 2002 this is reasonable or, no, such and such a proposal is not reasonable, that we have now crossed a different threshold and that we can improve upon it in the following way? We should address these issues that way and improve upon the rules.

Members can sidetrack all they like and put the kind of amendment which I see today, which suggests that we replace October 31 by October 18, which of course is bordering on nonsense. Remember we are off one of those weeks anyway, which really makes no difference at all. Then it suggests that the Prime Minister be asked to implement the code of ethics first and then consult members of parliament afterward. That is what the Leader of the Opposition said in his amendment.

I know he is paying attention to what I am saying. Therefore, I ask him to withdraw that amendment. Canadians will be forced to believe he does not want a code of conduct for members of parliament and they will ask.

Code of Conduct
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

An hon. member

What is he hiding?

Code of Conduct
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I do not want to go that far.

Today, there have been consultations among political parties. A party—the Bloc—has brought forward a positive amendment. This party says that we should change this order of the House to appoint this committee so that the committee could only sit if there are parliamentarians from both houses representing the government and the opposition to form a quorum.

This is acceptable, and I am prepared to support this initiative, because it is the right thing to do, and because the report that we will be submitting should be based on consensus. If we can change the order of the House to ensure that parliamentarians can, as much as possible, contribute and be comfortable with what they will suggest, I support the type of change that has been proposed.

However, I do not support a dilatory change such as the one that was just proposed by the leader of the opposition, who refuses and wants to create a condition whereby we will never know why he wants to impose unnecessary delays.

We just saw two examples. Some members of this House said “We want to change the motion and we ask for the unanimous consent to improve it”. This is true and I support them. I would be willing to do so. Of course, the question remains: will the others also be willing to do so? This would be acceptable.

However—and I am addressing the official opposition—when they say “We want you to implement the report and to consult us afterwards”, I find this quite strange. Second, we would also be changing the Standing Orders. Do you know what they want to do through this change? They want to replace October 18 with October 31 and, in between, there is a week off, which means that it all boils down to the same thing.

What the opposition could do today is force a recorded division on one of these motions, defer the division until next fall and, for the official opposition, the job would be done.

What has the opposition done? It could ask for a recorded vote on this and delay the implementation of its own motion to accelerate the process by slowing it down until next fall. That is what we have before us. I do not pretend to be an expert on parliamentary procedure but I have been in public office for 27 years and I know a little about some of these delay tactics that are being reported to us today.

I say to members across that they should withdraw that motion. They should vote in favour or unanimously with the motion that is before us, perhaps with an amendment that was brought forward by other hon. members which I would be ready to support, and I think all members would support, that we need a quorum by having members of both Houses and both representing the opposition and the government in order to constitute this to happen. I would be willing to concede that because that is reasonable. However for us to produce these amendments which have no other purpose than to delay is wrong.

I have been consulting members for three weeks about getting this committee going and we cannot get that committee going again and that is wrong. Today we have an opportunity to make it right. I say to colleagues on all sides of the House, let us make it right.

I have been consulting them before, in the modernization committee and elsewhere, about doing this and I am doing it again today. Let us see whether today, before parliament adjourns, we could all do what is right. Let us create that committee and produce a good quality report. Let us implement the rules for all members of parliament the way that we should all want and the way the Right Hon. Prime Minister of Canada wants because he wants what is right. We know the Prime Minister has nothing to hide. He wants good and transparent rules. Let us see whether the Leader of the Opposition and others also want the same thing.

Code of Conduct
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order regarding the records of our publications of May 29.

Private Members' Bill C-415 was adopted on division yet the journals recorded it as being “agreed to”.

The members for Elk Island and Dewdney—Alouette were on duty and clearly said “no”. As well, Mr. Speaker, if you review the speech of the critic, the member for Provencher, you will see that we clearly opposed the bill. I bring this point up today to ensure that the record is clear.

Code of Conduct
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed?

Code of Conduct
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Housing
Statements By Members

June 20th, 2002 / 1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Peterborough Community Housing Development Corporation is a non-profit grassroots group set up four years ago to fix up old houses and turn them into rental units for low income tenants.

With the help of the Sisters of St. Joseph, the city of Peterborough, local businesses, charities and numerous volunteers, the corporation has refurbished properties creating 17 rental units and building up a considerable equity for future work. The first rental unit was produced by fixing up a house scheduled for demolition. The second was a house relocated onto a vacant city lot. An Anglican church rectory has been converted into a residence for low income older women. This local housing corporation is an example for others across Canada. It is part of a continuing effort to address homelessness in the city and county of Peterborough.

I wish to honour and thank everyone involved in this fine, caring work for the homeless of Peterborough and across Canada.

Government Contracts
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is no wonder that 70% of Canadians think that the government is corrupt. Looking back at the revelations concerning the government's shocking ethics scandal, even more words come to mind to describe this terrible mess.

Shameful might be the word to describe the fact that Alfonso Gagliano is now Canada's ambassador to Denmark, despite the fact that he was blatantly diverting taxpayer dollars to Liberal friendly corporations, friends and political allies. Dubious perhaps is the word to describe the Liberal government's rushing through of a $101 million purchase of Challenger luxury jets in the final days of the fiscal year, leaving the Canadian military with obsolete equipment and inappropriate uniforms.

I would say that the actions leading to the Cabinet shuffle that saw another former minister of public works and the former defence minister fired were deplorable. Unfortunately, these days Canadians are resigning themselves to the word typical, especially when they see Liberal leadership hopefuls using tax dollars for kickbacks to supporters and fundraisers.

Canadians deserve better.

Marijuana
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to compliment the Regional Municipality of Niagara Police Services Board in my region on passing a resolution in response to the serious threat of marijuana grow houses.

These communities, like many others in Canada, are experiencing an unprecedented increase in the illegal cultivation and distribution of marijuana by organized crime. This marijuana is sold to children and adults alike, the residual effects of which contribute to additional threats of crime and violence further impacting innocent members of the community. Potential fire and health dangers also exist to adjacent homes and for our firefighters due to unsafe use of electricity and chemicals.

I call upon the Minister of Justice and the government to enact strong legislative deterrents, including lengthy periods of incarceration and substantial fines to combat this plague. The safety and security of our communities, police officers and emergency responders is paramount.

Regional Economic Development
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, on June 17, on behalf of the Secretary of State responsible for Canada Economic Development for the Regions of Quebec and Liberal member for Beauce, I announced the awarding of a contribution of over $4.5 million to COREM, a consortium of applied research for the treatment and transformation of mineral substances.

This project will create some 15 to 20 high-skilled jobs. Canada Economic Development's mandate is to promote the economic development of the regions of Quebec. To that end, it focuses on two main areas of activity: enterprise development and improving the environment for economic development of the regions of Quebec.

The project will have an impact on the profitability of the entire Quebec mining industry. As well, it will benefit resource regions, more specifically in Abitibi--Témiscamingue, the lower north shore, James Bay and Nunavik.