House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was election.

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Question No. 269
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Hamilton East
Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps Minister of Canadian Heritage

In response to (a), the export of the items without an appropriate export licence was not authorized by the Government of Canada.

In response to (b), no charges were laid in the matter because of the fact that it was demonstrated that the contravention to the law was made without criminal intent and that both the exporter and the auction house subsequently cooperated to correct the situation and returned the items to Canada. The $176,000 amount represented the cost of purchasing the items by the War Museum and not the cost of recovering the items.

In response to (c), eight charges have been laid by the Government of Canada since 1977 against those who have contravened the Cultural Property Export and Import Act.

Question No. 269
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

I ask, Mr. Speaker, that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Question No. 269
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Question No. 269
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

October 21st, 2003 / 10:20 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

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

moved that Bill C-49, an act respecting the effective date of the representation order of 2003, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to share my time with the hon. member for Halifax West.

Despite the brevity and unassuming title of the bill, it is of great importance to Canadians. Canadians deserve to have the representation in the House of Commons that the census has determined they should have.

I made a long speech on the merits of the bill when it was referred to a parliamentary committee before second reading. I am grateful for the support and contribution of members of all parties.

I know some of our colleagues—and especially the whip of the New Democratic Party, I think—had concerns about the Acadian community. This issue was discussed. Members of the Acadian community have stated that they are now quite pleased with the way we want to go.

That being said, I recommend that the House pass the bill as soon as possible so that Canadians can benefit from the improvements made by this bill in the next election.

Finally, all political parties, and they are part of the institution of Parliament, all constituency associations and all hon. members deserve to know as soon as possible what the boundaries will be like for the next election so they can proceed with the organizational work that is necessary in a representative democracy.

I also want to indicate to the House that there has been consultation among all political parties about certain constituency names where corrections would be in order. I have had that bill produced. It will be handed to the House leaders later this day. When we approve this bill, perhaps today, and today would actually be my preference, or tomorrow if it is not, then at that time I would propose for adoption to the House amendments to the riding names, which have been agreed to with all political parties in the House of Commons in order to accommodate the wishes of as many hon. members as possible.

With that, I thank colleagues for their support.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out first that the Bloc Quebecois agrees with the electoral boundary readjustment process. That is not where the problem lies. What bothers us is that, normally, if we had followed a non-partisan course, as the government and the government House leader claim we have, the new electoral boundaries would not have taken effect until next August. But there was a partisan intervention by the member for LaSalle—Émard, the future prime minister. He sees himself as prime minister already, and is already acting like a prime minister, while in fact he has not yet even been chosen as Liberal Party leader.

That does bother us and I have a question to ask of the government House leader. Is he not uncomfortable with the fact that partisan intervention has interfered with the non-partisan legislative process that should lead to the new electoral boundaries? Is he not uncomfortable, especially when the member for LaSalle—Émard talks about the democratic deficit? That gentleman calls himself a great democrat, but he has interfered from the outside to speed up a non-partisan process whereby the new electoral boundaries would not apply before August. Was it not to further the electoral ambitions of the future prime minister and current member for LaSalle—Émard that this approach was used?

Once again, I would like to state that we support the electoral redistribution process. What disturbs us is that someone like the member for LaSalle—Émard can intervene to serve his personal agenda as future prime minister; the democratic and non-partisan rules governing the new electoral boundaries are being trampled upon.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question, but I must say that it is a rather revisionist view of how the bill came to be introduced.

The first request to speed up the process came from the Canadian Alliance. This was done publicly. The current leader of the Conservative Party followed suit very quickly; he asked in front of the media that the bill be passed more quickly. Of course, we saw yesterday this same leader and his party vote against the bill. However, the leader of the Conservative Party had made a statement, which was reported in the media, in favour of the bill.

It is true that some members on this side of the House also wanted to support such an initiative. If the government had been against this bill, of course, we would not have introduced it. We introduced it because we are in favour of it. It is just common sense. However, the original request came from two opposition parties, which suggested this initiative to the government. I must add that there were consultations with all political parties. Of course, later on, some members decided to be less in favour of the bill than they had been previously. This is how the bill came to be introduced.

Now with regard to calling this a partisan initiative, it is not. I think that the member wants to play partisan politics with a non-partisan issue. We are not asking to change the electoral boundaries to favour one party over another. There is nothing to that effect in the bill. We are not changing boundaries.

Here is what this is all about. The current system has been in existence for about 40 years, going back to the days when maps were drawn manually. Over the last decade, the new way of drawing maps has changed everything. The member must know that if he appeared before the Subcommittee on Electoral Boundaries Readjustment. I appeared before that committee regarding the boundary between your riding, Mr. Speaker, and mine. I alleged that such a boundary would transfer about 4,000 votes from one riding to the other. We asked the expert if he could do that on the screen, if he could draw the map right away. The expert clicked on a button, and we could see on the screen that maybe 4,800 votes had been transferred. We had the precise number in three seconds. This used to take weeks. Now, with the mapping system that is used today, these things can be done rapidly.

The question that I am asking it this: is it logical for this House not to accelerate the process and not to assure Canadians to the highest degree possible that a new map will be in place for the next election, instead of the current map which could be 18 years old by the time the next election is called? It is not normal to deprive people of that right. We have the tools, we have the mapping system, and the chief electoral officer said that he could be ready by April 1. Therefore, we are doing it.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry, but since two members are splitting their time, it means that the question and comment period is limited to five minutes.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Could you explain how the time allotted for the speech can be split without the unanimous consent of the House of Commons?

According to the Standing Orders, time sharing between two members requires the unanimous consent of the House of Commons, does it not?

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I should keep in mind of course that I chaired the committee on modernization.

The committee, in effect, changed the 40 minute speeches that were originally set aside for the government and the two next opposition parties, being the Alliance and the Bloc Québécois. There was a discussion at that time among the House leaders and others who participated in this committee to go to 20 minute speeches for a more equitable distribution of time.

Originally, there was an ability, through unanimous consent, to change the 40 minutes and split it. It would appear that in our committee we did not go as far as we might have intended to, but we certainly did not make the provision to split the 20 minutes.

Therefore, in this case I will continue the debate. I will now go to the official opposition and the intended speaker.

I would want to hear from the government House leader if he wanted to speak longer because maybe it was his intent to speak less, and probably in this case the parliamentary secretary was going to split the time. However, in accordance with the rules we have presently--and it may be something that the House leaders and others would want to review as to whether the intent might have been otherwise--clearly the Chair does not have the ability to allow for the splitting of the 20 minute speeches.

Of course, as is the practice in the House, we can do most anything with consent.

I will go back to the minister or his parliamentary secretary and ask if they wish to seek consent to split the time. I see a positive nod from the parliamentary secretary.

The government side is asking for consent to split its 20 minute slot. Of course, the minister has already spoken, so in fact the next 10 minutes would go to the parliamentary secretary.

Is there consent?

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to confirm something that the minister just said in response to the question from a Bloc member. It is very unusual for me to agree with the minister on something, but he was actually giving a factual account of what happened when he said that it was the Canadian Alliance which began to push this idea as far back as the summer of last year.

In fact, I had lunch with the Chief Electoral Officer, which I think was in the early fall of last year, and discussed the idea of bringing certainty to this process. The Chief Electoral Officer was first aware a year ago that there was a party in the House that was interested in bringing certainty to the actual implementation date of the new boundaries.

Mr. Kingsley told me at the time that he felt that he could comfortably, with a little stress, get it in place for April 1 as a potential date. It was on that basis that I approached the minister before the end of the session last year to talk about the possibility of bringing this date forward.

The logic did not escape the minister. It makes sense to everybody because the way the system was set up with the coming into force in August, which would be the normal timetable, we had the potential for an election to either occur in the spring, April-May, with the new Prime Minister when he is selected or it could be in September-October.

There was tremendous uncertainty because the riding associations of the parties would have to prepare for two different scenarios at short notice. On top of all that were the complications introduced by Bill C-24, which was suddenly requiring the registration of riding associations or electoral district associations, as they would be known after January 1.

We were faced with an administrative nightmare, not only getting used to the idea of having to fill out paperwork and all the reporting that goes along with Bill C-24, but we would have to do it twice. We would have to do it once on January 1, 2004, in case the election was called under the old boundaries. Then, immediately afterward, during the summer recess everybody would have to re-register under the new boundaries with a whole new set of paperwork and all of the stress that goes with that if an election had not yet been called.

Another motive for us in the west, of course, was that we were getting two new seats in Alberta and two in British Columbia. The process itself is extremely slow. It takes a decade to even get to the point where we get the two seats we were entitled to 10 years ago. We are already entitled to at least three more seats and it is going to take us another decade to get those. We were anxious to ensure that at the time of the next election we would see those additional seats in the west that at least go partway in recognizing the growth in that part of the country.

That is a bit more background for the member. There was a push from this party to obtain that certainty. I am sure that if he was to check with the administrations of any of the other parties in the House, other than the Bloc, they are all behind this initiative. In fact, the party people spoke behind the scenes and all agreed it was a good idea to get some certainty into this process.

Associated with that, though, I would like to inject the comment that it only becomes necessary to do this because of the government's focus on elections every two and a half or three years. We have an electoral cycle that should ideally be at least four years, with the potential to be as long as five years, and now we have elections coming every three to three and a half years. Right now the House is fixated on the suggestion that there may be an election coming up in the spring of next year when what we really should be doing is focusing on the affairs of the country, the things that really matter to the people of Canada.

For example, people want to see an end to the wasteful gun registry. They would like to see the sex offender registry backdated to take into account people who are already in prison. They would like to see the problems fixed with the refugee and deportation processes because they are in disarray. They would like to see an end to the race based fisheries in British Columbia in accordance with the court ruling that came out there last month that criticized the government for its race based policy for fisheries.

All these major issues need to be addressed. Instead of that we are focusing the time of the House on issues that are important to political parties because of the government's irrational approach to elections. It is throwing the whole country into disarray.

It is almost certain that we will prorogue before November 16. For people who may be watching and who do not understand, the term prorogation means that the Prime Minister simply chooses to close the place down without calling an election until it suits him or his successor to open the place up again with a Speech from the Throne and then perhaps an election almost immediately. What a terrible waste of resources and time that this place could be closed down for six months. However some of my constituents say that is pretty good. When we are not sitting, we are not doing any damage, and they think that is not a bad idea.

In summary, because we do not particularly want to hold up the bill, we would like to see the certainty that comes with it.

I will just round off by saying I hope the Bloc does not hold this up too much. It is unnecessary to consume the time of the House arguing about the bill. It is something we need to do so we have certainty. I hope the Bloc will rethink its strategy of trying to hold this up endlessly. It is not really necessary, and the Bloc knows the government will only move closure on it anyway. Let us get on with the job and get the bill passed.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, the least we can say is that it is difficult to follow the drift of the Canadian Alliance, as is so often the case.

How can they pretend to be serving democracy and the non-partisan process of adopting new electoral boundaries when in fact they are supporting the member for LaSalle—Émard and the carrying out of his own personal agenda? What would happen if the new electoral map were to be adopted quickly?

Instead of coming into force next August, it would take effect in the coming months. Then the future prime minister would have carte blanche to prepare a spring election, but most of all he would get out of sitting in the House to answer our questions. That is the game.

I do not understand members of the Canadian Alliance who play along with such a trick, who support such a partisan move which will allow the member for LaSalle—Émard to adjourn the proceedings of the House and prepare for a spring election.

Members of the Canadian Alliance are not easy to follow. They just launched a process to unite the right. They need time. It is not that I am right wing myself but, if we follow their logic, they have just concluded negotiations to set in motion a complete restructuring of the Canadian right into one single united party.

They need time but, instead of buying time, instead of leaving the electoral map to come into force in a year's time, they are giving the member for LaSalle—Émard and future prime minister carte blanche. He will not have to appear before us and answer our questions. The House will recess and he will have all the time he wants to call a spring election.

The member for LaSalle—Émard and future prime minister will not have to answer to us for his actions, for being the man behind the cuts to social assistance, education and health, for stealing the $45 billion surplus from the EI fund. He will not have to answer to us. The House will recess, he will call an election and that will be the end of it.

People will forget that when he was finance minister for nine years, this new leader of the Liberal Party slashed provincial transfer payments, which were there to help the less fortunate in society.

The Canadian Alliance is playing along with this trick. Talk about wasting the House's time; who does he think he is, blocking our freedom of speech, preventing us from achieving our mandate, which is to inform the public of this trap being presented today for the purpose of preparing the future prime minister's agenda? Who does he think he is, preventing us here in the House from taking the time we need to inform the public of the future prime minister's strategy and personal agenda?

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, how ridiculous can we get? I am not blocking anybody's ability to speak to the bill. I simply asked the Bloc members to reconsider their strategy. That was all I did. I do not have the power to block them. They can go on as long as they want.

All I was trying to do was point out the background, in agreeing with the minister as to what happened here and the reasons for it. The fact is the people in the west want their entitlement to an additional four seats and the one way to ensure that happens at the time of the next election, whenever it occurs, either the spring or the fall, is to try to bring the process forward so that we have certainty.

Now the first step in that process, as I said when I stood before, was to meet with the Chief Electoral Officer to ensure that we would not do anything in the House that would cause him difficulty, that would upset or be seen as political interference.

When I sat down at that lunch meeting with the Chief Electoral Officer, he told me he could do it by April 1. I do not have the power to impose a date on the Chief Electoral Officer. It was only after a civilized discussion about the problem and how to address it, he gave me a suggestion. I then approached the government, the parties discussed it, and the end result is this bill.

It is a good bill that gives all of us certainty. It tells us for certain we will have the new boundaries in effect at the time of the next election, whenever it occurs. It gives us the certainty of additional seats in western Canada. I do not understand why the member does not understand that. It seems perfectly clear to me.

Finally, I would just like to repeat this. For him to accuse me of trying to block their opportunity to get their word out, is just ridiculous.