House of Commons Hansard #142 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was leader.

Topics

St. Lawrence Seaway
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, there is no plan at this time concerning the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Yes, the U.S. Congress has asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to look into this. There is, however, no plan in place, or not that we have seen. All we have done is to begin discussions in order to find out what this entails, but nothing has been discussed yet with the Province of Quebec or the Province of Ontario, because there is no plan as yet.

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, through access to information, a reporter was able to gain access to CSIS files. He received information on the Palestinian Islamic jihad fundraising activities, yet at the same time Canadians cannot find out about the Canadian Wheat Board activities. It is exempt from access to information.

We cannot get an explanation as to why farmers received less for their wheat last year than the going world price. Why are the activities of the Canadian Wheat Board more secretive than our spy agency?

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, indeed the Canadian Wheat Board publishes more information in the public domain than any other grain marketing agency in the world. All its records are thoroughly audited. It has undergone a special audit in the last year by the Auditor General.

If the hon. member is at all interested in really getting answers to his questions, I invite him to call the Canadian Wheat Board and its auditor before a standing committee of this House and get every bit of information for which he could ever ask.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

Before orders of the day, we do have another important question from the hon. member for Fraser Valley.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, we would not want to forget the Thursday question. Could the House leader tell us what the business of the House will be for the remainder of this week and into next week and whether or not he plans to table a motion that will allow the Auditor General to table her report even if the House is prorogued this fall?

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, insofar as the last part of the question, in fact such a motion would not change a law in any case. Let me first of all start by saying that this afternoon we will continue with debate on the opposition day non-confidence motion.

Tomorrow we shall consider Bill C-50, respecting veterans benefits, followed by the Senate amendments to Bill C-6, concerning first nations. Then, if we have time, we will consider Bill S-13, an act to amend the Statistics Act.

On Monday, we will consider bills left over from this week, as well as Bill C-32, the Criminal Code amendments, Bill C-13, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, and Bill C-45, the corporate governance bill.

Tuesday shall be the last allotted day in this budget cycle.

On Wednesday and on subsequent days, we shall return to any unfinished business, adding to the list any bills that may be reported from committee. We will also start debate on Bill C-19, the First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act, and Bill C-43, an act to amend the Fisheries Act.

This is the part of the session when it would be normal for bills that have been in committee for some time to be reported back to the House. I am hopeful that committees, such as the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration and the Standing Committee on Transport, will soon complete their legislative work, so that the House may dispose of them in an orderly fashion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.

Bras D'Or—Cape Breton
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I believe if sought it you would find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, in relation to its study on solicitation laws, one research officer of the Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights be authorized to travel from Ottawa to Victoria on October 23, 2003, to attend a three day conference.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Supply
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

I rise to defend my Prime Minister. When I say that, you, Mr. Speaker, will know well from your experience in the House that I am one backbench MP who has many times disagreed with my Prime Minister, many times spoken in the House against my leader's legislation, and many times expressed in the most candid way that not always has the government policy been correct, although by and large, obviously, because I am on this side and not on that side, I believe it to be so.

The reason why actually I take some satisfaction in standing here with the motion and defending my Prime Minister is that I believe it is incumbent on a team and the members of the team always to support their leaders, so long as they have confidence in those leaders, and I certainly have confidence in the current Prime Minister.

If I have time I will make allusion to some of his successes in the past, which include reducing the debt by $100 billion, turning back the forces that would split the country apart, the forces of separatism, and most importantly, the position he took on Iraq, which led Canada away from a traditional course and into a new course of independence in foreign affairs that I think will reverberate down through the ages.

It is not easy being a leader. I think one of the characteristics of a good leader is the ability to make decisions knowing full well that from time to time a mistake will be made. It is not easy, sometimes, to make these decisions and be brave. It is easy in hindsight or easy to sit on the side benches or from behind the curtains to second guess the decisions of a leader, but the reality is that to lead is a difficult task. So long as we, the members of the team, have confidence in that leader, then we should be supporting him. I do so now.

Let me address two points that have come up in this debate. One is the question of why the Prime Minister chose to leave in February 2004 rather than at some earlier time. I was there at Chicoutimi about 14 months ago at the national caucus meeting where the Prime Minister announced that he would leave in February 2004. Now, I have watched this person for a very long time and I understand his knowledge of the House, and I have acquired some knowledge of the House myself. You will appreciate, Mr. Speaker, that February is a very appropriate time because it is budget month and budgets for the government are prepared 11 months in advance.

So in fact, in February the presentation of the budget marks the end of a year of governance. Reading the current Prime Minister's mind, I am sure he would think that February would be an appropriate time to leave office because he would obviously have the satisfaction of leaving government in very good shape, because as we know from the current finance minister's remarks yesterday, it does appear that we are going to continue with a surplus situation. This means that the current Prime Minister is going to leave the financial situation of the country in good state and I think I can say quite confidently that this would be part of his strategy to ensure that his successor, whoever that might be, will have the best ammunition possible to go forward in the next election.

There is a second reason, which I think came up subsequently to his original choice of February, as to why the current Prime Minister would want to stay on until the new year, even though the convention date at which the party will pick a new leader is in mid-November. I refer to Bill C-24, the political financing act, which kicks in on January 1, 2004. This legislation overhauls and reforms much of the political financing mechanisms that are used at the federal level.

In fact, the federal Parliament had fallen well behind many of the provincial legislatures in terms of the transparency and the rules that should apply to political financing of riding associations, political parties and so on and so forth. Obviously not only would the Prime Minister want to see the next election fought under these new rules, the only way he could be certain of that would be to stay in office at least until the new year.

I am not suggesting that his successor would not want to fight an election under these reformed political financing rules, but the reality is that in the debate on Bill C-24 there were a lot of reservations among MPs on this side of the House and on the opposition side.

The reality is that a new leader chosen in mid-November would come under immediate pressure, no doubt about it, to call an election at that time. By staying on until the new year, the current Prime Minister guarantees that his successor does not have to deal with that type of pressure and that his successor can, in an orderly fashion, work toward preparing himself for his new role as the prime minister.

There has also been quite a bit of debate here that in this sort of interregnum period we are in right now government legislation and government operations are stalled. I think that we on this side of the House have to be candid and admit that this is indeed, to some degree, the case. Some legislation has been stalled. We are not advancing forward as quickly as we should on some bills. I particularly refer to Bill C-7, the Indian accountability bill, which is a very important bill. Also, the citizenship bill is stalled as well in committee, and there are other examples like that.

But I do not think that we can lay the blame either on the current Prime Minister or on his possible successor, because what has really happened is that my colleagues on this side are experiencing something they have never experienced before, and that is a leadership race, which always, I am told, because this is my first experience, activates loyalties, because politics and leadership races are very partisan processes. I think that some members on the Liberal side have indeed had trouble understanding where their loyalties should lie while this debate goes on.

I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that the weakness that the opposition is seeing is really a certain amount of confusion among my colleagues. That confusion is reflected sometimes in the lack of attendance at question period and sometimes in the lack of participation in open debate.

I am absolutely confident that after November 15 when the question of party leadership is settled and it is very clear that there will be a change in prime minister in three months, I fully expect my colleagues will have no problem then differentiating between the party leader and the prime minister.

I would expect, Mr. Speaker, that you can look forward to an active Parliament, not a Parliament that is dismissed, not a Parliament that is prorogued, but MPs who are willing on this side to continue to tackle aggressively the issues of the day. I am very confident that it has been simply a questionof a new experience where suddenly members of the Liberal caucus have a sense of divided loyalties, but that shall pass.

Finally, I would just like to reiterate that the Bloc motion makes it very clear that even the Prime Minister's traditional political enemies in terms of separatism acknowledge that this Prime Minister has earned the right to go when he chooses. I think the NDP is correct in supporting this side, which will most assuredly defeat this motion.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to challenge the member on a couple of things.

A longstanding tradition which I believe has never been broken is that the prime minister of the country is the leader of the party that has the most seats in the House. The day the member for LaSalle—Émard is elected and chosen as the leader of that party, by that tradition and in fact it is almost a rule, that member then becomes the prime minister and of course we would expect a couple of days, maybe a week, for the transition. If members checked the record, they would find that is always true.

When Mr. Mulroney resigned and Kim Campbell was chosen, I think it was a week before she was sworn in, but it was expected. He announced he was quitting, there was a leadership vote, she was selected and within five days she was the prime minister.

I wonder whether the member has any comment on the fact that there will be a transition time of around two months. It is unheard of and unnecessary. There will be two months of no direction and a lack of leadership.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have to disagree with the member opposite.

A prime minister gets his mandate from the people when he leads his party to an election, wins a majority and then takes his place. That is why I said that when we get a situation where leaders change while a government is in office, then an election is immediately called. That is why the member for LaSalle—Émard or the member for Hamilton East, should they win the leadership, would be expected to call an election. I do not think that would be in the public interest in that Bill C-24 does not kick in until January 1.

So no, I have to reject the premise of the member opposite.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, you know how carefully I listen to the member opposite when he speaks. He has my undivided attention.

This time, I asked myself all sorts of questions while he was speaking. I asked myself what kind of dance he is doing now. Is it the tango, the waltz or the cha cha?

During his speech, he said that he had unlimited confidence in his Prime Minister. We know that this government currently has two prime ministers, one who is in his seat, and one who is behind the curtain.

First, I would like him to tell me who is Prime Minister right now. I think that he knows the answer.

Second, when he spoke about the motion brought forward by the Bloc Quebecois, I was disappointed. I know how intelligent this Liberal member is and I also know that the Bloc Quebecois motion would help all the Liberal members and all the members in this House, because this government would finally have to answer questions from the opposition for the good of democracy in Canada.

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is very simple; my wife also tells me that I do not know how to dance.