House of Commons Hansard #61 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was political.

Topics

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the objectives of the bill is to make the process of nominations a little more equitable for a broader range of candidates and maybe make it easier for women by limiting the nomination expenses. I believe there is a formula in the bill.

Has the member had an opportunity to consider that particular provision and can he advise the House whether he feels that provision might in fact address a problem which apparently exists?

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys happens to be a female member of our party who leaned forward to tell me that she sees this as kind of humiliating to say she needs some kind of help that I do not need. She said that she was elected fair and square, and would go toe to toe with any person who wanted take her on in the next election. I would fully agree with that.

I would like to see the amount of money that is spent on nominations to be open and transparent. I am not sure that the $200 limit is really necessary. If people want to give $200, it is not a huge amount. I think somewhere between $200 and $1,000 would be fair for reporting purposes and for the paperwork involved. It could be some number in between that. I think $200 is too low.

The real way to bring democracy into the nomination process would be to ensure the political party does not leave the power to the Prime Minister or to the party leader to nominate people without due process.

If I were a member of the Liberal Party, I would squawk about the fact that people are chosen to run in chosen ridings not based on their ability to raise funds or anything else. They are nominated based on the whim of the leader of the party. That is not democratic.

How can the leader say, “I'll pick a winnable riding and plunk somebody in there as my candidate”. There is no nomination process. Candidates do not have to sell a single membership, do not have to go to a single meeting, and do not have to explain a single issue. Those types of candidates do not have to come in out of the rain and if they are in a strong Liberal riding they have a good chance of winning.

That to me is more offensive to the democratic process than any of the nomination processes that involve money. Money is not the problem here. The problem is an autocratic party system in the Liberal Party that allows the leader to appoint who he wants without any due process.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the intervention by the member for Fraser Valley a moment ago demonstrates the difficulty he has, and I hope he is the only one in his party, in living in the 22nd century. Actually, he seems to be reluctantly dragged into the 21st century. Judging from the comments he made and his fishing expeditions as to what is driving the legislation, I think he is still in the 19th century. He spent a considerable amount of time on his search for the rationale behind the bill. Having fished in muddy water for several minutes, the best he could come up with was an hilarious explanation or rationale, namely that the legislation is a gift to the next leader.

I admire the sense of humour of the member for Fraser Valley for coming up with such a nice joke during lunch hour. I hope he is in isolation, because on Friday I heard a very convincing and fine intervention by his colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby who made an impassioned intervention on the treatment of public servants and made some constructive suggestions as to how the legislation ought to be amended in order to meet the requirements of public servants who want to serve their nation in Parliament. I thought he made recommendations that ought to be taken seriously by the committee at the committee stage.

Coming back to the official opposition, unfortunately, I was disturbed by the statement made by the opposition leader in his speech last week, namely when he said that the legislation would serve “to weaken an already fragile democratic framework”.

We part ways with him. On this side of the House we believe that the legislation will strengthen our democratic framework and that we are moving in the right direction. There may be differences of opinions as to ceilings and treatments, et cetera, but, by golly, if we are not going to do this I think we will lose the commitment of the population at large to our democratic and political system.

Another statement the Leader of the Opposition made in his speech which troubled me was when he compared political parties to markets. He said “Political parties, like markets, should be responsible to the people who need them and want them”.

This is a market economy type of approach to democracy which is rather unusual and maybe it needs to be dealt with for a second. I would reject that notion as would, I am sure, most members of the House. Political parties are not a marketable commodity. Political parties are needed by everybody in the country, the ones to which we subscribe and the ones to which we do not, because in a healthy, democratic system we want to have choices and to hear different opinions even from the party to which one subscribes. This happens in every family, in every community and at the national level.

To compare political parties to markets denigrates and cheapens the role of political parties. Political parties are more than markets. Political parties are public institutions of the highest importance, driven by ideas and commitments, and have nothing to do with the marketplace. This kind of approach and evaluation explains the official opposition's low standing in the polls. The House leader already made some very passionate reference to that.

Instead, I found the speech by the right hon. member for Calgary Centre extremely reassuring, particularly what he said toward the end of his speech. In referring to these reforms he said that they would allow us to take a step in the direction of reasserting the public interest and that they were central to the health of our democracy. This was a very good statement and I concur. He also said that it was clear that the status quo does not work.

Evidently, for the official opposition the status quo does work which is why it is stuck. It is stagnant and it seems to be desperately grasping for a rationale that would allow it to justify to its electors why stagnation is better than moving in the right direction. Basically that is what and where the official opposition rests in its approach to politics, which is regrettable because usually the role of the official opposition is to prod the government to do more, to do better and to improve. Instead we have a regressive movement trying to slow down and turn the events and thrust of history into the past rather than into what is the inevitable future waiting for us.

The hon. member for Calgary Centre also said that the Minister of Canadian Heritage had testified to the effect that the present system invited very real cynicism in the country when she said that financial considerations and the interests of contributors held up the timetable of Kyoto. That remains to be proven, but that is what he said.

He went on to say that there was no doubt that the present system invited abuse. This is the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party who I am quoting. He concluded by saying that the bill was only the beginning, that he would support the bill at this reading and encourage the widest possible opportunities from members of all parties to improve it.

We find very fine support from the Progressive Conservative Party, expressed by a member who has considerable experience, who comes from the west, who represents a party right of centre and whose voice, I am sure, is much more representative of the people in western Canada than the unfortunate position taken by the official opposition. I am sure in committee the official opposition will rethink its role and find the positive and significant measures contained in the bill. It is a tremendous step in the right direction as far as I can judge.

Why? There are several reasons. One is that riding association leadership candidates and nomination contestants would have to disclose and report to the Chief Electoral Officer. The other one is that nomination contestants would be subject to a spending limit equivalent to 50% of the candidate spending limit in the same riding as the previous election.

Another element is that the bill is a prohibition on contributions from corporations, unions and other associations. Some have already described it as too high. I am among them. I think it could be much lower than that.

Another feature is that corporations, unions and associations would be allowed to contribute a maximum of $1,000 annually to the aggregate of candidates, local associations and nomination contestants. I am sure this will be studied in detail in committee.

The bill also would limit the amount that individuals could contribute: the aggregate of $10,000 annual donation to a registered party. An individual also would be allowed to contribute $10,000 to the leadership contestant in a leadership campaign. The amount of $10,000 does not represent the amount that the average Canadian can afford. I hope this can be examined very closely at committee stage and possibly reduced accordingly. It is very hard to know exactly where the limit ought to be but I would imagine that even if it were reduced by half, to $5,000, that it would still be fairly high.

Additional features are the percentage of election expenses that can be reimbursed to parties would be increased from 22.5% to 50%. The qualification threshold for reimbursement of candidate expenses would be lowered from 15% to 10% of a number of variable costs in the riding, which would allow more candidates to receive reimbursement after elections. This is a very important feature.

Finally, as has been done already in three provinces, registered parties would receive an allowance which would be paid on a quarterly basis, et cetera.

We can see that there is a wide range of significant initiatives that ought to be given full airing and full attention in committee in an effort of providing legislation for which Canadians can be proud, particularly Canadians who feel that the party system needs to be improved in its capacity to bring forward new ideas and new candidates.

It seems to me, in essence, that one can conclude this debate by simply saying that in a healthy democracy it is actually ideas that count more than money, and that we should provide a vehicle for parties that have ideas to come forward and to secure them for some kind of financial support in times when the costs are skyrocketing.

There are wastes in campaigns. The campaign waste alone in sign production and sign battles is enormous. The sign campaign is costly and energy consuming which makes one wonder whether we should not find ways and means of limiting the extent of the sign campaign for the benefit of everybody.

I, like many others have already done, commend the government for this fine initiative. We need it. The sooner it is brought back to the House, reported and passed, the better for democracy, for Canadian democracy and for all those who believe in having a healthy and mature democratic system.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, in view of the fact that the member supports the legislation and says that companies and businesses should not be able to contribute these large amounts, in fact according to his words he would like to see it reduced further, I wonder whether he is simply announcing that he concurs with the perception that members of the Canadian Alliance and a lot of voters have had for years, and that is that organizations, like Bombardier and others, have bought a lot of favour by making contributions to the Liberal Party.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is the whole point, that the dependence on two particular interest sectors, namely the corporate sector and the union sector, is one that needs to be bridled in, controlled and reduced. I think that a party that is in power ought to be actually congratulated for taking that measure, which I would doubt very much the Alliance Party would take under consideration if it were in power.

Second, the Alliance Party has a tremendous amount of confidence in and quotes the National Citizens' Coalition as being the ultimate in democratic procedures and democratic values. We did some research, at least in the limited time available, and this is what we found out about the National Citizens' Coalition, which is the organization to which the hon. member and other members of that party have frequently made reference in very supportive terms. This is what I read:

...Many of the [National Citizens' Coalition's] fiercest critics have pointed out the incongruity of an organization which attacks others for supposedly undemocratic practise while organizing itself along similar lines. Claiming a membership of some 40,000-45,000...it has consistently refused to release any list of names. Even more striking is the fact that it is neither a citizen-based grassroots organization nor a coalition of any traditional kind. Its constitution actually distinguishes between “voting” and “public members”; as so-called public members, ordinary citizens are not entitled to vote, attend meetings or even be informed of meetings...voting members, by contrast, are entitled not only to attend meetings but also to select the four members of the board of directors. Only two voting members are required for a quorum, and only three directors are necessary to conduct NCC business...Nor has the secretive lobby group ever explained its sources of funding, despite its obvious affluence...while the NCC is not a charitable organization whose contributions are tax-receiptable, its contributors--mostly businesses and large corporations--can deduct their payments as a business expense...the organization's budget in 1997 was nearly $3 million dollars...[a] detailed analysis of advisory-board members revealed ties to “thirty-nine major corporations...eight major insurance companies, seven advertising agencies and more than fifty lesser corporations--

This was written by Dr. Brooke Jeffrey in Canadian Forum in June 1999.

Dennis McDermott
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Dennis McDermott, who passed away last week at the age of 81.

Dennis McDermott was president of the Canadian Labour Congress from 1978 to 1986. Before that, he was the Canadian director of the United Auto Workers for ten years. He was widely respected as a model leader of the trade union movement.

Mr. McDermott will be remembered for his advocacy of human rights issues and his outreach to workers and unions around the world. He raised the profile of the labour movement in Canada, and in 1981 he led one of the largest rallies ever held on Parliament Hill.

I ask the House to join me in sending our condolences to the friends and family of Dennis McDermott. We will all remember him for his conviction and hard fought efforts.

Curling
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr.Speaker, Canada's best curlers come from Saskatchewan, no matter what my friends from Alberta might say. Last week, our men's and women's teams captured the Karcher Canadian junior curling titles in Ottawa.

Next week, Saskatchewan's girls curling representatives at the 2003 Canada Winter Games in beautiful Bathurst, New Brunswick, will be Biggar's Lindsey Barber, Claire Webster, Robyn Silvernagle and Hailey Surik. These four dedicated young ladies have worked hard to train for this competition and we are extremely proud of them. They are already Saskatchewan's provincial winter games champions and are very proud to be part of an outstanding Team Saskatchewan. Their determination and commitment to their sport will ensure their success.

These ladies are just the latest in an amazing string of top female curlers to come from the Biggar Curling Club, and we wish to say good curling, ladies.

Heart Month
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, February is Heart Month in Canada, a time to make Canadians aware of the things they can do to manage their risk for heart disease and stroke. They include avoiding tobacco use, following a healthy diet and being physically active.

Heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death in Canada, cost the Canadian economy over $18 billion annually, and this represents 11.6% of all costs related to illness.

Today, representatives of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, the Canadian Cardiovascular Society and the Canadian Council of Cardiovascular Nurses are on the Hill to meet with us. They are here to speak to us about the things that we can do better to prevent and treat heart disease and stroke.

We also need to take a responsibility as parliamentarians to inform our constituents about the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle.

East Coast Music Awards
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, last night in Halifax the East Coast Music Awards celebrated the rich and diverse musical talent and heritage found on our eastern shores. Studded with great performances throughout the evening, the gala showcased the very best Canadian music has to offer.

In particular, I would like to congratulate Newfoundland's Great Big Sea for winning five awards. Last night's victories added to the band's long list of honours.

Let me also offer congratulations to Lennie Gallant, whose first full length French album, Le vent bohème , garnered Mr. Gallant both the male artist and francophone recording awards, while Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster took female artist of the year.

Canadian music embodies the creativity and spirit of Canadians. It helps define who we are and reflects the richness of Canada's cultural diversity. It is with pride that I invite all Canadians and all my colleagues to celebrate the successes of our east coast music artists. I wish to offer all the winners and nominees my warmest congratulations.

Lynda Lemay and Natasha St-Pier
Statements By Members

February 17th, 2003 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Assad Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, two Canadian women have brought honour to Canada by being awarded Victoires for musical excellence in France.

Lynda Lemay was selected top female artist of the year, while Natasha St-Pier was awarded the only prize voted on by the public, for best new artist. These two talented singers richly deserve this recognition of their hard work.

My colleagues join with me in congratulating not only Quebec's Lynda Lemay but also, and equally warmly, New Brunswick's Natasha St-Pier. Well done.

Heart on the Hill Day
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, today is Heart on the Hill Day.

Heart disease and stroke are responsible for approximately 80,000 deaths and almost half a million hospitalizations each year in Canada. We need to focus on disease prevention and health promotion.

We know that the ticking time bomb that could make the current numbers pale in comparison is the rate of obesity in children and youth. A study has shown that two million Canadian children aged nine to 12 are so inactive and have such poor diets that when they hit their thirties they will be at high risk of heart disease.

However, the federal government often prefers further studies rather than real action. Last year the health minister announced $15 million for further study of and research on the causes of obesity. In most cases, the cause of obesity is well known: poor diet and lack of physical activity. The $15 million could have been better spent in promoting genuine efforts to combat obesity among children and youth today.

Let us have a heart and invest wisely in our health and in our children.

Steve Michelin
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence O'Brien Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is my sad duty to pay tribute to a leader and community builder in Labrador, Steve Michelin, who has died at the age of 56.

Steve played a key role in political and social life in Labrador for many years. He was a founding member of the Labrador Heritage Society and an inaugural member of the first elected town council of Labrador City in 1981. He was a leader in the Combined Councils of Labrador, one of our most important regional bodies, and he was a driving force behind the campaign to create a separate federal riding for Labrador.

Steve helped create Labrador unity and he built bridges between the diverse communities that make up our region. Labrador is a better place for his dedication and we are poorer for his loss.

To Hilda, Denise and Stephanie, and to his family, friends and colleagues, I wish to convey my deepest sympathies.

Government Spending
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, federal Liberals are famous for waste: the HRDC billion dollar boondoggle, the wasteful firearms registry, advertising contracts that are now being investigated by the RCMP and advertising for Kyoto that totalled $9.7 million.

Now we have another advertising contract that is wasteful: $2.9 million spent on a feel good, full page ad on Canada's new health accord, a full page ad in newspapers all across the country.

What would $2.9 million do if used for patients instead of advertising firms? Frankly, it could buy two new MRI machines that would allow a patient with headaches to reduce her wait for a scan by weeks. When faced with $2.9 million for a big, feel good newspaper ad or the same money for two new MRI machines, that patient's choice is obvious. If you had a brain tumour, which would you choose?

Peace Rally
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, last Saturday I and several others from this House belonging to the Bloc Quebecois attended the mammoth peace rally in Montreal, along with well over 100,000 others.

I find it most regrettable that the Premier of Quebec, mandated as he is to represent all of the people of Quebec, took advantage of the opportunity afforded by this eloquent public expression in favour of peace to read into it a pro-sovereignty message.

Not only does this diminish the premier himself, but it also casts a shadow on the intent and the meaning of this huge public appeal on behalf of peace. The event far surpassed any political or ideological partisanship, in fact on the contrary it sought to bring together all those who believe in peace, regardless of any political or ideological differences.

In such critical circumstances, it is the duty of the premier of all Quebec to take the high road and make every effort to unite people.

Indeed, it behooves the premier of all Quebeckers to rise above and beyond, and to take the high road, seeking in crucial circumstances--

Peace Rally
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Châteauguay.