House of Commons Hansard #114 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

1:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join the debate on Bill C-24, the new fundraising bill for political expenses that will again be incurred by the taxpayers of the country. We seem to see a common thread here.

The concern from the Canadian Alliance standpoint is that this again misses the target. We see a lot of different bills come to this place that, politically, look like they would be a good thing but when we skin that animal out we realize that it does not go anywhere near what needs to be done.

We have seen a huge problem here. The Prime Minister himself was quoted in the Toronto Star . He said there is a perception that money can unduly influence the political process. He said in the House earlier that there is a perception that corporate and union contributions buy influence.

It is not the donation to a political party that in and of itself is the problem. The problem is when we see things like the sponsorship fiasco that rocked the government a year ago or when donations follow a political package to a friend of someone.

The bill in no way addresses the types of political patronage and the abuse of power by mostly frontbench cabinet members. They have the discretionary funding. We have also seen the Prime Minister being a good little MP and making phone calls to folks who are outside of Treasury Board rules and guidelines. We saw the public works minister and one after another as they fell by the wayside rocked by these scandals. We saw the government struggle to come up with more rules. What is the good of having all these extra rules if nobody follows the darn things anyway? We keep rewriting the rule book, but everybody throws it aside and does their own thing.

Again, we see that in Bill C-24. The relevance of this does not remove the underlying problem of kickbacks, handouts, and donations to the Liberal Party. It is almost proceeds of crime. I am sure that if the RCMP were to dig to the bottom of all of this it would find out the percentage that was required back. It is almost a tithing system the way this was done. Money went to certain parties to perform jobs that were questionable, whether they needed to be done or were done, and then the money was back in Liberal coffers. It is a terrible way to run a government, but that is what is done.

The bill in no way addresses the patronage and kickback problems or even these huge trust funds that certain MPs have developed over the years. It does not address any of those types of situations.

There has been a myriad of articles written on this and I know we stand alone as a political party in saying this is not the right thing to do. We have the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport over there yammering away, but he does not understand what is happening outside the Ottawa bubble. We give these guys a bigger job, a car and driver, and they forget what their folks at home are saying. They will pay the price in the next election. We saw it in the byelection just a short time ago.

Professor Ken Carty is Canada's leading academic analyst to party leadership and electoral process. He said:

Freeing parties from the resources of their members and their supporters will leave them as instruments for professional politicians to mobilize and control voters rather than tools for citizens to direct their public life.

He has some major concerns and I think he hits it right on the head with that statement. This is all about long term political control. These fellows are very good at that as has been demonstrated in the years that they have controlled the country. They have waited for the long term spin to be to their benefit. They are more than happy to take a little short term pain in order to gain some long term control. We have seen that time and time again.

There are a lot of special interest groups out there and a lot of them put pressure on MPs, but mostly cabinet ministers, because they have the resources to change any sort of legislation that comes down here. As backbenchers or opposition members, we do not have a lot of influence in what a final bill will look like. We see that time and again. Members from all sides of the House do great work in committees, and when a report finally gets here, where does it go? It goes into a dustbin. It is gone. Nobody ever picks up some of the amendments and they are good amendments. Some come from this side and some actually come from Liberal backbenchers. These are good, solid, and sound amendments that would make legislation better. However, we see them tossed aside because cabinet ministers have a certain idea where they want to go and they will not deviate from that. They will not rewrite a clause or change a thing in those bills. That is a real frustration.

We have other folks like Errol Mendes, who is a law professor at the University of Ottawa. He is an expert in ethics and human rights. He is troubled by the bill and he is speaking out too.

Professor Mendes has a lot of education along these lines and has sound logic and good thinking. He is saying that there are violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms right here in this piece of legislation. We had the House leader rise and say he does not believe any of that, that it is all hooey and it will end up in the courts and the lawyers will sort it out. There we go again: a piece of legislation that will make a lot of work for lawyers and the courts, and we are already overburdened with courts.

Professor Mendes is the editor-in-chief of Canada's leading constitutional law journal, the National Journal of Constitutional Law . He has written numerous articles about this and has some major concerns, none of which are even close to being addressed by a couple of the amendments that have squeaked through. The problem with those amendments is it makes this package richer, not more accountable. He is saying that this is being ratcheted up.

As a constitutional lawyer, Professor Mendes has some grave concerns. He said that this “subsidy scheme” violates the charter. That is what he calls it, a subsidy scheme, and that is more or less what it is. It is taxpayers' money being subsidized back into political parties which they may or may not support.

Professor Mendes says that under section 15 of the charter, which is designed to protect minorities who have traditionally been blocked out of the system, this goes even further and blocks them some more. The bill does not address the 50 seat rule that we have and so on. Anyone trying to start a political party or maintain a smaller political party will have a terrible time under this bill. Again this is part of the long term benefits the Liberals are looking for. The government House leader writes it all away. Part of his quote was that it may keep a lawyer busy, but it is not going to convince him that it is not good. That is a sad situation and a sad commentary from the House leader, who is more intent on ramming the legislation through as part of the existing Prime Minister's legacy than anything that deals with common sense.

There are a lot of other things that come up in our day to day work here and one I have always questioned is these trade missions, team Canada, led by our all star Prime Minister. In fact, I saw a newspaper headline a while ago, a dated issue that showed the leaders of China and Britain at the time, Bill Clinton from the United States and our illustrious Prime Minister. They are all standing in a row in China. The newspaper article identified the first three, but said when it came to our Prime Minister “man at right unidentified”. That was our Prime Minister, who has been a great friend of China and supports that country every way he can. The paper did not even know who he was and he was there on a trade mission.

There are a lot of questions about that. In fact, when we study it, with the exception of China, for every other country to which we have had a team Canada trade mission, our trade has gone down, not up. And for the one country that we do the majority of our trade with, we did not send trade delegations there and our trade went up. So we have to question the validity of some of these trade delegations.

In the study that was done, the findings were that one-third of the businesses on trade missions donated to the Liberals. The author raises his eyebrows and says it was either a hand picked delegation or they were converted on the road to Damascus and started to make donations to the Liberal Party after they were included in one of these trade delegations. There is some huge lobbying that can go on there and there can be contributions back to a governing party outside of anything this law covers. There are grants and contributions and all sorts of good things that go on. It is a huge double standard.

Another thing that speaks to this is that the government now will review the freebie ticket policy. We had the Ottawa Senators go another step up toward their goal of the Stanley Cup this year. Unfortunately the team did not make it, but they did play well, and lot of folks from this House got free tickets. That does not show up on anyone's list because it is under a certain value and so on, but that is preferential treatment. The Prime Minister can even golf with Tiger Woods and that is supposedly worth $50,000. The Prime Minister's lapdog, the ethics counsellor, said it was just a great thing that the Prime Minister was able to talk to Tiger about American and Canadian relations, but the Prime Minister will not even talk to the president, so I do not think he will get very far through the back door with a golfer like Tiger Woods. In fact, Tiger Woods' comment was that the Prime Minister does some creative accounting when he is keeping his own score.

There are these tickets that slip under the wire and there are these trade missions that slip under the wire, and the Bill C-24 legislation is a terrible way to try to slam the door on this. It does not address the fundamental problem. It is the back door deals we have a concern with, not this.

There is talk from the other side that we on this side will take the money and be hypocrites, but this is called the law of the land. We have no choice once it is in legislation like this, and as much as we detest it we are going to have to live with it. All the extra bookkeeping that is going to be required for our constituency associations and all of that is going to be a terrible workload. A lot of people will throw up their hands. There will less people voting in the next election because they are just walking away from this type of legislation.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to have the opportunity to participate in this debate on Bill C-24.

I listened carefully to the government House leader when he introduced the debate that is now underway. He congratulated members for introducing amendments that would improve the bill and basically urged that we get through report stage reading in a great big hurry so we can go to third reading with haste and get this bill over and done with.

I have to say, “Not quite so fast, Mr. Government House Leader”. It seems to me we have a situation here where a bill that is overwhelmingly supported by Canadians in terms of its stated purpose is failing spectacularly to live up to what that stated purpose is supposed to be. Let me make it very clear that the New Democratic Party from the outset has endorsed the stated intent of the bill, which is to remove big money from undue influence in the political process, to level the playing field as it relates to the financial base of political parties and specifically to rule out the contribution of political party funds and election contributions from corporations and unions. So far so good: It is a principle that I think is endorsed overwhelmingly by Canadians.

The problem I have as a member who supports that principle, one with which my party is struggling, is the shortfall we now see in what the government clearly has decided is the final version of the bill that it wishes to rush through and implement as the law of the land.

Let me use a couple of examples, one referring to a situation in Nova Scotia that perhaps best illustrates the problem we have with some very uneven treatment in this bill as it relates to contributions from corporations versus contributions from unions. My colleague, the member from Saskatoon, who spoke earlier, already has expressed concern about this. My colleague from Winnipeg Centre also has expressed concerns about this. Let me just for the record say that it is surely a contradiction of the fundamental principle that this bill, which the government wishes to pass in this form, reflecting the amendments from government members, is saying absolutely no to contributions from any trade unions of any kind while it basically leaves the door very open to corporations' contributions to election financing.

That is just a statement of fact. That is not a point of argument or a point of disagreement. The reality is that what has been provided in this bill is that corporations are free, admittedly, to donate less money than they did in the past. The reality is that the Liberal Party in particular has been bankrolled overwhelmingly by corporate donations, so I will acknowledge that the restrictions placed on corporate donations mean that the Liberal Party is scrambling to figure out how to make up the shortfall from that massive source of corporate funding of their election campaigns and their political party in the past.

But by what possible principle of even-handedness does the government feel that disallowing contributions, for example, from trade union locals, while it gives completely open door treatment to business franchises, is the way to go? By what possible logic or principle of fairness has the government made the decision that this is the way to go?

Let me give an example. I know this was referred to briefly by my colleague who spoke before me. We have in this country today 1,201,383 incorporated businesses. We also have in this country today 886 trade unions. I do not want to suggest that every single incorporated business in the country is going to give to one political party or to one particular political party, but based on the legislation before us, we have the potential for 1,201,383 businesses to donate $1,000 each to candidates in every riding across this country. We have no such openness even to the far fewer numbers of trade union locals in the country. We have 16,601 trade union locals in the country. In fact, that is a ratio of 1,355 to 1 as between business and trade union locals, yet we have in this legislation a total disallowance of any trade union locals from making modest contributions to election candidates.

It makes no sense, not if the stated purpose was in fact the intention of this legislation. It simply falls short of the stated purpose, which is to level the playing field and to remove big corporate and big trade union money from election campaigns. Even in the way in which it has been described, there is a severe distortion. There is a deception in creating the impression that money from trade union donors comes anywhere close to matching the massive bankrolling of the Liberal Party in particular.

This is all a matter of public record. This is not a matter of conjecture. Those facts and figures are known, because the New Democratic Party in the early 1970s as a condition of maintaining a minority Liberal government demanded the full disclosure of sources and amounts of political party contributions. The facts are a matter of public record.

But what we have here is a situation, for example, where every single GM dealership, and I am not picking on GM but simply picking out one car dealership in the country, in fact can donate $1,000 to the campaign of the political candidate of its choice. However, no local representing auto workers anywhere in the country, no matter how many thousands of auto workers there are, is permitted to donate $1,000 out of its own auto workers' pockets and paycheques and deposit it through a check-off system which they sign on to. Where is the even-handedness in that? Where is the level playing field? We have made it clear that we are opposed both to union and to corporate funds, but what we are absolutely not in favour of is that kind of discriminatory treatment, that kind of contradictory situation.

The second concern, which I will have an opportunity to speak about at a later date, is really the complete farce of allowing for trust funds that are already in existence, with who knows how many dollars from what sources, to continue to bankroll political party campaigns.

Let me say in closing, because I know my time is up, that I come from Nova Scotia and millions and millions of dollars were obtained by the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia and deposited in trust funds through extortion, through influence peddling and through bribery, of which Liberal Party officials were convicted in the courts. In fact, there were cases of imprisonment related to that. To this day, the Liberal Party bankrolls its campaigns with those illegal trust funds. The legislation has been permitting it.

We now have a situation where we have no idea what is in those trust funds because there is no requirement to disclose the sources of those trust funds. They will be permitted to continue to finance political party campaigns where they are in existence.

One has to say, at the very least, that the bill falls far short of fairness, of any reasonable level of the playing field and of any full disclosure of the sources and amounts of political party contributions, which surely are three major characteristics that one would look for in the bill before being able to wholeheartedly support it.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to the bill that is before the House, Bill C-24.

I should say that it does not surprise me, the route that the government is taking on this.

I sit on the public accounts committee and, as members are aware, the Auditor General of Canada, an independent person who reports directly to the House of Commons as opposed to the government, has pointed out some of the travesties that have occurred in government sponsorship programs.

It is constantly being publicized and brought to the public's attention the accountability of how the government has these kinds of offhand situations where companies are directly benefiting from the fact that they donate to the Liberal Party of Canada, or it might even be in the reverse, where people donate to the Liberal Party of Canada and then they benefit, as a company, from government contracts.

The one thing that has made it possible, not only for the Auditor General but for those of us in opposition whose job it is to hold the government to account, has been the ability to connect, through access to information or just the public accounts, those who get government contracts with those who donate to various political parties, namely, the governing party. We have, through that process, been able to make those connections.

Now, as I understand it, with the new legislation the government is trying to give Canadians the impression that all of that questionable behaviour will cease and desist, and that because of the taxpayer funding parties and elections, this kind of thing will not happen.

A person would have to be awfully naive to think that will be the end result. All that will happen is that rather than a corporation, which might receive a government contract, being upfront with its donation, perhaps 10 individuals of that corporation will be donating the money which would be equal or more than what that corporation might have donated in the first place, but the connections will be much harder to put together.

I think it will just create more confusion in trying to make those connections, therefore giving the governing party an opportunity to not be quite so accountable and upfront with who is getting what contracts and who is donating to the Liberal Party of Canada, or it might be some other party at the time.

I think it is also unfair to establish the public subsidization of political parties based on past performance. It was not that many years ago that I was a recipient of a feeling of the people of Canada that they were tired of the government of the day and wanted to replace it.

If this bill had been in place, it would not recognize that turn of support of the Canadian people. Where a party would have had substantial contributions from the public purse, it came to this House with only two people. Somehow there is a disconnect.

I would suggest that the legislation is very dangerous to democracy in Canada because it would fund the party that has perhaps given poor government by the people of Canada when they do not support that party, and that is unfair. It is undemocratic rather than being unfair for a government to insist that taxpayers have to fund political parties that they do not support.

Political parties should be funded by the people who support them, by the people who want to see them elected and elected in enough numbers to replace the government of the day or, simply put, it is the democratic principle of individuals to support the party that represents their viewpoints.

I do not think all taxpayers want to be supporting parties that they do not like, do not believe in and do not believe in what they stand for, and keep them in power, if that be the case. When we look at the number of dollars that the bill would give to political parties, it is astounding.

I think taxpayers are already concerned with the fact that if individuals who run an election receive more than 15% of the votes they will get back half the money they spent. The legislation says that individuals who get 10% of the popular vote would get back half the money they spent.

If taxpayers really stopped to think about it I think they would be horrified to know to what extent they will be funding this electoral process. I am not saying that there should not be a connect between the voter and the process, but I think that should be the decision by the person who is voting and paying the bill, as to how much connected they want to be to the process.

The two things with which I have real difficulty are that it will be less transparent, I believe, and that it will take away the democratic right of voters to support the party of their choice.

In looking at the fine print I am also very concerned with the reporting mechanisms for smaller amounts of money. I do not how other people operate but my constituency organization has all volunteers. They are good people who give of their time to their country in the way they have chosen to by helping the electoral process, but they are not CGAs. They are not people who can go through an accounting process that, quite frankly, is done at election time, and rightly so, but I cannot see where it will be of benefit to Elections Canada to have all this paperwork flowing in. It will not be to the benefit of the constituency organizations that will have to put out money to hire accountants and auditors to audit the books for, at some times, minimal amounts of money.

When large sums of money are raised it is generally at election time which is when the reporting mechanisms have to be very stringent. I am not saying that there should not be any reporting mechanisms but the way it is outlined in the book it will be almost impossible for smaller volunteer organizations like our constituency associations to meet the requirements. I think it is an inappropriate way of handling this.

The other area that causes me great concern is the way the bill does not even deal with one of the greatest concerns that the Chief Electoral Officer has, and that is the patronage postings of returning officers. The comments from the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada is that he would not take our Canadian system and push it in third world countries where they are trying to establish democratic election processes. It is a sad state of affairs when he cannot even use our process as an example of how he would do things. The biggest concern he has is with this business of the Prime Minister of Canada appointing returning officers.

When are we going to have a truly neutral election process? As long as the Prime Minister is in a position of picking and choosing political hacks who support his policy and his party's position, how will we ever get neutral people running elections?

It goes further than the returning officers. It goes down into the people who they pick. There is no way, in a democracy like Canada, that our election process should be tainted by patronage appointments. It is a sad day when the major overhaul of our elections act does not remedy that failure.

As I said, when the Chief Electoral Officer promotes democratic elections around the world to developing and emerging democracies but cannot use our own example, something is wrong with that. The bill fails to address some of those very serious issues.

I will end by saying that I had great hopes that this would have allowed more transparent election spending or contributions but it does not. I had hoped that it would have made the process more democratic but it does not. The bill has failed to address some of the serious concerns that taxpayers, voters, Canadians have with our electoral process.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Simcoe North
Ontario

Liberal

Paul Devillers Secretary of State (Amateur Sport) and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we have heard various speakers this morning say that there is broad support for the principles behind the legislation but then they seem to drift off into tangents of quite partisan attacks on the motivation of the government, et cetera.

However I think there is broad support, not only from parties in the House but from Canadians generally. When I discussed the issue in my riding, it received broad support. Canadians are concerned with the appearance of influence that is obtained when larger corporations make larger donations to political parties. They are concerned when the labour movement makes contributions to political parties and the influence that could have.

In my riding I see broad support for the principles. Sometimes the devils are in the details, which is what we are in the process of discussing and debating. I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate the committee, ably chaired by the member for Peterborough, for the work it did in reviewing the bill and coming up with some of the amendments that are before the House at the present time.

The important part to bear in mind is that we need to come up with legislation that is true to the principles and the intent, and that is to have greater transparency and greater openness so Canadians can feel that our electoral system is indeed free and independent. That it is somewhat taxpayer subsidized now cannot be denied. Currently, when corporations make their contributions to political parties they do obtain quite significant tax credits or tax deductions, so there is a considerable amount of taxpayer money being invested in our system now.

We are trying to avoid a system similar to other countries where it takes tremendous amounts of money to become elected. It takes it outside the ability of many ordinary citizens to become elected to the houses of representation in their respective countries. A very strong plus for our electoral system is that we currently have spending limits and that the legislation will be an improvement on that system.

We have heard comments here this morning to the effect that it is a denial of democracy. Some of the amendments or provisions are for taxpayer funds to be reimbursed directly to political parties dependent upon the result of elections. There is nothing that prevents individual Canadians from making direct contributions. They would still receive tax credits for the contributions to the parties of their choice. We are not making an exclusive change that would prohibit that.

I think some of the comments may have been a little bit overstated to the effect that we will be denying democracy here by putting in changes that will provide for taxpayer funds to be reimbursed directly to parties, because that is done indirectly now through the tax credits. Also, we currently have rebates to individual campaigns. I believe Motions Nos. 8 and 9, combined, would have the effect of increasing that from a 50% rebate to a 60% rebate for individual campaigns.

One has to bear that in mind. It is a very onerous task, that each individual candidate for election to the House of Commons continually, term after term, has to go through a process of amassing enough funds in his or her individual riding association coffers to finance those campaigns. This is an amendment, the effect of which will be to increase that rebate by 10%. I am sorry if I missed the point but that does not appear to be an attack on democracy from my perspective. It is just something that will assist all campaigns to amass the funds they require prepare for the next election.

We were talking about the amendments in Group No. 1. They are all reasonable amendments that could be supported by members of the House.

Motion No. 4 is an increase for the quarterly allowance from $1.50 per vote to $1.75. Again, I do not think there is anything contained in the amendment that would warrant some of the very strong language that we have heard in this debate.

Motions Nos. 13 and 14 are temporary. They are transitional provisions that will be necessary because we will be switching from one system to another. It will require a cultural change provided the legislation comes into effect somewhat in the present state it is in now. There will need to be a transitional period where all parties will need time to adjust to the new culture. Those two provisions are self-explanatory and certainly warrant it.

With that I will conclude and suggest that these are amendments that warrant the support of the House.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-24. This is the second time I have spoken to the bill and it is because of my great concern about it.

I was quite surprised to hear the previous speaker from the government side say that there was wide support for Bill C-24. I have not received a single phone call in my riding of Calgary East in favour of the bill. I have received numerous phone calls opposed to it.

My constituents want to know why taxpayers should finance political parties, a simple question. Hard earned taxpayer dollars will be used to finance political parties. Taxpayers work hard for their money. The government is supposed to tax them for services that improve their quality of life, not send it down. The government is not supposed to play politics with their lives. As I said already, taxpayers cannot understand why they should have to pay for political parties. I cannot answer them.

This government calls itself the natural governing party of Canada. Those Liberal are the ones who have benefited the most out of this whole political financial system. They are the ones who have created it over the years. There are some flaws and there does need to be improvements, but why transfer this burden to taxpayers?

A phenomenon is occurring quite often these days. Somebody needs more money so the government transfers it to them, and this is called user fees. Canadians will tell us that user fees have taken off and there is no accountability. Any organization can charge a user fee and there is no stopping that. My colleague on the other side has a bill before the House, which I am supporting. It tries to bring some accountability to user fees. Bill C-24 is like a user fee.

What is stopping the government from raising the bar and having taxpayers paying money to political parties? There was a revolt in the Liberal Party, and what did the Prime Minister do to pacify those members? He raised the limit. Where does it stop? It will just keep going on and on. It is like giving a blank cheque to the government. With the government's record and when it suits it politically, it will do anything to keep an interest in that file. To Hell with ethics an to Hell with political acumen.This has been the government's record.

Does the government talk about patronage? With regard to Elections Canada, has the government brought in any reform in reference to returning officers? No, it has not. I bet most Canadians do not know that returning officers can only be appointed by the ruling party and nobody else. The government does not want to clean that up.

The government does not want to remove the 50 candidate rule because it benefits the most and it does not want any competition. It does not want to talk about secret trust funds. It also does not want to talk about third party responsibility. If Canadians came to know about that, they would demand change and more accountability. Who does it benefit? It benefits that government over there.

I was amazed to hear the last speaker say that we on this side of the House were attacking the government and that we were being partisan. We are being partisan? Look at the bill and the essence and the intent of it. What does the Prime Minister say about this bill? That it will be influenced by corporations and trade unions.

What does the bill do? There will be a $5,000 limit for individuals and a $1,000 limit for corporations. I am an elected member of Parliament. I go out and solicit campaign funds. Generally Canadians will give $20, $25, $100 or $150. The average Canadian does not give $5,000 to political parties. Only rich Canadians and corporations can afford to give $5,000. Because they give $5,000, why would they not have undue influence? The Prime Minister says that he wants to eliminate that by this bill? It is the same thing. They have just twisted it around so their rich buddies can give them $5,000. It has not changed, it will just be taken away from the corporations.

The essence of not having an influence on this is a counterproductive argument. That is why Canadians ask this simple question. Why should they pay? Why should taxpayers pay for political parties?

This bill also would create an expensive bureaucracy, as my colleague from Surrey just said. Riding associations will require a tremendous amount of reporting to fulfill their bureaucratic requirements. We will be creating a huge bureaucracy with huge reporting requirements.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The member will have three minutes remaining in his intervention when we get back to Bill C-24 at report stage.

We will now proceed to statements by members.

Jeux d'été du Québec
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Gérard Binet Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, from August 1 to 9, the Asbestos region will host the 39th finals of the Jeux du Québec–été 2003. At this event, 4,273 athletes from all over Quebec will take part in a multitude of sporting activities.

On June 2, on behalf of the Minister of Human Resources Development, I had the pleasure of announcing $21,431 in financial support for the organizing committee. This funding comes from the summer career placements program and will make it possible to create summer jobs for seven students.

Whether they work in preparing for the games, or ensuring later that they run smoothly, having a summer job helps these young people develop new skills and abilities, identify career objectives and save money to pay for their education. This initiative, which will benefit the employer as much as the young people, is a fine example of the creative synergy between enthusiasm and experience; we can be very proud of this kind of program.

This summer, we invite you all to visit this beautiful region and take part in our summer games.

World Indoor Lacrosse Championships
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Beth Phinney Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to pay tribute to the Canadian national team for its gold medal performance at the indoor lacrosse championships held several weekends ago in Hamilton.

Team Canada defeated the Iroquois Nationals for the gold by a score of 21 to 4. The city of Hamilton was host to teams from the United States, Scotland, Czech Republic and Australia. In total Canada outscored the opposition 148 to 42 through seven games.

The tournament was organized to promote Canadian culture to other countries. Team Canada's victory is a remarkable demonstration of why lacrosse is our summer national sport.

We are proud of all of our athletes. Please join me in congratulating the athletes of Team Canada for their victory at the 2003 world indoor lacrosse championships.

Date Rape Drugs
Statements By Members

June 9th, 2003 / 2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, in recent years new and dangerous weapons have been used to sexually assault women at parties, on campuses and at nightclubs. The weapons are date rape drugs. Virtually undetectable, date rape drugs are tasteless, odourless and colourless. They are stealthily slipped into drinks and food and act rapidly, rendering the victim unconscious and unresponsive with little or no memory of what happens while the drug is active in the victim's system. Victims are often unaware that they have been sexually assaulted or raped, with little memory of their attacker. Worse, all traces of the drug can leave the body within 72 hours of ingestion and are not found in any routine toxicology screening or blood test.

Not long ago, a husband and wife predator team in Prince George used date rape drugs to drug children for child pornography. Last month a 32 year old woman died in Quebec after drinking beverages laced with the date rape drug.

For too long, nothing has been done to combat date rape drugs. This is why I am tabling in the House my private member's Motion No.458, which calls on the government to list identified date rape drugs as weapons in the Criminal Code and to create a national initiative to educate women on the dangers of date rape drugs.

Court Challenges Program
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, on June 1, I was pleased to attend a gathering hosted by the Court Challenges Program of Canada headed in Winnipeg.

The Manitoba division of the program was hosting Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and human rights commissioner for the United Nations.

I share this information with colleagues in the House to highlight the very important and quite singular work being undertaken by the court challenges program.

The court challenges program is a non-profit organization set up by the federal government to provide support for court cases across Canada that address language and equality rights that are guaranteed under the Canadian Constitution. The program is administered by a board of directors made up of experienced people in the areas of human rights and language rights.

I applaud the work of this organization. I urge all members to support the Court Challenges Program at every opportunity. It is a program that is distinctly Canadian and truly a model for jurisdictions worldwide.

Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate Pascale Baillargeon from Kimmirut, Nunavut for receiving the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence on May 15. The Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence was given to 16 educators from across Canada.

Pascale teaches grades 10 to 12 in fine arts, social studies, math, science, northern studies, outdoor education, computer technology, shop, life skills modules, career and life management, career planning and preparation. More important, she is a friend of the people of Kimmirut.

Pascale is originally from Quebec City and has lived in Kimmirut for the past 10 years and has become a member of the community.

On behalf of my constituents of Nunavut, let me say that we wish her well.

Amateur Sport
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services announced last December that there would be no more sponsorship money for professional sports teams, but lately he and his colleague the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport inked a deal with the CFL for close to $1 million to put Canadian flags on the league's helmets.

Last year Revenue Canada singled out Saskatchewan, claiming that teenage hockey players on volunteer-run teams must pay taxes. The Secretary of State for Amateur Sport cannot explain why stipends to young men living away from home are income, while handouts to Olympic athletes are not.

The public works minister cannot explain why a professional football league populated by American players requires taxpayers' money, while his province of Saskatchewan is being penalized for trying to develop future Canadian hockey stars.

The secretary of state has a soiree tonight in honour of amateur sport. Maybe he will announce that Canadian youth should play under the flag of Barbados to take advantage of tax breaks like millionaire shipowners can.

To avoid the mindless greed of the Liberal government, what else can Saskatchewan hockey players do but put the flag of Barbados on their helmets?

Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, congratulations to the officials of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency's access to information directorate. Over the last few years these dedicated employees have shown continuous improvement in their compliance with the statutory time requirements of the Access to Information Act. This year the CCRA achieved a grade A, denoting ideal compliance.

In his 2002-03 annual report, the information commissioner remarked:

These results are extremely encouraging. Few departments have achieved ideal compliance with the time requirements.... The measures taken by the CCRA over the years to make improvements could be adapted by other departments seeking similar improvements.

The diligent and dedicated CCRA staff completed 96.54% of access requests within the legislated timeframe for the period April 1, 2002 to November 30, 2002. It is an excellent record indeed.

Aung San Suu Kyi
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, on May 30, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner and activist in the fight for democracy and human rights in Burma, was arrested by the country's military authorities and placed in so-called preventive detention. Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent a number of years under house arrest, had—thanks to international pressure—finally been authorized to resume her political activities and travel around the country.

Now, the Burmese military have used clashes—provoked by the military, no doubt—between demonstrators and the militants of Aung San Suu Kyi's National Democracy League, as a pretext to jail her and shut down all of her political party's offices. The daughter of Aung San, a hero of Burmese independence who was assassinated in 1947, Aung San Suu Kyi has been struggling ceaselessly for 15 years to put an end to the military regime and institute democracy and respect for human rights in her country.

The international community must mobilize in order to force the Burmese authorities to release Aung San Suu Kyi immediately. Canada must develop a firmer stand vis-à-vis the military rulers of Burma, and speak out in all international forums to put an end to this intolerable situation.

Dairy Month
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, as chair of the dairy caucus I am very pleased to announce that June is Dairy Month in Canada.

The dairy industry is one of the largest agricultural sectors within Canada. In 2002 alone, over 7.6 billion litres of milk were produced, generating $4.4 billion in cash receipts and $9.8 billion in processor level sales. Clearly the dairy industry is one of the most vital to Canadian agriculture.

The dairy farmers also proudly sponsor our Olympic hopefuls and athletes. In fact, on June 25 in Calgary, 20 athletes will be awarded a bursary of $10,000 as part of the Dairy Farmers of Canada's pure determination fund.

The industry continually distributes information about the nutritional aspects and healthy effects that milk products have on Canadians' daily lives. With the nation's increasing love of cheese, cream and yogourt, it is important to realize the important contributions the dairy industry has made to Canada.

In short, Canadian cheese, gotta love it.