House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was country.

Topics

The House resumed from September 17 consideration of the motion.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Bras D'Or—Cape Breton
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be able to participate in debate prior to second reading on Bill C-49, an act respecting the effective date of the representation order of 2003.

The representation order referred to in the title of the act is the end product of a process for adjusting our electoral boundaries which takes place after every decennial census.

While this process is probably little known to most Canadians, it is fundamental to ensuring effective representation in the House of Commons for all regions, all provinces, all communities and all citizens. Given the importance of this process, I would like to spend a little bit of time today reviewing its key elements.

We should go back in this case to 1867 to find the origins of the electoral boundaries readjustment process, or the EBRA process, as it has become commonly known.

In addition to establishing a system that is based on representation by population, our Fathers of Confederation recognized the geographical, cultural, political and demographic diversity of our provinces and the importance of integrating these factors into any formula for distribution of seats in the House of Commons.

In addition to establishing a Parliament composed of two houses, the British North America Act of 1867 included section 51, which stated that the number of seats allocated to each province must be recalculated after each 10 year census, starting in 1871.

The act included a simple formula whereby the total number of seats was to be calculated by dividing the population of each province by a fixed number, referred to as the electoral quota or quotient. The quotient was derived by dividing the population of the province of Quebec by 65, the number of seats then held in Quebec under the Constitution. This formula provided the basis for the process we have today although there have been a number of important changes over the years.

For example, the famous Senate floor rule was added in 1915. It states that a province cannot have fewer seats in the House of Commons than it does in the Senate. This clause had the immediate effect of guaranteeing four seats to the province of Prince Edward Island and continues to provide a floor for a number of provinces today.

In 1946, the formula was changed so that 255 seats were allocated based on provinces' share of Canada's total population rather than the average population per electoral district in Quebec.

In 1951, the 15% clause was adopted to prevent too rapid a loss of seats in some provinces. Under the new rules, no province could lose more than 15% of the number of Commons seats to which it had been entitled in the last readjustment.

In the following decade, we entered what may be referred to as the modern era of electoral boundaries readjustment. Up to and including the boundary readjustment of 1951, the House of Commons itself was responsible for fixing the electoral boundaries of the electoral districts through a committee established for that purpose.

Concern about the level of influence exercised by the House led to the passing of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act in 1964. The new act was also brought in against the backdrop of the experience of our neighbours to the south, who were beset by the problem of gerrymandering. The act, which provides the statutory mechanism with which to carry out the constitutional requirements in section 51, is strongly based on the idea of maintaining the independence of the electoral redistribution process.

In the interests of political neutrality, the act establishes independent commissions in each province. As originally passed, each commission was to be chaired by a judge designated by the chief justice of the province, and there were to be three other members, including a representation commissioner and a public servant who would sit on the commission. The post of representation commissioner was later abolished and those duties were transferred to the Chief Electoral Officer.

In addition to being independent, it was recognized at the time that the process should provide opportunities for everyone to express their views, including the public and members of Parliament. To this end, each provincial commission publishes proposed electoral maps in the newspapers and the public is invited to public hearings held in various locations.

Members of Parliament, who invariably have strong views on both the names and boundaries of electoral districts, can appear before the commissions during the public hearings and there is also provision for them to make objections to proposed changes through a committee of the House of Commons. The final decision, however, rests within the commissions.

The current guidelines for determining boundary adjustments are found in the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, as amended in 1984. As set out in the act, the division of the province into electoral districts must proceed on the basis that the population of each electoral district in the province shall, as close as reasonably possible, correspond to the electoral quotient for that province.

However, making changes to electoral boundaries is not just a mathematical exercise. Rather, it is a delicate balancing act that must consider a number of factors, including the community of interest or the community of identity, or the historic pattern of an electoral district in that province, and a manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated rural and northern regions. In other words, the commissions must consider social, cultural, linguistic, geographic and other factors.

The commissions may depart from strict voter parity in order to take these factors into consideration so long as the population of each district remains within 25% more or 25% less of the electoral quota for that province. Exceptions to this range are possible, but only for remote and sparsely populated ridings. This 25% leeway reflects the Supreme Court's 1991 decision on Saskatchewan's provincial electoral boundaries, which concluded that the objective of the right to vote in the charter was to attain effective representation rather than strict voter parity.

This brings us to our present task. As all members will be aware, we have just completed the redistribution process and have new, up to date electoral maps. The only question is whether or not to accelerate its effective date. If operational concerns are satisfied, there is no reason not to do so, since this process is complete.

I have spoken today about the need for an independent electoral process. This will in no way change the EBRA process. It remains as independent as it always has been. The views of the public and members of Parliament have been heard. What has changed is that in this present case, the Chief Electoral Officer has told us that he does not need the full one year grace period that is prescribed in the act. In that case, I think we can all agree that it only makes sense to implement the new boundaries as soon as possible.

The sooner we act, the sooner the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta will get the seats they deserve and the sooner our electoral map will reflect all the other important changes in the demographic characteristics of Canada's electoral districts. If we delay implementation of the new ridings longer than is operationally necessary, it would be unfair not only to these particular regions but to all Canadians.

For these reasons I support this important legislation and I call upon all members to do so.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-49, which talks about boundary changes. As I listened to the parliamentary secretary as he spoke to the bill, I picked up on a couple of words he mentioned, which to me indicate why things are wrong with the government and what the problem is with this whole system of boundary changes and representation. He said that the boundary changes are effective representation for regions and that the regions of Alberta and British Columbia get the seats they deserve.

Let us in honesty look at this whole thing. This is like giving little crumbs off the table. There is a fundamental flaw in our Constitution, which is that we do not have equal representation. Regions do not have equal representation. That is what he did not talk about. When the parliamentary secretary talks about effective representation, I do not know what he is talking about.

Let us look at this for a minute. Historically, one can agree that when the Constitution was first brought in for this country the seat allocation and representation reflected the reality of that time, which, as the parliamentary secretary said, was around 1800. Today we are talking about the year 2004. The dynamics of this country have changed. Where are these dynamics being represented in this bill by the government? Nowhere.

Now we will have two extra seats for Alberta and two extra seats for British Columbia. And guess what: the prime minister in waiting says that the west needs equal representation and these seats will give it that representation. Give me a break: two seats will give us equal representation? How can everybody tout that western alienation will be taken care of by these four extra seats?

Now the Liberals have changed the date. They have brought it forward to April to suit their political agenda. It is all about politics. It is to suit their political agenda so that the member who is going to become the prime minister in November can call an election at his own given time. If this is not political manipulation, what is it? To couch it in terms of saying that this will address some of the western alienation is just plain wrong.

Let us look at the other chamber, which could be used effectively to represent equal regions of this country. Let me just tell hon. members what the seats represent right now. This has nothing to do with different regions in this country. This is just to say that it is time to look at the Constitution and change the formula and the members to reflect the reality of 2004. Alberta has a population of three million and Nova Scotia has a population of 940,000, yet Nova Scotia gets 10 more Senate seats. Let us talk about where we can make an effective difference to the regional diversity of this country. It is a great thing to have regional diversity from the west to the east, all the way out from the Prairies into Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. It is a beautiful country, but regional diversity needs to be reflected. This government cannot reflect that unless and until it changes what is required in the Senate.

Proposals have been made to address this inequality. Right now, if we do not want to change the Constitution, the first good step we can take is to listen to the provinces. We should take the names of the people the provinces put forward to the federal government and appoint those people to the Senate. It should not be the gravy train.

Amazingly, this gravy train started with Prime Minister Trudeau. When Prime Minister Mulroney came along, he was the first one to take a pot shot at the gravy train big time, and guess what? He got on the gravy train and gave to his friends. Now the gravy train is moving again because the time has come for the Prime Minister to go. He is the engine of this gravy train and people have already started climbing on.

The fact of the matter is that until there is effective representation where the voices of Canadians are heard equally with regional diversity, only then can we say that the power is with the people of Canada. Canadians are looking at the inequality coming out of the second House, and that is driving western alienation. That western alienation will not go away just because there is a new face in the Liberal Party. It will not go just because that new face says that they have changed and will be going in a new direction. There is no new direction. We just have to ask people out in the west.

The Liberals are touting that four extra seats will be going to the western provinces. They think this will address many of the concerns of people in the west and will give them good representation. I would like to know how this will give the west good representation when only six senators from each province have been appointed to that chamber. What qualifications do most of them have? They worked for the Liberal Party. Defeated Liberal candidates are given patronage appointments. The Prime Minister's old buddies are all headed to that chamber. That chamber has become a joke and it should be getting the respect it deserves.

We have an opportunity to change that and reflect the reality of Canada. Canada is a big, wide country from the west coast to the east coast. Regional diversity is extremely strong. Those who have travelled across the country know that. I spent some of the summer in Nova Scotia which is a beautiful region in Canada. Like the west, it has its own regional diversity.

The boundary changes and the extra seats that are going to the west will really not change much. This will not address western alienation. The government needs to take the first steps toward reforming the other House by listening to the provinces and the premiers. The Prime Minister has the chance now to appoint people to that chamber on the advice of provincial governments.

It is fine to have extra seats but they will not represent the real regional diversity of the country.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the bill introduced by the government. The Bloc Quebecois is against Bill C-49 in principle and against its referral to committee before second reading.

This morning, the important thing is to tell the voters what is hiding beneath all this, to expose this sleight of hand, this manipulation of public opinion and democracy that the government is about to perpetrate.

The Bloc Quebecois does not object to this process taking place after every census, every ten years. That is a normal democratic process and naturally apolitical. This process began in March 2001, when the most recent census data were published. From that starting point, the process was automatically set in motion. That is normal and that is what was done. That is how it should be done.

But this bill now before the House is trying to prevent the process from continuing to its end, as provided by law. This bill is an attempt to alter an established process. It is introducing politics into an apolitical process.

If this government can do this, then why is it that I, as a member from the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, am seeing it butchered by this process? My region, which currently has four ridings, will be cut down to three. It has been butchered. We knew, as we went into this process, that our region was experiencing a decline in its population and its number of voters.

We decided that we would join forces and appear before the commission when it held meetings in my region. As the Bloc Quebecois member responsible for the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, I called upon all the mayors of all the cities in the region. I asked them to send us a resolution saying what they wanted us to put before the commission. Through their municipal councils, 99% of the people in my region—almost all of them—sent us resolutions saying that they wanted to keep the status quo, that is, keep our four electoral districts.

Why did they want to do that? We are always saying that we are an isolated region, an enclave surrounded by forest. We cannot attract people from elsewhere because the region is cut off.

Within our region, there was the potential to respect the spirit of this legislation and keep what we had. But, initially, under the process, there had to be an electoral quota of at least 95,000 constituents per riding. Our population numbered 310,000. Divided by four, this figure no longer met the criteria, because we either had to be less than 25% or more than 25%.

We testified before the committee. The members listened with extremely open minds. They heard our demands. But they decided to uphold their decision.

There is another process in the House; members of Parliament can testify before a committee of other members. At that point, the Liberal members circumvented our efforts.

As members representing that region, we said that we would be able to ensure that our region was designated. This legislation would allow us to do this. This is important, given our demographics and our young population.

For several years now, the Saguenay--Lac-Saint-Jean region has undertaken an initiative to attract immigrants and people from the outside, in order to repopulate and increase our numbers.

Instead of understanding this argument, a Liberal member said during a meeting of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Subcommittee that this was enough and that we would not get anything else. She did not listen to the other members; she ignored our representations and our arguments. She had already formed her opinion and said that it was that or nothing. This subcommittee chaired by a Liberal member did not respect what its peers had to say. After all, we represent the people.

Furthermore, the regional Liberal members are saying that they have political clout in their regions and their party. The hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord did not use his political clout to defend his region. The Liberal Party and the member should be ashamed. Our region had the right to keep its vested rights, because we had taken all the necessary steps and we had the support of the population.

If this government can change the normal process, why can I not say, “Too bad, but I take issue with the fact that you did not listen to me”. This is a double standard. Why should they have the right to do something when I do not have the same right, to represent my region?

I notice that the bill does not give this power to members or the regions concerned. They are being undemocratic. And why? In order to please an ordinary member, the member for LaSalle—Émard.

We have been talking about this since yesterday. It is time to talk about this member, since he is the future prime minister. He said he will be more transparent and that he will ensure that the House of Commons will be seen to be more democratic. Yet, his first move, even before becoming prime minister, is an undemocratic one.

This is serious. It is easy to see the mote in someone else's eye and not the beam in one own's eye. This bill does not respect the regions, does not listen to the members from the regions, and it will gradually diminish the representation of our regions in this Parliament.

Why are they doing this? It is the members from the regions who are reacting the most vigorously. They are the most in touch with their voters. They know what the public needs. A complacent government does not want to hear about the real problems of individuals. That is too painful.

What is more, the commission's decision is irrevocable. What is done, is done. In my region, in each riding, senior people in the Liberal Party are saying they will challenge this process all the way up to the Supreme Court. I want democracy to prevail, the effective date—August 25, 2004—to stand, and the democratic process not to be tampered with.

That would allow our region to keep four members who could still question this government's actions and state exactly what the regions want. I will therefore be voting against this bill.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think we should talk a little about what has just happened. We heard the member across describe the various legal things that caused this to happen. All of that sounded really good. We understand it and we could live with it, but in reality, and I will use my own riding as an example, public hearings were held and well over 20 briefs were presented by interested people from the riding of Red Deer.

Along with that, all the mayors and councillors put a motion before their councils. They all voted on the motion and unanimously said that for a number of good reasons they felt they should stay within the riding of Red Deer. We were within the numbers and so on.

In its deliberations the committee decided that 10 years from now there probably would be that much more growth in the city of Red Deer and it would be a riding unto itself. I did not think they were looking or supposed to be looking at 10 years from now. They were supposed to be looking at the year 2004.

The arguments put forward by these people had to do with it being a trading area; that the highways all go east and west to the city of Red Deer from the west country, from places like Rocky Mountain House, Nordegg and Caroline and those communities to the west of Red Deer. As well, they belong to the same hospital and medical unit, the David Thompson health unit, so all their medical needs are taken care of collectively.

The Red Deer College is in Rocky Mountain House and it deals with Red Deer and the students and professors interact. The social services of the province are delivered from the city of Red Deer to the circle around the community. The recreation facilities and so on in Red Deer are utilized by the people of the west country.

As well, Mr. Speaker, and you would understand this, the Rebels hockey team is highly supported by the people of the west country. Many of them are season ticket holders. The highway is good and it is easy to relate to the city of Red Deer.

The committee initially had ruled out a number of residents of the city of Red Deer on the east side. In fact, what was interesting was that where I live three sides was the constituency of Red Deer, but I was in the constituency of Drumheller. I am eight minutes from downtown Red Deer. They did rectify that but they did come up with a situation where they would exchange the east country for the west country around the city of Red Deer.

Most of the people in that east country also have dealings in Red Deer, so that was not a problem. The problem was that they took the people in the west and divided them into three different ridings, all of them not where the highways go, not where the health unit is and not in relationship to any of those communities.

It was then appealed before an all party committee in Ottawa and it was unanimously supported by the all party committee. They said that our arguments were strong. All the elected people, the mayors, the reeves, all those people sent letters and had motions with 100% support that this is what the riding of Red Deer should be like.

Then it was sent back to the committee in Edmonton. We must remember that these are unelected, unaccountable political appointments. These people, in their wisdom, these unelected, unaccountable political appointments, or hacks as I might call them, made a decision for the whole province of Alberta pretty much--and I know the riding of my colleague from Elk Island was totally eliminated--that they did not have to listen to elected, accountable members of Parliament from all parties on a committee here in Ottawa who said that the arguments were very reasonable and that they should go along with them, that in fact would not put us over the numbers, would not do anything.

I believe political mischief is going on whereby the government is taking a riding that is functional and working well, and all of a sudden is swapping all the people out west for all the people in the east. What kind of logic is there in that? This creates huge rural ridings which can take a member hours and hours to cover from north of Camrose down to south of Calgary.

It seems obvious to me that some of the urban ridings, such as mine primarily, could easily be larger and have more people than some of the widespread rural ridings.

Obviously, from Alberta's point of view, it is great that we are getting two more seats but I keep reminding everyone that two more seats for Alberta, two more seats for B.C. and three more seats for Ontario does not really equal everything out. It does not give the west much more representation unless I do not understand the math. Of course, the future prime minister says that will give the west a lot more voice here. I guess we gain by one but I am not sure in this place if that will make a difference, except on Tuesday night when it may have made a difference.

However the real thing is that here we have again an unelected and accountable group making the final decision on important issues, such as the boundaries of ridings. It affects people. It affects the way they live, the way they shop, the doctors they go to, the recreation they use and the social services they use. That is just wrong and someone should be looking at getting a non-partisan group to make these decisions.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-49 respecting the effective date of the representation order of 2003.

Obviously, we have understood, as a result of what my colleague from Jonquière and others have said, that the purpose of this bill is quite simply to move up the effective date for the new electoral map for partisan purposes.

The current act is clear. It was passed by this House, and it was known before this new electoral map was adopted that once it was, and had been published in the Canada Gazette , it would take effect one year after the date of publication.

It is obvious that the reason we are discussing this today is that the member for LaSalle—Émard and future Liberal leader has decided that it would be better for the election to be held next April or some time next spring. So, you will no doubt have understood that, if that was his choice as Prime Minister, an election held in April or some other time next spring would be based on the current electoral map.

Obviously they can give us all kinds of reasons for wanting the new map. We have heard the Canadian Alliance tell us just now that, yes, it does give greater representation to the west and to Ontario, and that is the reason for it. I point out that this means Quebec loses representation.

We had 25% of the ridings, and that will drop to 24%. We in Quebec have opposed this new distribution very strongly, for the simple reason that the population increase on the north shore of Montreal might perhaps have justified two additional ridings and that nothing ought to be done to the rest of Quebec. That is what ought to have happened. If there is an increase on the north shore, let them make it into two more ridings, as they added ridings elsewhere: three in Ontario, two in Alberta, two in British Columbia.

That is not what happened, however. The Chief Electoral Officer has opted for his way of doing things, and it has had terrible consequences for the regions of Quebec. Once again, the worst part of all of this is that the redistribution under this proposed bill advantages other parts of Canada and disadvantages Quebec.

Furthermore, because an MP from Quebec, the member for LaSalle—Émard, who will be the next leader of the Liberal Party, intends to hold an election in the spring, the Elections Act had to be amended, despite the fact that it was supposed to be a totally non-partisan piece of legislation. That was the intent. That is why an independent chief electoral officer was appointed, on the basis of accepted standards, through a process open to all members of this House. When the redistribution process began, we knew full well that, once the new electoral map had been approved and published in the Canada Gazette , it would be come in force one year later.

Everyone knew that. Every member of Parliament, including the member for LaSalle—Émard, knew about this. The reform went ahead in accordance with the legislation. Then, a census was conducted. Members new the law, and yet this change is now before the House.

In my riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, this is causing a very significant imbalance. The municipality of Saint-Colomban, which is in the middle of the northeastern part of our riding, was pulled out of the riding and moved to another. More specifically, Saint-Colomban is bounded on the south by Mirabel, on the west by Lachute and another municipality that is part of the riding, on the north and northeast by Mille-Isles, also in our riding, and on the east, in one tiny corner, by another municipality in a different riding.

It is being pulled out and moved solely for demographic reasons. Geographical considerations have not been taken into account. Some people in Saint-Colomban feel that they are being picked on, and are hurt—the pain is almost as bad as having a tooth pulled; after all, they have been a part of our riding for over a century.

The people in this municipality are asking why. We have had to tell them that it was because there had been a redistribution and so, mathematically, some people had to be removed, because we were over the prescribed maximum. We were within the 25% variance, because we have 106,000 inhabitants and the average is 95,000, with up to 25% more allowed.

Still, because new ridings have to be created and some in Quebec removed, we must review all the ridings on the Montreal North Shore, to the detriment of some, including the citizens of the municipality of Saint-Columban.

It is all the more difficult because, according to the legislation, with which the Chief Electoral Officer and all members of the House are familiar, this new electoral map was supposed to come into effect, according to the existing legislation, in September, 2004.

That is the reality of it. Because of the desire of a member of this House, the member for LaSalle—Émard, who will be the next prime minister of Canada, to have an election next spring, we will penalize the citizens of Saint-Columban and those of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean who have lost one riding.

One riding is also going to be taken away from the people of the Mauricie, for the benefit of people in Ontario who are going to gain three ridings, the people in Alberta who are going to gain two ridings, and the people in British Columbia who are going to gain two as well. They are fighting today to push things through, because they know that the election will be held in the spring. Once again, they are trying to use the law to change the procedure that this House has approved. That is what is happening. The members voting in favour of this bill want to change the electoral process approved by Parliament.

The hard part is that it is being done for partisan purposes. I am thinking of the people in Ontario, who are going to gain three ridings, the people in Alberta who are going to gain two ridings, and the people in British Columbia who are going to gain two as well.

However, Quebec, which is losing two ridings, is really losing political clout, because we were at 25% and we are dropping to 24%. The Quebec regions are being penalized in relation to the urban centres. We are entitled to demand compliance with the legislation adopted by this House and understood by the Chief Electoral Officer and all the hon. members before the redistribution process began. This is where things get problematic. Everyone was familiar with that way of doing things; everyone was well aware that, once the electoral map was adopted, it would come into effect one year after appearing in the Canada Gazette , meaning in September 2004.

Obviously, if the next leader of the Liberal Party wants to call a spring election, he will have to do so under the old electoral map. This suits those of us from Quebec. It is that simple. If, as a member from Quebec, he does not like this, he can wait and hold a fall election; it is that simple. Then, he can call an election under the new electoral map, because this procedure was known to all the stakeholders in Quebec, when the redistribution process began.

This does not take into account the name changes, and I will end with this, because the electoral map is not the only thing changing. The names of ridings were changed too. The Chief Electoral Officer even went so far as to ask the commission members to review this matter. As a result, the Quebec members decided that ridings could not contain more than two names. When they started their consultations, they determined that ridings could have just one name. So, initially, the suggestion was to give my riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel a single name, Outaouais. Obviously, we fought this, and we told them that the only way to properly represent the riding was to keep the name Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

Finally, the commission decided to allow two names, at their discretion. In the end, Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel became Argenteuil—Mirabel. I hope that this House will do everything in its power to ensure that Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel in Quebec will have the same rights as Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, the neighbouring riding on the opposite side of the Outaouais river, which is entitled to keep three names while my riding has just two.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of our party, I want to put a few comments on the record about the bill before us.

I agree totally with the comments by my friend from the Bloc who just spoke. His points were exactly the same as the ones we would make.

One major concern we have is the lack of interest in the political system. Every time we have a new election, particularly at the federal level, we have an extremely low turnout. I know some of that is because people are getting so fed up with politics and with the performance of the present government. They are throwing up their hands and saying, “Well, what can we do about it? I am not even interested. I am not going to vote.” Those are few and far between, and that is unfortunate. If people do not vote, there is no way we can change or improve what goes on in our country.

One reason we have such a low voter turnout is that quite often people are left off the list. They are not contacted, they know nothing about the procedure and they do not know where to vote because they do not exist as far as the voter list goes.

The present enumeration system of trying to change a permanent list just does not work. One way that always worked was the regular door to door enumeration. We knew who lived in every house and how many voters there were. All of them were notified precisely about when, where and how they would vote. That is not happening and it is not going to happen now because we are rushing a process that ordinarily took a fair amount of time.

One reason we have been given for this is we are in the days of computers and things can be done much more quickly. I am not aware of any computer or any computer program that can tell somebody when a family moves into an area, takes up residence or shifts ridings. This information has to be found out and input before a computer can produce it. A computer only spits out what we put in.

In my own area we will see significant change. We will see 90% of the district I represent geographically removed when the new boundaries are put in place. We can argue why the boundaries were changed the way they were, how much input government had, and how much political manipulation went on, and we all know there was a fair amount of it. When a Liberal government, and I presume the same would be true of any other party were it in power, looks at changes in boundaries, undoubtedly it says what it wants to say, and people are very conscious of the fact that the government can gerrymander the boundaries to suit itself.

One major concern however is not where the lines are put, it is the philosophy behind it all. When people say that they will make all ridings in the country equal, that they will draw a circle around 90,000 people and that is the district, it does not work that way. Some people in their ivory towers in Ottawa, or any of the larger centres, but I say here because it is where decisions are made, who have no idea of the reality of representing ridings in rural Canada, look at us and ask us what the difference is between representing 90,000 people in rural Quebec or rural Newfoundland and representing 90,000 people in the heart of Ontario. They say that there are still 90,000 people to represent, that we are in the House, we stand to express their wishes, we sit in our offices and we answer their phone calls. We wish it were that simple but it is not. You, Mr. Speaker, have been around long enough to know that representing 90,000 people in rural Canada takes a lot more time, effort and energy than representing 90,000 people in one urban area.

Let me give some examples. If we have an urban riding with 90,000 people, it means we are dealing with one municipality, which in turn perhaps looks after the recreational programs and any other social programs in that area. They are also undoubtedly surrounding the heart of provincial governments, where they can walk into a government office any day of the week and have their problems dealt with.

In rural areas, we have up to 75, 80 or 100 different communities and small towns. They all have municipalities, rural development associations, fisheries committees and recreational groups. They all want to meet, talk and express their concerns and plans with the member representing them. They look to those members for leadership. In none of these areas can the people who live there walk into a government office and get help. The only help they have on problems and concerns relating to government is through their representative.

It is chalk and cheese to try to say that people can be represented in an urban setting the same as they can in a rural setting. When boundaries are determined, we should also be well aware of the problems geography presents to the members who try to do a good job to properly represent them.

This is a very small part of our job here in the House. We are out travelling in our areas, meeting, dealing with, planning and developing a vision for our regions, and that takes time and effort.

To get people interested and to do it properly, we need them on the voters list. I was about to say because of the incoming prime minister, but it is never over until it is over, so I should not say that. However the person perceived to be the next prime minister wants to call an early election so he does not have all those people over there glaring at his back, with knives in their drawers. He wants to get rid of them. He wants to clean house. To do that he needs a quick election.

He can have his election and we can get the extra seats for Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario in proper time, with due process taken care of first. That is not happening in this case.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member will have approximately two minutes remaining in his allotment of time following question period.

Ryan Malcolm
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Larry McCormick Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Mr. Ryan Malcolm, also known as the King of Kingston following his coronation as the Canadian Idol.

Ryan reached this achievement through a great deal of hard work and perseverance. Throughout the competition he enjoyed enormous support from the Kingston and Napanee communities, well known as a source of great Canadian music talent.

Ryan's local support was evident when thousands turned out in front of Kingston city hall in a large demonstration of public support to wish him every success as he pursued his goal of becoming the Canadian Idol.

Ryan began his singing career in Napanee, where I enjoyed his talent several times. Yes, as Ryan has said, Avril Lavigne attended his Napanee District Secondary School.

On behalf of the member from Kingston and the Islands, I would like to wish Ryan, his family and friends congratulations and best wishes on this crowning achievement. I am sure we will all continue to follow his promising career with great interest.

National Defence
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, five years ago the Salmon Arm fire in my riding had British Columbia asking Canada's armed forces to defend B.C. lives, homes and our wood, recreation and tourism base.

I do not need to tell the House about the raging fires which gobbled up so much of B.C. again this summer. Once again, our troops arrived needing training and finally got to the job days later, not due to any shortcoming from those troops. These delays were caused by the government's decision to close the last land forces base in British Columbia, despite all military advice against it.

The biggest federal lesson to learn from this summer's fires is that it takes 48 hours for troops from Edmonton to start protecting southern B.C. Imagine what could happen if Vancouver suffers the predicted earthquake.

The 1994 defence white paper needs urgent updating which must include opening a land forces base in British Columbia.

Alzheimer's
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

David Pratt Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House and all Canadians that September 21 is World Alzheimer's Day. Alzheimer's disease is a major health problem for seniors in Canada and a challenge for their caregivers.

The Alzheimer's Society of Canada should be congratulated for its eighth annual nationwide coffee break fundraiser on September 18 to provide funding for research, support and education programs at the community level for those with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers.

The federal government has supported research on Alzheimer's disease. Funding the Canadian study of health and aging which has provided valuable data on the extent of Alzheimer's disease in Canada and on patterns of caring for people with this disease. Recent research has found a clear link between staying physically active and reducing the chances of developing Alzheimer's. This is encouraging since it points the way to strategies for prevention of Alzheimer's disease.

I would like to thank all those who have contributed their time and effort to combat this serious health issue.

Daniel Bohan
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to celebrate the appointment of Reverend Daniel J. Bohan by Pope John Paul II as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Toronto.

I am particularly proud because Bishop Bohan is from my hometown of Moncton, New Brunswick. Reverend Bohan grew up in Moncton and was a parish priest in the diocese for 36 years. He is beloved by all his parishioners and certainly will be missed by people in Moncton.

Bishop Bohan will face many new and different challenges but his outstanding service and pastoral achievements in the Moncton archdiocese will no doubt serve him well as he prepares for his role in the largest diocese in Canada, with more than 1.4 million Catholics.

The Archdiocese of Toronto is blessed to have Bishop Bohan and through God's help and guidance will bring the same spiritual leadership to his new duties. Our prayers and blessings go with Bishop Bohan for fulfillment in his ministry.

Mining Industry
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the organization MiningWatch Canada reports human rights violations and environmental damage in developing countries where Canadian mining companies operate. For example, residents of Western Guyana are suing Cambior, a Canadian gold mining company, for $2 billion in damages over a massive spill of cyanide tainted waste into a major river.

The suit, filed on behalf of 23,000 people living along the Essequibo River, charges Omai Gold Mines Ltd., owned by Cambior, with negligence in the collapse of a dam resulting in the discharge of millions of cubic metres of cyanide tainted slurry into the river. The spill lasted five days, killing fish and other marine life, and drinking water had to be trucked in for hundreds of villages.

I call on the government to ensure Canadian mining activities have no negative ecological, economic and social impacts, at home and abroad.

Member for LaSalle--Émard
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, last night in Montreal the Prime Minister wannabe gave his economic blueprint for Canada. He wants us to forget about the past.

Here is the actual record of nine years at the helm: defence reeling under massive cuts; HRDC billion dollar boondoggle; gun registry fiasco; and scandals in public works sponsorship.

He wants to give Canadians a better health care system. Ha. This is the man who surgically excised $20 billion from health during his reign of terror. The minister also had his ships, and this is probably the worst part, fly the flags of other countries to avoid paying Canadian taxes.

How can Canadians believe what he promises for the future? Just take a look at his record. It speaks louder than words.

Prostate Cancer Awareness Week
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House that this week, September 14 to September 20, is Prostate Cancer Awareness Week.

Cancer takes an enormous toll and most Canadians have been touched in some way by this disease. In Canada, almost 19,000 men are expected to be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, making it the leading form of cancer diagnosed in Canadian men. This is the third leading cause of cancer death among men after lung and colorectal cancers and will claim an estimated 4,200 Canadian lives this year.

Investments in research and other cancer control activities are crucial to ensuring that we sustain the fight against prostate cancer and other forms of cancer. Health Canada is working in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to foster research in prostate cancer to ensure that Canadians can understand the disease and its diagnosis, screening and treatment.

Through the government's commitment to addressing the health concerns of Canadians and the work of national, provincial and regional organizations concerned about prostate cancer, we will make a difference.

International Day of Peace
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, this Sunday, September 21, is International Day of Peace. Yet, in Iraq, Colombia, Afghanistan, Liberia, Israel and Algeria, violence is a part of daily life.

There is still so much to be done to achieve peace and it is sad to see, still today, countries bombing people in the name of peace. To watch the news and read the papers, one wonders what motivates our leaders, or at least some of them.

At a time when roughly 300,000 children are fighting in armed conflicts around the world, the international community must, now more than ever, stand up to the combatants of the world so that, one day, these children can exchange their guns for toys and stop giving up their lives.

International Literacy Day
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House today to acknowledge International Literacy Day, which was on September 8.

The year 2003 marks the launch of the UN Literacy Decade, 2003-2012.

Still today, the final report of the International adult literacy survey shows that 22% of Canadians have difficulty reading. Globally, UNESCO estimates that 860 million adults are illiterate and more than 100 million children still do not have access to schooling.

Yet, good reading and writing skills are essential for people to participate fully in society.

In light of these statistics, it is critical to redouble efforts to fight illiteracy in Canada and around the world.

Government of Canada
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy and woeful heart that we deliver our usual reminder to Canadians of the corruption that is so rampant across the way.

While many Canadians are engaged in the legitimate business of the harvest, the Liberals are filling a horn of plenty that can only be characterized as a cornucopia of corruption.

It is not confined only to elected Liberals. We know they have no shame when it comes to plundering the public treasury. Appointees, political aides and probably some aides still employed are just as shameless. Only the best restaurants, only the finest wines, only the choicest cut of meat, and only the most savoury of exotic desserts are acceptable to the Liberals and their friends, cronies, appointees and political aides.

It enrages Canadians to learn that one Liberal aide is allowed to spend on lunches and dinners as much as the average Canadian earns in one year.

It further enrages Canadians that up until only recently it was the member for LaSalle—Émard who happily signed the cheques to cover these expense accounts.

Canadian Country Music Awards
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week Canadians from coast to coast celebrated Country Music Week by kicking off their sneakers in exchange for cowboy boots.

The celebration was one of rich history and current success of Canada's country music. Whether it is Shania Twain, Stompin' Tom Connors or Prairie Oyster, country music is something that is shared and loved by Canadians of all ages from coast to coast to coast.

Celebration of Country Music Week was capped off with the Canadian Country Music Awards which was a resounding success. It was hosted by the great city of Calgary.

Among the big winners was Shania Twain who won four awards and Terri Clark who took home top honours and the award for Entertainer of the Year.

I wish to congratulate all the nominees and especially the winners of these awards. I hope Canadians continue to support our country music industry and I wish our country music artists continued success.

Pumpkin Festival
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, Windsor, Nova Scotia, is known as “The Little Town of Big Firsts” and this weekend the Hants County Exhibition, the oldest agricultural festival in North America, continues for the second of two weekends in the town.

On October 4 the 19th annual pumpkin festival and weigh-off will be held. Windsor's Howard Dill, developer of the Atlantic giant pumpkin seeds is credited with launching the international craze of growing giant pumpkins. Known as the Pumpkin King, Mr. Dill is a four-time world champion pumpkin grower.

The festival now includes the hugely popular pumpkin regatta to be held on October 12. The Windsor-West Hants Pumpkin Festival and Regatta won the 2002 Attractions Canada award in the sporting event category.

Mr. Speaker, I actually won the pumpkin regatta in 2001, by the way.

But as the birthplace of hockey, the home of North America's oldest agricultural fair, and now the new home of giant pumpkin racing, Windsor-West Hants continues to be the “Little Town of Big Firsts”.

Anna Lindh
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, on September 10, the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anna Lindh, was killed in a Stockholm store. She would probably have been her country's next prime minister. Today, eloquent tributes were paid to her at the Stockholm city hall. The terrible attack on her took place just four days before Sweden voted in a referendum on whether or not to adopt the Euro.

The mother of two, Ms. Lindh was elected to the municipal council of her hometown at the age of 20. She became Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1998, after four years in the environment portfolio.

She constantly stressed that collective security and a collective future were dependent on cooperation, self-sufficiency and independence. Her legacy will be a foreign policy founded on the respect of human rights.

The Bloc Quebecois wishes the people of Sweden to know that all Quebeckers share their grief.

Anna Lindh
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay my respects to the family of Anna Lindh, the late Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister who died last week in Stockholm.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Ms. Lindh when I attended a European Union Conflict Prevention Conference in Helsinborg, Sweden, in my capacity as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

I was very impressed with Anna Lindh, the woman and the politician. There was every chance she may have become the future prime minister of Sweden. Her death has left a void which will take a long time to fill.

I held her in high regard and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and work with her on that one occasion. She was a prominent campaigner for human rights and European integration, and was a politician with enormous conviction.

My condolences go out to her husband, her two children and her fellow countrymen. As Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson said: “Sweden has lost its face to the world”.

Immigration
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, in June of this year before the House rose for the summer, I brought to the attention of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration the fact that many foreign delegates to the Lutheran World Federation meeting in Winnipeg in July were having an unjustifiably difficult time getting visas and I asked the minister to intervene accordingly.

I regret to say that he does not appear to have done so, at least successfully, as whole national delegations from some countries never did get into Canada for the meeting. This was more than just regrettable. It was disrespectful to the Lutheran Church, damaging to those who were refused, and will be harmful to the prospects of further such global meetings in Canada.

The Lutheran community in Winnipeg is still upset with the government about this, as is the provincial government, and I thought it important to put on the record this unhappiness with the government's handling of this event.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Mr. Speaker, September is Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada month.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada is the leading child and youth serving organization providing mentoring programs across the country. Over 170 local agencies provide support to more than 300 Canadian communities.

Currently, over 10,000 children are matched with adults. Big brothers and big sisters reap benefit from their experiences while the “littles” benefit on a number of levels as well, including improved self-confidence and social skills.

During this month, we encourage all Canadians to donate time to this wonderful organization.

Union of British Columbia Municipalities
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, next week the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention will take place in Vancouver. This annual gathering of municipal and regional district leaders from around the province of B.C. provides them with an opportunity to network with their peers and elected representatives, both provincial and federal. Municipal government provides the closest and most direct relationship to government for Canadian citizens.

Clearly, municipalities are shortchanged by the federal government. Fuel taxes disappear into Ottawa, never to be seen again by those who pay. Infrastructure dollars are scarce and the sharing formula needs revision to ensure that smaller municipalities are more capable of carrying their share of the cost.

As a former mayor, I look forward to renewing old acquaintances and discussing with them these and other issues at the UBCM convention in Vancouver next week.

Voyageur Colonial Pension Fund
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, the government has failed to respond directly to questions concerning the collapse of the Voyageur pension plan. Access to information documents show that there were concerns that political pressure was being put on OSFI to have the audit amended.

Could the acting prime minister tell us what political pressure the former finance minister was applying?

Voyageur Colonial Pension Fund
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I think the Prime Minister has answered this question rather well in the last few days. The fact is that OSFI, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, is a quasi-independent agency under the auspices of the Minister of Finance. However, all of the dealings for OSFI were assigned by the former minister of finance to the secretary of state for financial institutions and at that time I believe it was the member for Willowdale.

There has been no impropriety in the way this case has been handled.

Voyageur Colonial Pension Fund
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that OSFI did not act independently from the former finance minister as it should have. His staff were directly involved in the discussions to close the books on the Voyageur pension plan and to shortchange the employees.

The government has a duty to those pensioners. Will the minister begin a full independent investigation into OSFI and the Voyageur pension plan?

Voyageur Colonial Pension Fund
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, it is true the government has a duty to pensioners and OSFI fulfills that. But the opposition members also have a duty to ask questions in the House that are relevant and that are of the highest integrity. To come here day in and day out and condemn the former minister of finance is totally unacceptable.

Voyageur Colonial Pension Fund
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, Canadian citizens are relevant. Here is what one longtime employee said yesterday: “I got shafted good. I don't have enough for 10 years”. That is not fair.

The Prime Minister said yesterday that the ethics counsellor signed off on this. That is not good enough. I ask again, will the Prime Minister call an independent investigation into the handling of the Voyageur pension plan?

Voyageur Colonial Pension Fund
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this line of questioning is being repeated on a daily basis. One can only conclude that the members of the Alliance Party are so upset perhaps at the prospect of the former minister of finance taking over the Liberal leadership that they want to attack his integrity. I think Canadians can see through that for what it really is.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the trade minister. For many years the Canadian Cattlemen's Association has repeatedly called on the government to implement the year-round access for American feeder cattle. In fact there was a key resolution at the Canadian cattlemen's convention this summer.

The minister states that he listens and takes the advice of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association. Will the government immediately implement year-round access for American feeder cattle?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, the government works very closely with the cattlemen, indeed on any export permits that we grant. On imports we have been working with them through the summer. We have brought in far more stringent regulations precisely to help our cattlemen throughout this difficult summer. I intend to continue discussing with them any changes to our policy. We have been in close discussions with them.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government is always saying that disease issues are the reason we will not allow American cattle to come in here. The Canadian cattlemen have stated unequivocally that disease issues are not a threat to the Canadian cattle industry by having these feeder cattle come in. American cattlemen see the year-round access for their feeder cattle as an essential ingredient of a fair, equitable, integrated North American cattle industry.

Why does the minister not realize that fair treatment of our American neighbours will speed up the day that we have a fully open U.S. border for our cattle?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it has been a top priority for our government to maintain that integrated North American economy and industry. We have been working with the Americans very closely. We have made sure that the decisions we were making would not threaten the integrated North American industry that exists.

We are very confident that we will continue the good work of finishing the job of opening the American border. This country is the first BSE affected country to ever see an international border reopened to it and that is because of the United States.

Marriage
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the next Liberal leader made one contradictory statement after another. He refused to take a stand on several issues and deliberately remained evasive. On the definition of marriage, the member for LaSalle—Émard said he was considering various options. He also said he supported the government's position and preferred civil unions. Could he be any more ambiguous?

Will the Minister of Justice confirm that, under the charter, the civil union advocated by his future boss discriminates against same sex spouses?

Marriage
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I think that this government's policy is clear and respects the two principles involved. These principles are the right to equality under section 15 of the charter and the protection of religious freedom, which is also a fundamental right.

That having been said, we have decided on this process on the basis of an analysis of section 15. We fundamentally believe that the bill referred to the Supreme Court is the way to go to ensure that all—

Marriage
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Longueuil.

Marriage
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, the future Liberal leader says there are other alternatives to same sex marriage besides a civil union, but at the same time he does not offer any details.

Could the Minister of Justice, who consulted the leading experts and has an army of lawyers working for him, tell us whether, in his opinion and contrary to what his future boss said, other options besides civil marriage would respect the right to equality?

Marriage
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, we need only look at the position taken by the government, a position respectful of both rights involved.

Reference was made to respect for equality under section 15 of the charter. When we look at the bill referred to the Supreme Court to get an opinion, this is a bill that opens the door to same sex marriage while at the same time ensuring that religious freedom is protected.

We have clearly and unequivocally taken this direction, because it fully respects the principles set out in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as the right to religious freedom.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, a cloud of contradictory statements is gathering around the Liberal Party leadership. While the Prime Minister was saying, in Quebec, that he wants to increase government spending, the future prime minister was saying the opposite, that he wants reduce both debt and expenditures.

The Minister of Finance said he wanted to get the opinion of the future prime minister before taking action. Now that he has the choice between two approaches, increasing expenditures or reducing the debt, can the Minister of Finance, or another representative of the government, tell us which approach will be taken in the next budget?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Oak Ridges
Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would point out to the hon. member that the Standing Committee on Finance is currently undertaking prebudget consultations. We will submit a report to the Minister of Finance by the end of November.

The process is continuing. We are hearing from Canadians. We will hear from time to time, I am sure, from the opposition and members on this side of the House.

We look forward to the budget being tabled. The Minister of Finance has already announced that sometime this fall there will be a fiscal update.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, they take the prebudget consultations so seriously that the future prime minister has refused to participate.

The finance minister was waiting for instructions from his future boss. He got them yesterday from Montreal, where the member for LaSalle—Émard said in a speech that he wanted to make debt reduction his priority, and at the same time invest in education, health and municipalities—all of which are under provincial jurisdiction.

Does the Minister of Finance think it is realistic to pay down the debt at such a rate without seriously impinging on the financing of social programs?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Oak Ridges
Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, first of all I assume that these consultations are very relevant because members of the hon. member's own party are participating.

I also point out that the hon. member's party would suggest that the member for LaSalle—Émard should be part of the consultation process and that somehow the committee should be directed by some other member. I would suggest that if we were to do that, the party opposite would be the first to scream.

At the same time we are working in consultation with the provinces on health care and in other areas. I suggest that the hon. member just participate and be constructive rather than the approach that we have seen--

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for St. John's West.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, government officials have confirmed the public works department's fraud investigations unit was involved in probing the circumstances surrounding the Liberals' cruise for contracts policy and the $1.4 billion relocation contract for Royal LePage.

The Solicitor General has admitted the RCMP has been called in to investigate. Will he now table the internal audit which led to the investigation and can he tell us if there are other departments involved in this $1.4 billion scandal?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

York West
Ontario

Liberal

Judy Sgro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, we are not aware of any RCMP investigation in this file. Issues were raised and the minister and the department have retendered the contract.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, this investigation goes beyond what government is willing to admit.

Will the minister confirm that eight other members of the evaluation committee, representatives from the Department of National Defence, Treasury Board and the RCMP, attended various Royal LePage sponsored golf tournaments at no cost to themselves?

Has the RCMP investigation branched out to include other government departments?

Will public works re-evaluate the way contracts are tendered to ensure this practice is discontinued?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

York West
Ontario

Liberal

Judy Sgro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated previously, we are not aware of any RCMP investigation into this particular contract. Issues were raised to the minister and he felt it was better to turn around and retender this contract.

Infrastructure
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the future prime minister outlined an exceptionally conservative economic agenda. In fact it hardly seems necessary to unite the right. Why re-invent the wheel when we are going to have a government led by the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard?

My question actually is for the Minister of Transport, also the minister responsible for Toronto. I wonder if he could explain to us why the member for LaSalle—Émard ignored cities completely in his economic speech yesterday.

Infrastructure
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, it has been the government's policy to invest rather heavily in urban infrastructure over the last number of years. My colleague, the member for Etobicoke Centre, also from Toronto, is leading the effort with Infrastructure Canada. I think we have done a very commendable job.

The Prime Minister reiterated his commitment in a speech given earlier this week. I have no doubt that this commitment to the urban agenda will continue once we have a new Liberal leader.

Transportation
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for LaSalle—Émard is also associated with a certain kind of continentalism. In that same context, I wonder if the Minister of Transport is aware of this internal memo within the Canadian National Railway which now prohibits employees from using any language that has the word Canadian in it. They can say CN, but they cannot say Canadian National. They cannot say Canadian National Railway. They cannot say Canadian National Railroad.

I wonder if the Minister of Transport would undertake to look into this and communicate to CN, or to the Canadian National Railway, that using the word Canadian--

Transportation
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. Minister of Transport.

Transportation
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am unaware of the contents of this e-mail, but I have such great respect for my colleague from the NDP, having been in the House with him for many years, that I assume what he says is accurate.

If that is the case, it is not only totally unacceptable, it is obscene, and I will go directly to the chair and the president of Canadian National Railway. This is a great Canadian institution, one of the best railways in North America, and we should not apologize for being Canadian.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, there is no end to Liberal waste of money taxed from struggling Canadian families. From the billion dollar HRDC boondoggle to fake advertising contracts to lavish expense accounts, Liberals keep pouring our money down the drain.

The latest boondoggle is a biometric scan of all Canadians to force everyone to carry a national ID card.

The privacy commissioner says it will cost $5 billion just to kick-start the registry. Why does the government not use the $5 billion to keep foreign criminals from coming into Canada?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bourassa
Québec

Liberal

Denis Coderre Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I think it is completely unacceptable to say such things today. While the Privacy Commissioner mentioned $5 billion, first, there have been no cost studies on the possible use of this kind of document.

The important thing is that Canadians have the right to debate where society is heading. We have decided to have an open debate. The planet is shrinking; other countries are doing this and it is important to find a typically Canadian solution. Therefore, whether we have ID cards or not, there must be a debate.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, every day the Liberals let people without proper documents, or even with no documents at all, simply walk into Canada. The Auditor General says the Liberals have allowed thousands and thousands to stay illegally in this country. The minister actually refused to cooperate with police to make sure 59 known foreign criminals could be removed.

The government says it does not have money for better screening or better removals. So why does it suddenly have $5 billion for a new national ID card registry?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bourassa
Québec

Liberal

Denis Coderre Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, first of all I think it is pretty accurate to say that on this side of the House we decided to have a real debate. We feel that because of what is going on all over the country it is great to have that kind of debate. I truly believe that Canadians should have that kind of debate.

We have not talked about any cuts right now and with regard to what the member mentioned about security, security is our number one priority. We have said since the beginning that everything we have to do we are doing. If the member does not agree with it, that is her problem.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, the aspiring prime minister and hon. member for LaSalle—Émard identified education and municipalities among his future priorities, two areas under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. Instead of seeking to infringe upon other jurisdictions, the father of fiscal imbalance would be better off cleaning up his own mess.

If the government recognizes that education and municipal affairs are priorities, should it not then transfer to Quebec and the provinces the funds it cut from them, so they can meet their own obligations?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, as I said a few moments ago, the infrastructure program of the federal government has done a remarkable job in building Canadian cities. We can invest in cities without intruding on provincial jurisdiction and I think this is something that will be followed as time goes on.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, by saying that he wants to invest in education, health and municipalities, the father of fiscal imbalance, the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard and future prime minister, is proving that there really is such an imbalance. If there is a surplus to invest, it is because cuts were made somewhere, and he was the one responsible for those cuts.

Consequently, does the Minister of Finance not believe that the best way to ensure future investments would be to give the money directly to those responsible for providing the services, meaning Quebec and the provinces?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Oak Ridges
Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, when this government inherited a $42.5 billion deficit the Bloc never mentioned fiscal imbalance. Now that we have recorded six balanced budgets or better, suddenly the Bloc talks about a fiscal imbalance.

I would like to point out that the IMF has just announced that Canada will be one of the top performers in the world in 2003-04 because of the fundamental principles that this government has adhered to with regard to the economy. For that we should be hearing kudos from that side, not the nonsense we often hear.

Voyageur Colonial Pension Fund
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party's Prince Charming cheated Voyageur bus drivers out of millions of dollars. OSFI, which is supposed to be a regulatory body and is supposed to protect employees, answered the minister directly. Political pressure was applied and the drivers lost up to 30% of their pension.

Why did OSFI not do anything in a case that saw the biggest pension losses in the history of Canada?

Voyageur Colonial Pension Fund
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I have already answered that question.

Voyageur Colonial Pension Fund
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, we are giving the government the chance to remove the cloud of suspicion from their heads, to remove the cloud of suspicion from the former finance minister. They refuse to do so. In doing so, they have stiffed hundreds of Canadians out of millions of dollars.

How can they live with themselves? How can they sleep at night? I do not understand it. How are Canadians supposed to trust a Liberal government that allowed the former finance minister to shortchange the average person out of their pensions?

Voyageur Colonial Pension Fund
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I should inform the hon. member that I, and I am sure my colleagues on this side of the House, sleep very well at night, knowing that we give the country a very good government. That very good government will continue with the new Liberal leader.

When the hon. member starts talking about heads in the clouds, it is obvious the Alliance members have their heads in the clouds because they are so afraid of a change of leadership that they are willing to attack the integrity of one of the members of the House.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, citing difficulties accessing venture capital, yesterday the former finance minister suggested that pension funds should be tapped into, as they are in the U.S. We all know what that means.

Rather than putting workers' pension funds at risk, as the former finance minister did with Voyageur, does the government not think it would be better to recoup the money lost to tax havens and invest it in the economy?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Oak Ridges
Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, again, the member knows that the responsibility of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions is to oversee all pension funds. This government does not comment on specific cases.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the first budget tabled by the Liberals after they came into power in 1993, the former finance minister said, “Certain Canadian corporations are not paying an appropriate level of tax. Accordingly, we are taking measures to prevent Canadian-based companies from using foreign affiliates to avoid paying Canadian taxes”.

Indeed, measures were taken, but rather to promote tax avoidance and the use of tax havens, particularly the one where the former finance minister had interests.

What is the government waiting for to implement the measures announced nine years ago?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Oak Ridges
Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as the House knows, predicting the Canadian tax base is the number one concern of this government. Obviously we monitor it on an ongoing basis. The member, rather than making cheap innuendoes against the member for LaSalle—Émard, should be talking about the fact that we have a competitive rate internationally. There are 1,700 companies in the one jurisdiction this member talked about yesterday. The fact is, we continue to update our treaties we have with those countries. We have 79. I would suggest that is an ongoing activity of this government.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, the RCMP review committee concluded that the RCMP failed to properly investigate allegations of widespread corruption at the Canadian High Commission in Hong Kong. This resulted in Asian organized crime figures entering Canada.

What is at issue is whether or not the RCMP deliberately failed to investigate incidents that suggested a fraud ring was operating in the Hong Kong mission.

Will the minister immediately convene a public inquiry so Canadians can have an answer to this very disturbing question?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine
Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as the member across the way knows very well, our RCMP is well respected in this country. There is an ongoing internal disciplinary hearing. We will not comment in order to ensure that it is fair.

In terms of foreign affairs, we work closely through the RCMP to ensure that any threat to national security is properly investigated.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, the external review committee concluded, and I quote, “For reasons that are not entirely clear, the Force has consistently demonstrated a reluctance to investigate the activities of locally engaged staff at the Mission”.

This government has repeatedly refused to deal with this situation. Again, will the Solicitor General arrange a public inquiry to dispel any misconceptions that the RCMP deliberately failed to do its job and determine who has been pressuring it to drop this case?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine
Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I find it amazing that the member across the way would cast aspersions on a police force, a law enforcement agency like the RCMP which is well respected here in Canada by ordinary Canadians and across the world.

This country, this government and our national law enforcement agency takes seriously any threats to national security and our force properly investigates when there is reason to believe that there is a threat to national security.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. With great foresight, the British government has adopted a reduction target for carbon dioxide emissions of 60% by the year 2050. Could the minister inform the House as to whether a similar and needed target will be set by the Canadian government so as to repair the climate and reduce the increasing damage to Canada's economy caused by climate change?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, to date discussions have been almost exclusively about the first Kyoto period, which is 2008-12. We will begin discussions on the second Kyoto period, which is the five years that follow, in 2005.

That said, I would like to point out that the Prime Minister has asked the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy to study and inform Canadians on the potential for future emissions reductions and, similarly, the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences to report to Canadians on the science of climate change.

We welcome the statement by Prime Minister Blair. We believe it is important to consider the long term issues related to climate change.

Canada Post
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, despite the 1994 moratorium on the closure of rural post offices, many offices, such as McKerrow, Ontario, are being closed under the guise of exceptional circumstances. This is a threat to the very infrastructure of rural Canada and it severs the only link between the federal government and most rural communities.

Will the minister affirm that the government will stand by the 1994 moratorium and prevent further closures of rural post offices?

Canada Post
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Mississauga West
Ontario

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Secretary of State (Selected Crown Corporations)

Mr. Speaker, the moratorium was put in place by the government because the government and Canada Post are very much committed to providing good quality mail delivery and all mail services in rural Canada.

The moratorium, however, does not mean that Canada Post cannot look at better ways to deliver the mail in communities where improvements and perhaps consolidations would improve the situation for Canadians.

Canada Post has assured me that it will be very sensitive to rural Canada needs. I am quite confident it will and we will look at creating better situations for mail in this country.

Canada Post
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the minister is selling out rural Canada and the government has plans to close the Tancook Island post office in South Shore. This island is home to 152 people who are permanent residents, and if closed, those individuals would require a two hour round trip ferry ride to pick up a registered letter.

The government talks about supporting rural and coastal Canada. I would like to see it put its money where its mouth is, and a good place to start would be by keeping the post office open on Tancook Island.

Canada Post
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Mississauga West
Ontario

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Secretary of State (Selected Crown Corporations)

Mr. Speaker, Canada Post is very sensitive to the needs of rural Canada, as is the government. I again say to the member that the moratorium does not necessarily mean a ban when there is an opportunity to provide better service to Canadians for their mail services. Canada Post will look at each and every individual situation on its own merits and make the decision that is appropriate.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it seems that the only people who support the idea of a biometric national ID card are the Minister of Immigration himself and Allan Dershowitz, the high priced O.J. Simpson Hollywood lawyer. That is why our minister is spending $35,000 to bring Mr. Dershowitz in to be the guest speaker at a conference that is supposed to debate the merits of this card. Surely that will bias the tone of this conference.

The privacy commissioner has condemned the national ID card in no uncertain terms. Will the Minister of Immigration save us all a lot of money and time and cancel this conference, and put the idea of a biometric national ID card to bed for now and forever?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Bourassa
Québec

Liberal

Denis Coderre Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, my definition of democracy is to have those kinds of society debates. I truly believe that the time has come, especially when we look at the polls, when people are ready to have that kind of discussion. The governments of the G-8 right now are having that discussion. We have many areas where people should debate that kind of issue. I do not think it is painful to decide what kind of future we want for our society. It seems that the Canadian population is ready for that but not the member.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the acting prime minister.

Unfortunately, as many as 650,000 cattle may have to be killed because of restrictions on Canadian beef exports. Those cattle older than 30 months cannot be exported and therefore have a lower market value because of the lack of market in our country. These cattle are an acting time bomb for the industry.

Could the acting prime minister tell the House what the government has planned, to deal with a national cattle cull, and how this cull strategy will be financed?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the position that has just been expressed by the hon. member is not even the position of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association.

I will read from its press release of September 10, 2003, in which it says that Canadians are proving their confidence in buying Canadian beef and that this support would be jeopardized if the cattle industry were to advocate a massive cull of cattle.

That is not the position of the industry at all and that is not what it has said.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, from the time Canada took delivery of the first Victoria class submarine, these subs have been plagued by problems, starting with the HMCS Victoria arriving in Canada with a dent in its hull.

Now we learn that last June the government hid a serious incident with HMCS Corner Brook . During a routine training exercise, the crew had to perform an emergency surfacing after a leak was discovered on the sub.

How long before these subs will be fully operational, all the repairs completed, and how much will it cost Canadian taxpayers?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, with some 75% of the life remaining and at a cost of 25% of the original cost, this is truly an excellent deal for the Canadian taxpayer.

In addition, there have been some problems in testing but that is why we do the testing. We do the testing so that these problems can be solved and they do not occur in operations.

Finally, there is good news. A couple of days ago the HMCS Victoria arrived in Victoria. For the first time in 50 years, Canada has a submarine presence on the west coast.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister did not answer the question.

The HMCS Victoria , while it is on the west coast, is not operational. These subs seem to leak more often than a puppy with a bad bladder. Even when purchasing a used car the buyer has some protection.

Did the government negotiate a money back guarantee before it signed the lease on these subs, or was this simply a colossal case of buyer beware?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the submarine is a stealthy vessel, well suited for today's security environment. I should think that the hon. member, who comes from the west himself, would be pleased that for the first time in 50 years we have a submarine presence on his coast.

Yes, there are always teething problems but soon these submarines will be operational and that will be good news for Canada.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard said that efforts must be made to ensure that Canada plays a lead role in the green industries of tomorrow. This is clearly not enough. The focus must be on the real source of greenhouse gases: the western oil companies.

Does the Minister of the Environment acknowledge that the most urgent action in pursuing the Kyoto objectives is to require polluters to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, rather than give them a hand with their taxes, as the member for LaSalle—Émard is doing in the interests of his Liberal Party leadership race.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the hon. member that Canada already plays a lead role as far as environmentally friendly industry is concerned. The province of Quebec is one of the leaders in this area. We already have made major strides in this area.

As for the matter of greenhouse gas emissions, I can assure him that the plan is already in place, as is its implementation.

Despite growth in the gasoline sector, we are going to reach the target of 6%—

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the lead role the government is playing relates to financing the oil and gas industry rather than environmentally friendly industries.

Does the Minister of the Environment intend to make the next leader of the Liberal Party aware of the true issues at stake with the Kyoto protocol, and to remind him that attaining those objectives is irreconcilable with the taxation measures put forward by the member for LaSalle—Émard, measures that benefit the major polluters, namely the oil and gas companies bankrolling his campaign?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member that green industry is truly one private sector industry that is a leader worldwide. Clearly, exportation of our industry is very high, and this is a sector supported by the federal government.

As for greenhouse gas emissions, I repeat: we are convinced that we will achieve a 6% reduction over the 1990 levels.

Human Resources Development Canada
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, it was more than a year and a half ago that the minister was alerted to serious problems within her department concerning a $7.5 million Toronto area jobs project. Rather than asking the hard questions and getting to the bottom of the problem, she chose to turn a blind eye and do nothing for months. It was just two weeks ago that the RCMP was finally contacted.

Why has the minister consistently avoided making the difficult decisions necessary to clean up her department?

Human Resources Development Canada
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member can continue to engage in speculation but he knows there is an ongoing police investigation. He knows that the Department of Human Resources Development Canada is co-operating with the police. He knows that the department has already taken severe disciplinary action up to and including firing. He knows that I will not be sharing any more details with him because I do not want to jeopardize this ongoing investigation.

Human Resources Development Canada
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, it always seems to be somebody else's fault.

We all remember the notorious Paul Cochrane, the junket king, the centre of the Virginia Fontaine scandal, he of the Caribbean cruises, the only man in Canada who has wasted more taxpayer money than the heritage minister. He should have been run out of the civil service on a rail a long time ago but, despite an investigation and criminal charges, he landed a job with HRDC.

Who is the minister going to blame for that one?

Human Resources Development Canada
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, with specific reference to that question, I can tell the hon. member that the department contracted work to be done by a company called MaxSys under competitively tendered standing offers established by Public Works and Government Services Canada in the year 2001.

MaxSys provided the services of Paul Cochrane to conduct the human resources work. However, when a firm is contracted to supply services to the department, Public Works and Government Services Canada does ensure that the contractor personnel are security screened to the appropriate level.

Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

David Pratt Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the revenue minister.

I noted with interest recently that union leaders representing customs workers and MPs from the Canadian Alliance have been making allegations with respect to our border points being understaffed and security equipment going unused.

Could the Minister of National Revenue provide us with some accurate facts on this issue?

Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, first, let me put this in context. As you would know, Mr. Speaker, the negotiating process has just begun and the fact is that some union leaders and some of their political pals are speaking out making, what I would call, intemperate and inaccurate statements.

Here are the facts. Customs security at our seaports, our airports and our land border crossings are the best that they have been in the history of our country and Canadians can have confidence. There are no staff shortages at any of our border points. We have equipment that is being rolled out and used. Since 2001 we have hired 450--

Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The member for Prince Albert.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, sadly, federal tax collectors are in the process, as we speak, of bankrupting junior amateur hockey teams in Saskatchewan. By treating players' room and board and $100 per month expense money as income, they are literally killing hockey dreams. At the same time they have totally ignored junior A teams in other provinces.

Why is the tax collection system discriminating against Saskatchewan amateur junior hockey?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, the member's question is completely inaccurate in its premise.

The goal of CCRA is to ensure that Canadian tax laws are fairly applied to all Canadians from coast to coast.

I would say to him further that he knows that we are working with the Canadian Hockey Association so it can understand the Income Tax Act and how it can be fairly applied to all of its teams in a manner which will ensure that young players are eligible for the social programs and also ensure that the teams are in compliance with our tax laws.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, she should come out to Saskatchewan and speak to the president of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and just say what she is saying now.

Mr. Speaker, Saskatchewan has a strong amateur junior hockey tradition, as you know. Hockey is our national sport. The winters will be very long and cold if the minister kills amateur junior hockey in rural Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan simply wants to be treated fairly and equally. What is the government doing about this shameful case of discrimination?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I want to be absolutely clear that there is no discrimination. The member should be reassured that when it comes to the Income Tax Act, the Canada pension plan and the Employment Insurance Act, all Canadians are treated equally.

Further, he should be aware, and I will repeat it again, that we have been working with the Canadian Hockey Association. We want to ensure that young players are eligible for the benefits to which they are entitled and, where there are issues where the hockey teams may have difficulty, fairness provisions are in place to assist those teams.

National Identity Card
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, testifying yesterday before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, the Privacy Commissioner said, speaking of the identity card, that it will not only cost an arm and a leg—an estimated $5 billion—but will also, and I quote, “inevitably reveal more information about us than is required”.

Apart from the forum entitled “Biometrics: Implications and Applications for Citizenship and immigration”, and before implementing the national identity card, what positive steps will the minister take to properly inform the public about the real issues and the foreseeable costs of implementing this card?

National Identity Card
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bourassa
Québec

Liberal

Denis Coderre Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question. At this time, we are debating the issue. Canadians are not yet ready to make a decision, nor is cabinet ready to consider the issue.

Of course, we are talking about a societal decision. No cost study has been carried out concerning this type of document. We are not yet at the stage of asking ourselves if there will be such a document, but in the current international context, it is important to deal with domestic problems such as identity theft, and find solutions among ourselves so that we can have a made-in-Canada solution.

House of Commons
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Can he tell the House what recent initiatives have been undertaken to improve procedures in the House of Commons?

House of Commons
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that yesterday the House of Commons adopted the fourth report of the modernization committee. It will allow MPs to table more petitions on behalf of their constituents. It will streamline speech times. It supports greater use of technology in the House of Commons.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the members of this House for their unstinting work on the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons. I congratulate them on their excellent work. Once again, our Prime Minister has honoured another throne speech commitment.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the budget brought down on February 27, 1995, the former finance minister increased the gasoline excise tax by 1.5¢ per litre in order to eliminate the deficit.

Now that it is no longer needed, does the current Minister of Finance intend to eliminate this tax and, finally, show his sympathy for the plight of consumers, or is he still waiting for orders from the real boss?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Oak Ridges
Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I know how concerned the Bloc members are about taxes because they voted against the tax reductions the government has brought in.

Let us put this in context. The money goes into consolidated revenue. We know the government has listened to Canadians. They have said that it is personal income taxes they want to reduced. Currently, as the House knows, we have a $100 billion tax plan. We have gone ahead with another $20 billion this year in the five year program.

We are delivering. We are not talking, we are acting.

Government Assistance
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, floods last spring devastated parts of several Nova Scotian communities, including parts of the town of Kentville.

I asked the Minister of National Defence to act and to provide reasonable federal assistance immediately so flood victims could move on with their lives. Instead of helping out, the minster has shirked his responsibilities.

When will the minister stop pointing fingers at the province and start providing meaningful and immediate relief to flood victims in Nova Scotia?

Government Assistance
Oral Question Period

Noon

Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, far from shirking its responsibilities, the federal government has been present, active and supportive in a number of emergencies that have occurred across the country this year.

In the firefighting case in British Columbia, 2,600 soldier were actively fighting fires, and the government is now in discussion with provincial officials for financial assistance. This is the most recent case.

In the case that the hon. member mentioned, the government will deal with in the appropriate way and display the generosity that is normal in cases of emergencies across the country.

Canada Post
Oral Question Period

Noon

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for Canada Post.

The government has had a longstanding moratorium on the closure of rural post offices. However the Liberal Party's fine print now opens the door to what it calls amalgamations which really means closures.

There are now over 20 rural post offices in the province of Saskatchewan that are slated to be amalgamated, including Hubbard in my riding.

Since amalgamation really means closure, can the minister give the House a commitment that his government and his party will keep their word: no more closures, no amalgamations?

Canada Post
Oral Question Period

Noon

Mississauga West
Ontario

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Secretary of State (Selected Crown Corporations)

Mr. Speaker, it would be interesting if the government were to suggest that Canada Post should not look for ways to improve mail delivery in rural Canada. I do not think the people in rural Canada would frankly expect us to do that.

It is not about fine print, as the member said. It clearly is about looking at the service delivery that is serving Canadians in rural Canada, recognizing the importance of mail delivery and all services in rural Canada and living up to the commitment that the government has made.

Firearms Registry
Oral Question Period

Noon

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, it has been nine months since the Auditor General blew the whistle on the billion dollar gun registry. The minister promised that he would be more open and transparent and that he would provide a full accounting of the costs, but he has done neither.

I ask the minister who is in charge of this mess for the umpteenth time: How much will it cost to fully implement the gun registry and how much will it cost to maintain it?

Firearms Registry
Oral Question Period

Noon

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine
Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House we are very pleased to say that the gun registry has been working really well.

The Canadian Firearms Centre has met the standards that it set for processing licence applications in 45 days and registration applications in 30 days. The Internet registration, which is free of charge, has had a major uptake by Canadians.

I think we can safely say that it is working and that Canadians support it.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

Noon

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, today in the House when I asked a question answered by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services regarding the $1.4 billion advertising contract to Royal-Lepage, she clearly said that there was no RCMP investigation.

The parliamentary secretary, and I will also say the minister involved, either misled the House today or yesterday, because yesterday in the House, in answering a question about an RCMP investigation, the parliamentary secretary said, “I am certain he”, and she was referring to our leader from Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, “knows from the many years he has sat in the House that we do not comment on RCMP investigations.

The member for Lakeland yesterday asked the minister quite clearly:

--the parliamentary secretary said that she does not comment on RCMP investigations such as the one that is currently going on regarding the Royal-Lepage contract being cancelled.

The minister said:

--the hon. member knows full well that that is an operational matter of the RCMP.

As the Solicitor General or as any other minister we do not get involved in operational matters.

Yesterday we had the minister and the parliamentary secretary telling the House there was an RCMP investigation. Today we have the parliamentary secretary saying that there is no investigation. Who is telling the truth and when was it told?

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, this may be an interesting way to lengthen question period by a few minutes or to have the adjournment debate occur earlier in the day than it would normally take place. Either way, that is not a point of order.

This is a matter of debate on an issue as to whether it is proper or improper to comment on a real, imagined or otherwise RCMP investigation or non-investigation. Either way we would not comment, and in any case we would repeat that at the adjournment debate when it was held at the proper time.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair is satisfied from the intervention I have heard that clearly this is not a point of order based on the rules of the House. This is a matter of debate, which can be taken up at some other point. However on this point of order, the matter is now closed.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am seeking the guidance of the Chair as to how we deal with a ruling by the Speaker that suggests, I think for the first time in a long time, that an issue relating to the truthfulness, the reliability of information given to the House of Commons by a minister, is not a point of order but is instead simply an extension of debate.

There is a clear principle in the House of Commons that we have a right to rely upon the accuracy of information given by government ministers. In this case directly contradictory information has been given by two ministers on precisely the same question. One of them, sir, prima facie, is misleading the House.

You, Mr. Speaker, have argued that is not a point of order and I am asking your guidance as to how we secure a review of that ruling which suggests that what to most of us would appear to be prima facie, a major point of order, cannot be raised in the House on those grounds?

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair has a very high regard for the right hon. member but I believe he answered in part his very own question when he stated correctly that in fact answers were given to a similar question by two different members of the government.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

An hon. member

The same government.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

The same member too.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Two different members responded with a different answer, so clearly we have a dispute of the facts, debate on a matter but this is not deemed to be procedural or otherwise related to the rules of the House in terms of a point of order.

With the greatest of respect to the right hon. member and the entire House, this matter is now closed. I have been patient. I may have some doubts as to whether we might be re-entering the debate on the same point of order which I had hoped to conclude. In fact at this time it is concluded.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I trust this is on a different matter.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

No, sir.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I regret that the matter remains closed. If in fact in discharging my responsibilities I have erred, it will see the light of day. I will address that matter if and when it becomes necessary.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Bras D'Or—Cape Breton
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 10 petitions.

Canadian Forces Provost Marshal
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Beauséjour—Petitcodiac
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I wish to table, in both official languages, two copies of the 2002-03 annual report of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Bras D'Or—Cape Breton
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 44th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, in both official languages, regarding the review of radio and television broadcasting of the proceedings of House committees. If the House gives its consent I intend to move concurrence in the 44th report later this day.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the second report of the Standing Joint Committee of the Library of Parliament.

Food and Drugs Act
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-448, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (genetically modified food).

Mr. Speaker, this bill, in essence, would provide that all foods or food ingredients that are on or that contain genetically modified material be labelled.

This labelling would allow for research and post-release monitoring of potential health effects of genetically modified food. It would also enable purchasers to decide whether to purchase products containing genetically modified material.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Bras D'Or—Cape Breton
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the 44th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House earlier today be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present to the House this afternoon.

The first petition is from the constituents of Chetwynd, Rose Prairie, North Pine, Charlie Lake and Fort St. John. The petitioners call to the attention of the House of Commons that in their opinion the addition of sexual orientation as an explicitly protected category under sections 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code of Canada could lead to individuals being unable to exercise their religious freedom as protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The petitioners also note that the Criminal Code of Canada can be effective in preventing true threats against individuals or groups without changes to sections 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code.

Even with the passage of Bill C-250, the petitioners call upon Parliament, and I assume they call upon the Senate of Canada, to protect the rights of Canadians to be free to share their religious beliefs without fear of prosecution.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, my second petition is from rural constituents in the communities of Buick and Cecil Lake.

These petitioners note that an effective national sex offender registry would be an invaluable resource that would assist police agencies with the investigation of sex crimes.

The petitioners note that provisions contained in the current government Bill C-23 are insufficient because they are neither compulsory nor retroactive.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon Parliament to pass legislation that would create an effective sex offender registry that would automatically include the names of all sex offenders in Canada.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from my constituents of Okanagan--Shuswap. The petitioners call upon Parliament to pass legislation to recognize the institution of marriage in federal law as being a lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of many constituents in the riding of Halifax, I am pleased to table a petition calling upon the government to adopt the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada as the very best prescription for Canada's ailing health care system.

The petitioners specifically request that the proposals of the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada be considered a blueprint for immediate legislative and budgetary action.

This is very timely in view of the alarming signals coming from the member for LaSalle--Émard that reinvestment is not the order of the day with the future government.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting two petitions today signed by numerous citizens of my riding of Skeena. Both petitions insist that Parliament maintain the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present to the House today pursuant to Standing Order 36.

The first petition, signed by people in my riding of Elk Island, has to do with the abhorrence that my constituents have about the issue of child pornography. They call upon Parliament to protect our children by taking all necessary steps to ensure that all materials which promote or glorify pedophilia or sado-masochistic activities involving children are outlawed.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition I wish to present to the House today is signed by 222 individuals from my riding, mainly from Sherwood Park, who are concerned about the defence of marriage.

The petitioners are concerned about the lack of legislative and democratic process and about what is going on in Parliament. They urge Parliament to use all possible legislative and administrative measures to preserve and protect the current definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. While thumbing through this petition, I also noticed that my wife's name is on it.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Peter Goldring Edmonton Centre-East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today on behalf of many Canadians. The petitioners recognize that home heating fuels are not a luxury in Canada and are a basic necessity of life. They are calling upon the government to remove the goods and services tax from the sale of home heating fuels.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I also have two petitions to present today from voters from Ontario across to Victoria. The petitioners call upon Parliament to take all means necessary to preserve and protect the traditional definition of marriage as the union between one woman and one man.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Bras D'Or—Cape Breton
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I will sum up quickly to give somebody else a chance to speak to the bill because I believe we have put our points clearly on the table.

This is a rush job to facilitate the incoming Prime Minister of the country. There is no other reason for changing the process. It takes time to ensure we have good voters lists to encourage many people, especially young people, who are never added to the lists. About 25% of the people under 30 years of age vote in this country, and that is a terrible figure. The reason for a lot of this is because they are never enumerated and nobody goes after them.

We should not worry about rushing this through. We must do it right and ensure it is good for the country, not just good for the incoming Prime Minister.

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a few minutes to speak to Bill C-49. It should be obvious to everyone in the country that this particular bill has only one purpose and that is to allow the new boundaries to be in place by April 1 instead of the day in August which it would normally be.

To have this bill in front of us now is simply a concession to the wannabe Prime Minister so that he can call an election early before people have a chance to really look at him and examine what he stands for and what his performance has been in the House of Commons. It is about an early election. That is really what it is about.

I certainly cannot object on the grounds of the fact that it gives Alberta a little more of the representation that it is entitled to by population. But I would like to talk about what is actually happening in the re-drawing of the boundaries.

I am in the Edmonton area and in Edmonton we were very distressed, all of us, when we went to the committee. I went the day of the hearings in Edmonton and I sat there all day to hear the presentations. Every presentation, save one, was against what the committee was doing. That one was from a town nearby that used to be in the Elk Island riding before the boundaries were changed in 1997. The only reason that presentation was put forward was so that the riding would have a member of Parliament who would now be physically closer to it. It is impossible to have all people close to their members of Parliament.

Instead of hearing all of those individuals, including the presentation from the city of Edmonton that said it would rather have six members of Parliament in the City of Edmonton who would represent the city than eight members of Parliament with divided interests, instead of listening to that message which it heard over and over, the committee decided in its report to give reasons why it should not hear this and so it was ignored.

Furthermore, it has changed the boundaries in such a way that we will now spend hours and hours sitting in our vehicles. Instead of having compact constituencies, it has divided them up into long, narrow constituencies so that we will spend hours in our vehicles instead of doing our work. I object to that very strenuously.

I will support this motion and vote for it in the end, but I want to urge the government to look seriously at this process because it seems to me that what is being done is politically motivated. How else can one explain arranging the constituencies so that it makes it more difficult for the member of Parliament to be an effective member of Parliament and spend good time with people in the riding? This is what has happened in this particular case and I really deplore it.

On the other hand, Elk Island will disappear. No longer will you be able to say, Madam Speaker, “the hon. member for Elk Island”. That riding will be gone according to the new boundaries and the new one will be called Edmonton--Sherwood Park, which is the main town in my riding. I may put in a suggestion to add another town which is not insignificant.

The fact of the matter is that we will do our very best as members of Parliament in the Canadian Alliance to represent the people in whatever ridings we get. We will work hard to do that, but I am really sad that this commission did so much damage in our effectiveness.

The riding where I now live extends 200 miles. It goes right alongside another one that is 200 miles long. Why should we have two members of Parliament waving at each other on the highway as they go back and forth to meetings in their ridings? That is a useless waste of a member of Parliament's time to just sit in a vehicle and drive. We have no other means of transportation there that can be used.

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time and put forthwith the question on the motion now before the House.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the division stands deferred until Monday, September 22, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Madam Speaker, discussions have taken place between the parties and there is an agreement to further defer the recorded division requested on Bill C-49 until the end of government orders on Tuesday, September 23.

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from September 15, consideration of the motion that Bill C-45, an act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal liability of organizations), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to Bill C-45. As a Nova Scotian it is particularly poignant. The legislation emanates from a disaster in my province, in fact the Westray disaster in the riding of the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, the leader of my party.

Almost 12 years ago, on May 9, 1992, the Westray mine disaster in Plymouth, Nova Scotia occurred, killing 26 men. At the time I was actually living in New York. I was listening to national public radio on that morning. It was the first time I had ever heard Nova Scotia mentioned on national public radio in New York during the period of time that I lived there. I remember how it impacted me, the thought of 26 Nova Scotians dying, and we were to learn unnecessarily, in a disaster that could have been prevented. It is unfortunate that 12 years later we are still debating the merits of a piece of legislation that could have been in place a lot earlier to protect Canadians against that sort of corporate malfeasance.

It is interesting to consider the legislation today in an environment where increasingly issues of corporate governance and accountability are being debated and discussed. Most of the time when we are talking about corporate governance and accountability, we are talking about financial issues, dollars and cents issues and accounting issues. We are talking in this case not about dollars and cents but about human lives.

If we consider the principles of corporate governance and the principles of financial accountability and financial corporate governance, the similarities are striking of what we want to achieve. We simply want to see that management and ownership is held accountable and responsible to protect the safety, of workers in this case, from avoidable disasters.

Our party has spoken supportively. My leader, in his capacity as justice critic for our party, has been supportive. Clearly there are some legitimate criticisms of the legislation that it does not necessarily go far enough. I suppose an unfortunate irony of this is that the legislation quite possibly would not have helped address the accountability of the management and ownership of the Westray mine.

In the case of Westray, prosecution of the corporation would have been pointless. The parent company, Curragh Resources, was bankrupt by the time a prosecution could have been started and there was nothing left for a court to fine. No company survived to implement new safety policies.

The power to charge a corporation would have been an empty power in that sense in the Westray disaster. There is a fine line clearly between ensuring reasonable accountability and governance on health and safety issues but also recognizing that there is always the risk of somebody down the management chain acting irresponsibly. There is a fear in Canada today at the board of directors level of various companies that there is going to be an almost unlimited accountability. These issues have to be considered.

There is a fine line effectively in creating an environment within which no Canadian would take the risk of being on the board of a company for fear of being implicated in a proceeding like this, even though they would not have a direct responsibility. Despite those fears, there is no doubt we need greater levels of accountability of management and ownership in health and safety issues.

I would hope that this legislation will help prevent the kind of disaster, such as the Westray disaster which destroyed lives. It took away lives and tore apart families in Nova Scotia in 1992. We would like to see Canadians protected immediately by the passage of this legislation. Hopefully this legislation can play a role in preventing another Westray type disaster in the future.

We should not have had to wait 12 years after the original Westray disaster for this legislation. It is imperative that we as legislators move quickly now, when we have the opportunity, to pass this legislation and do the right thing.

Sometimes in this place when we are talking about legislation it seems a little esoteric, it seems less connected to the lives of ordinary Canadians, but this is not one of those times. This is a time when I am proud to speak to an important piece of legislation. As a Nova Scotian, I feel particularly honoured to have the opportunity to stand in the House and support this legislation.

I want to commend my leader for having played such an important role at justice committee as justice critic for our party over the last number of years in terms of working toward the passage of this legislation. I want to commend him and offer my full support and that of our party for the direction that this legislation is trying to achieve.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I was very happy to hear the spokesperson for the Conservative Party indicating support for the direction of the Westray bill, Bill C-45. However, I am deeply disturbed that he has made no indication that his party shares the concerns that have been widely raised about the shortfall and inadequacies in the legislation that is now before the House.

Let us be clear, we are talking about a piece of legislation that has been 11 years in incubation and is only finally now finding its way into the light of day. It leaves me wondering whether the Conservative Party has already dropped the term “progressive”.

I want to ask the member if he would clarify something. I have heard from many people that if this legislation had actually been in place at the time the Westray disaster occurred in Nova Scotia 11 years ago in 1992 costing 26 lives, that it would not have made any difference whatsoever in establishing the criminal liability, the criminal culpability, of the directors and senior managers of that company. They clearly were responsible for horrendous deeds that were documented in the Westray inquiry. Is the member prepared to fight alongside the New Democratic Party and all others concerned? We must ensure that the bill actually is what it needs to be to get the job done in the future both by way of prevention, and punitive measures where they are deserved.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, first, my party is the Progressive Conservative Party and I intend to keep it that way. I am sure that will please the hon. member for Halifax immeasurably.

During my comments I referred specifically to the flaw of this legislation. I read an article written by David Roberts, a Halifax lawyer. I quoted specifically the following passage:

It's worth remembering, however, that in the case of Westray, prosecution of the corporation would have been pointless. The parent, Curragh Resources, was bankrupt by the time a prosecution could have started. There was nothing left for a court to fine. No company survived to implement new safety policies. The power to charge a corporation would have been an empty power in the Westray disaster.

I did refer specifically to that during my comments. I referred to it as an unfortunate irony that in legislation which some refer to as the Westray bill this legislation would have failed to have any impact at that time. That is a very unfortunate irony. I do support strengthening the legislation in that regard. I concur with the hon. member on this.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I take part in this debate today on Bill C-45, which deals, among other things and most importantly, with the criminal liability of organizations.

It is with great pleasure that I do so, because I had the opportunity, over a year ago, to attend the convention of the Canadian Labour Congress, the CLC, in Montreal. The CLC had made a number of parliamentarians aware of the problem. I remember this convention in Montreal quite well. Some parliamentarians were present. I was there, but there were also representatives from the NDP. Unfortunately, the Liberal Party had refused to attend, as had the Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance.

The delegates made us aware of the importance of making legislative changes to better protect workers. They gave as an example, of course, the explosion at the Westray mine, in Nova Scotia. The explosion inside the mine had caused the death of more than 26 men. After a rather extensive public inquiry, it was concluded that, most likely, if some prevention or safety measures had been taken to protect workers, the tragedy would not have occurred. The public inquiry into the Westray mine showed that there had been negligence on the part of company directors, with respect to safety.

The delegates had made us aware of the importance of enacting legislation. Essentially, Bill C-45 is merely the expression of a willingness to react to this problem and to make the necessary legislative changes.

I must remind the House that we had studied this issue many times before, through private members' bills such as Bill C-468, Bill C-259 and, more recently, Bill C-284, containing similar provisions. Of course, some aspects have been omitted from Bill C-45. We know that some provisions of Bill C-284, particularly with regard to penalties, have not been included in Bill C-45. Consequently, we would like to amend it.

First of all, the bill uses the word “organization” instead of “corporation”. As a result, it applies to a larger number of institutions. We must raise the awareness of firms regarding the need for prevention and protection of workers in the workplace. However, we must realize that some workplaces are more dangerous than others.

As the Westray mine disaster taught us, it is essential to make the organization, in other words the institution or the firm, responsible for the protection of workers.

Another aspect of the bill is that from now on a firm will be criminally liable for the actions of employees who are not necessarily very high in the hierarchy. What does this mean? It means that in the case of bosses who are not necessarily executives but foremen or third or second level bosses, the firm would have organizational liability insofar as these bosses are responsible for the enforcement of stringent security standards.

Negligence is no longer acceptable, it is now a criminal offence. This is not a trivial issue when we know that some workplaces are more dangerous than others, especially for human health. Moreover, in some workplaces, negligence relating to safety can result in the loss of human life. The Westray mine is a case in point.

Offences of negligence are another important aspect. Let us take criminal negligence as an example. The moral element of the offence will be attributable to the organization insofar as the moral element of the offence can be attributed to one of the senior officers of the organization.

So, as I mentioned earlier, there is now criminal liability for offences of negligence. In reality, the whole issue of prevention in the workplace is at the heart of these provisions.

Another aspect of the bill is that it explicitly makes it a duty for those who have the authority to direct how employees do work, to take the necessary steps to prevent bodily harm to the employees. In other words, this is about the responsibility of foremen and managers and the need to have stringent prevention standards in dangerous workplaces. That is another important aspect.

Clause 3 of Bill C-45 is even more interesting and it is the key element of the bill. It reads as follows, and I quote:

Every one who undertakes...to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person or any other person, arising from that work or task.

This will make it possible to charge those who fail to comply with this requirement with criminal negligence.

With clause 3 of the bill, occupational safety is improved. This is fundamental.

We agree with certain aspects relating to the principle of the bill. But we can only condemn the fact that between the time when we studied Bill C-284, during the first session of this Parliament, and Bill C-45 now before us, some substance was lost, with respect to the criminal liability of directors and officers, for example.

With respect to the penalties that could be imposed on organizations, I should point out that they would have no effect in cases of bankruptcy. Given the very principle that underlies it, Bill C-45 should therefore not be allowed to provide loopholes to businesses which are in a difficult fiscal situation or have declared bankruptcy.

In our opinion, there should be full liability, not only for businesses which are operating but also for those that have declared bankruptcy. It seems clear to us that this bill bears some resemblance to Bill C-284, but there are significant omissions as well. The danger is that this could lead to loopholes with respect to criminal liability.

Another significant omission is that, contrary to Bill C-284, Bill C-45 contains no provisions for making directors and officers of corporations criminally liable if they are not the ones who, materially, committed a criminal act.

Once again, there are significant omissions in this bill and, in some respects, Bill C-284 was more comprehensive than the one before us today.

I will point out in closing that, with a vote in favour of this bill today, we are telling those working in conditions hazardous to their health and safety that the message from the Westray mine workers has come through loud and clear: negligence must be punished.

We have also understood that prevention is the most fundamental action, the cornerstone of worker protection. We believe nothing like this must ever be allowed to happen again. We believe that imposing penalties and taking stringent measures, up to and including punishment of negligence under the Criminal Code, cannot help but improve workers' lives, as well as their working conditions.

The message we are sending out today is that we have understood the Westray mine workers, and intend to make the necessary legislative changes to protect them better. Workers have the right to protection, particularly when they work in a dangerous environment.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I am happy to again have an opportunity to address Bill C-45, which deals with corporate criminal liability.

When debate on second reading began on Monday, I had an opportunity to raise various concerns that had been identified about the legislation in terms of the shortfall, the inadequacy of the provisions in the bill to actually get the job done, to actually act upon the horrifying tragic lessons of the Westray disaster that occurred in my province in 1992 resulting in the deaths of 26 miners.

What the Westray inquiry clearly established was that those deaths were preventable. I will quote directly from the report of Justice Peter Richard when he said that it documented “a complex mosaic of actions, omissions, mistakes, incompetence, apathy, cynicism, stupidity and neglect”.

The details of that horrendously irresponsible behaviour that could be described as nothing less than criminal have been fully spelled out. I will quote briefly from a couple of the specifics that documented the glaring safety abuses, among them: inadequate ventilation design and maintenance that failed to keep methane and coal dust at safe levels; unauthorized mine layout, forcing miners to work risky tunnels to get the coal out faster; methane detectors were disconnected because frequent alarms, signalling dangerous concentrations of methane, interrupted coal production; procedures to stonedust coal to render it non-explosive were done only sporadically, usually before inspections; and an appalling lack of safety training for miners.

There may be some people following the debate on this so-called Westray bill, Bill C-45, who are wondering if this only has to do with coal mining. That is an important question to be addressing. Many people know that coal mining, by its very nature and its very essence, is a very hazardous industry, and that is true, but what has clearly been established is that the most basic, the most elementary, the most fundamental safety precautions that could have prevented this tragedy were not observed, were not enforced by the company that employed those workers and operated that mine.

However it is about more than coal mining and this particular tragedy. It is about the 1,000 men and women in this country who lose their lives in workplace accidents. It is about the close to one million--and it is hard to get one's head around that figure--workplace accidents that occur on an annual basis in this country.

At the end of the day it is not a statistic or an array of statistics that we are talking about. What we are talking about are human lives shattered or terminated, in all too many cases, as a result of practices that could have been improved and accidents prevented.

In the few minutes that remain to me I do not want to talk about more details respecting the Westray disaster because that has been well-documented again and again. It was documented in the private member's bill that I had the privilege of bringing forward in 1999, which died on the Order Paper, and in the private member's bill brought forward by my colleague from Churchill which also was sidelined. However, we are finally at the point where we are dealing with a piece of legislation. It is inadequate to the task but at least it is now before us and we need to get it right.

In the few minutes remaining to me I will talk about a courageous young man by the name of Lewis Wheelan. One month ago today, on August 19, 2003, I received the following message from the parents of Lewis Wheelan, Melanie and Bob Wheelan, from Echo Bay, Ontario. The message reads, “Sadly I share with you the loss of our beloved Lewis. He left us strong and optimistic with nothing but love in his heart even for those who failed him so terribly”.

I want to tell the House the tragic horror story that unfolded on May 30, 2001 for 19 year old Lewis Wheelan, a young man who was energetic, optimistic and who faced a brilliant career.

He reported for his summer job on May 30, 2001 after his first year at university. The second day on the job he was electrocuted by 7,200 volts from a live hydro wire dropped on him as he worked gathering and piling brush for his employer.

As a result of that electrocution he lost his right arm, his right shoulder front and back, both legs, the middle finger of his left hand, partial use of his left hand due to nerve damage in the forearm and was burned over half of his body.

I visited Lewis Wheelan in his home as he was struggling to pull his body and soul together to get out across the country to tell his story and fight for workplace health and safety and, yes, fight for the kind of legislation that we are here considering today, which is legislation to change the Criminal Code to hold corporations accountable for criminal behaviour in putting the lives of employees knowingly at risk in the workplace.

It is a double tragedy that Lewis Wheelan passed away in August, because he was clearing brush under contract to a company that was engaged by Great Lakes Power. In the hearings held to gain convictions for the completely unsafe practices of that company under contract, what was absolutely documented was that this was a private company owned by Brascan that was constantly guilty of cutting corners, of not maintaining the power lines to any kind of safety standard, not clearing the trees and brush in a timely manner and not willing to invest the money to keep the lines safe so that the line that broke, which resulted in Lewis' electrocution and ultimately his death, had 15 splices in it. The company was too cheap to protect the lives of its workers.

However, even though, under the provincial health and safety requirements for training, this company was found to be woefully inadequate, the occupational health and safety division of the Ontario government was not able to hold the four directors charged in this case in any way accountable for their actions.

This is a company that made $240 million last year. It received a fine of $250,000 and, I might say, a tax deductible fine, which my colleague for Winnipeg North has repeatedly talked about as being obscene and something we have to do something about.

It is a double tragedy that this young man's life was ended as a result, again, of inadequate public policy. His life ended as a result of the power blackout; surely a double irony if we consider the workplace accident that occurred in the first place.

As a result of the power blackout, Lewis Wheelan was abandoned for his most basic survival needs. I think two things are underscored by the story of Lewis Wheelan's life. First, the need for us to not just consider the legislation that is before us and uncritically pass it, but for us to send it on to committee where it is absolutely essential that it be tightened up and made more effective in order to achieve the recommendation made by Justice Peter Richard, which was to establish criminal liability for the directors and the senior managers who escape responsibility in such a horrendously irresponsible and reckless situations.

Second, it seems appropriate on this occasion to acknowledge that we need to keep the provision of power, as my provincial colleague, Howard Hampton, has argued again and again, in the public domain where there will be public accountability and where we do not end up with situations of private corporations further contracting out work, such as the maintaining of power lines, completely thumbing their noses at health and safety and not concerning themselves with the impact a power failure has on people' s lives.

I want to say again, as many have, that we welcome the fact that the bill has reached this stage. One steelworker e-mailed me this morning, as many others have, and said “Thank goodness the Westray bill is finally making its way into law”. However let us take the opportunity to do the job right in the name of the 26 Westray miners who lost their lives and in the name of the families of those Westray miners who pleaded to me and my NDP provincial colleagues 11 years ago to see that their loved ones did not lose their lives in vain, to at least leave that legacy for their children. Let us do it in the name of the Lewis Wheelans of this country who have lost their lives by the thousands, 1,000 every year on average, because of workplace health and safety accidents, the overwhelming majority of which could have been prevented.

As the NDP caucus has already indicated, we will be supporting the bill going to committee. Sometimes when we say that we will support a bill to go to committee and we hope there will be improvements when it gets there, we have a kind of sinking feeling that it is a faint hope. The government knew the legislation, as it brought it forward, was inadequate. It did not make the restrictions as tight as they needed to be, the provisions to capture those senior managers and directors. The government knew that.

However I have to say in this case that I am optimistic that the justice committee will do the work that is necessary to make sure this legislation comes back to the House appropriately amended. Why am I optimistic? I am optimistic because it was the justice committee that was willing to act on the private members' bills brought forward by myself and by my colleague from Churchill in the first place and put the government on the spot. Unanimously, members of all parties in the House recommended to the government that it take the essence of Justice Peter Richard's recommendations on the Westray inquiry, the essence of the private members' bills that we brought forward on behalf of the Westray workers and families, and the thousands and thousands of others whose lives have been unnecessary lost, and bring forth legislation to once and for all address this issue.

I appeal to the justice committee to act in that spirit and, having done the homework, having understood the need for this legislation, that it not bring forward nominal amendments that are just tokens, but amendments that will be effective, enforceable and will ensure the job is done.

I look forward to that spirit being carried out by all my colleagues in the House who represent the people of Canada who look for leadership on this issue.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to recognize and thank the member for Halifax for her speech regarding the absolutely tragic incident involving 26 miners killed in the Westray mine disaster.

As much as Canadians across the country were horrified that these 26 people were killed 10 years ago in the Westray tragedy, they were even more horrified to learn that under the current Criminal Code those who were clearly responsible for these deaths would never be prosecuted. The crown prosecutors of Nova Scotia had to stay the charges because they knew the charges would not stick.

I know it was through the work of the leader of the NDP at that time, the current member for Halifax, who put forward a private member's bill, and other members of our caucus who worked closely with the steelworkers and pushed year after year to have this issue of corporate accountability, or what I call corporate manslaughter, recognized. The essence of what we are introducing here would amend the Criminal Code to entertain the legal concept of corporate manslaughter.

I would ask the hon. member for Halifax to expand on her view of what this will look like when it becomes a change to the Criminal Code of Canada. Some people are using the analogy that if someone kills a person while driving under the influence of alcohol, the individual is not just charged with a traffic violation but is also charged with manslaughter due to gross negligence. Our argument being that gross negligence in the workplace causing the death of a worker should be treated and viewed in much the same way. This is not just a workplace safety and health violation anymore. It is a violation of the Criminal Code as it pertains to manslaughter and murder.

Would the hon. member for Halifax expand on how she would ultimately like to see this new legal concept manifested in the Criminal Code?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague has of course has been a champion of workplace health and safety protections in his role as labour critic of the NDP and previously as a labour leader in the field. Therefore, what he very much recognizes is the inadequacy of our current laws to hold corporations accountable for what essentially is corporate greed very often in not ensuring that the kind of workplace health and safety conditions are created, that the workplace health and safety training is there and that investment in the job and working conditions is absolutely essential to provide the safest possible working conditions.

Sometimes I think people will say that we cannot prevent workplace accidents from happening. It is an absolute cop out to take that view. Of course we cannot prevent all accidents but most accidents can be prevented. The question is whether a company takes all the precautions that can be taken and can be reasonably expected to prevent the preventable accidents from ever occurring.

Many people watched in horror the account of the Westray disaster. What became absolutely clear was a convergence of political optimism by the respective governments of the day, and this is well documented, the Conservative government in Ottawa and the Conservative government in Nova Scotia, together with a corporation that engaged consistently in criminally irresponsible behaviour. When it came to trying to obtain convictions, it was not even possible for the law to get to first base with respect to that company. It was not possible to enforce subpoenas to bring the two most responsible persons in that company before the Westray inquiry let alone before the courts.

Therefore, what we are talking about here is changes to the Criminal Code that would make it possible to see through the kinds of convictions that would be appropriate to hold the corporate directors and the senior decision makers in a company also responsible for their actions, as all workers are now held responsible for their actions.

Why we need to see amendments to this bill when it gets to committee and before it comes back to the House for final consideration is because in the most ironic and perverse way there is a stiffening of the penalties that would apply to lead hands, to workers directly, but there is a very big escape for the most senior officers. Yet the recommendation of the Westray inquiry, the judge who presided over it, Peter Richard, was that we needed changes to the Criminal Code that would specifically make it possible to hold the senior directors and officers of a company criminally liable.

Those are the kinds of changes we need to get the job done correctly.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, it is certainly beyond doubt that this legislation is highly welcome and most desirable. Perhaps the debate might be on whether it goes far enough or whether it goes too far.

Having gone over it, I would be inclined to think that the legislation offers a good initial step and as have other speakers in this debate have already indicated, it might be strengthened in committee when it gets there.

There is no doubt that this is an area that needs attention; namely, the area of regulating behaviour.

We regulate behaviour when it comes to traffic and transport. We regulate behaviour when it comes to the supply of food to consumers. We regulate behaviour in the use of the public airwaves, we could say. We regulate behaviour even in the use of the freedom of speech. It is therefore quite appropriate that we move into this area that would regulate the behaviour of the corporate sector when it comes to the security and the safety of its employees.

As others have already indicated, this is not just a measure for miners, it is a measure that would help to protect workers in a variety of industries, from construction, to forestry, to fisheries and so on.

However the event in Westray, which touched us deeply 11 years ago, is the one that somehow has triggered this measure, which made us realize that there was veil of protection to allow decisions in the corporate sector which turned out to be unreasonable and to the detriment of all employees.

The bill removes the shield that protects the corporate sector from anonymity and it aims at two aspects, which I would like to read into the record because they are very encouraging and most desirable.

First, it is to:

establish rules for attributing to organizations, including corporations, criminal liability for the acts of their representatives;

That means that corporate CEOs, decision maker and managers would be responsible for their actions should it turn out they were irresponsibly acting in the management of that particular sector in that particular firm.

Second, it is to:

establish a legal duty for all persons directing work to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of workers and the public;

That also seems to me to be well thought out, timely and will go a long way in improving behaviour and preventing accidents to workers engaged in a variety of activities across the nation every day.

There is never enough attention paid to the safety of workers at work or on site. If we seem to be focusing in this bill on miners, it is because they are probably those who face daily most danger than many other occupations and also that is where the number of accidents more frequently take place.

However through this bill, we are approaching it and applying it to the entire federal jurisdiction. It is one measure that I think the present environment will be proud and it is of course our hope on this side of the House that this measure will go through all its stages and be proclaimed possibly by the end of October so it will be part of the record of the present government.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I think if you were to seek it, the House would give its consent to see the clock as 1:30 p.m.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Acadians
Private Members' Business

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

moved:

That a humble Address be presented to Her Excellency praying that, following the steps already taken by the Société Nationale de l'Acadie, she will intercede with Her Majesty to cause the British Crown to recognize officially the wrongs done to the Acadian people in its name between 1755 and 1763.

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure and some measure of optimism that I rise today in the House to launch the debate on Motion No.382.

As you know, this is not the first time that I submit to the House this motion that is so important to me, but I sincerely hope that it will be the last.

Some may wonder why I constantly bring up this issue. tIt is simply because it has not yet been resolved. Ignoring a reality that is unpleasant or that makes us uneasy will not make it go away like magic.

The fact is that a substantive debate has emerged within Acadian society regarding its painful past. Personally, I see this as a very positive and beneficial process, because it is a first step towards the healing of old wounds and, in the long run, towards true reconciliation.

The Société Nationale de l'Acadie, supported by its member and affiliated societies, has taken up the cause in the matter of asking the British Crown to officially recognize the facts of the deportation. Therefore, it is no longer the cause of one individual or a few people acting in isolation, but of organizations representing the Acadian people.

It would therefore be appropriate for the House of Commons to recognize the facts, since it cannot, as a democratic institution, continue to ignore movements that are active in our society. Moreover, in this particular case, it is useful to remember that the House has a privileged institutional relationship with the Crown. Thus, it can propose to serve as a conduit between the British Crown and the Société Nationale de l'Acadie, which does not enjoy this kind of privileged relationship.

It is not right to forget this tragedy that took place in Canada. Because it is the both tragic and glorious saga of the Acadian people that we are talking about.

Knowing these historical facts makes it possible to measure the road we have already travelled, and so be even more amazed at the vitality of the Acadian people today.

Thus it is our duty, and ours first, to take a calm look at this dark episode in our history. Subjects of the Crown since the treaty of Utrecht and tolerated under Queen Anne's edict, the Acadians, simply because of their language and religion, were deprived of their rights and freedoms, stripped of their goods and expelled unmercifully, in peril of their lives and in flagrant contravention of the constitutional principles prevailing since time immemorial, even before they were codified in the Magna Carta.

This legal document, enacted by King John, known as John Lackland, in 1215, and reaffirmed by Edward I in 1297, established a certain number of rules and rights which even a king must not violate.

It is a constitutional text whose provisions are essentially still in force today. In articles 35, 36 and 37 of the 1215 Magna Carta and in articles 28 and 29 of the 1297 version, it is stipulated that, and I quote:

[...] no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it. No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.

Moreover, British law gave any subject the absolute right to stay in the country. Of course, in the end, these rights were not recognized for the Acadians as His Majesty's subjects. Yet, because of their birth right, they were under no obligation to take an oath to be considered His Majesty's subjects.

As for those who had been born before the treaty of Utrecht was signed, as I said earlier in this House, they became Her Majesty's subjects by operation of law alone, as confirmed by Queen Anne's edict.

And since they could not relinquish their natural allegiance to the king of France, because of their birth right, which British law also recognized, it would have been inconceivable for the King of England to ask them to bear arms against their former sovereign, which he was careful not to do, until Lawrence carried out the deportation plan devised by Shirley in 1746.

I think I have clearly shown the House that the requirement of taking an unconditional oath was just a crude and spurious attempt to legitimize a purely illegal act under British law.

Clearly, the goal was to disperse the Acadians in Protestant and English communities, so as to facilitate and accelerate their assimilation and eventually ensure their end as a distinct cultural, religious and linguistic group.

Some claim that this was, quite simply, genocide. Obviously, it is not easy to apply modern values and legal concepts to something that happened 250 years ago.

Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer and theorist who coined the term genocide, wrote in 1944 that he had created this term:

—to denote an old practice in its modern development.

Although the goal was not to kill people, many thousands of people died during that time. Entire families were wiped off the face of the Earth.

That said, there is no doubt that this kind of operation, as defined by the United Nations after World War II, is extremely similar to crimes of genocide.

The United Nations decreed that:

—genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;... forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

That said, I think that we can agree that this is a very serious event, that cannot be minimized or justified whatsoever. If we take a strictly legal, not to say legalistic, approach, we must conclude that the legal implications of these events are still being felt to this day.

In fact, the 1968 convention on the non-applicability of statutory limitations to war crimes and crimes against humanity stipulates that no statutory limitation shall apply to a crime of genocide, whether committed during times of peace or times of war.

Therefore, if the British really committed a genocide type crime against the Acadian people, some could claim that those guilty of such activities are responsible in perpetuity. Under current international law, British officers like Lawrence and Mockton should be brought to justice. The only problem is that these people are now dead.

In fact, all of them are dead, except for His or Her Majesty, there being in British law a legal fiction according to which His or Her Majesty can never die. “The King is dead. Long live the King,” as the saying goes.

According to this principle, Her Majesty could be held responsible for the deportation, particularly since the Magna Carta was violated.

It is interesting to note that here in Canada, since June 2000, when the act respecting genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes was added to Canadian legislation, it has been possible to prosecute the Crown for such actions. Section 3 of this act states that the Act is binding on Her Majesty. By this Act, the Crown gives up its immunity and in so doing, accepts the fact that it could eventually be held responsible for this type of crime, regardless of the time elapsed, because this procedure is of course retroactive, there being no statutory limitation.

I know that on the government side, several members are concerned that the Canadian government could end up being held responsible for actions taken in the name of the Crown, at the time of the deportation, because of the successor state principle and might have to compensate the Acadians. I want to reassure them. Even if some people would indeed like to see the Crown compensate the Acadians, it is important to note that this is not the purpose of the current motion.

Moreover, Université de Moncton professor of international law Kamel Khiari, a member of the expert panel set up by the Société Nationale de l'Acadie to address the implications of Motion M-241, has already expressed the opinion that, in crimes of this nature, responsibility cannot be transferred to the successor state but remains in perpetuity with the predecessor state, unless the latter has ceased to exist in law in the interim.

Not only does the United Kingdom still exist, but it is still governed by the same constitutional framework and, in theory, still has the same head of state, as has already been pointed out. Her Majesty therefore has a duty to officially recognize the wrongs done to the Acadian people in the name of the Crown, since such exactions do not fade from the collective memory of a nation as readily as some would have us believe.

In these cases, a curious psychosocial phenomenon apparently develops, the term for which was coined by Christopher L. Blakesley. “The phenomenology of shame” refers to the fact that, for a people that has been a victim of exactions of this nature, it is difficult to escape the perpetual painful memories of these events, unless a process of acceptance has been engaged in order to come to “own” these events. This process often involves recognition, by the authors of those actions themselves, of the wrongs that have been done as a result of these inhumane actions.

Despite the claims of some, this is not just a long-ago event that can be easily dismissed. Beyond the psychosocial effects that I just mentioned, the deportation had legal repercussions that theoretically could still apply today.

The deportation order that resulted in the catastrophic Grande Dérangement, has never been lifted and consequently is still in force today. An Acadian travelling to England could be arrested and deported since, theoretically at least, he would be considered a common criminal. It is high time we set the record straight and finally recognize the harm that was caused to the Acadian people, just as it was to the Maori and the Irish, in the name of the British Crown.

On August 16, His Honour Herménégilde Chiasson, a well known Acadian artist, was appointed Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick.

I would like to take this opportunity to offer him my sincerest and warmest congratulations on this appointment, which, if I may say, caps a long and already very successful career.

In an interview he gave a few days later to the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal , the new Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick said he did not intend to take advantage of his position to exert pressure on the British Crown to apologize for the deportation of the Acadians. He added, and I quote:

I have always been a strong advocate of modernity. Acadia is burdened by its past. I have long felt that Acadians are bogged down in constantly analysing their history...Of course the Deportation was tragic, but we should stop dragging the past around like a ball and chain...Acadians should...roll up their sleeves instead of feeling sorry for themselves over their past.

It may surprise some, but I more or less agree with him. No one is asking him to get involved in seeking an apology from the British Crown. He is right not to want to get involved since no one is officially asking that the Crown apologize to the Acadian people any more.

Finally, it can indeed be unhealthy to dwell obsessively on tragic events of the past, to be nostalgic about paradise lost. This is why I believe it is very important for the Acadian people to come to grips with its tragic past, to finally turn the page on a dark chapter in its history, without forgetting it, so it can live for the present and look to the future.

We must not be afraid of learning from the past because history has made us what we are today and looking back at it can help us avoid repeating our mistakes and build a better future.

As suggested in Motion No.382 and as I have already mentioned, I think that the House of Commons, because of its institutional ties with the British Crown, must support the initiative taken by the Société Nationale de l'Acadie.

Could this kind of recognition reignite old quarrels and create conflict between the two main language communities in Atlantic Canada? I do not think so. On the contrary, I believe, as I was saying earlier, that it would be a first step toward true reconciliation.

I will conclude with this statement made by Honoré Mercier at the Baltimore convention, on November 12, 1889:

We are resolved to be guided solely by justice in our public affairs. We believe in justice no matter what: in the name of justice, we accept the heaviest responsibilities and the most serious consequences not only of the present and the future, but of the past as well. And when we realize after the fact that the dictates of such justice were ignored, that its interests were neglected, that its rights were violated, then we believe that it is necessary to go back in time to right the wrongs and pay the debt.

Acadians
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Laval East
Québec

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to respond to the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes, who is putting forward Motion No. 382.

The motion asks:

That a humble Address be presented to Her Excellency praying that, following the steps already taken by the Société Nationale de l'Acadie, she will intercede with Her Majesty to cause the British Crown to recognize officially the wrongs done to the Acadian people in its name between 1755 and 1763.

I humbly suggest that this motion contains a major flaw. It has to do with Canada's sovereignty. Canada is no longer a colony and the wording of the motion is quite shocking for anyone who has some knowledge of constitutional law. I will explain.

In 1926, the Balfour Declaration set out that the dominions were equal in status and equal to Great Britain. Then, in 1931, the Statute of Westminster made Canada a sovereign state. The recognition of its sovereignty was finalized when, at the request of Canada, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Canada Act 1982.

Under this act, legislation passed by the British Parliament after the Canada Act 1982 is not part of the laws of Canada.

The member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes does not understand that. The constitutional status of Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II and of the Governor General is not similar to that of the Queen of the United Kingdom.

The Governor General of Canada represents the Canadian Crown and not the United Kingdom Crown. It would be totally iappropriate for a representative of the Crown in right of Canada to make representations to another country's institution, the Crown of the United Kingdom.

If the Government of Canada were to intervene, the initiative should come from the federal cabinet. It is the government that could then ask the head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, as Queen of the United Kingdom, to take appropriate measures.

Consequently, Motion 382 is seriously flawed as to its form, which in itself would be sufficient to oppose it. But there are other reasons relating to the evolution of our country and the Acadian community that compel me to not support this motion.

The deportation of the Acadians is obviously one of the darkest chapters of our history. The Acadian people was made to suffer greatly. Our historians recognize that. They all recognize it. The former Governor General of Canada, His Excellency Roméo Leblanc, himself an Acadian, said:

If there is one group of Canadians whose past could have poisoned their future it is the Acadians. In the middle of the Eighteenth century they were wrenched from their homes and deported to distant shores.

Some managed to escape this deportation with the aid of friendly native people. But they were refugees in their own country, stripped of their land and their voting rights and then later, three years after Confederation, stripped of their schools. When it came to the Acadians, the Fathers of Confederation had nothing to say!But the Acadians did not give up. We survived.

Also, during the ceremony at the University of Moncton to present him with an honorary doctorate in May 1969, former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau said:

Some two centuries ago, New Brunswick seemed destined to become an exclusively English-speaking province. After the deportation of the Acadians, there was nothing to suggest any other outcome. The Acadians, having been eliminated in one fell swoop...were simply swept off the map...But you reclaimed your place in the sun, and refused to let the bitterness and resentment of old quarrels and inequities linger on.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage also stated in Grand Pré, Nova Scotia:

Disturbing as it may be, the deportation has also shown the courage and determination of a community that wanted to survive against all odds. This is what contributes to the strength and success of the Acadian community today.

The Acadians are a people, and a people in tune with the modern world. They are a community with a sense of belonging. They are brothers and sisters by their language and their heart.

She made this speech when she announced the cooperation agreement between Parks Canada, the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Société de promotion de Grand-Pré to develop the Grand Pré tourist site.

What should our attitude be toward this failure of the past? Should we keep going over the deportation and all the suffering it entailed? Should we try to quantify all the suffering inflicted on the Acadians? Should we blame those responsible or simply take stock of what happened and learn from this experience? No apology could ever erase this tragedy, but we should focus our energies on our present and our future.

What disturbs me also is not only the message that is being sent, but also the messenger.

The hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes, well meaning as he may be, belongs to a political party that promotes independence for Quebec. We cannot ignore the fact that his party wants to make an irreparable change in the Canadian political landscape.

Fortunately, we have so far been able to spare Acadians “le grand dérangement” that Quebec's independence, Quebec's separation from the rest of Canada, would have caused. But let us never forget, when we consider that my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois has a seat in this House, that his party is committed to a cause that is not about the survival of this country.

The separation of Quebec from the rest of Canada that the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes seeks would have resulted in the immeasurable tragedy of severing the physical links between Acadians and other residents of the Atlantic provinces and the rest of Canada. This is an indisputable fact, and all Acadians know it.

This reality cannot be wiped out. And even though the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes is well-intentioned today because he has discovered, among other things, that his family has Acadian roots and he now travels in Acadia, this does not take away from the message. He is the messenger of a party that does not believe in the cause of francophones outside Quebec, that does not believe in the cause of bilingualism in Canada and that would not hesitate to isolate Acadians if this would allow it to fulfill its dream of having Quebec achieve independence. Will we allow him to spend the rest of his political life bragging that he had this motion passed?

I invite the hon. member to consider his change in attitude toward French Canadians outside Quebec and the Acadians, a people we love and who are in tune with the modern world to paraphrase the Minister of National Heritage. I ask the hon. member to have the courage to admit that he has changed his mind about Quebec's independence, for the greater good of the Acadians he is now trying to help.

If the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes wants to honour Acadians and all other French Canadians with this gesture of respect and clearly state that his party must abandon plans for Quebec's independence, only then will I consider supporting him.

For the moment, I think that his actions are clearly inconsistent, and this must be pointed out, his personal qualities notwithstanding.

So, I anxiously await this statement from him. In the meantime, I want to add that Canadians are experts at managing tension between different groups. We have proven this in the past. It is by focusing on this ability that Canada will move forward, not by dwelling on past mistakes.

Acadians
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes on his motion.

The deportation of the Acadian people took place between 1755 and 1763. Acadians refer to this period as the “Grand Dérangement”.

I find this expression far too low-key to describe the ordeal of the Acadian people, and one which reflects their exceptional fortitude. Évangéline , the epic poem by Longfellow, is a reflection of the painful history of the Acadian people and depicts a brutal and cruel deportation. Here is, in a nutshell, what happened.

Before the arrival of the British army, Acadia encompassed the current provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. It was made up of a string of rural and coastal communities, which depended on trade, fishing and agriculture. Acadian families were the first European families to settle in Canada, 400 years ago. These communities lived in perfect harmony with the aboriginal peoples.

Upon landing in Acadia, the British army behaved like an occupying force and demanded that Acadians swear allegiance to the Crown, unconditionally and notwithstanding their cultural and religious distinctiveness. When the Acadians refused, the British army reacted with brutality, burning down homes, taking control of fertile lands, and splitting up families by making men, women and children board different ships to be deported to Louisiana and all over the coast of what is now the eastern United States. Today, the people living in Louisiana are Cajuns, former Acadians. Others ended up in jails in England or were forced to go back to France.

Members can imagine that the hardships and injustice continued long after the journey ended. The hardships and intolerance are akin to what was experienced by the first nations, the Métis and all our aboriginal peoples, something that, in many instances, they continue to live with the consequences of.

Still today, we can see human rights being trampled in many countries. Around the world, religious, linguistic or cultural minorities are being persecuted and see their rights trampled, often very violently.

Canada itself is far from perfect. It seems to be hard for us, in Canada, to make amends for denying the rights of native Canadians, who are still living in deplorable conditions. We often have trouble maintaining a democratic, open and egalitarian society. Nothing can be taken for granted.

However, the good news is that modern Canada, born from this terrible tragedy, was built on a solid foundation of linguistic duality, tolerance and openness to differences. The key to modern Canada, as found in section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, relies on the principle of equal rights and on our refusal to impose our will on a minority, where human rights are concerned. It is on such a positive attitude that modern Canada was built. Refusing to let the might makes right principle prevail has made Canada a showplace of unity with diversity.

This is why we are free to debate this motion which reflects the will not only of the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes but of the Acadian people that still bears deep scars as a result of this cruel attempt to eradicate them and trample over their dignity.

A philosopher once said, “That which does not kill you makes you stronger”. Acadian Canadians are proud to have survived the challenge, the Grand Dérangement. Today they are strong and proud members of the Canadian family. My colleague from Acadie—Bathurst, who could not be here today and whom I have the honour of representing in this debate, is a vibrant example of an Acadian contribution to our country.

As a western Canadian I support this motion. The expulsion of Acadians was a senseless and barbaric act. For those who think that this was the way they used to do business in those days, may I remind them of a more recent event in 1923, the Chinese exclusion act, which also separated families by making it impossible for a wife to join her husband. Parliament rescinded this outrageous Chinese exclusion act and issued a formal apology to the Chinese Canadian community.

It is high time that we requested a formal apology from the Crown for the way we in the past treated one of the minorities that founded this nation. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has already made a formal apology to the Maori people from New Zealand, in 1995, and to the people of Amritsar in India, in 1999. There are plenty of opportunities for a formal apology to the Acadian people as outlined by the Société Nationale de l'Acadie.

Acadia will be celebrating its 400th anniversary in 2004; 400 years of history.

And if not on the 400th anniversary, then why not in 2005 for the 250th anniversary of the beginning of the Grand Dérangement?

The British Crown will therefore have many opportunities to recognize the wrongs done to the Acadian people.

I urge all hon. members to take notice of the motion brought forward by my friend from Verchères—Les-Patriotes and to realize its significance for these people, who have also helped build our country, Canada.

Acadians
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, it is with regret that I will be voting against Motion No. 382.

My reasons for doing so are twofold. First, I feel that this motion is based on a faulty premise, that being that guilt can be collective and can be passed on from one generation to the next. Second, despite the good intentions of those who drafted it, the motion seems to attribute ultimate responsibility for the expulsion of the Acadians to the Crown, which is not an accurate reading of the events of 1755. A more historically accurate reading would lay blame with the colonial governors of New England and the pioneers they represented.

I will begin with the historical argument and then come back later to the philosophical one.

Many of the facts surrounding the deportation of the Acadians are unchallenged. In 1755, the colonial authorities began a process of uprooting and deporting that part of the Acadian population which had settled on British lands, beginning with the centre of the Acadian colony along the east shore of the Bay of Fundy.

Nova Scotia's Governor Lawrence, and Governor Shirley, commander in chief of the British forces in New England, began by seizing colonists' firearms to prevent them from using force to resist. Then they took a large number of adult males hostage in order to guarantee the docility of their families at the time of deportation.

In the years that followed, approximately three-quarters of the total Acadian population, or 13,000 people, were deported. Some of these people were sent to New England, others to Louisiana, and still others were returned to France.

Although we know with certainty the degree of suffering caused by the deportations between 1755 and 1763, it is much more difficult to pin down the historical responsibility for them. One thing is certain and that is that governors Lawrence and Shirley were at the heart of the decision making and must bear ultimate responsibility. But nothing proves that they acted with the approval of the Parliament of Westminster.

According to the most commonly accepted version of events, Lawrence acted with the authorization of the local council in Nova Scotia, and parliament and King George did not take part in the planning of the deportations.

More recently, Roger Paradis, a professor of history at the University of Maine, has uncovered documentary evidence suggesting that the authorities in London were involved. He cited a bill, sent to London in 1758 by Governor Lawrence, listing the expenditures incurred for the deportation. He also revealed the existence of a circular sent by Lawrence to governors of the New England colonies, which presumes that those governors were, at the very least, aware of the events taking place in Acadia.

However, what strikes me is that even in this revisionist interpretation of history the colonial authorities in Acadia and New England take on the primary responsibility for the acts committed, while the Crown has only a secondary responsibility. Moreover, it is obvious that the first ones to benefit from the military security that was increased as a result of ethnic cleansing in Acadia were the New England pioneers and specifically those living in the portion of the colony of Massachusetts then known as the “District of Maine”.

I emphasize that I will not support the notion of a collective or hereditary guilt, but even if I did support it, I think that the first collective excuses that should be conveyed to the Acadian people should come from the Government of Maine.

It is therefore interesting to know that on April 13, 1994, the Maine Legislative Assembly passed a resolution regarding the deportation of the Acadians. It was carefully drafted in such a way that the blame is laid exclusively on the British, and it never hints at the fact that Maine, a sovereign state, or its predecessor, the English colony of Massachusetts Bay, could have been involved in any way. I think the best we can say about this statement is that it comes from a serious misinterpretation of history.

Unfortunately, the motion before us today is based on the same mistake. The motion calls on the Crown to “recognize officially the wrongs done to the Acadian people in its name”. However, the fact that the deportation was ordered in the name of the British Crown does not mean that the Crown itself was the primary culprit, even in 1755.

Similarly, history is full of outrageous act committed in the name of various religions, or in the name of the people of a territory or another, while the authority named had very little to do, if any, with the harm that was done in its name. A more historically accurate motion could demand official apologies from the legislative assemblies of each of the New England states for the harm done in their interests and with their complicity.

I should be clear about the fact that I would oppose this too. I do so because I do not accept the notion that an institution can maintain a heritage of collective guilt which is imposed upon successive generations of those who become members of that institution or who fall under its protection.

It seems to me that some participants in the debate over this motion and in similar debates that have occurred in the past have contemplated two quite different concepts. The first concept is the expectation, which I regard as legitimate, that all participants in the public life of a civilized society should adopt a moral attitude toward the past. A moral attitude involves recognizing and embracing those past actions which are regarded as good and just, and rejecting those which are regarded as unjust or monstrous.

The second concept is the idea that guilt for a past injustice can be passed on, institutionally and collectively, in precisely the same way that the residual effects of that wrong continue to have some impact on the descendants of those who suffered the initial wrong. This is simply untrue.

The adoption of a moral attitude by an actor in political life allows us, as potential voters or as potential political allies, to assess how that individual might act in the future should he or she be a decision maker in some similar future circumstance. Such a calculation is necessary in a system of representative democracy because it is always conceivable that one can win an election in a time of peace and then find that his or her mandate extends into a period of unexpected turmoil or war. After the events of September 11, I think we can see the utility of such expectations.

By contrast, an attitude of collective guilt or responsibility, or worse yet, of expecting others to assume a mantle of guilt or responsibility for acts in which they themselves did not take part, strikes me as being of no utility at all.

A debate similar to the one taking place today took place in this House 17 years ago on Pierre Trudeau's last day as Prime Minister. He was asked by Brian Mulroney in question period to issue an apology for the wartime internment of Canadians of Japanese descent. Trudeau's response revealed a subtle grasp to the distinction that I am attempting to draw here today. He said:

I do not see how I can apologize for some historic event to which we...were not a party. We can regret that it happened. But why...say that an apology is much better than an expression of regret?...I do not think that it is the purpose of a government to right the past. It cannot re-write history. It is our purpose to be just in our time--

This does not excuse us from a responsibility to adopt a moral attitude of condemnation toward this great wrong any more than we can adopt an attitude of moral neutrality toward the monstrous evils of recent times.

Therefore, let us vote against this motion in its present form, but let us vote for it if it is reintroduced in the House in a form that allows us to express, without apology, our sorrow over this past wrong and if it allows us, without condemning others, to indicate our determination that no such wrong will ever in the future be tolerated on Canadian soil.

Acadians
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, to start with, I would like to congratulate my friend and colleague from Verchères—Les-Patriotes for giving us once again the opportunity to discuss this historic tragedy, but also for his hard and ongoing work on the issue of the deportation of the Acadians and the recognition of an historical fact.

Whether we agree or not with the motion, we can all agree that it is the exemplary result of the kind of work a member can do when he believes in an issue and works on it in a professional manner. I am convinced that if I were to ask for the unanimous consent of the House to recognize this fact, I would undoubtedly get it.

For over three years now, the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes has proven that a member of the House of Commons can use his powers, capacities and responsibilities to put forward, debate and implement a bill or a motion that can make a difference in our society. It is to his credit, and I congratulate him.

To my friend and colleague from the Canadian Alliance who mentioned in his speech that he was opposed to asking for an apology, I say that I am in agreement with him, up to a point. However, this is not what the motion is about. He may have misread it. The member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes is in no way asking for an apology.

We are very surprised by the comments made by the Canadian Alliance member, since, last time, members of that party voted in favour of a similar motion. However, today on a motion that is not all that different, they are presenting opposite arguments. They might have the opportunity to explain why during the next hour of debate.

I am a lot less happy when I hear the member for Laval East using arguments, which I would call partisan and fallacious, to show her opposition to the motion. I find it sad. I believe that if there is one thing that must unite us all, wherever we sit in the House, it is private members' business.

When dealing with government bills, it is quite normal for government members to feel bound to support them,

We are dealing with private members' business, and some members are playing petty politics and saying we are separatists and they do not like us. It seems to me that, from time to time, we should rise above that.

I think that if we keep on foster the population's mistrust toward behaving this way, we will only enhance the population,s mistrust toward politicians. When we deal with a motion on a non-partisan subject like this, this kind of comment is inappropriate. Whether or not we agree with the Canadian Alliance, we have to admit that it took the high road, that its arguments made sense and were well reasoned.

When people who are criticial of politics and refuse to vote are asked why they take this stand, they answer by giving examples like the comments of the Liberal member for Laval East. We can and we should behave differently, all the more so since she told us in a previous speech that the three traditional pillars of the Acadian economy are fisheries, agriculture, and forestry.

The hon. member said that agriculture was still a way of life in Acadia and that people get up early to pick potatoes. This is an insult to a whole people and even to this Parliament.

The hon. member also said that she cannot support such a motion because Canada is a sovereign country. I beg to remind her that Canada's head of state is the Queen of England.

I will also remind her that we have a governor general as well as lieutenants-governor. Yes, we signed the Statute of Westminster in 1931, if I am not mistaken. And yes, we still have ties with Great Britain.

I will remind the member for Laval East that all our laws must receive royal assent. I hope I am not telling her anything that she does not know already, because she has been here for some time.

Some people made comments to my friend, the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes, to the effect that apologizing means living in the past and that this is not right.

I will the backgroung to Motion No.382 to show how partisanship was set aside to respond to concerns expressed and to present a motion that would be acceptable to as many members as possible.

I will read to you the first of these motions, calling for the recognition of an historical fact that I believe is undeniable.

On March 27, 2001, more than two years ago, Motion No.241 read as follows:

That a humble Address be presented to Her Excellency praying that she will intercede with Her Majesty to cause the British Crown to present an official apology to the Acadian people for the wrongs done to them in its name between 1755 and 1763.

We have heard all sorts of arguments, mainly from the Liberals and the Alliance, saying “We do not agree to ask for apologies”. We said, “Fine, we will amend the motion. We will change it to try to satisfy you”. We have even tried to find a new mover so that the nasty separatist argument would no longer apply. We have taken out the words “ to present an official apology” and replaced them with “...a humble Address be presented to Her Excellency praying that she will intercede with Her Majesty to cause the British Crown to recognize officially the wrongs done to the Acadian people ”.

We are not asking for money or for apologies. We do not want to find a culprit. We only want an official recognition of an historical fact. At the time, for reasons that do not seem very valid, the motion was defeated.

However, the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes has two main qualities: tenacity and perseverance.

He came back on February 6, 2003, with Motion No. 238, which read as follows:

That this House officially acknowledge—

Because, at that time, it had been determined that it was not the responsibility of the Governor General to take action.

—the harm suffered by the Acadian people from 1755 to 1763.

We were not asking for apologies. We were not accusing anyone. We were just asking for an official acknowledgement. We were presented with the same arguments all over again; for example: one should not dwell on the past; one should look toward the future; this is being moved by separatists. So the motion was defeated.

The Société Nationale de l'Acadie then created an expert panel to review the issue.

The member for Laval East said that the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes went around, implying that he stirred things up. I am sorry, but when a member of Parliament goes somewhere to consult and work and when his efforts lead a society to create an expert panel to study a motion, that member is not visiting as a tourist.

Such arguments are cheap shots. I am sure we would all agree that such a comment is rather nasty.

After the consultations, the last motion is now being brought forward. It reads as follows:

That a humble Address be presented to Her Excellency praying that, following the steps already taken by the Société Nationale de l'Acadie—

This does not come from separatists.

—she will intercede with He rMajesty to cause the British Crown to recognize officially the wrongs done to the Acadian people in its name between 1755 and 1763.

All members who spoke here in the House have reminded us of what happened during the deportation; that is why I did not do so; I believe we all know and recognize those events.

Should we live in the past? People say that it is not a good thing. But if a person or a group of individuals who fell victim to some injustice or tragedy want healing, if I may use that expression, if they want to rise above their pain and suffering, an official acknowledgement by those who caused that injustice will allow them to take action, turn the page and continue to grow, as the Acadian people have shown they are quite capable of doing.

Acadians
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I had not really intended to speak to the motion, but a number of thoughts have gone through my mind in the last few minutes and so with your indulgence I would like to share some of them.

First of all, I remember seeing the film Roots a number of years ago. I do not know if any of the older generation here remember it. I remember how brutally the black people in Africa were treated as they were captured and taken as slaves. I remember the next day when I went to my job at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology as an instructor. We had a number of foreign students there and when I saw a black student there I had this urge to just go up to him, hug him and say, “How can you ever forgive us white guys for doing that to you?” I really felt that way, yet I was not there and I did not do it. I had that urge to say, “I am sorry that happened and I want you to know that”.

I thought also in the last few minutes of my own family experience. In a way, I guess, I would like the Russian people to apologize to me and to my family for having shot three of my grandfather's brothers, but I also remember my grandmother, the sister-in-law of the men who were shot, saying, “We have to get on with our lives. We can do nothing but forgive. We need to move on in our lives”. Her theme was always one of gratitude that they were able to make their way to Canada. I believe in my heart that my grandfather and grandmother genuinely had no ongoing hatred or rancour toward the Russian people because of what they did.

In all of this we need to keep a balance. It is true that we cannot rewrite history. It is probably true that those things happened, but I think we need to in all candidness say we are sorry these things happened and we hope they never happen again. I think we definitely need to focus on the future and to do so with great respect for our fellow man.

Acadians
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Hull—Aylmer
Québec

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes put forward Motion No.382, which concerns the Acadian community. This motion asks that Her Excellency intercede with Her Majesty to:

—cause the British Crown to recognize officially the wrongs done to the Acadian people in its name between 1755 and 1763.

Like one of his colleagues did earlier, I too would like to congratulate, even praise, the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes for the tireless work he has been doing for many years for this cause. Whether I agree with him or not, it is important to recognize his hard work on this issue and several other issues. I applaud his dedication.

First, I would like to inform the House that the motion does not appear to be consistent with our country's constitutional relationship with England. Moreover, it does not reflect the positive evolution of the Acadian community since the sad events that occurred almost 250 years ago. Let me explain.

Since the 1926 Balfour Declaration, which made the dominions equal in status among themselves and vis-à-vis Great Britain, and since the Statute of Westminster which confirmed this in 1931, Canada has been recognized as a sovereign country.

Recognition of Canada's sovereignty was completed when the Parliament of the United Kingdom, at Canada's request, enacted the Canada Act 1982, stating that no act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the Constitution Act, 1982 came into force shall extend to Canada as part of its law.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has a different constitutional role with respect to Canada than with respect to the United Kingdom. These different attributes were demonstrated in 1953, when the Parliament of Canada adopted the Royal Style and Titles Act, and when the Queen took her oath of coronation.

The Governor General represents the Crown of Canada and not the Crown of the United Kingdom. It would be completely inappropriate for a representative—

Acadians
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon.member will have an opportunity to finish his speech during the next debate on this motion. The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

It being 2.18 p.m., this House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:18 p.m.)