House of Commons Hansard #6 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was bills.

Topics

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has an application for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore.

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank you very much for this opportunity to express the concern of the House as to why we should have an emergency debate on the crisis facing our lumber industry in terms of softwood lumber.

This crisis has been going on for a long time now and an awful lot of workers in small communities from coast to coast in this country are facing a very bleak future. We have not yet had a good and thorough debate on this issue in the House.

We on the opposition side, and I am sure many on the Liberal side as well, would like to know, what is the current government's position? What is the government doing in terms of cooperation with the provinces? What is the government doing in cooperation with forest companies, labour groups and small communities from coast to coast?

As well, we in Atlantic Canada would like to know about our exemption in the maritime accord, which we used to have. Are we going to a quota system? Is the industry going to be rationalized? Will the workers have a job come next year?

These are some of the questions that need to be answered. We on this side of the House would like to have a debate on that so we can interact with the government to ascertain exactly where we are at this time.

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has listened carefully to the comments of the hon. member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore. I note that this issue is one that has continued for some many months and is not new. I am concerned about allowing an emergency debate when there is no new development that might have prompted an additional concern or emergency at this particular time.

While I have no doubt that the subject is one of considerable interest and importance, I note that the House is involved at the moment in the debate on the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne, which allows great latitude to all hon. members in their speeches. I am sure the hon. member will want to participate in that debate and possibly raise this subject then, with other hon. members responding. I would encourage him to pursue that avenue at this time.

Of course we will continue to monitor the situation. Should circumstances change once the debate on all subjects in regard to the Speech from the Throne is over, perhaps the hon. member will want to renew his request, or something else may have transpired which will make it one that in the view of the Chair would be worthy of an emergency debate. In the circumstances, I am not disposed to grant the request at this time.

The House resumed from February 6 consideration of the motion, and of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to debate the motion regarding the reinstatement of past bills in the House.

This is a very serious issue. The government is to be a new government with a new vision. It is supposed to be coming up with new ideas; however, it is asking the House to reintroduce bills from the previous session. As we know, the government has been recycling these bills.

Before I begin my arguments, I would like to say that there have been precedents in the past where previous governments have introduced bills at their previous stage. In 1970, 1972, 1979 and many times before, bills were re-introduced. Motions have been introduced in the House to reinstate previous bills into a new session of Parliament after prorogation.

What was the need to prorogue the House? It was because of mismanagement by the Liberals of their own affairs. They had the leadership contest in the previous session. They mistimed their own leadership contest. When the new leader came into power, he was supposed to have a new vision and new ideas for Parliament.

I accept that it is the practice for the government to reinstate bills in a new session. Marleau and Montpetit cite a number of precedents that have happened in the past. In 1970, 1972, 1974 and 1986 the House gave unanimous consent to motions to reinstate bills. In 1977 and 1982 the House adopted amendments to the Standing Orders to carry over legislation to the next session. There were motions in the House in 1991 and 1996, and since I arrived in the House in 1997, we have had similar motions for reinstatement in 1999 and 2002.

The reinstatement of bills expedites House business at the beginning of a new session. Bills that have already been studied can be reinstated to the point they had reached in a previous session. The House and members of committees do not have to waste their time and resources on questions that have already been settled.

Having said that, I still cannot help but find it ironic that we are here today considering the reinstatement of bills from the last session. After all, it was just one week ago today that the Governor General read the Speech from the Throne. I find one sentence in the throne speech particularly interesting in light of what we are considering today. It states:

This Speech from the Throne marks the start of a new government; a new agenda--

What new agenda was she speaking of? The throne speech contained a laundry list of promises, but nearly every one can be found in previous speeches from the throne by the same Liberal government. In fact, the core of last week's throne speech can be gleaned from the Liberal's 1993 red book. Needless to say, there is not much new about decade old promises.

The same government has been talking about restoring the public's faith in the management of government ever since it took over the reins of power in 1993. In that time it has done absolutely nothing but further erode the trust that Canadians have in their government by moving from one boondoggle to the next.

Does the government honestly think that keeping details of federal contracts given to Barbados shipping conglomerates hidden from the public will restore faith in government?

Need I say anything about the renewed promises for an independent ethics commissioner? I will believe that one when I see it.

By seeking to reinstate bills from the last session the Prime Minister is undermining all claims about being new. If the government was truly new, truly different from its predecessor, the Prime Minister could have chosen from three options.

First, he could have begun this session with a clean slate, introducing his own legislation that reflects his own priorities. That would have made perfect sense. Any government that is truly new would want to set out its own course and not reach back and steal the agenda of its predecessor.

Second, if the incoming Prime Minister did not have his own priorities, then he could have at least taken the existing bills of the last session and incorporated some of the constructive changes that have been proposed by members in this chamber, both from the official opposition as well as from other backbench members of Parliament. While this choice would not reflect any new ideas on the Prime Minister's part, it would at least mesh with his stated desire to give added power to backbench MPs. However, I am not holding my breath and waiting for this to occur either.

The Prime Minister's third option is to reinstate bills from the previous session with his own amendments.

However, the Prime Minister has chosen none of these options. He has instead decided to proceed from where Mr. Chrétien left off. In doing so, he ends all pretensions of being different or new in any way and continues with Mr. Chrétien's agenda in the same direction.

The important question is, why did the Liberals prorogue Parliament and waste all the work that was done in the House? In the process, why did the government keep the House adjourned for so long?

We are dealing with a tired, weak and worn out government, bereft of new ideas. There are a number of bills that the government is now trying to bring forward that we would seriously like to see dropped. If that were done, then probably there could be some agreement reached on the reinstatement motion.

Let us pause for a few minutes to consider some of the legislation, that died on the Order Paper when the government prorogued Parliament last fall, that I would like to exclude from this reinstatement motion. Let us begin with Bill C-34 which would, among other things, fulfill the Liberals' decade old promise to put in place an ethics commissioner who reports to Parliament.

The current ethics counsellor has no independence or investigative powers. He is completely controlled by the Prime Minister and reports in private to the Prime Minister about conflicts involving ministers. Mr. Wilson rubber stamps almost everything the Liberals do as ethical. The proposed new ethics commissioner would be more independent, although not nearly as independent as he could be. We are also getting an independent ethics officer to oversee the conduct of senators. The Prime Minister would retain the power to appoint both, after consultation with the opposition leaders. However, each choice would have to be ratified by a vote in the respective chamber.

The new commissioners would not be truly independent if only a majority vote by government members is required to ratify the appointments. Opposition approval should be required. This bill is primarily a public relations exercise. The Liberals want to go into next spring's election saying that they have done something. It will not work.

Let us consider why we need an ethics commissioner in the first place. It is because we cannot trust the government to police its own members. If the Liberals had passed this bill after their election in 1993, could the scandals and corruption of the last decade been avoided?

Would it have prevented the questionable contracting activities of former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano? Would it have prevented his successor from accepting personal favours from a departmental contractor? Would it have prevented the former defence minister from giving an untendered contract to his girlfriend, or the former solicitor general from lobbying his own officials to award millions in grants to a college led by his brother? Would this bill have prevented the Liberals from ignoring the Auditor General's charge that they had misstated the government's financial position by $800 million in 1996 and by $2.5 billion in 1997? Would it have prevented the government from interfering with the Somalia inquiry, when its efforts to get to the bottom of document destruction at national defence threatened to expose people at the top? Would it have prevented the government from attempting to obstruct the Krever inquiry into the tainted blood scandal, when it threatened to expose culpability on the part of the Liberals? Would the bill have prevented the systematic misuse of taxpayers' dollars for partisan purposes in the billion dollar boondoggle at HRDC? I do not think so.

There is Bill C-38, the government's misguided attempt to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. This legislation would do nothing to save our communities from the ravages of marijuana or the violence and crime that accompanies it. Rather, the bill would take us one step closer to the legalization of marijuana.

With this bill the Liberals are sending out the wrong message to Canadians, and particularly to young Canadians. Decriminalization makes it sound like it is okay to smoke pot. However, it is not okay. Studies show marijuana is four times more deadly than tobacco, whose use the government already spends hundreds of millions of dollars to discourage.

As for the increase in penalties for grow op owners, these are long overdue, but are meaningless if not enforced by the courts. The current law is not being applied. Grow op operators are sometimes receiving seven convictions without ever seeing the inside of a jail cell. What is the good in increasing maximum penalties if the courts are unwilling to hand out even weak sentences? What is really needed is minimum sentencing that will make people think twice before breaking the law. This bill should never be reintroduced as is. It seriously needs to be reconsidered.

Then there is Bill C-22 that proposes amendments to the Divorce Act. The assumption of shared parenting should be built into the Divorce Act. Shared custody encourages the real involvement of both parents in their children's lives.

On the other hand, we have Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code and other acts. Among other things, the bill would make it a Criminal Code offence to set a deadly trap in a place used for a criminal purpose. This would protect first responders, that is, firefighters, police, et cetera, whose lives could be endangered by entering such a place in the performance of their duties. I strongly support the bill because it deals with issues I have been pursuing for a number of years.

In fact, I introduced a motion in the House that was debated but rejected by the Liberals. What happened after that was that they stole the idea and put it into their own bill, Bill C-32. I do not understand why a motion introduced by an opposition MP was not good enough for passing in the House but the contents of the motion were good enough to be stolen and put into Bill C-32. That is the partisan nature of this place. However if any idea is good it should not matter whether it comes from the opposition or the Liberals.

In 2001 I introduced that motion and the Liberals rejected it, but we need to look at the issue seriously. There were 13,724 arson fires in Canada in 2002. I was alarmed to learn that over 30% of the fires in my home community of Surrey were as a result of arson. A very high percentage of them contained booby traps. There have been arson fires in schools and fiery explosions in residential neighbourhoods that have threatened the safety of citizens.

These fires are disturbing. Some were caused purely by mischief but many were set with more sinister intentions of covering up illegal activities, such as marijuana growing or methamphetamine labs. At other times, firefighters respond to calls only to find the premises booby-trapped with crossbows, propane canisters ready to explode, cutaway floor boards or other serious but intentional hazards. These malicious devices are intended to kill or injure anyone who interferes with the drug operation, including the firefighters. Firefighters in Surrey are especially at risk considering the growing number of marijuana grow operations that plague the city.

Bill C-32 is one bill that I would be pleased to see reinstated. Firefighters and other first responders have been waiting too long for this important legislation. However the government has been dragging its heels on the bill. It should be ashamed for delaying the bill for so long.

There is a history of precedents testifying to the long-standing practice in the House of allowing the reinstatement of bills at the same stage as this motion proposes. However if the Prime Minister truly believes that he heads a new government, he cannot call upon previous precedents where in every other instance there was no change in government.

The Prime Minister tries so hard to portray the government as new. Yes, the leader has changed, as have a few of his minions. The former lieutenant is now the commander but it is still the same old government making the same old promises.

By my count, the Speech from the Throne contained 31 uses of the word “new”. There were probably more. This was part of a feeble attempt to convince Canadians that they now have a new government. However all the “new” in the speech could not hide the fact that it was an old message. The Prime Minister wants to have his cake and eat it too.

The hon. House leader on Friday spoke of how a reinstatement motion avoids wasting Parliament's time and resources. His government should have thought about that before needlessly proroguing Parliament in the first place.

The government's plan to reinstate legislation from a previous session is further evidence, as if any more were required, that nothing has changed since the Liberals changed leaders. The new Prime Minister is continuing yet another practice of his predecessors. It is cynical practice and it manipulates the rules for electoral gain. Canadians will not be impressed.

The government's plan to reinstate legislation from the previous session is further evidence that nothing has changed since the Liberals changed leaders. They have been wasting the time of the House. We know the election will be called and nothing much will be accomplished. We have before us a tired government with a tired agenda that is interested in little more than remaining in office.

Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my colleague's speech and certainly agree with everything he said.

However just before he spoke a lot of people perhaps did not notice the government House leader stand and introduce the closure motion. What that motions says is that not only is the government bringing back a pile of legislation from the former session that was left on the Order Paper before it closed, legislation from which we would think any new Prime Minister and old government would want to distance themselves, it is also saying that we will not get the chance to debate whether or not they should be brought back.

He wants to ram this through, and we know why. It is because he wants one piece of legislation, the one to speed up an election, so he can get rid of most of the people who sit around here. He is not worried about getting rid of us over on this side. He is worried about getting rid of the crowd around him. We have surprises for him.

In light of the fact that the government House leader just last week introduced the document to deal, as they say, with the democratic deficit--and we will hear a lot about that as we head into an election--to address the tremendous deficit we have and to empower members of the House, he then comes in with a closure motion within a week of the House opening. It took the former diligent House leader, who was known as the king of closure, a year and a half to invoke closure. Now we see it in five days.

How does my colleague think this jibes with the democratic deficit that the Liberals talk about?

Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is further evidence of a lot of hot air coming from the other side. The government is making the same kinds of promises that it has made for the last 10 years. However it has not been keeping those promises. What good are promises if they cannot be kept?

This is further evidence that the Prime Minister talks the talk but does not walk the walk. The Liberals have been saying many things to please voters in order to have them vote for them and retain them as the government but I warn the old, tired, weak Liberal government that Canadians are smarter. They will understand and they will judge them by their actions and not by their promises.

We all know about the red book promises, whether it was in 1993, 1997 or 2000. Those promises were not worth the paper they were printed on.

We know about the closures. On the one hand the government talks about a democratic deficit but the first thing we need is a free and open debate. When the government puts closure on a free and open debate, it does not know what the left hand or the right hand is doing. There is no coordination.

As soon as the debate began the government put forward a closure motion. For the sake of those who are watching this debate in the House, the government now has the record of bringing in closure on a debate. The democratic deficit has been ballooning but it began with the current government. How will the government eliminate the deficit when it is already accumulating?

I have no faith in the government when it says that it will eliminate a democratic deficit. I could count 20 things that it should do to eliminate the democratic deficit but it will not happen. It talks the talk but will not do the walk.

In fact, what we will see is an early election bill. I do not call it a redistribution bill. I call it an early election bill to suit the Liberals' primary purpose of calling an early election. Rather than waiting until August when the redistribution would have automatically taken place, they want to call the election in April because they are afraid Canadians will know that the promises they are making they will not be able to keep.

The government wants to call an election before the Prime Minister slides in the polls. Maybe the government would like to do another undemocratic thing. Maybe after the Conservative Party of Canada leadership race is held it could call an election before the new leader is prepared or has a chance to get out and talk to Canadians.

The government is probably the most undemocratic government I have seen. I would call it an elected dictatorship.

Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I compliment the member for a speech that was thorough in regaling the House with all the usual cliches that the opposition sprays about the place.

I want to point out that the motion does not deal with any of the bills that might be reinstated here. The motion only procedurally opens the door to allowing bills to come back into the House in the same position they were in when the House prorogued, noting of course that the House has already invested time and procedure in dealing with the bills.

Therefore, even if time allocation has been placed on the debate on this motion, it does not impair the debate on the bills themselves. They will come back to the House and be dealt with in the ordinary course, as they would have been had the House continued without a prorogation.

Let us not get too excited about the issue of whether or not the time allocation will interfere with debate on these individual bills. All members are able to take their own positions.

The hon. member outlined why he was opposed to all the bills that might be reinstated. The opposition amendment has included a list of all the bills it does not want to see come back because it does not like the bills.

Is the member opposed to the reinstatement motion because he does not like all the bills that would come back for debate or is it because he does not like reinstatement, efficiency and the saving of House time that would be attended to on a motion of this type? Would he clarify whether he is opposed to the motion because he does not like the bill or because he does not like reinstatement?

Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, it does not matter whether or not I like those bills. It is a matter of principle that when the House prorogued, there was a change of guard in the Liberal government.

The message coming from the Liberal government is that there is a new leader, a new message and a new promise, that everything is new, that there is a new vision. However, that is not the case. If that is not the case, then why was the House prorogued in the first place?

What we see is that the government is simply concerned about one bill, the early election bill, and everything else is only window dressing.

Every member in the House, probably including you, Mr. Speaker, knows that nothing will be accomplished until April to put these bills through. Nothing significant will be accomplished. Their passage has not been accomplished; since 1993 those bills have been recycled again and again. Those bills did not go through and did not become law in this country, the endangered species act and many others.

In a nutshell, as a matter of principle, why would the government recycle the same bills, redo the work that was done in the past? Why we did it in the first place is beyond my comprehension.

Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

February 9th, 2004 / 3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure you will understand why it is difficult for me to resist the temptation to take part in this afternoon's debate. We have just heard a version of the truth that strikes me as very odd. It does not match at all what I understand to be the question at issue.

First, let us consider whether a precedent is being set today. In my opinion, that would be a good place to start. In fact, believe it or not, Mr. Speaker—you must know this, because you are so objective and non-partisan—the House has been adopting similar motions for 30 years. It has been 30 years; that is a long time. I know, because I have been here a long time as well.

In 1970, 1972 and 1986, not only did we have similar motions but they were unanimously passed by the House of Commons. Unanimously.

I am sure that my hon. colleagues opposite who have spoken against the motion had not considered what I have just said, and that, in the light of these facts, they might want to change their minds and vote in favour of the motion proposed by the hon. government House leader.

Moreover, in 1991, 1996 and 1999, and even as recently as 2002, the House adopted motions absolutely identical to the one proposed today. I know something about those, because in 1996, 1999 and 2002, I was the government House leader, and so I remember it well. We already know it is not without precedent.

I should add, because some hon. members spoke about what they see as a democratic deficit, that in fact the democratic deficit is on the other side of the House, and we see what has happened.

The hon. members opposite wanted a motion that would reinstate private members' bills—not government bills but private members' bills. The House, in its wisdom, passed the motion. That means that now, an hon. member—more often than not someone from the opposition—can rise in the House and revive a private member's bill, at the stage already completed. At the same time, they say, “No, this rule is good for us, but it is not good for you, over on the government side”.

There is a democratic deficit on the other side of the House. I will come back to that later. The hon. government House leader has moved a motion, and we have just established that it is exactly identical to, the same as, those in past sessions, many of which passed unanimously.

Yet, what does the opposition do? The hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River, who was an excellent parliamentary secretary and is a known expert on the matter, told us earlier, and rightfully so, that in fact the motion does not reinstate any bill. It simply authorizes the government to bring back a bill from the previous session at the stage already debated and approved by this House. That is all it does.

Then we are left to ask the question, if the House has already voted on a piece of legislation, the hon. member across who has said there is a democratic deficit, why is he against our accepting the fact that the House has already voted on it? Is it not the basic concept of respecting the democratic principles to accept the fact that we have already voted regardless of whether we voted in favour or against?

Surely the House has voted and that should be respected. However, the hon. member said that it does not count. He wants a second kick at the can.

Mr. Speaker, in the unlikely event that I have not convinced you, let me tell you what other scheme the opposition is up to.

The government moved a motion, the one introduced by the hon. leader of the government in the House of Commons. The opposition introduced an amendment. Some would say fair game; any motion can be amended. However the opposition does not want the House to vote on its amendment. Why do I say that? It is simple. I know a few procedural tricks myself.

The opposition introduced a subamendment. For the benefit of all colleagues and perhaps anyone who is listening to this debate, when we are dealing with a motion as opposed to a bill, an amendment can be introduced and then a subamendment can be introduced. When the subamendment is dealt with, a new subamendment can be introduced so that we never get back to the original motion so that the government cannot move the previous question. If the government cannot move the previous question, that means the debate will go on forever and the motion will never be voted on. That is exactly what it means and I challenge any member across the way to tell me it means anything else. It means that the first motion cannot be voted on.

The opposition has created a situation where the only way to resolve the impasse is for the hon. minister to invoke closure. There is no other way, otherwise the democratic principle of voting on the motion can never be achieved. It can only be achieved by putting a motion that the debate end at some time because otherwise it will not end. If the hon. member says that is not true, then let him remove the subamendment and let him remove the amendment and let us debate the main motion.

Obviously the opposition does not intend to do that because it has created the two scenarios to force the government to move closure and then the opposition members stand here and sanctimoniously claim that the government is otherwise undemocratic because it has moved closure. They are the ones who provoked it. Did they not think we would see through that? Did they think that Canadians would not understand what I have just said? It is crystal clear. I am sure all Canadians understand how Parliament works. I am sure they understand that what the opposition is doing here is not democracy but the denial of it. That is what we have before us today.

I look forward to the exchange with the hon. member in questions and comments later when he explains to us how he was pretending with crocodile tears that there was some sort of democratic deficit, as he referred to it, because the hon. minister moved closure.

The hon. minister proposed a motion which we recognize has already been voted on democratically by the House of Commons, a debatable motion, a votable motion. Not only did members across not want to vote to accept that which the House had already voted on, which they should, they did not want to accept the principle that the motion in question be debated because they introduced an amendment and then a subamendment to stop us from getting back to the main motion. That is crystal clear. It would take only a few minutes for anyone who understands anything about how this place works to determine that is the case.

Why is the hon. member across afraid of voting on the motion? Is it, as the hon. member for Scarborough--Rouge River astutely pointed to earlier today, that the opposition does not know whether it is in favour of the reinstatement motion or against it ? Does the opposition simply want to amend it and subamend it so that it can be debated for eternity and thereby force the government to use closure so that in fact we vote on the closure motion?

In the end this will be quite interesting. I do not know when the closure vote will take place but presumably it will be very soon. After we vote on the subamendment and the amendment, I will be curious to see how the hon. member votes on the main motion. If he votes against the main motion, that means he fails to respect the fact that members have already voted on that issue. If he votes for the main motion, then I am forced to ask the question, why did he bother to put the amendment and the subamendment if he was in favour of the original proposition unamended?

Canadians will have to ask themselves these questions about the behaviour of the hon. member across and all of his colleagues who have proposed the amendment and the subamendment.

I would be very curious to know where the Conservatives opposite get their facts. May I also remind this House, since the member has now declared himself a Conservative—I must say, better him than me, and he can be sure I will never try to take his Conservative title away from him—that the Conservative Party had moved similar motions in 1986 and 1991. Perhaps he could tell us if he is against these reinstatement motions.

Could it be that the Conservatives were wrong when they moved these motions in the past? If he is in favour of reinstatement motions, why did his party put forward an amendment and an amendment to the amendment to prevent us from voting on the main motion?

That is what is before us today. In conclusion, allow me to point out what bills we are talking about.

A number of these pieces of legislation are very important.

Bill C-57, the Westbank First Nation self-government bill is an important bill. Why does the hon. member and his colleagues not want us to pick up where we left off on it? What about the Food and Drugs Act amendments, Bill C-56, of the last session? What about Bill C-54, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act to transfer money to the provinces? Why is he against us recognizing the work that Parliament has done on these bills? Why is he against the Radiocommunication Act?

There was also the acceleration of the redistribution, Bill C-51. That is an interesting bill. We now hear that the so-called new Conservative Party, if that is not an oxymoron, is now against Bill C-51. It was the House leader of the then Alliance Party who asked for the bill in the first place in order to accelerate the redistribution. Now that party is against reinstating that bill and has threatened to amend the bill once it comes forward.

With regard to capital market fraud, the so-called Enron bill, why is the opposition against us wanting to increase transparency in the finance sector? What about Bill C-43, the Fisheries Act? What about Bill C-40, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act? It is interesting to note that this bill deals with tightening up security and the safety for Canadians, police work, et cetera. That party always alleges it is in favour of such measures, but it is not showing it.

What about Bill C-36, the Archives of Canada act. I remember a then Alliance member who worked very actively with me to amend that bill to make it go forward. I am looking at him right now, the critic for Canadian heritage of the then Alliance party. Why is he against us moving ahead with that bill when he worked so hard to get it improved and passed in the House? I do not understand.

What about the remuneration of military judges? What about Bill C-34, the ethics bill?

Not every one of these bills will be introduced by the government, but a large number of them will be. This is an enabling motion permitting the government to reintroduce every single one of them. Why is the opposition against that?

Let me go a little further by mentioning the international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences, Bill C-33. The opposition again, allegedly on the side of public safety, is against us moving ahead to bring that bill back at the stage it was at.

Criminal Code amendments should strike a chord with the folks across, but no they do not. I think principles have been overtaken on the opposition side. The hon. member across invoked so-called principles, but hon. members across saw an opportunity to, in their view, embarrass the government for moving closure very early when it came back.

As we have already established, once we have the amendment and the subamendment, we create the condition which can only be solved by having closure. One could argue very successfully, if it was looked at totally objectively, that it is the opposition that is forcing this closure upon the House, not the government.

Let me mention some more legislation. We have Bill C-27, the airport authority bill. Bill C-26, the Railway Safety Act, was in committee. Bill C-23, the registration of information relating to sex offenders, was passed at third reading and sent to the Senate. The opposition does not want us to reinstate that bill. It wants us to go back to the beginning presumably. What does the opposition have against us trying to improve the safety of Canadians by proceeding with the legislation in a more expeditious way, recognizing the work already done by hon. members of the House?

There are more bills. There is Bill C-7, the accountability of aboriginal communities bill. Surely hon. members would be in favour of that because they keep invoking it in speeches in the House of Commons. Assisted human reproduction, Bill C-13, was a bill that stayed for years in the House at various stages. There were white papers, preliminary bills, final bills, witnesses all over the place, and finally we received a conclusion to it and it was sent to the other place where it was not quite concluded there.

Why should we have to restart work that has already been done? Why can we not respect the democratic will of members who have seen fit to vote on that issue in the past and send it to the Senate. Surely that is respecting the democratic institutions, not the other way around.

Why does the hon. member not withdraw the subamendment and amendment? Of course we know that will not to happen because the opposition members are up to using procedural tricks to stop the government from proceeding with this. That is what they are doing. They are being excessively partisan again. The way they are behaving now it is a small wonder Canadians do not trust the opposition to form a government.

In conclusion, why do we not just carry the motion right now and reinstate those bills right where they were or allow the ministers in each case to reinstate the bills? It is not to skip steps in bills. It is merely to recognize the work already done by us, members of the House. What could be more democratic than that? That is what should happen right now, and surely that is the correct approach.

The hon. member's party itself gave unanimous consent for that exact motion before. I know because I put the motion to the House at the time. It passed without even debate in the House in the past. The hon. member knows that is correct.

Why does the member not remove the amendment and subamendment and carry the motion right now? Why does the member not stop this unnecessary foolishness of trying to force the government to do this in order to pretend that the government is moving closure whereas it would not have otherwise.

We know the truth. We all know what it is like. We want to recognize the work done by members on all sides of the House on all those pieces of legislation and recognize the value of their work.

I ask the hon. member again to allow this vote to take place right away. Then we can get to business, complete this legislation and proceed with other legislation, all for the betterment of Canadians. That is what we are for on this side of the House. Let us see if the hon. member across is in favour of his partisanship or is in favour of helping Canadians.

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4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, the speech by the member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell was more a lecture on the democratic deficit, but I would like to ask three quick questions of the former government House leader.

First, the member talked about denying democracy. Democracy has been constantly denied in the House by two means: by restricting free votes and by invoking closure or time allocation. How many times, in his records, has he invoked closure or time allocation? Probably 85 times, which is a record in parliamentary history.

It has been emphasized that a precedent is set by reinstating the motion to reinstate the previous bills from the previous government. It is an unprecedented move in parliamentary history for a new Prime Minister to reinstate the bills from the previous government or previous prime minister. Moreover, the current Prime Minister has stated, and I quote, “my position on parliamentary reform is that closure should be the exception, not the rule”.

It was not on December 10, 2002, but this is what the Prime Minister stated. Now, in the first six days, he has invoked closure. We just got a notice of closure on this reinstatement motion. The former prime minister, Jean Chrétien, waited for a year and half to invoke closure on any bill, so I would say that the current Prime Minister has broken all the records and has contributed to the democratic deficit more than anyone else has done, and he has done it faster than anyone else has done.

So that was the first question: how many times has the former government House leader invoked closure or time allocation?

Second, why was the House closed in the first place? Could the member answer that for me? It is a mystery. I cannot comprehend why the House was closed in the first place other than the Liberals' partisan reasons or their infighting that led to the new Prime Minister's takeover from the former prime minister so that then Parliament was prorogued.

Finally, the member has talked about a few bills. He wanted us to support some of the bills and he asked for reasons. Here is what I would like to ask the former government House leader about. I had a private member's motion to ask for tougher penalties for those criminals who were setting booby traps to kill or injure the firefighters who went to put out fires at marijuana grow ops or methamphetamine labs. Why was the motion denied but then brought into Bill C-32? It was the same content.

Similarly, I had another motion about developing a national standard on academic credentials and then using that national standard to recognize foreign academic credentials. The motion was put down by the government, but then it included the same contents in the throne speech. If this is not partisanship, what is it? How can we think of supporting those bills which do not serve a purpose for Canadians while on the other hand the government puts down an opposition member's bill and then tries to steal the contents and include them in government legislation? There are no other words for it.

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4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have a pretty convoluted set of propositions there, but let me deal with some of them.

The hon. member is asking me how many times the opposition has caused obstruction, forcing the government to react to his obstruction. The short answer is, “All the time”. The hon. member and his party across have obstructed very frequently in the House. The government still managed to provide good governance for Canadians notwithstanding that kind of partisanship the hon. member has just described. Now, to quantify it, to say that the hon. member caused this obstruction 50 or 60 times, I do not know. He can enter his own plea of guilty and put the number of times beside his plea of guilty. That should satisfy him, whichever way he likes.

The hon. member I think raised an issue here as to this motion and why closure is the final disposition as opposed to time allocation. As you will know, Mr. Speaker, we cannot time allocate a motion. We can only time allocate a stage of the bill. There is only one remedy for a motion once people obstruct and cause an amendment and a subamendment. No, there are two remedies, actually. They could withdraw the ridiculous obstruction, which is certainly the easiest way. Or, failing the opposition coming to its senses, the government is left with only one choice and that is in fact to move closure, because it is the only remedy.

Now, insofar as the hon. member saying this is undemocratic, that is nonsense, absolute nonsense. Private members' motions are time allocated. Private members' bills are time allocated. After a specific number of hours, they come to an end. In the U.K. House and in a number of Australian legislatures that we visited, after a set amount of time at the end of the day, usually one day, the stage of a bill or a motion is complete and it is voted on. So in fact, everything has, if I may use these words, closure, or everything is time allocated to that one day when it is debated.

What do we have here? Let me tell members what we have here. We have the government moving a motion to reinstate or to permit ministers to reinstate those things already voted on and to allow the House to recognize the debate and the votes that have already taken place. Hon. members across are against that.

Not only that, they do not even want to vote on the motion. They circumvent it by proposing an amendment and a subamendment, so that if by chance the debate on the subamendment eventually collapses, instead of resuming debate on the main motion, which of course could be the subject, as I said a while ago, of moving the previous question, we would continue to debate the main amendment, which the opposition could subamend one more time, which means it never comes to an end. If the hon. member says that is not procedurally correct, then let him explain to the House how procedurally it is otherwise.

It is not a coincidence that the members across put an amendment and a subamendment. It is designed that way because members opposite know perfectly well that the only way to put an end to it is by moving closure. They have deliberately caused this closure to occur by constructing the scenario that is before us. There is no other explanation possible and no other purpose to moving an amendment and a subamendment to a motion.

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4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened very carefully to the passionate remarks of the former House leader. Far be it from me to dare lock horns with him on House procedure; I already know he would come out on top.

Today's debate, is, however, a bit on the technical side, so I would like to have an answer from him for the sake of the Quebeckers and Canadians who are listening. I have heard much protestation from him about the opposition's responsibility and why we are having this debate today. We are accused of expressing opposition to the bill we have before us.

Will he not agree with me, however, that proroguing Parliament was, after all, proposed by the Liberal Party of Canada? It did not come from anyone in the opposition. He must agree with me that, had it not been for prorogation, we would not be discussing the reinstatement of all the bills today. One can be for or against these bills, but I think that primary responsibility for the present situation is tied to an internal battle within the Liberal Party of Canada. That is what led to prorogation. The opposition is not responsible in any way.

I would like him to answer this.

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4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to reply. By the way, I did forget to reply to almost the same question from the other hon. member previously. I forgot. But I thank the hon. member for bringing it to my attention.

Why was there a prorogation? It is quite simple. There was a change in government. It may be the same political party in power, but there was a change of government. When there is a change of government, as we all know, the prime minister resigns. He went to the Governor General and resigned. Before doing that, he prorogued both Houses of Parliament, both the House and the Senate.

Then, the new government, the new prime minister and his cabinet, present their program to Canadians in the Speech from the Throne. That is how it is done.

Bills from the previous session may be revived at the stage they had reached. This has been done, as I explained, for 30 years. It is done in the British Parliament. And it is done elsewhere, too. And that is how it works. That is the explanation. There is nothing magic about it.

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4:15 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to pick up on the points that were made by the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, the former House leader. It begs the question, why are we faced with the government motion and the amendments from the opposition? The reason is simply because the government, under the former prime minister, and I have to say in full cooperation of the current Prime Minister, prorogued the House when it had a great deal of work that needed to be done, and the country's interest demanded government attention.

The Liberals were more interested in carrying on the internal battle between the then sitting prime minister and the about to be prime minister. That was much more important for the government and for that political party than the overall interests of this country. That is why we are here today and why we started this debate on Friday, and we will continue it at least through the day tomorrow. The Liberals put their interests, as a political party, and to some degree the personal political interests of the two men ahead of the interests of this country.

To suggest, as the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell just did, that this is a normal procedure is debatable in the extreme. The reality is the legislation as it has come back has not been changed at all. This is not a signal by the new government under the new Prime Minister that we will have major changes. This is simply a continuation of bills that were before the House at various stages in November when the Liberals decided to prorogue the House. We are not seeing any new bills or any changes in the bills. They are coming back holus-bolus just as they were before the legislature was stopped.

The abuse of the process that this represents is compounded by the financial impact of all the extra work that has to be done now, extra work by individual members and their staff on private members' bills and extra work by staff of the House of Commons. The prorogation, which occurred in November, has cost the country substantial amounts of extra dollars, extra staff time and extra effort, all of which was unnecessary if the government had simply taken its responsibility to the country seriously.

The position of the NDP, with regard to the government motion for reinstatement of the legislation, is we are not prepared to give it a blank cheque. Had the motion listed specific bills that the government would be bringing back, certainly some of them we would have been agreed to out of respect for the country. However, others should not be brought back, and I will go on to that in a few moments.

The difficulty we have is simply telling the government to go ahead, do whatever it wants with regard to these bills in terms of bringing them back and we will be prepared to stand back. That is a complete abdication of our responsibility as opposition members. When we hear the former House leader talk about democracy and democratic deficit and that somehow we are contributing to that, he is just dead wrong.

The opposition's role is to speak out when there is abuse, and that motion is abusive when we look at the history and how it came to be in front of the House at this time.

However, there are some points I want to make with regard, in particular, to the subamendment by the opposition to its amendment to the main motion. I am not sure if anybody understood that, but it is the subamendment that deals with Bill C-49 that would allow the Prime Minister to call an election as of April 1, if the Liberals can get this bill through the House of Commons and the Senate.

To some significant degree, I am going to be accusatory of members of the official opposition about the amendment and subamendment. They are trying to prevent the government from being in a position to call an election this spring because they know full well that they are not going to be in a position to fight that election very effectively. Given that their leadership convention is in the latter part of March, they will not be in a position to have its platform in any kind of shape. They probably will not have a lot of their candidates prepared to run in an election that everyone thinks will be called in April and held in the early part of May. That is really what this is about.

I think it is accentuated by the fact that when the bill was originally before the House the former Alliance, now part of the Conservative Party, in fact supported what I think was Bill C-52 at that time, and now in the form of Bill C-49. That position was unequivocal on its part. I can remember some of the speeches its members gave in the House at that time saying that we had to recognize the need for Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta to get those additional seats and that they should definitely be in place and ready to be part of the electoral process in the next election.

Events have overtaken the members of the official opposition and they now appear to be opposed to the bill going through. I can tell everyone on behalf of my party, although we think that the election should be held some further in the future, we are ready for the election at any time.

The other point I want to go back to is the process that has also brought us to this point, and that is the role the Senate has played on the bill, as well as Bill C-34, the ethics commissioner's bill. I think the country generally knows, and we are certainly aware of it as members of Parliament, that both pieces of legislation, the bill to change the date for the boundaries to come into effect and the bill dealing with the implementation in a broader way of the use of the ethics commissioner for both the House and the Senate, were before the Senate the first week of November when the House adjourned. Rather than staying, working on those bills and passing them, the bill that dealt with the boundary issue was ignored and the other one was sent back.

There are a couple of points that need to be made about this. We did some checking on this and in all of the sessions we have had since the start of Parliament in 1867, this Parliament has seen the most bills either sent back or not dealt with by the Senate. We have set a record in that respect. Interestingly, the previous record was in the very first session in 1867, and I have to assume it was because they were still learning the ropes.

We have not even come particularly close. There were a couple of sessions in the 1920s when there were about 11 or 12 bills sent back or not dealt with by the Senate. There were 15 in the first session. So far we have had 18 bills not dealt with or turned back by the Senate.

Being a bit of a student of history of the country and of the role the Senate has played and should play, it begs the question, how many more does it have to turn down, send back or ignore before we are in a constitutional crisis? We have had a large number bills this time, and those two bills were part of that. The Senators simply went home. They were upset with the prime minister over the ethics commissioner's bill and a couple of other bills and they said, “To heck with it, we are going home”, and they did. As a result, the legislation that would have allowed the redistribution of the ridings to take place at an earlier date has been forced to be brought back once again.

We are in a situation where the government wants to do something. The House of Commons has passed the bill and the Senate has thwarted it. The question will be, once it does come before this House, and it will one way or the other in the next week or two, and then goes back to the Senate, will the Senate again try to thwart the will of the elected representatives in the country?

It begs the question regarding the role the NDP has played for a long time in advocating the abolition of the Senate. Are we getting closer to the rest of the parties, realizing we can no longer tolerate that type of interference with the democratic process. We cannot ignore the costs of having the Senate around, which runs at about $60 million a year, doing work that is generally undemocratic and useless.

The other point I would like to make is with regard to the position that we hear from the government. This again comes back to the democratic deficit. We are now faced with the notice that closure will be invoked sometime later today or early tomorrow and this debate will be closed down. Again, we are faced with the reality that the new government, as it keeps wanting to call itself, is following exactly the same pattern as the old government.

We had in the prior sessions more motions for closure from the government than we had at any time in our history, and we will compound that tomorrow when it invokes closure.

With regard to the legislation itself, I want to be somewhat critical of the comments from the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, the former House leader. He said that the government was bringing back the same bills on which members had voted. He said that we were interfering with the democratic process in which we had already participated.

Of these bills, I want to mention some bills that jump to the fore in my mind because I had some involvement with them along with our member for Winnipeg Centre. These are the bills that deal with the aboriginal governance legislation, Bill C-7 and Bill C-19, but Bill C-7 in particular. The member suggested nothing really had changed, that the democratic process worked. The reality is the current sitting Prime Minister undermined that legislation, undermined his own party and undermined the ministers of natural resources and aboriginal affairs on that legislation.

It is very clear that the first nations were dramatically opposed to the legislation, and we know that. We had issues brought back to the House on how controversial the hearings were in committee after second reading. This Prime Minister, sitting as a member of Parliament, sent out a very clear message to his supporters within the Liberal Party, who are members of this House, to the first nations and to the country generally that he did not support the legislation. Now we hear that at the very least it is possible the government will bring it back unchanged.

There was a democratic process that went on in that period of time. The first nations said that it was 100% opposed, adamantly opposed, to the legislation, Bill C-7 in particular, because it perpetuated the patriarchal attitude that underlies the current Indian Act.

The now sitting Prime Minister took advantage of that and said that he agreed the legislation was not very good and that all of it would have to reviewed. Now we hear that the government wants to bring it back at the same stage, as originally passed by the House. It has gone through second reading, been approved in principle, been through exhaustive hearings in committee, then back to this House. I believe its been through report stage and is just awaiting debate at third reading.

In spite of what the Prime Minister told first nations, that he was opposed to the legislation and that if he were prime minister it would not go through as is, the legislation could be back in front of the House in the next week or two at third reading. There would be minimal debate at that point and it could be passed.

Things have changed in the country since that legislation went through. I use that as an example of why the NDP is not prepared to give the government a blank cheque. We are not prepared to let all the legislation come back simply by having the ministers stand up in the House and say that they want legislation back at the same stage it was at when the House was prorogued back in November. We are not prepared to do that, and we are adamantly opposed to the motion.