House of Commons Hansard #30 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parties.

Topics

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have a petition on marriage.

The petitioners, in dealing with this after a long preamble, pray that Parliament 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

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present two petitions today.

The first petition is from my constituents of Okanagan--Shuswap stating that marriage is the best foundation for families and the raising of children.

The petitioners want to remind the House that a motion was passed in June 1999 that called for marriage to continue to be defined as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Therefore my constituents call upon Parliament to pass legislation to recognize the institution of marriage in federal law as being the lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition I am pleased to present has over 450 signatures calling upon Parliament to instruct the National Parole Board to not release any offenders into society until the recommendations of the 2002 report become policy.

The petitioners state that parole should be the exception and not the rule. Parole should be limited, earned and tightly monitored when balancing the interests of an offender and public safety. Public safety must be the first priority and family violence assessments must be completed on all offenders before granting parole.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John M. Cummins Delta—South Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege today to present a petition with several hundred signatures in which the petitioners are recognizing that marriage is the lasting union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of others.

They call upon Parliament to take whatever action is required to maintain the current definition of marriage in law and to prevent any court from overturning or amending that definition.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to present a petition on marriage.

Whereas marriage is the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament, the petitioners pray that Parliament pass legislation to recognize the institution of marriage in federal law as being the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

March 26th, 2004 / 12:10 p.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord
Québec

Liberal

André Harvey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-3, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act, be read the third time and passed.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before I give the floor to the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes, the hon. member for Elk Island on a point of order.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, is it not true that there was some time left for questions and comments on the previous speaker?

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I did take notice, and no reflection on any one member, that when I did ask to resume the debate I took account of who was in the House. I can assure the members that there was very limited time left. I do not think it would have given anyone a real opportunity to ask a question and also expect a response within that same timeframe, within that very limited time that was left.

The hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, retuning to the speech by my colleague for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, you know you can always count on me even if, despite your great care, you did not give me the floor to ask a final question during question period. Obviously I do not hold that against you. I know you follow the Standing Orders to the letter, and more power to you for that.

That said, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-3, the purpose of which is to reflect the provisions of the Figueroa ruling in the Canada Elections Act.

The Bloc Quebecois will be supporting this legislation, though I will point out immediately that we are motivated not so much by enthusiasm or support of all the provisions and implications of the bill, but rather by lack of choice. If we opposed it, and if an election were called this spring, it would mean we would end up with a legal vacuum at the end of June as far as the registration of political parties is concerned.

So this is an interim measure, as has already been clearly explained earlier today, and one that will likely be followed with another piece of legislation to definitively amend the Canada Elections Act.

My colleague from North Vancouver has made it clear that, whatever the government may say, this bill has been rushed through. Nevertheless, in committee, it was still possible to write a sunset clause into the legislation, and I think it is a fine idea.

Before getting into the heart of the matter, I would like to say a few words about the process. This process has shown that, despite repeated affirmations by the new Prime Minister and his government, whatever happens, with a Liberal government, it is same old, same old.

They promised us, with their hands on their hearts, that they would take the suggestions and proposals of members of parliament into consideration, listen to the opposition parties and to give MPs a greater role. But what really happened? As soon as the government House leader had an opportunity to introduce legislation, he sent it to committee before second reading, apparently so that we could really improve it.

But he rushed the committee's consideration of the bill, so much so that, at the first meeting, government members were ready to proceed with clause by clause study without even having heard a single witness. Does this really exemplify a political party that wants—or so it claims—to consult parliamentarians by taking pains to send this bill to committee before second reading, supposedly to be able to make amendments? The answer is no.

In fact, no substantial amendments were made to this bill. It came back in nearly identical form, despite the fact that the Chief Electoral Officer himself, who is giving a speech at the National Press Club as we speak, expressed a number of reservations with respect to the bills provisions.

We could have made the amendments necessary to satisfy the reservations of the Chief Electoral Officer, reservations we share, as it happens. Nevertheless, the government refused to consider our recommendations and our suggestions, and the bill came back as is.

The problem the Chief Electoral Officer has with this is that the bill contains provisions providing him with discretionary authority over determining whether each political party's purpose is to participate inpublic affairs and whether it is indeed pursuing the fundamental mission it has publicly assumed.

This officer of Parliament, who must be an independent and objective judge of the application of the Elections Act, would thus find himself with the right to interfere in the conduct of the internal affairs of political parties. Obviously, this raises a number of concerns on our part, as well as on the part of other parties in this House, and even government members.

We would have liked to have seen these provisions removed, as suggested by the Chief Electoral Officer. That, however, did not happen. The government wanted to proceed rapidly, for partisan and electoral purposes. The government is hoping for a spring election and it needed absolute assurance that Bill C-3 was going to be passed before the election call, in order to avoid the legal vacuum that would have resulted as soon as we got to the end of June.

This double talk from the government, and its specious attitude, as it claims, on the one hand, that it will consult Parliament more, while, on the other, it is tenaciously sticking to the old ways we had gotten used to under the previous Prime Minister, are regrettable.

This was obvious—and this is an aside prompted by the presence in this House of my colleague from Madawaska—Restigouche—in the matter of the deportation of the Acadians, which I have been shepherding through this House since 1999.

That was to be expected from the previous government, with the atmosphere of confrontation that seemed to be the order of the day, although I was not in the least expecting it at first. I was, moreover, greatly surprised at the first speech given in this House on that subject by a colleague from the Liberal Party, that self-same member for Madawaska—Restigouche. The very negative attitude from the government party toward my motion was a great surprise to me.

However, although Motion No. 382 was, I admit, a bit out of date given the royal proclamation of last December, I was even more surprised to see that the government did not even bother to agree to speak to me, listen to me and discuss this with me, if only to reach an agreement so that, with the unanimous consent of the House, I could withdraw or amend the motion, and thereby favourably acknowledge the government's very honourable gesture of last December, which was the royal proclamation.

But no. They are saying, “There is no way we will agree to talk with that evil separatist!” So, the House is resigned to voting against a motion on the Acadian people in a year we should be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the founding of Acadia.

They would rather vote against the motion by the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes than take the time to speak, even briefly, with him to reach a solution that is fair to everyone and prevent this motion on the Acadian people from being defeated in this House in the year of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Acadia.

And they would have me believe that this government wants to enhance the role of parliamentarians, to really listen to parliamentarians and make a real effort to consider the opinion of the opposition parties. This is nonsense. There was more proof of this today with Bill C-3.

To avoid a legislative vacuum, we have to vote in favour of deficient and poorly crafted legislation. I feel like this is a case of déjà vu. It is Back to the Future .

I rose in this House during a previous review of the Canada Elections Act. I told the government House leader at the time that if the government did not change the 50-candidate requirement for political party registration in the Elections Act, that we would, in any event—in addition to having spent taxpayers' money to defend our case in court—eventually end up here in this House adopting new legislation to reflect the court rulings.

But no, defeat after defeat in the courts, the government went all the way to the Supreme Court only to be told what we already knew: that the current 50-candidate provisions in the Elections Act were unconstitutional.

Taxpayer dollars were spent when we already knew that we would eventually wind up back in this House changing these provisions of the Elections Act, but no one wanted to listen to the opposition. No one wanted to listen to us then, any more than they want to listen to us now.

This is deficient legislation, as I was saying, that we will have to support in order to avoid a legislative vacuum. Moreover, it is unfortunate that, for procedural reasons, at report stage, we were unable to address the motion by my colleague from Palliser, which seemed most desirable and legitimate.

Despite the arguments presented this morning by the government House leader, I still find that a political party, to be registered as such, must field at least two candidates. Otherwise you end up with an individual who runs for an election and agrees with himself.

A political party implies an association, a group. There cannot be a group with one individual. The provisions of the current bill state that there must be at least 250 members, and at least 3 party officers in addition to the party leader. However, this principle, the notion of association or group, also has to be reflected in the number of candidates the party fields during a general election.

I think that this point could easily have been defended before the courts. Indeed, it would have been preferable to be able to debate the amendment of the hon. member for Palliser and possibly adopt it. Unfortunately, because of technicalities and procedural details, we will not have had an opportunity to deal with this proposed amendment. The result is that the act remains unchanged, with the possibility for a party to present only one candidate.

This seems totally ridiculous, considering the very principle whereby a political party is an association of people, and that this association or group should have a number of candidates run for it in an election. In my mind, in the minds of Bloc Quebecois members—and, I would assume, in the minds of members from other parties in this House, including the New Democratic Party—it takes at least two candidates for a political formation to be recognized and registered as such.

This is another flaw in the proposed legislation. Despite the very legitimate points that I just mentioned, we will have no other option, as I said earlier, than to support this bill.

We will do so responsibly, while keeping in mind that if we did not support it, we would find ourselves in a very undesirable legal vacuum.

Again, we will support this motion, but we will not do so with great enthusiasm.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member finished his speech, he mentioned how reluctantly the Bloc will be supporting this motion. Unfortunately, we are in the same position here. The Conservatives will also be reluctantly supporting the bill. We have all of the same concerns that have been expressed by the member.

I thank him for confirming the point I made during my speech, that the government is speaking out of both sides of its mouth. The bill is a good example of how the Liberals told us they were interested in serious input, that they were taking the bill to committee before second reading so they could hear our input and make changes, but as soon as it got there they just reverted to the old ways. They tricked us into thinking we would have some input and in fact we had none. When it got to committee, they tried to ram it right through.

The member and I were together during the revision of the Elections Act in 1999 and 2000. I would like him to tell me whether he could see any difference between the way we were treated at that stage to the way we are treated today, with supposedly the new minister getting rid of the democratic deficit. It looked like exactly the same treatment to me. I would be interested to hear if the member feels the same way.

Also, could he tell me whether he believes, as I do, that if the minister had given us the opportunity to give meaningful input, the bill would now be moving much more quickly through the House because we could have made it much better?

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from North Vancouver for his questions. We indeed had the pleasure, he and I, to sit on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for a period of time, including during the revision of the Elections Act in 1999-2000, which I referred to in my speech.

At that time—as I also indicated in my speech—we pointed out to the government that its insistence on maintaining the current provisions of the Elections Act, requiring a political party to run at least 50 candidates during an election in order to be recognized and registered as a party, was utterly irresponsible.

We knew full well that we would lose this case, even if we had to go as high as the Supreme Court. Indeed, we would needlessly spend public money trying to defend this case. I am sure that a number of lawyers were quite pleased, but I am not so sure that this was such a good idea in terms of careful management of public funds.

Moreover, we must also recognize that we are back to square one. If we had done this work at the time, as we had suggested to the government, we would not be in this position today of adopting this deficient legislation.

In that respect, I would also like to reiterate the fact that the government's attitude has not changed one iota. Despite the solemn affirmations by the Prime Minister and his ministers, the attitude has not changed. Very frequently, the ministers come in and put on a show for the House. They give their little speeches and leave right afterward, not listening to the proposals or suggestions—the input as the hon. member of North Vancouver put it—that might come from the other political parties in the House. They are no more interested in the viewpoints expressed here in this House than the previous government was.

Earlier, I said “it is same old, same old”. I hope that the print and electronic media will get the information out, because I would like to speak to the people, to those listening to us today, whether here in the galleries or at home.

I would like to tell them that if the thought should ever have crossed their minds that the government headed by the current Prime Minister is a government of change, I hope that this week's budget, the bill before us, and this government's attitude since the beginning will have succeeded in convincing them of the fact that this is not a government of change; it is a government of continuity. It is a government that does things exactly the same way the previous government did.

It is not advisable to believe the solemn statements of the Prime Minister and his ministers that they want to change things. That is not the case at all. This is still the land of cronyism. We do not understand how it is that for all their solemn statements that they want to shed light on this business, there is no one on the government side who appears to have the slightest memory of what might have happened. It is very clear that this government is doing things the old way, with old methods that only exist for the purpose of being good to the friends of the party in power.

Basically, in Canada's modern, contemporary history, these people have been in power most of the time. They have come to consider the Canadian government as their property. I think that a little holiday in opposition would be very good for them. It would enable them to see things from another, completely different perspective. They might then have the humility needed to eventually come back before the people of Canada, later, and have the decency to try to represent the public properly and not to try to profit from their situation or to favour the government's cronies.