House of Commons Hansard #134 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

The House resumed from October 6 consideration of the motion that Bill S-38, An Act respecting the implementation of international trade commitments by Canada regarding spirit drinks of foreign countries, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Spirit Drinks Trade Act
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10 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill S-38 is really the combination of some trade wars, if I can put it that way, and some very difficult negotiations.

The bill has to be seen as a definite improvement over the prior situation we had. We were part of the problem, if I can put it that way. We have also been very much part of the solution to the international trade problem that the bill seeks to rectify.

The bill develops and implements a system whereby both wines and hard liquors can be regulated at the international level to reduce conflict and to have a system of mediation arbitration that will allow for future conflicts to be resolved amicably with minimum impact on the industry.

A good number of Canadians are aware of the conflict we had with France over the use of the term “champagne”. The Champagne region of France is very protective of the use of that name. This agreement, which is actually encompassed in an international agreement protocol with a large number of the developed countries in the world, the European Union in particular, would protect the use of the term “champagne” exclusively to the Champagne region.

The positive side of this is that we have similar designations that we want protected. I come from an area of the country that has both distilleries of some long standing, more than 100 years, and wineries that are much newer. In both cases, there will be protection for those industries, so the distilleries will now have a designation of Canadian rye whisky that no one else will be able to use. We do have a distinct line of products that again go back well over 100 years in this country. That will now be protected.

Similarly, ice wine will be protected. It is a great product coming out of Canada. We produce more of that product than anybody in the world by far and we also do it better than anybody in the world by far. In both cases, those will be protected.

The other protection that this will provide is geographic designation. For instance, the wineries in the Okanagan, the Niagara Peninsula, my area, the north shore of Lake Erie, will either now be protected under this legislation or will be in the future. As we say that sparkling wine comes from the Champagne region of France, we will be able to say that there is a region of wineries in the Niagara Peninsula and the wine is from that area. That again is crucial to those industries, the wine industry in particular, that we have this type of protection.

We have had a long battle, particularly with the French, but with other European countries, of getting our ice wine into their region. I remember, and I am trying to be diplomatic here, the arrogance I encountered when I was in the Champagne region a few years ago. I have to say that was not a perk of my position. I had actually won the trip shortly before I was elected in 2000 at a fundraiser.

I thought it was a clear signal for a lot of large l Liberals. I think it was forecasting the election that came about a month later in which I took the seat from a sitting Liberal. I did ultimately go on the trip the following summer. I was in the Champagne region and met with one of the executives of the company that had sponsored the trip for the charity in my region.

I was talking to him about ice wine and how significant it was, and I have to mention, even though I have a francophone background, that certain arrogance of the French when it comes to their long-standing pride in their wineries. The executive was sort of dismissing and pooh-poohing our ice wine, so when I got back to Canada I sent him a bottle. I want to note that he was good enough to acknowledge that it was a product well worth consuming.

I made a little penetration for the industry at that point, but the fight continued. Now we have finally resolved it. Our ice wines are getting into Europe and will get into Europe in much larger volumes over the next decade, which will be a big boost to our industry.

Coming back to the bill, let me note that this legislation is very important. It protects both the distilleries and the wineries in Canada. As a result of this legislation and all the hard work that has been done, profitability and new jobs will be brought to these industries. They are growing industries that we should be doing everything we can to support.

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10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

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

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10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Spirit Drinks Trade Act
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10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food.

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

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Food and Drugs Act
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10:10 a.m.

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri for the Minister of Health

moved that the bill be concurred in.

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10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

(Motion agreed to)

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10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

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10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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10:15 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham for the Minister of Health

moved that Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, be read the third time and passed.

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10:15 a.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, following the report of the Standing Committee on Health on its review of Bill C-28, I am pleased to speak on the bill, which proposes two amendments to the Food and Drugs Act. The amendments would provide the Minister of Health with the authority to allow Canadians faster access to a wider variety of safe and nutritious food products.

I would like to take the opportunity to reiterate the reasons why this bill was introduced. The proposed amendments are in part in response to the concerns raised by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations regarding an administrative process put in place by Health Canada to allow Canadians faster access to safe and nutritious food products in specific circumstances.

This administrative process permitted the issuance of notices of interim marketing authorizations under the Food and Drugs Act regulations. These notices allowed the director, defined as the assistant deputy minister of the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada, to exempt certain foods from application of the regulations after a thorough safety assessment had concluded their consumption would not harm human health. By doing so, the director was able to allow the sale of certain foods by manufacturers and producers while the regulations were amended to formalize the authorization.

Essentially, the Joint Standing Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations maintains that the regulations authorizing the issuance of notices of interim marketing authorizations go beyond the scope of the Food and Drugs Act.

This bill ensures that the scope of these regulations authorizing the issuance of notices of interim marketing authorizations can continue to be used by Health Canada in order to allow Canadians faster access to a wider variety of safe and nutritious food products.

Since these regulations on interim marketing authorizations have been in place, consumers have had quicker access to new and safe food products. For example, foods to which vitamins or mineral nutrients were added to increase their nutritional value were offered more quickly on the market. Moreover, the notices of interim marketing authorizations allowed for the quicker sale of foods from cultures that were treated with agricultural chemicals, including safe and effective pest control products.

As I have noted, the bill addresses the concerns of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, but it also ensures that we maintain this useful smart regulation approach.

The first proposed amendment would address the concerns of the standing joint committee by providing the Minister of Health with the authority to exempt some food products from the application, in whole or in part, of the Food and Drugs Act and the applicable requirements of the food and drug regulations.

The minister would do this by issuing an interim marketing authorization, which would allow the immediate sale of some food products for which scientific assessment has established that there is a reasonable certainty no harm would result from their consumption, pending completion of the full regulatory process to amend the regulations.

In other words, the products would not pose undue risks to human health. The science would have been completed, just not the lengthy regulatory amendment process, which would continue to be applied.

To underscore this latter point, I repeat that the issuance of the interim marketing authorization would not affect or circumvent the conduct of a thorough safety assessment prior to the availability of these food products on the market. Interim marketing authorizations could only be issued for food additives, veterinary drugs and agricultural chemicals that have already been subject to a thorough safety assessment before being listed in the regulations.

Health Canada would only give consideration to issuing an interim marketing authorization if it has concluded that the sale of the food products containing the substance in question would not pose a hazard to the health of the consumer.

This limited scope of application of the interim marketing authorization mechanism in the bill is exactly the same as the current regulatory mechanism that was reviewed by the standing joint committee. The only significant difference introduced by this bill is that it clearly specifies that the authority in the Food and Drugs Act is in the hands of the Minister of Health.

The second part of Bill C-28 deals with pest control products and their regulation pursuant to the provisions of the new Pest Control Products Act and the Food and Drug Regulations. The new Pest Control Products Act, which was given royal assent in December of 2002, empowers the minister to specify maximum residue limits for the product or for its components or derivatives in food. When specifying maximum residue limits, the minister must evaluate the health risks of the product or its components or derivatives and determine if they are acceptable.

To that end, he must determine with reasonable certainty that no harm to human health will result from consuming a food item containing a residue level of a specific pest control product no greater that the specified maximum limit.

However, the adulteration provisions in the Food and Drugs Act and its regulations state that foods are adulterated if they contain residues of pest control products above levels set out in the regulations. Therefore, foods containing residues of pest control products at or below the maximum residue limit specified by the minister under the Pest Control Products Act cannot be sold until the specified maximum residue limit is established in the food and drug regulations.

Currently it can take up to two years from the time that the regulatory evaluation has been completed to the time when the food potentially containing the residues is permitted for sale under the Food and Drugs Act.

The proposed amendment to the Food and Drugs Act to recognize maximum residue limits specified under the new Pest Control Products Act for Food and Drugs Act purposes would result in administrative efficiencies and would also benefit consumers, by providing timely access to safe foods, and the agricultural industry, by allowing faster access to improved pest control products for use on food crops.

Bill C-28 builds on the October 2004 Speech from the Throne objective of providing a “predictable regulatory system that accomplishes public policy objectives efficiently while eliminating unintended impacts”.

The proposed amendments are also in line with the ongoing intent of the Government of Canada's smart regulation initiative and the recommendations from the external advisory committee on smart regulation, which aim, in part, to provide access to safe products in a more timely fashion and remove possible restrictions on international trade.

In addition, the proposed amendments will support ongoing work under the North American Free Trade Agreement technical working group on pesticides, through which Health Canada and the United States Environmental Protection Agency have accelerated bilateral harmonization in the registration of pest control products in order to provide faster and simultaneous access to a wider range of newer, safer pest control tools in both countries.

In conclusion, I wish to express my gratitude for the hard work of the Standing Committee on Health in its consideration of this bill. Bill C-28 contributes to maintaining the safety of the food supply and offers advantages to the consumer and to the food and agricultural industries. I urge my colleagues to support the passage of this bill.

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10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-28, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

Regulations that have no basis in legislation are a constant problem that only recently have been addressed in any significant way. Often when legislation is made, the regulations that allow for the implementation and enforcement of the law are made after the fact by the relevant department or ministry.

Essentially, Parliament confers upon the minister the power to create regulations, provided they do not exceed the parameters of the legislation. What often happens, however, is that the lengthy and convoluted process required in creating regulations results in regulations that are technically not legal. Powers that have not been confirmed by law are given through regulation to the minister. Not only does this situation violate the supremacy of Parliament, it effectively allows law to be made without any accountability or oversight.

While some irregularities are due to simple mistakes, others are deliberate attempts to ignore the intent and alter the outcome of legislation. Thanks to the rare passage of a private member's bill, Bill C-205 in 2003, which I might add was the result of much hard work by its sponsor, the Conservative member for Newton—North Delta, Parliament now has greater powers to ensure that law by regulation is curtailed.

This bill is a direct result of five years of pressure by the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations on Health Canada. The irregularity of the regulation was first pointed out in 1999 and it is only now, after years of resistance, that the department has finally brought this bill forward.

The bill is an amendment to the Food and Drugs Act. Currently, a regulation allows the director, in this case the deputy minister of health responsible for health products, to issue notices of interim market authorizations. This regulation gives the director administrative discretion that exceeds the legislative authority granted by Parliament to the governor in council. In other words, the regulation contradicts the authority of the original legislation. This bill seeks to correct this discrepancy.

The regulation was created in 1997. Since that time, 82 interim market authorizations have been made, but because the regulation violates the legislation to which it applies, all of these authorizations have technically been illegal. The amendment seeks to fix this irregularity by giving the minister the authority to make interim market authorizations.

The bill also seeks to exempt any food that contains an agricultural chemical at or below a limit specified under the new Pest Control Products Act. Those foods containing these safe levels of substances can be sold because their sale poses no harm to consumers.

The bill applies to the immediate sale of food products that contain pesticides, veterinary pharmaceuticals, added vitamins, minerals and amino acids at or below the specified maximum limit. The bill is not creating from scratch a new practice, but simply is making legal or enshrining in law a practice that has been taking place for years.

The Conservative Party supports this amendment because regulations that violate the letter and/or intent of the law should not be tolerated. Any action that eliminates irregularities should be encouraged. We also support writing into law the interim market authorizations. As long as the safety of Canadians is accounted for, there is no reason that food and other products should not be allowed for sale if the substances they contain do not exceed a specified safe level.

These measures allow Canadian food producers and manufacturers to quickly bring their products to market, increasing their availability to compete. Canadian consumers also benefit by gaining quicker access to new and modified products.

Like other smart regulations, interim market authorization creates a level playing field for Canadian businesses, especially within the U.S. market. Currently, the U.S. government allows food products in the approval stage to be marketed, given that they are not harmful or restricted by other laws.

That being said, caution is needed. Although interim market authorizations have been common practice since 1997 supposedly without incident, that is not to say that unsafe food products have not been prematurely authorized for sale. Not only might their sale pose a health risk, but the government may be liable for damages in the event of unsafe food, causing problems.

Interim marketing authorizations are necessary and welcome, but must be used only when it is known beyond doubt that whatever substance is in a food product is at or below the approved safe level.

In summary, Bill C-28 is a corrective measure to bring an existing regulation in line with the legislation to which it applies. We want to reduce the number of regulations that contradict the authority of legislation. This will take years, but it is a necessary undertaking and is worth the effort. We support this change as a small step toward making better law and law making.

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10:30 a.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see the continued support of the member and his colleagues on this important matter. His colleagues who serve on the health committee have done great work on the bill, in advancing it and in making sure that it meets its intended purposes. Witnesses appeared before the committee and they were questioned thoroughly, I can assure the member and the House.

One of the things which I think is important, and perhaps the member recognizes this and could give us an example, is our competitiveness and competitors in the food industry, be they producers, transformers or manufacturers of final products. We have a joint process and work in harmony with the United States, which makes sense because, as the member mentioned, the U.S. is our primary trading partner. We do evaluation of new pest control products together. It makes sense rather than both countries doing it independently and going through our own processes. We have a harmonized process.

Under our current regulations after that process determines its safety, we go through the regulatory amendment process to get the maximum level residue in our regulations. Those regulations have to be gazetted. We have to hear from the public. We have to have the second round of consultations. Then there is approval at the end by Treasury Board. This process can take a couple of years.

These intramarketing agreements permit after the science has been done and after the harmonized evaluation process has determined that it is safe, that they can be put on the market, but the process still continues. They are still gazetted, the maximum levels. The public can have a second round of comments and there can be further considerations.

Would the member not agree that this is a better way for our industry to participate and compete with our American trading partners and make sure that the safety of Canadians continues to be protected in a very transparent fashion?

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10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to food, we must always have safety as the first priority. We must always be assured that our consumers are not eating food that contains material that is harmful to their health.

Beyond that first priority, we have to think about our economy, business and assisting the various food manufacturers in retailing their product. That is why our party supports the move to have these interim authorizations, as long as there is no question of any health risk to citizens.

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10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Guy Côté Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat disappointed to hear our Conservative colleagues say that they will be supporting Bill C-28. There has been a lot of talk this morning about the importance of food safety.

Is there not some concern that, under pressure, the government may be tempted to expedite the process in some cases so that certain products can be marketed more quickly? I understand that the need to ensure the health and safety of consumers is mentioned in the bill, but scientific studies are sort of being put aside. Is that not cause for concern?

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10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, the first priority is the safety of the consumer. We want to make sure that Canadians do not consume food products that endanger their lives.

However, if I understand the legislation, which is an amendment to current legislation, we are not authorizing government agencies to permit unsafe food to go on the market. Before they make this interim authorization, they will be checking the various levels of pesticides, herbicides or whatever they have to check before the food goes on the market. To my knowledge there have been very few incidents of food that is unsafe going on the market under the previous informal arrangement. We support the change to the regulations.

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10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Guy Côté Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today to speak to Bill C-28. In doing so, I will try to warn members of this House, particularly those on the government side, about certain aspects of this bill which we think introduce some safety concerns in the Food and Drug Act.

First I would like to repeat the purpose of this bill to put this debate in the proper context. Bill C-28 is designed to provide the Minister of Health with the authority to issue interim marketing authorizations for foods that contain certain substances at specified levels, and to exempt the foods from the applicable requirements of the Food and Drug Act and its regulations relating to the sale of those foods.

That is already a problem for us. We are talking about exempting certain foods from the applicable requirements relating to the sale of those foods. The substances involved are agricultural chemicals or their components or derivatives, food additives, veterinary drugs, and pest control products. Our understanding is that, based on numerous scientific studies, these products are used on various crops and in the production of foods and drugs. As was mentioned earlier, we all overwhelmingly recognize that this is no problem. But it is important that these scientific studies exist, in order to ensure that there is no risk.

Admittedly, the proposed amendments, in part, are in response to concerns raised by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations regarding an administrative process put in place by Health Canada, and I quote:

—to allow Canadians faster access to safe and nutritious food products in specific circumstances.

That has been a source of concern for the Bloc Québécois for quite some time. And one of the main questions we ask ourselves is: Why is it that, at times, Health Canada appears to be unable to resist the pressure from major pharmaceutical and food companies which are in hurry to have their new products approved? Far from alleviating this concern, Bill C-28 exacerbates it by effectively enabling the minister to issue interim authorizations.

What is worrisome to the public in this bill is that Health Canada is increasing the examples of negligence. For instance, in the late 1990s, Health Canada caused an outcry when it wanted to authorize a recombinant bovine growth hormone despite opposition from scientists. In the end, the product's use was not approved.

We could easily have been in the same situation this morning had Bill C-28 passed, which begs the question: if it had passed, would the minister have authorized this product or would he have waited? We do not have the answer to that question, but Bill C-28 would have allowed him to do so. Who knows what the consequences would have been?

Preferring to take risks rather than precautions, the government is agreeing to approve drugs or food products without obtaining all the scientific data required by law. As a result, it is running great risks to the public. This is very important. In order to ensure human food safety, all the scientific data must be obtained. We know that far too often, when it comes to food and drugs, there are unanticipated long-term effects. We have seen this happen. That is why it is important to conduct a thorough scientific assessment of the products put on the market.

Accordingly, the Bloc Québécois has long wanted Canada to follow the European example of taking precaution on food products, drugs and pesticides. If such a principle were in place, GMOs would be labelled and the use of products with unknown consequences would be eliminated.

In our opinion, this bill gives the minister a lot of power. It is as if we were playing Russian roulette with products that could have extremely harmful effects on human health not only in the short and medium terms, but also in the long term.

Understandably, we have two major objections with Bill C-28. As I mentioned a couple of times since the beginning of my presentation, our first objection relates to the power given to the minister which is, as I understand it, a discretionary power to some extent. While this legislation does indeed give to the minister the power to issue interim marketing authorizations, the minister must base his decisions on scientific criteria. He cannot make such a decision merely because of the pressure put on him by a given industry or marketing sector.

The criterion to the effect that the food must not be harmful to the health of the purchaser or consumer, as stated in clause 30.2(1) of the bill, leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and we feel it would be important to set limits in this regard.

Of course, we are talking here about public confidence, not only in the government's regulations on food and drugs, but also in the food that ends up on the table. Indeed, the public must have total confidence in the food that it consumes on a regular basis, but also in drugs and pharmaceutical products. The latter are supposed to be beneficial to people who need them for the relief of various symptoms, or to deal with various diseases. Should these products worsen these people's condition, this would result in a loss of confidence that would be very hard to regain.

This is why it is important to reassure Quebeckers and Canadians on the safety and quality of the food that they consume. The minister should be required to inform the public of the reasons why he agrees to issue an interim marketing authorization. As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-28 would allow the minister to issue such authorizations by relying on criteria that leave a lot of room for interpretation.

Not only would it be absolutely essential that the minister base his decision on sound scientific studies, as I was saying earlier, but should he not do so, he should be required to explain the reasons for issuing these interim marketing authorizations and to specify which lobbies approached him regarding a particular product. This is necessary to ensure public confidence in food safety. That is why it is so important.

People's perceptions weigh very heavily in matters where safety and confidence are an issue. I would certainly not want to presume—and I certainly do not want to give that impression—that the minister would make decisions without proper consideration. I would never imply such a thing. We can only presume that an individual who is responsible for making such decisions will act in good faith.

However, we know full well that some people can be very convincing for all sorts of reasons. Before becoming a member of Parliament, I worked as a sales representative, as some of my colleagues may have done also. I would have never dared lie to one of my clients, but I certainly did my best to point out the positive aspects of the products I was selling.

This discretionary power granted to the minister needs to be properly framed. Unfortunately, Bill C-28 does not give any assurances in that regard.

While it is indeed unfortunate, it is also very typical of this government. It often offers us half-measures or expeditious measures. Surprisingly, on a certain number of issues, it does not seem to be able to take all the necessary precautions or make the necessary decisions, but in other cases, it is overzealous.

I must take a minute here to remind members briefly of a speech I made yesterday.

Yesterday, in my speech about tax havens, I clearly demonstrated how, over the years, the concerted action of the government has brought us to a point where a number of businesses are not paying their fair share of taxes. This situation was brought about by a number of very specific measures.

Unfortunately, in some ways, Bill C-28 is only a half measure and of no reassurance to the Canadian public. It opens the door to certain almost arbitrary decisions which might—though we hope not—endanger the health of our fellow citizens.

That is why, having analyzed the proposed mechanism and heard what civil society organizations have had to say, we will be opposing Bill C-28. We in the Bloc Québécois—and this is a deep-seated conviction—are of the opinion that consumer confidence is an essential component of food marketing. The advantages of an interim marketing authorization process like the one proposed in Bill C-28 are likely to be outweighed by the concerns it raises.

In an area like this one, where the safety of our fellow citizens is concerned, it seems to me that prudence must be the watchword, not speed. Any error could have very unfortunate consequences, and the health of those we purport to serve could suffer seriously as a result.

Extreme precaution is in order. Unfortunately, Health Canada has not addressed all the concerns relating to new product approvals. A mechanism such as this, which involves risk management rather than the principle of precaution, is liable to make consumers more wary. That is the situation. Instead of taking precautions to ensure all the necessary scientific studies have been done, it is a matter of risk management.

I will not, thank the Lord, ever be health minister. I would never want to have to manage that risk. As I said earlier, we can only assume the right decisions will be reached. What we need to do is to ensure they are, based on all necessary scientific studies. The opinion of one individual cannot be relied on, no matter how well-intentioned that individual may be.

The first objective of the Food and Drug Act is to ensure the quality of food and that it does not represent health risks. The health of Quebeckers and Canadians is paramount. Any authorization of new products should be done under the precautionary principle. Unfortunately, Bill C-28 does not include this principle.

This week, the government made a number of announcements. To be indulgent, I would say that these are an election ploy. Today, third reading of Bill C-28 raises deep concerns among us. Let us simply imagine what the reaction would be if the minister did not have all the data at his disposal and made a mistake that would put the health of our citizens at risk. I would not want to carry this burden on my shoulders. I would not want to have to make such a decision.

It is incredible—I was mentioning this earlier during question and comment period—to see that our colleagues from the Conservative Party support this bill, when they regularly defend good citizenship and safety. Yet, in Bill C-28, we find exactly the opposite of many principles that they normally support. I have to tell you that I was a little astounded earlier to hear them say they would support Bill C-28. I still have hope, since our NDP colleagues will certainly speak soon on this bill.

I hope that they will see the risks associated with the bill. If they do not, I invite them to talk to us. That goes for my Liberal and Conservative colleagues as well. I invite them to meet with me or with my colleague from Hochelaga who, I must say, knows the bill a lot better than I do, having spent many hours studying it in detail.

I was saying that the bill does not meet many of our concerns and that it seemed to be an amalgamation of half measures. That is unfortunate but not really surprising since the government is an expert in half measures. That is too often how it responds to situations.

The government has just introduced a federal assistance plan to alleviate the effects of high oil prices. We were very happy since it borrowed large parts of the package we proposed only a few weeks ago when the Minister of Transport was saying the government could not do anything. Only two weeks later, we see him using major parts of what we proposed. Unfortunately, the plan is full of half measures because it does not reach the right persons. There is nothing in it for taxi drivers, farmers and truckers. I know that this is not the object of our debate, but I thought it was important to give it as an example of half measures too often introduced by this government.

So Bill C-28, far from improving our fellow citizens' security, gives rise to concerns. How can we guarantee that a new product is perfectly safe for consumers? In the end, people will have to trust the good judgment of the Minister of Health. But I do not think that that is enough even though that minister does his best and acts in good faith. We think that Bill C-28 should be defeated. Let us say that the status quo would be better than the new regime proposed in Bill C-28.

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10:50 a.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I would be able to support all the points raised by the hon. member if they were backed by facts. However, he is mistaken. It is important that I make some clarifications.

The security of the public, the security of food and the wholesomeness of our products are very important things for the health minister; they are his responsibility and they are sacred for him.

First, it is important to recognize that, in the case of food, these authorizations can only be given for products that already exist. We are not talking here of new products, of new chemical products created in a laboratory for consumption and for which political pressure is put on the minister. We are talking about products that are already being used. The case that we are interested in concerns the new uses of different products under different forms, such as, for example, the addition of a vitamin or a grain that we already know to existing products.

Instead of waiting for products to go through the few required years of the regulatory cycle, the minister can, after scientific assessments, authorize that they be put on the market. By doing that, we are not bypassing the scientific assessment process. Once these assessments are completed, we can ask for a temporary authorization. That is already done.

This does not change anything for the Canadian public. It is a response to the House committee's valid requirement that our regulations comply with the legislation. We would not want public servants to take it upon themselves to implement measures under the minister's responsibility. Unless the regulations and the act allow it, that is how we will proceed.

As for the pesticides and control products that farmers want to use, the hon. member's statements suggest that major pharmaceutical companies are putting a great deal of pressure on the minister. That is not so. The request is coming from farmers and manufacturers. The latter want us to be competitive. It is not a question of bypassing scientific assessments. Authorization can only be granted once assessments have been made. It is important to realize that. The safety of food, the public and consumers is at stake.

These assessments are done both here and in the U.S. and yield the same results. In both countries, the process indicates to the government whether it should authorize the use of the products in question and determines the residue limits of certain products. The industries in direct competition south of the border take less time than we do to release products on the market. Our regulatory control cycle usually takes two years. Once scientific assessments are done, the minister will have the power, as he does now, to issue a provisional market release authorization notice. Even if scientific assessments have been done, the process goes forward and we continue to hold consultations and make the prescribed amendments. No shortcuts are taken in the process whatsoever.

We have to realize that this does not concern pharmaceutical products, nor drugs for humans, but in many cases it concerns veterinary products. Again, these are not new products, but existing ones. Their use is assessed, or their residue limits are determined, in the case of pesticides. Public safety is guaranteed and protected.

What we are trying to do is to help our farmers and our industries become competitive on a global scale. To do so, we must provide a smart and effective regulatory control that satisfies consumers and farmers alike.

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Guy Côté Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat disappointed. The overwhelming majority of reasons expressed by the hon. member opposite have to do with market pressures relating to waiting times for regulations or existing before scientific studies are completed. I am sorry, but it seems to me he should know that those regulations are not identical in Canada and in the United States.

Here is a good example: the TCE issue in Shannon. That was something that directly concerned my riding. This bill does not tackle that issue, I realize. Nonetheless, regulations in force in Canada and in various American states are not adequate. In some American states, they were much more rigorous than in Canada.

We must ensure that standards, particularly those in the U.S., which would be more permissive, are not accepted in Canada following a decision by the minister. That is a good example. Market pressures should not override consumer safety.

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

When debate resumes later today on this bill, there will be four minutes left for questions and comments that may be addressed to the hon. member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.

We now move on to statements by members. The hon. member for Mississauga South.

Seniors
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, seniors are among the most vulnerable in our society. They are often victims of abuse or fraud. Many require home care or long term care which may not be available or affordable. Most are on a fixed income, often without inflation protection. Many are in fear of losing their homes due to the depletion of their retirement savings, and many experience depression or despair. Despite that vulnerability, seniors deserve to live in dignity and with respect.

The National Advisory Council on Aging estimates that as many as 300,000 seniors who are entitled to old age security or the guaranteed income supplement do not receive these benefits because they have not applied for them. I therefore encourage all hon. members to include in their next householder an appeal to all their constituents to ensure that their families and friends who are entitled to these benefits are in fact receiving them.

As parliamentarians, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to help seniors who are among the most vulnerable in our society.

Selkirk—Interlake
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, my riding of Selkirk—Interlake has had a very challenging year. We have had the threat of water contamination from Devils Lake. As well, spring flooding and the record precipitation levels have left fields flooded and created the worst crop year on record. The excess moisture also has created major damage along riverbanks and shorelines. All of this has caused concern and great hardship for many people in my riding.

The communities along Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba are now facing the threat of flooding from the high water levels on the lake due to fall storms and gusty winds. The residents of Selkirk—Interlake have responded to these challenges. With cooperation of property owners, residents and municipalities, we have been able to secure dikes and protect our communities.

I want to thank all who helped sandbag and build dikes. I also want to thank all the municipal officials for their hard work protecting our communities and establishing emergency plans to deal with this latest flood threat.

Terry Fox Run
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the more than 14,000 people who participated in the 25th anniversary Terry Fox Run between P.E.I. and New Brunswick, I want to express our appreciation to Strait Crossing Bridge Limited, the operators of the Confederation Bridge.

The Terry Fox Run is the result of the efforts of hundreds of volunteers who inspire the thousands to walk, run or wheel their way in assisting this worthy cause. We must also pay tribute to those in the business community as well.

Strait Crossing generously made available one of Canada's most impressive engineering structures for the 25th anniversary run. In doing so, it and numerous other commercial operators requiring the use of the bridge set aside profits for people and deserve our recognition and have earned our thanks. They made it possible, along with the Terry Fox family, to make the P.E.I.-New Brunswick run the single largest Terry Fox event held in Canada.

Our thanks.

Jean-Philippe Paiement and Anouk Charbonneau
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, the future of Quebec rests on its youth and, in Laurentides—Labelle, I can certainly say that we have much to be proud of.

Last summer, Jean-Philippe Paiement, a 16-year old golfer from Mont-Laurier, was crowned juvenile champion and junior champion for Quebec. This proud representative of the Nominingue Golf Club has become a model of pride and determination for young Quebeckers.

Young women were not outdone, as their proud representative, Anouk Charbonneau, who is only 14 years old, from the Vallée de la Lièvre golf club in Beaux-Rivages, came first overall at the Quebec final at the Lachute MAXIgolf.

The Bloc Québécois wishes you every success in your present and future endeavours. May each victory and each upset be a rewarding experience for you.

Relief Aid International
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Russ Powers Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to recognize the efforts of the students and faculty of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario for their hard work in creating a lasting response to the plight of the tsunami devastated people in the village of Kinniya, Sri Lanka.

Led by Professor Alison Miculan and Sri Lankan born Noor Nizam, the group has developed Relief Aid International, a voluntary NGO within the McMaster University community and the community of Hamilton at large, in response to last year's disaster. Almost $600,000 has been raised to date and contractors have started work on the project that will see the establishment of a vocational training centre, a manufacturing warehouse, a boat building facility and a school renovated and expanded to accommodate the village children.

I ask my fellow members to join me in congratulating the McMaster community on their tsunami relief efforts.

Softwood Lumber
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have shown British Columbians that resolving the softwood lumber crisis is not their priority. The Prime Minister talks tough, but he will not talk to President Bush.

Possibly worse than the Liberal inaction, the NDP want to go down a dangerous road by imposing export taxes on oil and gas. Only the NDP could think that fighting an import tax with an export tax makes for a sound trade policy.

Conservatives continue to stand up for the B.C. workers, companies and communities affected by the illegal softwood duties.

A Conservative government would immediately appoint a special envoy to Washington to press our case and get our money back. We would offer assistance to the companies that have been unfairly impacted by this dispute. We would demand that trade deals be honoured and dispute rulings respected.

Unlike the Liberal-NDP coalition, we do not think the answer is to run and hide or to play to anti-American sentiment. We need creative solutions and a Prime Minister more interested in public policy than public posturing.

The bottom line? We need a new Prime Minister.

Fire Prevention Week
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, October 9 to 15 marks this year's Fire Prevention Week. Throughout the week, Canadians will learn fire prevention practices and safety procedures to make our country fire safe.

This year the focus is on increasing awareness and curbing fire related injuries and fatalities caused by the negligent use of candles. The theme for Fire Prevention Week 2005 has therefore been chosen accordingly: “Use Candles with Care: When you go out, blow out”.

I hope hon. members will participate in the week by sharing fire prevention information with family, friends and neighbours. Making sure everyone knows how to use candles with care can be a matter of life and death. On average, fire kills seven people each week and injures many more.

We need to reduce these figures. Within the labour program of HRSDC, fire protection services leads the federal effort in fire prevention. The program is proud of its long-standing partnership with Fire Prevention Canada, working with it to develop educational activities for this important week.

Fire safety awareness needs to be promoted, not only during Fire Prevention Week but throughout the year. I hope all hon. members and Canadians will give their support to this important task for the benefit and safety of all Canadians.

150th Anniversary of Sainte-Sophie
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, Sainte-Sophie was founded in 1855, at the foot of the Laurentians, in what is now the riding of Rivière-du-Nord. Settled by the Scots, Irish and French Canadians, Sainte-Sophie became home to many immigrants from eastern and southern Europe in the early 20th century. A community enriched by its cultural diversity, its 10,000 inhabitants have forged exemplary ties of solidarity while respecting their origins. Plains and mountains have joined their destinies to produce a blend of generous and productive land and water bodies which are an invitation to dream.

Events took place throughout the year, culminating on October 15 with a dinner at which the book by Normand Champagne entitled Le temps que j'm'en souviens , which is a wonderful account of times gone by, will be launched. The Bloc Québécois salutes the work of the organizers, the mayor of Sainte-Sophie and the members of the municipal council to ensure the success of these events. To everyone in Sainte-Sophie, happy 150th anniversary.

Mental Illness Awareness Week
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Susan Kadis Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, this year, October 3 to 10 is Mental Illness Awareness Week. This national campaign was established to raise awareness of the level of mental illness in Canada, to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness and to promote the positive effects of best practices in prevention, diagnosis and medical treatment.

The campaign theme for this year is, “FACE IT. Mental Illness concerns us all”. The impact of mental illness on family, friends and society is far reaching and cannot be overstated.

Mental health issues can address many areas, from enhancing our emotional well-being to treating and preventing severe mental illness. Depression, stress, Alzheimer's disease, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia are all examples of mental health conditions. Current statistics indicate that one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime.

For one week, mental illness moves to the top of the agenda. We need to do better. We need to ensure that the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness are dispelled and mental health conditions receive the attention they deserve within our health care system.

Great Lakes
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Great Lakes are a precious resource. Only 1% of the water of the Great Lakes is renewed each year.

We have seen recently how easily water levels in the lakes can be unbalanced by man and nature.

Currently, eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces are reviewing the terms of the implementing agreement for the Great Lakes Annex 2001. There are significant fears that this agreement could open the door to large scale water diversions from the Great Lakes and permit this precious resource to be classified as a commodity under NAFTA.

The issue is of serious concern to the residents of Leeds and Grenville, some of whom are visiting Ottawa today, and especially to those along the St. Lawrence River and the Thousand Islands.

The federal government must get involved to stop the harm this will cause to the Great Lakes basin.

Heroes Remember Project
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Godbout Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce today that the Heroes Remember project team was recently awarded a gold medal at the 2005 GTEC distinction awards and gala.

The Heroes Remember project is an online collection of video and audio conversations with Canadian veterans. It offers Canadians the opportunity to experience history through the eyes of those who lived it. With the use of streaming technology, Canadians now have access to interviews recorded with hundreds of Canadian veterans over the past 30 years.

I would like to congratulate all those involved in the Heroes Remember project, especially Veterans Affairs Canada and Canadian Heritage, whose innovation has earned such recognition, appropriately during the Year of the Veteran.

The Department of Veterans Affairs and Heritage Canada have done an excellent job.

Passports
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has been more than a year since the United States Department of Homeland Security announced the western hemisphere initiative. It is a simple enough proposal. It is simply going to require anybody entering the United States to have a passport. The effect of this on Canadians and Canadian economic sectors is going to be quite devastating.

Only 20% of Americans have passports. It costs a family of four about $400 U.S. to acquire passports. The people who cross over the border at my riding to come for recreational, sports and cultural activities are simply not going to put that money out. It is going to cost the economy in Canada literally billions of dollars, for instance, in the tourism and hospitality industry. Eighty per cent of the visitors to the casino in Windsor are from the United States, most of them coming over from Detroit and Michigan for day visits and overnight visits.

The Canadian tourism industry has been very strong in supporting this initiative to fight—

Passports
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Crowfoot.

World Sight Day
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, next Thursday, October 13, is World Sight Day.

I think most Canadians would agree that their sight is the most important ability or sense. There are many who cannot see and, in spite of this, are still very successful.

I can only imagine what a world without sight would be like, not being able to enjoy the fall colours, witness the brilliance of a sunset on a lake, watch the mist rise above the mountains, a rainbow after a storm, or the radiant smile of an innocent child.

The entire month of October is Eye Health Month. The Canadian Association of Optometrists encourages every Canadian to think about the last time they had their eyes checked and, if it has been a while, book an appointment soon.

I join with the Canadian Association of Optometrists in encouraging all those who value their eyesight to book an eye exam. Do not miss out on all there is to see in this amazing world.

Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, on July 15, 1965, the Government of Quebec passed Bill 51, which created Quebec's deposit and investment fund, the Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec.

The fund has expanded over the years to become the largest institutional investor in Canada and, obviously, Quebec. It now manages net assets over $102 billion.

Maximizing the return on investment for its depositors and ensuring Quebec's economic development and international presence have remained at the heart of the fund's mission and commitments.

The fund's presence in Quebec over the past forty years has encouraged the development of several generations of financial experts and entrepreneurs, as well as giving Quebeckers more control over their own finances.

The Bloc Québécois is proud to pay tribute to the founding visionaries, developers and individuals who ensure the future of such a powerful development tool as the Quebec deposit and investment fund.

Oil and Gas Rebate
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Betty Hinton Kamloops—Thompson, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government's recent announcements on how it is going to save Canadians from the spiralling costs of gas and home heating fuel are nothing but a veiled attempt at vote buying.

It has offered nothing to reduce the GST. It will not remove the tax on tax or the 1.5% deficit tax even though we have not had a deficit in years.

A concerted move toward tax reduction would provide assistance to all Canadians across the board, not merely the 10% included in the government's plans.

As we approach this Thanksgiving, the government should give Canadians something to be thankful for, a tax break.

Madeline-Ann Aksich
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in heartfelt sorrow at the passing of a remarkable, courageous and inspiring individual, Madeline-Ann Aksich.

Madeline was a life force who left a profound impression on all who had the great privilege of knowing her. Businesswoman, internationalist, volunteer, painter, Madeline was at once strong, thoughtful, profoundly unselfish, compassionate, cultured, humble and sincerely grateful for the smallest kindnesses shown to her.

Moved by the plight of children in the former Yugoslavia, in 1992 Madeline created the International Children's Institute. Its mission: to help children in war-torn areas cope with the upheaval and violence in their lives. In 2002, Madeline was awarded the Order of Canada.

Madeline forever reached out to others and to life itself, even in the most difficult moments of her illness. Madeline was not only a wonderful friend and warm presence. She not only made a difference in the world. She taught us how to live. She showed us the way. We are all immeasurably better for having known her.

Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the decision of the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières to inaugurate a new master's level program on managing innovation in SMEs, this fall in Drummondville.

The impetus for this innovative program came from Josée Saint-Pierre, scientific director of the Centre universitaire PME, and Michel Trépanier, who are both professors, researchers and members of the university's research institute on SMEs.

The program, aimed at business and institutional professionals as well as consultants, uses a multidisciplinary approach to the innovation process and its management and, above all, to fostering the creativity needed to develop innovations.

These days, we no longer talk about innovation simply in terms of conquering new markets, we also talk about it when it comes to retaining market share and remaining competitive.

Bravo for your innovation, a first in Quebec.

Seniors
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, a nation can be judged by the smiles of its children and the care of our seniors. Unfortunately, I would like to bring a little story to the House of Commons of my constituent, Mr. Earl Shadbolt of Eastern Passage, who has informed me that the increase in his old age security works out to 3¢ a day and yet the government is prepared to give David Dingwall the equivalent of $1,370 a day.

The National Council on the Aging has said very clearly that there is a very serious threat of many seniors going into desperate poverty. What makes the government think that David Dingwall deserves $1,370 a day and Earl Shadbolt of Eastern Passage and many seniors across the country only deserve 3¢ a day?

My recommendation to the Prime Minister in his statement today is to give that surplus in terms of tax breaks and an incentive program so our seniors can take care of themselves because they are the glory of this country. They helped build this country and the Liberals should know that more than anyone else.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's phony photo op in New York City yesterday is naturally being billed as a great success by his aides and a new policy of forceful advocacy on the softwood lumber file. It is too bad it was at a CNN studio and not at the White House.

Despite the false bravado, the Prime Minister still has not found time to phone President Bush on this important issue and advocate this tough position.

Based on recent reports, we know the Prime Minister and his cabinet have a great propensity for flying at taxpayer expense. Instead of spending thousands of dollars flying down to New York for a public relations tub thumping exercise, maybe the Prime Minister could just let his fingers do the walking and call the President.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman makes reference to photo opportunities. I can understand that the Conservatives are rather sensitive about that after the rather disastrous tour that their leader had this summer with his abortive attempts at photo opportunities.

The fact of the matter is that last night in New York City the Prime Minister of this country gave a forceful defence of Canadian rights and interests in the arena of world trade and he spoke to the business leaders of America who have to hear that message loud and clear.

David Dingwall
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, the people of Canada do not believe David Dingwall is entitled to compensation. He misused his expense account. He did not comply with regulations on lobbyists. He resigned but is now claiming severance pay. Such an abnormal situation cannot happen under a Liberal government.

When will the Prime Minister deny compensation to David Dingwall? When will he stop betraying the Canadian taxpayer?

David Dingwall
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, we will pay Mr. Dingwall only what legal counsel advises us we must.

Moreover, there is currently an independent audit re-examining his expenses under way. Should any discrepancies be uncovered by the audit, the government will insist upon a dollar for dollar repayment to the treasury.

David Dingwall
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

More gobbledygook, Mr. Speaker, from this turkey stuffing minister.

The Canadian public are not very pleased to know—

David Dingwall
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

David Dingwall
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

The Speaker

I do not know what the hon. member said but it sounded to me like cookie stuffing or something. I was not sure what he was referring to. Maybe it was turkey. If it was perhaps it is more seasonal, but even with that we do not need to go into this kind of description of the minister's abilities.

The hon. member for Central Nova has the floor to ask a question and I would invite him to move on with that.

David Dingwall
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian public is not buying all of what he is saying because based on legal advice the government does not have to pay David Dingwall for quitting his job. With no contract, no law or a legal opinion requiring payment, the government should simply do the right thing and not give David Dingwall anything.

When will the Prime Minister just admit that what he is trying to do is keep David Dingwall and keep all of those ad scam skeletons in the closet? Why does he not just do the right thing and say no to David Dingwall and yes to Canadian taxpayers?

David Dingwall
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman knows that Mr. Dingwall's expenses are being examined very carefully and we will receive that report in due course.

I wonder if we should also have an examination of the expenditures of Conservative candidates like John Baird and Jim Flaherty who continue to draw salaries from Ontario taxpayers while campaigning for the federal Conservative Party. Maybe that should be investigated.

David Dingwall
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, continuing on the Dingwall mess, I think Canadians deserve better than hearing the Minister of National Revenue repeat the same thing over and over. He has been telling the House all week that he has been getting legal advice that when one voluntarily quits one's job that somehow one deserves a payoff. That is ridiculous.

Let me make a suggestion to the minister. First, why not fire the firm that is giving him that kind of ridiculous advice and finally do the right thing, give the money back to Canadians and stick up for Canadians instead of his Liberal crony friends?

David Dingwall
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, the government will pay to Mr. Dingwall only what legal counsel advises us we must. There is currently an independent audit ongoing and to the extent that any expenses charged by Mr. Dingwall are found to be inappropriate, I can assure the House that those moneys will be recovered dollar for dollar.

David Dingwall
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Get better legal advice. Mr. Speaker, we have heard again and again from the Minister of National Revenue.

My question though is for the Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal. She has been listening to this nonsense all week and she is disgusted, as Canadians are, by the answers of her colleagues. Is that right? I bet she is.

David Dingwall
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, we will pay Mr. Dingwall only what legal counsel advises us we must. I would inform the House that there is an audit process ongoing by PricewaterhouseCoopers and to the extent it finds any of those expenses claimed inappropriate, then those moneys will be recovered from Mr. Dingwall, dollar for dollar.

Budget Surplus
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government is preparing to introduce a bill setting out how surpluses will be used. Although we agree with this principle, which the Bloc Québécois itself had proposed on numerous occasions, we have questions about the way this bill will allocate the surplus.

Would it not have been more logical for the Minister of Finance to allocate, in the bill, the majority of his surplus to resolving the fiscal imbalance, by giving Quebec and the provinces access to the surplus funds so they can determine their own priorities and their own needs in their own areas of jurisdiction?

Budget Surplus
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should perhaps wait for the legislation which has not yet been tabled and, as you know under the rules of this House, I cannot anticipate that legislation.

However, I would point out that the government has followed over the last number of years a very considered policy to pay down debt, to reduce taxes, and to invest in the most important priorities of Canadians which include areas such as health care and education which are of interest as well to the provinces.

Budget Surplus
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, no matter what the Minister of Finance says, the lion's share will still go to paying down the debt, because $3 billion has been hidden in the contingency reserve which, in both good times and bad, goes directly toward paying down the debt. Once again, why is the minister refusing to attack the fiscal imbalance since his surpluses prove year after year that taxes are too high compared to the federal government's obligations?

Budget Surplus
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member seems to question the fiscal prudence of the Government of Canada.

I would point out to her that fiscal prudence, balanced budgets, surpluses and debt reduction have resulted in this country achieving a triple A credit rating. That translates into the lowest possible interest rates and across the board savings for every Canadian borrower including individual consumers, businesses, municipalities, the Government of Canada, and every province and territory in this country.

Budget Surplus
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, on September 28, the Conference Board stated that the federal surplus should be around $10 billion or $12 billion this year and that it will greatly exceed this amount over the next few years. Once again, this is proof that the money is in Ottawa while Quebec and the provinces require additional resources in order to provide the public with services they need.

Will the Minister of Finance admit that it is high time to sit down with Quebec and the provinces in order to review the division of tax fields, so that they can have the resources they need to fulfill their fundamental mandate, specifically in the areas of health care, post-secondary education and support for the most vulnerable individuals in our society?

Budget Surplus
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would point out that 7 of the 10 provinces are currently reporting their own surpluses. Thanks to federal fiscal responsibility, the accumulated federal debt is coming down. However, I would point out that it remains almost twice as large as all the combined provincial and territorial debt taken together.

In this last year federal transfers to the provinces have reached an all-time record high, and on top of that, we have announced in the House increases over the next 10 years that will amount to $100 billion more.

Budget Surplus
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec and the provinces are unanimous in demanding a substantial increase in federal transfers for colleges and universities. Again yesterday, the premiers reiterated this demand. When will the federal government recognize that it can more than adequately resolve the fiscal imbalance by transferring tax fields to Quebec and the provinces?

Budget Surplus
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada is very proud to be investing in the learning and innovation systems of this country. That is extremely important to the future of every Canadian.

We provide $2.1 billion in cash transfers through the CST. We provide $1.7 billion in the transfer of tax points. We provide $600 million through the equalization system. We provide $5 billion in direct federal contributions in student aid, research and development and tax measures, plus early learning and child care, literacy, workplace training, immigration settlement, foreign credentials and aboriginal investments.

We are supporting--

Budget Surplus
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Vancouver East.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

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

The NDP has long called for linking energy with softwood so that Canada can protect our jobs and businesses from George Bush's attack.

Is it now government policy that Canada will link energy with softwood and have we told the Bush administration that Canada is prepared to do that or was the Prime Minister's speech yesterday just another in the endless list of tough sounding puff? Quite simply, what specific response do we have today that we did not have four months ago?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's message yesterday in New York was very clear. All countries must live up to their international agreements. The duties on softwood must be refunded and free trade must be fair trade.

The Prime Minister did not make a linkage between softwood and energy, but he did make the point that NAFTA itself is drawn into question when NAFTA's rules are obviously ignored. Energy is a part of NAFTA. That is a fact, just as market opportunities in China and India are a fact.

Automobile Industry
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the speech was not worth the paper it was written on because we have heard it so many times before with no action.

Similarly, that is the case with the unemployment figures that came out today. There were 8,000 more jobs lost in the month September in manufacturing and thousands of those were within the auto sector.

We have been asking the government, literally for years, for an auto policy. Where is it?

Automobile Industry
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Kings—Hants
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian auto industry is competing and succeeding globally because the government has been investing in the Canadian auto industry, and the benefits for that auto industry are in fact spread across the country.

We are working to develop a better Canadian auto strategy. The government and the industry minister are absolutely focused on making that happen. I am proud to be part of a government that is making the investments in the future of our country and in an auto industry that is a world beater.

Home Heating Prices
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy, NB

Mr. Speaker, this week the Liberal government came up with yet another pre-election gimmick. The last time the Liberals tried something like this, criminals in prison and deceased individuals received cheques.

This time the Liberal scheme leaves out 90% of Canadians. All Canadians need relief from the high cost of fuel. Why does this scheme leave most Canadians out in the cold?

Home Heating Prices
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, our plan involves $2.4 billion to $2.5 billion. That is obviously a significant amount of relief. We have invested primarily in the most vulnerable of our citizens, those citizens for whom we have a delivery responsibility in terms of the social services programs through the guaranteed income supplement and the national child benefit.

We invite the provinces to participate with us which some have indicated they intend to do. As I indicated on other occasions, there will be other measures taken by the government to improve the disposable incomes of all Canadians.

Home Heating Prices
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy, NB

Mr. Speaker, the government was quick to provide relief for politicians and Ottawa bureaucrats, but it continues to ignore the rest of Canada. The government is experiencing a revenue windfall on the backs of hard working Canadians. Will it do the right thing for once and provide GST relief on the high cost of fuel?

Home Heating Prices
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, criticism is fair enough, but I think the hon. gentleman should be careful with his facts. The mileage allowances that were discussed yesterday were in fact as a result of an automatic process quite independent from the government and over which the government had no discretion.

The deputy government House leader has indicated that he intends to take the portion of that, the part relating to politicians, before the Board of Internal Economy which, Mr. Speaker, you chair. All members of the House can then exercise their judgment on whether that is appropriate or not.

In addition to that, there is an income tax mileage allowance adjustment that the Government of Canada deals with, and we will be raising that allowance.

Technology Partnerships Canada
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has been over a year since the government ordered an audit of Technology Partnerships Canada and we still have no answers. The government told us that 11 of the 33 audits completed showed that $2.4 million was illegally paid out to lobbyists. Yet the government refuses to reveal the names of those involved in these illegal payouts.

When will the government tell this House who was involved in these 11 illegal payouts?

Technology Partnerships Canada
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Kings—Hants
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that there is an ongoing audit process. The Minister of Industry and the government support that process. We will continue to support that audit process. We look forward to that process being completed. In the interim, I would remind the members of the House how important it is that we let the auditors do their work.

Technology Partnerships Canada
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, eight times in the last two weeks I have asked the government the same question, yet it refuses to reveal the 11 names.

Since it will not, I will. Spectrum Signal Processing based in British Columbia is one of the 11 involved. I got this information from the company's public website.

The Prime Minister's tenure started with lofty promises of accountability and transparency. Why do we in this House have to get this information about Industry Canada from a private website? When will the government reveal the other 10?

Technology Partnerships Canada
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Kings—Hants
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, once again, the industry minister is the minister who supports fully this audit process, to get the facts that Canadians deserve, and to get the information that the government needs to make a good decision.

Let us recognize that Technology Partnerships Canada has made important investments on behalf of the people of Canada in industries that are making a real difference in the prosperity and the standard of living of Canadians. We are investing in the future.

However, I do want to congratulate the hon. member or a member of his staff on their ability to use the Internet.

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Guy Côté Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, instead of resolving the fiscal imbalance by transferring some of its surplus to Quebec and the provinces, once again the government, true to form, is getting ready to interfere in a provincial jurisdiction with a new post-secondary education aid program.

If the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development wants to work with Quebec and the provinces as she claims, then will she respect Quebec's authority over education and transfer money to Quebec with no strings attached pursuant to existing agreements?

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Liberal

Belinda Stronach Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted that the provinces also recognize the importance of investing in people and learning, and promoting the skills learning agenda. I am working very closely with the CMEC chair, minister Jean-Marc Fournier, and looking at ways that we can collaborate to make progress toward our mutually shared agenda.

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Guy Côté Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, during the last election campaign, the Prime Minister promised to transfer between $7 billion and $8 billion for post-secondary education. He even promised that this money would be transferred to Quebec and the provinces with no strings attached.

In light of the Prime Minister's promise, how can the minister justify what seems to be another intrusion by her government into post-secondary education?

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Liberal

Belinda Stronach Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal

Mr. Speaker, let me be clear again. I am working closely with minister Fournier, the Quebec minister of education and chair of CMEC. We are evaluating our shared priorities. The areas that we are looking at are the areas that we have traditionally occupied with respect to access and research. There is no intention to infringe on provincial jurisdictions.

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Roger Clavet Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the meeting between Quebec and Ottawa on the respect of Quebec's jurisdictions in international relations is about to begin, the positions of the two governments seem irreconcilable. For Jean Charest, “what is a Quebec jurisdiction at home is a Quebec jurisdiction everywhere”, whereas for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to consult Quebec is specious.

Can the minister tell us what he intends to propose, so that Quebec can finally have full control over its jurisdictions, including abroad?

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Papineau
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and myself will be meeting with our counterparts from the Quebec government.

I am surprised to hear the Bloc member claim that I would refuse to consult the provinces. I have been a member of Parliament and a minister of this government for 10 years. I am the minister who transferred manpower training to the Quebec government. I negotiated the national child benefit. I was the Minister of International Trade. Moreover, I have always included the ministers from the Quebec government and from the other provinces who took part in negotiations. My colleague, the Minister of Canadian Heritage has also been doing that.

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Roger Clavet Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister's answer leaves me speechless, somewhat like Quebec right now. I did not ask for the minister's resume. I just want him to comment. Even minister Benoît Pelletier said, “The federal government's position does not even meet the needs of contemporary Quebec”.

How can the Minister of Foreign Affairs reconcile his position with that of his own Prime Minister, who said in May 2004 that the door must be wide open to Quebec, no ifs, ands or buts?

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Papineau
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, currently, my mandate is to implement the international policy statement that we tabled in this Parliament on April 19. We were very clear in that statement. The Prime Minister of Canada, my colleague and myself must ensure that the partners of our country, namely the provinces and Quebec, are fully represented under our foreign policy and through our presence at the international level.

Next week, we will pursue the same objective, under the theme of cultural diversity. The Minister of Canadian Heritage succeeded, with Quebec's support, in having the Canadian text adopted by 53 of the 54 UNESCO members.

Campaign Financing
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, we learned that the Minister of State for Multiculturalism funnelled $4,900 from his 2004 election campaign into one of his own companies. Thirty-four hundred dollars was paid to Greenwood Academy for advertising. The minister's own conflict of interest disclosure states that he is the sole owner of Greenwood Academy through a holding company called Grand Canadian Academy, which he also owns.

Could the minister tell us why he funnelled election funds into one of this own companies?

Campaign Financing
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Minister for Internal Trade

Mr. Speaker, I wish that the member opposite would not smear reputations without checking his facts.

Here are the facts. My colleague reimbursed campaign expenses for two mail drops and paid the rent for his campaign office, as per the law, and reported it, as per the law.

The member opposite is essentially accusing my colleague of following the law. Does he not feel a bit ridiculous?

Campaign Financing
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, this disregard for taxpayers is ridiculous.

Let me make this very simple. The multiculturalism minister took donations to his campaign, turned around and paid his own company for invoices. He takes tax deductible donations, which he benefits from, pays his own company, which he benefits from, and then receives a taxpayer subsidized rebate from Elections Canada, which he benefits from.

Could the minister tell taxpayers why they should have to pay rebates for election expenses that were paid to his own companies?

Campaign Financing
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Minister for Internal Trade

Mr. Speaker, I have already explained the facts. They are absolutely the opposite to what the member is saying.

However, I have here the statement of electoral campaign expenses of the leader of the official opposition. If I were to accept the logic of the member, and I am not, how would he explain that the June campaign election report declares paying over $3,000 for his leader's leadership campaign expenses in March? Again, if we were to accept that member's logic, which we do not, how would he explain that?

Government Aircraft
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, in the year 2004-05, I spent $66,577 for the entirety of my air travel. This includes all my flights to Saskatoon and across the country. However, the finance minister spent $67,100 on one flight to his constituency in Regina. That is $523 more than for my entire year's travel.

Why does it cost so much more to fly to Regina than to Saskatoon?

Government Aircraft
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, we have been through this In the House all week. It is very clear. Hon. members can pick out this or pick out that. The fact of the matter is the facts on which many of the cases they referred to are erroneous. I have given examples where previous ministerial travel has not been properly accounted for when it was done.

I can assure members of the House that when these flights are approved travel, they are within the guidelines. They are for the necessity of the Government of Canada. The Minister of Finance is one of the hardest working ministers in our government and has produced tremendous benefits for the people of Canada. He deserves our credit for what he is doing, not—

Government Aircraft
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Oxford.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, despite all the information we already have on agent orange, including the Department of National Defence's own documents, the government's response to the situation has been three fact-finding task forces with no deadline and now no coordinator.

People are sick. People are dying. They do not have time to wait. Will the Minister of National Defence tell this House who will replace Mr. Vaughn Blaney?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question gives me an opportunity to thank Mr. Blaney on behalf of members of the House for having been willing to take on this task. He did it with distinction. He is a man with a great distinctive career. For health reasons he has had to withdraw. We wish him well.

I wish I could tell the hon. member that I have found a replacement for him. I have not yet, but I can promise him that I and the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Veterans Affairs, the Minister of Health and all of us involved in this file are working to make sure we have someone who can help coordinate this work and make sure that Canadians who feel affected by this have a chance to tell—

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Honoré-Mercier.

Summit of the Americas
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the 4th Summit of the Americas will be held in Mar del Plata, Argentina on November 4 and 5. This summit brings together 34 democratically elected heads of state and government of the Americas in order to identify the main regional issues and define a joint plan to improve the quality of life of people living in the Americas.

This is an extremely important event although, currently, it receives little media coverage.

I want the Government of Canada to explain what are Canada's primary objectives for this important summit?

Summit of the Americas
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Papineau
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the 4th Summit of the Americas is a wonderful opportunity for Canada.

We will work with our partners in the region to promote democracy, equality and prosperity in our hemisphere. We want to put emphasis on our best practices on good governance, the Free Trade Area of the Americas, democracy in Haiti, sustainable development, aboriginal issues, contributions to civil society and public-private partnerships for development.

This is an excellent opportunity for Canada to promote these important values.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government insists on paying Dingwall severance, yet it denies any benefits whatsoever to 14,000 veterans who were deemed never to have served just because they did not fill out their discharge papers by the deadline. These veterans answered the call just like anybody else, but by order in council their service records were erased.

This is the year of the veteran. Would the Minister of National Defence please tell us that he will have the order in council reversed and reinstate the benefit for these 14,000 surviving veterans or their spouses? They did in fact serve and we cannot erase a person's service record by order in council.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Mississauga East—Cooksville
Ontario

Liberal

Albina Guarnieri Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, in the year of the veteran, of course we want to honour all those who served honourably in the second world war. I have asked my department officials to consult with veterans organizations. I am working closely with DND to excavate the facts and dig up the truth. If there are any individuals who have been misclassified, we will do justice.

Public Service of Canada
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Ed Broadbent Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister for Democratic Renewal.

The head of the Public Service Commission revealed yesterday that 35 former Liberal staffers have received preferred, non-competitive access to well paying public sector jobs.

This continuation of cronyism undermines competitiveness and objectivity in the public service. It is not allowed in Britain. It should not be allowed in Canada. What is the minister doing to put an end to this undemocratic practice?

Public Service of Canada
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, the first thing I would say is that this policy has existed since 1967 with royal assent of the Public Service Employment Act. Section 39 of the Public Service Employment Act provides certain persons working in ministers' offices with a limited entitlement to be appointed without competition to positions in the public service for which they are qualified.

This is a practice which has existed since 1967 and applies to a very limited number of people, who must be qualified.

Agriculture
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, for too long the Liberal government has been ignoring Canadian grain producers.

Bill C-40, which became law on May 19 of this year, legislated an independent and comprehensive review of the Canada Grain Act to be completed within one year of the bill's passing.

Would the Minister of Agriculture please inform the House what action, if any, he has taken to conduct this desperately needed review of the Canada Grain Act?

Agriculture
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Malpeque
P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development)

Mr. Speaker, the fact is it was the governing party that suggested there be a review of the Canadian Grain Commission when we were doing Bill C-40. The ministers and others have been in discussion with the industry to see what is the best way to proceed and that will happen in due course.

We are doing our job, as we committed ourselves to do when we discussed Bill C-40.

Agriculture
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a long-winded way of saying the government has done nothing on the amendment I put forward.

Just to prove how much the Liberals do not care about Canada's grain industry, first Estey and Kroeger were ignored, then a 2002 industry review panel was ignored, and now the Liberal government is actually ignoring its own legislation.

The Canadian grain industry needs results, not empty rhetoric and not more reports gathering dust. With the government's dismal track record, what assurances will the minister give us that he will take concrete action to overhaul and reform the Canadian Grain Commission?

Agriculture
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Malpeque
P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development)

Mr. Speaker, the agriculture critic is off the mark, as she so often is in the House.

The fact of the matter is this government has been proactive in terms of dealing with the agricultural community.

Yes, we know there is a farm crisis out there, but payments from the federal and provincial governments have never been higher in Canadian history.

There was the $1 billion farm improvement fund in March. When farmers asked that changes be made to CAIS, we made three changes in cooperation with the provincial governments. The government is standing by the farm industry and we will continue to do so.

Agriculture
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Agriculture. Due to weather conditions, harvest and fall operations on the prairies will extend into late October and November.

Farmers require own use permits in order to purchase Clearout 41, a glyphosate product available to them at a considerable savings. The PMRA has placed a deadline of September 30 for the issuance of such permits.

At a time of rising gas prices, escalating costs and low commodity prices, why would the minister take away the opportunity for farmers to purchase products at cheaper prices?

Will the minister ensure that the September 30 deadline is extended at least until the end of October?

Agriculture
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Malpeque
P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development)

Mr. Speaker, we have been made well aware of the issue that the member has raised. It is an important issue also as it relates to Ivomec, I believe, coming in for the cattle industry for treatments.

The various ministries that are involved in the matter are looking into it and we will try to deal with that problem.

Airports
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, Toronto city council, our own transportation committee and a huge cross-section of stakeholders, including the International Air Transport Association, the Air Transport Association of Canada and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, all support rent cuts at Pearson airport, but the transport minister's latest airport rent reductions hurt Toronto.

Today, Pearson pays 66% of all airport rents in Canada with just 33% of the passengers.

How many seats in the GTA will the Liberals have to lose before the transport minister offers Pearson a fair deal?

Airports
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Scarborough—Agincourt
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, let me just answer the question of how many seats that will cost us: absolutely none.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in New York City, the Prime Minister unveiled the arsenal he intends to use against the American threat to our softwood lumber industry. The Prime Minister needs to realize that threatening tones alone are not enough.

When will the government get it: loud voices alone will not make the Americans back down, and if it wants to gain some credibility it will have to back up its fine words with some loan guarantees in order to provide the industry with some tools to defend itself?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is true that words alone cannot settle disputes. This is why we have initiated legal proceedings to recover the deposits. We will be undertaking retaliatory measures. We have also stepped up pressure on the United States. As for other measures to help this industry, some are already in place and the Minister of International Trade is currently examining other possibilities.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, forestry and textile workers are not the only ones affected. Within days, several dozen former employees of the Port-Alfred plant in La Baie, in the Saguenay, will be left with no income, having exhausted all available resources.

What is the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development waiting for to implement a new older worker income support program to help workers reeling from the effects of closures in a number of different sectors of the economy?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Liberal

Belinda Stronach Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal

Mr. Speaker, we are always concerned when there are mass layoffs. We are very sensitive to that. The department does have a program when there are layoffs that are coming forward. We work together with employers to make sure workers can get temporary income support as soon as possible. We look at programs to retrain those workers.

We are in the process of developing a strategy for older workers and are working very closely with the province of Quebec. We are meeting every three weeks to develop that strategy quickly.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, the number of murders by firearms in Canada increased by 13% in the past two years. The Liberal government's gun registry has cost billions of dollars but has done nothing to lower the rate of violent crimes. The security of Canadians is threatened, and this government is not concerned.

When will the government implement measures to allow Canadians to move around worry free in their communities?

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Etobicoke North
Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite fails to understand that the gun registry in Canada is working very efficiently and very effectively.

In fact, law enforcement is making about 3,000 inquiries per day to the gun registry. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police supports it. The Canadian Professional Police Association supports it. It is helping with respect to affidavits for criminal prosecutions. The licensing system has precluded somewhere in the vicinity of 15,000 Canadians getting firearms who otherwise would have firearms but are not eligible because of various factors.

Correctional Service of Canada
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, it has been well over three years now and the Treasury Board has not settled a contract between the Correctional Service of Canada and its corrections officers.

The labour minister has been bragging about his success in settling the short-lived CBC dispute. He said in the London Free Press that he brought the two groups together, read them the riot act and told them to think of the public interest.

Will the labour minister do the same for corrections officers who have been without a contract for three long years and are not allowed to strike?

Correctional Service of Canada
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I regret that I do not have the specific information on this matter, but I will consult with my colleague, the President of the Treasury Board, and he will get back to the hon. member on this matter.

Gasoline Prices
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the acting Minister of Natural Resources. The price of a barrel of oil has hit record highs this year. This has created significant concerns for the people in my riding of Welland as well as many other Canadians.

Given the recent spike in gasoline prices, can the minister explain to the House what the government is doing to ensure that Canadians have access to the most up to date information regarding the price of gas at the pumps?

Gasoline Prices
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I would point out that information is power and information is ammunition. This new office, thanks in part to my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, will provide the best and most transparent information on why these prices have changed.

This will then be powerful ammunition for a beefed-up Competition Bureau, powerful ammunition for the media to expose price gouging, and powerful ammunition for provinces, which have the power to regulate.

Fisheries
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, after years of unsuccessfully waiting for federal help, the Nova Scotia Salmon Association and the Atlantic Salmon Federation have a liming project under way on the West River. These non-profit, volunteer-driven organizations were forced to raise $270,000 on their own without any funds from the federal government.

Sweden and Norway have working liming programs, but in Canada the government is content to leave Atlantic salmon on the species at risk list. The Liberal government has a responsibility to support liming in order to mitigate the effects of acid rain. Why is it not?

Fisheries
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate groups that are involved in salmon stewardship across this country. In fact, there are thousands and thousands of Canadians who do work to support our rivers and streams and who support the safety and the development of salmon across this country. Without them, we could not do our work at all. The fact is that we rely on those volunteers, who do a great deal.

In this year's budget we have $30 million for the Atlantic salmon endowment fund, which will help salmon in that region.

Fisheries
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Randy Kamp Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, there has been another sockeye season and another disaster for B.C. fishermen. I am seeing a pattern here.

Last season the minister presided over some of the lowest spawning numbers on record. This season, despite more than seven million returning sockeye, DFO prevented commercial and sports fishermen from getting their fair share even though there was an opportunity for them to do so. In fact, commercial fishermen were not allowed to fish at all.

Will the minister admit that he mismanaged yet another sockeye season? Will he inform the House of how he plans to compensate those who have been economically devastated by his decisions?

Fisheries
Oral Questions

Noon

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague should know that ocean temperatures resulted in a lower than expected abundance of sockeye salmon this year and a record late return. I think he ought to know that. That is why, of course, commercial fisheries were closed this year, unfortunately, to meet conservation goals. That is our top priority.

I am sympathetic to the plight of the commercial sector. It is important and we need to cooperate on sustaining salmon populations for the future of this sector.

Economic Development
Oral Questions

Noon

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, on August 18, in Baie-Comeau, the Premier of Quebec stated that the expansion plans of the Société du port ferroviaire de Baie-Comeau—Hauterive were directly conditional on a decision by the federal government, which has yet to confirm its involvement in this project.

Will the minister responsible for economic development commit to meet with his counterpart in Quebec in order to resolve this impasse and allow this project, which is important to the region, to proceed?

Economic Development
Oral Questions

Noon

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is quite surprising to have a Bloc Québécois member who voted against Bill C-9, which gave complete autonomy to the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, now ask my colleague to intervene in a situation taking place in a specific region.

I can assure the Bloc Québécois and all hon. members that, anytime a problem arises in one of the regions of Quebec, Economic Development Canada and my colleague are there to assess the situation and implement solutions with the local community.

Social Development
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Social Development. Both in the budget and in subsequent announcements the minister demonstrated the government's ongoing commitment to ensuring that all Canadians have access to affordable child care.

Could the minister tell us what action the government has taken to honour the commitment made in the throne speech and in budget 2005?

Social Development
Oral Questions

Noon

York Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Ken Dryden Minister of Social Development

Mr. Speaker, as the House knows, last week we signed an agreement with the province of British Columbia, the seventh provincial agreement we have signed.

Money is already flowing to all of the provinces and all of the territories under a trust fund this year. That money represents, even at this particular moment, a 40% increase in what all levels of government are spending on child care within the country. It gives the opportunity for much more affordable child care, a much higher quality child care, and the ability to deliver child care--

Social Development
Oral Questions

Noon

The Speaker

I know there are a lot of other members who would like to ask questions, but the time has expired. We have had a good 45 minutes.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

Noon

The Speaker

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Honourable David Alward, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture, from New Brunswick, and the Honourable Chris d'Entremont, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries from Nova Scotia.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

Noon

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Committees of the House
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Gary Carr Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the 48th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the membership and associate membership of the standing committees of the House be deemed tabled and concurred in.

Committees of the House
Oral Questions

Noon

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the House
Oral Questions

Noon

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Oral Question Period
Oral Questions

Noon

The Speaker

Before we proceed, I want to indicate one reservation the Chair had about proceedings in question period today. There were questions concerning what appear to be transfers of funds from campaigns to other places. I know that the deputy government House leader jumped up to answer these questions. In my view, questions concerning election expenses and election moneys are not within the administrative purview of the government.

I am sorry that I did not jump on the question when it was asked. I did not and I realized as I sat here thinking of it afterward that I had failed to do so. I want to make sure members know that such questions are out of order. Questions in question period must deal with the administrative responsibilities of the government, and the administration of the election law is not part of the administrative responsibility of the government. Accordingly, questions on that score are out of order.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

Noon

The Speaker

I want to inform the House that, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1(2), I am designating Tuesday, October 18, 2005, as the day fixed for consideration of the concurrence motion on the twentieth report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

There is a recommendation in the report not to proceed with consideration of Bill C-277, An Act to amend the Auditor General Act (audit of accounts).

The debate on the motion will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., after which the House will proceed with the adjournment proceedings pursuant to Standing Order 38.

I would also like to inform the House that under the provisions of Standing Order 30, I am designating Thursday, October 20, as the day fixed for the consideration of private member's Motion No. 153 standing in the order of precedence in the name of the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

This additional private members' hour will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m., after which the House will proceed to the adjournment proceedings pursuant to Standing Order 38.

National Child Benefit
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

York Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Ken Dryden Minister of Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the National Child Benefit Progress Report: 2003, in response to a recommendation contained in the November 1999 first report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on Human Resources Development Canada.

Order in Council Appointments
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, a number of order in council appointments made recently by the government.

Unanticipated Surpluses Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-67, An Act respecting the allocation of unanticipated surpluses and to amend the Income Tax Act.

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

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Randy White Abbotsford, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-427, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (failure to stop at scene of accident).

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to have this bill seconded by my friend and colleague from Okanagan—Shuswap. The bill is the second opportunity for the House of Commons to make productive changes to hit and run driving laws.

Today I am laying Carley's law on the table of the House of Commons. Carley's law has become representative of the desperate need to repair the injustices of the courtrooms throughout this nation that have failed victims of hit and run driving.

I first wrote Carley's law in 2003. Hundreds of hit and run driving situations have occurred in Canada, and since it was first defeated at second reading in the House in June, over 15 more incidents have occurred.

It is well known that both lawyers and judges are settling for minimum sentences for those guilty of hit and run crimes. Carley's law seeks to rectify the failure of the courtroom to deal with the seriousness of the problem, by giving a minimum sentence of seven years for hit and run driving causing death and a minimum sentence of four years for a hit and run crime causing injury.

Carley Regan was just 13 years old when the crime of hit and run—

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Abbotsford has had considerable experience. He knows that he is to give a brief summary of the bill at this stage, which sounds as though we have heard and then some. A speech he can save for the second reading debate, which I know we all anticipate with enthusiasm. In the circumstances, I think he has done his summary of the bill.

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

An Act to Protect and Maintain Orders, Decorations and Medals for Future Generations
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Betty Hinton Kamloops—Thompson, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-428, An Act to protect and maintain orders, decorations and medals for future generations.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to introduce my private member's bill that is intended to ensure that the Government of Canada has the right of first refusal to purchase, at fair market value, significant military medals or medal sets awarded to Canadians and thereby preserve them for generations to come.

We can no longer rely on the benevolence of men like Arthur Lee who bought Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae's medals and then donated them to the McCrae Museum or the fundraising abilities of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion that saved the Topham Victoria Cross from the auction block.

We must, as a nation, step up to the plate and buy these pieces of history, install them in museums and give future generations the opportunity to see them and reflect on the courage and valour of the recipients.

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

Appointment of Clerk
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That the House approve the appointment of Audrey Elizabeth O'Brien as Clerk of the House of Commons.

Appointment of Clerk
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Appointment of Clerk
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Appointment of Clerk
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I pass on the compliments of all members of the House to the Clerk, thank her for her appointment and congratulate her.

Appointment of Clerk
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Honorary Officer of the House of Commons
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I think you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That this House, desiring to record its deep appreciation of the distinguished and faithful service of William Corbett, Esq., as Clerk of the House of Commons, designate him as an Honorary Officer of the House of Commons with an entrée to the Chamber and a seat at the Table.

Honorary Officer of the House of Commons
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Honorary Officer of the House of Commons
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Honorary Officer of the House of Commons
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Honorary Officer of the House of Commons
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Honorary Officer of the House of Commons
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

It is adopted unanimously.

(Motion agreed to)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Darrel Stinson North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present five petitions from my constituents of Okanagan--Shuswap. Although the first two petitions have been passed by the House, my constituents remain opposed to the same sex marriage legislation.

The petitioners request that Parliament use all possible legislative and administrative measures, including invoking section 33 of the charter if necessary, to preserve and protect the current definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Darrel Stinson North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, the final three petitions are also from my constituents. The petitioners no longer feel safe in their homes or on the streets of their cities due to the many violent offenders being released from jail to recommit crimes such as murder.

Therefore, the petitioners request that Parliament bring back the death penalty for first and second degree murder.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present three petitions on behalf of members of my constituency from the county of Oxford. The first petition is from the proud and hard-working members of Canadian Auto Workers Local 88 in Ingersoll.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to reform employment insurance.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from residents of Oxford who recognize that Bill C-38 is passed, but they ask Parliament to enact legislation defining marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, the third petition is from the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and is signed by people from all over Canada.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to refuse to sanction the counselling, aiding or abetting of suicide.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 138 could be made an order for return, the return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 138
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Delta—Richmond East, BC

With regard to programs and all other special expenditures involving the Musqueam Indian Band, what was the total expenditure by department, agency, or Crown corporation for fiscal years (i) 2000-2001, (ii) 2001-2002, (iii) 2002-2003, (iv) 2003-2004 and (v) 2004-2005 to the band or any corporation in which it has a controlling interest?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 138
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

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

Question No. 138
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Question No. 138
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Carr Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, my point of order is on Bill C-357 respecting Taiwan. In the first hour of debate on the bill, the member for Vancouver Island North repeated several allegations made in the Lai Cheong Sing case.

Mr. Lai and his family claimed refugee status in 2000. In 2002 the Refugee Board concluded that they were not conventional refugees as they had committed serious non-political crimes before coming to Canada. The decision was upheld by the Federal Court, the Federal Court of Appeal and by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2005.

The member for Vancouver Island North referred to a letter purportedly sent from the hon. Allan Rock, then the minister of industry, to Ms. Esta Resnick, government counsel in the Lai case, about a telephone conversation between them on the Lai case. In fact, the government counsel advised that she never had a telephone conversation with Mr. Rock or received a letter. In addition, the Department of Industry searched for this alleged letter and there is no record of it.

The member for Vancouver Island North also alleged that the government counsel and the government breached an undertaking of confidentiality and alleged that as a result a witness in the Lai case was betrayed to the Chinese police.

In fact, counsel for Mr. Lai entered affidavits with an unsigned statement and then asked the Federal Court to make them “public”. In the time they were “confidential” the government counsel did not disclose them to anyone.

Given the nature of these matters and given that the Hansard summary containing these inaccuracies has been submitted to the Federal Court and will arise in court proceedings as early as October 12, it is important to set the record straight now.

Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I am not sure the hon. member had a point of order. It sounded like a matter of debate to me. However, I will examine the matter. If there is some point of order in it that requires any action on the part of the Chair, and I note none was suggested, I will deal with the matter in due course.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Carr Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, now that the Striking Committee report has been concurred in, discussions have taken place among all parties concerning the upcoming travel plans of the Standing Committee on Finance and the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs and I believe you would find consent to the following motion. I move:

That notwithstanding any standing order or usual practice of this House, the Standing Committee on Finance be permitted to travel to western Canada the week of October 17; and that the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs be permitted to travel to Europe the week of October 9,

That these committees shall hold organization meetings, pursuant to Standing Order 106, upon their return to Ottawa.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, be read the third time and passed.

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the NDP caucus to share our views on Bill C-28, entitled an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act. I note that the purpose of Bill C-28 is to provide the Minister of Health with authority to issue interim marketing authorizations for foods that contain certain substances at specified levels and to exempt the foods from the applicable requirements of that act and its regulations relating to the sale of those foods.

That sums up our reservations about the bill. The very definition of the bill gives rise to the concerns that I have, and which my caucus tried to outline in its representations made on this bill before, in that it really does put more authority into the judgments by the Minister of Health.

I note, for example, that a judgment by the Minister of Health pertaining to trans fatty acids came into question recently. It is a serious public health concern that was debated and dealt with in the House of Commons. Bill C-28 contemplates putting more authority into the hands of the minister to make these judgments without the regulatory process for products that are already in the Food and Drugs Act. The example of trans fatty acids would in fact fit into that category.

Without the regulatory oversight that exists currently for what should and should not be in our food products, the bill contemplates giving more authority, as I understand it, to the Minister of Health.

Another aspect of the bill deals with the Pest Management Regulatory Agency and the Pest Control Products Act, which deals with pesticides in an agricultural setting or in other settings. The NDP notes with some concern that recently the Pest Management Regulatory Agency sent out a press release saying that the pesticide 2,4-D could be used safely, even though the Pest Control Products Act limits the language of advertising by pesticide companies, whereas they have been fined in the past for claiming that their product is safe. It is worrisome to us within the regime of pesticide control and pest management control when a product like 2,4-D, which even a lay person like me knows is a genuine health hazard and that it should be treated in the most severe category in terms of usage, has been found that there are safe applications of the pesticide.

I would rather see the Government of Canada going the other way. I would rather see the Government of Canada making bold statements about banning the cosmetic use of pesticides altogether, not finding safe applications for chemicals that we know to be hazardous.

I am concerned that Bill C-28 takes us down a road that we do not want to be going. In fact, it takes us down a road that may be 180 degrees opposite. We opposed the bill at committee because we did not believe that the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency was doing its job properly in its evaluation of pesticides.

Canada is littered, polluted and contaminated with pesticides. I just heard a moving presentation in the last year from a 21-year-old man from Quebec who grew up surrounded by five golf courses. I cannot remember the name of the small community in which he was raised but there were five golf courses within the specific region. The incidence of brain cancer among he and his friends has motivated him to the point where he has dedicated his life to trying to eradicate the irresponsible rampant use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes and for unnecessary purposes like keeping a golf course's grass perfect for golfing. There is no agricultural justification for this.

The young man who gave us this moving and powerful speech, told us that both he and his best friend had been diagnosed with brain cancer at the same time when they were 14 years old. Their community represented a cluster of brain cancer caused by chemical exposure that is almost unprecedented. He and his best friend made a pact that if one or both survived they would continue to inform Canadians about the dangers of the irresponsible use of these chemicals. Unfortunately, one young man succumbed to his disease.

I want to debate bills in the House that talk about getting these toxins out of our food chain and out of our agricultural system. I do not want to talk about enabling the minister to have more arbitrary direction and control over the application of these known hazards.

I will not dwell on trans fats. We won a motion in the House of Commons to study trans fats more seriously. A task force was set up, chaired jointly by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and Health Canada, to bring back recommendations but we are concerned about the interim report of that trans fat task force.

The Minister of Health is already making statements that perhaps labelling is the way to go or perhaps the government should help industry voluntarily reduce trans fats in their products but that is not the language we want to hear. It gives me no optimism whatsoever that the Minister of Health is taking concrete steps toward eliminating known health concerns within our food chain or that he will apply the type of scrutiny, direction and control that we expect in the food and drug administration in evaluating new products.

The chair of the Standing Committee on Health took on the Pest Management Regulatory Agency and asked when it would issue a press release retracting the statement that there might be a safe way to apply 2,4-D. We did not want to send the wrong impression out to the general public.

Thousands of garages at the back of homes all over the country have a container of old 2,4-D sitting on their shelves. All people need to hear is some regulatory authority changing its mind and telling people that 2,4-D is not so bad after all and that they should continue to go after the dandelions with this incredibly hazardous material. People who already possess tonnes of that product and who should be advised to take it to a hazardous waste site and have it treated properly as a health hazard, may get the false idea that there is a safe way of doing this.

I do not think I need to remind people in the House of Commons about agent orange and agent purple at CFB Gagetown which showed chemicals can remain in the environment for years. Some people may not be aware of the fact that 2,4-D is a component of both agent orange and agent purple.

At the same time as members of Parliament are seized with the issue of contamination at Gagetown by the experimental use of agent orange and agent purple in the post-war year which put our armed forces personnel at risk, it is ironic that 2,4-D, one of the main ingredients in those cancer causing agents, is being contemplated for safe application again. That is as crazy as saying there is a safe application for asbestos. Canada is full of these contradictions.

How can we in all good conscience say that there is a safe application for asbestos when asbestos contamination is all around us to where we have polluted the entire country with asbestos? It can be found in every school, hospital and government building. Even our own House of Commons is contaminated with it. We seem to be adopting this same cavalier, user beware approach to harmful chemicals like 2,4-D.

The Sierra Club of Canada has spearheaded a public campaign questioning why the Pest Management Regulatory Agency claimed that 2,4-D could be used safely but its questions are not being answered.

If we are dismantling or, in any way, altering or affecting the regulatory process now, which would rely on outside expertise and authorities other than our own researchers with Health Canada, et cetera, then we are really concerned and critical of it.

We should point out that Health Canada does not actually do its own original research. It only gathers up the empirical evidence. It gathers up studies that have been done by others, often by the manufacturer of the very product that it is studying, and it assesses the risk based on the research available. This was made clear at the whistleblowing hearings where three Health Canada officials were fired for blowing the whistle on health hazards associated with bovine growth hormone.

Dr. Shiv Chopra made it clear when he said, “Everybody thinks we did this research and that we are advising Canadians about the hazards of bovine growth hormone”. He went on to say that he wished Health Canada could do its own research but that it did not have the laboratory or the budget to do the original research and that it had to rely on what has been done by others, which, hopefully, was done independently and peer tested. Sometimes it is the type of study that is done by the industry because it is the only one willing to fund the research on a product and in that way that research could be tainted or biased. That is certainly the case in many known food additives and chemicals that have been later found to be hazardous.

Asbestos is not the only one. Let us face it, most of the work on asbestos in the country today was done by an institute that was funded by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. It was concerned that it could not underwrite asbestos workers any more because of the extraordinary incidence of occupational disease related to people handling that product, so it funded its own research laboratory, published the reports that were pro asbestos and never published the reports that were anti-asbestos.

I want to get back to Bill C-28. Some of the issues involved include the study of chlorinated dioxins. I think everyone knows dioxins are enormous cancer causing agents and no one is saying that dioxins are necessarily present in 2,4-D, but the dioxins are in fact a byproduct in the manufacture of 2,4-D. If we are adopting a more casual approach to 2,4-D and saying that there are safe applications of it, we will be stimulating the production of it and, in acknowledging the production of it, we will, inadvertently or in a secondary way, also have to acknowledge that there will be the greater production of dioxins stemming from the production of 2,4-D.

The most toxic form of 2,4-D containing DEA was excluded from the evaluation. Even though the Pest Management Regulatory Agency ruled that there may be safe applications of 2,4-D, it did not even look at the most extremely hazardous toxic form of 2,4-D which contains this dioxin DEA, although it did say that it would examine it later, which is small comfort.

We are concerned that Bill C-28 would augment the authority of the Minister of Health to regulate food products, supplements or additives to the food and drug regime. It is in keeping with a motif that we have noticed in so many pieces of legislation introduced by the Liberal government. It is a trend. It seems to be a recognizable motif to augment the arbitrary authority of the minister and to dismantle or erode the regulatory authority of independent voices and bodies. We cannot tolerate that lightly and we have to speak out about it.

When this bill was introduced into the House of Commons on November 29, 2004, it was introduced with no advanced indication as to what it was designed to accomplish. That is rare for a bill. It was featured at a technical bill, a bill that was really just a housekeeping matter. It was only upon our own investigation and examination that some of these concerns rose to the surface and came to our attention within the NDP caucus.

The debate at second reading is where some of this information started to come up. Cautionary notes were raised about preventive measures, preventive health concerns and dietary issues. Some speakers at second reading articulated their concern that we emphasized too much of our health care resources toward treating the sick and not enough of our resources toward preventing illness.

Some people say that the title of Minister of Health should really be changed to the minister of managing illness, because our Minister of Health really has very little to do with making Canadians healthier or putting forward initiatives or legislation that might actually lead to a healthier population.

We are all aware of the preventable illnesses and that we could take steps to lessen the burden on our much taxed health care system. This is certainly one area where we expect our Minister of Health to be more proactive.

We are concerned when a bill like this comes along and does not really speak to the general public health concerns that we all share, but speaks more to streamlining a regulatory process to make it easier for the Minister of Health to give the yea or the nay about a food additive or a food product that is currently within the food chain or the drug system.

I acknowledge and take the parliamentary secretary's point that the bill does not apply to new chemicals being introduced or new additives. Those will still be subject to the full process of which we are all aware, but we are talking about existing products, chemicals and additives that may be in the existing food product list or in the existing drug regime that Canadians consume with the confidence that there are safety measures put in place to ensure that their health is key and paramount.

I cannot help but think that the industry would be quite interested in this new development which takes the regulatory authority away from the regime we are used to and hands it back to the minister.

If I can use trans fats as an example again, it is a product that is fully entrenched in the food chain currently. It is generally acknowledged across the country that this stuff is bad for us. Scientists use the word “toxic” when they make reference to trans fats because it meets the scientific definition of toxins. Our bodies cannot process it; our bodies reject it.

In fact, our bodies do not acknowledge trans fat as food. They see it as some foreign substance, which it is, to be stored elsewhere, and they store it in the form of fat within our circulo-vascular system and builds our cholesterol. This is the problem with trans fatty acids. We want them out of our food supply system.

However, as more and more of this regulatory authority goes directly to the minister, I am not sure that I trust this minister, or any subsequent minister of health, to put the best interests of Canadians first with such a bold step because there is some push back from industry. It will be awkward. It will be inconvenient to reformulate the products to get trans fat out of cookies.

If it ever comes down to the shelf life of doughnuts and the shelf life of Canadians, I would hope that the Minister of Health would err on the side of promoting the shelf life of humans. All that trans fats are good for is for making oil solid at room temperature and adding to the shelf life of some of these products. Using that as an example and using 2,4-D as an example, we have some legitimate concerns about Bill C-28.

This is one of those bills that comes to us, as I say, without a lot of fanfare. It sort of flew under the radar when it was first introduced in the House of Commons.

Throughout the debate, I actually learned a great deal. I have read some of the debate at second reading in Hansard , where my own colleague, the member for Winnipeg North, and also my colleague from the Conservative Party, the hon. member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, raised serious reservations about how the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations would in fact have its work undermined somewhat, or would be surrendering and forfeiting some of the authority that it currently enjoys, in transferring that power and authority to the minister.

We should all be cautious when we enhance the arbitrary powers of a minister at the cost of the democratic authority of the House of Commons. This is giving power to the executive that we currently enjoy within Parliament and we should be very careful.

Market authorizations have been made regularly by the current regulatory process. It is not as onerous as some would have us believe, and fast-tracking it by putting that authority into the minister's hands scares me, frankly, when it comes to the public health of Canadians.

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Clavet Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech by my NDP colleague from Winnipeg Centre. He is an experienced member and not one to talk through his hat. He has a great deal of experience in terms of his research.

When he spoke on Bill C-28 to amend the Food and Drugs Act, he raised various concerns that I too understand. They relate to the use of a particular pesticide. In English, he was talking about 2,4-D. If I understood correctly, this pesticide was an ingredient in the famous agent orange used at Gagetown. So we can understand his concern.

However, my concerns are also understandable. I want to know how, when it comes to herbicide use, we can reconcile the need for health and safety with the way people sometimes artificially beautify their lawns, which I find quite frivolous.

Was this the meaning of his remarks, when he said that we may be starting down a slippery slope by allowing the use of this type of product and that the legislation fails to provide adequate protection in order to prevent such risks? I would like him to expand on this.

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the very relevant question. It gives me the opportunity to share further some of my specific concerns about pesticides, such as 2,4-D and other pesticides that are often used in a cosmetic way, not in any necessary agricultural way but simply for our own vanity, either for our potted plants, the shrubbery outside our homes, or so that we can have a greener lawn than our neighbour's.

That kind of vanity we are going to have to address as a nation very soon because the sheer volume of the chemicals that we are dumping into the environment in an unnecessary way is irresponsible and it is starting to catch up to us.

I mentioned that one pivotal point in my education on this subject was listening to a young man from Quebec who grew up in a region with five golf courses surrounding him. He suffers from brain cancer. His best friend died of brain cancer. In his community there are an alarming number of incidents of this particular type of cancer that has been traced to radical exposure to this type of chemical.

My colleague is absolutely right. Municipal governments are taking initiatives in Quebec and other places across Canada. One by one communities are unilaterally passing bylaws regarding the cosmetic use of pesticides, but as a federal government we hear nothing. The silence has been deafening.

The silence is a national shame, frankly, because we have this opportunity today to debate this issue of pesticides in our environment and we are not hearing progressive, courageous legislation that will put our foot down and say, “This is a bad thing. We want it eradicated from our communities. Let us put public health first before the right of industry to produce these chemicals and the right of irresponsible people to pollute the communities with them”.

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I feel obligated to stand and correct the member. I was listening to the question posed earlier by a member of the Bloc and the answer from the NDP.

While I cannot disagree with any of the facts that they are raising, they are completely outside the scope of Bill C-28. This bill does not discuss the adoption of new products. The bill does not circumvent or shorten the regulatory system. This is a question of how to deal with intelligent regulations, the health of Canadians, the security of our food supply, and at the same time ensure the competitiveness of our agricultural sector by our food services industry.

We say in this bill that if there are products that are added to foods that have already been approved, that it is a new use or new combination, perhaps a cereal with a vitamin, and both have already been approved, that the minister, after it has gone through the proper scientific evaluation process and while it is going through its regulatory process, may give an interim use authorization.

This procedure is already happening and is nothing new. There was a concern by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations that the proper authorization under the act was not there for the delegation of authority by the minister to a deputy minister, or an associate deputy minister or an assistant deputy minister. It merely corrects that aspect.

The other side of this is the question of pest control products in use that have gone through the proper regulatory scientific evaluation process. For example, we currently work with the United States to have a harmonized process. Often we will have a product that will replace another pest control product on the market that is deemed by users to be often safer and a lot better for our food system.

We look at the maximum residue levels that may remain in the food. After that proper joint evaluation, while it is going through the regulatory process, and after the advice has been received that it is safe and safer than other products that we use and that the residue limit is better than what we are presently using, then the minister can give an interim marketing authorization. The product can then be used while it is going through the regulatory system, the gazetting and all those other procedures.

We are not circumventing and not shortening the process. It is an intelligent way of doing regulations. As a result safer products can come on the market more quickly and Canadian consumers can benefit from new advances while never risking the health and security of our food system.

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I failed to make myself clear. I do not think the parliamentary secretary is grasping the nature of my concerns.

I will try and state my problem as clearly as I can. Clause 5 of this bill provides that if an agricultural chemical is a pest control product, then the maximum residue limit or what we call the threshold limit value, which is established under the food and drugs regulations, is deemed to be the maximum residue limit as set out in the Pest Control Products Act.

Let us be clear, the Pest Control Products Act has threshold limits set by the pest management review board, an outside tribunal of independent authorities of experts. We are critical sometimes of their findings, but at least they are at arm's length and have some independence from Parliament.

As we incrementally shift the authority to the minister to establish threshold limit values, we are taking away authority from the independent review boards that may exist elsewhere in the regulatory process. It is that shift of jurisdiction that concerns us.

I am not convinced, and correct me if I am wrong, that this bill does not enhance the arbitrary authority of the minister and the executive, and detract from the independent nature of the regulatory process and the ability for Parliament to be the oversight of those regulatory processes.

When I use 2,4-D as an example, I think that fits neatly into the categories articulated by the parliamentary secretary. It is something that is already in existence. There is no new chemical associated with this that would fall under the normal regulatory thing. It is a new application of this chemical being contemplated, in that what was once banned, we now argue that it is safe to use. That is confusing.

I do not want that kind of choice to be made by a health minister who is not a scientist. I want that to be determined by the independent scientific community.

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Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is the House ready for the question?

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Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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

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Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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

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Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

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Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the recorded division stands deferred until Monday, October 17, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

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Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Carr Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is an agreement, pursuant to Standing Order 45(7) to further defer the recorded division just requested on Bill C-28 until Tuesday, October 18, at the end of government orders.

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is that agreed?

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Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Carr Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, there has been some discussion and I think if you were to see the clock at 1:30 in order to proceed to private members' business, there would be consent within the House to do that.

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Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is it agreed to see the clock as being 1:30?

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Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

moved that Bill C-251, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (members who cross the floor), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, this bill has been six years in the making. There have been two elections and now we finally get to debate a little responsibility among ourselves toward our constituents.

Bill C-251 has resonance for all Canadians across the country. It basically states that members of Parliament have to act in a more responsible and accountable manner to the constituents who send us here. We do not own these seats. We only use them on behalf of our constituents. It is an honour and a privilege and in many cases the ultimate dream for people to be a member of Parliament in the Canadian House of Commons.

Bill C-251 originated in 1999 when a colleague in the Progressive Conservative Party decided to become a Liberal member. Prior to that, the individual had been a fantastic fisheries critic for the Progressive Conservative Party. I could not help but notice in our committee at that time that that individual was speaking rather strongly against the Liberal government's attitude toward fishermen and their families. In the following days, while the words of that speech were still echoing, the member was standing in room 130-S with Mr. George Baker, now Senator Baker, announcing to the world that he had become a Liberal.

How do constituents react when their member, who had been elected as a Progressive Conservative, decides to become a Liberal without their consultation, advice or vote? That is only one example. Liberals have moved over to the Conservatives. Bloc members have gone to the Liberals, and Conservatives have become Bloc members. Even New Democrats, heaven forbid, have gone over to the dark side, but many people have come to us as well. The fact is that the House is not a game of musical chairs. We do not just run around until the music stops.

I remind everybody that we were elected to the Canadian House of Commons. It is not the no tell motel where we check in under an assumed name. That is not the attitude. The reality is we are responsible to our constituents. It is our constituents who determine what we do, what is best for us.

When a person seeks the nomination of a political party, that person gets the banner of that party, puts up lawn signs and tells everyone, “I am going to run under this political party banner. Please vote for me. The other parties will not stand up for you. The other parties are not for you. Only the people in this party can meet your needs and stand up for you with a strong voice in Ottawa”. If that person gets elected, he or she comes to Ottawa, becomes part of a political party caucus and part of the process.

Then all of a sudden the member may decide, and in most cases it is for opportune reasons, that the party he or she was elected under is no longer suitable to his or her particular desires. There may be many reasons. The member may decide to crack open that door just a little, or somebody else may open that door, and there are enticements, offers, a wink-wink, nudge-nudge, nice little lunches and dinners and all of a sudden that person moves to the opposition side or the government side. That is not what we came here for. We came here to be responsible and accountable to our constituents.

Bill C-251 is very clear. If a member of an elected party sits in the House of Commons and for whatever reason decides to no longer sit with a certain political party, that member should sit as an independent member until the next election. The member could make his or her intentions known, but he or she would sit in the House as an independent member.

If the person's desire is to move to another political party, then it is quite simple. The member should go back to his or her constituents and resign. Of course, a member could do whatever he or she would like to do, once the member resigned.

The premise would be to seek the nomination of that political party, then go back to the constituents and ask them for their permission and their votes in a byelection if need be. He or she could then say, “I feel I can now represent you under this banner”. Let the constituents decide the person's political future. We in the House of Commons should not decide our own futures. That is up to the constituents. They are the taxpayers. They are the ones who put us here. They have the ultimate say in what we do.

The bill would also allow a leader of a party to deal with an individual member of a caucus who, for example, was being a bit of a rabble-rouser or detrimental to the caucus. The lead could make that person sit as an independent member and that person would stay as an independent until whenever.

A gentleman from Vancouver Island, and I forget the name of his riding, left the Conservative Party and sat as an independent. He said, “In the next election I plan to run for the Liberal Party”. That is exactly what should be done. Members who leave their parties should sit in the House as independents. They can make their intentions known, but they should sit as independents.

Sitting as an independent in this House sometimes is not the greatest thing. There is no caucus. There are no critic areas. There is no question time. Independents are on their own and they are pretty silent voices for a long time. In a minority situation, however, independent members tend to have a little more power, but in a majority they are on their own. It is not the best representation for constituents in some cases.

The Conservatives also have a bill, and I give them credit for trying, but unlike others, their bill basically says everything my bill says, except that once a member leaves his or her party, the member sits as an independent and is forced to have a byelection in 30 days. The Conservatives have been the Alliance, the Reform, the Progressive Conservatives and the Democratic Caucus. They have had a variety of name changes over time. In some cases I think their caucus is slowly getting together but the reality is, why would they give their leader that much power? Their leader could say to one of their members, “If you do not do what I have told you to do, you will be made to sit as an independent,” and the member would have to go to the polls within 30 days. That gives the leader of any party far too much power. I like my leader an awful lot and he is doing a great job for Canada, but I would not want him or anyone else to have that kind of power over individual MPs.

There always will be certain crises within government, in opposition and in other parties when, for whatever reason, a member cannot abide by the principles and policies of the party. For example, the member for London—Fanshawe recently left the Liberal Party to sit as an independent because he could not accept the viewpoint of his government on a particular bill. He is sitting as an independent. That is fine.

With respect to another member who sits right next to me, the Prime Minister said, “This member is causing a bit of a rift within the caucus. We are going to make her sit as an independent”. That is fine, but members should not lose their employment because of that. The reality is that we are elected for four separate reasons: to toss out the current representative or government; people also vote for the individual; they vote for the leader of a party; or they vote for the party. If one sits as a member of Parliament with a registered political party, he or she should not have the right to switch over to another party during that term, but should go back to the constituents and ask them for their permission.

It boils down to democracy. There is the recent issue with David Dingwall. People look at David Dingwall as just another example of government corruption, of all politicians. The thing with Mr. Dingwall is that it coats all politicians in the same way. People do not differentiate between government and MPs of other parties. They look at us all the same, that we are crooks, that we are opportunists, that we are only in it for ourselves.

The fact is that this piece of legislation of mine will put just a bit of responsibility back on us so that the constituents can pull in the reins on us a bit. We should not be free wheeling. We have a responsibility to them. We have a responsibility to the taxpayers of this country and to the voters.

How in the world are we going to encourage young people to vote if this flip-flopping and turning around, patronage, cronyism, and you name it continues? Forty per cent of Canadians do not vote now. If there were a federal election tomorrow, probably even fewer would vote. That is a travesty of democracy.

We need to encourage Canadians to vote, but prior to us doing that they need to have confidence in their elected representatives. They must be confident that we will do what we say and say what we do. The fact is that we cannot make grandiose promises to people. We cannot tell them that if they vote for us we will do this and that and everything else and then at the bat of an eye join another political party. How can a person do that?

I am very interested in seeing how the member of Parliament from Richmond votes on this particular bill. As we all know, in the 2000 general election, a gentleman from the Alliance Party, Joe Peschisolido, beat the member from Richmond, who was in cabinet at the time. He beat him in a fair and square fight at the polls. The constituents of Richmond, B.C., wanted an Alliance member as their representative. That was fine.

What happened six months later? Without a word of warning to the people of Richmond, Mr. Peschisolido became a Liberal, just like that. The members of the Liberal Association of Richmond, British Columbia, said they did not want him as their representative. They said they wanted the guy they had worked for, the member from Richmond.

Let us imagine how the defeated candidate must have felt. He was defeated in a fair fight at the polls and yet six months later the guy who beat him switched and was wearing the defeated candidate's colours in the House of Commons. How would we feel if that happened to us? I cannot help but think of all the defeated candidates who ran against the people who have since crossed the floor. I wonder how they feel now. Let us think about the associations and the volunteers who worked so hard out of their belief in a political party. How do they feel when an individual, just like that and without any concern for any of them, flip-flops right to the other party?

It has to stop and it has to stop now. I encourage each and every one of my colleagues in the House of Commons to stop looking at their political futures as a selfish end to their means. I urge them to look at their political careers as a way of being of assistance to their constituents. I urge them to look at their political careers as being a responsibility to their constituents. The constituents of the 308 ridings that we represent here in the House have the right to expect us to ask them for their permission to switch parties.

There are classic examples of this having already happened, but if my bill were enacted it would stop the wink-wink, nudge-nudge that goes on in this place. We know about the Conservative member for Newton—North Delta, who allegedly taped conversations in which it was indicated that if he and his wife were given something then he could quite possibly look the other way and help the other party out. Helping out the other party could result in someone getting a title somewhere or a consulate position somewhere. It could involve crossing the floor.

If Bill C-251 were enacted, crossing the floor would not be an option. We have to stop this cronyism. We have to stop this wink-wink, nudge-nudge, silent backroom dealing that benefits people.

A lot of people think this legislation is against the member for Newmarket—Aurora, but that is simply not true, although she did cross the floor. If my bill had been in force at the time she crossed the floor, she would have been required to sit as an independent. She could have done whatever she wanted to do as an independent, but she would not have been able to cross the floor to join the Liberal Party.

I want to remind everyone that I have had this legislation on the books since 1999. She is just part of this. This is not a personal vendetta against anyone. I have great respect for all my colleagues in the House, even when they cross the floor. I can appreciate and understand some of the situations they may be in, but I want to take the option of crossing the floor away from members of Parliament and give the decision back to constituents. It is the constituents who indicate to us what we should be doing.

I will be listening intently to my colleagues in the House of Commons as they speak to my bill, but I will give one piece of advice to every member of Parliament. If members do not think this bill is worth supporting, then I ask members to go back to their constituents and do a poll or a ten-percenter asking them what they think about a member of Parliament who crosses the floor in the middle of a term. I guarantee that almost unanimously their constituents will tell them they are not allowed to do that. I believe their constituents will tell them that they have to seek guidance from constituents in a byelection or a general election before they do that.

This legislation has been six years in the making and we are finally getting an opportunity to debate it. I look forward to the debate. Most important, I look forward to the vote on this legislation to see exactly how my colleagues will behave.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

As this is the first time this bill has been debated, there is a period of five minutes for questions and comments for the proponent.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:10 p.m.

Malpeque
P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development)

Mr. Speaker, I did enjoy most if not all of the member's remarks. I know that he has worked on this bill extensively for a long time and is very sincere in his presentation.

There is no question about it: we are responsible to our constituents in coming to this place. But we do live in a representative democracy. We do not always necessarily vote with our constituents 100% of the time because we also have to exercise judgment based on all the information coming forward and there is sometimes some questioning in that.

I think that constituents always have an opportunity in the next election to give us the boot, so to speak, if they disagree with our judgment. I know I always try to stick with my constituents in the decisions I make, but I do think we have some unique circumstances here.

My question really relates to some of the recent crossings of the floor. I think that for these individuals coming over to the Liberal Party, it really was not the individual who left the party but the party that left the individual in terms of the Conservative Party of Canada.

For those individuals who believed in more progressive conservatism, so to speak, if they had had to sit as independents they would not have been able to serve their constituents in the same way. As the member related, they would not have had the caucus research and they would not have had as much time in question period, et cetera. I think it would do a disservice to the individuals in those situations. In this instance, the party really left the individual rather than the other way around.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

It is obvious that other members want to ask questions, so I will ask members to keep them short, please.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, in response to the question from my hon. colleague from Prince Edward Island, let me say that nothing is stopping such a person from announcing his intentions, running in a byelection and allowing his constituents to determine whether he should have been a Liberal. He should not have been able to make that decision on his own.

I understand that his party left him, but he did not run as a Liberal. He was not elected as a Liberal. He was elected as someone else. If he wanted to be a Liberal, he should have sought the nomination.

Let us imagine the following scenario. We have an election. A certain party has 153 seats. Another party has 24 seats. The party with 153 seats goes over to the 24-seat party and tells its members that if it can get three of them to come over, they will all be given parliamentary secretary positions and their families and everything else will be taken care of. In that way, then, they can be enticed to be in government.

Let us face it, one of these days I may not be here. What if I were into an election and someone said to me that it was my last term, with three years to go, so why would I not let them make it comfortable for me and make me parliamentary secretary or something of that nature? If I decided on that, that would be it, and there would be no recourse for my constituents.

What I am saying to the hon. member is quite clear. The constituents should determine that, not us.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is very brief. It refers to a technical aspect of the hon. member's bill. In clause 1 of the bill he amends section 30.1 of the Parliament of Canada Act. In particular, he would add a new section, proposed subsection 30.1(3), which would read as follows:

If a member of the House of Commons crosses the floor of that House, the leader of that party that receives the member shall, without delay and in writing, notify the Speaker that the member has crossed the floor of the House

Is there any anticipated notification from the leader of the party that the member leaves? If the leader of the party that receives the member fails to provide notification, nothing else, including the byelection, could actually occur under the terms of this bill. I am wondering how the member would respond to that concern.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague brings up a very good point, which is one of the reasons why we should have further debate and send the bill to committee.

The reality is that under this bill everyone would know right off the bat that if they are going to cross the floor they are instantly either independent or going into a byelection. It is as simple as that. Whether the party receiving the member or the party the member departed get involved or give proper notice really is an afterthought.

The reality is that what the constituents are concerned about is what their member of Parliament will be doing. It is quite clear: if members think they have to cross the floor they should go back to their constituents and seek the nomination. If they are fortunate enough and if they are right, their constituents will bring them back under that banner.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Godbout Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would certainly not want to challenge all the work done by the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. Nor, however, would I want the public to get the impression that sitting in this House as an independent gives a member all the rights normally vested in those who belong to a party.

Since I was elected to this place, I have had the opportunity to notice that our involvement in committee work is probably one of our most valuable responsibilities. In committee, we really get to examine issues in depth and to improve legislation.

But sitting in this place as an independent member poses a problem, in that the involvement of independent members is almost nil, at best very limited.

How could the hon. member convince the Canadian public that those members will be providing effective representation without sitting on the various committees to speak on behalf of their constituents? This is one aspect of his proposal that I find worrisome.

I have another point to raise very briefly. It might be interesting to see what the practices of other countries are in this regard. Perhaps the hon. member had an opportunity to look into that as well.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question, but the reality is that the bill also states that if a member of Parliament is elected as an independent, he or she comes to the House as an independent and cannot join a political party while here precisely because he or she was elected as an independent.

God bless his memory, Mr. Cadman, who was a great individual, was elected as an independent. In that situation, if he wanted to join or was persuaded to join a political party, he would have had to seek a byelection in that regard. It is just like Mr. John Nunziata's situation. He was elected as an independent. Under my bill, a person elected as an independent who wanted to join a political party during his or her term would have to go back to the constituents to seek that mandate.

In terms of other countries, I will be honest, I have not researched it that much because I have not been elected in another country. I have been elected to this House of Commons and it is this House of Commons that I am concerned about.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Russ Powers Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore for bringing the bill forward for debate before the House today. He has my assurance that I will seriously consider his suggestion about speaking to my constituents about this. His latter suggestion was that if we were in opposition to what he was proposing, we should go back and talk to our constituents. Not only myself, but I would suggest a vast majority of members on this side of the House are not in support of the bill.

Bill C-251 raises very important issues for our government and the people it represents. Should members of Parliament be required to vacate their seats if they leave their political party between elections? It is our duty to debate the bill today and discuss its merits for Canadian democracy.

Other countries have struggled with this issue and it has been floated in and out of our Parliament in the form of private members' bills not less than five times in the past few years. Of those times, only once has the issue of requiring a byelection for changing party affiliation been fully debated. That time was when that member's Bill C-218 was debated in the second session of the 37th Parliament.

When we compare the circumstances of that debate and this one, three key differences stand out on whether Bill C-251 should be adopted by the House.

When the crossing the floor bill was last debated, like most private members' business, it was non-votable. In 2003 the entire manner of doing private members' business changed. Now the accepted presumption for private members' items is that they will be votable. This is significant. Individual MPs have more power than ever to influence the legislative agenda, to make law and to create policy.

Through motions, bills and concurrence motions for committee reports, members are acting as independent legislators in the House. In a fair and equal process, individual members get the opportunity to have their items heard through a draw to be placed on the list from which the order of precedence is created. Members can be put on the list regardless of party affiliation or the aim of their motions and bills.

Notably the space that private members' business offers is often distinct from the member's own party's agenda. For private members' business, many local constituency concerns get voiced in legislative form. The ability to address local issues in a national forum is invaluable to complementing the work of the federal government. In addition, individual MPs get to voice their own initiatives and policies that may not be reflected on any party agenda, injecting novel and interesting issues into the parliamentary process.

This difference in the manner in which private members' business works is momentous in the way this place operates. Last time, a significant portion of the speaking time of the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore was spent speaking to the point of non-votability rather than the merits. Today, we get to have a full debate on the merits because the bill has the potential to become law.

Indeed, the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore acknowledged in a recent interview with the Hill Times that “The beauty of private members' business is you don't need caucus consent”. Because it is not dependent on party politics, he or she can bring his or her bill to the House, even though support for it is not consistent in his or her own party or others.

The second difference between today's debate and that of the last Parliament is intimately related to the way in which we do business in the House. In the current minority government context, governing in a common purpose is the best way for all members of the House to transcend party lines to improve the lives of all Canadians. We are each joined by a commitment to unity and an inclusion of all regions and all voices on the national stage.

As such, to complement the changes in the standing orders around private members' business, the government has worked diligently to improve the processes of government, infusing the spirit of inclusion throughout our public institutions. For instance, parliamentarians are increasingly involved in key government appointments and are more empowered to affect the government policy in parliamentary committees. All these measures are aimed at renewing Canadian democracy so we can be effective in representing the people of Canada.

However, Bill C-251 presumes that we operate under a completely different electoral and political framework. By requiring members to leave Parliament if they change their party, Bill C-251 ignores the function of MPs as “individual parliamentarians” and places a primacy on party politics over democratic governance.

Governing in a common purpose should be about seeking to build partnerships and compromises on important issues facing Canadians. In contrast, Bill C-251 seeks to entrench factionalism and create discord between parliamentarians. The bill disregards shifting circumstances that may legitimately drive an MP to change parties between elections.

This disregard is closely related to the third difference between the last debate on crossing the floor and this one. That was a time of great transition in the House. New parties were being formed, membership was splitting and merging, and the degree of party switching understandably heightened. Technically, some members changed their party affiliation more than once or even twice.

Were the provisions of Bill C-251 actually in place, there would not have been enough time to set up byelections between party changes from Reform to Alliance to Democratic Reform to Progressive Conservative to Conservative. The resulting cost to taxpayers and the administrative burden on Elections Canada would have been enormous. Would such byelections have really furthered Canadian democracy? I would suggest no.

Historically, MPs in Canada, as in England, have used floor crossing as a necessary last resort in seeking better ways of representing their electorate. Over time, many parties have divided or transformed as they try to structure the best organization for serving the people. The creation of new parties to accommodate regional or grassroots interests is a primary example of civic engagement and democratic participation.

Bill C-251 would capture all these instances of party changes, expanding the vulnerability of a member's seat far beyond anything that we have ever seen. Currently, aside from death and conviction of a very specific set of criminal acts, members are secure in their elected positions.

This system creates an environment that lends confidence and power to the individual member to act as she or he believes is in the best interests of the people and the people that they represent. Bill C-251 would turn this system on its head, essentially according party leaders the power to eject members from Parliament if they then sit with another party in the House.

Much has changed since this bill was last debated in the House. Changing circumstances are the business of politics. It is what we address and manage to protect and advance the lives of Canadians. Sometimes that change requires changing parties, building new alliances or reorganizing our current ones. For that to entail a loss of our status as a member of Parliament, our mandate from the people, is an unprecedented step that does not strengthen our democracy.

Members have more power to influence government than ever before and we should each be harnessing this power to govern with the common purpose of improving our country. This is why I personally, and as I have indicated the vast majority I expect on this side of the House, cannot support Bill C-251. The issues it raises are important, but the measures it proposes are counterproductive.

Each member of the House wants to strengthen and renew Canadian democracy. This is why we entered politics and came to Ottawa. That is the reason why I came here. Revoking a member's elected mandate because they change parties moves us backwards rather than forward toward this goal. I urge all parliamentarians in this House to reject this bill for this reason.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak to Bill C-251.

Let me start by indicating that from the point of view of my party's caucus, we feel this ought to be a free vote for members of Parliament. Hopefully, other parties will adopt a similar attitude.

On the one hand, I want to congratulate my hon. colleague for trying to infuse some ethics into what he feels is a House where ethics are not as strong as they should be. However, I believe this is a misguided attempt. I am afraid I will be encouraging members to vote against this legislation.

I will lay out my arguments to explain a little about what I think is problematic with the bill, but let me start by giving an outline of the general problem that exists with the bill.

I think it is misguided in this case to try to regulate by law that which is governed largely by convention and largely by rules of the House within this chamber. The definition of parties within this House, as opposed to under the Canada Elections Act, is very much a matter that is governed not by legislation, not law but by the rules of this House which may be changed by this House. Therefore, it seems to me that trying to establish laws that govern the behaviour of members of Parliament within the House and starting to try to use legislation to determine how parties are defined within the House and what members may do within it is taking away the independence that the House, as a collegial body, needs in order to function properly is a step in the wrong direction.

I find the road it takes us down, as a practical matter, is one about which we ought to worry. In general, I oppose anything that increases party discipline or the control of the party leadership over individual members of Parliament. The bill, although it is not as severe in restriction as it could be, seems to have that general effect.

We are elected partly as representatives of our parties, but also partly as individuals. Were this not the case, I suspect there would be a great deal less constituency work done by members of Parliament. Members understand the importance of doing good constituency work in order to get themselves re-elected. That is part of the political goodwill or in the case of non-performing MPs part of the political baggage they take with them personally. We ought to be doing everything we can to strengthen that part of the political equation as a way of building up the independence of a member of Parliament.

As someone who has voted against my party on a number of occasions, for example on the Species at Risk Act and on the anti-terrorism law a few years ago, what I did was consult with my constituents. I asked them how I should vote. When they advised me to vote for or against a bill, regardless what my party did, that put me in opposition to my party. However, I was able to do so and do so freely, partly because that is the attitude my party takes toward allowing a great deal of freedom for individual members of Parliament. However, in doing that, I was establishing myself as a constituent's representative. That is a very valuable thing, something that is lost when one is simply a representative of one's party.

We elect individual MPs in individual districts in our country. There is discussion of changing this system. For example, there is discussion of introducing a list system in parallel to the system of individual MPs being elected in individual ridings, in which case the assumption is people are voting for the party exclusively. Many New Democrats support this. This is done in a number of countries, including New Zealand and Germany. It has some good aspects and some bad aspects. One of the bad aspects is that members of Parliament elected under this kind of system tend to simply be voting machines.

In New Zealand, in particular, a law called the anti-party jumping law, and that was not its formal name, its was popular name, was introduced and passed a few years ago for members elected on the party list system. The effect has been to introduce an ironclad discipline where the member of Parliament stands for nothing whatsoever. Each party gets a certain number of MPs, which are a certain number of points or automatic votes in the House. If the member tries at any point to leave the party, the member is removed from the House of Commons and the next person on the list is taken.

MPs from New Zealand understand very clearly that if they become a list member of Parliament, if they are subject to the anti-party jumping law as opposed to being constituency MPs, their freedom of action is greatly reduced. I know this from having met and chatted with a number of New Zealand members of Parliament about this when I was down there a few months ago.

However New Zealand has taken an additional step, which I pray will never occur here. The House of Representatives is allowing members to cast their vote even when they are absent. Those are all things we would not want to see in this House of Commons.

I want to add that there have been distinguished individuals who have crossed the floor on various occasions and have been re-elected, so there are cases where it is legitimate. Winston Churchill, who was first elected as a Conservative, crossed to the Liberals and served for over a decade as a Liberal member of Parliament. Indeed, he served as the first Sea Lord of the Admiralty during the first world war and then he re-crossed to the Conservative Party.

As members can see, there have occasions on which this has occurred and the individual member of Parliament was not punished by his or her constituents for doing so because they judged that it was the right thing to do.

These are very frequent occasions, more frequent than not, where someone crosses the floor and is punished by his or her constituents and loses his or her seat. Probably the most famous example of this is the example of Jack Horner who in 1977, as the member for Crowfoot in Alberta, crossed to the Liberal Party and joined the cabinet of Pierre Trudeau as a minister without portfolio and then became a minister of industry, trade and commerce. He went on in the 1979 election, despite having been prior to this an extraordinarily popular member of Parliament, to be defeated by more than 20,000 votes in his constituency. He attempted to come back in 1980 as a Liberal candidate but actually went down from his 1979 total. Punishment came for his action.

The option exists for the voters to deal with things in this way. It is possible one could design a system whereby there would be sort of a half-way house in between waiting for an election and the immediate byelection that would be proposed by my hon. colleague in this bill. One could, for example, say that we would allow, if there was genuine support for a byelection in the relevant riding, a byelection to occur and we could measure this by saying that if more than x % of the voters of that constituency sign a petition calling for a byelection to occur, that byelection will occur.

This idea was actually proposed about 10 years ago for Jag Bhaduria who had left the Liberal Party and was sitting as an independent. A petition was circulated in his riding and produced probably enough votes under any reasonable system to justify the byelection. However there was no system for allowing this and he wound up being defeated in the next election, which suggests that although justice was not as swiftly served in that case as it could have been, it was not unreasonable action.

The second concern I have is that I do not think this law would actually achieve its intended goal. I say this because parties are reasonably informal mechanisms. It is possible for an individual to sit as an independent but always vote with another party in the House of Commons providing all the de facto support necessary to ensure, for example, the survival of that government.

The hon. member for Newmarket—Aurora, for example, could have crossed, sat as an independent and voted nonetheless with the government on that critical vote a few months ago. As we all recall, there was an independent MP in the House, the late Chuck Cadman, who did not cross to the Liberals, but nonetheless had a vote that was just as effective in sustaining them in power, as was the vote of the member for Newmarket—Aurora. Therefore, the problem that is attempting to be addressed is not actually effectively addressed in the legislation.

I want to conclude by pointing out that I disagree with one characterization that the hon. member used in proposing his bill. He said that this House was not the no tell motel. Surely, when one crosses the floor this is not something done surreptitiously like checking into a motel room for a romantic liaison. It is something that happens very publicly. When someone makes the decision to cross the floor everyone knows about it. They will either reward the MP or punish the MP, as the case may be. As I have indicated, punishment occurs more frequently than reward, but it is certainly not something that happens in secret.

I believe the informal safeguards we have in place are the best ones and therefore I encourage members to vote against the bill when it comes up for a vote shortly.

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Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the debate on Bill C-251 comes at a time when the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is reflecting on a reform of our electoral system.

It is not the first time that the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has proposed such a measure. I can remember that he did it during the first session of the 37th Parliament. And before him, during the 36th Parliament, Bill C-265, dealing with the same issue, was rejected by the House.

For the benefit of those who are following our proceedings on the parliamentary channel, this bill can be summarized as follows: when a member decides to change political parties or allegiance, that member's seat is immediately deemed to be vacant and the Chair of this House has a duty to call an election. The same goes if an elected official who sits as an independent member in the House decides to join the ranks of a political party.

So, this bill targets those who, for all sorts of reasons, no longer feel comfortable in their political party and wish to join the ranks of another party that better reflects their values.

Need I remind my colleagues that this is how the Bloc Québécois came into being under the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney? Lucien Bouchard, my colleague from Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour and others were no longer comfortable within that party, which had become too narrow for them and for the legitimate aspirations of Quebec.

This bill raises some interesting questions. Subclause 30.1(1) of the bill makes reference to crossing the floor. How can this be defined?

In fact, there is nothing in this bill that clarifies this. Are we to understand that belonging to a political party is limited to political parties registered with the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada? What would become of the splinter groups that run candidates during an election, but do not get any members elected to this House? What does Bill C-251 do for a member that leaves his party and wants to give a voice to a party that is not already represented here, such as the Canadian Action Party, the Communist Party of Canada, the Marijuana Party, the Marxist Leninist Party or the Green Party, to name a few? The hon. member will agree that there would indeed be a change in the political landscape.

However, the bill allows a member elected under one party to leave its ranks and sit as an independent. This provision does not solve anything, since the member can choose to be recognized by the House of Commons as an independent, but can decide, following negotiations, to still support the positions of a certain party until a future election when he will seek office under the new label. Bill C-251 misses its target.

We refer to members who leave one political party to join another as “transfuges”. I want my colleagues to know that the Quebec National Assembly library has an entire series of documents or work on this subject. Bibliography No. 107, entitled Transfuges au sein des partis politiques describes what happens elsewhere, in no less than 15 countries.

There is also the work done in 1987 by Michel Rossignol, from the Library of Parliament, called Les transfuges à la Chambre et le système de parti .

It is my personal opinion that it is vital to address this phenomenon of changing parties, to understand the dynamics involved, its impact, and how frequent a phenomenon it is in this Parliament. That would be a worthwhile study. I know that changes of political affiliation are very common in countries like Brazil.

Hon. members will have figured out that we do not intend to support this bill. The reference tool of this House, Marleau and Montpetit, is unequivocal on the subject of the election of members and their role. Members must assume the responsibilities inherent in their status.

Ours is a central role, and a very important one; in a way we are the incarnation of direct democracy. We are elected directly by our constituents. Our own names are given on the ballot, not just the name of the party with which we are affiliated.

To quote Marleau and Montpetit:

Members sit in the House of Commons to serve as representatives of the people who have elected them to that office. They have wide-ranging responsibilities which include work in the Chamber, committees, their constituencies and political parties.

Besides participating in debates in the Chamber and in committees, and conveying their constituents’ views to the government and advocating on their behalf, Members also have responsibilities in many other areas:

They act as ombudsmen by providing information to constituents and resolving problems.

They act as legislators by either initiating bills of their own or proposing amendments to government and other Members’ bills.

They develop specialized knowledge in one or more of the policy areas dealt with by Parliament, and propose recommendations to the government.

They represent the Parliament of Canada at home and abroad by participating in international conferences and official visits.

So members assume the responsibilities that they were elected to undertake and for which they are paid by the House of Commons. The party to which they belong should not have the right to declare that “a member's election to the House is void”. We agree that this right of termination is legitimate, however, if the member has contravened legislation setting out the overriding code of conduct by which members exercise their parliamentary duties. This termination is not however the responsibility of the party but rather of the authorities of the House or the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada.

Is forcing a turncoat, defector or whatever you want to call them to resign equivalent to preserving the integrity of the electorate's decision? Perhaps at first glance, but we must still trust the public and the electorate. By voting, citizens are mandating someone to represent them and to speak on their behalf in the House of Commons. They turn to that individual; they hold him or her accountable.

We must give the benefit of doubt to the member who has such power, and who no longer feels able to use it properly within a given party. Assuming the individual to be acting in good faith, changing political party will allow him to better defend the interests of his constituents in Parliament. Voters will have the power to punish that person during a subsequent election if they do not approve of his decision.

By choosing to campaign for a political party, the member implicitly agrees with and shares the foundation and values of that party. If the party changes some of its policies with a new leader, if it changes its thrust politically, ethically, economically, constitutionally or whatever, the elected member still has the same responsibility, which is to put his constituents' needs above those of the party.

In conclusion, this bill further limits the political freedom of members who are, in our representative democracy, the foundation of our political system. The public elects the member; it must remain the only judge of his actions.

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Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was very honoured to be asked to second this bill. I would like to begin by recognizing and paying tribute to my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore for, if nothing else, the sheer perseverance that he demonstrates in pursuing what he views as an important democratic issue. He has done so consistently since I have known him. He tells me that since 1999 he has been fighting for this issue of basic democratic fairness. I have heard him talk about it since I came here in 1997. My hat is off to my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore. I think he is underestimated sometimes. He brings great value and ideas to the House of Commons more often than not.

Having said that, I support this idea. We have to stop this criss-crossing, cross dressing, floor crossing, whatever one wants to call it, that is going on around here. I have just about had it. We never know when we come to work in the morning where everybody is going to be sitting. My colleague called it musical chairs. It does a disservice to constituents, the very people who sent us here, to be this erratic. My colleague pointed out that the broadloom in the House of Commons is very expensive carpet and members are wearing it out criss-crossing the floor the way it has been going on lately. Somebody has to put a stop to it.

Some of us get this grandiose view of what is really important about our political system, as if the members of Parliament are what our democracy is all about. In actual fact, the heart and soul of our democratic system are the thousands and thousands of dedicated volunteers, canvassers, sign chairmen and fundraisers in all of our political parties who knock themselves out to send us here.

I am fully conscious of the honour it is every day to take my seat in the House of Commons to represent my riding of Winnipeg Centre. I am also very aware that my riding was made fertile ground for my party by somebody else, a man by the name of Stanley Knowles, who represented my riding for 42 years. In many cases the people who vote NDP in my riding are voting in the memory of Stanley Knowles, and not because of who I am. In other words, they are voting NDP; they are not necessarily voting for me as a person.

When I am sent here in that context, I will not show disrespect for that view by flip-flopping and crossing the floor. People do that out of self-interest more often than not. People do not usually cross the floor for some moral or ethical conflict with their party. They do it because somebody says, “I will make you a parliamentary secretary,” or “I will make you a minister,” or “Would you not rather sit in cabinet than sit on the backbenches of an opposition party?” That is why people do it and they show great disrespect and do a great disservice to our democratic system every time they do it.

My colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore has come up with a reasonable proposal. Maybe it is not as fine tuned as it could be and maybe it needs some tweaking and amending. That is what committees are for. I am taken aback to hear the opposition to this idea at this stage of debate. This is second reading stage. We could send this bill to committee for a thorough analysis and review if there is still work to be done on this subject.

On the basic principle, I could not agree with my colleague more. If I was sent here under one banner, that is the choice of the people of my riding. I should not have the right to arbitrarily and unilaterally show disrespect for their wishes and intentions by criss-crossing the floor.

In his opening speech my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore pointed out that there are four motivations that make people vote. Sometimes they cast their ballot in opposition to the other guy because they are angry with the guy who is currently there. A good chunk of people vote against something instead of for it. A good number of people vote because the leader of that party appeals to them. That determines votes for a lot of Canadians. A lot of people vote for the party because their parents voted for that party, or they themselves are active in that party. Probably number four on the list is that some vote for the individual because of who he or she is. That is the ranking of people's motivations in my experience.

As individuals let us get our heads around the fact that it is not about us as MPs. We are not that important, frankly. If a member turns his or her back on the party and the party machine in the riding that worked so hard to put the member into the House of Commons, then the member should have to sit as an independent until such time as a byelection or election gives the member the opportunity to cross over to another political party. And good luck. If the person can win the nomination for the other party, then the candidate would represent that party banner in that election.

It would be a clean system. The best thing about it is it would do away with all this hanky-panky that goes on behind the scenes now. There would not have been the recent taping incident that embarrassed all of us as parliamentarians because there would be no offers made, or accusations of offers being made. It would stop that kind of backroom dealing that so offends the sensibilities of Canadians when they learn about it. It would be one more improvement in the interests of transparency, accountability, democratic reform and improvement.

I am excited about the idea. I am surprised there was not more passion in the remarks from some of the other parties. This is an exciting idea. This is one of the most interesting things we have had to dwell on in recent memory in the debates of the House. It speaks to respect for our constituents. It speaks to eliminating borderline corruption associated with trying to buy somebody's electoral support by an offer of inducements.

Let me use my last remaining seconds to simply say that Bill C-251 would make Canada's parliamentary system better. My colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore deserves great credit and the gratitude of the House for bringing the bill forward today in his tireless effort to make this a better place for all of us to work in.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped from the order paper.

It being 1:56 p.m., this House stands adjourned until Monday, October 17, 2005, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1:56 p.m.)