House of Commons Hansard #152 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

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4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I must give my hon. colleague about a 9.8 on delivery. I do not think he needed the microphone to ask the question.

He talked about a number of issues. I cannot get to them all because I do not have time, but let me talk about one.

He asked why we have to wait for the second Gomery report. He might have asked that last year. I did not hear anybody complaining in May or June when the Prime Minister suggested that we should have both reports. Justice Gomery is working away right now. Is his work not valuable now? Are his recommendations not worthwhile to Canadians? I think Canadians think they are. Canadians want to know what Justice Gomery has to say. They have faith in Justice Gomery. Justice Gomery did his work when he brought forward the fact-finding piece of his job exonerating the Prime Minister of any wrongdoing or carelessness.

Canadians want to know what the next step is and how we should fix this. I suspect one of the reasons those members would like to go to an election is that some of the recommendations have already been implemented by this government.

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4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to my colleague's speech with interest. He reflects the mindset that has prevailed ever since this government has been in power. It has never accepted its minority position.

A minority government has to take the opinion of the House, and therefore of the other parties in that House, into consideration. Today, a practical solution has been proposed which would mean no election over the Christmas period. The only ones against that today have been the Liberals. Theirs is the only party that has voiced opposition to the proposal. All others are in favour.

We know that people need to see a change in government. In Quebec in particular, they want to see some sanction exercised on the behaviour of the Liberal Party of Canada. They will make their voices heard in the election held before, or after, the holiday season depending on the Liberal government's sense of compromise. That government, its Prime Minister in particular, is behaving as if it were still a majority government, and as if it would rather bang its head on the wall than listen to others' points of view.

When it comes down to it, are the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party of Canada not acting this way out of fear of losing power? Public opinion, particularly in Quebec, is strongly in favour of returning the Liberal Party of Canada to the opposition.

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November 17th, 2005 / 4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I did not sense a question in my colleague's remarks, but this gives me a chance to comment on the timing. I think the question of when we have an election matters to Canadians. As I said, it probably matters more than the extent to which they would actually be involved in an election. Most Canadians are not that involved. I do not think they want us knocking on their doors on Christmas Eve. They do not want us cluttering up the airwaves with the kinds of attack ads we have seen from the opposition parties in election campaigns recently. I do think it matters to Canadians.

What if we had not had a proposal? What if the Prime Minister of this country had not said to Canadians that he was telling us when we are going to have the next election, that he knew he had the right to call the election when he wanted to but he was giving up that right because he thought it was important enough to tell us that within 30 days of the release of Justice John Gomery's report we would go to the polls? He has given us that option.

People do not understand why we have to go through this whole process for four or six weeks, this political partisan rhetoric in this House. I think Canadians trust Justice John Gomery. Canadians want to know the truth. They want to know the final story and so does the Liberal Party.

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4:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia, Medicinal Marijuana; the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, National Defence; and the hon. member for Langley, the Environment.

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4:40 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address the House today on a very important motion. I wish to advise the House that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan.

This is one of the more important things that we will debate during the time and life of this minority government, for the simple reason that we are trying to find an agreement on when we can hold the election. Nothing can be more important to the life of a Parliament than its ending, because at that point, of course, all stops.

That is the whole issue. We are trying to prevent the grinding down of the House to the point where nothing happens. We will quickly get to that point if we do not find an agreement. We are almost there. We now have the Conservatives, the Bloc and the NDP in agreement through a process of compromise. It has been stated by MPs from each of those other two caucuses and our caucus that everybody indeed gave a little. It is the nature of compromise. For the most part, it is what makes Canada tick.

Here we are, in the most Canadian tradition, three-quarters of the way to a compromise that would meet all the requirements that everyone has, at least to the point that they could live with it. Everybody gets their main points and gives a little on a few other things.

The Gomery report was mentioned by the previous speaker. Our compromise today allows that to come out. People will have the Gomery report, part two, even though I would say with all due respect that I could not imagine members of a caucus in the House saying that they are going to disagree with any recommendation that Justice Gomery makes in part two. Notwithstanding that, it will still come out prior to election day. The Prime Minister said that was important. We disagreed with him on his point, but the compromise provides that part two of Gomery will be in the hands of voters before they go into the balloting booth. That meets one of the government's requirements.

More important, this compromise allows us to get through a number of bills that we have all agreed need to get through the House. As an example, I will mention Bill C-55. Again, it is not a perfect piece of legislation, but thanks to the work of my colleague from Winnipeg Centre, there are things in there that are definitely going to benefit working people. We are prepared to see that it gets through.

Now, with the amendment to it, I would hope that we are not going to get bogged down in voting procedures, but I hear that is possible. That would be a shame. It is an important bill. With the minor amendment, to which the government has agreed, we definitely will have moved the yardsticks forward, at least notionally.

It does not, however, address the issues that are contained in Bill C-281, the workers first bill. Again, it was introduced by my colleague from Winnipeg Centre. This is the bill that in the case of a bankruptcy takes pensions and puts them to the top of the list so that workers and the decades of work that they have done are not lost and they are the first ones to receive whatever money might be available afterward. The banks, the suppliers and the government right now stand in line ahead of the workers. Bill C-55 does not do what Bill C-281 would, but it will make some improvements if the common sense compromise that the opposition is putting forward today passes that bill.

Another example is Bill C-66, the energy rebates. I do not imagine there is anybody in the House who is opposed to the notion that we would try get some relief to those individuals and families who are in most need given what is happening to fuel prices and the fact that we are heading into a Canadian winter. That bill can pass under this compromise. There are two other bills that are equally important to other Canadians. I will not get into the details. They will pass the House under this compromise.

We might ask ourselves why it is not happening. I would have to say it goes to the same reason why there was a Gomery report in the first place and why there is a rage across the land. It is the arrogance of the current governing Liberal Party. It is pure arrogance.

The Prime Minister of the day does not have the support of almost two-thirds of Canadians and almost two-thirds of the House, yet the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party believe that under their culture of entitlement they are entitled to govern as if they were almost imperial. They are there and there they shall stay, they believe.

All we are asking is for a little humility and a little compromise and for them to recognize the fact that even though they have been driving around in the limos for a dozen years without a break, in the last election the party that is currently in power was not returned with a majority. The people of Canada sent that party a message. The problem is that the Prime Minister will not listen to that message. He will not listen to Canadians. He will not listen to other parliamentarians. He will not listen to anyone except other Liberals and their strategists, who, by the way, are still doing quite well in Canada, thanks very much.

Notwithstanding Gomery, and I am not suggesting there is anything wrong, but boy it did raise the eyebrows when we saw another article today about another contract to Mr. David Herle, who is with Decima Research, to do work for the recent mini-budget.

I will just say parenthetically that what is interesting is the fact that the limit for having to go to tender is $25,000. Under that, contracts do not have to go to tender. Is that not interesting? It is pure coincidence, I am sure.

I am absolutely certain it is a mere coincidence that even though $25,000 is the limit, Mr. Herle managed to just tuck underneath at $23,112. Therefore, there was no need to bother going out to ask anyone else if they might want some of that work. The government can continue to give it to whom? To the key strategist for the Liberal Party of Canada. It does not stop.

The Prime Minister and the Liberal Party ask what the difference is. Eight weeks, they say, and they ask why the opposition is getting all cranked up about this. We are very concerned about continuing to give the keys to the Challenger jets and the limos and all the other perks and tools of office to a party that clearly is prepared to use Canadians' money for their own partisan purposes. We want to bring it to a halt. We think that Canadians want to bring all of this to a halt, but we will let the election decide that part of it.

It has been mentioned that this is somehow unconstitutional, that we are doing this horrible thing to the traditions of Parliament, that it is terrible what we are doing in breaking with tradition and almost being illegal in what we are doing.

First of all, let us make the record very clear. It has already been mentioned that a challenge to this motion was placed this morning. By whom? Let us ask ourselves who would challenge it. Oh, right, the Liberals. They challenged it and tried to deny this motion even coming to the floor. The Speaker ruled that it was entirely in order. Nothing that we are talking about right now vis-à-vis this motion is out of order.

As for the issue of the constitutionality of what we are attempting to do, I am not a parliamentary expert, but I was the Deputy Speaker in the Ontario legislature and I have some notion of how the rules of Parliament run. I have to say that when the Prime Minister stands up and makes a public commitment to a particular date or time period for an election, that is all it is. He does not have to follow that. The Prime Minister can change his mind any time he wants. There is nothing to hold him to that. There is no constitutional trigger, no legal lock-in, to this position. It is just that the Prime Minister has said that he is going to have this election sometime in the early spring.

All we are asking is that it be recalibrated. All we are asking is that the Prime Minister stand up and say that in the interests of Parliament, out of respect for the minority Parliament Canadians sent here, out of respect for the need to get these bills through, out of respect for the first ministers conference with the aboriginal leaders, out of respect for all those things, he is prepared to revise the date on which he said he would call the election, at which point he will trigger his constitutional authority and ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament and issue the writs for an election. That is all.

It is not a big parliamentary deal, but it does seem to be a big personal deal for the Prime Minister. We are asking, we are imploring, we are pleading, and we are demanding that the Prime Minister of the day respect the majority of the House and the majority of the country. We are demanding that the Prime Minister give us an election timeframe that we can all live with, that is fair to everyone, and gets the important business of this House done. That is a good common sense compromise.

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4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to my colleague's very passionate speech. In fact, we could hear him even unmiked in the lobby. In connection with his remarks, “It's not a big deal, we plead with”, I am drawn to ask my colleague a question.

People are being described as lacking moral authority. I am a new MP and I am hearing remarks that are completely off the wall from some of my colleagues in this House. It is a serious thing to say a government has lost moral authority. At the same time they say, “not right away, we are just putting you in the Dead Man Walking category”. That is the context. However, they lack the courage to put a gun to its head to bring this dysfunctional Parliament to an end.

In my opinion, the speeches are rather hypocritical. They say that there is a fine agreement here and there, but we are good enough to adopt certain bills, which are not as bad as all that, coming from a Parliament and a government lacking moral authority. The remarks are both hypocritical and contradictory.

I would like to hear from my colleague on this. How can they be prepared to support the bills of a government that has no moral authority? How can all that simply be put to one side. I am curious to hear what the member has to say.

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4:55 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member taking the time to listen. At least the member said she heard me in the back lobby. The question though is whether other members were listening. That is the real issue. They may hear, but are they listening?

The member's question basically was asking me if I am a hypocrite by virtue of the nature of what I said. My answer would be that if there is any hypocrisy happening here, it has to be around a Prime Minister saying that one of his most important priorities, one of the sole purposes for him wanting to be the Prime Minister, is to address the democratic deficit. Then, by the same token, he turns around and denies, in a minority Parliament situation, an opportunity for all of the caucuses to work together in the interests of Canadians. To me, that is the final definition of hypocrisy.

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4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his comments. They are quite appropriate to the situation.

The Prime Minister says he wants to govern this country. In my riding, I have three major issues: a forest industry that is in very serious trouble, an agricultural situation that is absolutely depressing, and Saskatchewan quite literally is getting the short end of the stick by a mile and a half on equalization.

I would suggest to the Minister of Finance that he should probably talk to a real estate lawyer and do a basic statement of adjustments to find out how phoney his math is on this issue in that province.

Where is the Prime Minister? What is the Prime Minister doing? He says he wants to govern the country. He is in South Korea. That is, I believe, the 14th international trip by the Prime Minister in the space of 12 months. He wants to govern and I wish he would govern. We have pressing issues in my riding, desperate issues that need to be addressed by the government, but what is the Prime Minister doing? His urgent priority is to go to South Korea.

I wonder if the member opposite could provide some commentary about the Prime Minister's interest in dealing with the issues that are really important to Canadians in this country and really address--

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4:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Hamilton Centre.

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4:55 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for taking the time to rise and ask the question.

All of us remain totally perplexed by the messages that come out. On the one hand, the government House leader and the Prime Minister continue to say they want to get something done. They want to work with Parliament. As the member has noted, they want to continue governing. What better opportunity, in a minority situation, to actually sit down with the leaders of the opposition party and try to come to an agreement?

The history has been that the ministers each of us have been dealing with have been fairly good about giving us briefing sessions on what they are doing. However, there has never really been a mindset on the part of the Liberals, as government, that they no longer can make whatever decisions they want by virtue of the imperial rule that a majority gives them. They have never really understood that in a minority government, they have to work with others. They have to get along with the other kids in the playground.

There has been no desire on the part of the government to work together. Is it any surprise? If I had a concern going into this, one of them would be that the Liberals might actually look more agreeable than they have been all along and turn the tables, but they could not even step down from their arrogance long enough to see that.

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5 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank the member for Hamilton Centre for sharing his time with me and I want to begin by echoing something that the member said.

One of the elders from the Cowichan tribes in my riding has expressed a concern over the years about how often we talk and how we do not listen. He said, “I know you can hear me, but are you listening?” In the great tradition of Parliament, we have often thought that this was a place for debate, discussion, the exchange of ideas and thoughts, and sometimes for compromise.

I want to put compromise in the context of the kind of language that is important for parliamentarians to bring to this discussion. According to the Oxford English dictionary, compromise is a coming to terms or arrangement of a dispute by concessions on both sides; partial surrender of one's position for the sake of coming to terms; the concession or terms offered by either side.

It seems that is what we are talking about when we talk about compromise today. We are talking about various parties coming together and coming up with a solution that will work for all Canadians, not just for one particular group who are desperate to hang onto power for however many days they can do that.

In the tradition of other great parliamentarians, I want to quote from Lester B. Pearson's Nobel acceptance speech. This is a good reminder of the kind of tradition that we have the opportunity to bring here, the kind of discussion and debate that we could have the opportunity to engage in. Mr. Pearson said:

In his response to the situations he has to meet as a person, the individual accepts the fact that his own single will cannot prevail against that of his group or his society. If he tries to make it prevail against the general will, he will be in trouble. So he compromises and agrees and tolerates.

It seems to me we have 37% of the House unwilling to compromise. We have 37% of the House unwilling to tolerate the kind of discussion that brings another view to the table, that says there are important issues before the House right now that we want to clear up. There are important issues such as Bill C-55, Bill C-66, and the first ministers and aboriginal meeting next week.

These are important issues that we are willing to stay at the table and work together on to ensure that these issues are passed satisfactorily for Canadians. This is an opportunity for the House to demonstrate its goodwill in meeting the needs of Canadians.

Let me briefly speak about Bill C-66. We are coming up to wintertime. We have snowflakes falling in Ottawa as I speak. This is an important bill to ensure that Canadians who are the least advantaged and who are at most risk in our world have access to the benefits that are available under Bill C-66. I would urge all members to look at this very good compromise solution that has been offered by the NDP and work hard together to pass this important piece of legislation.

We have heard much talk over the last several months about democratic deficit. We have heard the Prime Minister talk about how important it is for the government and for all parties to look at electoral reform. The member for Ottawa Centre put a very good proposal before the House. We thought we had a commitment to move forward on electoral reform that would make a difference on how each and every one of us behaved in the House, and how each and every citizen was represented in the House. Have we had any action? None. We are still waiting for that process to be put in place.

The reason I specifically wanted to talk about electoral reform is because the very premise of having electoral reform, a proportional representation system in the House, would mean that every one of us would have to come to the House with a willingness and a tolerance for compromise. It would be the very foundation of working together around a collaborative consensus kind of a way. It would be the very foundation of ensuring each and every Canadian voice was heard when members voted.

It would be the very foundation of working together around a collaborative consensus kind of a way. It would be the very foundation of making sure each and every Canadian voice was heard when they voted.

We have had a Prime Minister who has thumbed his nose at electoral reform. He has thumbed his nose at the democratic deficit and it appears that he will thumb his nose at this very sensible compromise that the House has proposed, a compromise that would allow us to clear the business, avoid a holiday election, avoid Liberal campaigning at taxpayer expense in January and have us go to the polls in February. That seems like a very excellent compromise.

I want to talk a bit more about electoral reform and how important it is for the House to address this democratic deficit. Many of us are very well aware of the fact that only 65 out of the about 300 seats in this House are held by women. We know from studies that have been all over the world that electoral reform increases the equality of representation in our democratic systems. Again, we had this opportunity to do this. Have we had any action? Absolutely not. The Prime Minister has not said one about moving forward on these kinds of initiatives.

In these last days, whether there is other action that happens over this next couple of weeks or whether we reach our natural conclusion in the middle of December, we have heard much talk over this last couple of days about how the sky is falling. We have heard much talk from the government, the Liberal benches, about how if we do not do this the world will come to an end and if we do not do that the world will come to an end. The Liberals have been around for 12 years and all of a sudden, with a few weeks left in the sitting of the House, all of this business is going to be done at the very last minute. I am shocked.

The Liberals have had 12 years to get on with this kind of business. We have had 18 months for the Liberals to get on with this kind of business and we still wait.

Today I met with the National Farmers Union and they were talking about the kinds of issues that must be taken care of in the next 10 days. I asked them how long the discussion had been going on. It has been eight years that we have been talking about these very important issues for farmers and in the last week the deal is coming very close to fruition.

What has been happening for the last 7 years and 51 weeks? All of a sudden the deal is coming to a conclusion. What a miracle. Of course it is just before Christmas and perhaps miracles do happen at this time of year, but it seems like there are so many miracles that are happening all of a sudden.

It is beyond belief that the work that could have been done over the last 12 years has not been accomplished. We still do not have enough affordable housing in the country. We still have women who do not qualify for employment insurance. We still have women who are living on substandard wages because of the Canada pension plan that does not recognize their needs. We still have farmers who do not have a decent income. We still do not have any resolution to the softwood lumber issue and many other issues, such as the BSE. I could go on and on about the failure of the government to meet its commitments to the Canadian people.

Why would we now not come to this compromise solution that would allow us to finish the business that is currently before the House, go into an election that misses the Christmas period and give Canadians a chance to talk about the kind of government they want, the kind of solutions that the NDP brings forward, of government that truly puts the interests of Canadians first.

We talk about the common sense compromise which is actually predicated on the fact that people are willing to come to the table and talk to each other. It is predicated upon the fact that we listen to people in a meaningful way and that we are willing to take our agendas and park them at the door to really work on solutions in the interests of all Canadians.

However we can see that is not been what has been before us. I would urge all members of this House to support the motion that is before the House today so we can give Canadians an opportunity to see the business concluded, enjoy Christmas with their families and then call an election in January.

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5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her speech. The member is one of the people with whom I had my first interview when I arrived here in Parliament. We had in fact both just been elected in the last election on June 28, 2004.

I remember some of the things she said, and some of the similar things I said. Since we had not had a minority government for a quarter of a century, we thought that this was a splendid opportunity for this Parliament to work cooperatively together.

There has been cooperation. I am somewhat surprised at the tenor of her speech. She seems to be telling all Canadians, incorrectly, that the government is refusing to compromise because it is refusing to go along with this game proposed in the NDP’s motion. As far as I know, the NDP succeeded in the spring in getting certain budgetary principles across to the government. So there have been compromises in this Parliament. There have also been less positive moments, on the other hand. There have been exchanges in which things have at times been said that are, I hope, regretted.

I have a question to ask my colleague. Is it not true that the compromise that we would like to see here is based not so much on substance as strictly on a question of procedure?

It surprises me that this would come from the NDP, the New Democratic Party. There seems to be a desire to impose on us new rules as far as democracy is concerned, in fact, the way in which a Parliament ends. From what I have always understood—and she may wish to correct me on this—there were two ways to achieve this. The government could decide when the election would be called or, in the case of a minority government, the opposition parties would lose confidence, they would simply declare that they had lost confidence and were leaving.

Is this apparent desire to invent a new procedure not rather an attempt to conceal the fact that, on the NDP side, they want to go to an election, but they lack the courage to do so immediately?

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5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I need to say that compromise does not only happened once. Compromise is an ongoing process where parties can learn to work together as issues emerge.

When we are talking about substance versus procedure, the Prime Minister already talking about an election date in the spring. Circumstances have now changed somewhat. We can now revisit that and compromise as new information is provided to the House by the second Gomery report. This would be an opportunity to take a look at this new piece of information. If the situation has changed it would give Parliament an opportunity to suggest a new election date in the spirit of compromise.

We have talked about health care over the last couple of weeks. We offered up a compromise solution but the Liberals would not come to the table in a meaningful way to save health care. We want to stop the creeping privatization of health care. It was just another way of not having that kind of thing happen.

When we talk about a minority Parliament and the opportunity to make it work in a different way, all parties must come to the table for that happen. It means that we must be willing to dialogue in a different way and that has not happened. That is why we have ended up in the situation that we are in today.

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5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for my colleague across the aisle.

It is amazing to see how afraid the Liberal ministers are these days. First I saw the Minister of Foreign Affairs afraid that he would not be participating in the WTO meeting. Then the Minister of the Environment is afraid that he will not be going to the conference on the environment in Montreal. The Prime Minister is also afraid—the great Prime Minister who travels. The last time that a Prime Minister travelled like this, his name was Brian Mulroney, it was in 1984, and we all know what happened. Judging by the way the Prime Minister is travelling, there could be change in the air.

I would just like to ask my colleague: if these ministers are so worried and nervous, would the normal thing not be for them to accept the NDP proposal and keep to their program, do their work, and allow Quebeckers and Canadians to have a good holiday season. We will be waiting for them afterwards, to defeat them.

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5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order, please. It being 5:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

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