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.

Topics

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member opposite a question. I realize that not all issues can be covered in budgets and certainly some things are overlooked, but perhaps he could enlighten the House as to what plans the government has.

There is an issue we should be aware of in our own ridings too and that is the issue of autism. The Autism Society is presently on the Hill. One of the concerns recently was about a small boy in New Brunswick who was actually put into a prison because there were no facilities in New Brunswick nor in all of Canada while he was awaiting transfer to an American institution.

I would like the member, if possible, to advise what the government is doing or planning on doing on the issue of autism to bring awareness and address concerns across Canada for facilities and proper and appropriate treatment for people with autism.

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Edmonton East has done a lot of work on the issue of autism. He is correct. I have met people in my constituency in New Brunswick, different community groups and parents who are concerned. Members of my own family are affected by this terrible condition.

That is why I was pleased that the government invested so much money in the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, for example. It increased the budget massively for this important agency, which grants money to important research projects, including in the field of autism. It is working with the provinces and community groups. It has increased funding for provincial health departments to $41 billion, a very important investment in health care.

By working with the provinces and health care providers, we can make great progress on what is a very important issue to all of us in the House and certainly to the families of those who are afflicted by this condition.

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1:30 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader talk about all the accomplishments in Atlantic Canada. We were very pleased to have the renewed funding of ACOA. The Atlantic innovation fund allows universities, small businesses and communities to work together on innovations. There is also the small craft harbours. We have had good increases in the budget. In the last five years we have been working toward a budget which would show a huge increase investing directly into the future sustainability of those communities. A member mentioned the EI fund. We have been able to accomplish a lot.

It would be regrettable that we would lose that because of a sudden diving in by the socialists into the unholy alliance of the opportunists and the separatists and we could not continue to work on those things.

The member spoke about people being frozen out of work. There are tax incentives to get people into the workforce, people who are partially employed or who are in difficulty.

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1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, the member for West Nova has also been a great advocate for some of these important investments in Atlantic Canada.

He referred to ACOA. I neglected to mention, and I am glad he reminded us of the important reinvestment that the government made, for example, in the Atlantic investment partnership. There is the innovative communities fund that he and I hope will continue the great work of the previous SCIF program in investing in small rural communities in Atlantic Canada. This is the kind of initiative we should not lose.

The member is a former minister of ACOA and former minister of fisheries and oceans. He did great work in improving the quality of our harbour infrastructure across the country. The small craft harbours program, when he was minister, received a major boost in funding. That is the kind of thing that members should work on constructively together.

Forcing a premature election would mean that some of these important investments would be jeopardized by a mad rush to the polls to satisfy a narrow partisan interest instead of thinking of the well-being and the best interests of our constituents.

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1:30 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Today is one of those days where Canadians could be forgiven for saying how difficult it is sometimes to discern the truth of what is going on in Parliament when we are treated to the kind of Orwellian doublespeak we have had from the government today with respect to our motion. It has been extremely amusing, but at a more profound level, sad to hear government members arguing against our motion on the basis that they want to do the very thing that our motion permits them to do. Now if that is not Orwellian doublespeak, I do not know what is.

The only options before this Parliament are either a non-confidence motion in the next little while which would make it impossible for the Liberals to do all the things they say they want to do, or an acceptance on their part of the compromise which is on the floor of the House of Commons now, which would make it possible for legislation to be passed. It would allow us to proceed to the Christmas break. It would allow us to have the supplementary estimates passed. It would allow the first ministers and first nations conference to be held without any distractions. It would allow the government to proceed to the Kyoto conference. It would allow the government to proceed to the WTO meetings in Hong Kong. It would allow for all of that without any parliamentary or electoral distraction.

All that is possible. All that is on the table here today in this motion, but have we had any substantive response to why that is such a bad idea? Instead, the government has been asking Canadians to believe that somehow by putting forward this proposal that would make all those things possible, it is we who are making those things impossible. If that does not take the cake, I do not know what does.

The only argument the government seems to have is that the Prime Minister made a promise at one point that he would call the election after the Gomery report. We already have the main Gomery report. We have the report that details the way in which the Liberal Party as an institution was found to be responsible for a great deal of corruption in Quebec. The second Gomery report is about what to do about that. But the Prime Minister said he made a promise. This is very interesting too, because I have never known the Prime Minister to be so attached to a promise in his life. Promise after promise, if we go back to the Liberal red book in 1993, which the Prime Minister helped author when he was on the other side of the House, we could spend all day articulating the promises that were made at that time which have not been kept. Yet this is the one promise that the Prime Minister will stand or fall on.

It is not a promise to the Canadian people. It is part of the Liberal strategy to have the election in a context where Parliament has not been sitting for a couple of months, when the Liberal Party will be able to campaign with the aid of the public purse, fly around the country and make all kinds of announcements without any accountability in Parliament. More time will have passed between the first Gomery report that indicts the Liberal Party and election day, and more time will have passed between the second Gomery report. It is pretty transparent. This is actually the only transparent thing the Liberal Party has ever done, but the Liberals are trying very hard to make it opaque, to make it non-transparent, to make it not obvious what they are up to.

It could have been otherwise. Obviously my Conservative colleagues have been anxious for a long time to have an election. They are quite open about that. They tried to bring this Parliament to an end on May 19. They would have had a non-confidence motion by now if things had been configured the way they wanted them to be configured in order to put forward a non-confidence motion.

But what have the New Democrats been up to in this House? First of all, we have tried to make this Parliament work. We have a history that stretches beyond this particular Parliament of trying to make minority Parliaments work. That is what we did in the spring when we went to the government and said that if it wanted to amend its budget in such a way as to meet what we think are the legitimate needs of the Canadian people as we understand them, we were prepared to keep this Parliament alive and to make more work possible. Because we think that frankly this is what Canadians want us to do and I think we have been vindicated in that. I do not think any of us, or very few of us indeed, have the impression that Canadians are wandering around regretting that there was not an election in the spring.

So we come to this fall. Conservatives are still wanting to bring the government down and New Democrats, day after day in this House, are asking the government what it is going to do on ethics, whether it is going to accept our ethics package or the Conservative ethics package or its own ethics package. New Democrats are asking whether the Liberals are going to do something to clean up the cronyism and the corruption that is so rampant in the political culture of entitlement that they themselves have created.

We have had no answers, just self-congratulation, breast-beating and the usual parliamentary junk when we ask these questions.

We even had a process on electoral reform. If members recall, this was critical to us in the last election. We had hoped that out of this minority Parliament some form of electoral reform would happen. There was a process with which the hon. member for Ottawa Centre was very involved. In the end, what happened? The Liberals killed it. It is not going any farther.

The Liberals see everything through such partisan glasses that they will not even consider proportional representation, but I ask them to just think about what a different kind of Parliament it would be if, for instance, we had proportional representation in Quebec. We would not have to worry about the first past the post system sending us nothing but separatists in the next election. If the federalists had 45% or 50% of the vote in Quebec, we would have 45% or 50% federalist MPs from Quebec. Would that not be an improvement? Would we not have a different kind of Parliament? Not for the Liberals, though, no, sorry, they are still holding out hope that they can rule the country with 37% of the vote.

We have put forward some other proposals. We asked the Liberals why they would not do something on health care. We put a proposal to them to try to stop the growing privatization of our health care system. We have people on the record supporting what we were asking for, people like Roy Romanow, the head of the royal commission on health care, thus validating what we were asking the Liberals for. Did they agree? No.

At some point it became untenable for us. We do not mind keeping a Parliament working if it is working, but we could no longer countenance keeping a Parliament working and supporting and expressing confidence in a government that so clearly did not deserve it.

But we also knew that Canadians did not want a Christmas election and we also knew that there were some things happening on the floor of the House of Commons here in terms of legislation already on the order paper having to do with relief for energy costs, protecting wages in the event of bankruptcy and a couple of other things. So we said, “All right, let us try again to make things work”.

Instead of having to choose between a non-confidence motion here and now and the Prime Minister's plan, we said, let us bring forward this motion in which Parliament will express an opinion about when the next election should be held, that it should be called in January for mid-February, and then all the things that the Liberals want to do can happen. The only thing they cannot do is campaign in January when no one else can campaign and do that on the public purse.

This is not a non-confidence motion. It is not non-confidence lite. It is not unconstitutional. It is not unparliamentary. The Prime Minister himself legitimized the notion of saying when the next election will be held when he himself said that he would call the election at a certain date.

All we are saying is that Parliament is entitled to an opinion, just like the Prime Minister is, about when that next election will take place. Parliament is going to express that opinion. Parliament will say to the Prime Minister, “Have the election called in early January for mid-February”.

The Prime Minister will have to decide whether he wants to reject the will of Parliament, to repudiate the will of Parliament, and at the same time and in so doing make impossible all the things his members today say they want done. At the same time, the Prime Minister will reject the will of Parliament and show that all his talk about the democratic deficit and making this place more democratic is a complete fraud.

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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is a learned parliamentarian. I am aware he does know the rules and the Constitution very well. This morning the leader of the NDP said that Liberals do not have the right to determine when they should be judged. Would the member like to comment on whether or not the Prime Minister has the constitutional authority to go to the Government General any day to dissolve the House and call an election?

Having dealt with that point, the member first of all has confirmed that this is not a confidence motion. I think everybody has agreed. The member has then very eloquently made this enormous case that we should follow the will of Parliament, that the will of Parliament is to call an election during the first week of January for February 13.

Now for my question. If that is the case, then why is it that the three parties whose will he wants us to follow have entered into an agreement that next week, a week from today, they are going to bring forward a non-confidence motion that would have an election earlier than the motion they are bringing forward today? They cannot have it both ways. Which is it?

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1:40 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has a problem--

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1:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

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1:40 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB

I am being heckled by the Tories, Mr. Speaker. I do not understand it, but it is all right, I feel better.

The Liberal who raised this point has a problem with time and space. There is a chronology here. We are creating the possibility here today of not having a Christmas election. That is the choice before the member today. Of course, if the Liberals were to do the right thing, they would say, “Fair enough. We want to get the first ministers and first nations conference over. We want to get these four or five pieces of legislation through. We want to get to the supplementary estimates. We want to go to the WTO and the Kyoto conference and everything else. So we are going to accept the NDP compromise”.

It is not just the NDP compromise anymore. It is a compromise that was reached because the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Bloc Québécois were willing to come together and see what could be done in the interests of all these things that the Liberals say they are interested in. But, no, oh no, says the hon. member. I am a little surprised by him. I guess he just cannot suppress this sort of partisan behaviour. Normally he is a thoughtful enough person, thoughtful enough that he would not try to stand up and defend the government on this because he does not defend the government on everything.

Instead we have this false choice being put before the Canadian people. If the government does not accept this motion today, if the Liberals vote this down next Monday when the vote takes place on this motion, they are the ones who will be precipitating a Christmas election. Those are the two choices: what is before us today or a Christmas election.

As for the idea of allowing the Prime Minister to simply do whatever he wants, even though he has the constitutional right to do that and I do not dispute that, we have constitutional rights to do all kinds of things in this country. But there is such a thing as consultation, respecting Parliament and trying to see what would be in the best interests of the country. I am sorry, but does the Constitution trump all those things? I think not.

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1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, would the hon. member comment on the government's suggestion that an early election would put in jeopardy what has been promised by the Prime Minister for aboriginals, the very same people who have been boiling water for nine years?

The government suggests that an election would jeopardize pay raises for soldiers, the very same people who have been going to food banks to try to subsidize their living.

The Liberals say that with an election the WTO negotiations would be jeopardized. This is the same issue as Kyoto, which we do not still have anything for.

Would the hon. member agree that common sense would suggest that any government would be better than this government because we would get it done?

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1:45 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the only thing I am convinced of is that an NDP government would be better than this government.

With respect to the first nations and first ministers conference, even now we are trying to do the very thing that the Liberals say they are trying to do but are actually putting in danger. With the sequence of motions in the House, the postponement of the vote until Monday, and the subsequent non-confidence motion--assuming the Liberals do not come to their senses and respect the wish of Canadians that there not be a Christmas election--even then we are trying to have things happen in a way such that the first ministers and first nations conference will not be put in any kind of jeopardy.

We are doing our best. It is the government that is playing chicken with all of these things. I think the Liberals think this looks good on them, how the Prime Minister does not take orders from anybody, but of course that is the problem. The Liberals never take orders or suggestions or advice or recommendations on anything from anybody and that is why Canadians are fed up with them.

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1:45 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, perhaps it would be useful at this point in the debate to remind members of Parliament and Canadians watching the debate what exactly is the motion before the House.

One would think, based on some of the comments from Liberal members, that we are dealing with some ridiculous, weird idea, when in fact we are dealing with a motion that says:

That, in the opinion of this House, during the week of January 2, 2006, the Prime Minister should ask Her Excellency the Governor General of Canada to dissolve the 38th Parliament and to set the date for the 39th general election for Monday, February 13, 2006; and

That the Speaker transmit this resolution to Her Excellency the Governor General.

We have before us a very reasonable proposition, a constructive, common sense proposal to deal with a stalemate in the House. It would deal with a very difficult situation, that being the loss of confidence by the majority of members in the House, by three out of four political parties in the House, a loss of confidence in the government of the day, and a desire to go to the polls as soon as possible.

In the motion is a recognition that Canadians would prefer that we not conduct an election during the upcoming holidays. Canadians would also prefer that we complete the pressing work of the House that has been long promised and can be completed expeditiously.

Canadians want to see us keep our commitment to first nations people. They want us to be present at the Kyoto accord discussions, but they also want an election.

This proposal is merely an attempt to accommodate the wishes of Canadians, which is to have an election as soon as possible, but not at a time when it interferes with a very spiritual time in the lives of Canadians. Is that so much to ask?

We have just heard from the dean of the House, the member for Elmwood—Transcona, a member who knows the rules of this place inside and out, a constitutional expert, a parliamentary affairs expert, and a man of great wisdom. He has presented to us a rationale for this motion that makes sense.

Why do we go on with the rest of the day? Are the Liberals not yet prepared to say “uncle”? I do not hear anything. Maybe it is time that they said “uncle” and let this debate come to an end. Let the government show that it is prepared to do what is right, what is reasonable, and show compassion, cooperation and compromise. That, in essence, is all we are talking about.

Three parties in the House from very disparate points of view have come together to compromise, cooperate and show compassion. All we are asking is for the government, the fourth party, the Liberal Party in the House, to join with us in accepting and agreeing to the wishes of Canadians.

As has been identified by so many speakers before me, this is not a party or a government that practices compromise. This is a party and a government that practices obsessive behaviour. This is a party that has, over the years, refused to compromise on so many important issues. It is perhaps more understandable today to see the Liberals refuse to compromise on such a common sense, practical and reasonable solution to a very difficult situation.

We have seen the Prime Minister's obsessive style at work before. Many have referred to different examples. We could talk about any number of issues. Perhaps most directly would be the number he did on the former Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien. Clearly, this is not a man who compromises.

However, that does not mean we ought not to try because his colleagues around him may have some sense of the need to compromise because they are hearing the voices of Canadians. They know the importance of respecting the wishes of their citizens and constituents.

This country was built on the values of cooperation, compromise and compassion. Surely, if anything, those should be the values at play in this chamber. Surely, that is the art of politics and is what encourages people to participate in the democratic process. Surely, those are the values that in fact deal with the Prime Minister's so-called obsession with the notion of a democratic deficiency in this Parliament and in the country.

The real question for us today is why the government does not want to accept such a reasonable compromise? Is it that the Liberals do not want a winter election? We have heard that. Many have been on the news saying they would not want to be out there asking people to go to the polls in the winter. As so many of my colleagues have pointed out, the Prime Minister's own proposal, his original proposal last February 14, called for an election in the dead of winter. Remember that he promised that the election would be called 30 days after the delivery of Judge Gomery's report that was expected on December 14. We would have been in an election anyway, in the dead of winter. That is not an argument and it is not an excuse.

Could it be that this is an attempt to distract voters from the issues pertaining to the sponsorship scandal? Is it perhaps an attempt by the Liberals to play the work of a magician and focus our attention on something other than the stark realities of the Gomery report?

We know that the Prime Minister has come out of the Liberal sponsorship swamp with muck all over his boots. He wants more time to wipe it off before he stands on Canadians' doorsteps asking for their vote. He should know that it will take more than eight weeks, or 18 weeks, to get rid of the stench. The Liberals should borrow their election campaign motto from Shakespeare. Would it not make sense if they used the words, “Out, damned spot!”? I think that would be a very appropriate election slogan for the Liberals right about now.

There is the question, the real possibility, as my colleagues have said, that in fact the government is only rejecting this proposal, so that it has more time to buy the votes of Canadians, so that it has more time to campaign at public expense using the Challenger and other means of communication and transportation, and to bring goodies to the doorsteps of each and every Canadian across the country.

We certainly saw that already this week in the so-called economic update, really a budget, which managed to spread around about $39 billion in Liberal election promises. That is over the next five years. By their own calculations, the update says that the Liberals have kept back an additional $15.5 billion in planning surplus from the anticipated surplus over the next five years.

I guess we all wonder what the Liberals have planned for the final run up to the election. It does not take much imagination to guess how much of that remaining $15.5 billion will be left on election day. Does the Prime Minister really think Canadians are gullible enough to believe his explanation?

If we consider Monday the first day of the Liberal campaign, here we are on day four. It is day four since the Liberal election campaign formally launched itself at the finance committee of this Parliament, and we saw how the Liberals are at it again.

It is election eve and here comes the finance minister pretending to be Santa in a pinstriped suit with a huge sack of goodies, something for everyone and each one tagged from the Liberal Party of Canada. Do not open until voting day of course because they are all IOUs. They are Liberal promises because they are really part of an election platform, not an economic update at all. But in the world of Santa, reality is not all that important. It is all about winning.

Liberal wins do not build houses or purify drinking water or end child poverty. Canadians are still waiting to redeem Liberal promises from elections past. Yes, Canadians remain wary indeed that we do not again end up, the day after the election, looking through the window at a banker's feast with just a chunk of coal in our stockings. Canadians ask this government to accept this reasonable, responsible, and common sense compromise. Let us get on with it.

Ramadan
Statements By Members

November 17th, 2005 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, Eid-ul-Fitr is one of the major festivals in the Islamic faith and is celebrated after the month of Ramadan during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown.

Fasting during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendars, is one of the five pillars Islam. For Muslims around the world, Ramadan is a month of blessing marked by prayer, fasting and charity. It is also an opportunity for the social and cultural dialogue enabling Muslims from countries around the world to interact and to develop better relations between all of us.

Tonight we have the celebration that all members have been invited to and I call on all members to join in this celebration, again to celebrate the cultural and religious diversity of our great country, Canada.

Health
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is both with honour as well as sadness that I rise in the House today, honour because I am representing the people of my riding in Cambridge, and sadness because yet again I am sickened by the incompetence of the Liberal government.

In April of this year I seconded a motion granting immediate compensation for all hepatitis C victims and it passed unanimously. The minister and that party over there ignored it. So much for democratic reform.

That health minister is ineffective and incapable of acting in the best health interest of a small group of Canadians, let alone the entire nation. His dithering on this issue is nothing short of scandalous. The money is there, Parliament has approved it and the victims need it.

It is that party over there, the Liberal Party, that has destroyed health care in this country and allowed privatization to flourish. This is its hidden agenda.

CKTB Radio
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to congratulate CKTB Radio on its 75th anniversary which was celebrated on November 7, 2005.

Indeed, CKTB has come a long way since its modest beginning in St. Catharines, Ontario on the second floor of the Welland House Hotel in 1930 when it was founded by Edward T. Sandall.

Over the years the radio station has expanded from a small remote station to a communications leader in the Niagara Peninsula. In 1936 CKTB became an affiliate of the new CBC network and since 1965 has been on the air 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A reliable source for breaking news as well as a public, community and entertainment information beacon, the radio station reflects the lifestyle of Niagara. Its continuing presence will be welcome for years to come.

CKTB is to be commended for its exemplary years of community service. I congratulate the radio station, its employees and owner, Standard Radio Inc., on the occasion of this exciting milestone.