House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

It is not the opposite. Look up the definition of “opposite”.

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

Noon

The Speaker

I appreciate the argument raised by the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell and the response of the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River. It is a very technical argument.

I look at Marleau and Montpetit at page 453, cited by both hon. members, where it says:

An amendment is out of order procedurally, if:--

--and I will quote one of the paragraphs--

--it is the direct negative of the main motion and would produce the same result as the defeat of the main motion;--

Were the main motion defeated, the House would adjourn today until September 19. The amendment would change the adjournment date to September 12 if we adjourn today. In my view it is a difference. It is not the same as defeat. It changes the return date of the House. Accordingly, I find the amendment in order.

When the House last debated this matter, the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River had made a lengthy speech and he now has 10 minutes available for those members who wish to ask questions or make comments on his address.

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

Noon

Conservative

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate our hon. House leader of the opposition who did a magnificent job yesterday in addressing the motion to extend the hours of the House. He touched on an incredible vast amount of points that were pertinent to what is happening in the House and what has been happening over the course of the last few months, especially leading up to the fact that we have to deal with such emotion in the dying hours of Parliament. I think that was his language, as well.

We could have been dealing with these bills earlier if the government had its vision together, if it knew what it was doing. I think the House leader clarified that during his brilliant address yesterday in the House.

The government argues that we have to pass the budget, we have to pass this legislation. In the end, the calendar was not as full, it could have been dealt with a few weeks earlier, but now we are extending Parliament and are costing Canadians a lot more in the end. If in fact we were following the normal schedule, we could have been back in our ridings doing the work that my colleague so adequately pointed out we should be doing under normal operations while functioning as members of Parliament. We could be spending time in our ridings serving our constituents and being at their events. Instead, we are dealing with a motion to take us even further away from our responsibilities in our constituencies when we all know full well in this House that it is a very important part of our jobs.

I would ask my colleague, the opposition House leader, where exactly are we going in the next while? Could he elaborate on the fact that if we had the opportunity to serve our constituents in our riding, would that not be of more value to Canadians?

He touched on that yesterday. I would like to hear a little bit more and maybe he could address the fact that we have already passed Bill C-43 and we are learning today that the Liberal majority in the Senate is holding up that particular bill. The government has argued so strongly that the bill had to pass. It wants to pass Bill C-48 and that is why there is an attempt to extend this sitting. Why is there this hypocrisy now in the Senate where the Liberals are holding it up? Does it not make this whole process irrelevant? I would like to hear his opinion on that.

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a bit humbling to hear such praise for my remarks yesterday, but I do appreciate it.

The member raises the relevant point, the central point of the debate yesterday and the debate that is being continued here today, about the extension of the sitting. He is quite right and I laid out yesterday, in defence of not only the members of Parliament from the Conservative Party of Canada but indeed the members of Parliament from the other three political parties, the importance of them returning to their ridings to meet their commitments.

I would suggest that probably all of us have made a commitment to our constituents to be accessible, to be present, to interact with them, and to participate in events in our constituencies. It is important in the whole democratic process that MPs make themselves accessible in their constituencies rather than always being confined here to this place.

One of the things that MPs from all parties struggle with is the constant conflict between constituency work and the work as a legislator in the House of Commons. That is compounded in the case of the whips of the political parties because it is incumbent upon them, indeed it is a big part of their job description, to ensure that members of Parliament in their particular parties are here when they are needed. They have to listen all the time when MPs are caught in that conflict between a commitment to their constituents and a commitment to their party, and their roles as legislators here in the House of Commons.

When we look at Motion No. 17, the government has now taken the extraordinary step of invoking closure today, it is shutting down debate. It is saying that this is paramount, that it is urgent. As I said yesterday, the reality is quite the opposite. There is no great urgency for the House of Commons to incur the costs associated with sitting next week, when our regular adjournment would be tonight at midnight. There is no logical reason why that has to happen, why members of Parliament from all parties have to cancel commitments they have made to their constituents for next week, fully anticipating that the House would be in recess.

As my colleague has indicated, the budget implementation act, Bill C-43, has been passed. The Conservative Party of Canada supported it on June 15. We supported it on May 19. We abstained on the original vote on a budget when the budget was introduced back in March. We took those extraordinary steps because, as I explained yesterday, this party deals with legislation based upon principle. We assess each piece of legislation on its own merits and determine our position.

Bill C-43 is now hung up at committee hearings in the Senate because the Liberals in the Senate will not allow it to proceed until they get Bill C-48 in order to live up to a political commitment between the Prime Minister of the country and the leader of the New Democratic Party. That is why it is held up there.

That is why Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia are still waiting for their money to start flowing from the Atlantic accord agreement. That is why municipalities all across this country are still waiting for the money they desperately need to improve and repair their infrastructure. The bill is held up in the Senate, not because of the Conservative senators but because Liberal senators are holding it up for ransom until they get the NDP budget and the same-sex marriage legislation forced through this chamber.

I think that is despicable and dishonest. I think that the government should rightfully be condemned and held to account by Canadians for not only doing such a thing, but for trying to blame the official opposition for what is essentially its doing in holding up this important budget legislation on the erroneous charge that somehow we need to extend the sitting in order to force through Bill C-48 and Bill C-38.

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Speaker, it is a bit disingenuous for the Conservatives to suggest that they want to get back to their ridings and be with their constituents. In fact, I agree. I would like to get back to mine. I am going to have to cancel some very important events I would love to attend.

However, it was also the Conservatives who, during the debate on Bill C-43, used member after member to give the same speech. It was recorded in the Debates that they were using the exact same words on a number of occasions. I have no problem with having enough democratic time to debate any motion, but there has to be something added to the debate, some value added for the people of Canada and for the House, for the great expense that is being incurred.

The member suggested that the members opposite make their decisions based on principle, which is good. I appreciate and applaud that. However, in the debate on Bill C-43, the vast majority of Conservative members actually said that the elements covered in Bill C-43, urban transit, foreign aid, affordable housing and reducing money for student tuition, were admirable and in fact thought they were ultimately good objectives.

So, if the Conservatives make their decisions based on principle, why are they not voting for those good objectives that most of the Conservatives agree with?

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, the New Democratic Party is trying to call Bill C-48, not Bill C-43, a better balanced budget, but it is really a blowing billions budget as one of my colleagues has said.

One of the reasons why, on principle, we are opposed to this bill, as I laid out very clearly yesterday in my two hour speech, is that not only are there no details, no plans as to how the Liberals are going to spend $4.6 billion of taxpayer money but the process is a slap in the face to everybody who participated in the budget consultation process prior to the budget when this can be cooked up in a hotel room in Toronto overnight.

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Madam Speaker, I will start by indicating to those listening that the Bloc Québécois will be voting in favour of this motion to extend this sitting of the Parliament, provided of course that all stages of Bill C-38 are on the parliamentary agenda before the House adjourns.

We are engaged today in voting on an motion to extend the sitting of the House because this parliamentary session we have just been through has given rise to the worst possible abuses. In recent months there has been an incredible amount of time wasted here in this House.

For the first time in my parliamentary experience, I have seen a government boycotting its own parliamentary agenda. That happened on five separate occasions. For five days of this last session, the government itself has made use of stalling tactics to prevent this House from addressing legislative items submitted by itself. What a curious situation!

The session about to end has been improvised by the government. We would have had the time to pass many more legislative measures if there had been just a minimum of planning. We could have adopted all the legislative measures we wanted, but this very government, whether to save its own skin or out of fear that it was not in line with the thinking of the majority of members of this House, has attempted to distract us from the agenda, and that has created a precedent.

In short, despite our full cooperation, particularly in the final weeks of this session, we are obliged to extend the sitting. We will do so, because I want people to know that we were firmly resolved to support the government and to ensure that the legislative record is not too thin. We are going to accept an extension because of a major bill which the Bloc Québécois members wholeheartedly support. This is a bill to regularize the situation for parties to same sex marriage.

It is a matter of rights. I must say that we have respect for everyone who thinks differently. We understand that some people have difficulty with this reality because of their religious beliefs or certain social situations. But in this House of Commons, we have a responsibility not to let problems in society drag on but to deal with them. Even in difficult situations, we have a duty to say our piece, study the situation, analyze the arguments for and against, weigh everything, and finally draw our own conclusions.

There is a free vote on this bill and people can vote as their conscience dictates. I would remind the House, though, that refusing to pass Bill C-38 means refusing to recognize the decisions handed down by seven courts of law. They have ruled that, by virtue of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is in effect here in Canada, all citizens regardless of their sexual orientation have a right to choose and cannot be discriminated against on this basis. Seven courts have ruled in this way. Today, the House of Commons must make the Civil Marriage Act consistent with these decisions.

A refusal to pass Bill C-38 would mean that the rights and freedoms of a large number of people here in Canada would have to be suspended.

Rights and freedoms would be suspended. These people would be told, “We know the Charter gives you the right to marry but you cannot do so because we are taking away your freedoms”. Most of my colleagues in the Bloc and I do not want to be numbered among those who would suspend the rights and freedoms of a group of people in our society. There is no chance that we would do that.

That is why we not only hope but are eager to ensure that Bill C-38 passes by the end of the extended session. To this end, I asked for written guarantees from the government House leader. Not that our word is not enough, but in this case, in view of the importance of this matter, I simply had to obtain these guarantees in order to be absolutely certain that we would do our work to the end, that we were going to assume our responsibilities right to the end.

This is worth extending the session of Parliament a few days to do justice to our fellow citizens and end this debate that is pitting people in our society against one other. This debate is a matter of conscience for everyone.

I am saying it again: we respect the values, conscience and religious beliefs of all individuals. We have to draw the line somewhere. My colleagues and I will not be able, when the time comes, to suspend rights and freedoms and prevent people having access to a union to which they are currently entitled in most Canadian provinces.

That said, our requirements have been clear. This is our duty, and we will extend this sitting of the House.

There is also Bill C-48, which has a much worse image than Bill C-38. The government wants the House to consider and adopt Bill C-48 during the extended sitting. This bill is an addendum to the government's budget. There is $4.5 billion in what is being called the NDP budget. However, I think that $4.5 billion should be called the NDP's price for abandoning Canada's unemployed.

We were in the midst of negotiations. With the NDP, the Bloc and the Conservative Party combined, we were in a position to obtain a major concession for a major overhaul of EI from the Prime Minister—if he wanted to remain Prime Minister. In the Bloc's view, it was a sine qua non, an essential condition. Some $47 billion has been stolen from the unemployed in Canada over the past seven or eight years. The raiding of the fund continues more slowly, but just as blatantly, to the tune of several billion dollars per year.

These billions of dollars should be going to people who lose their jobs, people with families and who go three, four, sometimes even seven months without working. Today, as a result of successive cuts to EI, these people have been left high and dry and therefore unable to feed their families or survive as individuals.

We had the requisite condition, the sine qua non. With the NDP we had the necessary strength to force the government to yield on employment insurance. Unfortunately, the NDP members chose to attach an addendum to the budget, on housing and public transportation. Those are good things. We are not saying that this is not money well spent. However, we understand today that it cost the Prime Minister $4.5 billion to tell the unemployed in Canada that they would not get their EI reform, they would not get their due, they would not get the $47 billion and they would have to continue living in poverty, because the deal had been made with the NDP. That, the Bloc Québécois cannot accept. For these reasons we will vote against Bill C-48.

We owe this to the unemployed. The Bloc will never trade its demands on behalf of the unemployed for a mess of pottage.

We had in fact insisted on one point. We wanted at least some indication from the government that it intended to resolve the fiscal imbalance. It is costing the governments of the provinces and Quebec very dearly.

All the premiers, the ministers of finance, the political parties in the legislatures and the National Assembly in Quebec, all the parties in this House, except the Liberals, admit it. The experts, Liberal firms and academics admit it: there is a huge fiscal imbalance in Canada.

This imbalance means that the federal government occupies a tax field it does not need. When we tax more than we need, we create surpluses. When we free up a tax field, there are no more surpluses. The provinces, the Government of Quebec and the provincial governments can occupy this field and finally provide their people with the services they deserve.

We are in a difficult situation. As citizens of Quebec and Canada—this is true as well for the other provinces—we are forced to give more than half of our taxes to the federal government and a little less than half to the Government of Quebec. We require services from the Government of Quebec and some as well from the federal government, but fewer direct services such as health and education, which are two major budgetary items.

We want services from the Government of Quebec. It tells us that it cannot tax us any more because we are already taxed enough. However, we are already paying a lot of taxes because we send them to Ottawa. In the meanwhile, Ottawa accumulates surpluses, spending and injecting money into this and that. All is well. Life is beautiful. They announce a $2 billion surplus but end up with $10 billion at the end of the year, as if billions just grew on trees. They collect a billion dollars. Well, a billion dollars, those are the taxes of thousands of Canadian families. There are people who are killing themselves with work every day. They earn $7 or $8 an hour and pay a dollar a litre for gasoline. They pay a dollar for their gas to be able to drive their car to work because they are giving so much in taxes to the federal government.

A billion dollars represents the taxes, the sweat and sacrifices of thousands of people in Canada. Here, in the federal government, they think that a billion dollars is good thing. They took in eight more than they forecast. So the government says, “Well, we will put it into the debt” or, “Maybe we will use a few to buy the NDP; maybe we will invest a little bit to help with public transit; maybe we will invest in housing”.

When they are spending money that comes from the sweat of working people, who struggle day after day to support governments, they should have the decency to say, “If I am collecting too much, I will quickly withdraw from the tax field. In so doing, I will only take from people what I need for the services I provide them”.

If another government that provides health or education services needs to go after the product of the sweat and the labour of all these working people, let it. If it does not need to do so, the people will benefit from lower taxes. That is the fiscal imbalance--when the government that needs the least taxes the most, and the government that needs the most does not have enough. This is what we have under this federal system.

We are sovereignists. Our solution is totally the opposite of the one being discussed here, but for the moment it strikes us as appropriate for the government to correct this fiscal imbalance.

When people are expressing their pleasure with the few billion dollars included in Bill C-48, they need to realize that what the federal government owes them is tens of billions, not just a few billion.

It is far more than the few hundred million they would get for public transit. If fiscal imbalance were remedied for good, this would simultaneously solve the problems of the governments that have to deliver services.

Bill C-48 is rather like the biblical story of trading away one's birthright for a mess of pottage. People are lulled into security with gifts, with a bit of money here, a little subsidy there, and then nothing is done about the real problems of the unemployed. Money is handed out left and right, but nothing is done about the real problem of the fiscal imbalance, despite the fact that every politician in Canada, with the exception of the Liberal Party of Canada, acknowledges its existence.

That is the reason we will be voting against Bill C-48. We will be voting against a bill that ought to have included a complete reform of employment insurance, in order to do justice to the poorest members of our society, those who have to bear the burden of job loss.

There should have also been some steps toward beginning to resolve the fiscal imbalance, which penalizes our friends and constituents who send money to government out of their own pockets every day; thousands of dollars more than the government needs to cover the services it must offer. This is what guarantees the government such huge surpluses and allows it then to blackmail the governments of Quebec and the provinces by imposing conditions, holding discussions and giving itself more powers than its own constitution allows. And we are supposed to like this system. We should get down on our knees and thank the federal government for giving back a small portion of the taxes we paid in excess. The government is too greedy because it did not want to cut taxes and did not want to limit itself to the only tax field it needs. Such is the reality.

We will support the motion to extend the sitting, but we will fight against Bill C-48 until the end. However, we will fight in favour of Bill C-38 to settle, once and for all, the terrible debate on same sex marriage that is tearing our society apart.

We will vote in favour of extending the sitting of the House. Since we do not want to waste the time of the House or the taxpayers' money, we hope to resolve these two matters in the next few days, possibly by Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Then we can take a well-deserved vacation.

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House leader of the Bloc Québécois. I am very happy to know that he will support this motion to extend the sitting period.

However, I want to ask him a question about Bill C-48. During the debate on this bill, he raised the issue of the fiscal imbalance. The argument could be made that it does in fact exist, since various provinces are experiencing major difficulties. Under Bill C-43, we reached agreements with two provinces. As for equalization, we have been able to help all the provinces and fix a number of problems.

There are two problems with the hon. member's suggestion. I would invite his comments.

First, not all the provinces are experiencing difficulties. There are two problems if tax fields are transferred from the federal government in order to balance budgets and eliminate surpluses. I will get to the third problem later.

The first problem is that the Government of Canada must pay down the debt. The tax burden and debt servicing costs are taking money away from hard-working Canadians. That is what happens when we increase services to the public instead of sending more money abroad to service the debt.

The other problem is that some provinces, such as Alberta, are recording huge surpluses. Should we transfer tax fields to these provinces? They should be the ones transferring tax room to the federal government, which is paying down a huge national debt, unlike these provinces. This is a major issue. Albertans should not pay higher taxes or give up what they have earned. That is the problem.

Also, the opposition is not, unfortunately, on this side; it is not the governing party. Perhaps, someday, another party will be in power and it will be recording deficits instead of surpluses due to economic and international issues. Would we then take back these tax fields from the provinces in order to eliminate a federal deficit? This creates a serious problem. The federal government, under Mr. Chrétien, already transferred tax points to the provinces.

That is my question for the member.

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member must know that the history of federal income tax goes back to a world war, the first world war, when the federal government needed resources for the war effort. That was done pursuant to an agreement. Previously, the federal government had no access to personal income tax fields. At the time, the provinces agreed to free up tax room to enable the federal government to carry on what was called the “war effort” and coordinate everything to meet the expenses of the times.

The federal government never returned one cent to the provinces. And that was that. It interfered in services. Then gradually over time, bit by bit, having the resources it had obtained for the war effort and never returned, the federal government found itself with a lot of money and started expanding its sphere of activity. It interfered in this and it interfered in that. Gradually, it kept the taxes and expanded its field of jurisdiction. That is what it is still doing today.

Nowadays, with its surpluses, it is not true that the federal government is just reducing Canada's debt. It is increasing its initiatives in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction, particularly day care and health. It is interfering more and more, when the money should be given back to the provincial governments or the federal government should simply withdraw so that the provinces can collect these taxes for their own needs.

The federal government is allocating money to health as if it came from Mars, when it is actually our own money that is being given back to us. Claiming that it is putting money into health, it tells us that it has to have some say in the matter; that it cannot just give the money to the provincial governments to spend as they please because it does the taxing. But that is the point, we do not want it to. We want it to withdraw from this tax field, recognize that we have problems with health and free up some tax room.

In regard to the wealth of Alberta and the richer provinces, there is an equalization system in Canada that does not have anything to do with the fiscal imbalance. It is a system that makes it possible to provide a certain amount of money. All the federal government has to do is work with the provinces to set up a decent equalization system, rather than fiddling with the system left and right, as it is doing. The government is destroying the equalization system in Canada now by dealing with issues on a piecemeal basis.

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure for me and for all members of Parliament to listen to the points of view of the Bloc Québécois House leader. He is a very passionate speaker and he has made a very passionate case for further reform of the employment insurance program in particular.

My concern is he expressed he could never support suspending the rights of some Canadian citizens. He referred to the whole issue of Bill C-38 and the fact that in his opinion we had to extend the sitting of this Parliament to ensure that Bill C-38, the same sex marriage legislation, was passed because somehow that might affect their rights.

I would point out to the hon. Bloc Québécois House leader that first, same sex marriage is allowed already in his province of Quebec. I am sure he is aware of that. Therefore, Bill C-38 will not affect the rights of gays and lesbians in the province of Quebec. Furthermore, in all likelihood Bill C-38 will sit in the Senate for the entire summer, regardless of whether we extend the sitting of this place. What about the rights of all those Canadians who are very concerned about the religious freedom of expression in our country? Is he not concerned about suspending their rights?

One of the reasons why we want to ensure that Bill C-38 does not progress any further than report stage is because we would still have the opportunity for Canadians to express their opinion on whether the amendments to Bill C-38 would have enough protection for the freedom of religious expression in our country. They could let their opinion be known to members of Parliament over the summer. If the bill were still at report stage come fall, there would be an opportunity for all parties to express their opinion and perhaps improve or further protect religious expression. What about those rights?

Finally, I am very concerned about the precedent we have seen set here today. I would think that the Bloc Québécois House leader would be concerned about the precedent his party has set by supporting closure. What about the rights of members of Parliament to speak in the House of Commons? I think it is the first time, and he can correct me if I am wrong, that the Bloc Québécois members supported the government to bring in closure and shut off debate. What about that awful precedent of suppressing rights?

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the questions my colleague has raised are interesting ones.

As far as the rights of homosexuals and of those whose religious convictions oppose gay marriage are concerned, I will say that one person's religion must not become another person's law. Everyone agrees on that. We have the deepest respect for those whose religious convictions cause them to oppose same sex marriage. Nevertheless, it has never been our intention in any way to oblige any religion or religious belief to perform religious marriages. This is about civil marriage. No religious denomination must be pressured into having to perform same sex marriages. This decision is up to them, it is their right, and I agree with that.

Moreover, a motion on this has already been presented and supported by us. We would be open at any time to the addition to the bill of provisions stating that no religious denomination shall be pressured or in any way obliged to celebrate or authorize marriages between two persons of the same sex.

This is a civil matter. We respect all religious denominations and their members and we want their rights to be respected. We just do not want their religion to become the law for others. It is as simple at that.

As far as our support for the closure motion is concerned, it is simple. It is our firm conviction that those who are watching us now, or have followed our actions throughout the year, are a bit impatient to see us pass the pieces of legislation we will be called upon to vote on. No one wants to see Parliament drag on needlessly until August at the cost of $35,000 an hour. I think people want to see us settle these matters once and for all.

That is why we believe that, as an exception, it is acceptable for us to be able to vote on the bills after a regular debate. This is unusual, I know, but the intention is not to take away anyone's right to speak, only to limit the time of the debates that we are going to be engaged in here. Extension until the end of June seems to us reasonable and sufficient. That is all.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

June 23rd, 2005 / 12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among all parties and believe you would find consent for the following. I move that the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Health, presented in the House on Wednesday, June 1, requesting an extension of 30 sitting days to consider Bill C-420, be concurred in.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion and of the amendment.