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 c-48.

Topics

Air-India Flight 182
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank all the hon. members who spoke today.

I now invite the House to rise to observe a moment of silence.

[A moment of silence observed]

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, under more normal circumstances, I suspect I would have risen on this, the last scheduled day for the spring 2005 session, to wish all members of Parliament a good summer in their constituencies and to inquire about the legislative calendar agenda of the government when the House was scheduled to resume on September 19.

However, since the government has decided to invoke closure on a motion to extend the sitting beyond today, I find myself in a difficult position because we do not yet know the outcome of the vote on the motion which will be held this evening.

I ask the government House leader what his intentions are with plan A and plan B? If we do adjourn for the summer, what are his intentions when the House reconvenes in the fall? If his motion on closure is successful to extend the sitting, what are his plans for next week's sitting and, by extension, does he intend to bring forward any more closure motions on legislation?

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will continue with debate on the motion regarding the sittings of the House. When that is disposed of, we will proceed to Bill C-48, the budget legislation, and Bill C-38, the civil marriage bill.

While I will not speculate any further than that, I understand the vote this evening will take place at 8 o'clock. Subsequent to the vote, we will see what legislation we would be looking at in the fall. Essentially I will deal with what we are speaking to after question period. Once the motion is disposed of later this evening, we would then proceed to Bill C-48 and subsequent to that, Bill C-38, the civil marriage bill.

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

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

June 23rd, 2005 / 3:20 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Liberal

Raymond Simard Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today to speak to the motion to extend the sitting of the House.

I would like to make it very clear that I will vote in favour of this motion. I am on record as early as Monday this week saying that I would be very interested in sitting to deal with the issues at hand, notably Bill C-48 and Bill C-38. I believe they are critical issues for our government to deal with and we should deal with them prior to the summer break.

I would like to begin with Bill C-48, which deals with an additional investment of $4.5 billion, notably in four important sectors to Canadians: affordable housing, the environment, post-secondary education and international aid.

We will be investing $1.6 billion additional in affordable housing. I always like to see how the decisions we make in the House impact our specific ridings. I would like to talk about some projects that are impacted by the new funds for affordable housing in my riding of Saint Boniface.

We have many opportunities, either during elections or between elections and also at various events during the year to meet with constituents. After health care, affordable housing is undoubtedly the most important issue to my constituents in Saint Boniface. They are elated that we have now dealt with health care to a certain extent. We have invested $41 billion over five years in health care.

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

John Williams Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I thought we were dealing with Motion No. 17.

The member is on about affordable housing and the bills that will that will come forward if the motion passes. I would have thought he would have been dealing with the issue of should we or should we not support the motion. If that carries, then he will have all the time in the world to talk about the other bills. Relevance surely is an issue. The issue is Motion No. 17, not affordable housing.

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I did not hear the last few sentences of the parliamentary secretary's speech.

The hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert seems to have undermined his own argument, if he does not mind me saying so, by saying that the parliamentary secretary was listing all these things as reasons why we should support Motion No. 17. Then we would be doing all these things once the motion passed.

It seems to me that in considering whether to adopt a motion or not you might look to the future and see what could happen as a result of the passage of the motion. For the member to make a list perhaps of things he hopes will happen following adoption of the motion does not strike me as being irrelevant to consideration of the motion itself.

I am not inclined to rule the remarks as irrelevant on that basis. I am sure the hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert will continue to be vigilant in respect of relevancy.

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree with you more. I do believe that speaking to the urgency of these matters is precisely why we are here. If we do not think this is important, then perhaps we should go home for the summer.

I believe that discussing Bill C-48 and Bill C-38 are essential. I think we should deal with them before the summer break. This is why I am speaking to both of these issues.

I am sorry I have to repeat this for the hon. member, but in my riding health care was the number one issue by far. My constituents are thrilled that we have invested substantially in health care and that we have made some huge modifications.

If members speak to their constituents, I think they will find that affordable housing is at the top of their minds. In every riding members will find constituents who cannot afford to buy condos or pay the high end rental rates.

My riding is no different. St. Boniface is by all means not a poor riding. It is a middle class riding. Again, with the Manitoba economy heating up the way it is and rent going up by 30% or 40%, people are feeling very uncomfortable with whether they can stay in their current housing accommodations. I am one who believes it is critical that we invest more in affordable housing.

I also would like to speak to a specific project in the heart of my riding. St. Boniface is a well to do neighbourhood, but we have one project of 100 units. The project was dilapidated to the point where people had to leave, but they had no place to go.

Under the initiative of the federal government, we brought together the private sector and the two levels of government. We leveraged their dollars and renovated the 100 units. Residents could then stay in their units. Also rent rates were capped for 10 years so people then knew they could afford to stay.

The federal dollars were essential to leveraging other dollars to ensure people remained in an affordable area in their community.

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

John Williams Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise again on a point of order. We all have had a chance to listen to the member's speech. As I said, we are debating Motion No. 17 about whether we are going to extend the hours beyond the normal adjournment of tonight. It seems that the member is trying to get his speech in on the issues to be debated next week, if we are still here, in case the motion is defeated.

The member has yet to mention Motion No. 17 about whether we should extend the hours. That is the debate that we are having. If the member is going to get there, I would hope he gets there quickly so I can listen to his arguments.

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I hope the hon. parliamentary secretary will tie the description of the circumstances of his constituency to the motion being debated before the House. The member for Edmonton—St. Albert clearly is very interested in hearing how the possible debates next week might help his constituents.

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will attempt to do that. I thought I was very clear that by talking about the urgency of debating Bill C-48 and Bill C-38 the member would understand why I will be supporting the motion to stay next week to debate them. I thought that my process here was extremely clear.

I would like to speak to a third project in my riding, a senior's village. This again speaks to volunteers and just normal citizens who would like to provide seniors with a continuum of care. Bill C-48 is essential because it would provide affordable housing dollars for these people. The tie for me is very obvious, and I do not know why the hon. member does not understand that.

There is some urgency to staying here and debating Bill C-48 and Bill C-38. I am making the point that Bill C-48 is urgent. These dollars are needed in our communities. I am using my community as an example, but I am sure it applies right across Canada. I support additional funding for affordable housing. There are several reasons why we have to act quickly on approving this additional funding.

Bill C-48 covers environment issues, which is the second item I would like to discuss. The bill would allocate $900 million for the environment. Environmental issues are important to all of us.

Contrary to what my hon. colleagues on the other side of the House think, climate change is not a myth. It does exist and it is extremely important that we continue to invest in it. Canadians know that we have made some substantial investments in the Kyoto protocol and we will continue to do that.

The Kyoto protocol is also supported by many developing countries around the world. We understand the impact of global warming and of greenhouse gas emissions. We cannot underestimate their impact on Canadians and on people around the world. The impact of global warming on the north, for instance, is critical. My colleagues from Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon will tell us about the impact it is having on tundra for instance and on icebergs.

These are real problems for Canadians. Bill C-48 proposes to some extent investments in remedying some of these issues. Once again, the tie we are making to the importance of staying here is quite relevant.

We are also seeing some radical changes in weather patterns in Canada as a result of global warming. In my province of Manitoba, two or three weeks ago, we had floods like we had not seen in 100 years. Our colleagues in Alberta are now experiencing the same thing.

These are radical changes to weather patterns. I believe they are connected to global warming. Bill C-48 would invest a considerable amount of money, $900 million to be exact, for climate change issues.

I would like to talk about some of the projects that the government has been funding. The tar ponds in Nova Scotia is a good example. This is one project where hundreds of millions of dollars are needed to resolve one problem. I would like to congratulate my colleagues from Nova Scotia who worked extremely hard to ensure that funding went toward cleaning up these polluted sites.

Mine sites in northern Canada are also totally polluted and need millions of dollars to be cleaned up. The government has been very aggressive in investing in the environment, but we could always do more, and we all believe that.

Bill C-48 would allow us to invest in public transit systems. The city of Winnipeg is discussing exactly that. Members from the province of Manitoba, particularly the city of Winnipeg, would know that almost every Winnipegger uses a car. Not many of them use buses because it is a city that is fairly easy to get around in. We would like to encourage those citizens to use buses and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That is certainly one of our objectives, and it is one of the objectives of Bill C-48. There is an urgency in getting these bills passed.

Bill C-48 will speak to reducing energy costs for consumers who renovate their homes because there is less heat loss and that kind of thing. I really feel that the investment that we will be making is worthwhile and urgent.

The third item in Bill C-48 that we will be investing in with an amount of $1.5 billion is post-secondary education. In the past our government has invested substantially, up to $5 billion a year, in post-secondary education but mostly in the field of research and development.

We realize that it is important to target lower income families to ensure that everyone in Canada has access to post-secondary education. That is certainly one of our objectives. This $1.5 billion investment will certainly assist in attaining that objective.

In my riding I have a university, Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface. I get to speak to students on a regular basis. My nephews and nieces go to Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface. One of the challenges they have is that after a four year post-secondary degree the average debt is $26,000 per student.

We can imagine when they go into a different level of education, to a master's degree or a Ph.D., they may end up with debts ranging from $50,000 to $80,000. I believe that we have a responsibility to alleviate some of that debt and invest in our post-secondary education facilities, institutions and in our students.

The fourth item is international aid. This is an area that I am particularly interested in. I used to be a member of the foreign affairs committee. I had a chance to travel to many Asian countries where people talked to us about Canada's role in the world, not only in terms of our prowess in industry and commerce but in terms of the leadership role that we should be taking when it comes to investing in international aid and the respect that we have worldwide.

For me this was an eye opener. It was my first year as a member of Parliament. I would like to say that I believe that Canada has a responsibility. I believe that we should invest this $500 million in international aid. I am one who believes that we have to play a more aggressive role when it comes to international aid. Therefore, this $500 million investment shows clearly that we are in fact taking our responsibilities seriously and following through on our commitments to playing a lead role on the world stage.

I feel that Bill C-48 is urgent and essential to the well-being of Canadians and I am prepared to extend the sitting hours to ensure we deliver on these commitments.

I would like to speak briefly as well to Bill C-38 because we are here I believe to discuss both bills. This is obviously a difficult issue. It has been a difficult issue over the past months that it has been debated in the House. In my three years as a member of Parliament it has been the most difficult decision that I have had to make. I have made my vote count on this issue. I have decided not to support Bill C-38 and in fact I was free to do just that.

However, I also participated in many debates in the House. I sat and listened to members from all parties discuss their opinions on these issues. It was done in a very respectful way on such a delicate and serious issue. I applaud all members of the House for having discussed it in this way because it is an issue that is very sensitive and very close to many people's hearts.

I feel that it was an issue that was debated very strongly in the House of Commons. Opinions were put forth on both sides of the issue. People had an opportunity to express their views on this issue. I feel members have in fact stated their positions.

After having voted several times on amendments and second reading of Bill C-38, I do not see a lot of movement by members. The justice committee has had an opportunity to travel across Canada. In fact, in Manitoba it came not only to Winnipeg but it ensured that it heard people from rural Manitoba. It visited two towns in Manitoba and it was important for rural people to get their points of view across as well because they may not have necessarily the same point of view as the urban community. I thought the justice committee did an excellent job, came back and reported to the House.

Lately a legislative committee had an opportunity to hear witnesses. I am not sure if it was 56 or 64 witnesses who came forward to testify before the committee and express their concerns. If I am not mistaken, an amendment was put forward that would ensure religious organizations had even stronger protection in Bill C-38, if there was ever an issue with that.

We have been debating Bill C-38 for months on end. The government House leader was talking about 200 hours or so of debate. I believe people know where they stand on this item. I am prepared to vote on it. Canadians want us to deal with it. I think we should sit next week and the week following that if we have to in order to continue debating these issues, but we should rectify these issues and deal with them before we leave for the summer break.

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Williams Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I reiterate my earlier points of order. That was a wonderful speech on Bill C-38 and Bill C-48, but it had absolutely no relevance to Motion No. 17 that we are currently debating.

That being said, the member talked about how people have stated their positions, their minds are pretty well made up and will not change. Yet the Liberals did a complete and absolute U-turn a month or so ago, kind of a conversion on the road to embracing socialism I think, when the NDP went to them and said it had a deal which could keep them in government if they would keep the NDP in money. All of a sudden the U-turn occurred and the Liberals were embracing Bill C-48 that had nothing whatsoever to do with the budget of the Minister of Finance.

The member for Saint Boniface talked about Bill C-48 being essential, that it was urgent, and the dollars were needed. I go back to the budget of the Minister of Finance which did not have a word about all this money for the environment, education or housing. There was not a word.

All of a sudden this conversion on the road to embracing socialism seems to be the new thing for the Liberal Party because it wants to stay in power. This is not about public policy. This is about the personal desire to stay in power. The NDP thinks it is now the tail that can wag the dog and, therefore, it is basking in the new found power. All members on that side of the House are having a wonderful time at the taxpayers' expense.

Bill C-48 will spend up to $4.5 billion of taxpayers' money and is all of two pages in length. There is absolutely no substance to it. It talks about $1.5 billion for education.

I have a question for the member for Saint Boniface, who I know is a new guy and is just coming up to his first anniversary. If the $1.5 billion gets added to the millennium scholarship fund and will be spent over the next 20 odd years, is that going to be sufficient? Does he believe that will be an adequate way to spend this $1.5 billion in the scholarship fund when no one has any idea on what basis it is going to be spent at this point in time? Perhaps he could enlighten us.

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, when Canadians elected a minority government, they expected it to consult with the parties and to make Parliament work. In fact, that is precisely what it is doing.

When there are minority governments in Europe, they build coalitions and alliances. That is what Canadians have asked us to do and that is exactly what we are trying to do. We built coalitions as the parties have tried to do with the Bloc Québécois on certain issues. That is just the way minority governments work. They are healthy for a period of time to a certain extent.

In terms of investing in post-secondary education, I believe we will establish a process to invest the funds in the best possible way, as we always do. The government has been the most successful government in 100 years in terms of managing dollars. I would expect the member to rely on the government's fiscal record to ensure that the dollars being invested in the post-secondary education field will be invested in a proper way.

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, what the member is voting to do is to overturn the Standing Orders. He is basically invoking a notwithstanding clause on the Standing Orders of the House.

I have only been here a short time and I know my colleague has only been here a short time, but there is a tremendous amount of precedence about the Standing Orders and the rules of the House. Both members' statements and question period fall under the Standing Orders.

What the member is proposing would be exactly the same as if the government said that it was too embarrassed by all the scandals. Every day there is another scandal of Liberal waste, corruption and mismanagement. If the Liberals said that since this was too damaging for their own party they would introduce a motion to cancel question period, they could have a very similarly worded motion saying that notwithstanding any Standing Order there will not be any question period until next fall, or something like that, to get rid of their own embarrassment.

What the member is proposing would establish a tremendous precedent and one that his party spoke vehemently against. Earlier today, my colleague from Sarnia—Lambton reminded the member of the right hon. Herb Gray speaking vociferously against such an attempt when a previous administration tried to extend the sitting of the House.

It is a bit like a hockey game. We play against the other team but we also play against the clock. Part of the legislative process is that we have a certain amount of time. Proposing to ignore the clock, in this case the parliamentary calendar, would be very similar to a hockey game where one side realizes that it is not winning so it makes a proposal to play an extra period because it wants a chance to win. I think that is very damaging.

Why does the hon. member think it is okay to bring in this type of notwithstanding clause that would roll over the tradition of democracy and the precedents of the House when his government spent months filibustering its own legislation? If this was such a priority, why did the Liberals not bring it up for debate back in May when they were bringing in all their own motions and then adjourning debate on their own motions? Why were they filibustering this very piece of legislation if now there is such a panic that we have to extend the sitting of the House?

Extension of Sitting Period
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the second question first. The second question is with regard to the amount of work that has been done in the House over the last little while. The member should look at the bills that have been introduced and passed in this House. There has not been a minority government in the past that has reached this same level of work.

We are very proud of that accomplishment as a minority government and I believe all sides should be congratulated for that. Although some times were difficult and some committee work was extremely difficult, a great deal of work has been done in this minority government.

In terms of imposing closure, members from all sides have to be careful not to abuse their privileges and not to abuse the Standing Orders. We cannot--