House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senators.

Topics

The Environment
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of presenting two different petitions from British Columbia.

As many members in this House know, there are many people from British Columbia who are very concerned about the environment. These two petitions request that the Government of Canada legislate programs consistent with meteorological reality and act immediately to reduce the climate change crisis by diminishing fossil fuel dependency while sponsoring initiatives and incentives to promote less harmful technologies.

There are a number of people from my riding and other parts of British Columbia who have signed these petitions.

Tradespersons Travel and Accommodation Deduction
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present two more petitions, both of which were circulated by members and supporters of the building trades. The petitioners are from Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.

Building trades across the country have lobbied successive governments for over 30 years to achieve some basic fairness for their members. They want tradespersons and indentured apprentices to be able to deduct travel and accommodation expenses from their taxable incomes so that they can secure and maintain employment at construction sites that are more than 80 kilometres from their homes. It makes no sense for tradespersons to be out of work in one area of the country while another region suffers from temporary skilled trade shortages simply because the cost of travelling is too high. To that end, they have gathered hundreds of signatures in support of my bill, Bill C-390, which would allow for precisely the kind of deductions that their members have been asking for.

I am pleased to table these petitions on their behalf and share their disappointment that this item was not addressed in the government's budget in March.

Conscientious Objection to Use of Taxes
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present two petitions.

The first petition is from many people in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. They point out that in Canada there has been a long tradition of freedom of conscience and religion and that this has been a historical fact in Canada.

They also point out that contributing to the Canadian military through payment of income taxes is an infringement of the freedom of conscience and/or religion of those citizens who conscientiously object to participating in any way in the military and its associated activities which train people to kill and use violence.

Therefore, they call on the Parliament of Canada to establish the peace tax legislation by passing into law private member's Bill C-348, the conscientious objection act, which I have had the honour to table. The bill recognizes the right of conscientious objectors to not pay for the military but to apply that portion of their taxes that was to be used for military purposes toward peaceful, non-military purposes within the powers of Parliament.

Tradespersons Travel and Accommodation Deduction
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, as well, I have a petition signed by many people from the Vancouver, Burnaby and Coquitlam areas. They point out that many tradespersons can be out of work in one area of the country while another region suffers temporary skilled labour shortages simply because the cost of travelling is too high.

The petitioners call on Parliament to support Bill C-390, tabled by the member for Hamilton Mountain, which would allow tradespersons and indentured apprentices to deduct travel and accommodation expenses from their taxable income so they could secure and maintain employment at a construction site that is more than 80 kilometres from their home.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, Question No. 188 will be answered today.

Question No. 188
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

With regard to the Toronto Port Authority: (a) on what basis did the government classify the Q400 as a Dash-8, based on the definition of a Dash-8 as contemplated by the parties when they amended the tripartite agreement in 1985; and (b) will the government take effective measures to prohibit commercial service out of the Toronto Island Airport by any aircraft other than Dash-8s, as they existed in 1985, and short take-off and landing aircrafts, and if so, when?

Question No. 188
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, in response to (a), the Q400 is an aircraft trade name. The Bombardier DHC-8 Q400 aircraft falls within the internationally recognized aeronautical classification Dash-8, in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, standards.

In response to (b), Transport Canada, as one of three signatories to the tripartite agreement, has and will continue to uphold its responsibilities under the agreement including its amendments.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Bill C-415--Canada Labour Code--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

May 7th, 2007 / 3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The Chair is now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons on May 1, 2007, concerning Bill C-415 standing in the name of the hon. member for Davenport and Bill C-257 which, until recently, stood on the order paper in the name of the hon. member for Gatineau. Both bills amend the Canada Labour Code in relation to replacement workers.

I would like to thank the hon. Government House Leader for raising this matter, as well as the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River for his intervention.

The hon. government House leader began by reminding the Chair that it has already been obliged to rule on the issue of the similarity of another bill, Bill C-295, to Bill C-257. He commented that Bill C-415 is thus the third bill banning the use of replacement workers introduced in this Parliament alone.

The hon. government House leader expressed the view that Bill C-415 and Bill C-257 share the same purpose, namely, the banning of replacement workers; that they both accomplish this purpose by amendments to the Canada Labour Code; and that they differ only in one clause and one subsection. He reminded the Chair that Standing Order 86(4) prohibits the consideration of two items of private members' business “so similar as to be substantially the same” and cited House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at pages 476 and 477, to the effect that, “two bills similar in substance will be allowed to stand on the Order Paper but only one may be moved and disposed of”.

The hon. government House leader referred again to the ruling delivered on November 7, 2006 with respect to the alleged similarity between Bill C-257 and Bill C-295. He argued that the principle underlying the Chair's decision not to allow further consideration of Bill C-295, that the two bills “have exactly the same objective”, is equally applicable to Bill C-257 and Bill C-415. He dismissed provisions of the latter bill safeguarding essential services during a strike as ancillary to its purpose and cautioned the Chair that a decision to permit further consideration of Bill C-415 would amount to a revisiting of its ruling on Bill C-257.

In his brief submission, the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River pointed out that a determination, pursuant to Standing Order 91.1(1), by the Subcommittee on Private Members’ Business of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs with respect to the votability of Bill C-415 is imminent and may be material to the disposition of this point of order.

Having reviewed these submissions with care, the Chair takes the view that the fundamental question before it may be phrased this way: Would any motion or decision of the House in connection with Bill C-415 be out of order because of the bill's similarity in substance to Bill C-257?

Of considerable relevance in this regard is the ruling delivered on February 27, 2007 with respect to the admissibility of several amendments to Bill C-257 adopted by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. It was the hon. government House leader who presented so persuasive a case against the admissibility of those amendments that the Chair accepted his arguments. Ironically, his very persuasiveness on that occasion presents considerable difficulty to the case he is making today.

Two of these amendments to Bill C-257 provided for the maintenance of essential services in terms similar to specific provisions found in Bill C-415 and, of course, not originally included in Bill C-257. My ruling determined that these amendments exceeded the scope of Bill C-257 and I declined to accept arguments that they served only to clarify the bill's provisions with respect to replacement workers.

On April 28, 1992, at page 9801 of the Debates, Mr. Speaker Fraser warned that a committee:

—cannot go beyond the scope of the bill as passed at second reading, and it cannot reach back to the parent act to make further amendments not contemplated in the bill no matter how tempting that may be.

In his point of order, the hon. government House leader claimed that the two bills “have exactly the same objective”, relying in part on the fact that both bills accomplish their objectives by means of amendments to the Canada Labour Code. While this is certainly the case, only Bill C-415 amends section 87.4 of the Code which deals with the concept of essential services. It thus incorporates provisions not originally contemplated in Bill C-257 whose scope, as confirmed by my earlier ruling, was judged to be limited to measures regulating the use of replacement workers during a strike. In the view of the Chair, the amendments to section 87.4 of the Code included in Bill C-415 also invalidate any claim that the two bills, in Mr. Speaker Fraser's words, “obtain their purpose by the same means”.

A bill regulating the use of replacement workers need not deal with essential services. Providing for essential services in the event of the strike could quite legitimately have been the objective of a separate bill. Because of the inclusion of essential services in it, Bill C-415 has a broader scope than Bill C-257, despite similarity in addressing the issue of replacement workers.

Consequently, in fulfilling its duty pursuant to Standing Order 86, the Chair does not find that Bill C-415 is substantially the same as Bill C-257 and accordingly, the consideration of Bill C-415 may proceed.

I would like once again to thank the hon. government House leader for bringing this matter to the attention of the Chair.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-43, An Act to provide for consultations with electors on their preferences for appointments to the Senate, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Senate Appointment Consultations Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about something that is very near and dear to the constituents of Kelowna—Lake Country. I know that when the Prime Minister campaigned in the riding at the end of 2005, there was incredible support from my constituents as soon as anything was mentioned about reforming the Senate. It is near and dear to the folks out west.

All Canadians need to have a real awakening. They have seen the reformation that needs to take place. In fact, we have an institution that has been around since 1867, since Confederation. There has been absolutely no reform or change of the Senate other than the provision in 1965 for mandatory retirement at age 75 from the previous appointment for life.

The government is determined, and based on its promises to Canadians, that at least some first steps should take place and to date there has been no progress whatsoever. I know the members opposite, the interveners earlier, were talking about it being piecemeal, that it is just trying to circumvent the constitution.

The reality is that they had 13 years to come up with some sort of concrete democratic reform and nothing took place. Working together in a minority government, we are trying to work in a compromise manner and in increments. I think the government approach is a really achievable, positive and practical step that makes a lot of common sense.

I really find it difficult that specifically my colleagues from British Columbia could vote against this bill. This is one step in the triple E Senate that we are looking at reforming.

I had the opportunity last week to meet Mr. Brown from Alberta. Since 1989 Albertans have been voting for senators-in-waiting and he is the second such individual in Alberta. Mr. Waters was the first, but he unfortunately passed away after a short term in the Senate.

Mr. Brown is ready, willing, and able to step in when the time is appropriate. I think that speaks volumes of the government for listening to not only Albertans but all Canadians, and the hue and cry that has been coming forth, that we need to reform the Senate. Introducing this bill allows the consultation with constituents from sea to sea to sea.

The fact that senators are not elected is seen by many as contrary to the democratic values of Canadians and a major reason why the legitimacy of the Senate is often called into question.

I have the opportunity occasionally to take guests from the riding to the other house. An individual, a page, there does an excellent job. I had a chance to speak with Brad Ramsden a couple of times and he has enlightened me as to the role that the Senate plays.

I think that it does have a value in our constitutional role and our government in Canada. I value its input, but the fact is that today the 105 members, less the vacancies, who are appointed there have been appointed based on patronage, favouritism, and I think that does not speak very well for our democratic system. We live in a country that has a fundamental freedom of democracy. I do not think that there is any greater right than giving people that freedom to consult and select the individual who they want to represent their community.

The government has also introduced the bill because it reinforces, revitalizes, and modernizes long held Canadian values and most importantly the full right of Canadians to be able to choose those who will govern them.

This fundamental value has historically been enhanced and expanded by previous Conservative governments and the present Conservative government is simply continuing that tradition. I think of the statue of Robert Borden that we all walk by just outside the West Block. He led the wartime government that gave the right to women to vote. I think of Mr. Diefenbaker who gave that right to aboriginal people. These are some of the legacies of previous Conservative governments. They were excellent prime ministers and leaders such as the Prime Minister we have today.

Listening to the debate over the last few weeks there have been interveners who asked why the bill was introduced in the House of Commons rather than in Senate.

Bill C-43 authorizes the expenditure of funds related to the implementation and ongoing administration of the consultation process and pursuant to the Constitutional Act, 1867, bills that require the appropriation of funds must be initiated in the House of Commons.

At present the Governor General has the power to summon individuals to the Senate pursuant to section 24 of the Constitution Act, 1867. It states:

The Governor General shall from Time to Time, in the Queen's Name, by Instrument under the Great Seal of Canada, summon qualified Persons to the Senate;--

In my mind the word “qualified” is a very serious word that we need to stop and take a look at. What does qualified mean? It is up to the individual Canadians in each of the provinces and territories to decide who they feel is most qualified to represent them, not somebody who has given the Prime Minister or the leader of the government of the day the most money or helped them out the most to get them into power. We have seen this in the past, no matter which political party.

From a non-partisan perspective, we all need to take a step back and realize this is a very positive way. It is a legacy we can all be proud of in making a positive change in the Government of Canada.

The only difference today is that Canadians now have the opportunity to express their preferences for Senate nominees to the Prime Minister before he provides his advice to the Governor General. Looking at this process since 1989, Albertans have been providing that opportunity for their residents to vote and then give that name forward to the Prime Minister to make that choice.

The challenge of opening up the Constitution, as the Liberals have specifically indicated, is that it is a seven-fifty amending process formula. That means that seven provinces representing 50% of the population have to be in agreement, and we know how difficult that will be. It has been very difficult. Our Minister of Agriculture has been working with all the provinces to revitalize our CAIS program, helping our agricultural community and working tirelessly, and that is a very challenging perspective, getting all 13 voices together.

We need to take this in baby steps. It is a stepped approach. It is common sense, realistic and achievable.

Paragraph 42(1)(b) of the Constitution Act, 1982, requires a seven-fifty amending process for an amendment to the Constitution to alter the method of selecting senators, but the Senate appointment consultations process does not change the method of selecting senators provided in the Constitution. Therefore, there is no requirement for a constitutional amendment and no need for a Supreme Court reference.

The opposition members have to get it through their heads that this does not require a Supreme Court or a constitutional amendment, and I am opening the whole debate. This is an achievable approach. It is realistic and we need to hammer that home. We are standing up for Canadians and asking the 308 elected members in this House to do the will of Canadians.

The Governor General currently has the power to summon individuals to the Senate on the advice of the Prime Minister and this will continue after the passage of the bill. Basically nothing will change. The people will vote and through their local provinces or territories, the names will come to the Prime Minister. In reality, I cannot see any Prime Minister not accepting that person's name if he or she is qualified. The Prime Minister will do that. I know our Prime Minister has firmly said that he will be doing that as the opportunity presents itself.

Basically, this bill provides a mechanism for consultations to be held in one or more provinces to seek the preferences of the electorate on individuals who offer themselves as potential Senate nominees. Anyone who is 30 years of age right now can get into the Senate, except it is for 45 years. With our 66 word bill that is still floundering around there in the other place, we are trying to get a term limit through, whether it is 7, 8, 10 or 12 years instead of the 45 years. We are trying to have two accountable houses and an open, transparent government for Canadians.

The Prime Minister will still have the discretion to decide in which province or provinces the consultations will be held, how many places in the Senate are subject to the consultations, and in fact whether the consultations will be held for current vacancies only or current vacancies plus future vacancies, or just future vacancies.

The process is not triggered automatically by vacancies and there will not be Senate byelections. Consultations will normally take place at the same time as a federal general election, so there is no real additional cost to Canadians. It is included in the process. They will go to the ballot. They will choose the party member that they want to select, and check off the name of the individual, the party, or someone who is running under an independent banner for the Senate.

Consultations will be smooth. The bill provides for some flexibility though, allowing that the consultations could be held at the same time as a provincial general election if an agreement is in place with the province. We are working together with the provinces and territories. I know that is something we always have to keep in mind, that we are partners in government and we work together.

This bill provides for consultations to be carried out with the use of a preferential voting system known as the single transferrable vote. In contrast to the voting system used for the House of Commons elections, electors will be able to rank their preferred candidates on a ballot.

Candidates receiving a defined quota of votes will be included on the list of selected Senate nominees for the Prime Minister's consideration. Should a selected nominee receive votes in excess of the quota, those votes in excess of the quota would be distributed to the electors next preferences. The vote transfer process will continue until enough nominees are selected for the number of places subject to consultation.

It is a privilege and an honour as the member of Parliament for Kelowna—Lake Country to stand here in the House today and speak about a bill that is helping to bring reformation to the other place in this Parliament that is long overdue.

I thank the members opposite for their attention. I hope they will give due consideration for this incremental step that I have said is common sense, reasonable and achievable.

Senate Appointment Consultations Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my hon. colleague's speech and a few things puzzle me about his speech.

First of all, we have perhaps the first and second actions of the Prime Minister on taking office which are: first, appointing someone, a former financial supporter from Montreal to the Senate, which he said he would not do; and second, he put that person in the cabinet as Minister of Public Works. The two first decisions of the Prime Minister regarding the Senate go against his election promises and go against what he says he is trying to now rapidly run backwards and trying to fix with Bill C-43.

Let me ask the hon. member a question because it is another would-be senator that is of interest as well. We have Mr. Bert Brown, the senator-in-waiting, for supposedly the same principles that are enunciated in the bill, taking the consultative referendum or preference given by a province or territory.

I would ask my hon. colleague to consider and recall how many Es did Bert Brown plough in his barley field? It was not one E. There were three Es: equal, elected, effective and comprehensive. It is not done piecemeal. There is no room for what the hon. member calls baby steps.

Canada is a big country. Let us have the constitutional courage of the Fathers of Confederation, and open it up and do it properly if we are going to do it. We should not say we are going to do one thing and do another as with Senator Fortier. Then, of course, even worse, trying to do it piecemeal.

The most extraordinary thing is that this hon. member pretends to represent people from British Columbia, the most disadvantaged people in the country, by giving more validity, more credibility, and elected status to a senator when the distribution is so clearly against the equal distribution for the west and British Columbia.

I would like to hear the hon. member explain to his constituents and my constituents in British Columbia why this could possibly be a good thing, entrenching and amplifying the distribution that is so much to the disadvantage of British Columbians?

Senate Appointment Consultations Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the fact that Senator Fitzpatrick in British Columbia and I work very closely. He is a very hard-working individual and will be retiring soon. He is in the last year of his term and will be turning 75 on his next birthday. He has been a real asset to our community.

I spent nine years on city council and was disappointed that my predecessor, Werner Schmidt, who sat in the House for almost 13 years was often not included in some of those discussions. I think there needs to be more cooperation between the two houses. By electing people, rather than appointing them on partisanship, it would eliminate a lot of those implications. We need to work together.

The fact is that we are speaking up for our constituents in British Columbia who want an elected Senate. We realize we cannot have all three Es at once.

I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Brown last week when he was here in Ottawa. I had three high school students from my constituency visiting and we had a good chat. Mr. Brown is very excited about the opportunity. He realizes that he is part of a process in moving toward the triple E. Hopefully, one day he will be sitting in the Senate when that happens. I have mentioned that we need to work in stages that are realistic, achievable and common sense.

With regard to Senator Fortier, he is a dedicated, hard-working and very talented individual who actually took a pay cut to come and work in the Senate. He has agreed to have his name stand in the next election. I think that speaks volumes for his integrity.