House of Commons Hansard #168 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

Topics

Government Operations and Estimates
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Diane Marleau Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

The committee has considered the matter of government real estate and heritage buildings, the sale thereof and lease back and has agreed to table the report.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too have the honour to present a report today, in both official languages. This is the 54th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs concerning the Conflict of Interest Code for Members.

The report is the result of extensive work by a subcommittee charged with reviewing the code and the disclosure forms of members. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of that subcommittee, led by the chair of the subcommittee, the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, for their hard work.

I would also like to point out the extensive amount of work done by the research analysts of the Library of Parliament in their assistance to the members, as well as the clerk and the committee staff who patiently sat through numerous and lengthy meetings.

If the House gives its consent, I would like to ask for concurrence in the 54th report later this day.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, with regard to the 54th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, the chair of the committee will be asking for concurrence immediately without the House being aware of whether there is a change being proposed to the conflict of interest guidelines or indeed to the Standing Orders.

It would be helpful to know before voting on something which may affect members of Parliament.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Copies of the report, I am sure, are available. The member can see them. They have been tabled.

Is the hon. member for Cambridge seeking consent?

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am seeking consent. I think if you ask you will find that all the whips in the House have spoken and agreed. This is a report that was done by an all party committee. Other members from the House participated as well. There were a number of committee meetings where other members participated in this. If the member wants to do a bit of work, he might be able to find that report.

However, I have discussed this with the leaders of all parties, not all members because there are 308 of them, as well as the independents, and I am asking for unanimous consent that the 54th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs concerning proposed changes to the Conflict of Interest Code for Members presented to the House earlier this day be concurred in.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

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

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

June 11th, 2007 / 3:10 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 27(1), commencing on Wednesday June 13, 2007, and concluding on June 21, 2007, the House shall continue to sit until 10 p.m.

He said: Mr. Speaker, this is a motion that can be made one day a year, not on Christmas Day or Ground Hog Day, but this day, the 10th sitting day before June 23. It is a motion that can be made to allow the House to sit late into the evening.

I know that many members, when they look at that portion of the calendar and they see possible extension of sitting hours, they think that means we get to leave early for summer vacation, but that is not what it means. What it means is that under the Standing Orders of the House we can potentially sit and work late to get as much of the people's business done as possible because there are very important priorities for Canadians.

I will bear my soul here and say that it was not always my intention to move this motion. It was my hope that it would not be necessary. I was hoping that we would be making good progress.

For example, Bill C-52 in particular, the budget implementation bill was a bill which we believed we had an understanding with the other parties; in fact it had been shaken on by the member for St. Catharines, the member of the Liberal Party for Scarborough and others that it would be over to the Senate by June 6. Somewhere along the way the Liberal Party sought to treat it a little bit differently and as a result we are still debating it here almost a week later than the date we thought it would be over at the Senate. As a result of course we have lost considerable time to deal with other priorities for Canadians.

I want to talk about what those other priorities for Canadians might be, but first I want to focus on that number one priority which is Bill C-52, the budget implementation bill. As we have heard from many people in the House today, if that bill does not pass by the time the House rises for the summer, if that bill has not been dealt with, there are a number of financial priorities on issues that are very important to Canadians that will be lost, because it is a bill that reaches back to the previous fiscal year to spend funds. Those funds have to be allocated. The bill has to be passed and receive royal assent in order for those funds to be available in that fashion. If not, they are lost.

Some of those examples are ones which we have heard about today. The one that is at the top of my personal list is the $620 million in the budget for the patient wait times guarantee trust. This is money that is allocated to assist provinces in addressing what is one of our number one priorities—actually one of our top five priorities; I should put it that way—from the last election. That priority is to achieve a patient wait times guarantee, to help people get the kind of health care they need on a basis that is reasonable, that is practical, that is clinically sound.

For too long we saw patient wait times under the previous government actually double in length. We have this much vaunted Canadian health care system that we all purport to believe in, but if we really believe in it, we have to see that it works. An important part of it working is that Canadians should receive the health care that they need on a timely basis. That is what the $612 million is specifically aimed at.

The provinces are very anxious to receive these funds. It means a great deal for a lot of provinces. In my own province of Ontario that means $200 million plus of real money that Ontario needs for its health care system. The same thing, together with other elements, will mean for the province of Nova Scotia for health care $639 million including the transfer there. There is similar money throughout the country.

We are talking of significant funds. There are other elements in the budget. Much of that transfer will not be lost, as I said, because it is in the main budget funds, but the patient wait times guarantee money, that $612 million, is money that will be lost if we do not deal with that on a timely basis.

Another one that is very important is the $1.5 billion for the clean air and climate change trust. That is to help the provinces implement their plans to reduce greenhouse gases. It is very important.

On January 4 of this year, the Prime Minister addressed Canadians and identified what our priorities would be in government this year. One of those major priorities was to take real action on the environment. We have just seen that at the G-8 summit. In the summit declaration Canada's approach is an approach that is drastically different than it was for 13 years under the previous government when greenhouse gas emissions rose dramatically regardless of the commitments it took on. Now we have a national plan that results in real reductions, an actual plan that does that in both the short and medium term but also very importantly in the long term.

It is that approach by the Canadian government that was hailed as an example not just by world leaders, by other G-8 leaders, but by journalists from around the world, by special interest groups. The World Wildlife Fund, for example, issued a statement heralding Canada's approach as a model. The reason it is held out as a model and an example is it is an approach that can be used regardless of how lousy one's track record may be. This is important for a lot of the major emitters that had not been part of the arrangements up until now or did not have obligations under Kyoto to implement, major emitters like China, India, Brazil and the United States, to get them to the table and realize that if we are going to take on the challenges of addressing greenhouse gas emissions and turning around the risk of climate change and what it can potentially do to our world, we are going to have to take action in the long term. That is the approach of Canada that is being held as a model.

An important critical component of that approach is to engage and involve the provinces and ensure that they have in their hands the resources they need to be able to deliver. A big part of that is that $1.5 billion of ecotrust money, the clean air and climate change trust money. I underline that if we do not get Bill C-52 passed in time, that money will be lost.

This is where the delay and obstruction that the Liberal Party in particular has been conducting has been very harmful to the interests of Canadians who care about the environment, and in fact even those who do not care about the environment, because even if people do not care about it, it does affect them. It is important for all Canadians that they have that healthy environment.

Another example of the money that could be lost if Bill C-52 is not approved, if the Liberal obstruction is successful, is the $400 million for the Canada Health Infoway project. This is state of the art technology so that people can have better health care, taking advantage of technology to improve our health care system. This is something that is very important for the provinces to be able to deliver on the health care for Canadians, for their residents. Again if the Liberals are successful in their delay and obstruction plan this is something that will be lost if the bill is not dealt with and does not receive royal assent in the near future.

There is another one that is of particular of interest to me because it does affect residents in my part of Ontario. In fact the announcement was made in York region where I live and where my constituency is. That is the $225 million to protect endangered spaces, working in conjunction with groups like the Nature Conservancy of Canada to acquire sensitive lands that otherwise might be lost to development, or if not to acquire them, to put in place the kinds of conservation easements to ensure that they will be protected in their natural state for the foreseeable future, for as long as our legal regime remains in place, which is basically for as long as life continues as we know it. That money is very important but that money and the potential to protect those endangered lands will be lost if we cannot get the budget implementation bill passed in the appropriate time.

I also want to talk about the $30 million going to the Rick Hansen Foundation. Rick Hansen is the man in motion, a great Canadian who rolled his wheelchair around the world. He is a very strong personality and a great activist for his cause of spinal cord research. He suffered an injury but he showed that it did not hold him back and he did his around the world tour. I think it was in 1984 when he started his tour, which was an inspiration to all of us. The ongoing work of the foundation from the money he raised then is important. There is $30 million that we would like to see dedicated to that foundation. That $30 million would be lost if the Liberals have their way and they delay and obstruct this bill past the deadline we are dealing with.

For all of those reasons, the budget implementation bill is very important, not just because we want to see it passed, and that is a good reason, but there are actual, real consequences with a ticking clock, because of the fact that a significant amount of the funds are anchored in the previous fiscal year before March 31. That means we have to pass it before the books are closed. Basically we have to get royal assent. We have to get it all the way through before the folks here on Parliament Hill go home to their ridings for the summer. In order to do that, we want to see the potential to deal with this bill for as long as we need to.

I might add that we had hoped to be debating many other bills but the Liberals have chosen to delay this budget implementation bill in every way possible and for as long as they can, as we have seen in the House today and as we saw last Friday and so on. We have tried other measures to speed things along but they have stepped in to block them every time.

The other important bill that we need to deal with is Bill C-23, a Criminal Code amendment. Our justice agenda is very important, and Bill C-23 is a bill to update the Criminal Code provisions. It has come back to the House from committee and it is now at report stage. We would like to deal with that quickly but we will need some time in the House.

Similarly, we are expecting to see Bill C-11 on transport come back from the Senate with amendments. We will need to see whether this House agrees with those amendments or not. Bill C-11 is an important bill that has been around a long time, as members can see by the number, and we have been waiting for about a year to deal with it.

We also have Bill C-31, the election integrity bill. It is in the Senate and the Senate has indicated a desire to make some amendments to the bill. We and, I think, all parties would like to see that bill in this place, or at least three of the parties in the House would. The bill was amended at committee and we, as the government, accepted the amendments proposed by the Liberals and the Bloc.

Unfortunately, the Liberals in the Senate had a very different view of how the bill should work from the Liberals in the House of Commons. The Liberals in the Senate are actually getting rid of the House of Commons Liberal amendment on how to deal with the lists and the disclosure of information to political parties. They actually changed it to a position that was identical to what the Conservatives had originally proposed at committee.

As a result of the Liberals in the Senate deciding that they do not agree with the Liberals in the House of Commons, it means that we as the House of Commons need to deal with that bill one more time once the Senate has dealt with it.

We are waiting for that little ping-pong game between the Liberals in the Senate and the Liberals in the House of Commons to come to an end. When it does end, hopefully we can achieve a resolution on which we can all agree to ensure that future elections will proceed with a greater degree of integrity and probity, something that is very important to all parties and all members of this House.

Another bill that has come back after a long stay at committee is Bill C-42, the Quarantine Act, a very important bill on health matters and something we would like to deal with.

I know of one bill that the opposition House leader, the member for Wascana, has been very generous in showing a willingness to fast track and deal with very quickly and we are hoping to have it at report stage in the House very soon. I think we are in a position where we can do that very soon. I know other parties want some level of scrutiny so the very generous offer of the opposition House leader was one that we took up, but not everybody did. We can seek to get it passed through as many stages as possible in the House as quickly as possible. The bill I am talking about is the one dealing with Olympic symbols. I would like to see it dealt with on the House of Commons side and then go to the Senate.

That is an important bill for the folks who are putting together the 2010 Olympic Games in Whistler and Vancouver. It is important because it deals with copyright, trademarks and the like. We all know how challenging it is to put on these kind of games in this day and age and the ability to protect copyrights, to deal with merchandise and to generate that revenue to support the athletes, the games and the legacy venues that will be constructed as a result of that is important to the people who are involved, whether it be the athletes, the organizers or the people in those communities who will benefit from the legacies.

We are also waiting on other bills, such as Bill C-51, the Nunavik Inuit land claims, and Bill C-59 on video piracy. Bill C-59 was just introduced but the newspapers are saying that it is an important bill because it would create some meaningful consequences for people who engage in the illegal video taping of major films with the ultimate objective of putting them on the black market to sell them illegally without the copyright rights to it. That is something that has been hurting the film industry.

In places like Vancouver and Toronto, in fact all across the country, the film industry has become very important, but those places in particular. It is important that Canada maintains its credibility within that industry and that we support our artists and the people who give value to that intellectual property and that we show leadership as a country in protecting it.

In the future, as we move away from manufactured goods and products to the kinds of services that have more to do with intellectual property, we need to be seen as real leaders in that regard. As I said, media reports are suggesting that all parties actually support Bill C-59, which is why we would like to move it quickly.

Another bill that we recently introduced would support the Red Cross/Red Crescent in the adoption of a new symbol. We need to do that here in Canada through legislation because of a charter that exists. The bill would create an additional non-denominational symbol, which is the Red Crystal, that can be used through ratification of a treaty. If the Red Crescent symbol or the Red Cross symbol creates some discomfort with the local population, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Society would be able to use the Red Crystal symbol as an alternate symbol, which is why as a country we need to recognize and ratify that it would have all the protections under the Geneva convention so that anyone would respect it. However, there would be consequences if people misused the symbol in trying to conduct an offensive military operation. The symbol would need to be used for the purpose intended, which is to protect and save lives in difficult scenes around the world.

All of the bills I have spoken about are on the House calendar. Some are in front of us and we would like to deal with them but others are still at committee.

I did not even speak to the first nations land management, which is a bill that was launched in the Senate.

We would like to see the passage of some bills that are still in committee and which we would like to see back from committee. We thought some would come back a little bit sooner, such as Bill C-6, the amendments to the Aeronautics Act. The committee has been doing clause by clause on Bill C-6 for almost a month now. I am glad to see that the committee is being that attentive but it is a bill that is important and we would like to see it.

The bill that I hope the committee deals with soon is Bill C-32 on impaired driving. I have spoken about the importance of justice and making our streets and communities safer. It was one of the five cornerstone priorities of the Conservatives when we ran in the last election. It was restated on January 4 by the Prime Minister as another priority.

I should acknowledge that we have had some good progress on getting some of those justice bills through the House but it was not easy. Some of them, like Bill C-10 dealing with mandatory penalties for gun crimes, stayed at committee. If one were to listen to politicians speak, one would think there is a consensus on the importance of mandatory penalties for gun crimes. Even the Liberal Party in the last election had that as one of its key elements in its platform.

However, when it came to committee, things were a little bit different. The Liberal Party actually gutted the meaningful parts of the legislation and it held up the legislation at committee for 252 days. Fortunately, that time is past and, thanks to the support of the New Democratic Party, we were able to put some teeth back into that legislation and make it meaningful. The legislation now contains some meaningful mandatory penalties for those gang members and crooks who want to terrorize our communities with guns and commit violent acts. They will face real consequences. When they commit an offence like that they will go to jail. There will be no more “get out of jail free” card and no more house arrest as a solution. They will actually serve real jail time for some of those offences. Where there already were mandatory penalties, they will be tougher and stronger mandatory penalities so that we can take real action.

I know these are important justice issues for Canadians, and that the gun legislation is a part of it, but the other bill that we are waiting for from committee is Bill C-32 on impaired driving. It is very easy to deal with impaired driving on alcohol right now because we have breathalyzers and standards. However, a much more difficult element is driving impaired through the use of other illegal substances, such as controlled or narcotic substances, or, in simple terms, drugs. People who use and abuse drugs and then proceed to drive a vehicle are just as impaired, if not more impaired, as someone who has consumed excessive alcohol. The consequences in terms of the risk to other drivers on the road are just as great. It can change the lives of a family if someone were to die or become injured. The lives of a family could be absolutely shattered when an accident occurs because of that kind of behaviour.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I must interrupt the government House leader but we have questions and comments. The hon. member for Vancouver East has the floor.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government does have the prerogative, on this particular day, to move Standing Order 27(1) for extended hours, but we need to question the government's sincerity and genuineness in what it is doing here today. We just heard a 15 or 20 minutes speech from the government House leader, I think the longest I have heard him give, outlining a whole list of government bills, but when we really look at the legislative agenda here, we see that if there is an urgency, if there is a crisis, it is something that is actually being manufactured by the government in terms of the lack of management of its own agenda. I will certainly go into that when it is my turn to speak.

If the government House leader is truly committed to dealing with all of the business that he has listed, why would he not commit to having the House sit until when the calendar tells us, which is June 22, the regular hours, dealing with business, allowing the committees to function and to have question period? It seems just a tad curious that he is using this Standing Order today allegedly to force through all of this business when the calendar already tells us that we have adequate time to do not only that, but all of the other business that is very legitimate in this place.

Why would the member not make a commitment to not use Standing Order 56(1), which is a procedure whereby he would try to overrule members if the government wanted the House to adjourn early? We have been expecting that too because I think the real game plan here is that the government would actually like to get away from Parliament and away from public scrutiny and, therefore, this becomes a bit of a ruse.

Why will the member not make a commitment to have us sit, do the regular business, all of the business, not just what he chooses to do, rather than what is really a tactic to get out of Ottawa and out of Parliament as quickly as they can?

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have absolutely no intention of trying to get out of here early. The hon. member may have misinterpreted part of the wording of the motion. The motion actually says that we would sit every day until 10 p.m. up to June 21, and that hour is a substitute for the regular closing hour. June 22 is to be our last day.

The reason the motion is worded that way is not so that we leave one day early, but rather that we do not have a late sitting on that very last day to 10 p.m. The intention would be that the House would sit, barring any other agreement of the parties, until the normal closing hour on that last day. There is no truth in the member's interpretation.

It is very simple and my record on this is very clear. When we say something it is really easy to tell what we mean: listen to the words that we say. All spring we kept saying that we did not want an election and that we would not call an election. Whether it be the member for Vancouver East, the member for Wascana or others, they were always saying that the Conservatives would pull the plug and have an early election early and that is what they were up to. However, it was really simple. When we said that we did not want to have an election and we wanted to continue to govern because we had a lot of work to do, it is because we wanted to continue to govern and we have a lot of work to do.

The same is the case with our motion today. We have a lot of work to do, and unfortunately more work than we would have liked, because of the approaches of some of the other parties at committee and in the House in recent days, but that is what we want to do. We want to stay here and get our work done.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, my question will be on consultation, but I have comments to make first.

I am glad the House leader outlined a number of things that would be lost. It is because of Conservative mismanagement of the budget process that has put us in this position. Why did the Conservatives bring forward the budget so late in the year? If they might lose all these important things, why, from April 23 to May 14, did they not call the budget forward? Why did they bring it back so slowly at each reading? Why did they try their silly manoeuvre on Friday to end the debate, which failed? A number of people wanted to speak to the budget and they made important points today.

Canadians are happy that we are still debating the budget because it is falling apart at the seams. Taxing income trusts took a lot of money from seniors, and the government promised it would never tax them. This cost Canadian seniors billions of dollars. The government broke its promise on icebreakers. Its only promise to the north has suddenly vanished. There will be no icebreakers and no northern ports.

Then there is the income tax increase, heaven forbid. The Conservative government raised the income tax rate from 15% to 15.5%, and has not done anything about it in this budget.

Museums are in an uproar today. Do members think they are not happy we are still debating the budget? They want their say. They do not want the budget to go through with all of these problems in it.

What about interest deductibility on foreign investments? Canadians are happy we pushed on this issue and had the decision reversed.

People in Atlantic Canada and Saskatchewan are in an uproar over the Atlantic accord. They are happy that we are still debating this.

The other reason the Conservatives have called for this is because of the poor legislation that has come forward and caused so much debate. The House leader himself talked about one bill that was so bad it took 252 days.

A few days ago the Minister of Indian Affairs said that another bill was bad. There are only nine operative words in the bill and it has taken 20 days.

A lot of people have complained because of the bad legislation and there has been no consultation. Many groups across Canada have said that the government's bills are bad. They were never consulted. That is why the process has taken a long time. That is why everything has been held up in committee.

Why does the member not change the government's way of operating committees and start consulting so bills come to Parliament having been better prepared?