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

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, our way of operating is very simple. We are trying to deliver results for Canadians on the things we committed to do in the last election. Unfortunately, some other parties are more interested in political gamesmanship, or advantage, or delay or obstruction.

The hon. member for Yukon referenced Bill C-44, which has an operative clause of nine words. The bill's real effect is to give human rights to our first nations people, human rights they have been denied under the Canadian Human Rights Act. We are ready to proceed with that, we want to proceed with it and we would love to proceed with it. Opposition parties are intent on delaying the bill at committee. They would rather go on a summer vacation than give first nations human rights, and that is a shocking thing to me.

I cannot share the member's sentiment at all. We are determined. We are trying to get things done. We made commitments to Canadians in the last election, and now we are delivering on those commitments. The budget implementation bill is an important part of that.

The overall budget does great things for Canadians. In two budgets, in two years, we are paying down $13 billion and $9 billion on the debt, $22 billion paid down on the debt. That is a real benefit for every Canadian.

Canadians elected us to do these things. They elected us to keep spending under control, to help families make ends meet on the things—

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will not play politics. I will quickly ask my question.

I am very surprised to hear the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons talk to me about Bill C-44 when he is not familiar with the file. In fact, he is talking about Bill C-34 instead of Bill C-44. He should come to committee to see the work we are doing.

I have a very specific question. We have an all-party agreement on Bill C-51 on lands in the far north claimed by the Inuit, who have been waiting for 10 years. There is also an agreement on Bill S-6. We have an agreement among all parties, including the government party.

Why not put these two bills to a vote tomorrow? It would be done and resolved. There is no need for a study, especially since everyone agrees on fast-tracking these two bills.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member had looked in the notice paper, he could have found last week's responses. That is exactly what we intend to do, but first Bill C-52, Budget Implementation Act, 2007, needs to be passed. That is the priority. Then I truly hope for the passage of Bill C-51.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

June 11th, 2007 / 3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that the government, in proposing this motion today, has chosen once again to maintain its habitual lack of consultation and reluctance to attempt a collaborative approach to organizing the business of the House.

On more than one occasion, as I think the Chair will remember, I asked directly whether the government intended to make use of Standing Order 27. As other House leaders can confirm, the reply was, “probably not”. I do not think we would be off base in the opposition in expecting that if that were no longer the case, if the government had in fact changed its mind, that it would have decently given us a heads-up that it was going to propose this motion today, at least given us that notice some time earlier than around one o'clock this afternoon.

Frankly, as we saw the government House leader making his travels across the floor of the House, I will not say where he went, the heckling and yelling as he departed the chamber obviously indicates the kind of demeanour of which we have to deal.

I do not see what there is on the order paper at present that this motion will get through the House any more quickly than would have otherwise been the case. I presume, judging by the government House leader's remarks, that the government is principally concerned with Bill C-52, the budget bill.

It has represented to the House and to the public that the government is now extremely concerned the bill will not receive royal assent in time for certain expenditures to be booked in the appropriate fiscal year. Let us be clear. The fiscal year the Conservatives are talking about is 2006-07, and that is the point.

The issue is retroactive fiscal bookings for the last fiscal year, not the future fiscal year, as members would have gathered from the remarks of the government House leader. If there is concern about the lateness of the date, the government really has only itself to blame.

Usually federal budgets are delivered in or about the third week of February, which then permits the introduction of a budget implementation bill by the end of that month. If things are properly managed, this would permit the bill to be in committee before the end of March and to be passed at all stages by the end of May or, at the very latest, the beginning of June.

This year the government chose, for its own partisan reasons, to delay the budget until the third week of March. We did not even see it until then. Then it unilaterally interrupted the budget debate. Then having finished that, belatedly, it interrupted, again, the second reading debate on the budget implementation Bill C-52. That interruption lasted for three full weeks, getting the bill to committee only in the middle of May.

As a consequence, the government then bulldozed the bill through the committee, breaking procedural agreements, denying many interested and informed citizens and groups the right to testify on the bill. Let it be clearly understood that any procedural issue on Bill C-52 is a direct result of government breaking the agreement on the process, which had been fully settled by members of the committee.

Nevertheless, the bill is now only in its third day of debate at third reading and there is every indication that the third reading and final stage would come to an end in debate in the House by the end of business tomorrow at the latest.

It is important to underscore what these dates are with respect to the budget. Remember that the House resumed in the final week of January. The budget was not presented to the House until March 19, fully eight weeks into the parliamentary sitting. That was followed by a ways and means motion and the introduction of the budget bill, but that was delayed because the government interrupted its own budget debate on the financial principles of the government.

Its budget was late, the budget debate was unilaterally delayed by itself and then it finally got around to introducing the budget bill on March 29, which was debated at second reading for the first time on March 30. It was then debated in a haphazard, sporadic fashion, brought forward to the floor by the government, until April 23, and then it was hoisted altogether. The House did not see it again until May 14, full three weeks later.

Finally, it went to the committee, not as a result of any filibuster by the opposition or any party in the opposition. The delay was entirely the procedural mismanagement of the government. It was there for less than two weeks and one of those weeks was a break week when Parliament was not even sitting.

It finally passed through the committee, rather expeditiously, thanks to the cooperation of the opposition, and it was brought back to be debated at report stage on June 4. For how long? One day, that is all the report stage took. Now it is at third reading where there have been three days of debate, and probably a conclusion could have been arrived at very easily by the end of the day tomorrow.

This is why I made the point at the beginning of my remarks that there really is nothing on this order paper that could not be dealt with in the ordinary course of business without the measure the government House leader has introduced. Obviously it is a tactic to blame the opposition for the delays that lie entirely within the control of the government.

What is it then? If it is not Bill C-52, what is it that causes the government to move the motion today? Despite frequent requests for the government to outline its realistic legislative priorities before the summer, all we have heard repeatedly from the government House leader and from others on the government's side is a flow of partisan rhetoric. Legislation has in fact been moving along through the House and through committees, despite the government's erratic management of its agenda.

In fact, the most controversial bill on the order paper, and this is what gives me perhaps a little hope here, is probably Bill C-30, the clean air act, as it has been revised by members of Parliament. Significantly, only the government has been stalling it up to now. However, now we will have some extra time, some extra hours of sitting every day beginning on Wednesday.

Can we then conclude that the extra time the government is seeking is to facilitate the work of the House in consideration of Bill C-30? I certainly hope so. It is in this fervent hope that I indicate to the House that my party, the official Liberal opposition, will support the minister's motion for the extension of hours.

In the time available, in addition to Bill C-52, which will probably be done tomorrow, and in addition to Bill C-30, which I hope the government has the courage to recall and put before the House once again, the official opposition also looks forward to making progress on Bill C-11, lowering freight rates for farmers, on Bill C-14, dealing with foreign adoptions, on Bill C-23, dealing with criminal procedure, on Bill C-29, dealing with Air Canada and the use of official languages, on Bill C-35, dealing with bail reform, on Bill C-47, dealing with the Olympic, on Bill S-6 and Bill C-51, dealing with land claims and on Bill C-40, the private member's legislation that would provide free postage for mail from Canada to our troops in Afghanistan.

Then there is an item that was referred to in question period today. This is the bill we are anxiously awaiting to see, the one dealing with wage earner protection. I hope the government will follow through on the commitment given in question period, that it will table the bill in amended form so it can be passed at all stages and brought into law before Parliament adjourns for the summer recess.

Let me mention one other matter, which is outstanding and which should be dealt with by the House, or at least dealt with by the government when the House is sitting. This is the examination undertaken a few weeks ago by Mr. Brown in connection with the matters that have been of great concern to Canadians in respect of the RCMP pension fund.

As we understand it, there is a report due from Mr. Brown on June 15. That was the original undertaking given by the Minister of Public Safety. It would be very important for us to know that the examination is on time, that we will hear from Mr. Brown on time, and that the Minister of Public Safety will take the step that he promised to take and make that report public immediately.

Perhaps the government might also consider, in whatever time that remains before the summer recess, reforming its approach to the mood in the House. The mood could be improved if the government would refrain from certain of its more hostile practices. For example: no more gratuitous attack ads, no more broken agreements on how witnesses will be heard, no more manuals about dirty tricks for disrupting parliamentary business, and no more devious games to misuse Standing Orders of the House. A little good old fashioned good faith could change the mood for the better.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, you were in the Chair on Friday when the Conservatives tried to bully us around and wanted to pass a motion. In fact, it was the first time that you had to handle such an issue and you did a good job on that day by not letting them bully the House and extend the debate that day.

I was listening to the hon. Liberal House leader. I have a question for him. Why would the government not come to the Liberal House leader on Friday to say that it will be bringing this motion forward today? In fact, the government brought it forward at 1 o'clock today. This is exactly what bothers me and this is exactly what bothers the people from Newton—North Delta, and many Canadians. When it comes to the transparency, accountability and credibility of the government, that is where the problem is.

I would like to ask the hon. Liberal House leader to comment because when we wanted to pass the legislation on crime with unanimous support, the government House leader never agreed to pass it. Would the Liberal House leader care to comment on the accountability, transparency and credibility of the government when it tries these bullying tactics in this Parliament?

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, let me say first of all that I think the events on Friday afternoon were quite unfortunate. I had mentioned in my remarks that it would improve the atmosphere in the House, if we did not have any more recourse by the government to that kind of devious tactic.

Obviously, it put the table and the Chair in a very difficult position, and I would like to join the hon. member in congratulating both the table and the Chair for dealing with that matter in accordance with the rules of the House, which solved a bit of a parliamentary crisis at the time.

On the issue of the justice bills, it is true that there has been an enormous number of one-off justice initiatives brought forward through this Parliament. I think 13 or 14 altogether. They had the potential of causing a backlog in the justice committee.

In light of that, we took the extraordinary step, we thought a very constructive step, last October to say that in order to save time in debate, save time in the justice committee, we were prepared to fast-track a number of those initiatives, to see the debate curtailed or focused, and in some cases passed through the entire parliamentary procedure without further debate.

If that offer from the official opposition had been taken up when it was first made in October last year, fully three-quarters of the government's justice agenda would presently be law in this country. It is just not available to the government to say that somehow the official opposition, at least, has been the cause of any delay with respect to the substance of what the government brought forward in its justice bills.

What we did say was that those bills in themselves were insufficient, that we needed to focus also on crime prevention, that we needed to focus also on more police officers on the street, and that we needed to focus also on more Crown prosecutors so that Crown prosecutions and the caseload could be handled in a timely manner.

We also said that we needed modern investigative techniques, and we had to have better coordination between different governments and different law enforcement agencies. We needed new laws to protect children against Internet luring and seniors against identity theft.

We made a whole variety of constructive suggestions about how to have a comprehensive justice agenda, but part of the proposal was to say that, insofar as the government had brought forward an agenda, we were prepared to fast-track three-quarters of that, and I think that was a constructive response.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, to my colleague from Wascana, I guess I have a similar question in seeking a commitment from the Liberals. We are very concerned that this motion today is simply a smokescreen on the part of the government to force the budget bill through and as soon as it is through and out of this House the government will bring in a motion under Standing Order 56.1 to adjourn this House.

As my colleague knows, probably much better than I, there is a way of stopping that motion, which is that 25 members of this House stand up and signal that they are opposed to that motion.

I am asking him today if he is prepared to commit that the Liberal Party will always have a substantial number of members in this House to oppose the motion if in fact it is brought forward by the government?

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, on the opposition's part we always try to encourage the best possible attendance in the House. In fact, the government may resort to that tactic. It would certainly not be our intention to support the tactic.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to asking a question of the opposition House leader. He has spoken of some of the games that have been played in this House. I have been quite disappointed with some of the games that Liberal members have been playing. Maybe I could get assurance from him that the Liberals will start working hard at the environment committee.

There have been many that went to the GLOBE International Conference just prior to the G-8 plus 5. There were two Conservative members, two Liberal members, a Bloc member and an NDP member, the six of us that attended. In Berlin we heard good solutions from numerous countries in addressing greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

I have repeatedly asked in committee for an opportunity for each of the members in the spirit of accountability to provide a report to the environment committee. Does that member support having a report from all members on what they experienced at that GLOBE Conference?

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, obviously, there are few issues of greater import to this House or greater import to Canadians than a successful battle against climate change. In respect of the work of this Parliament and the work of our standing committees, one of the finest bits of work that was done was the rewriting of Bill C-30.

The bill was obviously dead on arrival when it was first presented in this House last fall. Everybody agreed, whether they were in Parliament or in the NGO movement or in the private sector or in provincial governments, that Bill C-30 as originally drafted was an utter disaster.

Now a parliamentary committee has gone to work on Bill C-30 and has actually made it a good piece of work. I am glad to say that it includes the vast majority of what my leader first proposed in terms of the concept of a carbon budget and the other measures to get serious in this country and around the world in the battle against climate change.

I think it would be very useful if the government would now pick up the good work that was done by the parliamentary committee, bring Bill C-30 back to this House, so we can have a real debate on the things that need to be done to actually deal with the climate change issue.

In addition to that, I would also hope that we would have a real good discussion about the potential for carbon capture and sequestration in dealing with carbon dioxide which has tremendous potential for improving the climate, not only here in Canada but around the world.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member, in his capacity as a former finance minister, if he is aware of any budget in the past 15 years where the debate on the budget has lasted more than 48 hours? Here we are approaching almost three months and still the government delays its own budget.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, there is a common saying among all finance ministers, whatever political party they may be part of, that if a budget is still a matter of public debate, never mind parliamentary debate but public debate, after about 48 hours, then there is a problem. If it disappears in 48 hours, it is probably a great success.

This one has gone on now for more than two months and that indicates this is a budget that is in fact seriously flawed. A a great many Canadians, including many of the provinces, have a great deal of difficulty with this budget.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have before us a motion which asks, pursuant to Standing Order 27(1), that commencing on Wednesday June 13, 2007, and concluding on Thursday June 21, 2007, the House shall continue to sit until 10 p.m.

The Bloc Québécois will support this motion because we are determined to see Bill C-52, the budget implementation bill, passed before we adjourn for the summer. As you know, this bill contains some significant transfers for Quebec. They do not correct the fiscal imbalance, but they will make it possible to relieve the fiscal and financial pressures Quebec is experiencing.

The Bloc Québécois set the bar at $3.9 billion in additional transfers to Quebec, the third year, to be satisfied with the budget. As you know, there is $3.3 billion. More remains to be done, especially when it comes to post-secondary education, but we think that with $3.3 billion for Quebec in the third year, an important step has been taken to relieve Quebec's financial pressures.

Once again, this does not correct the fiscal imbalance. A solution to the fiscal imbalance will take negotiations to transfer tax points equivalent to the transfers for post-secondary education and health care to Quebec, to prevent Quebec from being at the mercy of unilateral decisions by the federal government. In the mid-1990s, for example, when the former finance minister and former Prime Minister decided unilaterally to cut transfers to the provinces in order to solve the government's problems, this created problems for the provinces. It is therefore extremely important to us that the budget be adopted before the summer recess.

In addition, I do not completely share the opinion of the House leader of the official opposition that we are referring to 2006-07 when we are talking about closing the books. It is true that when the books are closed in September, they will be the books for 2006-07. But if we have not disposed of the budget surplus, if we have not decided how the surplus is to be used before the books are closed, that money could well be used simply to pay down the debt.

I have an opinion here from the Library of Parliament that supports what I am saying. I would like to read a short excerpt from it:

If the budget were adopted before the end of the fiscal year but the Budget Implementation Act creating the trust [we are talking here about the Canada ecotrust] were adopted later in the 2007-08 fiscal year but before the government's books were closed, for reasons related to the parliamentary calendar, a portion of the 2006-07 surplus could no doubt be deposited in the trust.

It is very clear, then, that if we do not dispose of the budget before the House rises for the summer, that money will no longer be available for the Canada ecotrust, because the books will be closed in mid-September. This is also true of certain amounts for the health trusts.

We cannot take that risk. That said, the Bloc Québécois had another extremely serious concern. When the government talked to us about the possibility of introducing this motion, we indicated that what was important to us was the budget—and we are going to work to get it adopted as soon as possible—but that we also wanted an amendment to the notice of ways and means motion concerning the Bankruptcy Act and protection for workers' salaries when their employer goes bankrupt. We told the government that this was imperative for us.

As I was saying, we will support this request for extended hours. It is a priority not only to ensure that the notice of ways and means is tabled and corrected by taking into account the unanimous motion of the National Assembly, but also that the government agrees to fast tracking this bill to amend the Bankruptcy Act so that wage earners are protected—which is what all parties in this House now want—and that the laws of Quebec and the Civil Code of Quebec are respected.

Earlier, in response to a question that the Bloc Québécois asked and that I myself asked the Minister of Labour, we were assured that sometime tomorrow an amended notice of ways and means, taking into account the unanimous motion of the National Assembly, would be tabled with a bill. I think we will have the unanimous consent of all the parties in this House. I do not see why the New Democratic Party or the Liberal Party would oppose the will expressed so many times by the government and the Bloc Québécois

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate my colleague for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, who worked so hard on this and who never stopped hounding the entire Conservative government—especially the Minister of Labour—to achieve today's result. With these two guarantees, we feel comfortable knowing that Bill C-52 will be adopted before the summer break. This will ensure that Quebec receives the transfers it needs even though this bill does not close the debate on the fiscal imbalance. This will also put workers in Canada and Quebec on the list of preferred creditors, thereby giving them new protection when businesses go bankrupt. The creation of a wage protection fund will give them a chance to be compensated should their employers be unable to pay their wages. We think that this is extremely important.

As my colleague mentioned earlier, one of our priorities is Bill C-51, which would cede certain islands that are currently the property of the federal government back to Inuit nations. This is a request that dates back a long time, and it seems that everyone is in agreement. That is also the case for Bill S-6, An Act to amend the First Nations Land Management Act. We think it is very important that this bill be passed to bring justice to the first nations of Quebec. There is also Bill C-59, which would make using digital cameras to make unautorized recordings of movies a new offence under the Criminal Code. Unfortunately, Canada, Quebec and even Montreal have become hotbeds of this kind of piracy, which is a threat to the development of the Montreal region's very prosperous film industry.

This idea has already been raised in committee by the hon. member for Hochelaga. If my memory serves correctly, he also introduced a motion adopted by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. We feel it is important that this bill is passed before we break for the summer, which, incidentally, is not all vacation time. We have many appearances and meetings planned in our ridings. It is, however, a time for festivals, and we have many in the Lanaudière region. I invite all members to come and enjoy them. Furthermore, I would like to take this opportunity to once again ask the government and the Minister of Canadian Heritage to unfreeze the money, to ensure that these festivals can continue to provide relevant programming, not only this year, but also for years to come. She does not seem to be conscious of this. If, for financial reasons, one festival or another shows a deficit, that would jeopardize the survival, the development and the future success of that festival or those festivals. In that regard, it is very important that the government unfreeze the money immediately. I also think that common sense dictates that we focus our attention on bills, such as Bill C-47, for instance.

The Olympic Games will be held in my former riding of Vancouver. I think it is important to cover all aspects dealing with the legitimacy of all trademarks surrounding these Olympic Games.

For all these reasons, we support the government motion to extend the sitting hours to 10 p.m., beginning on Wednesday until Thursday, June 21.

I will close on another note, because I have not often had the opportunity to speak in this House, since I became the House Leader of the Bloc Québécois. Indeed, I had more occasions to address this House when I was the Bloc Québécois finance critic.

I would like to thank Catherine Lacroix, who works in the whip's office, here behind the scenes. She will be leaving us a few days from now, after working here with us for many years. All the members of the Bloc Québécois—and I am sure this is also true for many members of all the parties—have appreciated her finesse and her ability to work well under pressure, while always keeping a smile on her face. She plans to travel for a few months, in Europe, particularly.

Like Ulysses in Homer's The Odyssey, I hope she gains wisdom and fulfillment from her travels. I have no doubt that she will always be successful in all areas of her life. I would like to thank her and wish her all the best.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I asked the House leader of the Liberal Party if he would support an opportunity for members who went to Berlin to the pre-G8+5 meeting called GLOBE International, where a position paper was established on solutions to cleaning up the environment. The Bloc had a member there, It was very good to be working together in looking at solutions.

My question for the member is about whether he would support and encourage within the House, or actually at the environment committee, a report from all the members who went on that very important trip to look at the solutions in regard to climate change. Would he support directing his representative and those who went, and there are two members from the Bloc on the environment committee, on reporting to the committee how important this is to the environment and about the solutions that were learned about and shared there?

Canada did a great job in Berlin. We were well received, but we need to continue to work here in Parliament on finding solutions to clean up the environmental mess left by the previous government.