House of Commons Hansard #174 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was gun.

Topics

The Environment
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps my friends should listen to the whole question before applauding.

This morning, that same company was found guilty of having dumped effluent in the Chaudière River and was fined $125,000.

Can the Minister of the Environment comment on the opposition parties' hypocrisy?

The Environment
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I have never seen so many Liberal and Bloc members stand up for corporate polluters

I would like to thank my colleague for his good question. Our super government has a real plan to reduce greenhouse gases and fight air pollution. It is scandalous to find that the Bloc Québécois and the NDP are ready to back a major industrial polluter.

If the Bloc wants to stand behind big polluters, that is its choice. Our choice is to protect our environment and to regulate against these industrial polluters.

The House resumed from June 18 consideration of the motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

It being 3:05 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred division on the motion to concur in the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #209

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Toronto Centre

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

June 19th, 2007 / 3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my notes tell me I am to say that it is with considerable regret and some emotion, but I think the emotion has betrayed me.

Mr. Speaker, I have advised you, Sir, that I will be standing down as member of Parliament for Toronto Centre, effective July 2. I do not wish to take a lot of time of the House to share that notice with you, but I did want a chance to say thank you to my electors.

The electors of Toronto Centre, known as Rosedale when I first ran, had perhaps the good sense to turn me down the first two times I ran. So, I learned something about democracy. They subsequently elected me five times. There will be members of the House who will think they were right the first time. Others will think they were right the second time. That is what makes a great democracy. I want to thank them for having had the chance to represent one of the great ridings and diverse ridings of our country.

I would like to thank my wife, Cathy, my children and my family and friends who have supported me. We all know we would not be here without that support.

I would like to say that it is a privilege to be elected to one of the best Parliaments in the world. It is a great privilege to sit in this House, It is very hard for me to imagine that I will no longer have access to this place that is so sacred to us all.

I would like to extend many thanks to the Clerk of the House and all the parliamentary staff. Far too often we go about our business without recognizing the work they do for us here and in committees.

Our capacity to do our jobs and represent our constituents is enormously enhanced by their work, and I thank them. I know from their applause, members thank them from their hearts as well.

I had the opportunity of serving as foreign affairs minister and defence minister. I could not leave this place without being thankful for the extraordinary efforts of the representatives of our foreign service who do us so proud as they work for us around the world, tirelessly and selflessly. I also could not step down without recognizing the fantastic privilege to have been the defence minister and to work with our young men and women in uniform, who every day risk their lives for us and their country and do it so well.

It is the Prime Minister's privilege to call a byelection. The people of my riding, I hope, will understand why I believe it is important that they be represented by a future voice rather than someone from the past. All parties in the House have representatives now nominated to run in that riding. I would ask that they have the opportunity to be represented in this place as early as possible for the sake of our democracy and our future.

In closing, I want to say one thing about the civility of this place. There has been a lot in the press recently about the lack of civility in the House. It may be attributable to the minority situation we are in and it may be attributable to a lot of causes, but surely we owe it to ourselves to disagree without being disagreeable. We do not need to do that.

I believe everyone in the House carries within him or her the desire to serve our country and, whether one has that desire or not, the capacity to affect the future lives of every citizen of this great land, and to some extent others around the globe. Let us treat each other with the respect that thought brings. In what we bring to this place, let us respect one another and, in so doing, I believe our fellow countrymen will respect this institution and respect us for the work we do.

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I believe we will have additional statements following the comments by the hon. member for Toronto Centre.

The hon. leader of the official opposition would like to say a few words about the question of privilege that was just raised. I am pleased to give him the floor.

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the career of an exceptional member of Parliament.

The member for Toronto Centre has served this House in many roles, as minister of foreign affairs, minister of defence and most recently as leader of the opposition, but his most important role was unofficial. He served this House as the very model of a gentleman.

As he said, his own career is a kind of a model of perseverance. He first stood for election in 1984 and finished somewhat behind Mr. David Crombie. He ran again in 1988, this time coming much closer to victory, but close is never good enough, so in 1993 he ran a third time and won, and the House has surely been the better because of it.

He made his mark as chairman of the foreign affairs committee. He presided over a series of unanimous reports. Looking back over the current session of Parliament, the magnitude of this achievement should not be lost on any of us.

However, his greatest achievements were still to come. In 2001 he was appointed minister of foreign affairs. Consider the difficulty of this job in a world shaken by 9/11 and on the eve of the G-8 summit of Kananaskis, yet the member for Toronto Centre handled his new responsibilities with ease. Not only that, to those of us in cabinet, it seemed as though he had always been there.

Even more significantly, he was minister of foreign affairs at a time when Canada was debating one of its most historic and important decisions, whether to become involved in the coming war in Iraq. As we all know now, but could only guess at the time, our decision not to support that war was a momentous one for Canada. The member for Toronto Centre knew it was the right decision, and I applaud him for it.

His deep competence and his mastery of policy made him the right choice for minister of defence. He oversaw the single largest increase in Canada's defence spending in over a decade, an increase of $13 billion in the 2005 budget. What a minister of defence he was.

When the previous prime minister resigned, it was clear that one man had the gravity, the strength of personality and the moral authority required to serve our party as interim leader and to serve the House as leader of the opposition. The member asked for nothing in return, save the chance to serve his party and his country, and serve them he did, with honour and distinction.

In retirement the member will spend more time, much deserved, with his wife Cathy, their two children and their many grandchildren. He will also return to his previous career, but I know he will always stay very close to this House, to his party and to the service of his country. I wish him the best of luck in this modest enterprise and I hope he is able to make a living at it.

On behalf of every Liberal, every member of the House and every Canadian, let me thank the member for Toronto Centre for his service, his talent and his inspiration. I can only wish the next generation of leaders will learn from his example.

I will close in my language, because my colleague from Toronto Centre speaks French so admirably. To me he is a Torontonian through and through. He is a quintessential Torontonian, who is as cosmopolitan as the city itself.

That is why we like having him as a colleague so much, for everything he represented to Canada and the world. I want to thank him, as a colleague from Montreal to a colleague from Toronto.

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I was just saying to my dear colleague from Toronto Centre that this is a very sudden development.

Nonetheless, it is a great pleasure for me to commend and congratulate the hon. member for Toronto Centre for his long and distinguished career in the House of Commons and outside this chamber.

I do want to take a few minutes to recognize and to appreciate the incredible career, really a lifetime career, of the hon. member for Toronto Centre.

It has been noted already by both the member and his leader that he took a long time to get here and was very persistent in trying to get here. I must say I went through a similar experience. I ran once and was defeated. I still cannot find anyone who voted against me, but I am sure he knows the same phenomenon as well.

Nevertheless, I think what is important to note is that all this perseverance to come to the House of Commons and to engage in public service was not something that the hon. member for Toronto Centre really needed in any way, shape or form.

He had, long before coming here, an outstanding private life. He was outstandingly successful as a corporate director, as a lawyer, and as an academic whose expertise was valued both nationally and internationally.

He certainly had no need for the trials and tribulations of elected public office, but nevertheless he took those on, was ultimately successful in his electoral quest, and then went on to achieve great things in a parliamentary career.

Before he even entered cabinet, he had a long parliamentary and interparliamentary career, as noted, as committee chair, a career, frankly, that was very successful.

He then of course went on to hold two of the most important and most highly visible cabinet positions one can hold in the Government of Canada, first, as minister of foreign affairs and then as minister of national defence.

He served with great distinction in both roles. However, I think he served, if I do not mind saying so, with highest distinction in the job he was to attain next and that was to be leader of the opposition.

I should tell members, and I certainly have conveyed to my friend opposite, that leader of the opposition is never an easy job to have. It is certainly the one job in the country where everybody, including it seems at times everyone in one's own party, thinks they can do it better and very often there is a sense that they would like to do the job.

The hon. member for Toronto Centre had more than that sense. In fact, while he was doing the job, several of his colleagues were actually out there competing for it, which I am sure did not make that job any easier.

However, I have to say, as I have said before, I do think, and I think we should all recognize, that he really did a tremendous job as leader of the opposition. He conducted himself with great intelligence, with great passion and with great integrity, and I think we should all appreciate his efforts.

Of course in that role, he and I disagreed about very many things. I recall on one occasion we even disagreed about the various ways in which one should or should not wear silk. So, it is fair to say that our disagreements covered a wide range of issues.

However, in retrospect, I think we agreed on a couple of subjects where I think the country was better for our agreement and where that agreement will prove to be recognized over time.

As the Leader of the Opposition already mentioned, the hon. member for Toronto Centre is a great advocate and promoter of French in Canada and of Canada's French heritage.

He joined us and our party on the matter of a very important resolution for the history of this country, the resolution that recognizes the nation of Quebec within a united Canada. I want to thank him for his contribution to that debate.

Also, Mr. Speaker, as the minister of national defence the member for Toronto Centre was involved in another difficult decision and that was to support Canada's involvement in the United Nations action in Afghanistan.

The member made many difficult decisions while he was minister of national defence regarding Canada's involvement in Afghanistan. He has stood by those decisions and stood by that mission, and I know that we on this side and I think our troops deeply appreciate his commitment in that regard.

I assume that a member and a gentleman as active and accomplished as the member for Toronto Centre will now be involved in a life of activity as well as some retirement. I would say whether it is retirement or whether it is the future endeavours of whatever combination, I hope the House will indulge me in wishing Bill, Cathy and all of their family all the best in the future.

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the leader of the Bloc Québécois and the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île are disappointed that they could not be here to pay tribute to the member for Toronto Centre, because they are among his greatest admirers. I know they will join us, in spirit, in acknowledging the work he has done as a parliamentarian and also in acknowledging his ever-respectful attitude. All the Bloc Québécois members have a fondness for him and have greatly enjoyed working with him.

I had the opportunity to work with the member for Toronto Centre on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade for four years. I can therefore attest to the fact that, as the Leader of the Opposition said, we were able to produce unanimous reports in large part thanks to his humanistic attitude, which would transcend party lines to get to the bottom of problems and find real solutions to the challenges facing the committee. His leadership on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade made it possible to reach a consensus. Having worked on other committees, I can say that sometimes, the dynamic was rather different and we rarely produced unanimous reports. We owed it all to him, and I would like to congratulate him on that.

I would also like to point out that we have a special connection to the member for Toronto Centre because he was born in Montreal. I think that I am speaking not only on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, but on behalf of the entire Quebec contingent. In fact, a large part of his family has very deep roots in Quebec, and he even has roots in Lanaudière. That explains our close connection to the member for Toronto Centre.

The fact that he was born in Montreal accounts for his desire to learn how to speak excellent French, as someone mentioned. We should all consider him a role model. The member for Toronto Centre is a great francophile, not only in Canada but throughout Francophonie, and he has been recognized as a great defender of the French fact. That is just one more asset that he brought to the House of Commons.

As you know, he studied law both here and in France. He even headed up the Alliance française in Toronto for 10 years. I do not have to repeat that he was a brilliant academic, that he worked for and taught in the faculty of law, and that he was elected in 1993. Earlier, his two defeats were mentioned, but I would rather highlight his four consecutive election victories, which show just how much voters in his riding liked him.

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Five victories.

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Five victories; I forgot one.

As I was saying, we like him too.

As someone else mentioned, he did a very capable job as interim leader of the Liberal Party between the last two Liberal prime ministers prior to the most recent election. He could easily have been a formidable candidate during the Liberal Party of Canada's last leadership contest.

Of course I will always remember his work in foreign affairs and international trade, as I have already mentioned. I would like to reiterate the fact that he truly had a vision, which is crucial when dealing with such contentious and serious problems and when so much is at stake, which is usually true of foreign affairs.

This vision gave him the right attitude, particularly during the debate on Canada's possible intervention in Iraq. I am sure he must have been torn between the two options for some time. In the end, thanks to his humanistic, multilateral vision, which focused on international cooperation, development and security, he came to the conclusion, like the majority of this House, that our participation in the war in Iraq would not be well received, unlike our mission in Afghanistan, which had a multilateral foundation and was entirely understandable at the time. The situation is not quite so clear now. That said, when he was national defence minister, we knew a little more about where things stood.

I must say, I hope he puts all this experience to good use for all Canadians and all Quebeckers. I can assure him that if he decides to set up a little foreign affairs consulting business, the Bloc Québécois will consult him regularly before making any decisions. As we all know, he has extensive expertise in this area.

On behalf of the entire Bloc Québécois caucus, I would like to wish him and his family—his wife, Catherine, and their two children, Katherine and Patrick, along with their three grandchildren—every success in all their future endeavours. I am confident that this is by no means the end. No, this is merely the beginning.

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure, but also with some regret, that I rise to share a few words about my friend, our friend, the hon. member for Toronto Centre.

He has worked very hard for his fellow citizens. Many of his constituents have very limited means. His riding was known as Rosedale a few years ago and, as we all know, some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the country are found there.

I was elected at the municipal level in the same area for years, and I can assure this House that the hon. member for Toronto Centre was always there for his fellow citizens and worked with them for social justice and their well-being. He is not someone who shies away from anyone in need.

I witnessed firsthand what a member of Parliament who is truly committed to all of his constituents can do. It probably would have been very easy for the member for Toronto Centre to have found many reasons not to be a part of a lot of community activities. He was a minister and a brilliant chairman of the foreign affairs and international development committee. He served his country in so many different ways and yet I can attest to how devoted he was to his constituents. We would often be together in some of the poorest neighbourhoods where some of the greatest homelessness is found, where people are really struggling, and the member for Toronto Centre would be there because he is someone who takes and who always has taken his responsibilities very seriously.

He is warmly welcomed in the parts of the community that he represents. He was also one of the first to stand for civil rights and human rights for gays and lesbians at a time when that was not very popular.

I must say that I was always very impressed by his dedication to human rights and his participation in such a celebratory and principled way with people who are often on the margins and can still feel that marginalization today, but they will never feel it when it comes to the member for Toronto Centre. He has been honoured many times, and rightly so.

I was thinking of the things we share in common. We were both born in Montreal and both spent some time in the same academic institution at the University of Toronto. He was far more famous and illustrious than I in my time there, I must say. We also had the opportunity to contest the 1993 election in Toronto Centre. We were both trying to defeat David MacDonald at the time who was the member and a Conservative. I succeeded in converting David MacDonald to a socialist but that was really the only consolation I had.

The member for Toronto Centre taught me the lesson that one needs to lose a couple of times before one earns the right to be in this place. Three of us would often go out for a couple of beers after an all candidates debate, a practice that I would like to propose to the other party leaders, by the way, and we would talk about job sharing and the issues of the day. He did assure me that someday I would probably be elected but not in his riding. He was right once again.

The other thing I want to say is that I have always felt that despite his sort of straight back demeanour and his very dignified presence, the hon. member is very approachable at the human level. We had a number of occasions to talk about issues together one on one. Every time I found a dignity, an openness, a friendship and the kind of conversation that we really wish could happen among all of us much more often.

When he stood in his place to debate, we knew several fundamentals about this man: he felt that he was here to serve the others and his country. We also knew that he loved his country very profoundly every time that he spoke. We finally knew that he respected this place and the opportunity that it provides for all of us to do our best on behalf of our fellow citizens.

I think what we are talking about here is a true parliamentarian, someone who can serve as an example for people coming newly to politics. I hope they will study the record of the member for Toronto Centre.

I hope that he will accept, on behalf of my caucus, the New Democratic Party, and all our members and supporters across the country, our gratitude because we appreciate the service of the member. We also want to thank his family for sharing him with us over these last number of years. We wish him well in the future.

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

On behalf of all hon. members, I want to express our thanks to the hon. member for Toronto Centre for his service in the House. It has been a pleasure for me as Speaker to work with him as a minister and leader of the opposition.

I appreciated his remarks about respectfulness in question period and in dealings between members. I hope all hon. members will bear those comments in mind overnight so that tomorrow’s question period will be the very model of civility which we can all look forward to.

I thank the hon. member for Toronto Centre for his friendship over the years and wish him and his wife Cathy the very best on his retirement.