House of Commons Hansard #167 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Suspension of Certain Standing Orders--Bill C-52
Business of the House
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Blair Wilson West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to deal with the three issues here that deal specifically with the motion that was put before the House.

The first issue I want to deal with is the very substantive nature and the facts behind Standing Order 53.(1).

The second point that I would like to talk a bit about is the heavy-handedness that this Conservative government is using to squash debate here.

The third point, and I have (a), (b) and (c) on my point of order, is dealing with the urgency.

All of them deal with the validity of putting this motion forward.

Mr. Speaker, if I could draw your attention to Standing Order 53.(1), it says:

In relation to any matter that the government considers to be of an urgent nature, a Minister of the Crown may, at any time when the Speaker is in the Chair, propose a motion to suspend any Standing or other Order of this House relating to the need for notice and to the hours and days of sitting.

In order for him to propose this motion, he must suspend any Standing Order or other order of this House. At the time the motion was put forward, we were dealing with private members' business. I would question the validity of putting that motion forward during a time that we were dealing with private members' business.

The second part of my dispute with respect to this motion has to deal, obviously, with the heavy-handed nature that this Conservative government is dealing with debate in the House.

It says here specifically, and I am quoting from the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, that “the Speaker may permit debate thereon for a period not exceeding one hour”. It is up to the Speaker's discretion whether or not he or she is going to allow a debate. Mr. Speaker, you obviously already ruled from the chair that you would allow one hour's debate.

I know it is a Friday afternoon, but I will tell members that I will stay here as long as it takes to debate any motion the government puts before this House. So I would ask the Speaker to extend that.

The third issue that I have dealing specifically with this motion deals with the urgency of this matter. How can the chief government whip stand here and say there is an urgent matter he has to deal with when the federal government now has a $9.2 billion surplus? I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, with a $9.2 billion surplus, there are a lot of things that I think are very urgent: the Kelowna accord being--

Suspension of Certain Standing Orders--Bill C-52
Business of the House
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Suspension of Certain Standing Orders--Bill C-52
Business of the House
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Order, please. I would like to remind all hon. members that I am standing right now. I would appreciate it if other members would sit.

I wish to thank all members for their advice on this matter. It is the first time since I occupy this position that I am being put in this position. Maybe none of you will like what I will say, but I will do it in good faith, in respect of the traditions of this House, as I understand them, and in respect of the Standing Orders that I have heard quoted from all sides.

Whether there is urgency or not is in the eye of the government to decide, not in the eye of anyone else, not even me.

However, I think that I was too precipitous in counting the 10 members that might object or might not object. I should have allowed for one hour's debate and that is what I am doing now. There will be, as of now, one hour's debate.

I recognize the hon. member for Newton--North Delta.

Suspension of Certain Standing Orders--Bill C-52
Business of the House
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I was supposed to attend a convocation at Simon Fraser University in my riding, but I saw the tactics being played by the meanspirited Conservative government. The Conservatives ran on issues of accountability and transparency. I am on the access to information committee and I see how the Conservative members operate on that committee.

Today the Conservatives are saying the debate on Bill C-52 is urgent. The reason is very simple. The Conservatives want to kill two important issues, the Kelowna accord and the Kyoto accord. Canadians fully support those accords. The Conservatives want to prorogue the House after pushing the budget through, so that these two important issues will die on the order paper.

If the Conservatives really believe in democracy, transparency, credibility and accountability on which they ran, they should debate this issue to the fullest. They should be transparent and open to Canadians and not act in this scandalous way. A situation such as this one is totally scandalous.

There is not a single member of Parliament on that side of the House who will be able to face his or her constituents on this issue. They are trying to push through the budget legislation on a Friday afternoon.

Suspension of Certain Standing Orders--Bill C-52
Business of the House
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Suspension of Certain Standing Orders--Bill C-52
Business of the House
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative members can speak when it is their turn, but they should let me talk now. I was supposed to take a flight this afternoon. We have important things to do in our ridings.

The Conservative members are acting in total panic mode in the House. It is a very sad situation and is totally scandalous.

I have never heard of a government in all our history acting the way the minority Conservative government wants to act. The Conservatives think that Canadians have given them a trust, but they forget that Canadians only gave them a conditional trust. They are betraying that conditional trust now by not listening to the Chair or the members of the opposition parties.

The Conservatives should remember that only 36% of Canadians voted for them. Two-thirds of Canadians did not give a mandate to the Conservatives. The government has to listen to those two-thirds of Canadians and respect the House and have a fair debate.

Suspension of Certain Standing Orders--Bill C-52
Business of the House
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I regret to have to rise on this very cheap and tawdry trick by the government to try to slip the budget through. It is very clearly an acknowledgement of the fact that the Conservatives realize this budget does not fly.

We have seen the destruction of the Atlantic accord and we have seen the reaction from the Atlantic provinces. We have seen the reaction of British Columbia where the Conservatives are now in third place in the polls because of their complete disregard for the interests of British Columbians. As we know, the finance minister when he presented the budget initially talked about Canada going from the Alberta Rockies to Newfoundland and Labrador, completely excluding British Columbia.

The government very rapidly has managed to alienate virtually every single part of the country with this budget. So it is no surprise that the Conservatives would try to invoke this special emergency Standing Order to try to slip it through on Friday afternoon as they do with so much of their despicable legislation. When they know the public will not accept it, they try to slip it through on a Friday afternoon. That is not appropriate for a budget vote and it is not appropriate for something of this magnitude.

I am not going to speak too much on the budget because the NDP is on the record. We know this budget gives billions away to the corporate sector, as always. The budget does not deal with the real problems that real people are facing from coast to coast to coast. I would like to touch on the issue of invoking Standing Order 53, which is a Standing Order that is supposed to be invoked in times of emergency and where the government normally needs to make an immediate call to the House.

Traditionally up until a few years ago this was used in a prudent way by governments. We saw in the 1960s this special order being invoked in an immediate outbreak of hostilities in Cyprus and the immediate need of Canada to send a peacekeeping force to Cyprus. Lives were in danger at that time, and it would be normal to invoke Standing Order 53 when lives are in danger.

In the 1970s it was invoked when air traffic controllers were not at their positions because of a labour dispute. Regardless of how we feel about the merits of how the government treated the labour dispute, one could say that lives were in the balance then.

We fast forward to the 1990s and we have seen the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party invoke Standing Order 53 as a cheap and tawdry procedural trick to try to get legislation through that would otherwise not get through.

There is no doubt this budget is in trouble. We have seen the outcry from Atlantic Canada this week and discussions on how there was a complete and total betrayal of Atlantic Canada. We have seen the reaction from the Saskatchewan government. We have seen the reaction from British Columbians. We have seen alienation throughout the length and breadth of this land. So the government in desperation now on Friday afternoon, shortly before adjournment, invoked Standing Order 53 because it seems to be incapable of managing its own agenda and seems to be incapable of bringing it forward in a measured and effective way.

We have seen how the Conservatives have managed the summer employment program for students. We have seen how they have managed the festival program. We have seen complete incompetence in sector after sector. Now we see this cheap and tawdry invocation of a Standing Order that was put in place for when lives are in the balance. Lives are not in the balance on this budget. What is in the balance is billions of dollars of corporate tax cuts that the Conservatives hand out like candy to their friends and lobbyists in the oil and gas industry, in the pharmaceutical industry, and the banks. They love handing out corporate tax cuts; it is their favourite occupation.

The finance minister will not do much for health care or access to post-secondary education. He will not do anything for housing except for the NDP money that we forced through in the last budget. No, the Conservatives will not do anything for those issues that affect real working families from coast to coast to coast. They do absolutely nothing to address the catastrophic hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs. One quarter of a million jobs have been lost. In the last few years a quarter of a million working families have seen their jobs disappear, replaced by flipping burger jobs, minimum wage jobs, jobs that are temporary, jobs that are part time. Now Canadians have to put together a couple of part time jobs just to keep a roof over their heads.

What is urgent is 300,000 Canadians sleeping in the parks and on the main streets of our towns and cities across this country, but the government has never invoked Standing Order 53 to address that crisis.

What about the softwood lumber crisis provoked by the government's foolishness, recklessness and irresponsibility in shoving through the softwood sellout that has resulted in 6,000 jobs being lost so far? Did it ever address that crisis? No siree, there was no invocation of Standing Order 53 there.

What we have seen time after time are real crises getting nothing but lip service from the government, and now we see this cheap, tawdry trick to try to get a budget through, a budget that the government knows is experiencing massive problems, with rejections from Saskatchewan, rejections from the people of British Columbia, and rejections from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island. There are rejections throughout Atlantic Canada, great hostility in Quebec, a reaction from the Ontario government and the Ontario legislature, and a reaction from coast to coast to coast, which I think symbolizes how quickly the government has eroded the trust that was placed in it last year.

We have never seen such a rapid reversal. The government said it was going to stand up for Canada and instead we have seen capitulations to the Bush administration. Time after time we have seen the sellout of working families. There has been no action on some of the key issues like the pine beetle in British Columbia.

Now we see the invocation of Standing Order 53. And for what urgent reason? What is the urgent reason? The government does not have an urgent reason. We know very well what the precedents are on this. Speakers have actually disallowed this kind of tawdry procedural trick in order to get a budget through.

Conservatives are admitting today that their budget is in trouble. They are admitting today that they are having problems from coast to coast to coast. There has been an erosion of public confidence in the government, which has occurred so rapidly because the Conservative government works in exactly the same way that the former Liberal government worked. That erosion has led to this invocation of Standing Order 53.

Is it appropriate to invoke it? Absolutely not. It is not like sending an immediate crisis team of peacekeepers to Cyprus in order to save lives. It is not like the government tried to act to make sure that air traffic control is maintained and that lives are saved in the balance.

There is absolutely nothing to the invocation of this standing order. It is simply a very cheap, very tawdry, very irresponsible and very reckless way of getting a budget through, a budget that Conservatives now know Canadians do not accept and want to see defeated. That is why they have done it. That is why in the NDP corner of the House we are standing up to say that this is absolutely inappropriate. It shows the desperation of the government.

Rather than taking action on the pine beetle, rather than taking action on the floods we are seeing now in British Columbia, rather than addressing the concerns raised in Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada, rather than actually addressing the crisis in manufacturing jobs, the crisis in homelessness, the crisis in the health care system and the crisis in post-secondary education, rather than addressing any of those using Standing Order 53, they try to pull off a cheap, tawdry trick that only a magician who has lost his licence would dare to raise in the Parliament of Canada.

Suspension of Certain Standing Orders--Bill C-52
Business of the House
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, that was quite a spiel. I guess one might call that a tawdry spiel.

I could go on for 10 minutes, as other colleagues have, on this particular use of Standing Order 53, but I will not, because if I do, then other people, I am sure, will want to add their words of wisdom on the appropriateness, urgency, et cetera, of the use of this standing order. I could certainly defend what I believe is its urgent nature, but I will not.

What I will do instead, Mr. Speaker, given the hour, is ask you to seek unanimous consent of the chamber to put your question now and do the head count that is necessary. Secondly, Mr. Speaker, I believe that immediately thereafter if you sought it you would find unanimous consent to return to Bill S-214, which was being debated when I interrupted the proceedings with my point of order. If you seek it, I think you would find unanimous consent to pass it at second reading.

Suspension of Certain Standing Orders--Bill C-52
Business of the House
Private Members' Business

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

For the sake of simplicity, I will do this one at a time and a little slower than I did last time. Does the hon. minister have the unanimous consent of the House to move his motion?

Suspension of Certain Standing Orders--Bill C-52
Business of the House
Private Members' Business

2:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Suspension of Certain Standing Orders--Bill C-52
Business of the House
Private Members' Business

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Will those members who object to the motion please rise in their places.

And 10 or more members having risen:

More than 10 members having risen, the motion is deemed to have been withdrawn.

(Motion withdrawn)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-214, An Act respecting a National Blood Donor Week, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

National Blood Donor Week Act
Private Members' Business

2:35 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River
B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill Secretary of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, I think if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent of the members present in the chamber to support private member's Bill S-214 at second reading.

National Blood Donor Week Act
Private Members' Business

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Does the House agree?

National Blood Donor Week Act
Private Members' Business

2:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.