House of Commons Hansard #61 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was women.

Topics

Liberal Party Opposition Motion—Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised earlier today by the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons alleging the inadmissibility of the opposition motion currently being debated, standing in the name of the hon. member for Beaches—East York.

The hon. government House leader has raised a number of arguments, but has principally focused on two main points. First, he has argued that an opposition day motion cannot bring into question the conduct of an opposition party and, second, he has suggested that the use of the word “condemn” in relation to an opposition party brings the confidence convention into play, with the intended consequences on that opposition party.

On the first point, the Chair is extremely reluctant to intervene in view of the fact that Standing Order 81(13) and House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at page 724, make it very clear that such motions “may relate to any matter within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada” and that members “enjoy a very wide scope in proposing opposition motions on Supply days and, unless the motion is clearly and undoubtedly irregular (e.g., where the procedural aspect is not open to reasonable argument), the Chair does not intervene”.

As I stated in a ruling delivered on March 29, 2007:

Past interventions from the Chair have, accordingly, been rare, restricted to cases in which a motion is “clearly and undoubtedly irregular”. Speaking to this principle, Mr. Speaker Fraser declared that “the use of an allotted day ought not to be interfered with except on the clearest and most certain procedural grounds.” (Debates, June 8, 1987, p. 6820).

The government House leader's reference to a ruling from 1983, while interesting, speaks to a different era, when anyone, even the government, could move amendments to supply day opposition motions. In that particular case, it was a Progressive Conservative Party motion to which the New Democratic Party moved an amendment that did not respect the Standing Orders in that it did not “relate to any matter within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada”.

Of course, Standing Order 85, which requires the consent of the mover for an amendment, now makes that kind of manoeuvre impossible. In the circumstances, it seems unreasonable to extend this 1983 precedent to a motion which clearly has as its central theme a subject matter which falls squarely within the jurisdiction of Parliament.

The Chair does recognize, however, that it must remain vigilant in these matters. As I indicated in the March 2007 ruling referred to earlier, the original purpose of opposition motions was for “…airing grievances before voting supply to fund the Crown’s programme”. At that time, I went on to suggest that perhaps the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs could review the relevant Standing Orders to consider whether revisions to their wording might be helpful in realigning current practice on opposition motions with their original mission.

Almost a year has elapsed since I made that suggestion and I will reiterate that request again today.

On the second point raised by the government House leader, specifically the use of the word “condemn” and its significance, the Chair has considerably less sympathy with the argument being presented. I refer the House to House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at page 37, where it is stated:

What constitutes a question of confidence in the government varies with the circumstances. Confidence is not a matter of parliamentary procedure, nor is it something on which the Speaker can be asked to rule.

This seems rather conclusive and I do not see what I could usefully add.

Accordingly, for the reasons I have just explained, the Chair will allow debate to continue on the motion. I thank hon. members for their attention.

Bill C-46--Canadian Wheat Board Act--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on Monday, March 3 by the hon. member for Malpeque concerning the admissibility of Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act and chapter 17 of the Statutes of Canada, 1998, standing on the order paper in the name of the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Malpeque for raising this matter, as well as the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board for their contributions on the issue.

The member for Malpeque contends that Bill C-46 is inadmissible because it contravenes section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act which states:

The Minister shall not cause to be introduced in Parliament a bill that would exclude any kind, type, class or grade of wheat or barley, or wheat or barley produced in any area in Canada....unless

(a) the Minister has consulted with the board about the exclusion or extension, and

(b) the producers of the grain have voted in favour of the exclusion or extension, the voting process having been determined by the Minister.

In particular, the member for Malpeque alleges that the consultations referred to in paragraph (a) of section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act have not taken place.

In arguing that the bill is in order, the government House leader pointed out that the bill does not propose to amend the mandate of the Canadian Wheat Board. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food added that the intention of Bill C-46 is, in fact, to amend section 47 of the existing Act and, therefore, that the provisions of section 47.1 do not apply in this matter.

The Chair has looked at Bill C-46 bearing in mind the arguments made. In light of the circumstances, it is perhaps helpful to highlight the bill's main objectives, as contained in its four clauses. Clause 1 amends the act to confirm that the government may repeal or amend any regulation it makes under the act. Clause 2 establishes a dispute resolution regime which does not relate to the point of order of the hon. member for Malpeque. Clause 4 is the coming into force provision found in most bills, regardless of their subject matter.

It is clause 3 that is at issue in this point of order. Clause 3 repeals a section of a 1998 amending statute; the effect of clause 3 is to cause the repeal of section 47.1, which I just read, and nowhere in the bill can the Chair find reference to any matter prohibited within section 47.1.

The Chair must conclude that, as Bill C-46 does not appear to propose the exclusion of any wheat or barley product from the provisions of part III or IV of the act, nor the extension of the application of these parts to any other grain, it is not subject to the requirements of section 47.1 of the act.

Accordingly, the Chair cannot find that the bill offends the requirements contained in section 47.1 and I am ruling that the bill has therefore been properly introduced and may proceed.

Naturally, the member for Malpeque will have the opportunity to debate the principle of the bill at the second reading stage and, if the House adopts the bill at that stage, the committee to which the bill is referred will no doubt want to examine his arguments during its clause by clause consideration.

I thank the member for Malpeque for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Before question period, the hon. member for Laval had the floor. She now has five minutes, or nearly five minutes, to conclude her remarks.

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier, at the beginning of my speech, I told you how uncomfortable I felt in rising to speak to this motion, but I am not alone. Today, women’s groups, Women and the Law, Equal Voice and aboriginal women’s groups must also be embarrassed to be listening to this debate in the House.

On the day after a vote that will be etched forever in the minds of women in Quebec and Canada as a disastrous day for their rights, I find it somewhat mean-spirited that we have to debate a motion that blames, not the people who should be blamed, but people who make a practice of working together. Those women’s groups must also find it mean-spirited.

On the day after such a vote, on the contrary, what this should be is an opportunity to show all of those women’s groups and human rights groups that for some issues and in some cases, we really can join forces and combine our strengths, our energies, our ideas and our suggestions and move beyond partisanship.

It is very unfortunate that we have to discuss this motion today, in this manner. It is unfortunate that I have had to speak out against women with whom I usually work, in committee, in a much less partisan way. Their parties have left me no choice.

Because of International Women’s Day and this year’s theme, “Strong Women, Strong World”, I would like us to recall that we, the women of this Parliament, have to be strong women. We have to be strong to make a strong world for the people we represent, for all the people who place their trust in us, when they vote, to stand up for their interests properly, and to use our time as members responsibly so that we can stand up for their rights and make it possible for them to move forward and go even farther.

On this point, I would even like to call on all my women colleagues in this House, even my colleagues in the Liberal Party who drafted the motion, to rise and vote against their own motion, because it is a motion that cannot stand. I hope they are listening.

Every one of us, both men and women, is going to vote against this motion. We all know that. I hope there will be some Liberal Party members present to vote for it. Otherwise, it will be just another instance of a party whistling in the wind while still claiming to stand up for the disadvantaged, women, aboriginal people, seniors and the marginalized. When you really want to come to people's defence, acting like this is not going to accomplish it.

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member, we should be working together as colleagues and comrades in the House, but I must say that is not always possible.

I would remind the hon. member that the NDP has made it a very partisan House in many ways. On September 28, 2006, the NDP voted with the Conservative government in support of the $1 billion in cuts. I put forward a motion that basically read that the cuts should be rescinded in order to support women and her party chose to vote against it.

In its plan for women, the NDP slammed the Liberals aggressively. We do not do that. We simply put forward our program. We do not even mention the NDP. I will not go through the list but the NDP has often attacked and slammed individuals and has had to apologize in the House for certain smears. There were other times for which it has never apologized.

While I agree with the hon. member that we really need to try, unfortunately, sometimes it does not happen. However, that does not take away from the fact that we need to continue to work for women's issues. I commend the hon. member for her work because I know that she is a member who works hard, collaborates and is a strong participant on the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and has put forward some very good recommendations. I know that we will continue to work together.

I wonder if she could help us in the House to understand two things. First, how can we get women's programs back given the fact that so far we have not been able to convince the government of the day, and, quite frankly, I do not believe we will? Second, how will having an election change anything? That is the crux of it, that is part of what is causing the frustration. Maybe the hon. member has the answers.

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, with whom I also enjoy working.

We have heard about the interests of the New Democratic Party, the interests of the Conservative Party and the interests of the Liberal Party. These are the basic reasons, I think, why we have such problems in this Parliament.

The Bloc Québécois is the only party that does not owe someone, some lobby, company or big corporation. The only people to whom we are indebted are the people who elected us and placed their trust in us.

This is where many of the problems lie: all the other parties in the House cherish hopes of gaining power some day, and when a party hopes and wants to take power, its policies clearly change according to the issues of the day, the various things that people want or ask for, but not necessarily according to the needs that our electors tell us about in the streets where it really counts.

I think that one of the big problems in our Parliament lies in the fact that power is too often tied to Bay Street, and Bay Street often has teeth that are too long, pockets that are too full, and hands that are too big.

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would remind my colleague that this is International Women's Week and that this week we all had the opportunity to meet a number of Afghan female parliamentarians who were here in the House. That was a great privilege for all of us.

I also would remind her of some of Canada's international efforts as they relate to women. Canada is addressing the needs of Afghan women by supporting projects that improve the protection of women's rights, the participation of women in political life, which we saw this week, and women's access to the labour market, health services and education.

We have seen many changes in Afghanistan in six years. Six years ago, only 700,000 children went to school, all of them boys. Women did not participate in political life and were not represented in government. Today, however, close to six million children are attending school, one-third of them girls. More than 6.5 million Afghans, 43% of them women, voted in the parliamentary and provincial council elections and 27% of the members of the national assembly are women.

I call that real progress for women but the Bloc position on extending the security for those we are standing beside in Afghanistan is to simply leave now. I am wondering how she squares that with the idea of protecting vulnerable women?

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can do that very easily. My colleague forgets that charity begins at home. We have legions of native women who do not have the wherewithal to feed and educate their children, send them to school, and just be themselves with roofs over their heads. The government is responsible for the people in native communities but it does not have enough respect for them to give them what they need.

There are also our seniors to whom the government would not give the money that it has owed them for quite a number of years. It owes it to them now and will owe it to them in the future because it will not take the first step toward giving it to them. In addition, our veterans’ widows have not received one red cent and do not get any home care services even though their spouse was in the army for six or seven years at the front. They are too old now to take care of themselves but do not get any assistance.

I am glad that Afghan women are being assisted; I am glad Afghan children can go to school; and I am glad women make up 27% of the Afghan parliament, but I want us to take care of the people in need right here in Quebec and Canada.

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my hon. colleague from Laval for her excellent work as the Bloc Québécois critic for the status of women. Women are well represented by her. On the eve of International Women's Day, she rose and strongly defended the women of Quebec, and I am very proud of her.

My question is simple. With today's motion, the Liberals are trying any way they can to blame the other parties. I would like her to explain what the Liberals did not do to help women when they were in power.

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, do I have an hour and a half to reply? Unfortunately, I will not have enough time.

In the 1990s, many cuts were made in order to achieve a balanced budget. Unfortunately, the people most affected by those budget cuts were the women, once again. That is always the case. When cuts are made, the first areas to be cut are social services, that is, areas that affect the most vulnerable people, thus those least likely to be able to defend themselves, specifically, women.

In the 1990s, cuts were also made in the area of social housing. At the same time, transfers to the provinces were also slashed. All women were therefore negatively affected by those cuts, in terms of health care, education, housing and employment. All women suffered as a result of those cuts.

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the motion today. Especially as we approach International Women's Day, it is most important that we bring voice to the issues facing women in Canada, particularly as we see the present government chipping away at the foundations of our country. Numerous matters are raised in the motion, and all of these issues are very critical.

I represent a very large riding. It is a rural riding, which includes cities, towns and first nations. The other day the Minister of Canadian Heritage rose in the House and stated that she was proud of her right to vote as a woman. She was aware that women in Canada had to fight for the right to vote. She is indeed correct on that.

I might add, in case she is not aware, that first nations people and therefore first nations women did not have the right to vote until 1960 without giving up their treaty rights. This means that my grandmother was not entitled to vote until she was 45 years old, which is my age. Her name was Madeline Beardy and she was a band councillor. I am proud of the legacy I inherited from her. I am proud of the traditional customary laws in my home communities. On my maternal side, I am from the Muskrat Dam First Nation in Ontario. On my paternal side, I am from the Norway House Cree Nation.

I raise this because I want members to understand that is not the traditional laws of my people that have oppressed us as first nations women, nor made us vulnerable citizens in the country. It is the historical injustice and inequitable relationship with the federal Government of Canada, which has forced first nations women into some of the most dire living conditions in this country.

I failed, Mr. Speaker, to mention something, and I know this is a technical piece of information. I have just been handed a piece of paper reminding me, as a new member, that I have to announce I am splitting my time with the member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

Many of the communities in my riding have health and social issues facing no other people in the country. They are without comparable funding formulas for the same services as Canadians in health, education and child welfare. These are the issues that women talk to me about when I meet with them in my riding. It is about their children and how they will ensure their children and their grandchildren have hope for their future.

The past Liberal government created a political accord with first nations, the Métis Nation and the Inuit to ensure the gap would close in the foreseeable future. It is most important to note that this occurred not just solely out of the goodwill of a government. It occurred just as the women's right to vote happened, out of years of advocacy by women. The minister stood in the House and was so proud of that.

Research and advocacy are the pillars of ensuring that every member of a society has equal opportunity. This does not mean we all have to be the same, as the government seems to infer. It means that we all have the same opportunity. This is the hallmark of our great country. Through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and through our Constitution, we ensure the members of this society have equal opportunity and equal rights.

Women were not allowed the right to vote until about a century ago, and that was not bestowed upon them by the goodwill of government. This is 2008 and we are still struggling with a government that does not believe equality is integral for women in our country, that research and advocacy are necessary—

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Property rights.

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Churchill, MB

The member mentioned property rights. I am about to get to the issue of matrimonial real property. The Conservatives have a “father knows best” attitude. It is a paternalism that is so disturbing, something we have not seen it for decades and decades.

First nations women, aboriginal women, first nations people and our leadership have been seeking an opportunity to engage in discussions with the government for decades. We had political accords under the previous government and they included first nations leadership through the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. That was important. It was about a process of reconciliation that would ensure we worked together to provide a future for aboriginal people in our country.

The Native Women's Association of Canada responded to the disturbing pattern of the Conservative paternalistic government upon the government's announcement of its legislation on matrimonial real property. The title of the press release is “Consultative Partnership’ a Sham”. The association said:

The Government of Canada has acted unilaterally in trying to resolve the issue of a lack of matrimonial real property laws that apply on reserve. Despite engaging in a discussion process with relevant National Aboriginal Organizations, the federal government introduced legislation, The Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, that does not have the support of the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

The Minister of Indian Affairs was well aware that NWAC did not support the legislative draft proposed, after a lengthy meeting with him in December. NWAC outlined the critical importance of systemic solutions, the promotion of indigenous legal systems and the need for non-legislative solutions.

The suppression of the voice of women by the paternalistic Conservative government also was revealed through its cuts to the court challenges program. The loss of this program has had a devastating impact on women and on official languages. First nations children residing on reserve do not receive services if they are disabled. The court challenges program was the only opportunity they had to seek justice.

Women in my riding of Churchill have been negatively impacted by the government's cuts through the loss of early learning and child care spaces and the opportunity to utilize the Status of Women office. This office used to be in Manitoba, but the member from Manitoba made sure the government got rid of it. Now the women in my riding are unable to access that service. They are in a rural riding and the opportunity for women—

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Maybe if you went in your riding. They come and see me because you are not around.