House of Commons Hansard #138 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

On a point of order, the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake.

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, earlier today the Speaker ruled that there should not be any disparaging comments made about members in the other place. We are constantly trying to improve decorum in the chamber. When we are talking about senators from the other place, we should treat them with the respect that we treat each other here. I ask that those allegations be retracted from his comments and that he does a proper job of improving decorum in the chamber.

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

I thank the hon. member for his comments. I am sure the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe will take that into consideration. However, from what I heard, I think he was stating some facts. I did not hear any overly disparaging comment, but I would ask him to be mindful of that. In fact, his time has run out. I would ask for questions and comments and he can perhaps conclude his remarks.

The hon. member for St. John's East.

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, perhaps the member could elaborate on his views.

I heard his very enthusiastic and vigorous speech. One thing I did not hear, though, is whether or not he supports the idea of Canadians getting to decide whether they want to get rid of the Senate or not. This is what the motion is about with respect to the Senate. Are the people of Canada sick and tired of this notion of an undemocratic Senate, with the kind of concerns that he raised? Having the powers it has under our Constitution, should people not be given an opportunity to express their view? And if they want to get rid of the Senate, then it is up to us as political leaders to find a way of doing that.

Could he tell us whether the Liberals support the idea of Canadians having a say, or at least find out what their opinion is as to whether or not we should rid ourselves of this relic?

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, first, I want to apologize for saying anything other than that Senator Gerstein and Senator Finley have been charged under section 140 of the Canada Elections Act. I am sorry if I said anything else.

The other aspect of the member's question is a good one, whether the provinces and the territories had been consulted.

Would the member, who I know to be a very strong, vigilant, diligent and vigorous member, have, in the day, said to former Premier Danny Williams that we are going to do this and not consult him at all on something that is integral to the founding of our nation. It may be a difference of opinion, but the idea of a referendum across this country has been tried before. Obviously people are not against the idea. But to not even have consultations, as the government has avoided for six years, with provincial and territorial stakeholders is a shame, is unacceptable and is a prerequisite for Senate reform.

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to speak to this matter. First, I want to congratulate the hon. member for Hamilton Centre for sponsoring this motion. I followed his speech with much enthusiasm and I want to tell him from the outset, in order not to create false expectations, that I will not be supporting the resolution. Out of respect for him and for others who have spoken to this issue today, I will explain why I cannot support his resolution. The main reason has to do with the part about the Senate.

I believe ours is a system of checks and balances between the executive and the legislative branches, between the government and opposition, and between the two Houses. Having a bicameral parliament is part and parcel of the system of checks and balances.

As opposed to abolishing the other chamber, I believe we might want to improve it. Therefore, I cannot and will not support the motion because of the portion of it that deals with the Senate. I do not think it is appropriate to propose an abolition.

Some of us may remember than in the previous parliament, the 39th parliament, Bill C-10 was a bit of omnibus legislation that contained an element that we all missed in this House. Perhaps the government should have been more forthcoming in explaining the elements of the bill. Nonetheless, the Senate caught something that we should have caught in this House, which would basically have given the Minister of Heritage some powers equivalent to censorship in the making of films. After strenuous debate, that portion of the bill was abandoned. Thus I think the Senate saved the day there.

Furthermore, in some instances, the Senate initiates very thorough studies. I remember the one that was tabled by the Senator Kirby on mental health, which has had a significant impact to the benefit of all of us in this country. There are other studies of that nature on poverty and security. I think there is certainly a great deal of work that is done by the Senate that is quite good and that is why I support the Senate.

Perhaps amending the Senate might be something we should consider. For that, I think we need to look at another mechanism rather than just striking a House committee. Perhaps the way to go could be a royal commission or a mechanism involving provincial authorities when looking at possible reform of the Senate. If such reform is impossible, then at some point down the road perhaps there will be outright abolition. However, at this point I think that would be premature.

I did listen quite closely to comments by my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan.

I am sorry about the inclusion of the elements of the Senate in this motion, because I really rather agree with where the rest of the motion is going.

I was at one point the minister for democratic renewal, and I remember the discussions I had with Ed Broadbent, who was the member for Ottawa Centre at the time. I said that I personally agreed that there may be a use in our system for an element of proportionality. I tried to define that element.

I recall an op-ed in the Globe and Mail a few years ago calling for a “12-per-cent solution”, which apportioned a reduced number of seats on a proportional basis, but regionally. The reasoning then was that if we had greater regional representation within caucuses, for instance if the Liberals had more voices from Alberta and the Conservatives more voices from Quebec and the NDP more voices from other provinces, in other words, if we had more provincial voices speaking in the respective parties' national caucuses, the national perspective might win the day more often.

I think that would be healthy for our country. Therefore, I do support, notionally, an element of proportional representation.

I understand there are concerns and that proportional representation is a complex system. We had B.C., Ontario and P.E.I., where the people spoke on this. We had mixed messages. In B.C., a majority but not quite a sufficient number of people supported at one time having a single transferable vote, which is indeed a complex method. I think the problem there was that there was too great of a fixation on that particular method of altering the way of voting. We also had Quebec and New Brunswick, if I recall, that took a very serious look at elements of proportional representation and yet have failed to enact anything.

It is a complex situation, and I think the nature of our country, the federation, will help us evolve because, at some point, one of the provinces, if not the Government of Canada, will find a way to perhaps try some elements of proportionality. We will then see how that evolves.

The other concern of course is that some people say that if we go that way, we will always have a minority Parliament. That may be so. Some of my colleagues do not like the prospect of forever having minority parliaments, because it is quite difficult for members of Parliament if they are on constant electoral alert. However, I believe that is what Canadians may want; Canadians may want to have a little shorter leash on their representatives.

It behooves us all to learn to work together, not just to say we want to work together and pretend that we want to work together, but actually to find mechanisms to work together and make Parliament work. That is well within our grasp and capacity, and if the Canadian public decide that is what they want of us, then somewhere down the road, somehow, we will have to find a way to do that.

If we ever do go down the road of having an element of proportional representation within our electoral system, then we had better find a way to work together, whether by reconstructing committees or the way the House works or way we deal with legislation. In any event, that is well within our grasp.

All of that is to say that despite all of the concerns with the concept of proportional representation, an element of that, not a majority or perhaps not even as high as 50% or even 25%, but an element of that, might help our democracy. I say this because the other concerns about where we are going are equally valid. Here I refer to the concerns about lack of participation and declining participation, especially among young people. We have to be concerned about that. It is a concern that we cannot ignore, one that we ignore at the peril of our democracy and the well-being of our very nation.

When we weigh all of this together, perhaps the way to go would be to create a committee of the House of Commons and to give it a mandate, perhaps a little clearer than what we see before us today and with a little more authority, to go out and sound this out in a rational, responsible, realistic manner and come back to Parliament with its conclusions. Then Parliament should take them up in debate and see where they would lead us.

If we were to do that, and we will not do so today, I gather, from the indications of where the votes are, and to debate a motion that did not deal with the Senate, I would certainly be willing to support it and would encourage my colleagues to support it and to see where it takes us. I am sorry the Senate was included in the motion today, because I think we could otherwise have seen a little progress today.

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member will have five minutes for questions and comments after oral question period.

Wind Storage Project
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, as part of the government's economic action plan, $795 million under the clean energy fund was allocated over five years to research, development and demonstration projects to advance Canadian leadership in clean energy technologies.

On February 26, I had the opportunity to announce an investment of $2.79 million from the clean energy fund in the Cowessess First Nation's wind storage demonstration project. A wind turbine and a battery storage system will be installed on Cowessess First Nation land to demonstrate how intermittent wind power can be harnessed and stored to provide constant and continuous energy. This single turbine system is capable of heating and lighting approximately 30 homes and can be replicated a good number of times.

I would like to congratulate Chief Grady Lerat, the Cowessess First Nation, and members of their council and economic development team for pursuing this project and seeing it through to fruition. I wish them good success into the future. It may be a small beginning, but it is a big step in the right direction.

Nordic World Ski Championships
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Papineau, QC

Madam Speaker, this is akin to the United States winning soccer's World Cup in Brazil or Switzerland winning the gold medal in hockey at the Vancouver Winter Games. Yesterday, in Oslo, Norway, the birthplace of cross-country skiing, Canadian skiers Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw won the gold medal in the classic sprint relay at the Nordic World Ski Championships. They beat the Norwegians on their home turf. The torch has definitely been passed from the hands of Pierre Harvey to his son. Alex Harvey's legend will go down in history, just like that of his father, who made us so proud for so many years.

All of Sudbury must also be brimming with pride having seen its native son, Devon Kershaw, with gold hanging from his neck in Oslo. We join our voices with theirs in congratulating the two skiers for their epic victory.

Congratulations Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw.

Relay for Life
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, the first winter Relay for Life took place on February 26 in Hérouxville, which is in my riding. The cold weather did not prevent 300 walkers from participating in this relay organized to support cancer research. This is a first in Quebec and in Canada.

Emotions were running high during the traditional survivors' victory lap, which started off the relay. I was very impressed by the organized way the community, the municipality and the hundred or so volunteers were mobilized to look after the walkers all night long.

The organizing committee managed to collect $56,638, or more than double its initial goal of $26,000. I am very proud that this very first winter Relay for Life took place in my riding. It was an honour to attend and encourage these dedicated and hope-filled people.

Spurred by this great success, the organizing committee is already making plans for next year. I will be there and I invite all my colleagues to come along.

Fruit Growing Industry
Statements By Members

March 3rd, 2011 / 2 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Madam Speaker, our fruit growing industry is in deep in trouble. B.C. apple growers are making a return of 12¢ a pound while their cost of production is 22¢ per pound. Current farm support programs are too complicated even for accountants to understand and are not paying out. Many farmers have yet to receive program payments they applied for in 2008.

Our trade policies are taking a toll on our fruit growers. Cheap subsidized apples coming in from Washington State are undercutting prices for our farmers. The president of the B.C. Fruit Growers' Association is appalled that the CFIA has approved an import permit from yet another Chinese province. We simply cannot sustain any more apple imports from countries with low production costs, especially those whose standards do not exactly conform with ours.

I call upon the federal government to put Canadian farmers first and to ensure that any current or future trade agreements do not interfere with their ability to earn a decent living and to supply us with good quality food.

Volunteer Firefighters
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Madam Speaker, author Kurt Vonnegut once said:

I can think of no more stirring symbol of man's humanity to man than a fire engine.

Today, I wish to thank the brave emergency service volunteers, especially the firefighters from Prince Edward County, Deseronto, Belleville, Thurlow, Madoc, Marmora, Tweed, Stirling, Bancroft, Maynooth and all points in between, all of whom play a vital role in our communities.

Their tireless dedication is an inspiration to all mankind.

Over two-thirds of rural Canadian fire departments are staffed by volunteer firefighters who put their lives in danger while saving lives and property every day in our communities.

In return, it is essential that we support their training programs and offer adequate tax relief that encourages recruitment and retention of volunteers.

It is for these reasons that I believe, and have believed, that we must continue to be a strong advocate for our first responders.

People with Disabilities
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, 25 years ago, Rick Hansen embarked on a world tour to make the world more accessible and inclusive and to find a cure for spinal cord injury.

Inspired by a deep-seated belief that anything is possible, Rick's dream took shape in the form of the Man in Motion World Tour. I was there in Vancouver when he launched his tour. For 26 months, he and his team wheeled more than 40,000 kilometres through 34 countries raising awareness of the potential of people with disabilities.

The government must introduce a national disability act to promote reasonable access to medical care, medical equipment, education, employment, transportation and housing for Canadians with disabilities.

Rick's tour was a testament to his tenacity and his deep-seated belief that anything is possible when one is determined to live a dream. Rick has inspired and continues to inspire Canadians and people all over the world to live their dreams.

Forest Sector Champion Award
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Upper Ottawa Valley continues to have a proud history in forestry, with local foresters like Grant Gulick, Leo Hall, Chris Heideman, Ray Pastway, Raymond Bell, Dana Shaw, Earl Bochert, Bob McRae, Dean Felhaber and the Dombroskie brothers carrying on a tradition started by pioneers like Peter White, Thomas McKay, J.R. Booth, John Egan, and the Buchanan and the McLaughlin brothers, to name a few.

It gives me great pleasure to congratulate the county of Renfrew for its selection as 2011 forest sector champion by the Ontario Forest Industries Association, the OFIA. The award was made to the county at a special ceremony during the 68th annual meeting of the OFIA.

As good stewards of the earth, it is important for us to acknowledge that our forests are growing.

Canada's record of forest management and regeneration is unsurpassed with a rate of deforestation that is virtually zero, a record we should all be proud of in this United Nations International Year of Forests.

Tax Havens
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, during the latest World Social Forum in Dakar, Eva Joly, a European MP, stated that tax havens are weapons of mass destruction against the development of poor countries. According to Joly, the detrimental role of tax havens has been known for 10 or 15 years. If we are unable to combat them, it is because they are the crux of strong, converging interests.

Governments are quietly subsidizing multinationals by allowing them to avoid paying taxes. Leaders of poor countries are amassing a fortune through corruption. Political parties are obtaining their funding illegally.

Eight non-governmental organizations on various continents have launched the international campaign “End Tax Haven Secrecy”. The purpose of this campaign is to demand that the G20 leaders introduce concrete measures to put an end to this lack of financial transparency.

The Bloc Québécois welcomes this initiative.