House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

Bill C-31--Time Allocation Motion
Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, we are a democracy because the government derives its mandate from the people as expressed in a general election. The government is ultimately accountable to the people for its actions, including its management of its legislative agenda.

In that respect, it is a democracy, for example, because our government made a platform commitment to pass at all stages and bring into law the various provisions of criminal justice reform included in Bill C-10 within 100 sitting days. That was an undertaking to the Canadian people, for which, in part, this government received a mandate.

Similarly, we made a very important election commitment to Canadians to take strong legislative action with the adoption of anti-human smuggling legislation, which is incorporated into the bill before this place, Bill C-31.

Furthermore, we have made commitments to Canadians to bring in fundamental reforms to our broken asylum system, which are also incorporated in this bill.

What we are seeking to do through this motion is to keep our trust with Canadians by adopting these measures, as opposed to listening to endless filibusters from the opposition, which, effectively, would preclude our ability to improve the asylum system. We must make these reforms before June 29 due to a coming into force provision included in legislation passed in June 2010.

Bill C-31--Time Allocation Motion
Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is quite a shameful answer for the minister to provide.

The minister tries to give the impression that because the Conservatives received a majority government mandate, they have the authority to look and reflect on every brochure that was published during that election and say that because it was in a brochure they have the authority to limit debate and prevent members of the opposition or any member of this chamber from being able to participate in debate.

That is something truly unique. That is not democratic. That is a majority government that has gone awry. It believes it can use time allocation as a tool to get what it wants. That is anti-democratic.

My question is for the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. I would rather have the House leader answer the question but I do not think he is available or able to answer the question. What is the hurry that he cannot even allow for 15 to 20 hours of healthy debate on such a major piece of legislation that would impact tens of thousands of people?

Bill C-31--Time Allocation Motion
Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, there are several points.

First, when the party to which the member belongs was in government, it invoked closure and time allocation more frequently than had any government in history. Let us be clear. It would be very interesting if he should care to answer this question. Is it his position that a future Liberal government would never use time allocation in order to manage its legislative mandate? If that is his position, let him say so. Let him bind a future Liberal government to that undertaking in a way that no previous Liberal government ever has been.

Second, in terms of limiting debate and precluding members to speak to the legislation, that is nonsense. We are proposing having five full days of debate on this bill, which would permit dozens of members to give speeches and dozens more to ask questions and make comments before the bill even gets to committee for detailed review.

I would further point out that there were already dozens of hours of debate on one-third of this bill, which is the human smuggling element, in this Parliament. There already has been fulsome debate on many of the provisions of the bill.

Bill C-31--Time Allocation Motion
Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act
Government Orders

March 12th, 2012 / 11:25 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate what my colleague said. He stated that time allocation motions in similar parliaments, like the British Parliament or the Australian Parliament, are used only very rarely, in situations where there is an urgent need to act or there is a threat to public health and safety. I find it hard to understand how this Parliament could have been faced with threats to public health and safety 18 times since we have been sitting, and that is not even a year.

I can give him an example. When we talk, as we are now doing, about the drug shortage we are experiencing, it seems to me that in this case, there actually is an urgent situation. There are lives at stake because of this problem.

I would like to know how he can compare a situation like a drug shortage, where there are lives at stake, to a time allocation motion for this bill. To me, that makes no sense. It eliminates the entire idea of the urgent need to act on a matter of public health and safety, as well as making the idea of the appropriate use of a time allocation motion meaningless.

Bill C-31--Time Allocation Motion
Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for raising examples of other jurisdictions that have the Westminster parliamentary system, including New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. I think it is very important that we always keep these examples in mind because their standing orders provide for the ability to limit debate on bills by using various motions.

No parliament, no democratic chamber, can function if it is the intention of certain members to continue engaging in endless filibusters. That is the problem. Obviously, there must be a full debate in which all views are expressed, but ultimately, we have an obligation to Canadians to act on certain important issues and not to have endless debates. That is the question. It is a question of balance. Perhaps we should amend the standing orders of the House to adopt the process used in the United Kingdom and Australia, in order to strike a balance between the business of Canadians and open debate here in the House.

Bill C-31--Time Allocation Motion
Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, the question I would like the minister to answer has to do with some aspects of Bill C-31 that raise some very serious concerns.

For instance, in Syria, there are between 400,000 and 500,000 Kurds who have no identification. The births of Kurdish children are not even registered. These people are going to wind up with no identity. When these people want to seek refuge in Canada—where we are supposed to be open to real immigrants and refugees who really need our help—are we going to tell them that if they come to Canada without any papers, without a passport, they will be thrown in prison until they can be identified, for perhaps up to five years?

Bill C-31--Time Allocation Motion
Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the hon. member does not fully understand Canada's asylum system. First of all, he is talking about refugees from Syria. I would remind the member that Canada will accept approximately 20,000 refugees who are living in Syria right now, particularly refugees who have fled Iraq and obtained UN refugee status under the convention.

We will accept about 4,000 refugees from Syria every year for five years. That is the biggest Syrian refugee resettlement program in the world. Our government is increasing the number of UN convention refugees by 20%. We already accept 10% of all of the world's resettled refugees. We are the global leader when it comes to protecting refugees.

As for asylum seekers, it does not really matter whether or not they have papers when they arrive. All asylum seekers will have access to the same process involving the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Bill C-31--Time Allocation Motion
Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. minister gave the impression that when the Liberals had a majority back in the early 2000s, we were also big users of time allocation. Just to get the statistics right, over a four-year period dealing with some 153 bills, we invoked time allocation about 10 times. The Conservative government has been in power as a majority for about 10 months and I believe this is going to be the 18th time that it has invoked time allocation.

Furthermore, if we look at when time allocation is moved, we would probably find that the Conservatives invoke time allocation after half as many hours as we would do when we were a majority government back in the early 2000s. They are not only doing it more often, but they are also in a big hurry to do it.

Why does the government have an obsession with ramming everything through without proper debate?

Bill C-31--Time Allocation Motion
Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I reject the premise of the question. To the contrary, many of the bills which have been the subject of time allocation in this Parliament were subject to enormous amounts of debate in the previous Parliament. One of the reasons Canadians elected a government with a stable majority mandate is that they were tired of important public priorities being endlessly stalled by pointless opposition filibusters.

I have been in the opposition. It is absolutely legitimate for opposition members on certain matters to express their dismay through such tactics as a filibuster on occasion. The problem is that in the previous Parliament and in this Parliament we have seen that kind of tactic used by opposition parties, especially the official opposition, to an extreme. Therefore, a platform commitment that Canadians have voted for, such as these efforts to combat human smuggling, would never be passed into law. They would never become law. We would never keep our commitment to Canadians. We would never have the legislative tools we need to stop human traffickers from targeting Canada were it not for the judicious use of the time allocation tool available through the Standing Orders.

Bill C-31--Time Allocation Motion
Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the Minister of Immigration, we disagree on two definitions. The first has to do with democracy. To sum up what he said about democracy: Canadians go to the polls every four years to give a mandate to one party and that party can do whatever it wants.

I disagree. Democracy is what we do here. We each represent a constituency in Canada. I represent the people of Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, who have given me a mandate, as a member of Parliament, to speak to bills introduced by the government. I want to do that, but the fact that the government systematically moves time allocation motions, even before the debate even begins in many cases, prevents us from fulfilling that role.

That leads me to the second definition that the minister and I disagree on: filibuster. How can the minister say that the opposition parties are going to filibuster before the debate has even started? What the minister is saying, in fact, is that a filibuster means hearing anything he does not want to hear or that he disagrees with.

In a debate as crucial as the one on Bill C-31 and on a number of others we have had before, why does the government impose time allocation even before the debate begins in earnest, assuming that there might be a filibuster later?

Bill C-31--Time Allocation Motion
Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, quite the contrary. The hon. member is wrong because a number of measures in Bill C-31 were included in Bill C-4, which the current Parliament has debated for dozens of hours.

Indeed, we saw the official opposition's clear intention to filibuster in order to prevent the introduction at second reading of a motion to refer the bill to the standing committee. That was clear. The opposition members have already had dozens of hours to continue their filibuster on the measures to fight criminal networks that organize human smuggling.

We have to focus on the substance of the bill. It is very important for fighting criminal human smuggling networks. Human smuggling is a dangerous trade that kills thousands of innocent people every year. We have introduced reasonable measures to combat human trafficking.

Bill C-31--Time Allocation Motion
Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, after hearing some of the explanations from the minister on this closure motion, it strikes me that he is missing part of the job of being an elected representative. There is a sacred trust to support the general public's understanding of how our parliamentary process works, not to mislead on how it works.

For example, when there were repeated prorogations in order to avoid the consequences of the Conservative government's own actions, the Conservatives argued that other governments had prorogued. Yes, prorogation happens when the government's agenda is essentially completed, but it is not justified to prorogue in order to run away from a difficult situation.

By the same token, of course closure is used from time to time. The minister put a false choice in his question when asking a LIberal member to promise there would never be closure. That falsely implies that it is either done all the time or it is never done. This undermines people's real understanding of how our political process works.

I would like the minister to clarify that there are times when closure is appropriate, but not the way it is being used unilaterally, 18 times in the short time of this Parliament.

Bill C-31--Time Allocation Motion
Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I hear implicit in that question an acknowledgement from the hon. member, which I appreciate, that time allocation is a legitimate tool in managing legislative business. I think what she is questioning is under what circumstances it is used. She suggested it ought not to be used unilaterally. I would submit that by definition, it is the government that has the responsibility for moving forward a legislative mandate and government orders which must trigger and vote in favour of time allocation when it is used, as was the case under the previous Liberal government and would be the case under any future Liberal government.

On the substance of this, let me clear. In the last Parliament we had dozens of hours of debate on the human smuggling provisions now found in Bill C-31. Canadians were frustrated that the opposition refused to allow those measures to be adopted into law. We had an election. The Conservative Party made legislation to combat human smuggling a key priority in its platform. We had television advertisements on it. The Prime Minister spoke about it across the country. That constituted part of the democratic mandate that we received.

Then we brought in Bill C-4. We had dozens of hours of debate on that bill and faced another opposition filibuster. Now we have included those measures in Bill C-31 and we know perfectly well what will continue if we do not use time allocation.

Just in this Parliament already we have had 18 hours of debate on the human smuggling provisions, 73 speeches and, I would submit, probably more in the previous Parliament. There has been already more than ample debate on these measures. It is time for us as a Parliament to act to combat human smuggling and to keep our commitment to Canadians to do it.

Bill C-31--Time Allocation Motion
Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to repeat my earlier comment because I do not think that the minister gave a satisfactory answer. There are legitimate reasons to move a time allocation motion. As I explained, such motions are to be used when dealing with threats to the health or safety of Canadians, situations in which deaths are imminent or could occur within days if Parliament does not intervene immediately. That is not the case here. The example I gave was the drug shortage, which really is an emergency situation.

Does the minister agree that using time allocation for any number of other reasons is completely ridiculous? Such motions are to be used only in an emergency, so, does this demonstrate lack of respect for the rules and practices of Parliament? Should such motions be used only when there is an immediate threat to the health and safety of Canadians? What does my colleague think?

Bill C-31--Time Allocation Motion
Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not agree. When a bill is important and is part of the commitments that our party made to voters, we have to study it for a certain time in committee, then move on to the final vote. The opposition is trying to prevent the committee from studying the bill and prevent the final vote. The opposition is trying to prevent the government from keeping its promises. We have made promises.

Bill C-31 is urgent because it concerns people's safety. Every year, thousands of people around the world die during human smuggling. As we have seen in the news, human smuggling rings are trying to organize long, dangerous trips to Canada from Africa's west coast. We are going to need these tools soon.