Amendments and Corrections Act, 2003

An Act to amend certain Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.

Sponsor

Jacques Saada  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

SupplyThe Royal Assent

May 6th, 2004 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Order please. Before we hear the next speaker, I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

May 6, 2004

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 6th day of May, 2004, at 10:00 a.m.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Uteck

Secretary to the Governor General

The Schedule indicates the bills assented to were Bill C-7, An Act to amend certain Acts of Canada, and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to enhance public safety, Chapter 15; Bill C-17, An Act to amend certain Acts, Chapter 16; and Bill C-11, An Act to give effect to the Westbank First Nation Self-Government Agreement, Chapter 17.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

February 18th, 2004 / 5 p.m.
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London West Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I also am glad to see another woman taking the position in the chair.

There are three motions on Bill C-12. I will briefly speak to the two government motions. Government Motion No. 1 is a grammatical correction amendment to clause 6. This is a technical motion that proposes to correct a grammatical mistake in the French version of an amendment made in committee. Clause 6 was amended in committee to add the offence of “advertising” a recording made through the commission of an offence of voyeurism to the listing of other prohibited acts regarding such voyeuristic recordings. The words added in the French version require an indirect object, but they are placed in a sentence where all of the other verbs require a direct object.

The amendment would replace the expression “faire de la publicité” with the verb “annoncer”, a verb which is of a similar nature to the other verbs or prohibitions used in the clause and which is also the same French verb used elsewhere in the Criminal Code for the English equivalent of “advertising”. This would make the French and the English versions consistent.

I will move now to government Motion No. 3, which is a coordinating amendment on clause 27. Again this is a technical motion to amend clause 27 of Bill C-12. It replaces Bill C-12's reference to the public safety bill that died on the Order Paper with the current reference to that same bill as reinstated on February 11.

Clause 10 of Bill C-12 proposes to amend section 183 of the Criminal Code to add the new voyeurism offences to the list of offences for which criminal investigations can intercept private communications and use video surveillance. Bill C-7, the Public Safety Act, 2002, formerly Bill C-17, also amends section 183 of the Criminal Code to add other offences to the list.

Clause 27 of Bill C-12 is a coordinating clause. It is needed to ensure that the amendments to section 183 proposed by both Bill C-12 and Bill C-7 can come into effect regardless of the order of enactment of these bills.

Accordingly this motion seeks to amend clause 27 of Bill C-12 so that it now refers to the new bill number for the Public Safety Act, Bill C-7, to thereby coordinate both bills' amendments to section 183 of the Criminal Code.

Now to the more substantive matter which the hon. member for Vancouver East has proposed in her motion. I rise today to oppose the motion of the member opposite. I do acknowledge the hard work that has been done by all on this committee.

In effect, this motion seeks to maintain the status quo on child pornography and this is something which neither Canadians nor this government accept. The government believes that the existing child pornography provisions do not go far enough to protect our children against this form of sexual exploitation.

They do not go far enough because they restrict the definition of written child pornography to only those materials that “advocate or counsel” unlawful sexual activity with children. The existing child pornography provisions do not go far enough because they provide two defences for all child pornography offences, including a defence for material that has artistic merit or an educational, scientific or medical purpose without any harms-based test.

Bill C-12 says no to the status quo while this motion says yes to it. Clause 7 of Bill C-12 proposes two reforms to the existing child pornography provisions. First, it proposes to broaden the existing definition of written child pornography to include written material that describes prohibited sexual activity with children where that description is the dominant characteristic of the material and it is done for a sexual purpose.

Second, Bill C-12 proposes to narrow the two existing defences into one defence of “public good”, a term that is now specifically defined in the bill. Under the new law, no defence would be available where the material or act in question does not serve the public good or where it exceeds or goes beyond what serves the public good. More simply stated, if the risk of harm that it poses outweighs the benefit that it offers to Canadian society, then no defence would be available.

Today's motion goes in the opposite direction of Bill C-12. It says that written materials that consist primarily of descriptions of unlawful sexual activity with children, which descriptions are done for a sexual purpose, are okay. It says that these materials are not child pornography and that they should not fall within the reach of the criminal law.

The Supreme Court of Canada interpreted “for a sexual purpose” in the Sharpe case, 2001, as that which can be reasonably perceived as intended to cause sexual stimulation.

With this interpretation in mind, I find it virtually impossible to comprehend the basis for any argument that seeks to support and protect materials that mostly describe the sexual abuse of children and where these descriptions can be reasonably perceived as intending to cause the reader to be sexually stimulated.

These materials are not okay, as this motion would have us believe. The Criminal Code provides a comprehensive set of prohibitions against the sexual abuse and exploitation of children. The type of written materials that Bill C-12 wants to include in these protections, but which this motion seeks to exclude and to protect, are those that portray or purport to portray children as a class as objects for sexual exploitation. The government recognizes the very real risk of harm that such portrayal and objectification of children pose to our children and to society at large. That is why Bill C-12 proposes to include these types of materials within our definition of child pornography.

The second thing that this motion seeks to do is to maintain the current test for when child pornographic materials should be protected by the defence of artistic merit. Under the current test for artistic merit, the defence is automatically available for material that, objectively viewed, demonstrates some artistic merit, no matter how small and no matter what the risk of harm it may pose.

For example, if the material in question is a written story, the test for the current defence is, objectively viewed, does the story reflect some accepted or recognized literary techniques or styles? If so, the defence is available, irrespective of whether the risk of harm that story poses to children in society outweighs any benefit that it offers.

The government does not agree with this and does not support the existing test for artistic merit and neither do Canadians. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights amended Bill C-12 to define the public good as including acts or materials that are necessary or advantageous to the administration of justice or the pursuit of science, medicine, education or art.

This definition is modelled on the Supreme Court of Canada's interpretation of the public good in Sharpe. This will help to ensure that the subsequent interpretation of Bill C-12 is guided by the Supreme Court's decision in this case.

The justice committee's amendment of Bill C-12 to include a definition of the public good directly responds to concerns expressed by the arts community and other witnesses who appeared before the committee. They wanted greater clarity in the bill as to what constituted the public good. The justice committee amendment to define the public good responds to this concern.

However, as to the balance of the concerns raised by the arts community witnesses, a number of observations should be made. In a child pornography case, the first question to be considered and answered is whether the work in question meets the Criminal Code's definition of child pornography.

Examples of written works that were described by these witnesses to the justice committee would not meet the existing definition of written child pornography, that is, they could not be said to advocate or counsel unlawful sexual activity with children. Neither would they meet Bill C-12's proposed new definition. That is, they could not be said to be works that, one, were comprised primarily of descriptions of unlawful sexual activity with children and, two, that such descriptions were written for a sexual purpose.

If the material in question meets the definition of child pornography, then the second question to be considered--and it is a question that falls to the courts to determine--is this: Is this material protected by a defence? Under Bill C-12 there would be only one defence and the test for the single defence would be the same for all material. It would be a two-step inquiry that indicates and includes a harms-based test and it would be possible for art to meet such two-step inquiry.

The motion to delete clause 7 of Bill C-12 is not consistent with the objectives of the bill as set out in the preamble, which states:

Whereas the Parliament of Canada has grave concerns regarding the vulnerability of children to all forms of exploitation, including child pornography, sexual exploitation, abuse and neglect--

It is for these reasons that I urge all hon. members to support Canada's children and support Bill C-12 as passed by the justice committee and not to support this motion from the hon. member of the opposition.

Amendments and Corrections Act, 2003Routine Proceedings

February 12th, 2004 / 10:10 a.m.
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Brossard—La Prairie Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-17, an act to amend certain acts.

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the special order made previously, I would like to inform the House that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-41 was at the time of prorogation of the previous session.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Public Safety Act, 2002Routine Proceedings

February 11th, 2004 / 3:10 p.m.
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The Speaker

The Chair is satisfied that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-17 was at the time of prorogation of the 2nd session, 37th Parliament.

Accordingly, pursuant to order made Tuesday, February 10, 2004, the bill is deemed adopted at all stages and passed by the House.

(Bill read the second time, considered in committee, reported, concurred in, read the third time and passed)

Public Safety Act, 2002Routine Proceedings

February 11th, 2004 / 3:10 p.m.
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Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalMinister of Transport

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-7, an act to amend certain acts of Canada, and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to enhance public safety.

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the special order made earlier, I wish to inform the House that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-17 at the time of prorogation.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Reinstatement of Government BillsGovernment Orders

February 10th, 2004 / 4:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, during this debate and particularly yesterday, I listened intently and I especially re-read some statements made by some speakers, particularly on the government side.

I heard members, and particularly the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, repeatedly accusing the opposition, saying that it was the opposition that was filibustering and causing the democratic deficit.

I have a lot of difficulty accepting that the government, which introduced the motion, blame the opposition. Indeed, this is worth mentioning. It is not the opposition that introduced the motion. It is the government that introduced this motion whose aim is, as members reminded the House, to bring back to the House bills that were dropped following prorogation last November.

It is not because of the opposition that the House of Commons was prorogued last November. It is not because of the opposition that we did not sit as planned in November, December and January. It is not because of the opposition, it is because of infighting within the governing party.

At one point, the situation had become intolerable for the former government. I should say for the former prime minister, because it is not the former government, since we are back again today with the same government in front of us. All that has changed in this government are a few titles and people who have been moved around, but this is still the same governing party and the same government.

It is because the feud between the former prime minister and the current Prime Minister had come to a point where government operations were paralyzed, and it was virtually impossible to legislate. This feud and the problems were so blatant that, at one point, someone made a decision and said, “We will prorogue the House. We have no other choice”.

Of course, as my colleague from Rimouski--Neigette-et-la Mitis said earlier, this bothered the current Prime Minister. It is causing him problems, and I hope it will cause him problems serious enough to get him to reflect further when it comes to the democratic deficit.

I want to come back to the issue of the democratic deficit. The last few months have been very telling. What happened was very significant. We have a man who decided to seek power, to replace the former prime minister and to prevent the government from operating for weeks, if not for months. That is what happened.

If only he had respected democracy, if only he had respected Parliament, if only he had respected the elected representatives of the people, things would have been different. Unfortunately, what happened is that an over-ambitious man prevented the government from operating.

Therefore, we have to remember that it was not the opposition who prorogued the House in November 2003, but the government and the party in office. That means, of course, that a greater number of bills died on the Order Paper. And now, the government wants to reinstate them as if nothing happened.

Unfortunately, that is not what happened. If they want to pretend that they form a new government, that they stand for change, then they cannot just bring back the bills of the previous government and of the previous Prime Minister as if nothing happened.

Something very serious happened. For instance, if the government really wanted to eliminate the democratic deficit, it would have reinstated some of the private members' bills. Let me give the House a very good example of a bill which was ignored at the very last minute by the government, when the House was prorogued. The bill directly affects eastern Quebec. It deals with the issue of lighthouses. I said it affected eastern Quebec, but I could also mention the Maritimes and all of Canada.

I was just reading something that was published, on this matter, back in November, not long after the House was prorogued. At the time, the House was considering a bill requiring the government to maintain its properties, including lighthouses.

This affects all Quebeckers living along the St. Lawrence River, Quebec's maritime regions and the maritime provinces as a whole.

Right after the prorogation, I read a document from Radio-Canada Atlantique which clearly stated that, in Nova Scotia and elsewhere, up to 100 lighthouses that have been used until very recently to guide navigators could be lost because of the government's lack of commitment to meeting its obligations and maintaining the infrastructure.

The situation is the same in Quebec. We could talk about what is going on in Quebec and in British Columbia. This bill was introduced by a member following discussions in the Senate. The idea was to force the government to take its responsibilities and to maintain the infrastructure. This affected us directly. As I said earlier, this bill affects all of Quebec's maritime regions.

We could also talk about fisheries. The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, which was sitting, had decisions to take. The Coast Guard could be in trouble following all the cuts that were made. Fisheries and Oceans may very well cut 600 jobs in the next few months. The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans was sitting to consider all the issues concerning fisheries.

Unfortunately, and maybe taxpayers ignore this, as soon as the House is prorogued, committees stop sitting. Naturally, it takes some time after the House has resumed its business for the committees to start sitting again.

So, all this process that I would described as undemocratic, all this infighting within the Liberal Party went on and caused the prorogation of the House, which stopped sitting. In the meantime, all the issues before us were suspended until today.

Now, they blame us, saying that the opposition is undemocratic because it refuses to pass such a motion. That is unacceptable. I will never be able to accept that the opposition be blamed for doing its job. The governing party is to blame for everything that happened, on top of the House being prorogued.

There is also Bill C-49 concerning the revision of electoral boundaries. This is very important. In our region, we are faced with quite a problem. The member for Rimouski--Neigette-et-la Mitis talked earlier about the size of her riding. We could mention the riding of Matapédia—Matane, which is just huge, but we could also mention the riding of Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok.

Let us not forget that, in recent history, 10 years ago, the Gaspé lost one riding. Now, we could lose another one. The government is not taking into account the huge size of the areas, particularly in the Gaspé, where the new riding will include some five regional county municipalities and a very large number of municipalities.

The riding of Matapédia—Matane, which is just next to that riding, is about the same size. Had it not been for the mergers, there would be some 60 municipalities over a very large area. From west to east, the riding is about 350 kilometres long. Constituents have a very hard time reaching their MP in such ridings.

As regards the democratic deficit, the government had a great opportunity to correct the situation by making exceptions and creating in all the so-called remote regions ridings that make sense.

Moreover, we were totally opposed to Bill C-49 because it did not take into account the historical aspect of the presence of Quebec MP's in the House of Commons.

I should point out that the government is adding new ridings, including in Alberta and British Columbia, which means that Quebec's representation will be proportionally reduced. We Bloc Quebecois members had suggested that the number of federal seats allocated to Quebec be increased from 75 to 77, to maintain a fair and equitable proportion. This would probably have enabled us to have smaller ridings, particularly in my region, in which an MP would have been able to do a perfectly adequate job, and in which it would have been much easier for constituents to have access to their MP.

The notion of democratic deficit is critical. First of all—and luckily the situation has changed at the federal level, although more than 20 years after changes were made in Quebec—there is now an act dealing with the financing of political parties. This is the very foundation of a democratic system. That was a major problem in terms of the democratic deficit. In Quebec, we realized that almost 25 years ago.

The very basis of democracy is the financing of political parties by the citizens, the participation of the people in the life of political parties. Naturally, in the end, during an electoral campaign, the more people participate, the better it is for democracy.

Unfortunately, since the last election, we have realized that voter turnout at the federal level has been dropping constantly. That is a sure sign of a democratic deficit that must be rectified.

We will certainly not deal with that deficit by acting like the government has acted towards members of Parliament and all-party committees. Even within the government itself, the problem is serious. We have seen it in the past. We have seen that the whole machinery of government, all the mechanics of government, the cabinet and the executive itself were centralized and operating from the Prime Minister's office, and that all decisions were being made there.

If we want to do something about the democratic deficit, that is where we have to start. The system must be more open, people must be given access to information and must be allowed to participate in the work of all committees and in all decisions made in the House.

I think the other democratic deficit concerns the members' right to speak. Opposition members have one right, and that is the right to speak. It is crucial. We also have the right to stand for our fellow citizens and those who sent us here.

Government members are not allowed to criticize or to make proposals. They do not have any right in the public forum. They have to remain silent. Therefore, it is much more difficult for them to stand for their constituents.

The government wants to reinstate another bill. Let me digress for a moment. We have heard a lot about safety lately. The government wants to reinstate Bill C-17 on public safety. The Bloc Quebecois was against this bill, and we still are today.

But we should not forget that, while the House was prorogued, the Canadian and American governments exchanged letters on the infamous missile defence shield. Commitments were made while the House was not sitting.

Through the back door, the government is trying to come to an agreement with the American government on an eventual Canadian participation in the American missile defence shield. I think this is an extremely serious democratic deficit.

There should have been a debate in the House on the subject, since this is a major decision. It is a decision involving the commitment of funds which may, of course, not be allocated to service delivery, funds that will not be available to provide services to the public. And this puts democracy at risk. We should have had this major discussion here in the House. We should have had a very serious debate on the subject.

During the prorogation of the House, something else happened, which directly affects taxpayers, particularly Quebec taxpayers: the Canadian government's decision to take part in a study with the American army to widen the St. Lawrence Seaway. In this regard, it would have been essential to have a heated debate on the subject, because the widening of the seaway may cause major problems, such as environmental problems. Let us think of all the stirring of sediments at the bottom of the seaway. If you disturb something that has been covered by a good layer of sediments, you will find large quantities of contaminants that came from the Great Lakes. There have been problems in the past.

This could cause environmental problems, first of all. In fact, there are sediments on the bottom of the seaway now. If we start to interfere with that thick layer of sediment, below it we will find contaminants that come from the Great Lakes, and very great quantities of them. We have had problems in the past. If all that shit—please excuse the word—were stirred up, it would obviously cause major environmental problems.

The second element regarding the enlarging of the St. Lawrence Seaway is shoreline erosion. If the seaway is enlarged, larger quantities of Great Lakes water will flow out, and there is a risk of provoking erosion problems all along the banks of the St. Lawrence. The problem already exists: imagine how much greater the erosion could become.

The third very important point regarding enlarging the St. Lawrence Seaway is an economic one. Why do they want to enlarge the seaway when, simply by setting up an intermodal transportation system based on the ports that already exist, it would be possible to ship freight easily to Detroit or the states concerned in the United States, since they seem to want to do this solely for the Americans and southern Ontario.

Once again, we in the Bloc Quebecois are not, at this time, in favour of entering into a process with the American army to enlarge the seaway. And yet, there is no debate in the House and on the government side, they are telling us about the democratic deficit. I think it is essential to hold a debate on this subject.

We could also be talking about Bill C-17. We can add another element to the concept of the democratic deficit. The Prime Minister was recently heard on the CBC talking about the $46 or $47 billion they have taken from the employment insurance fund. Of course, it is a virtual fund, but if you take money out of the fund and spend it all, you have stolen it, quite literally. It is very clear today that it is a completely virtual fund. Citizens, seasonal workers in particular, are being denied the help they need to live in decent conditions.

It must always be kept in mind, when referring to the employment insurance fund, that today not even 40% of workers have access to it. In terms of democracy, notwithstanding all that has been said on the subject, all the studies proving that it is totally unjust, the government kept on. The present Prime Minister, when finance minister, was the main one responsible for what happened to the EI fund.

We could also talk in terms of democratic deficit of all the services to the populations in regions such as mine, because of the fact that the electoral districts are very large. Given their immense size, the populations we represent are deprived of services.

Over the years since 1993, the federal government has become almost totally absent from our regions, abandoning the airports, no longer investing in the infrastructures that belong to it, among them the wharves at seaports. It has pretty well been the same thing for the entire railway system. In the region I come from, Canadian National is virtually absent and private companies are operating the railways today.

It is a democratic deficit when the entire population of my area pays as much in taxes as anyone else in the country and ought therefore to be entitled to about the same services, or so I believe.

Getting back to the motion before us, I was just referring to the ports. There was a private members bill on this, and it was abandoned. We could talk about all the other bills that fell by the wayside because of prorogation. As a result, today we find ourselves faced with a motion that is asking the opposition to say “Everything is forgotten. We start again from scratch”.

That is not exactly what the motion is calling on us to do. In actual fact, it is asking us to accept having all the bills that were before the House come back in the form they were in before prorogation. We did not accept those bills. We did not have all the time or debating space to express our views. Today what they want is to simply cancel out everything that was done. This is totally unacceptable.

Reinstatement of Government BillsGovernment Orders

February 10th, 2004 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by saying through you to the member for Rimouski--Neigette-et-la Mitis that as long as she is present in the House of Commons, Quebec's voice will never be diluted. As I reflect back over the last 16 years I have served in this chamber, one of my special joys has been meeting members from different parties for whom I feel great admiration for the work they do. The member is one of the special contributors to helping this place be a better place.

On the point of the motion, I humbly disagree with my colleague from the Bloc Québécois. It is important that we let Canadians know what we are trying to achieve. It is an easy thing to pick and choose the bills that we are trying to reintroduce to the House in this motion.

I heard one of the members from the new Conservative Party this morning put a big focus on Bill C-38, the marijuana bill. This is not about reintroducing just the marijuana bill. There are a number of bills on this motion that we are trying to reintroduce.

We should tell Canadians the reason we are trying to reintroduce these bills that lapsed in the last session is we want to pick up where we left off, especially with those bills on which we probably have a consensus, such as: Bill C-10B, cruelty to animals, which I will come back to in a minute; Bill C-17, public safety; Bill C-18, an act respecting Canadian citizenship; Bill C-20, protection of children; Bill C-26, the railway safety act; Bill C-33, international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences; Bill C-43, the Fisheries Act; Bill C-52, the Radiocommunication Act; and Bill C-56, an act to amend the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act. There are many more like these bills.

If we are going to be candid with the Canadian public who are listening to this debate today, we have to let them know that it has been a convention for hundreds of years that in a new session the government has up to 30 days to introduce bills that died on the Order Paper when the previous session ended. This is a convention that has long been practised. It does not mean that when these bills come back we will vote on them all at once. Members will have a chance to say yea or nay on each individual bill.

The idea of delaying this has an adverse effect on citizens in every riding of the country. Some of those bills touch every riding in the country. A case could be made on the electoral boundaries. We all know what that is about. That is an attempt to delay the election. I personally would not have any problem if we delayed the election for a while, but the reality is that we will have a chance to vote yea or nay on all of these bills when they come back. I do not think this delay tactic serves the opposition party well.

I want to talk about a very specific bill on the Order Paper that has concern in my riding and has had national attention in the last couple of weeks. It is Bill C-10B, cruelty to animals.

As hon. members may know, Withrow Park is in my riding. It is a fairly large park. It certainly would not be large by the standards of the member for Rimouski, but in my little community in downtown Toronto, Withrow Park is a major park and is probably about 10 to 15 acres big. About two weeks ago someone put poison in the park where people walk their dogs and from time to time let the dogs off the leash. The one that hit national media was T-Bone, a King Charles spaniel. He was quite well known.

In my constituency there are over 10,000 pet owners. Those pets are sources of comfort and have special relationships with many of the seniors and families in my riding. The attachment, the love and the affection for these animals is in many respects similar to that of parents with children. The notion that someone would drop poison is overwhelming. In fact the poison is not even available in Canada; it can only be obtained by licence in the United States.

It is that kind of insensitivity with which a bill like Bill C-10 deals. The notion that this House would work at delaying reintroducing a bill like that is not in my mind a constructive way to go.

I am hoping that through the motion that is on the floor today we can create some new consensus so that we can move forward on getting these bills back on track.

A lot of people would feel pretty anxious if an election was upon us and we let a lot of these bills die before the election. When we came back, I believe we would have to go through the entire process again. What is that process? Probably a lot of Canadians do not realize that hours and hours go into getting a bill to this stage. Witnesses come to the various committees of the House of Commons and give members of Parliament from all parties expert advice on designing the bills.

In the manufacture, preparation and formulation of a piece of legislation in the House, we do not just snap our fingers and a bill is put together by the legislative branch. Bills are built after receiving hundreds of hours of input from citizens across Canada. Some of them use their own money to come here to give expert testimony. The House of Commons committee system funds some of them to come here. The notion that we would just scrap all of that work is most disrespectful to the work of all of those witnesses we have heard with respect to the 40 or 50 bills that we are trying to put back on the Order Paper.

I would appeal to the leadership of the Conservative Party and the leadership of the NDP. The NDP should take a strong stand on this because I know there are bills here on which the NDP has had a strong influence. Those members should stand and say they support the government in moving these bills forward.

There are bills that affect every region of our country, such as the administration and accountability of Indian bands. Look at all the great work that went into putting that bill together. Look at all the travel time from every region of the country, especially the long distances from the north. Look at the ethics bill. How could the opposition not want us to proceed on the ethics bill? There is also the whole area of the Food and Drugs Act.

These are bills that affect the health of the citizens of every riding in the country. The notion that there would be opposition to bringing these bills back and passing them is counterproductive. It is part of the reason that people lose trust in this place, because stalling just for the sake of stalling I do not think serves anyone very well.

Reinstatement of Government BillsGovernment Orders

February 10th, 2004 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the reinstatement motion before us is a motion which, of course, does not at all satisfy the Bloc Quebecois, particularly in light of the events that have occurred over the past few months within the government and the Liberal Party of Canada.

This motion would have been totally pointless if, after the election of the new leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, the former Prime Minister, Mr. Chrétien, had decided to leave and had allowed the new Prime Minister, assuming he wanted to do so, to keep the session open. Instead, for reasons of politics, they preferred to prorogue, supposedly to allow the new Prime Minister to prepare the Speech from the Throne. However, when we look at the speech that was delivered, we immediately realize that this was an operation simply designed to prepare for the upcoming election.

Similarly, no one is fooled by the reinstatement motion. If we look at the bills that were selected, such as C-17, C-13 and C-49, it is obvious that the motion is only necessary for Bill C-49, because the Prime Minister's stated objective is to call an election as soon as possible once the new electoral map comes into effect.

So, we have this reinstatement motion which, as I mentioned, includes the following bills: C-17, on public safety; C-13, on assisted human reproduction, and C-49, on the effective date of the representation order. However, no mention is made of Bill C-34, on the ethics commissioner. According to this bill, the ethics commissioner should now be accountable to the House and not to the Prime Minister, as was previously the case. In my opinion, the review of this legislation is much more urgent than that of the bills included in the reinstatement motion.

This is particularly true today, considering that the Auditor General's report will be tabled in a few hours, if not a few minutes. I think we really do need an independent ethics commissioner who is accountable to all the members of this House.

Therefore, the Bloc Quebecois will oppose this reinstatement motion. First, as I mentioned, the motion would have been pointless if things had been conducted in a normal fashion, if the new Prime Minister had taken over Mr. Chrétien's duties within a normal timeframe, and not the way it was done, by using that time to avoid having to answer questions in the House.

We will vote against this motion on reinstatement, particularly since we had previously voiced our opposition to Bill C-17 on public safety. We have absolutely no interest in seeing this bill come before the House again. The public safety bill extends the responsibilities of the RCMP and CSIS. In November 2002, the privacy commissioner himself wrote, and I quote:

But my concern is that the RCMP would also be expressly empowered to use this information to seek out persons wanted on warrants for Criminal Code offences that have nothing to do with terrorism, transportation security or national security.

What is the point in reinstating this bill when the privacy commissioner himself considers it problematic.

The same goes for the bill on assisted human reproduction. This bill has been long awaited. Perhaps there is a serious need to adopt various rules on, for instance, cloning, but Bill C-13—true to Liberal government form—encroaches on the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces in terms of health.

On October 7, 2003, Quebec's health minister, Philippe Couillard, expressed concern that Bill C-13 encroached on Quebec's jurisdiction. He said,

We have sent a clear signal to the federal government that we are very concerned about certain aspects of the bill, which we see as a clear encroachment on provincial jurisdictions.

So, why would the Bloc Quebecois support reinstating a bill that, in the opinion of Quebec's own health minister, infringed on Quebec jurisdiction?

Finally, there is Bill C-49. Although our criticisms are known, they deserve repeating. If any area deserves the utmost objectivity and the most transparent neutrality—the need to set aside all partisanship with regard to the Canada Elections Act—if any legislation should be non-partisan, this is it.

These reasons, which are exactly the same as those leading to the fall prorogation, so a new Prime Minister could prepare a throne speech that was ultimately a failure, account for the introduction of Bill C-49. In other words, so that the effective date of the new electoral map could be moved forward, thereby allowing the new Prime Minister to go before voters in short order.

Consequently, as in the case of the last session, which was adjourned, and the reinstatement motion, it is for partisan reasons only that Motion No. 2 is being put forward. This is unacceptable.

It is all the more unacceptable that the strategy of the new Prime Minister and the Liberal government is to put off all the problems that are priorities for Quebeckers and Canadians.

For instance, the Prime Minister does not want to take a stand in the same-sex marriage issue so he asked the Supreme Court a fourth question. The answer will come after the election, of course.

In the Arar affair, the Prime Minister began by saying that the Americans must have had a good reason to deport Mr. Arar to Syria. Afterward, he realized that Canadians and Quebeckers thought this a rather weak response. He then spoke of a possible independent inquiry. Then he said that the Government of Canada had nothing to be ashamed of. Again he realized that public opinion was not with him. His next move was to call a public inquiry, the results of which will be made known after the election.

What came out of the meeting with the provincial premiers is that things are grim with respect to transfer payments to the provinces. Here again, the approach is to put things off. We are told a serious discussion will be held on this issue—which is urgent now, not six months from now, I would even say it was urgent the day before yesterday—but not until next summer, or after the election.

No one is being fooled by this strategy of postponing matters. The Prime Minister wants to keep all his options open and have carte blanche from this House, Canadians and Quebeckers to do what he thinks is best. This will not work because the opposition, the Bloc Quebecois in particular, will require him to provide answers now and during the election campaign.

I bet that with the tabling of the Auditor General's report on the sponsorship scandal, the Prime Minister will try to come up with some trick to postpone the findings and his positions until after the election. An independent inquiry will probably be recommended without any set date, again to ensure that the findings are not made public until after the election.

They said to us, “We have to shut down the House, because we have serious work to do; we have to prepare a Speech from the Throne to set a new direction for this government”, which, it seems, was worn out after its 10 long years in power.

What do we find in the throne speech? Nothing: nothing concerning the priorities of Canadians and Quebeckers. There is absolutely nothing to settle the fiscal imbalance. I remind the House that this is a very serious problem.

We do know that the agreement on health which was signed in February 2003 by the provincial premiers and former Prime Minister Chrétien will expire next year, and that the amounts have gone down considerably.

This year, even with the injection of $475 million for Quebec, which has been announced three times, or the $2 billion ad hoc injection for the health sector by the federal government, even with that, according to the study by Quebec's finance minister, Mr. Séguin, the Government of Quebec will receive 4.5% less in federal transfer payments. Equalization payments will decline by 38%.

We might have expected that the Prime Minister would at least tell us the schedule and what his guidelines would be concerning negotiations on the equalization agreement, which expires very soon, on March 31, in fact. That is not after the election, and so now is the time for answers.

Meanwhile, the provincial finance ministers and premiers have to juggle with speculation about the future of health financing. We know that health financing also determines all kinds of other choices to be made in government policy for the provinces, particularly for Quebec.

I will give the House an example. The Quebec finance minister, Mr. Séguin, told us several months ago that there was a shortfall of $3 billion, and that he did not want to touch either health or education. The Quebec budget, setting aside health and education, amounts to $9 billion. Can the Government of Quebec reasonably be expected to cover this $3 billion shortfall out of this $9 billion?

Because of the unwillingness of the federal Liberal government and the current Prime Minister to provide answers, the Government of Quebec will have no other choice but to reduce its health and education costs. Health and education are priorities for Quebeckers and I am sure for all Canadians.

We would have expected the federal government to tell us, in the throne speech, how it intends to deal with fiscal imbalance, whether it is through equalization, the social transfer for health or other sectors, or even through tax point transfers, which is, as you know, the option preferred by the Bloc Quebecois.

However, the throne speech is silent on this issue. It is not mentioned at all. As I said earlier, the announcement was like a lead balloon. We were told that $2 million would be forthcoming. The former finance minister could have made the announcement in his economic statement, last October 31. It could even have been announced as soon as the agreement with the first ministers was struck in February 2002, if my memory serves me well.

So, there is nothing for health. The throne speech does not even mention the fiscal imbalance as an issue that the government will have to deal with. There is nothing on employment insurance. This is rather odd, particularly considering that, back in June, the Prime Minister himself promised a coalition of community groups and unions called the Sans-chemise in the Charlevoix region that he would settle this issue. Not only is the issue not settled, it was not even mentioned in the throne speech as an issue for which the federal government needs to find a solution quickly.

As we know, seasonal workers will soon be entering the so-called spring gap. These workers will no longer qualify for employment insurance, but they will not have gone back to work yet. There is nothing for these people, who cannot get social benefits, because one must use up a significant amount of his assets before qualifying. So, these people will have to use up their savings, because the federal government cannot find a solution to a problem that it recognizes, since the current Prime Minister had pledged to the Sans-chemise coalition that he would find such a solution.

So, there is nothing on employment insurance and on the fiscal imbalance. As regards our seniors, the hon. member for Champlain conducted an extraordinary campaign on the guaranteed income supplement, and this resulted in thousands of Quebeckers and Canadians getting this supplement, because for years the federal government had been as discreet as possible about the existence of this program. Now, things are easier thanks to the Bloc Quebecois, although this supplement was not made fully retroactive.

Indeed, those who were deprived of the guaranteed income supplement for years and who just found out that they are entitled to it are getting 11 months of retroactive payments, when they should at least get the same retroactive period that the current Prime Minister gave himself with Bill C-28. As we know, Bill C-28 was passed in 1998, but was retroactive to 1995, the year when Canada Steamship Lines International transferred its headquarters from Liberia to Barbados.

Consequently, the Prime Minister gave himself a retroactive measure. However, in the case of the elderly, this retroactive measure would represent too much money for the federal government. Once again, we must say that, even if the surplus is perhaps lower this year, due to economic circumstances, the government will still have quite a major surplus.

Thus, this reinstatement motion is presented to us in this context. I believe that, in this context, the opposition has no choice but to oppose this reinstatement motion, because we would be playing the partisan game of this government and this new Prime Minister, who is absolutely not a champion of change. Indeed, he wants, perhaps through a veneer, to pursue the same type of operations that were taking place when the former prime minister, Mr. Chrétien, was here.

Indeed, let not us delude ourselves. The Liberal Party of Canada is a structure, a machine that has, unfortunately, governed Canada too often and for too long and that has a vision of Canada that in no way reflects Quebecers' interests. The only specific aspects in the throne speech that was presented to us reflect just that.

The Liberal Party of Canada has a centralizing vision of the Canadian federation. It is Ottawa that must make the decisions. For the federal government, the provinces—I said this once in front of mayors, and I will say it one last time to tell you this anecdote—are big municipalities at best. Of course, mayors in my region were shocked. So I then used another expression. Now I say that, for the federal government, the provinces are big regional boards at best. I can say this now that the Liberal government in Quebec City has abolished them. This no longer shocks anyone.

A number of means will be decentralized, but the federal government will still have control over the way the money is spent.

Reinstatement of Government BillsGovernment Orders

February 10th, 2004 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on the motion before us. I listened to part of yesterday afternoon's debate and I found that there were many reasons to oppose the present motion.

I will begin with the issue of the current Prime Minister. I remember that what was behind the unseating of the former prime minister, the current Prime Minister's offensive against the former one, was that there would be a fresh, new wind sweeping through the House, a wind of change. Someone new was needed. And in order to have someone new, a new organization and a new cabinet were needed. And that is what happened. I think about 80% of the cabinet was changed to make the new one.

It was necessary, as well, to prorogue the House. The current Prime Minister probably has some of the best image makers, or spin doctors as they are known, and they tried to put the idea into people's heads that a new prime minister would be good for them. A whole system was developed by these spin doctors to ensure that all the government's actions are geared toward this fresh, new change.

Parliament was prorogued when the former prime minister resigned, to indicate that things would begin on a new foundation, with a new—80% new—cabinet, and a new philosophy.

It is hard to figure out why, in this context of change, we have a motion before us today to bring back all the former bills. Perhaps not all of them. Some people have been arguing since yesterday that the government has to have some flexibility, but flexibility within the list of former bills which died on the Order Paper with the prorogation.

I think there is a basic inconsistency in boasting about having a new prime minister, a new cabinet and a new philosophy, saying that Parliament is being prorogued because they want to start off on a new foot, and at the same time bringing back all these old bills. It is fundamentally illogical. As members of Parliament, it is our responsibility and our duty to evaluate what can and cannot be reinstated. I will get back to that in a moment.

First I would like to address some of the arguments made yesterday. One of these was change, but there is no real wind of change. It is all the same. Depending on one's view, the current wind is the same, if not worse, as the one that was blowing when the former prime minister was here. Personally, I think it is worse, because whether the answer is yes or no, it comes with a smile, whereas before it did not. That is about the only change I can see.

Some have mentioned the fact that considerable time was spent studying these bills and that it would be a waste of time to start everything over. I would like to remind those people that all the bills currently being considered for reinstatement have been subject to time allocation motions.

We have always maintained that time allocation is detrimental to democracy. It cuts short the debate, not all the witnesses are heard, the system or the bill under consideration is not fully considered, and the government immediately puts forward a motion for time allocation. It may take a little longer sometimes, but the result is the same: it puts an end to debate.

The fresh approach that was promised to us, once again, will change nothing. We are already subject to time allocation. Parliament has been back for barely two weeks and already the government House leader is bringing in time allocation.

I would like to remind the House that we in the Bloc Quebecois have always said we would oppose, and have always opposed, time allocation motions in a vote. It is important to us to get to the heart of the bills, to be allowed to consider the bills in their entirety, and to have a full and complete debate.

To do so, members, who represent the public, must not be told, “Ten members having spoken on the issue, to satisfy the Liberal government's political agenda, this debate has now concluded”.

This seems quite consistent with the previous regime. I have not seen many differences over the past two weeks, on matters such as time allocation.

Most of the bills that the government wants to have the flexibility of reinstating were subject to time allocation. Consequently, we are not prepared to give our consent to reinstating everything the government wants.

We have been victims of time allocation. They impose time allocation, now, to tell us to “Move on”, even though these bills must be considered. Yes, they must be considered, because when a decision is made to reinstate them—and we do not want to—we must consider what may be reinstated.

Since the start, there have been bills that we do not necessarily like. I can mention, among others, Bill C-13 on assisted human reproduction. Once again, this is consistent with the previous regime. There is no difference between the current and the former prime ministers with regard to the federal government's capacity to encroach on Quebec's areas of jurisdiction.

There is no difference. We saw it in the throne speech. We also see it in the government's intention to reinstate bills that intrude on Quebec's jurisdiction and that encroach on its areas of jurisdiction.

The Assisted Human Reproduction Act contradicts and conflicts with thirteen Quebec laws. We had asked that the bill be split. We were in agreement regarding the prohibition on human cloning. However, the moment they want to establish agencies and tell the provinces what to do in their own jurisdiction, we can no longer agree.

However, with regard to Bill C-13—and I think that the government has already floated some balloons—there was interest in eventually reinstating it. What will be reinstated?

Yesterday, we heard government members says, “We want some flexibility”. They already have too much power with a majority I consider tyrannical, because they are imposing time allocation. Now, they will say, “We will decide which bills to reinstate”. We are afraid that this kind of bill will be reinstated, and once again the areas of jurisdiction belonging to the provinces and Quebec will be trampled on.

Let me tell you about Bill C-17. I believe you are very familiar with that piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, since you chair the legislative committee studying this issue. As you know, we spoke against some of its provisions, including the incredible powers granted to the intelligence services where passengers are concerned. Some even went as far as saying, “We can even extend that to railway and bus transportation”. Under very little control, these companies would be able to collect information about their passengers and release it to the RCMP and CSIS. This is something that Quebeckers have always feared.

We all remember the 1970 crisis. The RCMP itself burned down barns and then blamed it on somebody else. Granting that kind of power to the RCMP and CSIS, even with a commissioner reviewing the issue once a year, is cold comfort. In fact, knowing that information about passengers is collected and then transferred to the RCMP and CSIS is of no comfort to me at all.

We do not agree with many other provisions found in Bill C-17 that could be reinstated. The new philosophy of the government is to align its policies with those of the United States. We have come to realize that our national defence and foreign policies are being aligned with those of Washington. God knows that public safety is Washington's top priority these days.

I think the bill was drafted to meet the concerns of the U.S. It grants greater power not only to intelligence services, but also to ministers in general, through interim orders. Under this bill, a minister could make an interim order without bothering to check if it is in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the enabling legislation and say, “I am making this decision”.

That puts too much power in the hands of one individual, a minister. Consequently, it is very important for us to say, “You have not listened to what we had to say. You have imposed closure on all these bills.” We cannot tell the government today, “We give you the right to reinstate these bills at the same stage.”

We want to have an indepth debate.

If the government is serious and if it wants to get to the bottom of things, it should reintroduce the bills at first reading. We will take the necessary steps and get to the bottom of things. We will not allow the government to make a selection, say they want to bring back only certain bills and expecting the bills listed to be brought back to the House.

There is also the bill respecting the effective date of the representation order. The Prime Minister said he wanted to see this bill passed. Again, what is the difference with the old regime?

At least before I could say that the current regime is going further and more to the right. It pays less attention to the democratic significance and input of the House, introducing a bill to advance the effective date of the representation order. It is interfering with legislation that should be non-partisan. The electoral officer should be the one setting the standards.

With a piece of legislation, this government wants to tell the chief electoral officer what he should do. In this bill, it says that the new legislation will take effect on April 1, instead of August 26. This is because the Prime Minister wants to call an early election. He knows that, if he does that and the new legislation takes effect of August 26, some Canadians will probably be upset. I think the number of ridings will be increased from 301 to 308. The government and the Prime Minister fear the reaction of Canadians, mainly in western Canada.

What does this bill provide? I do not want to talk at length about Canadian history, but when this federation was born, we had this concept of two nations. We never hear about that, nowadays. All we hear about is the Canadian nation and, sometimes, the aboriginal nations, but the Quebec nation has completely disappeared from the radar screen. The throne speech does not mention this at all. In the past, we had equal representation, because we had two nations. But with the development of western and of Upper Canada over the years, the representation of Quebec has been eroded, and it is still being eroded today.

We used to have 25% of the seats in the Commons. And then, some people tried to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. They told us Quebec had 75 seats and would never have fewer. But they changed the other side of the equation. Instead of reducing the number of members from Quebec, they increased the number of members from the rest of Canada. The net result is a constant erosion of Quebec's representation in the House and its impact. We are aware of that. That is what is provided in the bill the Liberals want to put before us. Originally, both founding nations were equal. Today, there is no longer equality, and not even fairness.

This is a constant dissolution and dilution of the powers of Quebec. We saw it coming for a long time, and we were right. That is, moreover, why we even signed a letter, along with the hon. member for Trois-Rivières, denouncing that attitude. This is just the kind of bill they will be bringing back to us.

We have a number of reasons to be offended, to raise objections. We are not here just so the government can bring back the legislation it decides to select for reinstatement, that same government that brings in time allocation to get it rammed through, often at the end of a session. The government was the one holding all the cards. If it was so keen on these bills, all it had to do was not prorogue, and have us sit in November and December. We were ready to do that.

Why did we not sit in November and December? Perhaps because the new Prime Minister's image makers told him that it was better to keep his halo untarnished, and enjoy his popularity. He did not have to answer questions from members, but could stay in his little cocoon. The image makers could work on polishing up his image, selling him as the man to bring in a wind of change.

Now people in Quebec are beginning to realize that there has been no wind of change, no breath of fresh air, just more of the same. That this federal regime cannot be changed, that no matter who is in the PM's chair, no matter who is in place in Ottawa or Quebec, nothing will change. The system does not work. People are beginning to realize this.

There is no difference between the former Prime Minister and the present one. We see the same political philosophy, the same federal system they are trying to defend. As a result, they are going to react by trying to introduce bills their way, at the same stage they were at before, when they are the ones responsible for prorogation. There is no difference between the old and the new regimes.

The government is still looking to protect the millionaires club. When I hear prime ministers saying that there will be income tax cuts, will anyone but the richest benefit from them? If we look at the behaviour of the current Prime Minister, we can say without doubt that he does not much favour the people in the middle and poorest classes. He has done nothing at all to correct the inequities surrounding the employment insurance fund and has used tax havens to shelter his own companies.

There has been no change. The millionaires-club is still being protected and the democratic deficit still exists. Even if they were to introduce a bill saying they were fixing the democratic deficit, nothing would get changed. Look at the government's attitude as it brings in closure on the item before us.

All that tells us this is still the same old thing. The same political philosophy is still there. The same attitudes are still there. The same muzzling of committees. The standing committees of the House have become very partisan. The Liberal majority controls the committees. The government controls what happens in the House of Commons. It is the government that imposes time allocation motions. It is the government that decides which bills will be reinstated. It is the government that decides when closure will be applied to bills. It is the government that decides when we will vote. It is the government that decides how we will vote, too, because with its often tyrannical majority, it is the government that sets out the whole course for all the bills.

We have many reasons to say that we do not agree with what is going on. Yesterday I listened to the hon. member for Yukon congratulating the Bloc Quebecois, whose members had not yet even spoken, which must mean that, in his opinion, they agreed with the party in power. I am sorry to break his heart, but we cannot agree with the motion now before us.

Moreover, we have expressed our objection to the government's time allocation motion, imposed on the motion to reinstate bills. Certainly, now that we will have a vote on the principle of the matter, we will not surprise anyone by saying that we are not in agreement with the continuity of the old regime.

Reinstatement of Government BillsGovernment Orders

February 9th, 2004 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the motion seeks to reinstate bills that died on the Order Paper when the previous session of Parliament ended.

As all of us know, the goal of the motion is a simple one: to spare members the burden of having to repeat work on bills that got as far as the committee stage in the last session.

This is especially commendable given the numerous pressures MPs are under and the limited resources available to us.

What features are contained in the motion? Simply put, under the motion a minister would be able to request during 30 sitting days after the motion's adoption the reinstatement of a bill that had reached at least the committee stage when the last session ended. Should the Speaker be satisfied that the bill is the same as in the previous session, the bill would be reinstated at the same stage as before.

Thus during this session we can skip all the stages of debate that have been completed so far. The work of the committees that are considering the bills would consequently be preserved. In short, this is a very appealing option.

Parliament relies heavily upon precedents which means we are constantly looking over our shoulder to ensure new measures are consistent with past practices. Is this motion in keeping with the longstanding practices of the House? It is in fact a practice we have had for over three decades.

On a number of occasions reinstatement motions have been adopted by consent and without debate. It is clear that today's motion is well within the bounds of accepted parliamentary practice. This is supported by Marleau and Montpetit's authoritative guide to parliamentary procedure which discusses this issue in some detail. While they recognize that as a general principle prorogation of a session means that all bills that have not yet received royal assent die on the Order Paper and must be reintroduced in the new session, they also recognize that “bills have been reinstated by motion at the start of a new session at the same stage they had reached at the end of the previous session; committee work has similarly been revived”.

One point that needs clarification is that this motion allows the government the flexibility to reintroduce certain bills. It does not require the government to reintroduce all bills that were on the Order Paper at a certain stage when Parliament prorogued. Let me give an example of some bills which the government would have the flexibility to reinstate if it so chose.

One is Bill C-7 on the administration and accountability of Indian bands. The new government has indicated it would like to revisit that whole question of governance but nonetheless, this motion would give the government the flexibility to reintroduce that bill should it so choose.

Another one is Bill C-10B on cruelty to animals which has received a lot of attention in my riding. Bill C-13, assisted human reproduction, as an example had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate and a great deal of the work that had been done here in the House of Commons would have to be redone. Bill C-17 on public safety was another bill that had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate.

Bill C-18, an act respecting Canadian citizenship, is another bill that the government if this motion passes will be able to reintroduce if it so chooses. Bill C-19, first nations fiscal management, was at report stage. Bill C-20, protection of children, was at report stage. Bill C-22, the Divorce Act, was in committee. Bill C-23, registration of information relating to sex offenders, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-26, the Railway Safety Act, was in committee. Bill C-27 on airport authorities was at second reading when the House prorogued.

Bill C-32, Criminal Code amendments, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-33, international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences, was at report stage when we prorogued. Bill C-34, ethics, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate where it had been amended.

These are bills that have gone through a lengthy debate and process within the House of Commons and some already within the Senate.

Bill C-35, remuneration of military judges, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-36, Archives of Canada, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-38, the marijuana bill, was at report stage and second reading. Bill C-40, Corrections and Conditional Release Act, was at first reading when the House prorogued. Bill C-43, the fisheries act, was at first reading when the House prorogued.

Bill C-46, the capital markets fraud bill, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. This is a bill that will help the government deal with the kind of corporate fraud that we have seen with Enron and many other examples. We want to make sure that our government has the ability to deal with these types of issues so that investors are protected from the fraudulent activities of the management of various companies and their directors.

Bill C-49, the electoral boundaries act had passed third reading and was in the Senate.

Bill C-51, the Canada Elections Act, and Bill C-52, the Radiocommunication Act, were at second reading when the House prorogued. Bill C-53, the riding name changes, had passed third reading and was sent to the Senate. Bill C-54, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act was in committee as was Bill C-56, the Food and Drugs Act, when the House prorogued. Bill C-57, the westbank first nation self-government act was also in committee.

There was a lot of work involved in getting these bills to this stage. The government is not necessarily committing to reintroducing all these bills, but we want the flexibility to reintroduce those bills which we support and not have to reinvent the wheel.

The amendment put forward by the member for Yorkton--Melville indicates that there are a number of bills that, given the government's flexibility, he would not like to have reinstated. That includes Bill C-7, the bill dealing with the administration and accountability of Indian bands. Our government may want to revisit that bill.

The member for Yorkton--Melville has said that Bill C-13, the assisted human reproduction bill, should be left alone as well. He names a number of other bills such as Bill C-19, Bill C-20, Bill C-22, Bill C-26, Bill C-34, Bill C-35, Bill C-36, Bill C-38.

I should point out that a number of these bills, Bill C-13 for example, passed third reading and was in the Senate.The member for Yorkton--Melville wants us to start all over with that bill.

He said that Bill C-34, the ethics legislation, should not be reinstated, yet that bill had passed third reading and was sent to the Senate where it had been amended. We all know about that bill.

He said that we should start all over again with regard to Bill C-35, remuneration for military judges legislation. That bill had passed third reading and was in the Senate,.

I do not know what is so contentious with regard to Bill C-36, the archives of Canada legislation, but the member for Yorkton--Melville wants us to start all over again with that bill. Bill C-38, the marijuana bill, was at report stage.

A lot of work has already been done in this chamber and in the other place on bills that, without the passage of this motion, would have to be started all over again. There is a long list of precedents for reinstating government bills and reviving committee work.

For example, in 1970, 1972, 1974 and 1986, the members of this House gave their unanimous consent to a motion to reinstate bills from a previous session.

In 1977 and 1982 members amended the Standing Orders to allow Parliament to carry over legislation to the next session. All of which testifies to the longstanding practice of the House of allowing the reinstatement of bills at the same stage as was the case in the previous session, which is precisely what the motion calls for.

It is interesting to note, and I have some personal interaction with this particular idea, that the procedure proposed in the motion is similar, in fact it is identical, to that which exists in the Standing Orders for private members' bills which the House adopted in 1998.

I have a private member's bill, Bill C-212, an act respecting user fees, that unanimously passed all stages in the House, was in the Senate, had passed first reading in the Senate and had been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on National Finance. Then we prorogued. Without this particular feature, I would have had to start all over again in the House of Commons after two to three years of work and a bill that had passed unanimously at all stages in the House of Commons.

With this particular Standing Order, the bill is already on the floor of the Senate. We did not have to reinvent the wheel here in the House of Commons. I am hopeful that it will be passed to the Standing Committee on National Finance shortly and then onwards from there.

We say that those rules are good for private member's bills, in fact they have the support of the House because they are now part of the Standing Orders. We say, on the one hand for private members' business, it is all right to reinstate these bills, but for the government's business it is not, this is a whole new thing.

The member opposite said that if we have a new government then why do we not have new ideas. I can assure the member that if he read the throne speech, and if he looked at the new democratic deficit paper, this is just the start. He will see that the government will be operated very differently.

However, having said that, there is no problem in my judgment to reintroduce those bills that make sense. There has been a lot of work done already. With this motion, the government would have the flexibility to deal with these bills that have been passed, where there is consent of the House, and send them to the Senate.

It is interesting to note that in 1977, a private member's bill was reinstated after Parliament was dissolved.

All of which inevitably leads us to the conclusion, as I said earlier, that if it is reasonable to reinstate private members' bills at the same stage, surely we have the common sense in this chamber to say that it is reasonable to follow the same procedure with respect to government bills.

What would be different about government bills? If we have adopted the procedure in the House for private members' business, why would we want different rules for government business, unless we are out to score political points or be partisan in our debate?

I should point out that this practice of reinstating bills is also practised in other mature democracies that have ruled in favour of bringing legislation forward from one session to another.

I think of the parliament in the United Kingdom from which many of our own parliamentary practices originally came. It has reinstatement motions to allow government bills to carry over from one session to the next.

The official opposition has told the media that it would oppose the motion for the sole purpose of delaying bills from the last session. This is patently unfair and contrary to House practices. The attitude shows it has little regard for the work of the House and for Canadian taxpayers. Opposition members will ask members of the House, at great cost to the public treasury, to come back and re-debate bills that have already passed this chamber and are in the Senate in many cases.

The bills that will be reinstated would include the legislation to accelerate the coming into force of the new electoral boundaries which was passed by the House of Commons and sent to the Senate.

We talk about dealing with western alienation. This particular legislation would allow more seats for British Columbia and Alberta. This is the way to proceed. Why would we want to delay that bill? Why would we want to have the debate all over again on something that is patently obvious.

We take the census and figure it all out, and draw the boundaries. This is not rocket science. This is done by Elections Canada. It redefines the boundaries. It recognizes that Canada is a growing country, that different areas are growing more quickly than others, and it redefines the boundaries.

If we have that bill when the next election is called, Alberta and British Columbia will have a bigger voice. I think Ontario would receive more seats as well. I am sure that there could be an amendment that could be put forward to deal with Nova Scotia perhaps.

There is the legislation to create an independent ethics commissioner and a Senate ethics officer, something that the members opposite have argued for vociferously for months, perhaps years. This bill could be reinstated very simply by agreeing and adopting this motion. We could have an independent ethics commissioner for the House and a Senate ethics officer.

The motion should have the support of the House. It is the practice in most mature democratic countries.

In conclusion, we need to be clear that adoption of the motion does not mean that all the bills that were on the Order Paper when we prorogued would automatically come back. It means that the government would have the flexibility to pick those bills that, in its wisdom and judgment, it sees fit to bring back. That would allow us not to have to reinvent the wheel and re-debate those bills that have the support of the chamber. Many of them also have the support of the Senate, at least at first reading stage.

The motion before us today does not represent a break with our parliamentary traditions. In fact, it is very much a part of our parliamentary traditions and it is entirely consistent with the practice of the House dating back to 1970.

Moreover, the measures described in the motion would greatly contribute to freeing up the members so that they can focus on the important task of developing new initiatives for promoting the well-being of Canadians.

With this in mind, I certainly intend to support this motion. I would urge other members to support it so we can get on with the business of the House, the important business and legislation that can be brought forward and reinstated and not have to be re-debated.

Reinstatement of Government BillsGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2004 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

Brossard—La Prairie Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to introduce Motion No. 2, which proposes, and I quote:

That, during the first thirty sitting days of the present session of Parliament, whenever a minister of the Crown, when proposing a motion for first reading of a public bill, states that the said bill is in the same form as a government bill in the previous session, if the Speaker is satisfied that the said bill is in the same form as the House of Commons had agreed to at prorogation, notwithstanding Standing Order 71, the said bill shall be deemed in the current session to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of the prorogation of the previous session.

There are ample precedents for the House of Commons deeming government bills from previous sessions to have been advanced in new sessions to the stages at which they expired at prorogation.

This approach has been applied for over 30 years in order to avoid wasting parliament's time and resources. In 1970, 1972 and 1986, the House gave unanimous consent to such motions to reinstate bills. In 1991, 1996, 1999 and as recently as 2002, the House passed a motion similar to that which we are proposing today. Furthermore, it is consistent with practice in the United Kingdom House of Commons.

If our motion is adopted, witnesses will not have to come back to committees to present their views and briefs all over again. The committees in turn will not have to hear them all over again.

Before this procedure was accepted by the House, reintroducing bills that had died on the Order Paper wasted valuable parliamentary resources and tax dollars since the same debate and the same committee hearings had to be repeated for each bill which needed to be reintroduced.

Given the financial constraints under which we are operating and for which we should be aware, we feel it is wiser to devote these resources to priority needs in areas such as health care, for instance.

Furthermore, this method allowing bills to be reinstated is already part of the House rules governing private members' business. The House Standing Orders stipulate that private members' bills be automatically reinstated after prorogation of the session.

The motion we have put before the House does not deal with any one specific bill. It may well be that some ministers have reasons for not reinstating proceedings on their bills that were terminated by prorogation. The motion will apply solely to bills that have been introduced and at least referred to committee, either before or after second reading.

As for bills that had only been introduced, but not yet studied in committee during the previous session, they can be reintroduced during the present session. In that case, it could not be said that reintroducing these bills would constitute needless duplication of work and, naturally, a waste of parliamentary resources.

The procedure will work as follows. During the first 30 sitting days of the new session, any minister who introduces a bill identical to a bill in the old session, and which at least had been referred to a committee, will have the right to request that the new bill be reinstated to the stage at which it had progressed at the time of prorogation.

The procedure does not oblige a minister to reintroduce a bill. It merely gives them a new right to do so during a limited period at the beginning of the session.

There are important bills from the last session that respond to the needs and interests of Canadians. For example, there is a need to reinstate Bill C-49, which provides for the electoral boundaries readjustment based on the 2001 national census, to take effect April 1, 2004.

Given their growing population, British Columbia and Alberta are each entitled to two additional seats and Ontario to an additional three seats.

As part of the action plan on democratic Reform, which I have the honour of leading in this House, the government has promised to reinstate Bill C-34, the legislation to create the office of an Independent Ethics Commissioner and a Senate Ethics Officer, who will report to the House and Senate respectively. We hope that, with the support of our fellow parliamentarians, we can bring this bill into force.

The government will reinstate other bills, including Bill C-17, the Public Safety Act, 2002; Bill C-20, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act; Bill C-23, the Sex Offender Information Registration Act; and Bill C-57, Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act.

As this list shows, the motion serves the interests of the House. It also serves the interests expressed by the opposition in a number of cases. For these reasons I do ask for the support of all members. Perhaps if we can come to a consensus we can adopt this motion today.

Let us support this measure, which has been supported many times by all parties of the House. I sincerely hope we can concentrate our efforts and resources on the real issues facing Canadians.