Mr. Chairman, this particular amendment by the government is attempting, as I said earlier on, to reverse some of the decisions that had already been made by the committee leading up to this particular clause.
All of this is predicated on the parliamentary secretary reading into the record part of a letter that was not accepted for tabling, for the usual procedural reasons--legitimate as they have always been--by other members of the committee. However, with respect to what was already read into the record, it would appear that a letter of endorsement was produced on the basis of a scenario depicted to the letter writer or to his colleagues responsible for the file that conveyed an impression that might have been, at the very least, incomplete.
On the basis of those conversations and the scenario being incomplete, we voted on accepting or not accepting to continue the debate. We are now here on G-6.1.
I think it always bears repetition that the government is trying to do something through the back door that has already been shut at the front door. What the government is doing is it is essentially saying that anyone who wants to build a monument can go ahead and do it on their own. What this amendment says is we'll establish a council, we'll use the appropriate legal model to ensure that it exists, we'll give it the articles that we give any other corporation, we'll let them--although the legislation doesn't say that--maybe establish themselves as a charitable organization, and we'll let those people go forward who have a direct tie to the Holocaust.
We've already rejected that language. We already rejected that language because Canadians all have a direct tie. But the government doesn't think so. The government thinks that it's only members of those families who have an immediate connection to someone who perished during the Holocaust. And in that thinking, Mr. Chairman, the government is saying that the Canadian public doesn't want to have anything to do with the monument. That analysis is wrong. The Canadian public does want to do this, but there are only so many ways the Canadian public can express itself in favour of a monument that commemorates the tragic genocidal actions committed in our generation.
So the government comes back and it says what they're going to do is establish this council; they're going to conduct a fundraising campaign. They'll cover the cost of planning, they'll cover the cost of designing, they'll cover the cost of construction, they'll cover the cost of installing and maintaining the monument, and they'll cover any of the costs the council establishes.
Well, you know, Mr. Chairman and colleagues, everybody else in the country is asking why we need the legislation for us to establish such a council in the first place. We don't need permission to do that in a free and open country like Canada. If we have the money, we'll do that. We'll do it ourselves. We can buy property here through the National Capital Commission. We can do it on our own. We don't need the permission of the Government of Canada. We don't need the consent of this committee to send out a real estate agent to locate the land for us. We might actually come up with a better location than the one you want to give us. We don't need you to conduct a nationwide contest from an architectural design point of view. We don't need you to give us the money. We just want to do it on our own.
Well, you know what? We can. Every citizen can. Every group of citizens can. So we're not talking about the financing of a concept. We're not talking about permitting a concept to be generated. We're not talking about the abilities of any community to generate the resources necessary to realize this project. There is in fact already a group out there that says it has this project in mind and it thinks it's long overdue and it is already generating funds. It wants to get it done. People have already done that. Why do we need a government amendment to say they have our benediction, they have our approval, they have our consent? Give us a break. In a democratic environment where the citizen prevails, we don't need the Government of Canada to do that.
But here's what we need the Government of Canada to do. We need the Government of Canada to speak for all Canadians—every single one of the 32 million who have subscribed to the census and have identified themselves as legitimate inhabitants in this place. We need the Government of Canada to collectively speak on behalf of those 32 million and to say collectively that it is our will to ensure that such a monument be planned, designed, constructed, installed, and maintained at our expense—because it is our monument, because it is an expression of our experience, because it is a reflection of all the values that make Canada what Canada is.
Do you want to help? You're quite welcome. But the Government of Canada has the resources, the generative resources of talent, ingenuity, even will, and finances. To be able to marshal together all of those elements that collectively give a stamp of Canada on the project, that's what every community would need. They don't need the Government of Canada for anything else. They don't, and the committee has already said, all along, leading up to this amendment, that it doesn't need anything other than an expression of the Government of Canada's will to do this.
But do you know what, Mr. Chairman and colleagues? Members of Parliament have already done that. They've done the heavy lifting for the Government of Canada. They've already done all the preparatory work for the Government of Canada. They've done it in the House of Commons, unanimously. They expressed support for a bill presented by a backbench member of Parliament, seconded by an opposition member of Parliament, and everyone agreed that the principle should be the one we've enunciated--everyone. The bill came before this committee, and to everyone's surprise, the government presented an amendment for every single clause in the bill. Just reflect on that, colleagues. Every single clause in the bill was pulled back by the Government of Canada.
The Government of Canada said no, we could not have the expression of the public's desire to support this concept. The Government of Canada said to that community, which is already busily working away to build a monument in the national capital region, to ensure that the Canadian public lends its support to that initiative. Let it stand out there like a beacon, worldwide, and say the people of Canada have done this--not the Government of Canada, the people of Canada. The Parliament of Canada--members of Parliament from every nook and cranny in Canada, from every political stripe, from every religious background, members of Parliament elected in rural Canada, in maritime Canada, in urban Canada, in the north, members of Parliament as remote from the experience of the Holocaust as you can get, collectively joined in and said, “We want our voice stamped on that monument.” There's only one way for us to do it, and that's to say that the people of Canada--the Government of Canada--want to finance, plan, design, build, and maintain this monument. It's a reflection of our will. It's a reflection of our design. It's an expression of our commitment to fellow man.
That's a laudable thing to do. But the government said “uh-uh”. What's going to trump all of this is money. And even though the House of Commons agreed with us wholeheartedly, completely, thoroughly, unanimously, the government, upon reflection, said it doesn't want to do this anymore, that money is an issue. What money? The Government of Canada's annual budget is something like $255 billion. The Government of Canada has that much money at its disposal on an annual basis--$255 billion. I don't know how much this monument would cost. I dare say it probably won't even put a dent in that $255 billion budget.
So really, the issue of money can't be it. Well, maybe it's because we're in a time of constraint. Now we have to reduce the deficit, we have to reduce the debt. We have to balance off all of the woes that have afflicted our finances. So the first casualty will be this monument. Well, is money that significant? To judge by the statements of the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities just the other day, when he appeared before a committee, money is not the issue, and the reason for that is that the budget gave even more money to the National Capital Commission for the conduct of its business, for the management of its real estate assets, and for its operations. The Government of Canada, thanks to votes in the House, was able to transfer to the National Capital Commission additional millions of dollars--additional--for projects just like this one. In fact, they didn't even need this legislation.
I pointed out in a letter to the minister that the NCC already possesses the authority to establish a monument without parliamentary approvals. Indeed, the NCC currently is responsible for, count them, not one, not two, not three, not four or five, but 16 monuments, including the Hungarian monument, the Canadian tribute to human rights, the monument to Canadian aid workers, and currently there's even construction under way of a national naval monument. None of these required legislation.
What makes those people who want to have a national Holocaust monument so special that they require legislation to get it done? Do you know what, colleagues? The National Capital Commission is in the planning phase for the creation of a national monument for victims of communism. I don't want to diminish that because there are countless millions who have suffered at the hands of communism, who died, in the old U.S.S.R. and other places around the world. We're building a monument to them. That's to our credit. But we didn't require a bill. We didn't ask the families of those victims to go out and do the fundraising. We didn't ask them to engage in contributing user fees, because that's what this is. We found the community that wanted one of these monuments and we said, oh, well, maybe they have the wherewithal to pay for it, so we don't have to pay for it. Can you imagine anything so cynical? Can you imagine any member of Parliament on this side of the table or even on that side of the table turning around and saying our cynicism is covered by their willingness to self-tax for a monument we could build just like that? We don't need the legislation. Finances aren't the problem. Could it be greed?