House of Commons Hansard #103 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.


Department Of Public Works And Government Services ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, in his comments at the conclusion of his speech the hon. member said that we should be straight up with Canadians and I agree.

If his party formed the government today, would that member's government also be spending more than it took in? The question clearly relates to the fact that no matter which party was forming the government the government expenditures and the deficit clearly were going to take more than one year to be dealt with. Yet the member continues to harp as if the Reform Party somehow would magically eliminate this if it were the government. Could the member answer this simple question: Would the Reform Party also be spending more than it took in?

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4:55 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

That is a valid question. Of course we would. One cannot just simply go hack, slash, bump and that is the end of it.

However a plan that after three years this government will owe an additional $100 billion in debt is absolutely the wrong direction. What we would have at the end of three years is we would not be going further into debt. Canada cannot afford it. The Canadian public intuitively in the back of their minds know it. They are just waiting for some politicians to be open, up front, honest, candid and frank with them and get on with the job that will have to be done.

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4:55 p.m.


Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member for Kootenay East wants to be open and frank.

Our government has constantly talked about bringing the deficit to 3 per cent of gross domestic product. That is a plan, that is a direction and that is something the Minister of Finance is committed to. As we talk about social program review which is coming up tomorrow, we are going to have a plan on the table with different directions of where we are going to go with our social spending.

We want to talk about being honest. Why does the member not come across here and say: "What are we going to do without employment insurance? Are we going to do away with it? Are we going to do away with all our social programs? Are we going to reduce old age pensions?" That is the kind of honesty he is talking about. Let us hear him say those things.

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4:55 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government currently has a plan to go another $100 billion into debt over the next three years with this 3 per cent figure it is talking about. It has no commitment to reduce the deficit to zero. It has a commitment only to reduce it to 3 per cent.

I heard it said by the late Kim Campbell, that is late in a political sense, during the last election that there was not any problem. If she managed to get the overspending down to whatever the number was it was fine, it was going to be balanced books because we did not have to go out and borrow money. Then after actually analyzing what she was talking about, she

was going to be using Canada pension plan contributions. She was going to be using the actual cash flow, the input that was coming into the government. That same kind of fuzzy thinking has managed to spill over. Maybe there is something unusual about that side of the House. When people move from this side, which is where most cabinet ministers were in the last House, to the other side and get cabinet positions somehow a fuzziness seems to set in.

The reality is that there is no commitment on the part of the government to control overspending. I will not call it the deficit because that is confusing. The deficit is simply how much more is spent than is taken in.

With respect to the question of targets let us talk about UI. Right now the minister of human resources is going around trying to fly all sorts of trial balloons. The Reform Party principle is very simple and very straightforward. It is called unemployment insurance.

Unfortunately all politicians in the House over the last 20 years have forgotten the word insurance. Insurance works on an actuarial basis that it is not going to be used as some kind of low grade social program. Therein lies the problem. Even today the minister and the government are working through a UI revision as though they are revising a low grade social program. They are not putting it into the arena where it should be, which is unemployment insurance.

I have a lot of other comments but the bottom line to the exercise is that there is no simple answer to the problem. I am prepared to say to the people of Canada that it is going to hurt. We can either do it ourselves or we can have it done to us. As long as we continue to add $100 billion to the debt of the nation and as long as we continue to spend $110 million every day, we are not solving the problem. We are just digging the hole deeper.

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5 p.m.


Roger Pomerleau Bloc Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would have a question for my hon. colleague from the Reform Party who made a remarkable speech. Our colleague tells us that real politicians would tell us that it is going to hurt. I agree up to a certain point. Now, who will this hurt?

At present, some people avoid paying tax on billions of dollars by using family trusts and tax havens. Here is my question: Is my hon. colleague prepared to hurt these people too, so that all members of our society pay their share?

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5 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have had the privilege of moving to the finance committee which has been very instructive. There is a myth, an absolutely gigantic myth, that somehow billions of dollars are squirrelled away and that if we could get our hands on them we would solve the whole deficit and debt problem. The myth that was originated by the NDP unfortunately is being perpetuated by the Bloc Quebecois.

The plain fact of the matter is that family trusts have to do with capital gains. Family trusts pay taxes on earnings. Family trusts pay current taxes on interest. Family trusts do not pay tax on accrued capital gains until they are disposed of by the family trust. The myth continuously put forward by the Bloc is that they never pay or they are going to roll forward. The fact of the matter is that they will be paid in exactly the same way as any other individual pays them.

It is instructive to be sitting on that committee as they continue to try to put forward the myth that there is some kind of simple, magical equation, some kind of a simple answer, because there is not.

I come back to the same thing. It is going to hurt all Canadians. In further response to the member's question, the reality is that if we do not control this the people who will be hurt the most are those who can afford it the least. We have to target the meagre resources we presently have to make sure those people who have the least get the most in terms of help.

I do not think major industrialists and people who would have these countless millions of dollars in family trusts to which the Bloc keeps referring need the help of the social program. It is the intention and the direction of the Reform Party to protect those who need protection the most.

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5:05 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-52 combines previously dispersed functions in government into the new Department of Public Works and Government Services. At first sight it is a technical bill, a necessary but technical piece of legislation to make the combinations. It is becoming apparent from the debate that there is more to the legislation than that. The bill is part of the government's effort to streamline the system of government in Canada, to make government a better servant of the public. It is for that reason I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-52.

Part of the platform that saw the election of the government was a firm commitment to government renewal, reforming away government works to restore confidence among Canadians in their leaders and institutions. At the same time there was an equal commitment to reducing the cost and increasing the effectiveness of government to lower the deficit and relieve Canadian taxpayers.

The bill, along with several others introduced in the House in recent weeks, is tailored to meet both those commitments. Merging the former departments of public works and supply and services, the telecommunications agency and the translation bureau through Bill C-52 permits a more streamlined, responsive service by government while reducing the costs of doing the taxpayer's business. The amalgamation will assist deficit reduc-

tion by cost savings in the order of $180 million by the year 1998.

The legislation also lives up to the government's commitment to restore confidence in the administration. Other members referred to the tremendous task the new department must perform. An annual cash flow of $1.4 trillion, purchasing $10 billion worth of products and services in a year, 175,000 contracts per year, and managing $6.5 billion worth of real estate are now under one government department. What is remarkable about the legislation is that it creates a single organization under one minister to perform all this work.

Thus not only client government departments and agencies but the vast community of Canadian firms doing business with government can deal with a single agency. One minister and one management team will provide the focus and direction as well as the forum to see that both client and supplier interests are served. This is truly one-stop government shopping for Canadian business.

Rest assured that the new department is dedicated to serving both the interests of its client departments and the interests of the business community. The business community embraces all sizes and types of Canadian firms. Their competitiveness is vital to a strong, innovative Canadian economy.

That is why in carrying out the many large and small purchases on behalf of government the new department attempts at all times to remain innovative and up to date, maintaining best practices in dealing with suppliers and managing its affairs to encourage innovation and competitiveness among Canadian businesses.

That is why the bill rewrites previous legislation to provide flexibility which permits the use of purchasing to assist in achieving the strategic objectives of government, for example penetration of foreign markets by small and medium sized Canadian businesses.

While the new department strives to meet its primary objectives of efficient and effective services to government, it is guided in its purchasing practices by the principles of competition, equality of treatment and openness.

Where possible, contracts are awarded through competitive, open bidding. Uniform conditions and evaluation criteria are applied to all bidders. To remain competitive suppliers and potential suppliers must be informed and up to date on government requirements. They must know not only what is coming up by way of demand but also the rules and regulations they must comply with.

The new department uses various means to provide such information and assistance. One of the newest and most innovative is the open bidding service which was referred to and explained briefly by the member for Guelph-Wellington when she spoke earlier. The open bidding service provides around the clock electronic information and assistance to suppliers anywhere in Canada, any suppliers that have access to telephone lines. It provides subscribers with all the information they need to make an informed bidding decision in government procurement opportunities. They no longer need to be included on a government source list or await an invitation to bid.

This sort of a process is very welcomed by small businesses in small communities outside the Ottawa circuit such as my riding of Peterborough. Subscribers can review opportunities in their product or service areas and order bid documents for those they are interested in. Documents are forwarded as quickly as possible by the chosen delivery method, be it fax, mail or courier. Current contract award information as well as information on past contract awards are available to subscribers of the service.

Other departments and crown corporations, as well as the governments of Alberta and Ontario, have decided to use this open bidding service to advertise their contract needs. This significantly broadens the market available to suppliers through a single information source. Open bidding is the aim of the publication entitled "Government Business Opportunities" which is issued three times a week.

I was somewhat bemused by the earlier criticism of the minister and the bill through suggestions that government purchasing practices were not open enough and more information should be provided. I really do not understand the distorted view of reality that could trigger such a complaint.

Federal government purchasing is already scrutinized by Parliament, the Treasury Board, the Auditor General, the Canadian Internal Trade Tribunal, the Contract Claims Resolution Board, all the mass media, the suppliers themselves and the taxpaying public. On top of all that, all purchasing requirements valued at $25,000 or more are posted on the open bidding service I just described. As well, construction, maintenance, architecture and engineering opportunities valued at $60,000 or more are so posted. When sole source contracts are necessary, information is carried both on the open bidding service and through the "Government Business Opportunities" publication.

The Minister of Public Works and Government Services has gone to even greater lengths to ensure open and easy access to contracting information. He has written to all members of Parliament, as every member of Parliament who checks the mail knows, urging them to subscribe to the open bidding service. The parliamentary secretary just gave some information on the cost of this service. Following that suggestion would certainly better equip members of Parliament to serve their constituents

than contributing to the paper burden by tabling tons of material on 175,000 government contracts.

We live in an electronic age. Canadian citizens and businesses are rapidly adapting to the evolving information highway. Members who complain about lack of information might well be advised to catch up. Subscribing to the open bidding services would be one step.

The Bloc also expressed some concern over the fact that riding by riding stats were not available for contracting activity in the new department.

The simple fact is that Public Works and Government Services does not keep information based on riding. Since the amalgamation of these various government services the department systems are not integrated. Further, several searches of both the manual and electronic data bases showed that all the systems are out of date or in need of upgrading. As a result, the department at this time simply cannot produce such reports, that is reports based on riding, in its routine operations.

Further, we must all realize that riding-based activity is not always accurate and at times it is downright misleading.

For example, consider the case of the two large oil companies, Imperial Oil and Petro-Canada. These companies bill all government purchases, close to $300 million per year, through their Ottawa offices regardless of where those purchases occur, whether they occur elsewhere in Canada or abroad. Rather than compile and publish misleading riding-based statistics, the Department of Public Works and Government Services actually does something real about an even distribution of regional benefits from government purchasing. Wherever feasible within the confines of agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, regional benefits are given a high priority when evaluating bids for major government projects.

Examples of regional benefits are not hard to find: $1.2 billion of the Canadian patrol frigate contract to Saint John Shipbuilding in New Brunswick, $40 million of the Canadian Forces supply system upgrade contract to SHL Systemhouse in Ottawa, $16 million of the North Warning System contract to a Richmond, B.C. firm, and so on with other regional benefits wherever they are possible.

Further evidence of this minister's desire to keep purchasing practices open and fair was his decision that contingency fees have no legitimate place in government procurement and the introduction of a new contract clause is aimed at eliminating them. Bidders are now required to certify that they have not hired a lobbyist to solicit award of the contract where any part of the payment to the lobbyist depends on the client obtaining the contract.

Another example: The minister has introduced major improvements in contracting methods for advertising and public opinion research. There were no effective guidelines to purchase such sensitive services in the past. The media and the public have long perceived the practice to be open to abuse and political patronage. For the first time new guidelines have been approved by cabinet bringing the procurement of advertising and public opinion research under similar rules of fairness and openness to those governing all government procurement.

These new guidelines, the new open bidding service and the new lobbyist clause, are all evidence of the determination of this government to reintroduce integrity and restore the faith of the public in our political and administrative systems.

I think the evidence is clear. This government and this new department which is created through this bill support both the spirit and practice of good business in Canada to the benefit of government operations, the business community and Canadian taxpayers alike.

I conclude by saying that Bill C-52 is far more than an effective highly technical piece of legislation combining under one roof previous government services. It is a fine example of this government's commitment to openness and fairness to Canadian business.

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5:15 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member was in the House earlier when we were told, in response to a question, that the bill the hon. member just commented on prevented some overlapping with other provinces. Basically, that is the spirit of non-overlapping that we advocate in the Bloc Quebecois.

Here is my first question. What is there exactly in this bill to specifically preclude this kind of overlapping?

I have another question for the hon. member. The Bloc Quebecois tabled a reasoned amendment on this subject. It reads as follows:

"this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-52, an act to establish the Department of Public Works and Government Services and to amend and repeal certain acts, because the principle of the bill does not provide for a specific code of ethics to be put in place aimed at making transparent the contracting process and the acquisition of all goods and services by the Department of Public Works and Government Services Canada".

Does the hon. member agree with the idea of improving transparency through this bill? If he does, where exactly in the bill is this spirit of transparency fostered?

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5:20 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments.

The answer is the same to both of his questions. As far as greater efficiency between the levels of government is concerned, I described the open bidding service. I mentioned that already the governments of Alberta and Ontario have joined in this electronic open bidding service which is available to every part of the country reached by telephone, which is virtually every part of the country. That is an example. That is a step toward greater efficiency between levels of government.

It is my hope that the governments of other provinces will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity and will therefore make it even more efficient between federal and provincial levels.

With regard to the matter of openness, I described as well as I could the open bidding procedure. This is a procedure which is available even to the smallest business. People have a telephone. The cost is not large. It lists forthcoming opportunities. It lists the results of previous contracts, in other words who obtained contracts for the previous weeks or months.

This is something which is available in offices across the country. That is in addition to the thrice weekly publication of similar information which is also available, although I think I sense where the member is coming from, which is less easily available to many of our smaller firms.

To answer his question about transparency, it does seem to me that one answer to his question is that the open bidding service is as transparent as it could be.

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5:20 p.m.


Nick Discepola Liberal Vaudreuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, our government took office a year ago with a very clear platform and very specific commitments to Canadians. We said that we wished to develop a country where efficient and innovative governments cooperate not only with one another but also with businesses, unions, educational institutions and others.

We said that we wished to emphasize the concept of partnership in all our dealings. We are committed to making job creation and economic growth our top priorities. We promised to trim the deficit and to use iron discipline in bringing federal expenditures under control. We also said that we would restore public trust in the government's integrity.

All our commitments and promises are reflected in the public works and government services minister's priorities and performance in the last 12 months.

This department, which is responsible for most common services provided by the federal government, worked hard to increase government efficiency, create partnerships and convince Canadians that the government is conducting its operations fairly, openly and in the public interest.

The Department of Public Works and Government Services is in a good position to take up the challenge of providing effective services, establishing strong links and eliminating duplication in the provision of government services.

In the area of efficiency and reduction of duplication of services, the amalgamation has already begun to pay dividends. During the past year there has been substantial progress in realizing the central corporate services of the department such as finance and administration and amalgamating these into a single operation which can serve the needs of the component sections of the department, but with significant savings in financial and human resources as well.

A similar rationalization of resources has taken place at the regional level, again with substantial cost savings and reduction of duplication. Much work still remains in order to realize the full potential for savings through this process of amalgamation.

The minister remains confident that he will be able to cut common services staff by more than 20 per cent in the next four years without reducing service levels for Public Works and Government Services Canada's client departments and agencies.

The full process will generate overall savings of some $180 million. This streamlining process is in line with the government's promise to cut waste and duplication and is a big help in meeting the government's commitment to fight the deficit through major cuts in public administration expenditures.

Public Works and Government Services Canada has made steady progress toward the government's goal of reaching sound agreements with other levels of government, the private sector, its public service clients and the general population. Significant headway was made in intergovernmental co-operation last summer when the federal government and most provinces signed agreements to work together to reduce government costs.

Public Works and Government Services Canada already works with the provinces to identify the areas where the two levels of government can work together to reduce duplication or, better yet, share services in the interest of our taxpayers.

Some provisions of Bill C-52 will pave the way to closer intergovernmental co-operation.

For example, it will allow Public Works and Government Services when requested by other levels of government to offer realty, architectural and engineering services to provinces as well as municipalities, something that was not possible before this legislation. It will simplify the process in following up on opportunities for intergovernmental co-operative initiatives.

Over the next few years I am confident we will see a real increase in all levels of government working to eliminate duplication, to share in procurement where this is beneficial and to better co-ordinate services directed at the Canadian public.

Another area in which the department has been working hard and making progress is in building stronger, more satisfactory partnerships with the Canadian business community. As the prime procurement agency of the government which spends some $10 billion each year for goods and services, Public Works and Government Services is one of the prime points of interface between the government and Canadian business and industry.

In the past the two major points of friction and frustration in the government's dealings with the business community have been first, the sense by business that dealings with governments were slow, cumbersome and costly and, second, that there was too much political interference and cynicism, in other words that the system was not as fair and open as it should be.

Under this government real progress has been made by Public Works and Government Services toward addressing both of these problems.

By promoting high-tech communications with businesses, the department has managed to simplify the process and reduce costs. The electronic procurement and settlement system is a good example. This central control and settlement system linking client departments with suppliers allows users to do business electronically, to place orders and issue vouchers without paperwork and to pay suppliers without bills being sent.

The system was tested successfully and should be fully implemented during the year. It is as popular with the government as it is with suppliers.

The open bidding system that I just described has been introduced and provides an electronic bulletin board that allows all potential suppliers an equal chance to be aware of the government's requirements and to respond accordingly.

On many occasions the minister has given a personal invitation to all MPs, including MPs from the Bloc and the Reform Party, to get on the open bidding service. We should take him up on this offer, as I have done.

The minister has also introduced a clause to all contracts effectively eliminating the practice of contingency fees in securing government contracts, thus curbing the influence of lobbyists in this area. He has introduced-

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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order. The member will have the opportunity to conclude his remarks when the bill comes before the House at the next opportunity.

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business, as listed on today's Order Paper.

Canadian Charter Of Rights And FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

October 4th, 1994 / 5:25 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should change the name of the "Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms" to the "Canadian Charter of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities".

Mr. Speaker, before I get into the meat of my presentation today, I would like to spend a couple of minutes describing to the television audience the difference between a private member's motion and a government motion and what is most assuredly going to be happening to this motion in exactly one hour.

A private member's motion receives one hour of debate in the House. Then it is dropped from the Order Paper, never to be seen again, unless there is a spark of interest somewhere and it resurfaces.

This is one of the checks and balances in our parliamentary system. It allows backbenchers and opposition members a chance to get a point of view across. It gives opposition and government members a chance to debate ideas.

If this were a votable bill rather than a motion, it would receive a grand total of, I believe, three or four hours of debate. It would come back two or three times and would be voted on. On a very rare occasion of unanimity in the House on an opposition member's bill, it could become law.

The chances of a bill becoming law promulgated by an opposition member are fairly remote. Hopefully it is something that we in this Parliament could consider, because it is really the essence and the spirit of parliamentary democracy. No one in the House has a lock on good ideas. If we are to use our opportunities as parliamentarians effectively, we would learn from each other and modify each other's bills to meet a common objective.

In any event, my motion was inspired because I felt we were becoming a nation of entitlement. This was very much to our detriment and to the detriment particularly of the younger generation of Canadians.

During the election campaign my fellow candidates and I were doing an all-candidates meeting at a high school in Edmonton. In the question and answer period one of the students got up and said: "What are you going to do to get me a job?"

Through the luck of the draw I was the last person to respond and I got a chance to listen to the other candidates. I listened to them telling this young person in an auditorium full of students that we were going to create a nirvana-poor choice of words-motherhood and apple pie. We were going to spend money here and spend money there and create jobs.

I could just see all their eyes glazing over because they had heard it all before and had no reason to believe it. My turn came along and I thought, I am going to tell these people the truth.

I said to that young man: "Look, if you want to know who is going to get you a job when you graduate from high school, have a look in the mirror because that is the only person in the world who is responsible for you. Your success in life is going to be directly attributable to what you put into it. If you expect me, your parents, your school or anybody else to do for you what you need to do for yourself you are going to be sadly mistaken and very disappointed in life".

I am telling you I was Mr. Dinosaur from the Reform Party. He must have been thinking: "Here is this old-timer who does not have a clue about what is going on. How could he possibly be standing here and telling me I am responsible for myself, like I don't have to show up at school every day. If I come in late nobody seems to care". That is not fair because that is not the way it is in life.

That is the germ of the idea of how we got into this situation. It is not just individuals who feel that there is a sense of entitlement, it is all of us. Our whole society has become one of entitlement. If somebody wants to start a business what does he do? He does not get every nickel he has together and get his friends and relatives together and start a business. The first thing to do is trot down to the bank and see if the government will guarantee a loan. Is there not a grant for doing this? Cannot somebody else risk their capital so I can progress in my life? That is just not the way it works in this world.

We have become a nation of rights, a nation of entitlements. We did not become this way just with the introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It has been happening slowly but surely. It probably happened perhaps in the 1950s and then accelerated in the 1960s. Here we are today with the single thing that has really codified this whole notion of rights, the introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada.

As I progress in my speech this afternoon, I am going to be referring to some information that I got from a book entitled: Protecting Rights and Freedoms: Essays on the Charter's Place in Canada's Political, Legal and Intellectual Life . I recommend this book to anyone who has any particular interest in going further into the investigation of the effect of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in our country.

I want to acknowledge that I will be quoting from the essays of three individuals, all of whom will be familiar to colleagues in this House and to you, Mr. Speaker. The first is the Right Hon. Kim Campbell when she was Solicitor General. She delivered a presentation at a 10th anniversary conference on the charter of rights. The second person is Lysiane Gagnon, a well-known member of the media from Quebec and Jeffrey Simpson who needs no introduction from me.

As a matter of fact it was interesting that in another part of Kim Campbell's writings she said that Canadians, as compared with Americans, really have a different sense of what government means. We look at government as protector of our rights and freedoms. Government is not something feared by the average Canadian. She compared that with the situation in the United States where the government is seen as more obtrusive by the individual citizen.

Ms. Campbell was comparing the case of our bill of rights and the American experience. The two do not exactly relate, but let me give you the gist of what she was saying as she was talking about the tension that exists in Canada between Parliament and the judiciary. With the Charter of Rights of Freedoms, the Supreme Court has taken on great powers that were not previously in our common law tradition to be vested with appointed judges. It was the role of Parliament to reflect the mores of the time and to interpret what was going on in society. We have evolved into more of an American system where the judiciary has far more to say about what is going on.

As a matter of fact Kim Campbell said: "Courts are now required to choose from among competing approaches and values. The real question therefore is not whether the courts are making policy but rather the appropriate limits of the courts' policy making role". She said that when she was the Attorney General of the country. That is a profound statement.

She further said: "By giving Canadians constitutionally entrenched rights and freedoms and by making these enforceable by the courts, the charter has given the courts a much more powerful and visible role in our governmental system. This has led to some tensions and to questions about the proper scope of judicial review in a parliamentary system".

Her concern was that unless Parliament and the courts understand and respect each other's role we will evolve toward a system in which the courts, rather than democratically elected legislatures, are seen as the primary protectors and promoters of rights and freedoms.

That has happened. The courts have taken on an increasing role in our society and the role and the responsibility of Parliament has as a result been diminished.

Then the question comes up: Why do we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the first place? The Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not have one word in the whole thing about responsibilities. The thought of responsibility does not enter into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. How can that be?

It was because it was never intended to be anything other, at least according to many people. The introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada was done because Pierre Trudeau wanted it. He believed if we had a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guaranteed individual rights and freedoms we would be able to make a place for French speaking Quebecers in the whole of the country and for English speaking Canadians in Quebec by law, the notion of individual rights. As I understand it the problem was not that we should have these individual rights across the whole country. It was the people in Quebec wanted to feel at home in Quebec. It was maîtres chez nous, not maîtres chez all of Canada, it was maîtres chez Québec, at home.

Quebec was not part of the patriation of the Constitution. It did not sign on and so instead of this becoming something we could all cherish and bind us together, it became yet one more irritant.

These are the words of Lysiane Gagnon: "This was another episode in the long antagonism between two schools of thought. One embodied by Trudeau focused on the rights of French Canadian individuals. Given equal chances and a decent degree of protection for their language they should be able to affirm themselves throughout the country. The second school of thought focused on the collective rights of Quebecers to develop the institutions and increase the powers of the province that was their only true homeland, the place where they formed a majority".

We now have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms without responsibilities covering the whole nation. The intent was to make Quebec feel more comfortable as part of the nation. It did not work. What are we left with? A situation where the courts are now making decisions that should be made in Parliament. They are making decisions that fly in the face of common sense.

I have examples of that. I do not need to bring it out in this case right now. There are many examples. The hon. member opposite wants an example. Let me give an example.

The top court said just the other day that too drunk is a defence in a rape case. A guy gets too drunk, rapes someone and as a defence cannot form intent and there it is.

This is a decision that is made by our courts but it does not reflect the common sense of the common people. What happens? People see something like this and they say Parliament could not possibly understand what is going on. The courts do not understand what is going on and people feel disconnected from the very institutions that they should be connected to and feel comfortable with.

Now we have a situation in which we have rights through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms I submit is with us whether we like it or not because it has incredible symbolism in the country. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms in a survey done in 1991 had more symbolic significance to Canadians than anything else, including the flag.

I submit that it is going to be part of us for a long time but in the chapter that Jeffrey Simpson wrote, he wrote about Harvard professor Mary Anne Glendon in her book of the same name in its simplest American form, the language of rights is the language of no compromise: "By indulging in excessively simple forms of rights talk in our pluralistic society we needlessly multiply occasions for civil discord.

We make it difficult for persons and groups with conflicting interests and views to build coalitions and achieve compromise or even to acquire that minimal degree of mutual forbearance and understanding that promotes peaceful coexistence and keeps the door open to further communications".

We have seen this in our very Parliament, as last week two members who have very different opinions about things were starting to fight because one has a right and the other feels denied that right. Yet all of life is a compromise of one form or another. It is a means of getting along with each other. Under the guise of rights we are getting ourselves back into corners where compromise is not part of the equation.

I will quote again from Jeffrey Simpson: "A distinguishing characteristic of this rights talk is the degree to which discretionary decisions of government and the normal and sometimes healthy tensions in a pluralistic, democratic society are elevated to those of apparently fundamental human rights. These rights by virtue of being rights cannot easily be compromised. They

can only be defended to the maximum. These rights also seldom have obligations or responsibilities attached to them".

What can we do? Where do we go from here? We are very likely going to have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms with us forever. How do we go about making the Charter of Rights and Freedoms more like that which was originally intended, something to draw us closer together, to bind us, to protect individuals from excesses of the states, to protect minorities from majorities and to have rules that we could live by?

I would submit that we could achieve that if somehow we were able to induce the courts to interpret the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in a fashion and in a manner that gave some sense to society as a whole so that when decisions were made involving the Charter the justices would not always take the most liberal interpretation as per individual rights and the narrowest interpretation toward the rights of society as a whole.

I do not know how this delicate balancing act could be achieved but it is certainly worthy of the attempt because we have evolved to a situation today in which people think of ourselves as rights and entitlements. We have a situation in which regardless of the colour of the book that the government is quoting from, whether it is the Reform's blue book or the Liberal's red book or the Bloc's book, there are certain things that we have to do as a nation.

We have to start to live within our means. As the money dries up people are going to be backed into more and more corners connected with rights and we are going to have to start thinking more and more in terms of our responsibilities to our nation.

We recall those 17 words that President Kennedy used years ago to discuss exactly this: "Think not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country".

If we could inculcate somehow that simple phrase into our lexicon, if we Canadians could think what can we do for our country rather than what our country can do for us, I think we could go a long way in bridging some of the conflicts that are evident here in this House, the conflicts between those of us on this side of the House and back and forth, and individuals who are concerned with their rights. We should probably show far more concern for our responsibilities to each other and to our nation and far less for our rights to ourselves.

Canadian Charter Of Rights And FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Cape Breton—The Sydneys Nova Scotia


Russell MacLellan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest proposes the name of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms be changed to include a reference to Canadian charter of rights, freedoms and responsibilities.

It is an interesting proposal but I do not think it is one with which I could agree for various reasons. In 1982 Canada's Constitution was amended to include the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Although the charter came into force in 1982 the rights and freedoms it contains are not new. The charter is part of a human rights tradition which Canada shares with other countries like France, England and the United States.

In England the Magna Carta in 1215 was an early written attempt to formulate individual rights. The revolutions in France and the former British colonies also ended with attempts to set out in writing the rights which individuals possess vis-à-vis the power of the state. Individuals, it was decided, could not be deprived of these rights by the ruler or in a democracy or by an elected body representing the will of the majority. The government was not to circumvent the rights of the individual.

The French called their document le déclaration des droits, des langues et des citoyens. The Americans named theirs The Bill of Rights. We would later call ours, of course, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

These constitutional documents represent attempts to draft statements of rights at a national level. At the international level, the League of Nations and the United Nations began to grapple with human rights prior to, during and after World War II. The international movement to develop universal human rights standards gained momentum following World War II as a result of the atrocities committed during that terrible war.

In 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the universal declaration of human rights while the European convention for the protection of human rights and the fundamental freedoms was adopted in 1950.

In Canada, following World War II, provinces began to enact legislation to prohibit various forms of discrimination such as the Saskatchewan Bill of Rights, eventually leading to the present day forms of human rights legislation. At the same time and throughout the 1950s as Canada's self-image as a country began to develop, proposals were made for a Canadian bill of rights.

A joint committee of the Senate and the House of Commons considered the proposal in 1947 and again in 1950. Ten years later the Canadian Bill of Rights received royal assent. A federal statute, the Bill of Rights applied in areas of federal jurisdiction but it was not considered a constitutional document.

In the 1960s and 1970s the law making process at the United Nations similarly resulted in the signing and ratification of the

international covenant on civil and political rights and the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights.

In Canada another period of constitutional negotiation was beginning with the adoption of the enriched charter of human rights as one focus of discussion.

I am not going to review the history of the charter's adoption. There are many who are familiar with it. Suffice it to say that amending the Constitution is not an easy process. Every provision, including its topic, was carefully scrutinized by the government, by the special joint committee of the House of Commons and the Senate on the Constitution and later by provincial first ministers.

In the end, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms became part of the Constitution by virtue of the Constitution Act of 1982. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is and aspires to be a statement by Canadians about the rights and freedoms which we as Canadians deeply value in our democratic society.

Toward this end the charter protects a broad range of rights including, for example, equality rights and the right of freedom of expression.

Many charter rights derive from or have their equivalent in those universal standards of human rights which I have mentioned earlier. There is a broad tradition of rights and striving for rights and the documentation of rights.

Rights do not, however, come without responsibilities, nor are they absolute. All human rights amendments recognize this fact. Section 1 of the charter states that an individual's rights and freedoms are subject to certain reasonable limits. In determining what constitutes reasonable limits in a free and democratic society, governments and the courts balance the rights of individuals with the interests of society. This very process ensures that responsibilities along with rights are recognized by our courts. It is not necessary to change the title of this charter to emphasize the integral relationship between the individual's rights and his or her responsibility to the rest of society.

Perhaps more important, as I stated earlier, changing the title of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would require a constitutional amendment. This is because part I of the Constitution Act of 1982 sets out the provisions of the charter and section 34 of part I establishes the charter's title. The charter's title is thus part of the Constitution and can only be amended using the amendment procedures in part V of the Constitution Act of 1982.

The procedures in part V include the general amending formula in section 38 of the 1982 act. Section 38 permits amendment of the Constitution on the consent of the Senate, the House of Commons and the legislative assemblies of at least two-thirds of the provinces having at least 50 per cent of the population of all the provinces. As we have seen in the past, obtaining such consent or agreement is difficult. The Prime Minister has indicated that the government has no plans to reopen discussion on amending the Constitution in the foreseeable future. I think this also extends to changing the title of the charter.

Canadian Charter Of Rights And FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the member for Richmond-Wolfe and a member of the Official Opposition, I am pleased to take part in this debate and to explain our position on the motion of our colleague from Edmonton Southwest, to explain this position in relation to the new political environment both in Quebec and in Canada.

The private member's motion on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is very interesting in itself. Our colleague from Edmonton Southwest is suggesting that we add the word "responsibilities" to the title of the Charter, so that it would be called the "Canadian Charter of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities".

This motion reminds us of a fairly recent past when the late President John F. Kennedy asked the American people, and every individual in particular, not to ask what the government could do for them but what they could do for their government.

Remember the context of that time. It was the early 1960s and new frontiers to cross were appearing on the horizon of the American empire. Remember the invasion of Viet Nam, the conquest of space and the imminence of a new social contract.

I repeat, the idea of individual responsibility is not bad as such. However, the situation of Canada today is quite different from that of the United States in the 1960s. We may be on the eve of major social changes in this part of the North American continent and these changes will certainly not lead to a stronger Canadian state. President Kennedy's message was addressed to a nation. The Quebec people are not part of the Canadian nation and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply to them.

First, Quebec has its own charter, as we recall. It will soon have its own constitution. The debate on the responsibilities of a citizen in the context of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms do not concern us. Why? For Quebecers, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms symbolizes domination, not to say betrayal. Let me explain. The adoption and coming into

force of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms with the Constitution Act of 1982 marked the high point of the federal Liberal Party's policy of Canadian nationalism. The new Constitution of 1982, by entrenching a declaration of rights and liberties, took from the Quebec National Assembly legislative powers over language and education, rights which the people of Quebec had fought for since the Conquest.

The entrenchment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Constitution Act of 1982 and the unilateral patriation by Trudeau's Liberal government mark a very sharp decline, indeed the abandonment of the most important British traditions in law and Canadian institutions.

British law and institutions base all of the state's sovereignty on Parliament alone, as a result of the long struggle between the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy. Contrary to British tradition, the 1982 Canadian charter reinforces individual sovereignty at the expense of state sovereignty. In other words, individual rights prevail over collective ones.

With the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is the judicial authority of the Supreme Court of Canada which replaces the sovereignty of Quebec's National Assembly. The 1982 charter officializes, from a constitutional point of view, Canada's integration to the American continent, as Pierre Mackay wrote in a publication entitled L'ère des libéraux: Une réforme constitutionnelle qui s'impose, published in 1988 by Les Presses de l'Université du Québec. Indeed, the ultimate sovereignty in a state such as the United States does not rest with the Parliament but with the people, and the constitution is both the guardian and legal representation.

Thus, the precedence of the principle of distinct society for Quebec, in the context of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms entrenched in the Constitution, does not exist. That principle is violated by the power of the Supreme Court of Canada, which imposes the charter principles to all Quebecers.

Needless to say that the Canadian charter does not recognize the right of people to self-determination. Consequently, under the Canadian constitutional law, the only way that an aboriginal nation, or Quebec, could become independent would be through an amendment to the Canadian constitution, something which is absolutely impossible-as the hon. member said-given the amending formula provided in the 1982 Constitution Act.

The Canadian constitution says very little on the right of communities. As I said, the distinct or particular character of Quebec is not recognized in any way. The 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives individuals certain rights and freedoms versus the state. The charter allows an individual to go before the courts to have his rights uphold, a process which can even result in the invalidation of laws passed by Quebec's National Assembly.

The Bloc Quebecois opposes any Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and does not feel in any way concerned by the motion of the Reform member for Edmonton Southwest.

In Quebec, community life deserves as great a protection as that granted to individual rights by the Canadian charter. Collective rights in Quebec are essential to the survival of Quebecers and the principle of responsible citizens is part of the solidarity which reflects so well economic and human activity in various fields of Quebec society.

Following the election of the Bloc Quebecois at the federal level and then the Parti Quebecois at the provincial level, our province is about to undertake a major social project to ensure recognition of the unique character of its people. This is a project in which individual responsibility versus state responsibility will primarily be defined in the context of the new solidarity surrounding the consolidation and independence of that state.

Canadian Charter Of Rights And FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to address this motion that my colleague has put forth. I feel it is a key motion. If we would take it seriously and listen to what he has to say, it could be one of the things that could turn this nation around in many respects.

I have listened carefully to what my colleagues across the way and over here have said. I hope that they will listen more closely. I think they have missed the point of what my colleague is trying to say as he has made this motion.

Many Reformers have been long interested in developing a charter of responsibilities to provide a counterbalance to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Everyone knows that we cannot enjoy our rights and freedoms unless we first of all discharge our responsibilities as citizens.

A number of countries have defined an individual's duties to their family, other citizens and their country. Some of these countries are Switzerland, Germany, Ecuador, Israel, Morocco, Japan, Pakistan, Thailand among others. If we look at what they are doing in these countries, as I will in a moment, we will see some interesting things that they have developed that we could also adopt.

This is not some idea that I have dreamed up. This is not something that I have come up with. My constituents as they have observed what is happening in Canada in our courts, in our social programs and in our families have told me: "You should stand up in the House and you should say we have too much of an emphasis on rights in this country and not on our responsibilities". That is what I am doing today. I am making this point that

we need to emphasize responsibilities, not just rights in this nation.

I want to quickly go through a list of responsibilities that I feel should be included in the charter of rights, freedoms and responsibilities. After I have done that I will give some examples.

First, every Canadian has the duty and responsibility to contribute to the defence of the nation from attack by a foreign power and/or from insurrection from within. I am sure we all would agree with that.

Second, everyone has the duty and responsibility to abide by the Constitution of Canada, to respect, comply with and uphold the laws of this country and to obey and assist the authorities to enforce those laws.

Third, everyone has the duty and responsibility to render assistance in cases of emergency or calamity or in circumstances likely to endanger the existence or well-being of all or part of the population. We have taken that for granted. We should spell that out.

Fourth, everyone has the duty and responsibility to responsibly exercise their rights and freedoms as an individual having due regard for and without restricting the rights and freedoms of others. We often forget this. I think we need to hear this being said more often.

Fifth, everyone has the duty and responsibility to vote in elections and referendums and to participate in civic affairs within the limits and conditions established by the law.

Sixth, everyone has the duty and responsibility to pay their fair share of taxes within the limits and conditions established by the law.

Seventh, everyone has the duty and responsibility to receive education and training under the conditions and in a manner provided by law in order to meet his or her personal obligations to their family, their community and society as a whole. People have an obligation to do their best, to train themselves so they can serve their fellow man in the best way possible.

Eighth, everyone has the duty and responsibility to provide the necessities of life, educate and protect his or her children until they are adults. If we were to take that one point and explore the meaning of it, it would radically change our attitude to our social programs.

Ninth, everyone has the duty and responsibility for the crimes committed by their children if it can be proven that they failed to provide proper control and supervision. We need to give parents the responsibility for the actions of their children.

Tenth, everyone has the duty and responsibility to support and protect his or her parents in case of need and to the extent of his or her means, particularly when they are old and unable to work. I will give an example of this in another country where it works very well.

Eleventh, everyone has the duty and responsibility to assist and support other members of their immediate family in case of need to the extent of his or her means.

Twelfth, everyone has the duty and responsibility to do their fair share for society and to not take advantage of others or take advantage of the state. Think of the implications that has.

Thirteenth, everyone has the duty and responsibility to meet their own needs before taking advantage of any program, grant or loan from the government.

Fourteenth, everyone has the duty and responsibility to work in accordance with his or her capacity and not make claims for welfare benefits from the state until and unless they are destitute and unable to work because of disability, age or ill health and no other means of support is available from other family members, private charities and non-governmental organizations. That point would radically change the mindset of many people in this country.

Fifteenth, everyone has the duty and responsibility to a personal code of conduct, behaviour and lifestyle that would not cause them to be a burden to their family, their community or society as a whole.

Sixteenth, everyone has the duty and responsibility to co-operate with the government with respect to law enforcement and report any illegal activities.

The seventeenth and last point-this is not an exhaustive list, but it is just an example of the things we could put in here-everyone has the duty and responsibility to conduct oneself in an honest and fair manner relative to others so as to contribute to the well-being of their family, their community, their province and society as a whole.

I said I would give some examples as well of what these points imply. If we look at the Young Offenders Act, here is one example of where we should be putting more responsibility on people for their actions. Very often our young offenders are let go with little or no call on them to compensate their victims for damage they may have caused.

For example in my constituency a couple of years ago a group of teenagers took and trashed a car, a beautiful automobile that belonged to another young person. They completely smashed it up so that it was totally worthless. The police came and took these young people before the court. The court said: "That really was not a very wise thing that you did".

It virtually let them off. It asked them to pay a $500 deductible. The rest of us have to pay for the damage they caused. Six of those youths were completely let go. They should have been held accountable. They should have been held responsible. The parents should also have been responsible for the actions of

these young people. That needs to be addressed. That is why we need to include responsibilities in the charter.

Another example is that the family needs to be the first line of defence, not the government, in providing care for members of society. I am referring to some of our social programs. Also parents should be responsible for child care. That primary responsibility should lie with them.

I would like to read something from the Swiss civil code. The Swiss have very low unemployment at around 2 per cent or 2.5 per cent. Much of it is due to the fact that they have a charter of responsibilities. I do not have time to explain all its ramifications but I will give an example of what they have.

Since 1978, Swiss law has compelled families to look after their needy before the government is asked to do so. Fathers, mothers, grandparents and others must support children. Governments sue grandparents on behalf of needy children and the elderly can sue their offspring for support. The Swiss courts collect the money.

Let me quote: "All persons are bound to contribute toward the maintenance of their ascendants and descendants in direct line as well as their brothers and sisters if without such assistance they were impoverished".

Let us think how different that is from the situation in Canada today where virtually no responsibility is placed on parents, grandparents or children for other members of their family. We need to emphasize the role families need to play in our society. We must once again generate the feeling of the importance of this basic unit in society, this basic economic unit, this basic cultural unit.

Parents should not only have the right to discipline but they should have the responsibility. The government would like to remove the right for parents to spank their children. Should we not be going in another direction and putting an emphasis on the responsibility of parents to do this kind of thing?

My colleague over there is unaware of what the government is doing. It would like the justice minister to remove the section in the Criminal Code that would allow parents to spank their children. If we did that, those parents who would choose that as a tool to discipline their children would no longer be able to do so. We are moving in the wrong direction with regard to a lot of legislation in the House.

We should be teaching our children in our schools what it means to be a good citizen of Canada. I noticed the Bloc objected very strongly to that and I can understand why. If that had happened we may not have had a group of people in the House today bent on breaking up the country. We need to emphasize that in our schools.

It has huge implications for immigration, for bringing in families and all of a sudden dumping those families on to the state. We should place more value on the family and the role it can play in society. Governments have been undermining the role of families.

In conclusion, we should make clear when people come to this great country that they have rights but they also have responsibilities. We need to send a signal to the people of Canada that government is not the primary caregiver. One of the best ways to do this is to change the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include responsibilities.

Canadian Charter Of Rights And FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I cannot support the motion, although I see where it is coming from and I certainly agree that the charter as it exists has created a great amount of work for the courts, which has taken away from Parliament to some degree.

The motion as it stands confuses the principle of rights and freedoms with that of behaviour. When we say "responsibility" we are talking about how people should deport themselves as citizens. I submit that the motion would have made much more sense if it had suggested a charter of responsibilities for perhaps the Citizenship Act which is currently under review.

However even then I would find myself in difficulty supporting such a motion. One of the basic freedoms we have as Canadians is the freedom to do nothing. We have the freedom not to be strong, to be individuals who may be seen as weak. We are nevertheless individuals who deserve not to be penalized because we are less strong than others. That is the reason we need a charter that deals with the rights of individuals.

I had a great deal of difficulty during the recent hearings on the renewal of the Citizenship Act. I have to go back in time also to the Canada clause of the Charlottetown accord. In that particular latter instance a document purported to tell me as a Canadian whom and what I should respect. It said that I had to respect minorities, people because of gender, and people for various other reasons.

I submit that as a Canadian I do not have to be told things like that. As a Canadian and someone who would automatically know because of the way I have lived I would know that everyone in the country should be treated equally. I would think this is a fundamental matter.

When we talk about responsibilities we are beginning to impose our own rules of behaviour on other people. The hon. member opposite during his remarks cited, for example, that it should be the responsibility of every Canadian to report lawbreakers, to inform the authorities whenever someone is deemed

to be doing something that is against some law or regulation. We had an instance of that about 60 years ago and that was the type of rule that existed in Nazi Germany. I believe Stalin resorted to that as well.

Canadian Charter Of Rights And FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh.

Canadian Charter Of Rights And FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Hold on a second. This is precisely the situation that exists. When we require citizens to do something we need to have choice. Previous speakers did not deal with the question of how we are going to enforce responsibilities. Is it going to be something that is mandatory or is it going to be something that is voluntary?

If it is going to be something voluntary then it is the rules of conduct or what we would expect in a good citizen and that really belongs in a citizenship act, not in a charter of rights and freedoms.

On the other hand, as one member suggested earlier there is the idea that we should actually require citizens to do it. Then again we come back to the problem of where the state is actually requiring and enforcing behaviour.

There may be instances where a Canadian citizen for whatever reasons, perhaps fear, does not want to report on a crime that he or she has observed. Do we punish that person? I go back to the historic past to see that certainly in countries with dictatorships it was very common to punish people who did not properly report misdemeanours against the state. This is very serious.

I do not think that is what was intended by members opposite when they demand a charter of responsibilities. I think they are basically talking about the Citizenship Act.

I would like to make another point, if I may. We go on to very dangerous and difficult ground when we discuss issues like this one but we should discuss them, certainly. We heard another member talk about the difference between individual rights and freedoms and collective rights and freedoms. Here we have another problem. As the charter exists it looks at individuals. I submit this is the way it has to be because each one of us is our own self. We are true to ourselves. We may not be as strong as other people but we need protection as individuals.

When we talk about collective rights, however, we get into the same type of situation that occurred during the early part of the 20th century when nationalism flourished in Europe and led to the rise of Nazi Germany and Franco Spain and so on and so forth.

When we approach collective rights, I submit we have a situation in our country where I think it was suggested that some people in the province of Quebec would like to have collective rights for self-determination. If we subscribe to that dictum then the Cree in northern Quebec ought also to have collective rights for self-determination. Therein lies the contradiction. When we talk about such collective rights, then the country is broken up. I suggest if separatists were true to that principle then it would break up Quebec.

Canadian Charter Of Rights And FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Just so everyone understands perfectly clearly, I am proposing the agreement of the House under what is called the right of reply. If I give the closing remarks to the mover of this motion, we have to all understand that no one else wants to speak. Once the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest is given the floor those will be the closing remarks and that will end this debate.

Canadian Charter Of Rights And FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues for their thoughtful, genuine and heartfelt comments about this. When we talk about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, when we talk about our Constitution and when we talk about how we relate to one another, these are really serious deliberations.

The debate in this Chamber in the last hour is probably the reason many of us are here. We want to talk about ideas and why our country works the way it does. Just because something might be difficult to achieve does not mean it would not be worthwhile achieving. If a worthwhile goal cannot be achieved in one fashion then perhaps as my hon. colleague just mentioned another approach might be more appropriate and might work. That is the nature of this debate.

For instance, if we feel that some of the comments from an hon. colleague are going too far, then it is incumbent on us to make a suggestion that would improve it. We should not just automatically throw the baby out with the bath water. That is the beauty and the magic of our democracy.

We walk into this great Chamber daily and from time to time we feel as though we are not really accomplishing anything, and perhaps some days we are not. But if we can move public discourse and discussion just one centimetre forward on something that will make our country better for our grandchildren, then we have done a wonderful thing.

I would like to conclude with a little story about my three year old grandson who is the light of my life. He was visiting his maternal grandparents in Oshawa. He came back after being away for a month or so. My wife picked him up at the airport. He got into the car and he looked around for papa and asked in his little three year old voice: "Where is papa?" My wife said: "Papa is in Ottawa". He thought for a minute and said: "Oh, yes. Papa is in Ottawa. Papa is saving the country". It is little things like that which bring a touch of warmth to your heart.

All members here and those who will come forward are saving the country. It is through this interchange of ideas that we will do that and I thank all my colleagues for their attention and contribution to this debate.

Canadian Charter Of Rights And FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The time provided for Private Members' Business has now expired.

Pursuant to Standing Order 96(1), the order is dropped from the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Canadian Charter Of Rights And FreedomsAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Bill Graham Liberal Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate having the opportunity of returning to a question which I asked the Minister of Justice some time ago with respect to the matter of gun control.

By way of introduction to this question which I will be asking again of the minister and pursuing this matter I want to remind all members of this House of some particularly important realities we have to bear in mind on this delicate and difficult issue. That is there is quite a difference in the perceptions of those who come from rural areas in our country who have specific interests and specific problems to address with respect to this debate and those of us who come from urban areas.

I come from an urban area where I want to bring to the attention of the minister the serious concerns that our fellow citizens have about this issue.

My riding of Rosedale I know is often associated in the minds of members of this House and others with the idea of a residential area of some wealth and some luxury, where we have many tree-lined streets and gardens. All of my riding is not like that. Much of my riding is an extremely densely populated urban area like many other complex dense urban areas in this country.

In that part of the riding we have apartment buildings where we have a serious problem with violence. We have places where the violence is related often to drug use. It is often related to young people and disaffected youth who are easily coming into contact and possession of firearms.

In Regent Park which is in my riding during the course of the last election two young men were shot. Recently bullets have been fired in that complex area around apartment buildings. Bullets went right through the window of some perfectly innocent people.

I am not describing a phenomenon that does not exist elsewhere in this country. I know from talking to other members and from talking to various people interested in this issue that this is a problem which exists elsewhere in this country as well.

The question is what is to be done and what is the minister going to do. That is the purpose of my question tonight. In asking that question I want to preface it by saying that when we look at it from an urban perspective clearly nobody needs long guns in an urban riding. Nobody needs a rifle or a shotgun living on Sherbourne Street where I live. The only people who have such guns are basically those who are are using them for sporting or for club purposes. There is no reason to have a handgun unless you are a police officer or a law enforcement officer.

The question then is how do we stop the cycle of violence we are looking at in these types of areas. How do we prevent our communities and ensure that our communities do not become like the United States where in fact a culture of violence is inculcated by television and by the media?

I want to address these questions to the minister. Where are we now on the question of registration of ownership? Where are we on controls of ammunition sales? Where are we on tougher restrictions on handguns and the prevention of cheaper guns coming in from the United States and border controls? Where are we on a complete ban on assault weapons of any kind? Where are we in our recognition that perhaps this problem calls out for a different solution in rural areas than in urban areas? Nobody in an urban area wants to prevent aboriginal people from carrying on their traditional way of life. Nobody in an urban area wants to prevent rural people who live on farms from having the firearms necessary either to hunt for recreation purposes or even just for pest control on their farms.

What we are looking for is protection in our urban areas. We also recognize that this may call for different solutions for different problems. I would ask the minister if there is any way in which the department is capable of drafting regulations which would recognize that fundamental difference between the way of life of those of us who live in cities and those of us who have different needs in the rural areas of our vast country.

Canadian Charter Of Rights And FreedomsAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Cape Breton—The Sydneys Nova Scotia


Russell MacLellan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the government has said it will be bringing before this House further changes to Canada's gun control legislation some time before Christmas. This is a difficult challenge for all of us. I am sure that members on all sides of the House will agree with me that we must work together to find ways to make this legislation clear and effective but also fair.

The Minister of Justice recently said that the first and most important obligation of the government must be to protect the lives and safety of all Canadians. I agree with him. Safe homes and safe streets are at the very centre of a stable, peaceful and prosperous society.

It has been said that this is an issue which divides urban and rural Canadians. I do not agree. There is no question that attitudes differ but the reality does not. If firearms are used to commit a crime does it matter whether the crime takes place in the city or in the country? A crime is a crime. It is a problem for all Canadians, not just those who live in our large cities.

I am convinced however that we can find ways to effectively control firearms without jeopardizing the enjoyment of those for whom the shooting sports are an important source of recreation.

Recently hundreds of firearm owners rallied here in Ottawa. They were saying to the government: "Do not blame us". They feel that the government is making them pay for firearms crimes they did not commit.

My colleagues and I do not blame the many Canadians who own and use firearms responsibly and safely. The government does not blame responsible shooters, nor is it punishing them for the crimes of others. What it is doing and what it must continue to do is to develop legislation that responds to the needs of all Canadians.

We need to find ways to control access to firearms without imposing excessive or unproductive regulatory burdens on their owners. We need to find ways to punish and deter those who might otherwise be tempted to misuse a firearm and to endanger others. Deterrence does not always work but we must make absolutely sure that we get as much effective deterrence from the law and its administration as we can.

There are people in this country who believe that everyone should have the right to bear arms. I am not one of them. I believe that principle is foreign to Canada and it is something which most Canadians would not support. Ownership of a gun is a privilege which must be earned and carefully maintained by training, education and responsible use.

I also believe that it is a privilege that should not be infringed without justification. In restricting access to firearms we might inconvenience law abiding Canadians. If we do we must be sure that we act in the interests of the safety of all Canadians and that measures adopted by this House will not forget that privilege and those who have earned the enjoyment of it.

Canadian Charter Of Rights And FreedomsAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, on May 5, in a question directed to the Minister for International Trade, I asked him, substantially, whether he intended to resist U.S. pressure on Canada to refrain from imposing tariffs on farm products subject to quotas, including poultry, eggs and milk. I wanted to know whether the government was prepared to strike a deal with the United States by taking a conciliatory stand on the issue of customs tariffs on farm products subject to quota, thus facilitating the entry of Canadian durham wheat and barley on the U.S. market.

The minister categorically denied that he would engage in any bargaining of this nature in negotiations between Canada and the United States on the issue of grain imports.

The agreement reached on August 2 regarding Canadian wheat exports to the United States was proof that a deal had been struck, but at another level altogether. Canada did not sacrifice the interests of Canadian and Quebec dairy, egg and poultry producers for the benefit of wheat producers; it simply caved in to U.S. demands and sacrificed the interests of wheat producers by agreeing to a ceiling on our wheat exports to the United States. Ironically, a year from now, we will have to start all over again.

I also wanted to know whether according to the minister, GATT rules would take precedence over NAFTA in the event of trade disputes, and his answer was yes. I also asked whether he could table the legal opinions on which his answers were based. Immediately after Question Period, the Minister of Agriculture approached me to confirm verbally the information I had been given very briefly by the Minister for International Trade and to give me the assurance that he would do what he could to send me a copy of the legal opinions in question.

I never saw these opinions, not even a summary or a condensed version. A few days later, an official at the Department of Agriculture called to let me know it was not customary to release such opinions. After a rather laborious conversation, in the course of which I reminded him of the minister's commitment, I was finally promised a short version of the legal opinions. Later, I was told this version was being drafted and that I would receive a copy as soon as it was available, in about two weeks.

Three weeks later, still no news. After contacting a new resource-person this summer, I was told that the delay was due to a misunderstanding between the Department of International Trade and the Department of Agriculture, but the letter was now on the Minister of Agriculture's desk, waiting for his signature. The minister does not seem to sign his mail very often, because I have been waiting for that letter for two months and I am still waiting.

My colleague François Beaulne, MNA for Marguerite-D'Youville, was luckier. He managed to get a reply, which some people would call vague, in only a few weeks.

On May 13, Mr. Beaulne sent a letter to the Minister for International Trade, asking him for those legal opinions. Incredible though this may seem, he received an answer dated June 22, in which the minister replied to his questions, although in a rather summary form, I must admit.

It would seem that the ministers responsible for Agriculture and International Trade are not exactly chatty or keen on public disclosure, to say the least, when we are talking about releasing the information used to make decisions on behalf of the Canadian and Quebec public.

According to the principle of responsible government, ministers are accountable for their actions to Parliament. Therefore, the off-hand manner in which the ministers responsible for Agriculture and International Trade treated my request is astonishing and unacceptable. When ministers release outside the House information that was denied a member who asked for it in the House, we must conclude that these ministers misuse their power, undermine the dignity of this House and ride roughshod over our institutions and democratic values.

Canadian Charter Of Rights And FreedomsAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Ottawa Centre Ontario


Mac Harb LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, as hon. members are aware, Canada and the United States started negotiations in December 1993 in an attempt to deal with a number of problems connected with bilateral trade in farm products. Although these questions were examined in their entirety, negotiations were conducted on each product. There was no compromise and there will be no compromise in this respect.

The latest memorandum of agreement on grain bears this out. The memorandum deals only with our grain exports to the United States and has absolutely no connection with questions still outstanding.

The memorandum of agreement benefits Canadian grain farmers by giving them stable and secure access to a U.S. market where the returns are high. In this memorandum, Canada obtains guaranteed access to the U.S. market for wheat at a level that is higher than average historical levels for Canadian exports. Furthermore, conventional wheat exports for which the CWB is not responsible are not subject to the U.S. restrictions. The level of access provided in the memorandum of agreement is far more attractive than the inevitable alternative, a highly restrictive measure that would have reduced our exports to about half the level provided in the agreement.

The memorandum of agreement also establishes a joint grain commission that will be asked to examine U.S. and Canadian grain marketing practices and their impact on the international grain market. The commission will do a critical study of the export incentives program, a U.S. export subsidy program that has caused imbalances in the market situation.

The memorandum of agreement also obliges the United States to withdraw the measure on wheat and barley taken under the provisions of GATT article XXVIII and prohibits them from imposing any other restrictive measures on grain that do not comply with NAFTA or GATT, during the twelve months the memorandum is in effect.

I can guarantee the House that a satisfactory settlement of the agriculture-related problems that still exist between Canada and the United States remains one of the government's absolute priorities. I would also like to emphasize that each question will be examined on its merits and that no deals will be struck.

Bilateral trade in farm and agri-food products is evaluated at $13.7 billion. Canada and the United States both have an interest in developing that trade in such a way that it benefits their respective countries.

Regarding the hon. member's allegation concerning the discussion he had with the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister for International Trade, I was not aware of that. The hon. member should write to both ministers to let them know that he intends to raise the matter in the House.