Mr. Speaker, Bill C-38 is a technical bill that tightens up measures pertaining to marine safety on passenger ships, ferries and others. It is the marine equivalent to similar bills that have existed for some time with respect to aviation. It brings Canada's marine industry more in line with similar legislation already passed in Britain, the United States and several of the more sensitive Mediterranean countries.
Communications with user groups and other affected people produce some concerns with the bill's original wording but virtually all of these concerns have been addressed by amendments made at the committee level.
The Reform Party supports this bill but does not intend to offer any further amendments or any additional speakers. It appears there is all-party support for the bill as amended.
It is very ironic that we have so much time to debate bills on which there is no dispute when the government saw fit to invoke closure last spring on a number of very contentious bills. The dictionary defines contempt as the feeling that a person, act or thing is mean, low or worthless. The invoking of closure was something the Liberals found contemptible when they sat in opposition. Somehow during the walk across the floor to the government side of the House their perspective changed. My position echoes their old position. In fact, I find the invoking of closure to be actually beyond contempt.
Since Bill C-38 is under the transport ministry let us look for a minute at other actions of this department as it is the body that is responsible for Bill C-38.
During the last federal election the Liberals were looking for some campaign issues to raise their profile. They found one in Toronto with the Pearson airport contract. They stated that the contract was a rotten one, full of crooked dealings between the Tories and their friends. They stated that if they were elected they would investigate this contract, expose the wrongdoing and then cancel it.
They left something out on the follow-up to that promise. They never exposed any wrongdoing. Was there any? We do not know, do they? There are two possibilities on this issue. One is that when the so-called independent review took place they could not find any wrongdoing. If so, they had a problem. After all, with all screaming about what a rotten deal the Pearson contract was, it would be embarrassing to admit they were wrong.
The solution to this scenario was to continue the claim that the deal was rotten, cancel it and make sure the legislation banning the contract holders from going to court where they might expose the fact that there were no rotten deals was passed. The other possibility is that they did find a lot wrong with the way the contract was obtained, but the guilty party was the Liberal connected portion of the contract holders. It would not do to expose that in court, so we have the same solution.
During the committee stage of Bill C-22 I offered an amendment that would require any settlements to flow through the transport standing committee. This would have kept the amounts of payment and the payees public. The public certainly had the right to know how this was being handled. Government members refused. I reintroduced the same amendment at third reading, but again the government voted it down.
The issue at stake was not so much the Pearson contract but rather the basic rights of Canadians, whether they were companies or individuals. If the government can arbitrarily revoke someone's rights, as it did in the case of the Pearson contract, it can do it anywhere, to anyone, in any situation, maybe even in the enforcement of the provisions of a marine security act. That is beyond contempt.
If questionable activities were limited to the transport problem that would be one thing. In that situation we could probably accept Bill C-38 at face value. However, revoking or ignoring the needs and rights of Canadians seems to be a general theme of this new Liberal Party with its new found perspective. This means we must look much closer at the emerging pattern provided by the Liberal cabinet in order to determine what is its real agenda.
For example, consider the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the recent developments showing that he interfered with the
activities of the CRTC. Further examination revealed that this was not the first time he had done so. That is beyond contempt. Further it underlines the concerns I have in dealing with Liberals in all areas, including Bill C-38.
The Minister of Human Resources Development recently tore a page from the Reform policy on funding for post-secondary education. We have advocated the use of student vouchers to channel federal moneys for universities through students to the universities of their choice. This would have neither increased nor decreased tuition for students. It was simply meant to be a more effective way to make the universities more responsive to the needs of students.
However the minister in tearing out that page must have left most of it behind. The proposal he made was to propose issuing a voucher that was in fact a loan repayable to the government, and then cut off federal transfer payments in support of post-secondary education. This would have effectively doubled tuition costs for students who are already having trouble affording an education. That is beyond contempt.
Bill C-38 deals with the security of those who use the oceans. In that context let us look at recent actions or the lack of action by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Millions of west coast salmon have recently gone missing. Even though the salmon may never surface again, evidence that the recommendations of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans which may have prevented this catastrophe were ignored by the minister. This evidence is surfacing regularly. That is beyond contempt.
Safety and security are the main points of Bill C-38. The health and safety of the Canadian public were the subjects of a recent private member's bill dealing with HIV testing for immigration applicants, submitted by the member for Calgary Northeast. Although a few Liberals were prepared to go against the grain and vote in favour of the bill, unbelievably the majority under the direction of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration defeated this basic measure to ensure the health and safety of Canadians. That is beyond contempt.
Enforcement measures under the marine safety and security bill will fall in some part into the realm of justice. Let us take a look at the integrity of the justice minister. This is the minister who was planning to introduce new restrictive firearms legislation without one shred of evidence it will do a single thing to prevent the criminal misuse of firearms.
This is the minister who stated: "I will not legislate according to head count. I will do what I believe is in the best interests of Canadians". That statement interprets to: "I do not care what Canadians want, I know what is best for them". That is a rather scary concept. We might have this same minister involved in decisions that challenge matters arising out of Bill C-38. I find the minister's attitude to be beyond contempt.
One thing we have not heard is when the government intends to invoke concerns about aboriginal people into this bill. It may well be that with potential land settlement claims eventually some port may end up being owned by an aboriginal group. If that happens the Minister of Transport would have to work in consultation with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development whose record on legislative fairness is the worst of all the ministers we have discussed thus far.
He is the minister who introduced Bills C-33 and C-34. These two bills were rushed through the House to the extent that the Liberals invoked closure to finalize the bills on which even aboriginal people were writing to us with their concerns. If the land settlements contained in these bills were to be used as a precedent for all aboriginal people in Canada, we would need a land area four times the size of my home province of British Columbia to settle. These bills establish self-government at an unprecedented level and apparently revoke the Charter of Rights and Freedoms from the aboriginal people affected by this bill. This type of action and attitude is beyond contempt.
The Prime Minister is the person who is ultimately responsible for all ministers and all legislation. Bill C-38 is no exception. He is the person who recently claimed to have consulted with the ethics counsellor but had not talked with him at all. He later stated that he had not met nor talked to the ethics counsellor personally, but rather had directed his staff to do so. All this time the Prime Minister was referring to advice that he received from the ethics counsellor. Now we find that no one consulted with the ethics counsellor. This is a measure of integrity from the person on whom the responsibility for Bill C-38 rests? Not only is this very unsettling, it is beyond contempt.
Let us look at the Standing Committee on Transport, the committee that dealt with Bill C-38. At a recent meeting this committee went through the process of electing chairs and vice-chairs for the committee. At that meeting I asked for the voting on positions to be done by secret ballot. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport objected to this request suggesting that the Reform Party was trying to introduce unacceptable secret dealings into the committee.
I was forced to point out to the parliamentary secretary that this procedure was recommended in the Liberal's little red book. What is more it is the very method by which the Speaker of this House is elected.
My motion was defeated and the Liberals once again elected a member of the party who is dedicated to breaking up this country to be the vice-chair of the transport committee. This procedure was repeated in every committee in this House. I find that beyond contempt.
I said at the beginning I would support Bill C-38 and I will. The reason I am supporting it is due in part to my consultation with users whose concerns have been addressed.
There is some potential for integrity on the other side. It is hopeful. Some members chose to vote in favour of the bill on HIV testing for immigrants. Notwithstanding the actions of the transport committee on the election of vice-chairs it appeared to be at most times a reasonable group working to resolve problems facing Canadians, I guess because there are no cabinet ministers who sit on committees. Because of this I will continue my support of the bill but it does not end my basic concern that the attitudes and actions of many government ministers in this House are beyond contempt.