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House of Commons Hansard #16 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was recall.

Topics

House Of Commons Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Ontario, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank the hon. member for Calgary Southwest for his rather enlightening comment on what the Reform Party's position would be with respect to recall.

This reminds any budding student of history of the famous debate that took place some two centuries ago in the 1790s when the member for Bristol in England in the other Parliament discussed the various pros and cons of the system which the member, some generations later, has just suggested.

My concern to the hon. member is that it seems very clear that the system the member proposes is not only cumbersome, it could very well be costly. If he stops to consider that if 50 per cent of the signatures are required in any one constituency, what is the cost that is going to be attributed to that very taxpayer in terms of determining whether or not those are valid signatures?

The second part of that would be simply the cumbersome nature of having that kind of a system.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, two or three points. I thank the member for his question. First of all, on recall if you set these safeguards high enough and strongly enough you can ensure that the instrument is not abused so it is not accessibly costly.

On the second point, I would ask the members to consider the cost of having an unacceptable member of Parliament who will not or cannot represent your views. That is the cost you have to offset against the cost a removal mechanism.

The third point I would make is the member made reference, and other members in this House have done this, to the famous speech by Edmund Burke in which he said that he owed his constituents his conscience, not his vote. This is the most articulate expression, the trusteeship theory of representation. It predated the existence of parties. The other thing the members should remember is that Edmund Burke was never elected again in the electoral district of Bristol.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Murray Calder Liberal Wellington—Grey—Dufferin—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, with the discussion we are having here on free vote, there has to be a common ground between free vote and responsible government.

There is a beautiful example south of the border which is predominantly free vote. On different issues I have watched and read in the newspaper, we have seen shameless vote buying.

What I would like to know right now is where the leader of the Reform Party thinks the common ground is between free vote and responsible government.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for that question. He hits on a very pertinent point. I believe this free vote convention that we have suggested covers that common ground. It gives the members the freedom to kill a bill or a portion of a bill, but when they do that it reverts back to asking the House if it wanted to kill this bill or this portion of a bill, or did it actually want to kill the entire administration because it has no confidence it it.

That free vote convention covers that common ground. It gives the members this individual capacity to kill an individual piece of legislation but ultimately also makes them accountable for the entire administration and it accountable to them. I thought this free vote convention we are proposing endeavoured to cover that common ground.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I thank members for co-operating. The time has long ago expired. With unanimous consent I will now go back to debate.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Ottawa West Ontario

Liberal

Marlene Catterall LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, this is a very important debate we are having and it is going to be extremely difficult and frustrating for me to be limited to 10 minutes.

For the last 20 years of my life I have been practising participatory democracy first as a municipal politician and more recently in Parliament. I have dedicated most of my political career to opening up the processes of government, to making it more truly representative of the views of the people I represent and more broadly of the views of Canadians and their communities. I would love to debate at length why I disagree fundamentally with the member for Calgary Southwest, the leader of the Reform Party.

Let me come to the subject of this particular bill before us because as I see the context of this bill, for nine years we have had a government that fundamentally did not believe in the role of government in society and therefore had a great deal of difficulty governing well and had a great deal of difficulty governing with respect for the people of Canada and their opinions.

I heard many times in the House: "We have to make tough decisions and if they do not like us they can throw us out at the next election". I do not believe that democracy begins and ends at the ballot box. It is something that goes on every day. It is the relationship between an individual member of Parliament and their constituents, it is a relationship between the institution of Parliament and all Canadians.

This motion in my view is a significant step forward in that relationship not because how we conduct our affairs in this Chamber or in our committees is of great overwhelming importance to Canadians, they really are not interested in our standing orders, but they are interested in what our decision making process is and how their views count in that process.

Substantial portions of that bill will allow them to see openly and transparently how this House and how this government reach the decisions that will affect how much they contribute to their society, how it is used and how that will affect much of the pattern of their lives as Canadians. What it will allow us to do individually is to have a more of an input in that process and also to get more out of it.

I do not come here only to represent my constituents. I do not come here thinking that the views of Ottawa West should determine what should happen to the country. I come here to be part of building a nation on their behalf, certainly to represent their interests. The development of this wonderful nation called Canada is in their interest as well. I listen to the people from all parts of this country, from different kinds of communities. Together, certainly in my caucus, we try to come up with what we think is best for the country and best for its people.

I hope that with these more open processes of members of Parliament being able to work together in committees to develop legislation, to consult openly with Canadians, Canadians will feel and will truly have a more active voice in that decision making if they choose to exercise that. They will also have members of Parliament able to engage more actively and dynamically in the exchange of views that allows to build consensus, not only about the specific problems and actions that we are confronted with but about a longer term vision for the country.

We will always have differences of opinions on what those directions are. At least I hope with the measures we are taking today when we complete our work here in Parliament, a new program, that it will better serve the interests of our individual constituents and the country because we have looked at all aspects of it, we have considered all points of view and we have done that wonderful thing of not letting one point of view prevail over all others, but of finding that accommodation of many different points of view.

I want to touch on one thing. As some of the members in this House know, my role in the last Parliament was as critic on public service issues. I want to say one thing that I think is going to become increasingly important. That is going to be developing not only a House and committees but a government in the broadest sense of including the public service that is also more consultative, more open and more capable of balancing those many different interests in society, making good decisions and recommending to us as government and as parliamentarians good decisions.

I know, having seen the transformation over a period of years in municipal government to a more participative democracy, to quote a famous Canadian, that it takes time for the public service to see the wisdom of the people as a useful input to decision making. I know it is going to be difficult for them. I know it is going to be a challenge.

I encourage them to go along with Parliament on this trip to a more democratic society and to see it as a positive step forward for how the public service functions as well.

I have only a few minutes left but I do want to touch on a few things. I want to touch on the issue of free votes. This is the beginning of a debate that will come back to us.

It is very easy for me to know what the constituents who phone or write to me on a subject or respond to a questionnaire think. Do I really know what my constituents think when I know the poorest members of society have less access to being able to respond and participate in a public debate?

Do I have a responsibility to know that even though some people in my constituency are relatively voiceless without the money to organize, their views are, nonetheless, important and how they are affected is important? Yes, I do.

Do I have the audacity to say that on any given vote in this House I know what my constituents think? I do not think so. I know what a small sample of my constituents think.

I also have to know in much broader terms who my constituents are. I need to be in touch with them in a variety of ways and to absorb into myself what the many different concerns and preoccupations they have are so that I can bring all of those to bear as well as what I hear from fellow parliamentarians when I make a decision.

Do I believe in recall? Let me say that I have been married for 31 years. I am sure there have been hundreds if not thousands of days in those 31 years when my husband thought his life would be better off without this woman in it. On those days, he would have chosen to divorce me.

However, on balance of those more than 10,000 days, both of us would say that there has been more good than bad and a lot of in between. We are glad that we did not have the easy escape hatch, that we are prepared to live with the balance of the good and bad. There is a lot of that in democracy.

On any given day I may displease my constituents. My government my displease my constituents. On balance, I hope they will weigh both the positive and the less positive and not look at only their momentary self-interest when they decide whether I and my government have done a good job or not.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ovid Jackson Liberal Bruce—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, to the member for Ottawa West, the leader of the Reform Party said that there was almost a form of recall when he said that Burke never got re-elected.

One thing that concerns me as a new member of Parliament is that all of us, for whatever reason, want to reinvent laws, rules and regulations.

I will come to my question. I want to make a quick preamble here.

General Robert made rules. We have a book of rules here and there are other things. I come from a municipal council where we stopped reading bylaws simply because what happened in the old days was that some people could not read. Sometimes they only had one written part and one had to read those things clause by clause. Now we have the electronic media and we have to fine tune it. That is what the government is trying to do.

What bothers me in this place both with the committee work and with its rules and regulations and talking about laws is that we are spinning our wheels. We spend a lot of time at it. Somehow members of Parliament always want to do something and they think doing something is changing the rules. I know that rules are for making something happen.

I want to ask the member for Ottawa West, how do we reconcile the permanent government, which is the civil service, integrating with the rules and regulations we have? We make a rule in committee, and it has been done before. I have seen this kind of thing as a mayor when six members of council asked the administrator to do six different jobs. They spin their wheels and never get anything done.

How do we reconcile making a committee function properly with the civil servants who are there? How could we make that better by using these kinds of rules?

House Of Commons Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West, ON

This dilemma is not easy and I think the hon. member knows that the permanent public service as he calls it can be very resistant to change if it does not agree with it at first. Let me tell the hon. member what I have seen over the five years I have been here and how I think it has to change.

I have seen officials come before committees as they are required to do to defend the position the government has put forward. Unfortunately that position has often been developed in the secrecy of cabinet without the open consultation and discussion we are talking about here.

When we say we are going to send the concept of a bill to a committee for discussion so that the committee can consult with and hear the views of people who will be affected by the issue, that leaves our officials freer to bring forward options for a committee to consider. That is going to be a change for them. It is going to take some time for them to understand they are not defending a particular position and that they are free to advise the committee on options and on the implications of those options.

It also means that members of Parliament must have a new relationship of respect and trust with the public service. It is not the defender of the government now. It is working with members of Parliament and the committee to help make a good bill.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before recognizing the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell there are three people left to speak. We have 22 minutes. I wonder if there would be a disposition to give eight minutes to each of the members and not have questions and comments. Is that agreeable? I take it it is not agreeable to do it that way and I call on the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure this afternoon to have the opportunity to speak on the motion before the House to amend our rules.

We are amending the rules pursuant to a commitment made by our party during the last election campaign when we put out a program to Canadians. They voted for that program which included a number of things on Parliament. It mentioned allowing more free votes, giving MPs a greater role in drafting legislation, giving more power to House of Commons committees and involving the public in consultation before important legislation was introduced.

Many of these issues have been done already. The others are in the motion we are debating today. That is what it is all about. This is part of the program I and all Liberal candidates stood for in the last election campaign.

I want to advance the proposition to all members today that it is untrue to state at the present time there are no free votes. As a matter of fact a very successful argument can be made that all votes in this Parliament are free. I say it for the following reason and I am not saying we do not need to improve our system. After all we are proposing to do just that today.

Nevertheless as a member of Parliament I have the power to make an accusation against any citizen of Canada in this House and I could never be sued in a court of law for saying it. I have the ultimate freedom in this Chamber on behalf of the people who sent me here to say anything, anything at all. I, though, must live with the consequences of that which I say in this House once I leave this House. Nevertheless, I still have that freedom. I as a member of Parliament together with my colleagues have the freedom to defeat my government in a non-confidence motion.

Did the people of the United States have a tool like that in the Watergate scandal? Do they not wish they had had something like that? The process for getting rid of a president that country no longer wanted and Congress no longer wanted dragged on for months and months before the United States Congress. It would take about six minutes to do that in the House of Commons today.

We talk about freedom and powers that MPs have and do not have. Maybe MPs do not use all the power they have, but they have power in this House and to state the opposite is simply incorrect.

We are talking about recall in this whole business. Does anyone realize what the whole process of recall would do to the freedom of a member of Parliament? If I were under threat from my own riding association for leaving my party to be recalled and lose my seat in Parliament, would that give me more freedom as an MP? No, that would mean I would be subject to even greater pressure from my colleagues. How much of that has been considered by those proposing recall? I submit not much thinking went into that particular proposition.

We are talking about voting only as it reflects the aspirations of our constituents. I have been elected to this place three times, to the provincial legislature of my province once, to municipal council three times. I was fortunate and blessed by having received the support of my electors on seven different occasions in my life. I think I have done a few things which people might consider controversial. I have not always voted according to the wishes of the majority of my constituents.

Mr. Speaker, I think you will have some understanding for this but I voted against abortion in this House. Was that the reflection of the majority of my constituents? Probably not. When I voted against capital punishment was that according to the wishes of the majority of my constituents? Probably not. And when I made very strong pronouncements against euthanasia probably the same logic applies.

However in every case I made copies of my speeches and sent them to every single constituent in my riding. I stood by what I had said and stood there to be judged later by my constituents about what I had said. That is what it is all about. It is being accountable to those who sent us here and not necessarily always voting in the manner that 50.1 per cent of the people advocate.

We are debating changing the rules of this House, rules that have existed in one form or another and in this Parliament or the mother of Parliaments for probably about 1,500 years dating from the period of Saxon-Wettins through the Norman invasion of Britain and then through all the changes that occurred. Then there are those forms we have adopted here and modified for our own use. We have to remember that there is a reason those rules have evolved. Yes, they can be updated. Yes, they can be improved. Yes, they can be modernized. Yes, they can be liberalized. Yes, we can do all those things to those rules. But let us remember why they are there.

On the confidence convention, I saw someone resurrecting the ghost of William Lyon Mackenzie earlier today. Is that not interesting. William Lyon Mackenzie and Louis Joseph Papineau both fought for the institution of responsible government. Both fought for the institution whereby there would be confidence votes so that the government could be accountable to the legislature. The member for Calgary Southwest had the right argument but was making it in reverse, unless I have totally forgotten everything I learned in history and I do not believe that I have.

I say that having a system known as responsible government means to have a vote of confidence. It means ultimately that the government in this Chamber is accountable to all of us, where at one point we can all say or have the right to say that we can turf the government out right in here. That is an ultimate power few legislators have. What does it do? What kind of pressure does that put on our government, to say that it has to be accountable to all of us, that all of us have that great power over the government? I suggest to you that it can make government listen to those who were sent here to represent the people of this great country.

Let us change this institution, let us modernize it, but let us be careful as well that we do not destroy it in our zeal to make it better.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Richelieu, QC

Mr. Speaker, let me congratulate the member on his speech. I cannot wait to see if he will say the same thing in a month or two, when the Minister of Finance will have presented his budget, when he will have tabled a bill changing the unemployment insurance program, when he will have modified projects in a way that will totally run counter to what he advocated when he was sitting here on the opposition side and, defending his principles, shouted down the government.

Will he have the same courage then? Will he uphold the same principles? When one crosses the floor of the House, one generally receives a sort of electrical jolt and sometimes red books, like the one you mentioned earlier, become blue. That is why I am eager to see what will happen; I certainly urge the member to stick to what he just said.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, since I do not have a good memory for historical events in this House, the member opposite certainly remembers the blue books better than I do. After all, he is the one who sat as a Tory in the House, not me.

Nevertheless, I do not claim that-and I do not want the member to suggest that I do-my government, the Canadian government will never be at fault and will make no mistake. Of course not. Nobody is perfect. What is important to know is whether the government is acting in the best interests of Canadians, not whether it is going to give a new grant to my riding or to that of the member opposite. The government is here for the common good, and I know that our Prime Minister, our government, intend to do just that. As I said before, if the government does not behave in a fair, honourable and account-

able way, the House has the power to exercise the many prerogatives it has.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Reform

Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member justified voting against the wishes of his constituents on the basis that they could judge him at election time. But the hon. member knows that there are many issues that come before the House during a session and that it is unreasonable for him to say that they could judge him on one or other issue of the hundreds that come before us.

Can the member not see that by picking and choosing when his personal beliefs will interfere with his representation of the people who elected him, that he is taking an elitist attitude to the people who elected him.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member may think I am an elitist. I find the comment rather odd as I came from the most humble beginnings to take my seat in Parliament. As the member gets to know me he will learn about that. The last thing I have ever been called is elitist as I will describe to him privately later. But that is certainly not the case.

The proposition I am advancing to the member is that governments have to be accountable, MPs have to be accountable for what they say. That does not mean they cannot consult with their electors all the time. But it also means another thing; that if members do not have discipline as a party, no obligation to live with the program their party makes, either the one that I present or the one the member presented to the Canadian people, then surely the freedom he is advocating could also be used to go against the collective wishes of those who sent him here in the belief that within his own constituency there would be half or 1 or 2 or 3 per cent of the people more against the program of his own party than those who are for it. That is the caution I want to give the hon. member.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I join in this very historic debate today. I believe we are at a crossroads in this country.

I found it rather interesting and almost amusing to hear people on the other side talk about what a wonderful breakthrough this is, that we are debating things before we actually decide them. I asked: "Has it never been the case before?" I am new to the political process. I did not even belong to a political party before I became involved very recently.

I am astounded to find that what I dealt with during the election campaign is actually true, that for the most part our democracy is very inclusive. It is inclusive among a very small number of people. I applaud the government for the steps it is taking. It is wonderful we are having this debate, that we are looking forward to actually producing and having some changes, not just talk, but some actual changes.

We need to reform the democratic process. It occurred to me while I was sitting here that perhaps we are observing an oxymoron. We are having a liberalization and a reform of the democratic process, two very different words and yet to a great extent we are heading in the same direction.

I believe that one of the reasons we have so much mistrust of politicians is that our democracy works only in spurts. We have a spurt of involvement of the people at election time and then they are ignored until the next election. Consequently people mistrust the politicians because they detect and observe no ongoing accountability.

There is an interesting statement in the red book which is so oft quoted in this Chamber. It really is not surprising that it should be in the book. The Reform Party and my involvement in it came as a result of this "new emphasis in listening to the people, the constituents, the voters and the taxpayers".

When we listened to the taxpayers we found out among other things that there was a great deal of mistrust and distrust because of lack of consultation. The Liberal Party in its work to get elected did a good thing also. It began listening to the people. It probably did it through its polling techniques or whatever, but it heard the same message we heard that gave birth to our party and it was that people want to be involved on an ongoing basis in the decisions of government.

The quote I would like to take from the red book is: "The people are irritated with governments that do not consult them or that try to conduct key parts of the public business behind closed doors". That is the truth which we are reaching for here.

I pledge, and I am sure that I speak on behalf of all the members of my party, that we are going to work together to enhance not only the ease with which Parliament works but also with its accountability to the people.

In that regard I would like to address for a few minutes a very important aspect of our work in representing the constituents, those that elected us. There is a lot of fear among politicians-and maybe I am wrong here-in talking on an ongoing basis with the electors and truly representing them. I hear over and over innuendo that they are not to be trusted, that perhaps they do not have enough ability, enough education, enough sense of history, enough perspective or maybe they are too narrow and they think only of themselves and so they cannot be involved on an ongoing basis.

I read very recently an essay written by Woodrow Wilson which I think is very illustrative. I would like to read just one short section. He said: "Today when our government has so far passed into the hands of special interests, today when the doctrine is implicitly avowed that only select classes have the equipment necessary for carrying on government, today when so many conscientious citizens smitten with the scene of social wrong and suffering have fallen victims to the fallacy that benevolent government can be meted out to the people by kind-hearted trustees of prosperity and guardians of the welfare of dutiful employees, today supremely does it behove this nation to remember that a people shall be saved by the power that sleeps in its own deep bosom or by none, shall be renewed in hope, in conscience, in strength by waters welling up from its own sweet perennial springs, not from above, not by patronage of its aristocrats. The flower does not bear the root but the root the flower".

In conjunction with this I believe that we should pay a great deal of attention to the concept of referendum to the people on important issues. We all recognize that as legislators here we represent a broader constituency than just our own home constituency. I also speak for Canada. I long to keep this country together. I think I speak on behalf of my constituents when I voice those sentiments.

However we also need to recognize that on many issues our people are well informed and with an informed debate can become more informed and thereby give us real valid input, even to the point of having a referendum.

I would also like to indicate that sometimes ordinary citizens feel totally left out of the process. There is something that they want done. Government will not hear them. It seems to me wise as a back-up, probably used very infrequently, that we have a method of citizens' initiative which will allow the citizens themselves to place on a referendum ballot a question which is to be answered and which is to be binding.

I recognize that my time is fast disappearing. I would like to simply say that on the mechanisms of referendum and of citizens' initiative we have done a lot of work in developing them. I do not have time now to go into those details, but they do work, they can work, they do work in other parts of the world. I believe it would greatly enhance the democracy of this country if we were to incorporate those as well.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6.22 p.m., pursuant to order made Wednesday, February 2, 1994, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and to put forthwith every question needed to dispose of Government Business No. 6 now before the House.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

(Motion agreed to.)

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

House Of Commons Standing OrdersAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Richelieu, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the Standing Orders allow for the "late show" or the adjournment motion, we can come back to a question raised in the House. I therefore take the four minutes which the Standing Orders allow me to use to return to the question which the Prime Minister was asked on January 21, 1994, when I asked why his Minister of Indian Affairs spoke of setting up a system of native self-government, although in his government program and his political speeches, the Prime Minister still said that there was no more room for constitutional negotiations.

In his answer, the Prime Minister said that it was not certain whether negotiating native self-government required amending the Constitution or not.

Now, all constitutional experts agree that it is necessary to amend the Constitution and the Prime Minister himself said that a committee was studying the matter and would report on it. So if a committee is about to report, why does his minister say that he wants to open negotiations right away, when he does not even know if he needs the provinces' consent or if he must open the constitutional issue to do so?

What is surprising is that, in the second question I asked him, the Prime Minister said that the Minister for Foreign Affairs would be very happy to answer in a debate. He said, "I have nothing to add to the statement I made earlier. Our ambition is to treat everyone equally in Canada, and that is why we believe that everyone is equal in this country and no one has special status".

The Prime Minister said that after his minister announced that he was ready to open constitutional negotiations with natives on their right to self-government. Despite claiming to support his minister, the Prime Minister said that he did not want to give special status to any province or nation, such as the Quebec nation or the aboriginal peoples.

This glaring contradiction brings me to the question I am raising in the House today to get more details through his parliamentary secretary. But I also want to invoke the reasons given by the minister to justify opening these negotiations to recognize the right of natives to self-government. The minister was doing it in the name of better economic management.

If it is in the natives' interest to administer their own affairs, why would the same principle not also apply to the people of Quebec who happen to be one of the founding nations and who, like the other founding people, namely the aboriginal people, aspire to manage their own affairs? It is in the name of this very principle of better economic management and not to wage a flag war against the rest of Canada or to break up a country but to build one, like any free nation in the world has done. I think that since the Second World War, 65 new nations have emerged with all attendant rights.

Our guiding principle is this: let us collect our own taxes. Let us manage our own affairs and then buy the services we need jointly with the sovereign countries around us. That is how we want to act with natives. In fact, the minister was talking about opening the Constitution in the same sense that we also want to open it, in the sense of managing our own affairs.

It is strange to see the Prime Minister saying two different things, talking from both sides of his mouth about a founding people, namely the aboriginal people, and about the other founding people, namely the people of Quebec. It is in that sense that I would like the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister to answer pursuant to the Standing Orders for two minutes to elaborate on the government's precise position.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario

Liberal

Jean Augustine LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I will respond to the member's question of January 21, 1994, when the member for Richelieu asked the Prime Minister a question regarding native self-government and the Constitution.

Let me begin by saying that the Prime Minister has stated unequivocally in this House and elsewhere that the priority of the government is job creation and not the Constitution.

The Liberal position on the nature of self-government was made clear in the red book. We said that the inherent right of self-government is an existing aboriginal and treaty right. To that extent the federal government is involved in a series of meetings with national and regional aboriginal leaders, provincial and territorial governments and other parties.

The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples interim report said it was possible to implement native self-government without changing the Constitution. That is what we are working on at this point in the discussion. I hope this satisfies the member's questions which seem to have gone beyond his question of January 21.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to refer to a question I asked the Minister of Health on February 1, 1994 as to whether she was prepared to stand up for the health of Canadians on the question of the government's proposed policy of lowering taxes on cigarettes.

The real question today is who sets tax policy and who defends health care policy in this country?

First of all on the question of who sets tax policy, Canadians are wondering whether it is the law breakers or the cigarette companies.

I must say the government certainly has some connections with cigarette companies such as that with Imasco, for example, which is the parent company of Imperial Tobacco. The Minister of Finance was formerly a member of the board. In 1992 Imasco donated $47,477.30 to the Liberal Party of Canada. Canadians are wondering whether the cigarette manufacturers are setting tax policy.

Is it the provinces and territories? It would seem it is not the provinces and territories in conjunction with the federal government because the provinces and territorial health ministers are meeting tomorrow. The government has said it will state its intention on this matter tomorrow before that meeting is completed.

The Minister of Health in her response to my question said she was concerned about health. She did not answer as to whether as Minister of Health she would stand up for the health of Canadians and advocate that cigarette taxes not be lowered.

Rather, she said that she was very concerned about the high level of tobacco use among young people. I suggest to the Minister of Health that she might have cited the Statistics Canada study which indicates there was a direct decrease in consumption of tobacco products by teens as the price went up. However the minister refused to say where she stood on this issue.

I would say also it is clear that the direct health cost results of lowering the tax will place a further burden on the provinces. Today there is a news release from the British Columbia health minister which states tobacco related illness is estimated to cost British Columbia nearly $1 billion annually.

I would also ask as I did on February 1 whether this government is prepared to compensate provinces and territories for increased health costs as a result of decreased cost of tobacco products.

It is clear that the use of tobacco is a very high contributor both to the health costs of Canadians and alas to the death of Canadians with some 37,000 Canadians a year dying as a result

of tobacco use. In fact, a recent survey on selected causes of preventable death indicated that tobacco was number one far outweighing traffic accidents, suicides, AIDS, homicides, fires, accidental poisoning and undetermined deaths. The relationship between tobacco use, health care costs and indeed the life and death of Canadians has been shown clearly.

I would appreciate hearing what the government proposes to do in terms of the health of Canadians and whether Canadians are going to have a Minister of Health who advocates both within the cabinet and this House of Commons for the health of Canadians and takes that responsibility seriously .

In view of the fact that in the next couple of years we will be undergoing a very comprehensive review of health care and health care costs, it does not augur well that we have a Minister of Health who would not stand up for the health of Canadians, but chose to be evasive and not to answer the questions on this issue.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Essex—Windsor Ontario

Liberal

Susan Whelan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I am to respond to the question of February 1 and that is what I will do.

Research indicates that at least 38,000 die each year as a result of tobacco related diseases. These deaths reflect smoking behaviours of more than two decades ago when the risks of smoking were less understood.

Even now more than 100,000 children and teens begin smoking every year in Canada.

Enough is known about the hazards of smoking that we can predict with gruesome confidence that one in four of these young new smokers will die prematurely from conditions like emphysema, heart disease and lung cancer.

Tobacco deaths are preventable and even one preventable death let alone thousands constitutes a tragedy. This is unacceptable.

Canada's national strategy to reduce tobacco use has gone a long way toward reinforcing the idea that smoking is no longer cool for youth and a lot less socially acceptable among adults than once was the case in this country.

This strategy has proceeded on a broad front with federal legislation restricting cigarette advertising and requiring strong visible health warnings on the product package, with health promotion campaigns aimed at encouraging young people to think twice about starting to smoke and to break free from social pressures to start smoking, and with federal legislation to raise the age at which people may legally be sold tobacco products to 18.

Tobacco smuggling is a serious threat to Canada's strategy against smoking because it is making cigarettes available to young people through illicit channels.

Unless we put a stop to smuggling we will find it increasingly difficult to keep tobacco out of the hands of young teens, which is the very purpose of the sales of tobacco to young people act. With this law we expect Canada's retail sector to take a responsible approach to ensuring tobacco is not available for sale to young people but to make it work to control tobacco access by young persons.

The tobacco market has got to move above ground where we can see it, where we can manage it, and where our programming can have its full effect.

Canada leads the world in taking a comprehensive strategic approach to reducing the toll of sickness and premature death caused by tobacco smoking. We have no intention of forfeiting this lead. The government is committed to implementing innovative programs and legislation to maintain the momentum of our national strategy to continue to reduce addictions to tobacco in Canada and to continue to prevent tobacco related deaths.

I want to inform the House that it is the government that sets tax policy in this country.

House Of Commons Standing OrdersAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In accordance with Standing Order 38(5), the motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.37 p.m.)