House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was recall.


Canadian Association Of Lutheran Congregations
Private Members' Business

4:15 p.m.


Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleagues in the national Liberal caucus I too want to indicate that we intend to support this bill.

I am pleased today to support this bill. I need not point out that we do not intend to take up a great deal of the House's time to discuss this initiative. The bill now under debate was initially tabled in the Senate and is now duly before this House.

I would like to take a few moments to point out the contribution made to Canada by the Lutheran Church and to state that we intend to support this bill and pass it as quickly as possible.

Some other members of this House will be bringing forward another bill in a few moments. We will therefore be brief in our remarks concerning this important parliamentary initiative.

As I was saying, the bill was presented in the Senate, but many members of this House had not been told about it. I know that the member for Calgary Northeast wanted to sponsor the bill, and I am certain that it is very important to him. He agreed to let another member present it, and I congratulate him on doing so in order that this bill might pass today and become law.

That being said, I want to indicate our agreement to pass this bill not only at second reading but at committee of the whole and third reading as well in order to have this bill disposed of forthwith.

Canadian Association Of Lutheran Congregations
Private Members' Business

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

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

Canadian Association Of Lutheran Congregations
Private Members' Business

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time, considered in committee, reported, concurred in and, by unanimous consent, read the third time and passed.)

Canadian Association Of Lutheran Congregations
Private Members' Business

4:25 p.m.


Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I believe you will find unanimous consent to proceed now with Private Members' Hour.

I would also want to inquire if you could determine whether there is unanimous consent to proceed with the adjournment debate one hour after the commencement of Private Members' Hour which we are about to commence; in other words, perhaps we could immediately call it 5.30 p.m. in order for members to prepare and to arrive in the House at that time.

The purpose of that would be to ensure that the late show would not be held at 10.30 p.m., which would otherwise be the case, creating, needless to say, a costly and not very useful delay.

Canadian Association Of Lutheran Congregations
Private Members' Business

4:25 p.m.


Deborah Grey Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-210 which we are looking at now is my bill and we are certainly prepared to go on that. We appreciate the spirit of harmony that we have just experienced on Bill S-5 which I sponsored. Perhaps we can look forward to Bill C-210 going through at all stages just as quickly and harmoniously as that.

Canadian Association Of Lutheran Congregations
Private Members' Business

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is there unanimous consent to the proposal of the deputy whip?

Canadian Association Of Lutheran Congregations
Private Members' Business

4:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from April 29 consideration of the motion that Bill C-210, an act to provide for the recall of members of the House of Commons, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Recall Act
Private Members' Business

June 14th, 1994 / 4:30 p.m.


Randy White Fraser Valley West, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to speak to Bill C-210 which is not just another private member's bill. This bill put forward by my colleague from Beaver River speaks to a fundamental philosophy of the Reform Party and, I hope, all other parties of this House. It what all of us as members of Parliament really are all about: listening to the will of the people. This bill represents a chance for members of all parties to make a real difference in the way this country is run.

Today voters are naturally angry and cynical because they often feel helpless about the process of government in Canada. When the government says we have an opportunity to have our voices heard at the next election it is really missing the point because the next election is not soon enough. In case the government has not noticed, the world is a smaller place than it ever was before. Everything moves faster than it did the year before. People nowadays expect action and action means now.

If it becomes evident after an election that a vast majority of constituents in any constituency want their MP out, or at least want another election for valid reasons, then they should have that right.

What difference will recall make? Many people ask that and we talk about it for year after year it seems. Let us look at the comments and results of a conference held at the University of Lethbridge on February 25 and 26 of this year. It was entitled, if you can imagine: Re-inventing Parliament. After 125 years, we are going to re-invent Parliament.

Over 100 Canadians from across Canada met to discuss issues such as recall. Quoting from a report resulting from that conference, this is what was said: "Every workshop recommended to the conference that governments in Canada allow for the recall of elected members. On no item of direct democracy did a more clear consensus emerge".

What was the rationale for that significant consensus? The conference participants felt that recall would go a long way in addressing some of the current ailments of the parliamentary system.

The most important reason cited by over half of the workshops is that recall provides for more accountable MPs, and MLAs in the provincial sense. It ensures elected members act on and listen to constituents' concerns. Recall provides a direct link between citizens and politicians that exists on a continual basis, not just during the 30 or 40-day campaign period, once every four or five years.

It is quite likely that a relaxation of party discipline will accompany recall. Governments will see the need to allow their members more freedom of action in light of the threat that recall presents to MPs.

Recall also serves as an early warning system for governments. If recall petitions become a common occurrence in government members' ridings, it signals to the government that a change in direction should be seriously considered.

It was also mentioned by some in this report from the conference that the threat of recall alone is just as important, if not more important than the actual process itself. There is nothing better than holding a little threat over politicians' heads once in awhile.

At this conference the majority of attendees from across this nation supported the right of Canadians to recall their elected members. Why is it that so many people want recall and this government, like the last arrogant government, chooses to ignore the will of the people? What is it that Liberal and Bloc politicians are afraid of? Why are we hearing such feeble excuses from our government colleagues? Let me give you a few quotes from Hansard when we debated this matter previously.

I will start with a quote from the Liberal member for Vancouver Quadra: "This can be a House that will literally reform itself". You have to talk with the hon. member who made such a statement. If this House would reform itself, we would not have 52 Reformers trying to reform it today. If the hon. member thinks like so many others on this and other issues, why not stand up and be counted?

Another quote comes from the hon. member for Richmond-Wolfe of the Bloc party: "This bill would be impossible to enforce" but nowhere in his speech does he explain why. It is just a statement that this bill would be impossible to enforce.

The final quote is from the Liberal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services who in his brilliance said: "But we still do not have any proof that it would work". Of course we do not; we have not adopted the bill yet.

We know Reformers stand apart from the other parties when it comes to participative democracy. The concepts of free votes and recall for instance are interconnected. We need them both. What would the results be if we had free votes and recall? That is simple: Elected officials who vote according to their constituents' wishes and according to the merits of the particular bill. Is that so strange? Is that so difficult to understand?

We should have no fear about this. If a party performs poorly it will be rejected at the next election. However, when a sitting member significantly breaches the trust of his or her constituents we need a mechanism in place in the House to get him or her out of that position.

The government's use of fear to attack the idea of recall is really an expression of its own fear. The government keeps throwing out the bogeyman about the dangers of unscrupulous factions trying to oust an MP. Government members are pushing the panic button and this tactic is based more on fear for their own jobs than anything else.

The process of petition and recall election gives the MP ample opportunity to present his or her case to the electorate. This is direct democracy, a concept I understand but perhaps some members do not. Whether the government likes it or not, it is an idea whose time has come.

Recall forces MPs to be more accountable to their constituents. That is what my colleague wants to achieve with this bill. That is what the Reform Party wants. Most important, and what this government ignores at its own peril, it is what the people want.

A famous former Prime Minister once said that opposition MPs were nobodies as soon as they walked 100 yards away from Parliament Hill. I wonder what party that individual was from. I agree with Peter McCormick who said that the former Prime Minister could not have been more wrong. Given the way the Canadian parliamentary system operates, our MPs are people of some significance in their communities and may become nobo-

dies when they arrive on Parliament Hill. That is what I believe if they do not stand up for what they believe in and vote the wishes of their constituents instead of being a minor mouthpiece of their party.

The last Parliament was called one of the best by the media and why is that? Because it was good theatre with lots of bad actors. If you look at the acrimony, the accusations, the asinine behaviour, if that is what the media wanted, that is what it got. What you did not hear so much about is the cold hard facts that Canadian public opinion of the institution of Parliament reached an all-time low during the 34th session.

I call upon those members who are sitting in the back rows to join us in this cause. Show the Canadian people that you are here to make a real difference. If you are looking for the opportunity to be truly different, truly representative of your constituents and truly a person of principle, then you should speak up now by supporting this bill.

Here is your chance to do more for those who really count and they are the people who put us all here. Do something a little different: Make a stand and choose to play the real role of reforming the way this country is run. This recall bill could be the first step.

In closing, all Canadians and government backbenchers know we need their vote to carry this issue. I would like to see what they are really made of. I would like to see that vote carry. Recall represents strong MPs, not weak ones. Therefore, please consider this reform necessary, a reform that Canadian people want. Do not turn it down just because the party is afraid of a little recall.

Recall Act
Private Members' Business

4:40 p.m.


Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-210 providing for the recall of members of the House of Commons can be summed up as follows: "Any elector ordinarily resident in an electoral district who wishes to seek the recall of the member for that district may file with the Clerk an application for the recall of the member in the prescribed form".

This recall procedure exists in 15 American states and makes it possible to dismiss a member of Parliament or a public official. A similar system is in effect in four Swiss cantons. It is important to note that this procedure is allowed only in a very narrow socio-political context. Even then, its actual use is extremely restricted. In the United States, the system only works at the municipal level. At a higher level, only one case is mentioned: that of an Oregon governor who was recalled in 1921.

To better define the Bloc Quebecois's position on this issue and explain to the House the political origin of the recall concept, I think it is important to return to the late 18th century. On the European continent, it is the age of enlightenment, this philosophical movement which dominated the world of ideas and gave birth to the great democratic principles that have governed Western societies to this day. In Europe, it is the time when sovereignty was transferred from an all-powerful monarch to the people. The movement had actually started two centuries earlier in England, France and Germany but it was gathering momentum and taking on a more universal dimension.

For Jean-Jacques Rousseau, for instance, sovereignty is embodied in the "general will" which is always fair and equitable and therefore most effective at the human level. Thus emerged the very idea of democracy whereby decisions are made by the people as a whole. But is democracy as people power the best form of government? In this regard, is the right of recall resulting from the notion of people power a good way to offset politicians' actions? If people had the right to recall their members, would politicians become more accountable to their constituents for their actions?

As the basis for the legitimacy of state power, once royal power was abolished in the late 18th century, in Rousseau's mind, the ultimate power to make decisions would rest with the people. That is why he refuted the idea of representative democracy whereby the people can only exert their influence at regular intervals. About the English people, he said this: "The people think they are free, they are sorely mistaken; they are only free during elections. As soon as the members of Parliament are elected, the people revert to being slaves, to being nothing". That is why Rousseau wanted to give people the right to recall their representatives on a daily basis.

As we can see, recalling elected representatives is not a new idea. I think the main flaws of representative democracy, in particular the principle that citizens can only exercise their right to vote once every four or five years, deeply troubles all democrats since the beginning of universal suffrage. So, the question raised at the dawn of representative democracy can still be raised today: "How can the sovereign power exercised by a few parliamentary dignitaries result from sovereignty of the people?" The democratic ideal expressed through the sovereignty of the people, through the notion that every citizen of a sovereign state can influence the decision-making process, that everyone wields political power, will quickly take the form of state sovereignty with the application of democracy.

Throughout the 18th century, and especially since the advent of universal suffrage, we see that the will of the people expressed through the election process does not coincide with the general will. As we move away from the great revolutionary movements that swept Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, the

notion of sovereignty of the people gradually gives way to the more absolutist concept of sovereignty of Parliament.

Given what I just said, the Bloc Quebecois considers this bill to be fully justified; it is symptomatic both of people's misgivings about their representatives and of the massive failure of the Canadian political system.

Actually, this bill would be impossible to enforce, but it shows a democratic conscience deeply disillusioned by over100 years of a system that simply does not work.

Parliamentary sovereignty has lost all credibility and just making members of Parliament subject to recall will not restore its credibility. Clause 4. (d) of Bill C-210 says that a statement of 200 words or less would be sufficient to trigger the recall process. This provision would necessarily lead to anarchy in many ridings.

That statement of 200 words or less must set out the reasons why the recall of the member is warranted. Reasons? But who will determine the value of those reasons? Which reasons will be good ones and which will be bad ones? I believe this clause sets a dangerous precedent in terms of judging situations and deciding who will make such judgments.

If, for example, the promoters of a recall manage to get the majority of electors to sign their petition and argue that, based on solid economic indicators, the member is incapable of supporting economic recovery in his or her riding, will that be a valid reason or not?

Who will decide? Are MPs responsible for the situation? Do they have real power regarding the economy? If a majority of electors have signed the petition, will they be told that they are right or wrong? This is a very serious issue which leads me to believe that it would not be possible to implement this legislation and, more importantly, that such legislation would not achieve its goal.

I am convinced that such an act would make elected representatives vulnerable to conspiracies, to blackmail and to all kinds of secret dealings. I think that the whole process suggested by the Reform Party member would put undesirable additional pressure which would considerably affect the work of elected representatives, as well as the services they are meant to provide. I do not think that a member who would have to campaign against a recall in his or her riding would, at the same time, be able to adequately serve those who want to kick him out. This would be quite the paradox!

Our whole electoral and democratic process is not structured to serve in a positive way the intent of Bill C-210. Such a procedure would make the democratic process too perilous and costly, as well as totally uncontrollable.

This bill is not practical throughout a country whose population numbers in the millions. It results from a nostalgic feeling about the democratic idealism which arose in the 18th-century Europe. The Bloc Quebecois is totally opposed to this bill.

Recall Act
Private Members' Business

4:45 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands


Peter Milliken Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am a little reluctant to take part in the debate today because this matter of recall is being studied as we speak by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs which I have the honour to chair.

In spite of that, I have views on the subject which I will be making known in the committee I suspect on Thursday when the committee discusses this matter. I wanted to state those views for the record today since there was an opportunity to debate this bill which is very important. I acknowledge that it is an important one.

I know when the hon. member for Fraser Valley West was speaking he referred to the fact that there had been a conference in Lethbridge and there was considerable opinion at that conference that recall was a good thing. I had the honour to attend that conference. I must say that the workshop that I attended did have a straw vote and supported the notion of recall but it was not one that I supported at the time. I expressed my views on the matter at the conference.

I invite members of the House in reflecting on whether the bill should be adopted by the House or not to consider two or three points. The first one of great importance is the fact that this institution, the House of Commons of Canada, has one of the highest rates of turnover of any similar legislative body in the western world.

The average in electoral turnover for this House certainly since the war and for a longer period-I do not have the figures here for the longer period-has been at least a third of the House on average that has changed hands in every election. I am sure that number has increased as a result of the very significant turnover in the election in October last year when two-thirds of the members of the House were replaced. That kind of rate of turnover is one that is frankly intimidating to anyone seeking to enter a career in politics because it indicates that the nature of the position is so transient that members once elected can hardly be allowed to stay on for any reasonable period of time. Most members obviously serve less than two terms. They usually only serve one.

That rate of turnover in my view not only renders the House somewhat less effective than it might otherwise be because it lacks a stable number of members who have experience and are able to transmit that experience to others so that the House functions better as a legislature which is the case in some other legislatures in the world, but it also makes it more difficult for parties to operate as national organs of the state and major

players in the political process because they are unable to depend on having a reasonable number of members in the House of Commons.

One can only look today at the Progressive Conservative Party which, while some members opposite may wish that it were not a national party, still is in some sense a national party. However, it has no representation effectively in this House. Of course I would not want to detract from the abilities of the two members who are here but the fact is that it is lacking national representation in this House.

Bear in mind that we have in Canada a Parliament with a massive rate of turnover. I turn to other foreign legislatures like the House of Commons and ask is there a power of recall in any of them? The answer is no, there is not.

I invite the hon. member for Beaver River to tell me of another national legislature, not a state one and not some municipality, that has recall. I do not know of any. I do not think there is a single one.

Why should Canada be a leader in this field and change its electoral process when nobody else thinks this is smart? Everyone else thinks it is not a good idea and I suspect that Canadians probably on reflection ought to think very long and hard before they make this kind of change.

The third factor I think is important is the length of the term to which members are elected to this House. It is a maximum term of five years. In the scheme of things that is not very long. Human civilization has been around for a few thousand years. Parliaments have been elected in the United Kingdom for something over 900 years. Five years in the scheme of things is not a long term and most terms are less than that. Five is the maximum and very few parliaments run to the maximum term.

We know that Mr. Mulroney ran to a full term because he was afraid of a trouncing that he deservedly got at the polls. But most governments can approach elections with a little more confidence than old Mr. Mulroney could do. Of course he was so nervous he got out and got a successor who was less competent than he was in terms of electoral success. The fact that she is not here and that he is not here bear testimony to the fact that their success rate was poor.

Again, we do not have lengthy terms in Canada. Most members of the House serve for a four year term and sometimes it is less than that. In minority parliaments it is frequently less than that.

Again, why should we have recall added as an extra burden to members of Parliament? Imagine the situation. I invite the hon. member for Beaver River to consider this. In fact the hon. member for Edmonton North in a brilliant Standing Order 31 yesterday pointed out that since the election in October last year the polls in the province of Alberta indicated that the Liberals have moved from 25 per cent in the actual vote to 52 per cent of the electorate in Alberta. She should be quaking in her boots with news like that because if her bill was law now everybody would be running around her riding signing up people to get her out. I do not think that is reasonable.

I like the hon. member for Beaver River. I would feel badly if she were not here. The fact is she has been elected for a term and I am delighted that she is here to serve her term. I look forward to the next election. Maybe one or both of us will not be here to serve in the House after that. Why should she be put in the position of having to run to Beaver River and work in her riding day and night to get petitions signed to stop people from getting her out on a recall? I do not think that is a reasonable expenditure of time on her part. I would rather see her here having her ideas exposed in the House so the voters of Beaver River and the voters of Canada can understand Reform policy. The longer she is here, frankly the better it is for us.

I think she knows that. She would not want to face recall. Maybe that is why it is being proposed. I do not know. But that is being mischievous.

The other argument that I think is important in this is that the notion of recall is founded on the idea that members of Parliament are delegates for their communities. In other words the member of Parliament is not to think an independent thought ever. The member of Parliament is to voice the concerns of the majority of his or her community only and never think an original thought.

I do not agree that that is the case. I think many members of the public vote for a member of Parliament not because they think the person is a great delegate or will do exactly as they say. They choose a member of Parliament because they expect the MP to exercise some judgment on issues that cannot be foretold at an election but are not expected to come up and expect the MP to exercise his or her best judgment and make a decision that is in the interests not just of their own community, which of course is important, but in the interests of Canada as a whole.

I realize that with two opposition parties that are very regionalized in their approach this is a tough argument to make in this House, but it is a very important argument because members of Parliament are elected to represent not just their own communities but to represent all of Canada.

Each one of us assumes some national responsibility. We exemplify it in our travels across this country when we speak to Canadians in every part of our land.

I am proud as an MP for Kingston and the Islands to go to British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island or Beaver River and speak to electors in those areas and learn about their concerns and appreciate them so that when I exercise my judgment in voting for government estimates and for bills in this House I can give some expression to what I think is in the national interest.

It may not always be fully in accord with everything my constituents tell me but it normally is something that is in the best interests of Canadians as a whole.

Hon. members laugh but I tell them we have had more members on this side of the House vote different ways on issues than we have had from that party. Every vote in this House has been unanimous as far as the Reform Party is concerned and it is the party of the free vote.

Is that really free? I do not want to get into free votes but I am telling hon. members that if they listen to the concerns of other Canadians, if they go around the country as I have done and as I know some of them do, they will hear about these concerns. They will realize that if they are going to express the national will sometimes they are going to have to change their views.

We see these views changing now. We see the views of the Reform Party change from day to day and week to week. Frankly some of us are delighted to see that.

Recall Act
Private Members' Business

4:55 p.m.

An hon. member

Several times a day.

Recall Act
Private Members' Business

4:55 p.m.


Peter Milliken Kingston and the Islands, ON

I think my hon. friend is being unkind to say several times a day.

The other thing we have to stress is the need for members of Parliament when elected to withstand the ups and downs of popularity. I know that the hon. member for Beaver River must be suffering a little now because if the Liberals are 52 per cent the Reform must be at something else in Alberta and it has to be something considerably less than 52. I do not know what it is. Maybe she knows the figures and would like to tell us about that in a subsequent speech.

The fact is our popularity will go up and down. I know that our popularity stayed very high for a long time. My suspicion is it will stay high for a while yet but there will be a day, I am sure, when our popularity will go down. However, I do not think that parties and members of Parliament should be put in a position where they can be recalled, particularly at the nadir, when things are in real trouble for the party because things have gone wrong.

In a cycle of four or five years there are ups and down. I believe that members should be free to serve their term to the end and express the views of their constituents and of the country and vote in accordance with that combination of wishes that are known to them by Canadians across this land.

I hope that would be the case and that we would not seek to regionalize our party structure, our representation, by instituting recall on members so that at times of difficulty they face recall.

I urge members on all sides of the House to consider that very carefully in their votes on this bill.

Recall Act
Private Members' Business

4:55 p.m.


Jack Ramsay Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of my address to the assembly I would like to remind the Bloc member who spoke a while back of the incident of the recall that occurred in Arizona approximately eight years ago.

We do not have to go back to 1920 to see the power of recall in the state of Arizona where the governor of that state was recalled when the people would no longer accept his leadership.

I believe that the collective wisdom of the people is always greater and superior to that of a handful of politicians, regardless of how wise or intelligent they may appear to be. Therefore, whenever it is practical and possible we ought to be doing the business of the people by the voice of the people.

I know of a country with a population of less than seven million people with very few natural resources, a harsh climate and 25 per cent of its land area covered by mountains. It has four official language groups, many ethnic sub-groups and large regional economic disparities. You would think that this country would be riddled with economic and social strife but nothing could be further from the truth. This country has had the highest standard of living in the world for the past 50 years, never more than 1.5 per cent unemployment. Inflation is never higher than4 per cent and interest rates are always about 6 per cent.

It has the extensive high quality health and educational services, generous social services, which I might add are for the truly needy, especially the handicapped, and world class public transportation.

In proportion to population this country has a smallest civil service in Europe, the lowest tax rates and the smallest national budget.

Why does this country enjoy such economic and social success which is currently such a contrast to the Canadian situation? Switzerland, has a recipe for success. It is called the devolution of power. The Swiss have government of the people, by the people and for the people. What a novel idea this country, Switzerland. It is a democracy. The power is literally in the hands of the people. I rise today in support of private member's Bill C-210 which seeks to move the power to where it belongs by providing the electorate with a higher degree of involvement and responsibility within the political process. I support what may be considered the first step toward the devolution of power

in a country where for too long we have had government of the politicians, by the politicians, for the politicians.

What have we in Canada? We have top down rule. If the system worked, we would support it but this system has produced a debt of half a trillion dollars. We are promised another hundred billion in debt over the next three years. We have a criminal justice system that does not protect society and a parole system that turns murderers and rapists back on to the streets to conduct their criminal activities over and over again. The system is simply not working and it has to be reformed.

The tendency of previous governments has been to increase their own power by employing closed door policies. Only an exclusive few, the cabinet of the federal government, influenced by special interest and lobby groups, have formed the policy making functions. Canadian citizens have been excluded from participating in the forum which decides how their daily lives will be affected.

The effective communication between citizens and their representatives has been cut off. Politicians are not accountable to their electorate on a day to day basis and rather than seeking to gain public confidence through listening and accommodating public concerns, elected officials have spent their time selling the government's programs and legislation to the people. Ottawa spends millions of dollars on advertising to convince Canadians that the policies are good. The media blitz on the GST, the Charlottetown referendum and the little known Canada buy into it scheme never amounted to anything but another waste of taxpayers' money. This would never happen in Switzerland.

I am committed to changing this autocratic means of decision making by restoring power to its rightful owners, the people.

Recall, a procedure that allows the voters to call their representatives to account before the end of their normal term, is but one step in many to putting the power back in the hands of the electorate. I do not know of any other job in Canada where a person cannot be removed from their position for improper conduct or for not doing their job, except for the positions occupied by politicians. The people of Canada must have the right to fire their hired hands.

Elected officials cannot be fired by the very people who hired them to do the job except every four or five years at election time. This leaves the impression that politicians are above the rules and regulations that govern the average Canadian worker. Allowing an elected official immunity from misconduct or incompetence is an absurdity which has added to the current level of political apathy.

Recall offers voters the chance to compel their representatives to do their jobs and to account for their actions. It offers them the opportunity to remove elected officials from their positions if they fail to measure up. We believe in the people's right to govern themselves through truly representative and responsible institutions and that the duty of elected representatives to their constituents should supersede their obligation to their political parties.

When MPs vanish into the disciplinary maw of the parliamentary hierarchies, becoming indifferent to constituents' beliefs and preferences, the electorate becomes disillusioned about the prospect for democracy.

Author William Mishler says: "Political attitudes and behaviour are learned. The political apathy and inactivity characteristic of large segments of the Canadian public are not intrinsic to man's basic nature. They are neither inevitable or immutable. The decision to participate in or abstain from politics is to a substantial degree a conditioned response to the political environment".

Our political system has bred the attitude that the government does not care what people think and that those elected to Parliament have lost touch with the people. The political environment has produced a nation of cynics who hold politicians in contempt. The Tories learned this lesson all too well during the last election.

Recall will force elected representatives to open the doors of communication with their constituents, thereby enhancing the dialogue between them, a dialogue which lies at the core of the representative process. It will also help restore mutual respect between the electorate and the politicians.

Recall would put in place the checks and balances to remove the monopoly of power held by Parliament today. Recall will be the beginning of increased citizen participation whereby representatives become responsible and accountable to those who work for them on a day to day basis rather than every four of five years at election time.

The Swiss know that if democracy is to be meaningful, it has to be a bottom up system of popular government. They are not content with mere parliamentary sovereignty like ours in which all the power is delegated to their representatives. The Swiss can force a vote on all legislation and have the power to initiate legislation.

You would never have a situation in Switzerland where, as here, 80 per cent of the people want less government spending but Parliament increases it or the people do not want to dish out money to interest groups but the government does it anyway.

The Swiss have had a system of initiative, referendum and recall since 1874 and the value of this process is seen in the results. The federal debt in Switzerland is 16.3 per cent of the GDP. Compare that to our federal debt and GDP ratio of 67.6 per cent. We have a debt of over half a trillion dollars, growing every minute of the day.

It appalls me even to mention what the overall GDP debt ratio is in this country. Our combined federal-provincial-territorial debt is 97.7 per cent of GDP. The overall Swiss debt is 36.6 per cent. Switzerland has very low taxes and an unemployment rate that never goes much above 1.5 per cent while we have one of the highest taxation rates in the world, and an unemployment rate of 10.6 per cent. If we want the same results, perhaps it is time we started giving the power back to the people.

Recall is but one step, the first step toward government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Recall Act
Private Members' Business

5:05 p.m.


Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, it had not initially been my intention to speak on Bill C-210-