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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.

Topics

Canadian Association Of Lutheran CongregationsPrivate 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 CongregationsPrivate Members' Business

4:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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 ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Reform

Randy White Reform 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

4:45 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

4:55 p.m.

An hon. member

Several times a day.

Recall ActPrivate Members' Business

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Milliken Liberal 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

4:55 p.m.

Reform

Jack Ramsay Reform 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

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

Recall ActPrivate Members' Business

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

But you are provoked.

Recall ActPrivate Members' Business

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

-but as the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands has just said so eloquently, I feel provoked into saying something about what the members have said. The last speaker made our country sound as though crime was rampant everywhere, that we have so much debt that this is the worst place that anyone would want to go to and has described such our great country of Canada.

Where he has said that apathy is rampant among voters, 80 per cent of Canadians vote compared to roughly half of that amount in the United States, that great bastion of recall in the few places where it exists. The member makes no apologies for making those kinds of statements to the House days after the United Nations has said that this is the best place in the world to live, not the worst. We are talking about this business of recall and how recall would, in the opinion of the member who has just spoken, increase the sense of belonging of Canadians. What I see is one party on the government side with representatives from all parts of the country. I say to hon. members that the party that is in government now represents all parts of the country and therefore represents the views of at least the majority, and hopefully even more than that, of Canadians. At least recent public opinion polls seem to suggest that.

On the other hand the members who have made disparaging remarks about everything from this parliamentary institution to the country as a whole are now saying: "Give us recall and Canadians will want to belong". There is something wrong with the argument. We have two opposition parties, each one of them being regional in nature, each one of them, may I respectfully suggest, not having what I consider-and I know this is a question of debate-the best interests of the country at heart.

They may argue that they have. As I say, it is a question of debate. Certainly in the case of one party they want to destroy the country as we know it. In the other case it is a little less clear.

Needless to say, both opposition parties, and in particular the one which is pushing for the recall, acknowledge or at least they should acknowledge that their view is a minority one at best. They claim that recall is the view of the majority but they are suggesting it from a minority standpoint where they are themselves situated. I have some difficulty in trying to follow the logic in their thinking.

Recall ActPrivate Members' Business

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Middlesex, ON

It is illogical.

Recall ActPrivate Members' Business

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Maybe it is illogical.

They are saying in this bill that if one-half of the voters in the last election who cast their votes asked for a recall, then there should be one.

Let us see what is wrong with that argument, if we can get into the technical merits of the bill. We have a country where we had 14 political parties at the last election. In most constituencies across the way, may I suggest, members were elected with less than 50 per cent of the votes.

This means that anyone who did not vote for them in the last election could immediately initiate a recall afterward for every single member that was elected with less than 50 per cent of the vote.

We have five political parties represented in the House. How many members, particularly on the opposition side, were elected with more than 50 per cent of the votes in their ridings? Some were and some were not. For everyone who was not elected with 50 per cent or more of the votes, is that in itself grounds for recall? It would be under this bill.

Recall ActPrivate Members' Business

5:10 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Read the bill.

Recall ActPrivate Members' Business

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I have read the bill. I could give the Table a copy of the red book. It has more than 200 words in it. Say that a copy of the red book is tabled along with a covering letter. I have provided the 200 words necessary to initiate recall in a riding of an hon. member that got less than 50 per cent of the votes. I am indicating a way in which members who are democratically elected could be turfed out.

How would we measure the performance of a member of Parliament? Perhaps a member of Parliament said something really dumb either here or elsewhere. As a hypothetical situation, say someone said, not that anyone ever would, that this country is too Frenchified or that people have certain south seas tendencies or that people have some other behavioural deficiencies as measured by such an hon. member, were such a member to exist.

What then? Are those grounds to initiate a recall? Let us say a party took a nosedive in the public opinion poll in western Canada. It is a hypothetical proposition, but would it be grounds for initiating a recall?

It certainly could be grounds for recall. After all, they have taken a nosedive in public opinion in western Canada, just as a hypothetical proposition of course. It seems that many people do not want them now and if they do not want them maybe they should be removed from office.

What kind of sense does that make? None. That is why the bill makes no sense.

Mr. Speaker, I have no intention whatsoever of endorsing, voting for or otherwise expressing support for such an initiative. This idea which we can liken to Jean-Jacques Rousseau's belief that there is an omnipresent common will is false. It is especially false in a country as vast as ours. The party opposite compares Canada with Switzerland, a country only slightly larger that the Island of Montreal. This is the kind of comparison it wants to make. If it flies in Switzerland, surely it will fly in Canada, they say. Well, in many respects, this argument does not wash.

Hon. members, in particular those from more remote regions, know full well that what is good for one riding is not necessarily good for another and that what is good for one town in a riding is not necessarily so for another community in the same riding. There is a flaw in the argument that one should always vote as a delegate, instead of exercising some leadership. This approach would not work in a country with many political parties, even if the other criteria were to apply.

Many people are of this opinion. Speaking before a parliamentary committee the other day, Dr. Robert Jackson, a professor at Carleton University, had this to say, and I quote:

"Would introducing recall of MPs, more referenda and decreasing party discipline increase the prestige, especially the functioning of the House of Commons?". The answer is no.

So said Dr. Robert Jackson while testifying before a parliamentary committee.

If members want to gain more esteem in the public's eye, they will accomplish this goal by doing their job, by being vigilant, by assuming leadership, moral or otherwise, when leadership is called for. Heaven knows that in this day and age, what we need is leadership, not people who change their minds every day, or even three or four times a day, on the same issue. That is not the way for this House to gain the respect of Canadians.

I have had the honour of being elected several times to this House, of serving at the provincial and municipal levels and of working in other capacities. I do not know if I will be re-elected, since that is for the people to decide, but I am sure about one thing. We cannot gauge public opinion each morning by sticking our finger out the window to see which way the wind is blowing. That is not the way to provide leadership in Canada. We are providing leadership by setting out a program and by coming to Ottawa to do what is best for the people of Canada, the most beautiful and one of the largest countries in the world, and, according to the UN, the best country in the world in which to live.

Recall ActPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Before resuming debate with the hon. member for Laval East, I want to express my thanks to the member for Beaver River and her colleagues for their co-operation.

Due to an oversight I failed to recognize the hon. member for Laval East in a previous round and I extend my thanks again to the hon. member for Beaver River and her colleagues.

Recall ActPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Maud Debien Bloc Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank the member for Beaver River for initiating this debate on the recall of members of the House of Commons. We feel it is important, in the present political context, to question whether the behaviour and actions of elected officials are in line with the concerns and expectations of citizens.

It is essential that we consider this issue, because Canadians and Quebecers are losing faith in the ability of politicians to solve current problems. The disillusionment and cynicism of the electorate may be related to the behaviour of some elected officials.

Bill C-210 obliges all parliamentarians to ask themselves what are the great democratic principles to which Quebecers and Canadians subscribe. As the member for Beaver River noted on April 29, citizens "are demanding that political institutions and politicians listen to them, consult with them, and ultimately be accountable to them".

The Bloc Quebecois, itself born of the will of a people marching towards sovereignty, shares this ideal. I want to remind members of this House that we are very attentive to and concerned about the shortcomings in the Canadian representation process. The will of the people is sometimes not reflected in this process. Yet, we are elected by our constituents. They pay for our decisions and consequently we should represent them during our term in office.

I feel that these same observations and legitimate concerns led the Reform Party to adopt what they have termed the "recall" principle and to bring this bill to the attention of the House today. Despite the good intentions behind the Reform Party's demands, I must ask members of this House to oppose Bill C-210.

Once adopted, this kind of legislation might not produce the desired results. The result might be the political instability so dreaded by some federalists. When we realize that many members were elected without obtaining an absolute majority, that is, 50 per cent of the votes, this is indeed a concern.

The political rivals of elected representatives might get together and have a petition signed to recall embers elected with less than 50 per cent of the popular vote. How can we ensure that member recall does not become a partisan tool to get rid of political opponents?

This bill raises more questions than it answers. For instance, in section 10, it says, and I quote: "The Clerk shall not accept an application for the recall of any one member more than once during the duration of a Parliament". Does this mean that a member who wants to make sure he is not recalled by his constituents can set up a bogus petition that would immediately be considered inadmissible?

Another point which the Reform Party did not raise but which we think is essential is the funding of the activities involved in a petition for recall. The serious issue of political party financing and the financing of groups that organize petitions does not appear to interest the federalist parties, but to us it is crucial.

We must not try to usurp the powers of elected representatives and hand them over to interest groups that are prepared to invest enough money and are able to threaten or actually organize petitions for recall.

I would urge hon. members who are concerned about respect for democratic principles to read carefully and support vigorously motion No. 155 tabled in this House by the hon. member for Richelieu.

In any event, I would also urge hon. members to consider what happened to the only bill similar to the one presented today by the Reform Party, which was ever passed in Canada.

In 1936, the Legislative Assembly (Recall) Act was brought in by the Social Credit Premier of Alberta, William Aberhart. The very next year, citizens of Alberta tried to exercise this power of recall against their Premier. Feeling trapped, the Socred government eventually repealed the act and declared void all ongoing recall procedures. This Canadian experience alone clearly shows the vulnerability of such a bill.

This procedure is said to exist in many American States but is so seldom used that one can wonder about its reliability. As for recall being a sword of Damocles dangling over the heads of members of Parliament, I am of the opinion that the respect I owe my constituents should not be a matter of the carrot and the stick. Instead, a relationship based on trust and respect must be established between the voters and their elected representatives.

I will repeat that the reason the Bloc opposes Bill C-210 is because it considers the proposed recall procedure both impractical and impracticable. Other ways must be sought to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the democratic process. And I would say that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is doing just that; it is examining a number of ways to do so.

Our opposition to recall through petition must not be construed as support for the current system. We are fully aware of the failure of politicians in terms of representativeness at the federal level. We are the first to disparage this failed system.

Until the Bloc Quebecois arrived in this House, Quebecers sent members to defend their interests in the House of Commons year after year. Quebec politicians of great merit and with lofty ideals came to Ottawa to ensure that Quebec finally got its share within this federation. One after the other, they got caught up in a system that made them forget why Quebecers elected them. Our members changed. They came here as Quebecers' representatives to the federal government. After a while, they became the federal government's representatives to the Quebec people. They sometimes reluctantly neglected Quebec's interests in order to please their leaders, their officials, their colleagues from the nine other provinces or their caucus.

Quebecers in the four major national parties could only count on one member out of four to defend their interests. Politicians were destroyed by the vicious circle of the federal system putting Quebec at a disadvantage. However, since the Canadian federal steamroller was stronger, they resigned themselves or went home completely disillusioned.

It took time but Quebecers managed to end this vicious circle. Without having to use petitions for recall, Quebecers in a democratic vote last October 25 decided to send to Ottawa54 elected members fundamentally dedicated to the defence of Quebec's interests. We intend to continue to defend their interests and to be vigilant.

Nevertheless, we do not want a partisan debate on whether or not members should be recalled on the basis of citizens' petitions. I would simply remind my friends in the Reform Party that we share their fears about certain elected members not meeting their basic commitments. However, recalling such members is not a solution; on the contrary, it is likely to make the problems of Canada's political system worse.

Recall ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 96(3), the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper .

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

Recall ActAdjournment Proceedings

5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Marc Jacob Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to discuss the status of official languages, particularly in the Department of National Defence and in the Canadian Armed Forces. In recent months, and especially since the closure of the military college in Saint-Jean, a lot has been said on the current language situation in the armed forces, as well as on the somewhat idealistic intentions and promises of the defence minister concerning the future of French in the armed forces.

In 1963, through the royal commission on bilingualism, Prime Minister Pearson made substantial changes to the drafting of the Official Languages Act. As early as 1966, General Allard, who was the first French-Canadian to become Chief of Staff, published directives recognizing the equal status of the French and English languages in the armed forces, as well as the right of every person to serve his country in his own language.

At the time, the Canadian forces were spearheading the linguistic efforts which were to follow in federal institutions. In 1972, these efforts resulted in the first official languages plan for the armed forces. This was a 15-year plan. Unfortunately, in 1987, it was discovered that several objectives had not been reached, in spite of all the good intentions and valiant efforts. That same year, a new 15-year plan, to 2002, was drafted.

In November 1992, a report commissioned by the then-Minister of Defence again found flagrant and near-unresolvable shortcomings. Here again, with a great deal of good will, the armed forces had prepared incentive standards and changes in their official languages plan and its implementation. Unfortunately, we must now face the following facts: 40 out of68 military-career-related courses are given in both languages-4 out of 4 military training courses, 9 out of 14 for the navy, 8 out of 14 for the air force, and 19 out of the 36 courses applicable to all three branches of the armed forces. It goes without saying that all 68 courses are available in English.

There is also a shortage of French-language military training manuals, and bilingual instructors are in short supply; the majority of bilingual instructors are Francophones. The number of bilingual Anglophones even declined from 1972 to the end of 1993. The number of bilingual Anglophones has now slipped to 4,200 from 5,000 in 1972. In the officers' ranks, 18 per cent of senior officers are Francophones-all of them functionally bilingual. Only 12 per cent of anglophone officers are bilingual, and most learned French at the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean.

It is impossible for me to list, in so little time, all of the shortcomings that exist, but I observed first-hand, during meetings and visits with the joint defence committee, that the army operates in English, and in both languages in Quebec. At the base in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, all of the briefings given to the defence committee were in one language only: English. So let us, once and for all, be realistic. Fine principles are laid out and dreams that, despite little success in the past-although commendable efforts were made, I must admit-this time, according to the minister, it will be allright.

Unfortunately, the decision to close the military college in Saint-Jean will only exacerbate the problems which have been noted in the application of the department's fine principles. For us, it is just one more piece of evidence that the gulf between the two founding peoples continues to widen and that the present government seems to take perverse pleasure in widening that gulf through its harebrained decision to close the military college in Saint-Jean, which represented hope for the official languages in the Canadian armed forces.

Recall ActAdjournment Proceedings

5:35 p.m.

Kitchener Ontario

Liberal

John English LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Intergovernmental Relations and President of the Privy Council

Mr. Speaker, the concept of a bilingual officers corps was adopted by the Armed Forces Council on June 28, 1988, to meet the needs of senior officials who had to be able to lead their subordinates in both official languages.

The "working language" remains the main pillar of the official languages program, set up to allow French speaking soldiers to work in French and English speaking soldiers to work in English.

Job and operational requirements of all units must be respected. There are three distinct types of units: the French language units, the English language units and the bilingual units.

A departmental committee studied the matter of language of work in 1992 and concluded that in the case of bilingual units, civilian and military personnel must be able to communicate with their subordinates in whichever official language those subordinates prefer.

The most recent report of the Commissioner of Official Languages acknowledges that progress has been made over the past year in the three pillars of the official languages program, even though according to Commissioner Goldbloom this progress has sometimes been slow, no doubt because of the complexity of the organization involved.

Recall ActAdjournment Proceedings

5:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to pursue a question I asked the Minister of Transport last month about passenger rail service.

In answering my question the Minister of Transport assured me that the government would expedite whatever measures were necessary to accommodate good railway service, both passenger and freight, in New Brunswick and in the rest of Atlantic Canada.

In previous years members of this government protested loudly whenever the previous government announced any and all cuts to VIA. Now they seem to have no compunction about carrying out cuts of their own. What no one in this government has ever said is that it was a Liberal government which first took VIA service away from the people of Saint John and it was the Tory government which gave it back. Now our train is once again under the axe.

Back in 1989 when he was a member of the opposition, the current minister of government services said that VIA cuts will separate Canadians geographically, economically and socially. He is absolutely right.

In the same year the current Minister of Fisheries and Oceans called the previous government's cuts to VIA a short-sighted policy that not only will deny in the short term the people of Canada a rail passenger service which in itself is important and devastating for the communities to be affected, but more fundamentally, it is denying Canadians as we move into the nineties and in the year 2000, the future.

In 1991 the current government House leader called the previous government's cuts to VIA and other institutions a blueprint for de-Confederation.

After making statements such as these I fail to understand why this government believes it can credibly defend its miraculous change of heart. This is also the reason I take small comfort in the Minister of Transport's assurances when he says he and his government will do what is necessary to preserve good railway service.

In his speech on June 3 in Thunder Bay, Ontario, the Minister of Transport said that the rail industry is gripped by problems of overregulation, of mismanagement, of overcapacity, of financial losses, of archaic work practices, of out of date legislation. Later on the same day the minister said: Canadians over the decades have constructed one of the most sophisticated and successful transportation systems in the world.

If one is not left unsure about what the minister actually thinks about our rail industry, one is at least forced to ask: If the minister believes his first statement, why does he not help reorganize the railway instead of walking away from the problem? Instead of cutting back on services and allowing the abandonment of lines, why does he not make the industry put its house in order?

I do not feel that all the blame about the problems facing the railway industry should be put on the shoulders of the unions.

In the same speech the minister said Canada needs a transportation system that contributes constructively to Canada's economic well-being. He also said that within Canada itself the cost of transporting goods is equally important. Forty per cent of provincial exports are sold in regions of Canada other than where they are produced. Transportation is an integral part of the everyday lives of millions of Canadians.

I would argue that maintaining the entire line from Saint John to Sherbrooke is vital if we want manufacturers in the region and users of our port to have adequate access to central Canada and northeastern American markets, the bread and butter of our exports.

Although there is expectation that a shortline operator will purchase and operate part or perhaps all of the line from Saint John to Sherbrooke, the people of Saint John feel that the status quo should be maintained. Abandonment is wrong. For the economic well-being of our entire region a direct line is vital.

I repeat now what I said when I originally asked the minister the question a month ago. VIA's Atlantic train between Halifax and Montreal is well used and important to the people of Saint John. With this in mind, I ask the minister to further clarify how his government plans to ensure good railway service in our region.

Recall ActAdjournment Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

London East Ontario

Liberal

Joe Fontana LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, on the question of VIA nothing could be further from the truth than what the member has just said. This government has not announced any service cutbacks to VIA nor will it until the negotiations are finalized.

I want to deal with the specific question of May 12, 1994 regarding the possible requirement for an amendment to the National Transportation Act to allow for the continuation of VIA passenger operations over the lines of a provincial shortline railway.

CP has narrowed down its list of potential new operators for its Canadian Atlantic railway lines to two: Cantrak and Guilford. Although I am not privy to CP's plans, we have all heard that CP may be announcing the successful finalist sometime in June.

Details about a conveyance agreement between CP and the new operator are unknown to this government at this time. If an agreement is reached and filed with the National Transportation Agency before the end of 1994 when the abandonment order

takes effect, then the agreement information becomes public and will shed light on the issue of federal-provincial jurisdiction.

With an agreement being filed, the agency as required under the National Transportation Act would have up to six months to approve the conveyance agreement, if it is in the public interest and if the purchaser is authorized to operate a railway.

If no agreement is filed before January 1995, then the Canadian rail line segments which have been approved for abandonment would no longer come under federal jurisdiction. In this case the contents of the conveyance agreement would become known if CP Limited chose to reveal any of this information. Hence we may not know until then whether or not the new operator will come under the legislative authority of Parliament or under provincial jurisdiction.

At the present time VIA operates over CP lines under a train service agreement. The NTA provides protection of existing VIA passenger service in the event that the conveyance by vesting any obligations related to VIA services with the new owner of the conveyed line. Under these circumstances accommodation for VIA would have to be built into an agreement between CP and the rail company to which the lines are conveyed.

The National Transportation Act would not prevent VIA from operating over the lines of a rail company that is not within the legislative authority of Parliament. After all, VIA currently operates over trackage through Maine which is under U.S. federal jurisdiction.

In closing, owing to the speculative nature of the question and lack of a clear demonstration that legislative amendments or other changes will be required at this time, I can only reiterate the minister's assurance to the hon. member for Saint John. The government will expedite legislative changes or other regulatory modifications if and when they are required to accommodate good passenger and freight railway service in New Brunswick and the rest of Atlantic Canada.

Recall ActAdjournment Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Len Taylor NDP The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK

Mr. Speaker, on June 3 I rose in the House during Question Period to ask the federal government to address the grievances of Indian veterans.

At this time when Canadians from coast to coast are beginning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of various events that led up to the end of the second world war in 1944, it seems unreasonable to leave the grievances of aboriginal veterans unresolved. These grievances concern the benefits aboriginal veterans received for their services in the first world war, the second world war, and the Korean war and these grievances are long standing.

The National Indian Veterans Association and the Saskatchewan Indian Veterans Association have worked hard to bring these issues to the attention of the public. Aboriginal veterans have told their stories many times before. They have told about Canada's demand that a person of aboriginal descent had to give up their Indian status to contribute to the war efforts. They have told about the bureaucratic nightmare that resulted from the clash of Canadian laws and policies derived from the Indian Act, the Soldier Settlement Act and the Veterans Act.

Aboriginal leaders have told about the uneven distribution of veterans benefits to First Nation and aboriginal veterans. They have told about the educational and vocational assistance that was not provided to them and they have told about the unequal granting of hospital and medical benefits because they were Indians under the jurisdiction of the Indian Act.

These grievances are not easily dismissed. We have even been told about the surrender of First Nations land that was later used for soldiers settlements after the war, the surrender of land that was Indian land to begin with.

A number of proposals have been put forward to help resolve these issues and I would like to ask the government to respond to these requests immediately. The first short term recommendation is that Canada make available resources in order for the aboriginal war veterans associations, the Legions and other organizations in the regions of Canada to be annually represented at ceremonies in the nation's capital on Remembrance Day.

In the longer term Canada must continue to address the benefits issues and make available to all aboriginal veterans the same benefits that were available to all returning Canadian war veterans. This must be researched and reimbursement of those lost benefits must be paid to these people if they are living and if not, to their descendants.

I think there are other remedies that must be considered, not the least of which are the payment of compensation for expropriated land and the reinstatement of offspring of First Nations aboriginal war veterans who were affected by the involuntary loss of status associated with their joining up with the forces.

First Nations people willingly volunteered their services in the belief that they were helping Canada. Now Canada must take the opportunity to right the wrongs and the injustices.

When I first raised this question in the House of Commons earlier this month the minister responsible for veterans said that he was not aware of any such injustices. As we speak, Mr. Speaker, you and most members of this House are aware that the members of the Senate are conducting public hearings on this very important subject and in just a few days the Indian veterans

are meeting in conference in Saskatoon to further add to the growing evidence in support of their arguments.

In this regard I call upon the government, not just the minister responsible for veterans, but the entire government, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, any minister in the government across the way to recognize the seriousness of this question and take steps immediately to begin the process of resolving these important matters.

Recall ActAdjournment Proceedings

5:45 p.m.

Kitchener Ontario

Liberal

John English LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond in greater detail to the concerns raised by the hon. member for The Battlefords-Meadow Lake that aboriginal veterans have not been treated the same as other war veterans.

When the National Aboriginal Veterans Association first raised allegations of unfair treatment in the early 1980s Veterans Affairs Canada asked it to bring forward any case in which a veteran believed that unfair discriminatory treatment had been received.

Several hundred cases have been put forward since that time. All were thoroughly reviewed and not one provided any evidence to suggest that there had been any unfair or discriminatory treatment.

In addition to these file reviews the National Aboriginal Veterans Association was provided office space and administrative help by Veterans Affairs to assist it with the development of its report to the royal commission on aboriginal peoples.

Notwithstanding the association's extensive research and file reviews, no evidence of maladministration was cited by the National Aboriginal Veterans Association in its report to the royal commission.

Turning to the legislation itself, if hon. members review any of the veterans legislation they will find that the definition of veteran makes no distinction between aboriginal and non-aboriginal veterans. Simply put, a veteran is anyone who has served in the armed forces or the merchant navy during wartime.

The one instance in which it was necessary to make special reference to aboriginal veterans was in the Veterans Land Act. The purpose of that reference was to ensure that Indian veterans living on Indian reserves were able to obtain benefits under that act.

The fact is that no allegation of discrimination has any basis in veterans legislation. There is no discrimination in the law and again the report submitted by the National Aboriginal Veterans Association to the royal commission confirmed the conclusion that veterans legislation does not discriminate against aboriginal veterans.

In view of this background and in view of the comments of the hon. member, the position taken by the Secretary of State for Veterans in response to the hon. member's question earlier and today is the best possible approach.

If the hon. member is aware of any veteran's case as he suggested that he is today, aboriginal or non-aboriginal, any case in which discrimination or unfair treatment is alleged, bring that case to the secretary's attention and it will be, I assure members, thoroughly reviewed and any appropriate action taken without delay.