House of Commons Hansard #243 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was countries.


Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Saint-Léonard Québec


Alfonso Gagliano LiberalSecretary of State (Parliamentary Affairs) and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table in both official languages the government's response to 24 petitions.

B.C. Treaty CommissionRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Sault Ste. Marie Ontario


Ron Irwin LiberalMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, two copies of the 1994-95 annual report of the B.C. Treaty Commission.

Members Of Parliamen Retiring Allowances ActRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Dan McTeague Liberal Ontario, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-352, an act to amend the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act (members who cease to be citizens of Canada).

Mr. Speaker, this bill would disqualify a former member or the former member's estate or family from any allowance or benefit under the act if the member ceases to be a Canadian citizen.

This is in essence a bit of housework on my behalf. It would not apply to the withdrawal allowance payable to a member who ceases to participate in the plan which consists of the return of the member's earlier contributions plus interest.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

National Organ Donor Day ActRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Dan McTeague Liberal Ontario, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-353, an act respecting a national organ donor day in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, this bill recognizes the efforts of a constituent of mine, Mrs. Linda Rumble of Whitby, Ontario, and the ultimate gift her nephew, two-year old Stuart Alan Herriott, gave to others whom he had never met.

The bill will assist in providing more public education and awareness on organ donation by making every April 21 known as national organ donor day right across this great nation.

April 21 marks the anniversary of the death of Stuart, affectionately known by his family as Stu Buddy. It is hoped that by establishing a national organ donor day more Canadians will be encouraged to make a pledge to organ donation. In doing so, Stuart's supreme gift will be remembered and his act of kindness can be repeated by other Canadians throughout Canada.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Ronald J. Duhamel Liberal St. Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is my great privilege to present a petition from my constituents reaffirming the importance of a united Canada.

This petition is signed and supported by French as well as English speaking Canadians, by aboriginal Canadians and by those Canadians who have come from other countries.

It is an honour for me to represent these cultures as they come together to voice their desire to keep Canada united and to keep Quebec in Canada.

Clearly, a vast majority of Canadians want a strong, united Canada, as do a large number of French Canadians and other francophones in Canada.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, it is my pleasure to present a petition signed by some 120 constituents of Wetaskiwin.

The petitioners pray and request that Parliament not amend the human rights code, the Canadian Human Rights Act or the charter of rights and freedoms in any way which would tend to indicate societal approval of same sex relationships or of homosexuality, including amending the human rights code to include in the prohibited grounds of discrimination the undefined phrase of sexual orientation.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I wish to present a petition which has been circulating all across Canada. The petition has been signed by a number of Canadians from Delta and Vancouver, B.C.

The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that managing the family home and caring for preschool children is an honourable profession which has not been recognized for its value to our society. They also state that the Income Tax Act discriminates against families who make the choice to provide care in the home to preschool children, the disabled, the chronically ill, or the aged.

The petitioners therefore pray and call upon Parliament to pursue initiatives to eliminate tax discrimination against families who decide to provide care in the home for preschool children, the disabled, the chronically ill, or the aged.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Harold Culbert Liberal Carleton—Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am certainly pleased to present a petition signed by well over 100 residents, mostly in the Campobello area of my riding of Carleton-Charlotte.

The petitioners draw the attention of the House to the fact that GST for short term rentals from the United States is applied to the full value of the item being rented instead of on the rental value itself. They request that Parliament assess the GST to be only on the market rental value of the item in question in the future. I am pleased to table this petition.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Rose-Marie Ur Liberal Lambton—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I wish to present a petition. The petitioners call upon Parliament to pursue initiatives to eliminate tax discrimination against families who decide to provide care in the home for preschool children, as well as for the disabled, the chronically ill and the aged.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a number of petitions.

The first is signed by many hundreds of people in the province of British Columbia. It relates to the Pest Control Products Act and is particularly directed toward the poisons that were introduced for pesticidal use after World War II and which created a serious environmental hazard.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition relates to the Young Offenders Act. It calls attention to the increase in sexual predatory acts and asks for tougher legislation.

The third petition relates again to the Young Offenders Act and specifically refers to acts of violence committed by young people. The petitioners ask for changes to the Young Offenders Act.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, the fourth petition is also from residents of British Columbia. It relates to the conscientious objection act, in particular to the payment of taxes for the maintenance of Canadian military forces.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Saint-Léonard Québec


Alfonso Gagliano LiberalSecretary of State (Parliamentary Affairs) and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from October 17, 1995, consideration of the motion that Bill C-106, an act respecting the Law Commission of Canada, be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs.

Law Commission Of CanadaGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are now at the second reading stage of Bill C-106, an act to create, or rather to exhume, the Law Commission of Canada. The Minister of Justice now wants to revive this useless creature, which cost

taxpayers $105 million over its 20 years of existence and which made only a few recommendations that were adopted by Parliament.

The Law Reform Commission created in 1971 was responsible for reviewing Canada's laws on an on-going and systematic basis. The research work done by the former commission was divided into three main areas: substantive criminal law, criminal procedure, and administrative law. In its last year of existence, the commission had a budget of $5 million.

In addition to its members and employees, the commission hired a number of outside consultants.

The commission spent over 82 per cent of its budget on salaries and on special and professional services. This small organization was very costly. Most of its staff consisted of university researchers and lawyers hired as consultants for short periods. The emphasis was on research and not on efficient management. Research programs that were out of touch with reality and astronomical costs were the two main reasons why the government of the day pulled the plug on the old commission.

With Bill C-106, the Minister of Justice is about to make a monumental mistake. The minister is showing the federal government's inability to manage responsibly. Therefore, he is giving us another good reason to vote Yes on October 30.

The Minister of Justice intends to sink millions of dollars into a revived law reform commission. This shameful waste must be vigorously denounced.

I am appalled to see that the Minister of Justice has still not recovered from acute consultitis. Not only has he been consulting left and right since receiving his mandate but he now wants to create an organization dedicated to consulting. As silly as this may sound, the Minister of Justice is nonetheless taking himself seriously.

Let me read you the first paragraph of the bill's preamble. It reads: "whereas, after extensive national consultations, the Government of Canada has determined that it is desirable to establish a commission to provide independent advice on improvements, modernization and reform of the law of Canada, which advice would be based on the knowledge and experience of a wide range of groups and individuals".

The government of Canada has determined that it is desirable to waste $3 million per year on this consulting commission. It has determined that it is desirable to appoint 29 of its federalist friends to this commission.

It seems obvious to me that the Minister of Justice and his government are taking us for fools. Let me tell you that, whatever the consultation minister's views on the matter, Bloc Quebecois members will not let him table something as half baked as this without denouncing it.

Did he expect that we would be too busy during the referendum to notice he was pulling a fast one on us? Perhaps he assumed that the miller could not look after the mill and the oven at the same time.

As I said a moment ago, the minister's condition is going from bad to worse. His bill provides that all those involved are to consult one another. I consult you, you consult me, we consult each other. At a cost of $3 million per year, this makes for a very expensive consultation process.

Clause 5 of Bill C-106 states, and I quote:

(1) The Commission shall a ) consult with the Minister of Justice with respect to the annual program of studies that it proposes to undertake; b ) prepare such reports as the Minister, after consultation with the Commission and taking into consideration the workload and resources of the Commission, may require;

And that is not all. Clause 18 provides for the establishment of the Law Commission of Canada Advisory Council, and clause 19 states, and I quote:

The Council shall-advise the Commission on any matter relating to the purpose of the Commission, including the Commission's strategic directions and long-term program of studies and the review of the Commission's performance.

This silliness goes on in clause 20, which reads, and I quote:

For the purpose of advising and assisting the Commission in any particular project, the Commission may establish a study panel presided over by a Commissioner and consisting of persons having specialized knowledge in, or particularly affected by, the matter to be studied.

Between obtaining advice, consulting and acting on this advice and the results of consultations, I wonder when the commissioners will find the time to do their job, to justify an annual budget of $3 million. This is outrageous.

This bill does not even have the merit of being an original piece of legislation. It is almost a carbon copy of the Law Reform Commission Act, which was repealed three years ago. The two texts are so similar that you might think they are one and the same. For example, the provisions dealing with the goals and objectives of the commissions, both the former one and the one being proposed, are substantially identical. I hope that the minister is not serious when he claims that the future commission will be different from the old one, because their goals and objectives are identical. The only difference is the purported independence of the new commission. I will get back to this.

If you read the two legal texts side by side, you come to the following conclusion. The former commission's mandate was to

study and review Canada's acts and legal rules, while the proposed commission will study and review Canada's law.

The former commission was set up to eliminate anachronisms and flaws in the law, while the proposed commission will provide advice to eliminate the rules of law which have become obsolete, as well as the flaws in the law.

The former commission was to develop new methods and concepts related to the law, while the proposed commission will provide advice to develop new legal perspectives and concepts.

It is six of one and half a dozen of the other. We were told that justice department officials worked on this legislation for two years. It is unthinkable that they would have spent so much time to come up with this result. The only new element proposed by the minister is the commission's advisory body, which will include 24 members. The minister wants to bring back to life an organization which should not be revived.

The reasons the previous government disbanded the former commission are essentially the ones for which the Bloc Quebecois cannot now support such a waste of public money. The previous government had come to the conclusion that the services provided by the former commission could be adequately obtained by transferring to the justice department the responsibility of commissioning research work from non governmental organizations, under specific mandates. The Minister of Justice and his department were to seek the opinion of researchers and professionals on a factual basis. Consequently, the Law Reform Commission was disbanded and the resources to be kept were transferred to the justice department.

Interestingly, that department currently has a division called the Law Reform Division. This division was formed after the old commission disappeared. The financial resources of the former commission were therefore added to the budget of Justice. The division had an budget of $1.5 million the first year and $2 million the next. At the present time it has three full time employees and one part time.

The minister wishes to create a new commission when there are already competent staff in place capable of meeting the government's requirements. The law reform division does a good job of carrying out the task for which it is intended. The minister can very readily mandate this law reform division to carry out all projects focussing on orienting or reforming Canadian law or to seek innovative solutions to endemic problems. Ironically, in May 1994 it was this division which assumed responsibility for distribution of a questionnaire to 884 individuals or organizations concerning the creation of a new law reform commission.

The department got back 126 responses to its mailing of 884 questionnaires. So much for the extensive consultations referred to in the preamble to the bill.

The minister would have us believe that his commission will be independent in nature. This is clearly indicated in clause 3, which states as follows:

The purpose of the Commission is to study-the concepts-of the common law and civil law systems-with a view to providing independent advice on improvements, modernization and reform-

This is total nonsense. The partisan character of the process to appoint the five commissioners is obvious. These positions are clearly rewards for good and faithful service. The five commissioners will in fact be appointed by the Prime Minister on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice. It goes without saying that these commissioners will be paid royally. Certainly, the annual commission budget is evaluated at $3 million. As well, the commissioners' appointments will be during pleasure, in other words they can be dismissed if they are found unsuitable and do not toe the party line.

After appointment, the commissioners will in turn appoint the members of the advisory council. There will be 24 of them, and they also will hold office during pleasure.

These 29 persons will therefore make up the Law Commission of Canada. With 29 partisan appointments, the Minister of Justice is setting up his own fan club. To be a member, all you have to do is be in the good graces of the Minister of Justice and be willing to go through three million dollars a year. This will be a fan club of intellectuals philosophizing on legal niceties. They will be so disconnected from reality that the Minister of Justice will not take long to realize his error and will put an end to this nonsense.

In looking at the reasons the old commission was dissolved we can understand why there ought not to be another. The old one was strongly criticized by the office of the Auditor General of Canada in the House. In 1985, it carried out an in depth analysis of the operations and administration of the defunct commission. In his report, the auditor general was critical of the commission's project management.

The following is very illuminating: "Since 1972, the commission has not revised its original research program or submitted a supplementary or a second program, despite extensive changes in its work. Also significant delays have occurred in carrying out its research program and significantly more resources have been committed to it than were envisaged in 1972. For example, none of the estimated completion dates was met, and many of the original projects are still in progress 10 years after their originally stated completion dates".

The auditor general went on to say that the program's effectiveness was not measured, there was a lack of guidelines concerning project management and a lack of control and supervision.

Clearly, the Minister of Justice never bothered to read the auditor general's report. He should have. The former commission, however, was rather proud of its record. In 1991, in the commission's twentieth annual report, the president at the time, Gilles Létourneau, eager to justify the commission's existence, wrote that on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary, the commission could be proud of the impressive number of its achievements, especially in the legislative field, that the commission was far more than an agency that made recommendations to Parliament on how to improve Canadian laws, that, in fact, it had initiated extensive research in various areas of the law, producing 33 reports, 63 working papers, 78 published studies and more than 300 supporting documents.

I would be curious to know where all those documents are gathering dust. It is all very well to say that the commission produced reams of documents, but to what purpose? In 20 years only three proposals for legislation were accepted by Parliament. The explanation is simple. A commission that operates in tandem with governments cannot hope to amend or improve the law if its amendments or reforms are not part of the legislative agenda of the government of the day.

The auditor general's report is very informative about this aspect as well, and I quote: "The commission, however, is not satisfied with its impact on legislative changes and readily acknowledges its modest record in comparison with that of other law reform commissions. Because of its statutory independence, it establishes its own programs and has not been asked by the Minister of Justice to carry out specific research activities. Therefore, the commission's areas of research and study often have not been high priority areas for government legislative agendas".

The dissatisfaction of the commissioners at the time seems to indicate that the former commission was more in need of direction and controls than independence and broad, poorly defined mandates. The Department of Justice never played its role as a supervisory body. The situation was allowed to deteriorate to the point that the government no longer had a choice. It had to get rid of the commission and merge some of its resources with the Department of Justice, leading to the creation of the law reform division.

I must say the approach taken by the Minister of Justice is not very sound. He calls the future commission a new and improved law reform commission of Canada. If he really wanted improvements, he would leave things as they are. He already has a new and improved commission within his own department. I fail to understand the justification provided by the Minister of Justice, because, aside from handing out goodies to friends, the future commission has no reason to exist.

Upon tabling the bill, the minister stated that Canada's legal system faced complex problems that deserved more than a legal solution. Effective and long-term solutions required an approach that considered legal, social, economic and other aspects. The federal government was of the opinion that an independent and multidisciplinary law reform body was essential to this process.

The future commission will never be independent, since it will be a fan club of the Minister of Justice. Even assuming that appointments to the commission would not be partisan, the Minister of Justice is heading straight for disaster. A more or less independent commission would operate exactly like the former commission, in other words, without controls and without supervision.

The Minister of Justice has not learned from the mistakes of the former commission. He preferred to ignore the auditor general's report which was very critical of the commission. He still does not realize that his department already has a division that is concerned specifically with law reform.

Those who ignore the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them. And that is exactly what the Minister of Justice is doing today. His ignorance will cost us three millions dollars annually. Another good reason to say yes on October 30.

Law Commission Of CanadaGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that in these days, when we find so little to agree on with our friends from the Bloc, I would recommend to Canadians the extremely well researched and cogent arguments put forward in the paper by my hon. colleague who preceded me. Many of the points that were made should be persuasive to this government.

Unfortunately, one gets the impression in this House, and it is more than just an impression, that what we say and do here in debate is simply smoke and mirrors and window dressing and hot air, because the course of the government is set and the government members, who are in the majority, stand up and support it invariably. The excellent, well-reasoned considerations that should be taken into account before these pieces of legislation are foisted on Canadians simply go by the by.

However, it is my duty to represent the people of Canada, particularly the people of Calgary North who elected me, by putting forward my concerns and my objections to this piece of legislation.

When our country is in real difficulty with respect to public safety and the workings of our criminal justice system, I find it passing strange that the thing on the top of the justice minister's mind is allowing the politically appointed parole board to investigate itself if it decides to do that. He is setting up a bunch of political appointments to make recommendations to the minister

about what he should do about the law. I do not think there is any question in the minds of Canadians what should be done about the law. However, apparently the justice minister is so unsure that he is going to need some extra advice, for which we have to pay millions of dollars.

Just so the Canadian public who are watching this debate are clear on what we are talking about today, we are debating Bill C-106. This reinstates a body that was formerly called the law reform commission and is now being resurrected and reincarnated under the name of the Law Commission of Canada.

The Law Commission of Canada will have five members, a full time president and four appointed commissioners to assist the president. In addition, unless these five people find themselves bereft of ideas, they are going to be ably assisted by a further government appointed body called the Law Commission of Canada Advisory Council, with 24 additional patronage appointments.

Bill C-106 reinstates a failed body, this law commission of five people and an additional 24 people to advise them. Apparently the idea of this is to provide "independent" advice on needed improvements, "modernization", and reform of Canadian law. Again, we need to make it abundantly clear that the people of Canada are not leaving the government in the dark about the improvements and reforms that are needed in Canadian law. Why they have to work hard to shell out another $3 million a year to have the obvious stated, if in fact it is stated, is beyond the comprehension of any hard working and overtaxed Canadian I can think of.

This additional spending of $3 million a year is touted as a great improvement because the old disbanded law reform commission cost a whole $4.8 million a year, so we are actually saving $1.8 million with this new, streamlined version of the Canadian law commission. I do not think it takes a cynical Canadian to figure out that $3 million in budget almost invariably creeps up. If $3 million is the bottom line, Canadians have to wonder what the top line is going to be.

The old law reform commission grew into a very significant bureaucracy. It is the nature of government to suspect and be concerned that the same thing is going to happen again, because these five commissioners and 24 advisers to the commissioners are going to need some administrative assistance, which is going to be another consideration.

In the justice minister's introduction of this bill he said something that to me was extremely curious. He said "This will be an independent and accountable body working at arm's length from government". That is a direct quote. Canadians should know that these five commissioners are being appointed by the cabinet of this government on the recommendations of the justice minister. Tell me and any other logical Canadian who might happen to be listening to this debate how a body directly appointed by the justice minister has even the feeblest chance of being independent. Give Canadians some credit for intelligence here.

The minister then said, in the same twinning of words, "independent and accountable". I know that logic is not taught much these days, but it begs the question of how a body can be both independent of government and accountable to government at the same time. It is just not possible. In fact the whole way this is set up, independent is about the last thing this body is.

The Minister of Justice has a history of encouraging politicized bodies to endorse his predetermined positions. We saw that in the debate on Bill C-68 and we have seen it in other debates. He will get up and say that a certain group really supports this legislation. Well yes, the group is funded by the government. One wonders what group would not know what side its bread was buttered on. Of course it will not bite the hand that feeds it. It will be a cheering section for the very body that gives it dollars to keep going.

If we are going to talk about independence, let us at least be honest. Let us at least be reasonable. Let us at least be logical. Let us have something that will carry an ordinary judgment. This is not, in any way, shape, or form, an independent body.

In a news release before Bill C-106 was introduced in the House, the headline read: "Minister of Justice Announces Creation of a New Law Commission". Since this thing has already been created, why are we wasting our time debating it? We all know it is a done deal. This debate is just a formality. The thing has been created. It has been announced publicly. The public knows. Canadians have been told. The objections we are going to be bringing forward in the debate will mean nothing. It is nice that the opposition has a chance to fire at this thing, but it is done.

I find that repugnant in a democratic system. I would like to think that the work and the research I do in examining bills and issues counts for something. But it is very clear to all Canadians that it does not.

How independent is the commission? Clause 5 of the bill requires that the Law Commission of Canada consult with the minister before setting its agenda. That does not seem to me to be independent. I suppose that good Liberals will say that the commission does not have to listen to him. He is only the guy who appointed them and gave them this wonderful patronage position in the first place. He is only the guy who pays their salaries. He is only the guy who will request reports from them. This consultation in

setting the agenda really means that the commission is told by the justice minister: "This is what we want you to do".

The commission is required by clause 5 to submit to the minister reports that are required by the minister. It is a creature of the minister. There is nothing independent about it. It is in the legislation, to be seen clearly by anybody who looks at it. This is nothing more than an extension of the minister and his department doing work the justice department has already been contracting out. It is an unnecessary, far from independent body.

How independent is it? The complete commission is under the control of the minister. In the legislation it states clearly that these appointments to the commission and to the advisory body to the commission are held at the pleasure of the cabinet. Independent, when the cabinet can fire them out the door at its pleasure? Give me a break.

The commission is appointed by the justice minister. The advisory council, in clause 18, which is made up of 24 members, is appointed by the deputy minister and by the commission itself. The commission is appointed by the justice minister and its advisers are appointed by the commission and by the deputy minister, who is the right hand man to the justice minister. This is hardly independence.

There is already legislation coming forward from the justice department. One wonders how it has managed so far without the commission. The whole point of having a justice ministry is to make sure that we have proper legislation to protect the rights and property of citizens.

Legislation is supposed to be developed within the Department of Justice. It does the research and drafts legislation. Why does the minister have to appoint a select group of advisers to know what the country needs to protect the lives and property of Canadian citizens? Is he not listening to Canadians?

The minister talks a lot about consultation. We have heard him use this term in a glowing endorsement when he was talking about other legislation he brought forward previously in the House. Now the minister has another stick to beat us up with. He can say that the Law Commission of Canada which he appointed, can tell what to do and controls, although this will never be said, says that we should do this.

Canadians who have not listened to the debate, who have not examined the legislation, who do not know that the commission is anything but independent will be fooled by it. Canadians think it is another expert body they can be impressed with, the Law Commission of Canada, not the minister's commission with people who are manipulated and give him the answers and endorsements he wants.

Laws should be developed by elected legislators who are closely reflecting the wishes and the interests of the people they represent, period. They should not be developed by appointed flunkeys of the justice minister. This back door elite group of hand picked Liberal policy makers have no business developing law for Canada.

The people of Canada elect representatives to do that. That is why we get the big money. Why are we also getting millions of dollars to have other people tell us what laws we need? What are we doing here? Elected representatives are well able and should be seeking all the time the views of researchers and knowledgeable citizens throughout Canada. We do not need to appoint these people and pay them to tell us what they think.

Law professors spend almost half their time in research; that is part of their mandate. They are quite happy to pass on to elected representatives the wisdom, the knowledge and the recommendations they have come up with. We do not need to pay for them.

We already have far too many boards and commissions in Canada. The money that pays these people does not grow on trees. People work darn hard for the tax money that the government gobbles up. They do not want to pay a bunch of people to do a job they have already elected people to do. It is ridiculous.

It is an insult to Canadians who are already hard pressed. They are worried about their jobs. They are worried about their futures. They are worried about having to pay their mortgages. Now they have to pay a law reform commission $3 million a year.

The government does not have this money. It gets it from the rest of us who are working. It is a shame that in these hard economic times we would even think of asking Canadians for a few more million dollars so we can have a nice little group of appointees for the justice minister.

The parliamentary role should not be given to outsiders. Private members' bills, for example, have been developed in the House. The justice minister might consider that a very accurate law commission. I sat in the House last evening when a member asked for permission from other members of the House to withdraw a private member's bill because he said that the government had introduced legislation which essentially covered-and he was satisfied that it fully covered-the concerns and the recommendations he made in his private member's legislation. Here is a law reform commission at work that is already being paid properly within the system. This is the parliamentary role and it should not be given to anybody else.

One wonders if the justice minister is saying that he cannot always control and influence what his colleagues in Parliament do, so that is not good enough, and if he would rather have recommendations from people whom he can control.

It is just another chance for political activists to be rewarded by government appointments and get on the government payroll. It is another haven for Liberal political appointees. The justice minister insults the intelligence of Canadians to claim that this is anywhere close to being an independent commission. The justice minister's fingerprints are all over the whole thing. He picks the appointees. His top assistant and his appointees appoint the group that advises the appointees.

Law Commission Of CanadaGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Mary Clancy Liberal Halifax, NS

Oh, oh.

Law Commission Of CanadaGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary North, AB

It may be funny to the hon. member for Halifax but it is not funny to Canadians. They are paying for this nonsense.

The justice minister has a say in setting the agenda of his appointees. He will have in subclause 5(2) flexibility in how he deals with the commission's recommendations. In other words he has the flexibility to totally ignore them, which is exactly what happened in the past.

The legislation does not say how he has to respond. They are just gathering dust, more reports to gather dust while the money rolls in for the people who have been appointed to do a bit of work.

I close my presentation by making the minister an offer that I feel he should not refuse. The Reform caucus will willingly take on the onerous task of providing the minister with advice on needed improvements and reforms to the laws of Canada. I speak in favour of this generous offer.

First, it is the perfect solution for the justice minister. It will save hard pressed and tax weary Canadians the $3 million a year the justice minister would have to pay his hand picked advisers. We will do it at no extra charge. We cannot get more generous than that.

Second, it would allow the justice minister to help the Liberals keep another red book promise, which so far has been sadly broken, to base appointments on merit rather than on patronage. Who would have more merit in advising the justice minister than Reformers?

Third, the justice minister can be sure that Canadians are really setting the agenda, not his appointed dependants.

Fourth, the proposals will be brought forward in the House of the people for open scrutiny and debate from day one, not hatched behind closed doors and pushed through by forced votes from Liberal backbenchers. It will be truly independent of government and fully accountable to the people of Canada, which is exactly what it should be.

Fifth, last but not least, the minister can be absolutely certain that he is receiving truly independent advice.

Voters elect at great consideration and cost their own representatives to legislate to ensure peace, order and good government in our country. If we could be allowed to do our job responsibly and take into account the concerns and advice we receive from Canadians every day, the justice system would make a lot more sense and do a lot better job for Canadians.

As members might have guessed, we strongly oppose the Liberals' appointing people from their approved list of friends to do our job as members of Parliament and we oppose Bill C-106.

Law Commission Of CanadaGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The first three interventions had 40-minute maximums without questions or comments.

We will now go to the next stage of debate at second reading of Bill C-106, an act respecting the Law Commission of Canada, where members for the next five hours will have 20-minute maximums for their speeches and be subject to 10-minute question and comment periods.

Law Commission Of CanadaGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is passing strange to hear some of the comments I have heard this morning. It is nearly 90 years since Benjamin Cardozo wrote his famous essay "Ministries of Justice".

For those who do not know better, it was said that Mr. Justice Cardozo was the greatest jurist never appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States. Then Herbert Hoover, in what some have said was his greatest act as president, appointed Mr. Justice Cardozo in his twilight years to the Supreme Court of the United States.

When he wrote 90 years ago he was making the case for an independent law commission. Its members would neither be civil servants because they were too close to the minister, too much under ministerial supervision, nor legislators because they were too much concerned with the exigent here and now of reading the flow of papers and attending to the details of legislation. He wanted people with a long vision and a detachment from politics. This is why he made the case.

His ministry of justice was not a ministry in our sense. It was an independent body of law commissioners to take a long view to try and establish the necessary relationship between positive law as written and the society it was supposed to serve.

When he wrote he was undoubtedly reminded of the words of his great friend, we understand from different legal tradition because Cardozo was the son of immigrants who had come from different legal tradition, Mr. Oliver Wendell Holmes who said: "The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience".

At the time Cardozo wrote the legal system in the United States, Great Britain and parts of the then British Empire, now the Commonwealth that received the common law tradition, the law was essentially known as black letter law. From the vibrancy and creativeness of the early days of the common law it had degenerated into Lord Eldon's, it was said, juridical conservatism: the pursuit of precedents divorced from social reality, the pursuit of

logical interpretations divorced from what happens in the daily lives of citizens.

In its creative period the common law was a law in full evolution. By the 19th century it had decayed into a rigid formalism. This is from what Cardozo had wanted to break away, and this is what those countries that followed him, in a very belated way the United States, have tried to achieve.

The law is more than the study of precedents. Precedents can be studied by law students cramming for examinations. However our society is evolving. In fact at the turn of the century, we lived in a revolutionary period in the world community as dramatic as the Thirty Years War and the late 17th century western European society, a world in revolutionary change with laws that are increasingly out of date.

I think one of the ironies that I encountered in my pre-parliamentary career, visiting many countries that sought my advice, was the knowledge that with the help of visitors from other countries and experts provided by the Canadian International Development Association, CIDA, their laws would probably end up more up to date and more relevant than Canadian laws.

We advise countries abroad because we believe in the free market economy and we believe the free market economy to be properly achieved with liberalization and rationalization of the legal system. We advise many other countries on how to update their laws. The curious thing is that dynamic element sometimes produces commercial law, laws on transactions involving foreigners, that are better and more up to date than our own, than American laws or the laws of other countries exporting their economic ideas. That is a sort of contradiction that frankly is unacceptable in our society.

I spoke of the period of legal positivism, the pursuit of the black letter law, the pursuit of precedents at the cost of reason, which is fortunately behind us as a legal theory taught in law schools.

The legal realist movement focused on the gap between the law in books and the law in action; the law as written in some bygone age and the law in action and how it was actually applied. It is a movement that is peculiarly North American although there are continental European counterparts.

It leads directly into the school of sociological jurisprudence whose founder was the great Dean Roscoe Pound of the Harvard law school followed by the Commonwealth writer Julius Stone and by the man who had the distinction of teaching two American presidents, Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton, and Bill Clinton's wife, Myres McDougal. The notion is that law exists to do other things than to give a pre-defined answer to new problems, that it is in constant evolution, that law exists to solve social problems, that there is a necessary policy element inherent in law and that the only way to get good legal decisions and good laws is to study society.

The intellectual framework of a good jurist today includes much more than logic and much more than the study of precedents. It includes a necessary acquaintance with economics, a necessary acquaintance with the driving forces in commerce, in business in our society, a knowledge of the sociology of the state, of human relations. This is the necessary intellectual equipment of a good lawyer today and it is basically what Cardozo spoke of when he referred to the need for creating ministries of justice.

Legal research would have to be carried on anyway. I asked the Minister of Justice two days ago what had happened when the Conservative government made the decision to cancel the law reform commission, whether he had buried research. He said no, they had to carry it on within the department.

In terms of cost saving we are dealing with essentially the same thing, civil servants. However, civil servants do not have that freedom from the exigent here and now of daily departmental practice that Cardozo said was a necessary element in the process of law reform.

In looking to the formation of the law reform commission again we are responding to the challenge today of a law responsive to society, Canadian society and the society of the world community, in continuing almost revolutionary change in terms of the social forces moving within us. It requires a group of people independent from the government and of high intellectual distinction.

I said to the minister when he introduced this bill: "Your big problem is cherchez l'homme or cherchez la femme, look to the right people. Whom are you going to get?" He said: "Whom can you think of?" He recognizes the need for creative appointments. This is where opposition party members can help. Give the minister names. I said I could give him a couple of names from the past including Mr. Justice Rand, our greatest liberal judge on the Supreme Court of Canada. He gave us a bill of rights before we had the 1982 charter; somebody like that in his creative periods.

I also took the opportunity to cite somebody well known to many members of the House, the late Jean-Luc Pepin who died only a couple of weeks ago in the prime of his life. He was a non-lawyer. This is one of the valuable things in this bill. We do not limit the choice of members of this commission to lawyers. We recognize, as the French have done and the Germans have done, that even on supreme courts, constitutional courts, non-lawyers have a role to play and should be included, and they are.

I had the honour of being chief advisor to Jean-Luc Pepin in the preparation of his report on the Constitution along with John Robarts, Léon Dion and John Meisel. If his report had been adopted many of our problems of federalism today would have been resolved before.

The quest goes on for the right people. Please, the invitation goes to members of the government and members of the opposition to put forward the names. This is intended to be independent. It will only be independent and courageous if we get the right people. The minister is on the right track. They do not have to be lawyers. It is a challenge. We have given so much time to Quebec issues that very much of our creative energy in other areas has been pre-empted. If we do not modernize our own laws the problem of economic recovery will be very much accentuated.

I see no point in my telling Chinese audiences, as I did from 1980 onwards, or audiences in other countries that if you want a free market economy, you need streamlined, up to date laws that respond to the exigencies of the society you are living in. There is no point telling these people that if we do not do it at home. This is the message in the law reform bill. Please see the large issue, see the necessity for this and take the steps to ensure the choices will be excellent ones.

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11:05 a.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-106 today. I listened to my hon. friend from Vancouver Quadra make his presentation. I have the utmost respect for him. He is a man of much accomplishment in his career. He is certainly an academic and has contributed a lot to his profession and has many accomplishments.

I have one fear, though, as I listen to the hon. member, that the average Canadian is not getting a grasp or is not able to understand exactly what the member is saying. I want to bring this debate away from the level used by hon. member from Vancouver Quadra, a level which, no disrespect intended, was far above the average Canadian.

The hon. member talked about the people who should be involved in this commission. I will use some of his words and reflect on what he said. He said the law commission should be comprised of people in the law profession and people of high intellectual distinction.

Nowhere in his presentation has he indicated in any way that the opinions reflected by the minds of average Canadians should be represented in the commission. That has been the problem with the Minister of Justice's decisions and the government's bills in the two years I have been in the House. Nowhere in the bills introduced has there been any sense of realism between what is in the bill and what is on the mind of the average Canadian.

As parliamentarians we have a profound responsibility first and foremost to represent the concerns and the opinions of average Canadians. This recreation of the law commission is certainly far from that.

The predecessor to the law commission was abolished by the Tories in 1992. The Tory government was never known to be frugal but for some reason it found the commission a luxury it could not afford, which was a surprise considering its record of spending. It had grown as a quite natural progression into a large bureaucracy.

The Tory government in its wisdom decided it could get the same advice from outside sources at a better price. No doubt those outside sources were Tory advisers because the old line parties have a habit of rewarding their friends after they get into government. I have no doubt that this recreation of the law commission is another form of thanking Liberal friends for their participation in helping them get to government. We have seen this over and over again.

The law commission was established in 1971 to review Canadian federal laws and to make recommendations for the improvement or modernization of reforms within the justice system and develop new approaches that would be responsive to the changing needs of Canadian society.

In all honesty we have not seen a lot of evidence that the former law commission responded to the concerns of average Canadians. Its recommendations and work seemed to come out of some academic legal nirvana in which the recommendations were made on behalf of the people of Canada because, in all honesty, as the people formerly of the law commission would probably rightly determine, the Canadian people do not really have the wherewithal to make up their own minds and make reasonable choices about how the justice system in Canada should operate.

At its elimination in 1992, the commission had a budget of about $5 million and a staff of about 30. That was a lot of money. Now the Liberal government wants to revive this law commission. It has set a budget with a benchmark of about $3 million a year. It says the money will come from existing government resources. Anyone who believes that tale I honestly think believes in the tooth fairy; a wilder belief is maybe the Liberal government will some day get its spending under control.

The Liberal government is simply adding another level of bureaucracy to government operations. We have seen over and over again commissions with budget overruns like it is the natural thing to do.

The Canadian people have no reason to believe this commission will not be independent. It will not be accountable to the government except to the wishes of the Minister of Justice.

My hon. friend from Calgary North spoke earlier about this so-called independence. She pointed out very clearly how this commission would operate. There is no doubt the terms of reference for setting up this commission will be at the absolute direction of the Minister of Justice. Despite what the Liberals have said there is no substantive evidence to back up the claim that this will be a truly independent body. We have no reason to believe that. The Canadian people have no reason to believe that.

We have seen how the Minister of Justice operates. We have seen what he does when he wants to give some sort of credence to some of the ludicrous bills he has introduced. He goes out in the field and gathers together some of his political friends who happen to form associations and he gets them to back him up on his decisions.

The Canadian public is not buying that any more. The Minister of Justice now wants to give some extra support to some of the decisions by setting up the law commission. He will then stand in the House and present a bill without any reality of what the Canadian people believe. He is going to present the bill. He will stand up and say: "I would like to inform the House that the law commission has recommended that this reform be made to the criminal justice system". Recommended. I have every reason to believe that the law commission will simply be a rubber stamp for the Minister of Justice. It is a very dangerous situation for this House of Commons and for the criminal justice system in Canada.

The bill will permit the governor in council to appoint-and how many times have we heard that word-a president and four other commissioners and an advisory council consisting of 24 members. I have every reason to believe that every single member of the law commission will be a card carrying member of the Liberal Party of Canada. There is no possible way that a law commission set up by this government, by appointment of the Minister of Justice, can be independent.

There is no doubt that more Liberal appointees will be feathering their nests at the expense of taxpayers. The Liberal government knows that it will have to fight an election in two years. The Liberals want to keep their friends; it is only natural.

The justice system in Canada cannot afford to have a rubber stamp law commission which is held up as an advisory board to help the Minister of Justice put through the law reforms his cappuccino friends in Toronto want. We cannot afford that.

I doubt that when the commission is set up the justice department's budget will be reduced by an appropriate amount. I would like to be able to look into the future to see whether the justice department's budget will be reduced by $3 million. I do not believe the figure of $3 million, but I would like to see the reduction. I do not think it can happen.

If the Liberals have proved anything, it is the ability to mismanage taxpayers' money. Whenever I start talking about Liberals and budgets, I have to remind Canadians that using the Liberals' numbers of 1993, in their term of office the national debt will increase by $100 billion to some $650 billion. The interest payments will rise by some $10 billion to around $55 billion. This is ample evidence that Liberals do not know how to manage money. This gives more credence to the fact that I doubt very much the budget of the Department of Justice will be reduced by the amount which will be spent to finance the law commission.

There is no compelling reason to re-establish the law commission. Law reform is possible without the creation of another government agency which will be supported by Canadian taxpayers. As I stated earlier, the commission will be nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Minister of Justice. No doubt he is desperately seeking some official body to back up his autocratic decisions on gun control and the death penalty. What better way to save his image than to spend $3 million a year to establish a panel of yes people beholden to the Minister of Justice, prepared to put forward or support his personal decisions?

We should be getting our spending under control some day, but most definitely it will not be within the term of office of this government. Consider that the commissioners, the president, the board of advisers are going to be appointed by this government, by the Minister of Justice himself no doubt-

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11:20 a.m.


Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

That is the only job creation they know.

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11:20 a.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, could this possibly be part of the new Liberal job creation program? I thank my hon. colleague for bringing that to mind.

The commissioners' work can in fact be done in the private sector. I would like to suggest that more average Canadians be involved when it comes to making reforms in the justice system. The hon. member for Calgary North offered the services of the Reform Party of Canada free of charge to the government. We would not charge $3 million; we would work for nothing on this.

If the Reform Party were part of this commission for nothing, at no charge, it would be possible to have a truly independent body at no cost to the government and no cost to the taxpayers. We would pick 24 Reformers out of here and we would form the commission at no charge. We would give input to the Minister of Justice which truly represented the views of the Canadian people, not the views which come from his friends in Toronto. They would be views that were representative of the Canadian people all across the country.

There have certainly been enough questions raised lately about just how Canada's criminal justice system is supposed to work. There have been many instances. There are cases out in B.C. recently where a band of militant natives held the RCMP at bay for a number of days. The people in B.C. were saying: "My God, what is going on when people can draw arms against our country and hold a whole province and the national police force at ransom with seeming impugnity?" We saw the same thing at Ipperwash.

We see serious criminals who have committed violent acts being let out on parole and day passes and for what reason? For reasons that just boggle the mind of the average Canadian, only to have criminals go out and kill, rape and maim again.

These are the concerns on the minds of the Canadian people, not some airy-fairy ideas that come from the minister's friends in Toronto. These concerns come from average Canadians. These concerns are not going to be addressed by the people he appoints to the law commission. They will be there only to do his bidding and not the bidding of the Canadian people.

Mr. Speaker, you can probably imagine that I do not support this bill either. In confusion, in conclusion-