House of Commons Hansard #154 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was guns.


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4:45 p.m.


Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague give his speech and I have a couple of questions I would like to ask him.

Regarding the numbers and stats, how far did you go in trying to find this information? Were you able to get this information from the Minister of Justice or his department? Also, with you living in a rural area how long would it take for the police to respond?

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4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

We use the word "you" so often that somehow there is sort of a dialogue going on between the two of you while the rest of us are attentively waiting to get involved. I certainly do not want to be forgotten or left out. Please, through the Speaker.

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4:45 p.m.


Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly do not want to forget about you either.

Through you, Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member how long it would take the police force to respond to his home in case of an emergency if he was to dial 911 like we normally can in most cities?

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4:50 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his questions.

As I indicated in my speech, it is simply not possible for our police to get there on time. If we talk to the policemen one on one they readily admit this.

Statistics clearly indicate, unfortunately, that the vast majority of times when police are responding to a crime, by the time they get there the crime has already taken place. Their job is to try to investigate and hopefully apprehend the criminal. That is the job and the duty of the police in most cases. On rare occasions they can intervene in time to save someone from assault, rape or murder, but it does not happen very often.

In my case, because I live outside of town, I suggest it would probably take in the neighbourhood of half an hour for the police to get there if someone was breaking into my home. We see increasing evidence across the country that citizens are concerned. There is increasing evidence of home invasions, where young hoodlums break into homes, often targeting the elderly. They break into these homes for no apparent reason. Many times the people are at home and they have no means to defend themselves.

I guess the answer to my hon. friend's question is that it would probably take about half an hour before the police could respond to a break-in in my home.

As to how much effort I have made to try to get statistics from the government, I referred in my speech to the fact that last June I asked a question during question period of the minister requesting the statistical evidence to prove how even the existing gun controls under Bill C-17, without registration, were working to prevent crime, to bring down the levels of violent crime and the criminal misuse of firearms. Nothing was forthcoming.

On October 28, 1994 I placed a question on the Order Paper. I could read it but it is quite lengthy. It consists of seven specific questions that ask the government to provide proof to us, and to the Canadian people, how legal firearms pertain to crime in the country.

I will refer to one of the questions, which is part (c) of Question No. 96. In that question I was referring to section 85 of the Criminal Code, which is already in force. The question is as follows: "How many of those charged with this offence were the legally registered owner of the firearm used in the commission or attempted commission of the crime?" It is a very simple, straightforward question asking for statistical evidence.

What was provided after three months, not 45 days, was the following answer:

The Uniform Crime Reporting Survey-

which comes from StatsCan:

-does not collect information which can distinguish the number of criminal offences which have been committed with the use of legal firearms. Prior to 1992 the Homicide Survey collected data on registered and non-registered firearms, but because this information was grossly under-reported (90 per cent unknown) the data are no longer collected.

That is the best the government could provide to me in the way of statistics to show that legally owned firearms have anything to do with curbing crime.

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4:50 p.m.


Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, the people of northern Ontario have a culture that is unique, and part of our culture is hunting and fishing. My riding of Nickel Belt is a rural riding. I probably have more hunters and fisherpersons than most of the Reform members.

I support this legislation and I have supported registration since we began to speak about it. As a matter of fact, during the campaign we had 12 debates and I made it very clear that our policy was to fight crime. We have presented legislation which will fight crime.

Part of this bill deals with the smuggling, the importing, of arms. It is a very important part of this legislation.

The next package that will be coming is sentencing. The Reform Party would like to throw everybody in jail and throw away the key. That is not the way we want to run the country. Probation is a very important issue for the government. The Young Offenders Act is very important as is the gun bill or the gun and rifle registration.

How can a government that is serious about fighting crime, a government that is responding to requests from Canadians from all over to combat crime, a government that wants credibility say: "We will look at importation and smuggling. We will look at sentencing. We will look at probation. We will look at family violence. We will look at the Young Offenders Act but we will not talk about guns or rifles. We will not talk about this".

How can any politician have credibility and say, we will fight crime but we will not talk about the weapons that kill people?

I intentionally prepared this speech not wanting to use statistics. The reason I am not using statistics is that I do not have to stand in the House to convince my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois. Very seldom can I stand and say that I agree with what they are doing. They agree with this bill.

Even though its members want to leave our country-they will not leave-they have the good sense, they have the wisdom and they care enough to want to leave behind a country that is safe, a country that continues to be the envy of the world. In the end that is why they will not leave. They will stay with us and feel good about having supported this legislation.

I will not spend too much time referring to the Reform Party because it is very clear that its view of Canada and my view of Canada differs immensely. I would not spend valuable time in the House trying to compare the views of these individuals who do not care who has guns, who do not care how many guns there are, who do not care what kind of guns they are, who want to throw everybody in jail, who say: "Hang them. Bring back capital punishment if you want to eliminate crime".

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4:55 p.m.

An hon. member

Good idea.

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4:55 p.m.


Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

"Good idea", he says. Do all these things. One thing we never hear is "do it with compassion". Talk about the individuals. Talk about the families of criminals, because they are victims also. If we do not deal with people everything is so simple.

When I have a discussion with a group it really scares me when one individual in the group has all the answers, when one individual for any problem that one can present has a solution. It is usually a very simplistic solution. I get my share of hearing simplistic solutions when I listen to the Reform Party address the House.

The people representing Canadians on all sides of the House have worked for years to make Canada a safe country, a safe society, a place where people want to emigrate to and contribute to and create wealth.

My two sons are married and I am very proud of that. They married last summer. The next step will be grandchildren. I look forward to it. I spoke so proudly a few minutes ago about northern Ontario and Nickel Belt but there are things that I am concerned about for my grandchildren.

I have brought a newspaper article. I have them by the dozen in my riding. "Former boyfriend shoots single mom then commits suicide in apartment". That was in my riding and there are a number of them.

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5 p.m.


Herb Grubel Reform Capilano—Howe Sound, BC

It was a handgun.

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5 p.m.


Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

I hear remarks. This does not affect individuals who care not about people but it affects me that this young woman was shot and killed. It affects me that every six days it happens in Canada. When we say it, we hear silly remarks from individuals who do not care about people. They ask whether the gun was registered. If it was registered, would it make it okay? No, that is not the issue.

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5 p.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

That is the question.

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5 p.m.


Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

That is not the issue. The issue is that for a number of years in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada you could buy guns if you owned an FAC. If you did not own an FAC you could not buy guns. That is fine.

What has been happening is that people are starting to think differently about guns. I come from a culture where there was a gun on the wall. It came from dad, a beautiful short .22, a masterpiece. We all wanted to inherit it.

The issue is that people are tired of guns. People who do not use them say that it is too cumbersome and too much trouble to own rifles. They want to get rid of them, have them taken off their hands. Someone with an FAC could take it off the owner's hands for 20 bucks. The person with the FAC bought it, legitimately and legally. The result of that is there are people in my riding who own 250 and 300 rifles legitimately and they are not registered.

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5 p.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

So what?

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5 p.m.


Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

The so what is that come June, junior boy or girl graduates from high school and throws a party. There are 300 people in that house and a fight breaks loose. Members are laughing. We are talking about possible victims and they are laughing. When the fight breaks out and the police are called they say: "Give us a break. Give us a chance. Before we knock on that door we want to know if there are 300 guns downstairs". And these members laugh.

This legislation is just a small piece of a large puzzle. All members of Parliament take their jobs seriously, even my colleagues from the Reform Party. I know they take their jobs seriously. I do not think their motives are correct, but I think they believe in them so they are doing the best they can.

I take this very seriously. Gun control is very serious. Guns are serious. However it is not the most pressing problem in my life. I want to deal with this, I want to pass it and I want to get it done.

Then I want to move on to senior citizens who are losing their ability to support themselves, some of whom are lonely and addicts dying alone. I want to deal with people who cannot find jobs. I want to deal with children who go to school in the morning with cramps in their bellies because they do not have food. I want to move on. When we deal with these issues I hope my colleagues will have the same vigour they have when they take so much pleasure in talking about guns. What a fun thing to talk about.

I want to deal with family violence. I want to deal with the deficit. I want to deal with the debt. For Canadians to be part of a democracy, if the price they have to pay is to register their guns and their long arms then I am prepared to do it. I will be the first to line up to register mine.

Reform members say that registration will not eliminate all serious crimes so we should not do anything about it. They do not worry about how many guns people have. They do not worry about the kinds.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police say that we need gun registration. The police association says: "We support registration. Help us do our job". The Reform Party says: "They do not know what they are talking about". The police officers want it. Their associations do too.

The Reform Party spoke of motions that were presented by towns and municipalities. The FCM represents all municipalities in this country and it supports this. But the Reform Party says: "They do not know what the heck they are talking about". The list goes on. I will not name them all because it will take up my 20 minutes.

Nobody knows anything about anything, only the few members of Parliament here on the Reform side who do not even agree with the majority of people in their own ridings.

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5:05 p.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

What about the 12,000 people who marched on Ottawa?

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5:05 p.m.


Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Last summer was when the debate first started and I remember full well. It has been a good debate. We have served our constituents well. We have met with them. Many times my constituents were misinformed and they disagreed with me. I met with them anyway and I took my bumps.

Last summer when we met for the first rally, here is what was distributed. It is very interesting that many of the lines that are used in the presentations by the Reform members are lines that are used in the documents of propaganda. It may be a coincidence.

This is how the debate started: "To all firearms owners, the federal Minister of Justice wants to ban all firearms in Canada. Contact your member of Parliament immediately and tell him or her the following: This is unacceptable. Firearm owners are tired of being punished for the acts of criminals. Members of Parliament who advocate gun control or the banning of firearms and ammunition banning are attempting to deceive Canadians into thinking that gun control will prevent or reduce crime. Banning of firearms and gun control will not prevent or reduce

crime. Criminals do not obey laws", and it goes on to talk about polls. When I heard these things at the beginning I said no.

The media called me and asked whether I supported the banning of all guns, arms and long rifles. I said that I did not support that as it is part of our culture. I still have guns. Every year my brothers phone me and ask: "Are you coming hunting with us this year? You have not been hunting with us for a number of years. You are so involved with your politics you never have time to come hunting". But I will go back. Someday I will retire and I will go hunting. I am a legitimate gun owner and I will be the first one lined up to register my guns.

But then there was a debate. People call it a rally. There we were, as we usually say, two against a thousand. But it was two against about 250. It was amazing. The information that came out of that room was scary. When it was over I moved through the hall talking to individuals. I asked one individual: "What is the problem for you?" The answer was: "It is going to cost a lot and it is not going to work". I asked: "If it does not cost a lot and it is an efficient and effective system, can you live with that?" The answer was yes.

Do you know what? One of the organizers stepped in and said: "Do not say that. That is what Hitler did. He registered all guns and then he confiscated them all". That is the fear that was put into them. Some of these people were senior citizens. The reason they were concerned about the cost is because it is difficult for them to make ends meet. These organizers put that fear into their minds. They said: "That is what Hitler did". I heard Hitler's name so many times it was scary.

My answer to them is that in Canada we have more boy scouts and girl guides than we have soldiers, so we cannot go in and confiscate all those guns. We have no intention of doing it and we do not have the capacity to do it.

We kept getting the calls. Getting the calls is very difficult because everyone agrees that we work long hours and it takes time. However, that is the best way to deal with the issue. I would rather get 100 phone calls than meet 100 people in one hall because I know I can give the correct information and mail out documents.

Canadians are reasonable when we pull the individuals away from the people who try to influence their way of thinking. They understand common sense. They tell me that if it is cheap and reasonable, there is no problem and they will register them. That is what is happening and it will be cheap.

We continued the debate and the fear mongering kept happening. Now we are here with a document. We had a document before Christmas which I mailed out to many people. Some people will never agree with anything that is said. Maybe they were former Reform Party candidates, I do not know, but they will never agree. It is impossible to discuss common sense with them. Now we have a document so I am calling them.

If I have a few minutes I call them and say for example: "You are a target shooter and you are the first group I went to see. I went to see you at the range on a Sunday morning". Like the minister, I was impressed at the seriousness of these people and how they are careful to check their members. I remember being asked for a letter of reference for a person who wanted to become a member. They go through the whole thing. It impressed me. That was at the time when it was being said that we would confiscate all these things. The media was saying it and the Reform Party was saying it.

I said to them then: "No. The Liberal Party does not do it to the people; we do it for the people. We are being asked to do it and we will do it for Canadians". Now I call them and I say: "Tell me what the problem is with the bill in the way we have presented it. Does it prevent you from practising your sport?" One of them said: "Well, the .32". I said to him: "No, in the legislation you will find that all guns and rifles that are used in legitimate competitions will be permitted". They had no problem with that.

Some will have a problem. When I go back they will have heard this and they will say: "Ray, you said I would have no problem and I have a problem". I agree that some people will have problems.

Before talking about the collectors, just before I left home I saw a sad thing on TV. I cannot even begin to tell you how many rifles, guns, grenades, rounds of ammunition, launchers and machine guns that someone turned over. The discussion was bringing people out of the woodwork. This was in a private home. It scared the heck out of me. We do not know who the individual is. For all I know, it could be my neighbour. I do not think so but it is somebody's neighbour.

I called the legitimate collectors and asked them if they had a problem. They do not have a problem any more. They have intelligently and reasonably brought their comments to the Minister of Justice either directly or through us and their concerns have been addressed. Their investment can now be sold to other collectors of the same nature and the estate can sell them. Brokers eventually will sell them outside the country, the illegal ones. Eventually they will be gone and I will be glad when they are.

Some people said: "Well this gun came from my great-grandfather". When they told me that I brought it to the attention of the Minister of Justice because I had to agree with them. It is not a gun that will be used even for target shooting. It is just great-grandpa's gun or rifle. It is something that you do not sell, there is no value in that. Now we are going to find a way for people to pass them on.

We are left with registration, the only other problem we can have now. The minister has repeatedly told us today that it will be cheap. It may be free. I am talking about registration. It may be free and will be very reasonable. I am talking about people. I am talking about the gun owners.

It is difficult for the Reform Party to relate that I am talking about individuals. It is talking about the 85 million, because it does not know how to associate an issue with individuals. That is what we are talking about here today. The cost will be very reasonable. It will be efficient.

After we had our discussions, our rallies, the pro-gun groups were still not satisfied. I understand it was because there was so much wrong information going around. On their behalf I asked the justice minister to come to our region to talk to the people who are against him.

As backbenchers they say we do not count in this House and cannot do a thing. We, the backbenchers, were able to ask our Minister of Justice to come to our communities to talk to the people who are working against him. Tell me another country where that happens. That does not even happen in the United States, a democracy. However, in Canada it does because we have a Minister of Justice who cares about people, individuals. He covered six ridings.

It was suggested that we invite four individuals in each riding. I invited the president of the local gun club. I did not try to dodge the issue, did I? I invited the president of the local gun club who was against the legislation and probably still is. I will have to phone him when I get back home.

I invited the president of the fish and game association, who is adamantly against it. He bought a membership in my riding and he was going to the annual meeting in Toronto, and we did not try to stop him or railroad the meeting. We welcomed him. To balance the load, I invited the crown attorney because they meet the victims.

My fourth candidate was Dr. Bota who works in emergency at Sudbury General Hospital. This is the individual who meets the victims, sometimes teenagers who try to commit suicide with these long rifles lying around uncontrolled in their homes. They blow off half their face. He works on them for hours and hours. He saves them and tries to rebuild their features. These young people are still alive. They are discouraged individuals. If we can save one of them, it is worth it. One in a hundred years is worth it.

Let one go. It is just an individual. That is what I am hearing-embarrassing. The hard core individuals said the figures were all wrong in Dr. Bota's study, who had just marked real cases, a real scientific poll.

Canadians have asked us to do something for them. They have asked us to make Canada safe. The women of Sudbury who are walking one night a year to take back the streets that are too dangerous are saying do it.

I say to the minister let us do it fast, in spite of the members from the Reform, because we know the people they represent want us to do it too.

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5:20 p.m.


Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I really do not know what to say about this. Most of what I heard was absolute nonsense.

Not all of what he said was nonsense. He talked about saving one life. An individual told me of this actual account where an elderly couple was driving through the United States. Somehow they got off the turnpike and down two or three miles on to a narrow road. When they ran out of gas, he took a container and tried to get back to the highway. He got lost in the woods and they never saw him again but his wife had some supplies in the motorhome and she was able to live for two weeks. She was saved by a hunter who found her. He saved one life. I agree with my hon. colleague.

There are both sides to this argument and we should recognize both sides. He has certainly taken a shot at the Reformers but he should take a look and save some of his energy in terms of discussing what we stand for and why we are against this bill. He should talk to his own backbench. He should perhaps clean up his own House if he thinks that this bill is absolutely waterproof and bulletproof. Start there.

He told the story about selling his guns to a person who had a FAC. He has over 200 guns. He told about a party and problems arising and the police being called in. It sounded to me as if everyone was going to run for a rifle.

I spent 14 years as a peace officer and I have never heard such nonsense in all my life. Even if that did happen, what difference would it make to the police or anyone else if those firearms were registered? What difference would it make? This is the essential question that we ask.

For those who commit suicide, what difference does it make if the weapons are registered? For women who are shot every six days in this country, what difference does it make? This bill does not attack the cause, domestic disputes. It does not attack the cause of suicides. That is what we are saying ought to be done.

Certainly if registration is going to reduce that, please tell us how because we do not know how. We have as much concern about these matters as anyone in the House. We have sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles. They are not immune to these social problems. We have as much concern about that as anyone across the way.

We ask very simply how will the registration of these 200 firearms have any impact at all? Reduce the suicides. Reduce the domestic occurrences. How will it do that? I did not hear a thing. I never heard a thing that the hon. member said that went anywhere near answering that question.

That is what the common sense people are asking for. I have told the people all across the country where I have met with them that I would be willing to give up my right to own the old weapon that I have locked away if it would reduce the criminal use of firearms.

It is not going to reduce the criminal use of firearms. It is simply not because we know where they are getting them from. He has given evidence of that. The haul that the police made in Vancouver on all of these weapons being smuggled in is evidence.

As a peace officer I know we get about 10 per cent of the infractions that occur. One can multiply that haul by about 90 per cent for the day. We have some understanding of the number of firearms being smuggled into our country.

If statistics and evidence can be submitted to suggest that this will save lives, we have not seen it yet and that is what we are asking for.

Before the hon. member comments on what I have had to say, I would like to point out one glaring error in the statistics which have been given to the House in this debate. In 1977 the Auditor General's report indicated clearly that the reduction in violent crime through the use of firearms was beginning before the legislation came in. The Auditor General said that it was wrong to assume that the total responsibility for the dip which had been reported in the House after the 1977 legislation was brought in was the only cause for the decline because there were causative factors which came to bear prior to that.

I leave that information for the hon. member. I have been in northern Ontario, by invitation, and I welcome him on the campaign trail during the next election if he continues his stand on this issue.

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5:25 p.m.


Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, the challenge is accepted. I will be running in the next election and I will support this bill.

I am here to do a job. I am here to do what is good for Canadians. Unlike my colleagues on the other side, everything that I do in politics is not measured by the number of votes that I will be getting. I am here to do an honest job. I swore an oath. I told people about the way that I do my politics and my politics are done for the good of the people I represent, not to be re-elected.

It is fascinating that people who question every simple statistic presented by reputable companies, who have disputed every poll done by credible, reputable companies are saying show them statistics. We know already they will say they are all wrong, only their statistics apply.

My hon. colleague who asked the question said that he was a police officer and that he had never heard of such hogwash. When I said there were 250 to 300 rifles in some of my constituents' basements, it is because a crime was committed in one of those homes, the wife was killed and suicide occurred. I do not make up these stories. They break us up when we think about them, when we think of their children and their neighbours. It is not hogwash. If that is the type of police officers in his community, I am very pleased he was not a police officer in northern Ontario. I will leave it at that.

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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

We have very little time before we move to the next order of business at 5:30. I will take a question from the hon. member for Red Deer, but wanting to give an equal amount of time to the hon. member for Nickel Belt to respond, I hope that the intervention will be brief in order that he may give a brief response.

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5:25 p.m.


Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will make my question very brief. I will not try to answer or discuss any of the claims which have been made. However, what I would like to do-and you know the facility that I am talking about in central Alberta, between Edmonton and Calgary-is challenge the minister to stand in front of the thousands of people who would come out to hear the facts about this whole gun control legislation and tell them why they should vote for it. That is an open challenge to the minister to come to tell the people the facts. There will be thousands.

I just brought down a petition which had 5,000 signatures. That gives us an idea of the interest which exists. These people want to hear answers, they want the truth and they want the facts.

I challenge the minister to take me up on that.

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5:25 p.m.


Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, the justice minister travelled to Alberta on at least five occasions. Possibly the hon. member opposite was misled when I said that, as a back-bencher, I had asked the minister to come and visit my riding. I think he heard somehow that I was the Minister of Justice. He heard wrong. Mr. Rock is the Minister of Justice and I am the back-bencher.

I would like to address the first question, as I am told it was not answered. How will registration help reduce crime? Already, I have widows phoning me to say: "I have rifles here and I do not know what to do. Can you help?" Already, people in my riding are starting to say: "We have rifles at home and we want to get rid of them."

People who own between 200 and 300 rifles will take them out, women will make sure that men get rid of rifles, and vice versa, and the problem will be solved.

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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

moved that Bill C-263, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act and other acts in consequence thereof (exempted crown corporations), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, the message was loud and clear to every member of Parliament during the last election. Our constituents demanded accountability.

All members of the House were asked by their constituents to come to Ottawa to work toward solutions to the debt problem facing our nation. I am sure all hon. members would agree that as elected representatives of the people we ought to work toward ensuring accountability in every activity of the federal government.

The Canadian people want us to provide the means by which we can all come to trust the government. When it concerns government programs my constituents, and I am sure many MPs feel the same way, are very inquisitive. They are like investigative reporters. They use the five w s: who, what, when, where, why and all the time when it comes to government programs they ask how much it is going to cost. The people of Canada want to know. They want to be proud of the activities and the performance of the federal government.

Bill C-263 provides all members of the House with an opportunity to say to their constituents that at least in some small way we have come together to work toward ensuring that the federal government is accountable to the Canadian taxpayer.

I feel strongly that members from all sides of the House should rally in support of Bill C-263 so that we can honestly say we have tried to respond to the wishes of the people who sent us here.

Bill C-263 is not all encompassing, dictatorial, unable to change or restrictive. Bill C-263 is flexible. I have tried to provide an occasion for all corners of the House to work together and at the end of the day five crown corporations will be more accountable. We will all feel as though we have done a good day's work and proudly report to our constituents what we have done. Our constituents in turn will take note of our work and they will feel we are serious about doing positive and constructive work.

As members know, in the 1993-94 fiscal year crown corporations incurred losses of $57.2 million. Their net borrowing from the Government of Canada amounted to $14.2 billion and they received $4.6 billion from the government through budgetary appropriations.

We say $1 billion so often it just floats by. How much is $1 billion? It is such a massive amount. If you earned $1 per second you would be a millionaire in 11 days; but it would take you 33 years to become a billionaire.

When we are talking of billions of dollars it is very important that we do not just flash by it very quickly and not understand how large a sum of money it is. Our task is to ensure for our constituents that every government department and agency be accountable for every tax dollar spent. I dare say that everyone in the House wants to be able to say to the people at home that we are responsible to the people who ultimately pay the bills, the Canadian taxpayer.

On those occasions when constituents ask us why it is that certain public corporations do not report their financial status, members have no satisfactory response. The average Canadian wants to know about all federal agencies and departments.

When constituents hear about an activity financed by the government and they are not allowed to know about the finances associated with that activity, they become quite interested. They are concerned that maybe there is something to hide.

The Auditor General has a key role to play in this regard. In many cases, which I will refer to in a moment, the Auditor General has not only made available publicly the exact facts and figures concerning the activities and performance of the federal government, but the Auditor General has been able to improve such activities and performance levels by dissecting and evaluating agencies and departments.

There is no shame involved in the work performed by the Auditor General. The auditor's detection of poor performance and recommendations is seen by Canadians as routine and expected. Canadian firms, large and small, perform audits on their own activities and performance. Often the audits show that they are right on track with their objectives. And sometimes they must swallow tough medicine to cure ailments detected in their business audits. This is a fact of life. Canadians expect their government to follow good business practices as well.

No one can deny the performance of the Auditor General in recent history. Progress has been made. The Auditor General has

the power to follow up on recommendations. The result has been that in many cases Canadians are realizing better value for their tax dollars because of the efforts of the Office of the Auditor General.

In May 1994 the members of this place took a step closer to greater accountability by freeing the Office of the Auditor General to report on matters which the auditor deems pressing. Members of the House have already moved in the direction of Bill C-263, by endowing the Auditor General with a measure of discretion. In fact, there was a great deal of agreement on all sides of the House. We saw this as a good thing, a chance that would enhance the Auditor General's ability to do the job expected of the office.

Canadians want their watchdog to have a long enough leash. We all wanted to further empower the watchdog last spring, and I am sure I speak for all of us when I say we were proud to do so.

With reforms instituted in 1984, most crown corporations have operated within the accountability framework established under part X of the Financial Administration Act. Part X of the act requires each crown corporation to do three things:

There must be an annual report. The annual report in addition to its financial statements in the auditor's report also presents information on how well the objectives of corporations were achieved during the reporting period. Crown corporations must submit a corporate plan. They must submit budget summaries for tabling in Parliament.

In my view, these requirements are basic and simple. They are not unreasonable. Yet we have a system where all crown corporations are not required to do these basics.

Canadians expect that their tax dollars are spent within this framework of accountability. Again, when Canadians hear of moneys being spent by the government without the above criteria, they become suspicious. There is good reason for Canadians to feel this way. The Financial Administration Act could be easily made applicable to the crown corporations listed in Bill C-263.

There are 49 crown corporations, seven of which are exempted from the Financial Administration Act. They are the Bank of Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Canada Council, the Canadian Film Development Corporation, also known as Telefilm Canada, the Canadian Wheat Board, the International Development Research Centre and the National Arts Centre. Bill C-263 would move these crown corporations under the supervision of the Auditor General with the exception of the Bank of Canada and the CBC.

With respect to the Bank of Canada, central banking independence is critical for the proper conduct of monetary policy. Monetary policy is ultimately the responsibility of the federal government, specifically the Minister of Finance and the executive of the Bank of Canada. There are informal avenues of accountability to which the governor of the Bank of Canada is subject.

With respect to the CBC, provisions of the Financial Administration Act were incorporated into the Broadcasting Act in 1991. In short, the CBC is already subject to the accountability requirements of Bill C-263 and the Financial Administration Act.

This latter point is important for all members to note. The CBC is the recipient of about 70 per cent of government funding provided to exempt crown corporations. This means that Bill C-263 is finishing the job already accomplished by Parliament. Since 1991, the CBC has adjusted to the accountability requirements of part X of the Financial Administration Act.

Hon. members may agree with my observation that the CBC, more than any other exempt crown corporation in Bill C-263, was most insistent about the idea of the critical importance of an arm's length relationship to government. Yet the CBC has not had any of the difficulties that it anticipated in adapting to these accountability requirements. The CBC has been operating within this framework for the past four years.

I can remind my colleagues that the Auditor General already performs financial audits on the five crown corporations in this bill. These audits do not permit the Auditor General to comment on the appropriateness of the activities of the five nor is the auditor able to comment on the extent to which each fulfils its mandate. As it stands now these are not value for money audits.

Value for money audits are done every five years. They are different from the annual audits in that they comment on corporate management, goals and objectives. I think it is fair to say that the boards of the exempt corporations should welcome the value for money audits. It is not unthinkable that the board members would look on the audits as helpful to their work as well as a positive accountability measure.

In the course of my work and research concerning this bill, I have stumbled across some very interesting things. For example, I have a letter from Tommy Banks, a member of the Canada Council audit and evaluation committee which he wrote to me shortly after I began working on my bill.

In his letter, Mr. Banks heralds the benefits of special examinations which the Auditor General has been invited to do for the Canada Council every five years since 1986. Mr. Banks

states that "the glaring scrutiny by the Auditor General-is contemplated as an ongoing process". Yet there is no formalization of this process. The problem now is that there is no assurance that these value for money audits will be done in a set time frame with the resulting benefits of regular periodic audits. Clearly a legislated requirement is needed.

It has been 10 years since the accountability framework for crown corporations was established. Exempt corporations have had a decade to review and analyse the effects of the Financial Administration Act on the independence of non-exempt crown corporations. By now it is highly likely that crown corporations exempted from the act would conclude that the Financial Administration Act poses no real threat to them. The CBC is an illustration of this. Provisions of the Financial Administration Act were incorporated into the amended Broadcasting Act of 1991.

The exemption of the seven crown corporations means that they have not been subject to certain provisions that support good management and accountability. As such, their exemption is hard to justify in these times of fiscal restraint. These exempt crown corporations are more than two times more dependent on budgetary appropriations from government as a percentage of total assets than non-exempt corporations and more than four times more dependent on a per employee basis.

I feel it is reasonable to require the five crown corporations to prepare a business plan so that annual reports can allow Canadians to monitor and gauge the performance of the five. There have been some cases where a crown corporation's annual report objectives differ from its business plan objectives.

An example of that is in 1991-92, Telefilm Canada spent 90 per cent of its film funds on projects from Toronto and Montreal. One film of the 24 supported by Telefilm came from western Canada. Moreover, Telefilm spent 41 per cent of its budget that year on French language film and only 2 per cent on the English language film from the west. We know Telefilm has stringent linguistic targets. Having said that, I think hon. members would agree that the objectives of Telefilm were not fulfilled in the business it conducted in 1991-92.

Even though there are provisions for exempt crown corporations to invite the Auditor General to conduct a special examination, the audit itself is only released to their board of directors, not to this place. The problem with making administrative as opposed to legislative arrangements for voluntary audits is that with a change in administration or administrative policy, these agreements may fall apart. Providing the corporations with an option of inviting the Auditor General in to do an audit is just not good enough.

For example, because the National Arts Centre remains one of Canada's most secretive crown corporations, in 1990 the House of Commons communications and culture committee recommended that the Auditor General perform a special examination of the centre. The board's directors jumped at the chance. Yet the process was fudged. The board had problems releasing the report, even though it initially promised to publish the report.

Some 300 days after receiving the report, which the board originally denied receiving, it finally responded. The Ottawa Citizen called the response hilarious. The Auditor General had portrayed the arts centre as an institution that fails to properly define its objectives, plot its future, monitor its expenses and communicate with its board.

In this regard, we can clearly see that inviting the Auditor General to do a special examination or a value for money audit is insufficient. If the Auditor General's office was involved with the corporation on a regular basis, business plan objectives would not deviate from objectives stated in the annual reports.

The benefits are worth the cost of the Auditor General's audit. Reporting is not onerous. It is good management. Value for money audits pay their way.

Another example: In 1992 the Auditor General reported that tax arrangements for foreign affiliates were costing Canadians hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue. Following the report, amendments were made to the rules relating to how foreign affiliates were taxed. This ensured that foreign affiliates paid their fair share.

In 1993 another special examination identified overpayments to CPP and old age security, which were between $120 million and $220 million per year. Following the report, an action plan was tabled with the public accounts committee to stop the problem. The government was able to act and produce an action plan.

You may be wondering if the other 42 non-exempt crown corporations included in the Financial Administration Act have increased their accountability since the introduction in 1984 of the act. In 1993 the Auditor General reported that management of crown corporations has improved because of the requirements for planning, strategy, and cost systems, in short, good management practices.

I think we can all agree that in times of restraint those who spend taxpayers' dollars must be more than ever aware that they are answerable for how they spend those dollars. Since part X of the Financial Administration Act has been so effective for other crown corporations, it seems reasonable that the crown corporations outlined in Bill C-263 are in line as well.

In closing, I would like to quote a statement from the director of the National Arts Centre Corporation board, who is recognizing that improvements were needed in the corporation's financial management. The director said: "Given the limited resources which management has at its disposal, tackling the institutional mentality rooted in two decades of lack of accountability has been a monumental task".

I urge all members of the House to support Bill C-263.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

February 16th, 1995 / 5:50 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today to the bill presented by the hon. member for Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt.

The bill has as its basic purpose the removal of exemption from application of divisions I to IV of part X of the Financial Administration Act for five crown corporations. These are the Canada Council, the Canadian Film Development Corporation, the Canadian Wheat Board, the International Development Research Centre, and the National Arts Centre Corporation.


These corporations, together with the Bank of Canada and the CBC, are exempt under section 85 of the Financial Administration Act. All other crown corporations, which number about 41, are subject to part X of the FAA.

If we study part X, we see that the goal was to provide a more or less standard accountability and control system for all our crown corporations.

The role of Parliament was to hold the government and the crown corporation accountable through the appropriate minister for the public funds allocated to the corporation.

The government's role was seen to be to provide co-ordination, direction, as necessary, and control with the objective of protecting the public's investment and ensuring that public policy objectives are met.

Part X of the Financial Administration Act represents a comprehensive accountability system allowing crown corporations to adopt private sector management systems and practices, while ensuring that government and Parliament exercise certain key approvals.

For example, corporate plans of crown corporations subject to part X require approval annually by the governor in council. As well, the corporation's annual report must be tabled in Parliament. Part X requires that it contain information on how well the corporation has met its objectives.

At the end of each calendar year, the President of the Treasury Board must submit to Parliament his annual report on crown corporations and other corporate interests of Canada. This report contains a section which is audited by the Auditor General and which shows to what extent activity summaries and annual reports are submitted in accordance with established criteria for every minister responsible.

It can be seen from this one example how part X is designed to ensure that not only government but Parliament as well is viewed as integral to a sound accountability and control system for crown corporations.

As previously indicated, certain crown corporations are exempt from this part X system. The grounds for exemption, while not found in any written or formal criteria or regulation, reflect some of the special sensitivities in the relationship between the government and these particular corporations.

For example, the perception of arm's length freedom from government direction and decision which involve awarding grants to juried recipients is viewed as fundamental for the Canada Council. The government should not be seen to be dictating artistic merit as a matter of the politics of the day. Similarly, the mandated freedom for the CBC in areas of programming and journalistic independence led to the provision that this corporation also be exempted from part X.

The remaining exempts, five of which are named in the bill before us today, are subject to the elements of accountability found in their own enabling legislation. For example, all are required to provide annual reports for tabling and for those which are dependent upon government subsidization, they are subject to the annual process and procedures of parliamentary supply.

Bill C-263 contains two additional elements of some concern to me.

The first of these is the provision that employees of the National Arts Centre, the Canada Council and the International Development Research Centre become members of the public service. This is moving in the wrong direction.

Crown corporation employees are, for the most part, not public servants. In fact, the legislation creating the four museums crown corporations specifically states that museum employees are not public servants. We do not want to increase the size of the public service for no good reason.

The second element deals with the concept of agent of the crown status being introduced for these three corporations by the bill. This is a complex legally challenging subject that requires some thought.

I believe the International Development Research Centre was specifically made a non-agent for compelling reasons relating to its mandate and the freedom to choose fields of research of international significance. Agencies should not be arbitrarily invoked under the assumption that it removes autonomy.

Clearly, the experience we have had over the last 10 years indicates that generally there may be merit in bringing other exempts under a modified form of accountability framework

similar to the regime that is now in place for the CBC which is different from some of the others. I can and do support that general principle.

Bill C-263 however, while moving these corporations in the right direction, contains certain fatal flaws which I suggest would preclude my support for it today. I urge hon. members not to support it.

The most serious flaw is that the bill does not recognize the need for a thorough review of the mandates given to these corporations in order to develop an appropriate accountability framework, without the appearance of unjustified political meddling in sectors where a certain level of independence from the government is in the public interest.

For example, part X contains sections which provide for a directive power for government to override decisions taken by crown corporation boards of directors. This could be construed as a fundamental change in the traditional approach of successive governments allowing cultural crown corporations the freedom to engage in decision making affecting artistic merit or research matters. This issue was thoroughly reviewed in the debates and committee hearings on Bill C-24 back in May and June of 1984.

Looking forward, I see merit in exploring better ways to ensure accountability for the crown corporations named in this bill. Subject areas such as auditing, corporate governance, financial management and control, corporate planning, reporting to Parliament and borrowing plans have been very thoroughly addressed in part X of the Financial Administration Act and have resulted in a system which the Auditor General noted is working well. The hon. member acknowledged that in his speech.

This system can probably be further modified to meet the special circumstances of the majority of exempt crown corporations. Whether this is best achieved through a series of initiatives amending existing enabling statutes for each of the named corporations in question requires further study.

I am informed that discussions have already occurred with some of these corporations as to the best way of achieving this.

I have no doubt that additional efforts will be invested to improve the accountability system while giving exempt crown corporations the appropriate level of freedom that Canadians will continue to perceive as being in the public interest.

As this bill stands I cannot support it and do not recommend it to the House.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Richard Bélisle Bloc La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of Bill C-263 is to amend the Financial Administration Act and other acts in consequence thereof.

As you know, these five crown corporations are now exempted from this act. The Financial Administration Act is a very broad law which deals among other things with the running of Treasury Board, public funds, public spending and the public debt.

This act was amended 58 times between 1985 and 1994, an average of once every two months. I will not go as far as saying that there has been a lack of consistency in the Financial Administration Act in the last decade, but the least that can be said is that a flood of legislative amendments were adopted to adjust to a so-called changing environment.

There are currently almost 50 crown corporations in Canada. The overall budget of these corporations is close to $5 billion and together they employ 115,000 people. Their economic impact is therefore considerable.

Although relatively autonomous with regard to their management, these crown corporations are ultimately accountable to Parliament through the minister responsible. These crown corporations' management framework, established in 1984, comes under Part X of the Financial Administration Act.

These crown corporations are accountable; they must submit an annual corporate plan to the minister responsible. They must also submit an operating budget approved by Treasury Board. They must prepare an annual report, that is, the required financial statements and statistical data showing to what extent their goals have been achieved.

Finally, each corporation must conduct internal audits. The corporation's auditor also carries out a special, more comprehensive audit every five years. However, seven corporations are exempted from these legal requirements.

Bill C-263 maintains the exemption granted to the Bank of Canada, which keeps its independence at the management level and may, for example, pursue its monetary policy whatever the government in power.

Bill C-263 also maintains the exemption already enjoyed by the CBC. In any case, the corporation is already subject to the accountability principle-internal and special audits, annual report and corporate plan-through the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Act which reflects the provisions of Part X of the Financial Administration Act.

The ultimate purpose of Bill C-263 is to remove the exemption from accountability for the following five corporations: the International Development Research Centre, the Canadian Wheat Board and three other corporations involved in the arts: the Canada Council, the National Arts Centre Corporation and the Canadian Film Development Corporation.

If this bill were adopted by the House, all five corporations would be subject to the provisions of the act. They are exempted mainly because of the specific nature of their relationship with the government. Parliament has, until now, preferred to maintain the arm's length relationship of these corporations.

In 1991, the auditor general commented that many exempt corporations had voluntarily conformed with the provisions of the act. Half of the exempt corporations had asked for a value for money audit. Many exempt corporations had also established internal audit functions and audit committees within their organizations.

These corporations can be allowed greater flexibility in terms of management control. Extending certain provisions of Part X of the Financial Administration Act to the five corporations mentioned in the bill would not necessarily mean eliminating arm's length position in terms of administrative control.

According to the auditor general, there are a number of ways in which the rules can be standardized to make exempt corporations more accountable. One way would be to incorporate the provisions of Part X of the act in the enabling legislation for each exempted corporation, as in the case of the CBC, which remains accountable to Parliament but maintains a large measure of management autonomy, which means it is not subject to management audits by the government.

One could also add these corporations to the schedule to the Financial Administration Act while exempting them from certain provisions of the act. Many exempt corporations already conform voluntarily to many of the provisions in the act, so that any concerns that overly vigorous management audits would be detrimental to the mandate of these five corporations would seem to be exaggerated.

In any case, we will vote against Bill C-263 because it goes too far in terms of controlling the administration of these corporations. It would subject the five crown corporations identified to close supervision involving both their accountability and their control over their management.

We would prefer a more flexible approach, such as the one advocated by the auditor general, who proposes incorporating the requirements selected by the legislator in the enabling act of each of the five exempted corporations, as is already the case for the CBC, as we have mentioned.

Each corporation will have to be looked at individually, after analysis, to discover the best way to make it accountable and establish a level of control in keeping with its particular goals and mission. We will therefore vote against this bill, because it gives the same status to all government corporations, except the CBC and the Bank of Canada.

We favour ensuring accountability by making these corporations responsible for their operations rather than by controlling them, as Bill C-263 would have it. We want to increase their accountability, make them accountable to Parliament and thus permit a better assessment of their performance. We are opposed to unbounded control over the management of these corporations. Three of them contribute to the development of the arts, the fourth, as we said earlier, contributes to agricultural development, and the fifth contributes to international development.

We can provide a proper framework for their operations and, at the same time, show some flexibility in monitoring their management practices; this can also enhance the performance of these corporations and their efficiency.

We are also opposed to the bill as presented because it gives the minister responsible the right to interfere in the mandate of cultural agencies. Such agencies must be accorded greater flexibility in their activities.

Bill C-263 does not resolve the issue of the accountability of crown corporations since, as the auditor general himself has said, several non-exempt corporations do not comply with this principle of accountability, even if they are subject to it. They do not respect all of the accountability requirements prescribed by law.

This bill increases only slightly the accountability required of crown corporations. It seems to us that other means could be used to hold these crown corporations accountable for their results to a greater extent. This does not mean passing legislation. The auditor general's input can be extremely helpful in evaluating their results. Likewise, the fact senior executives of such corporations must appear before standing House committees, such as the public accounts committee, to account for their management, serves as a powerful incentive to produce the required reports and present documents of higher quality.

We favour this type of approach since it seems more effective to us than new legislation.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Before the member proceeds with his intervention, on the basis that the mover of the motion spoke to his motion and the next two interventions were

against the motion, I am going to look to the same party as the mover and possibly he will speak to the motion.