House of Commons Hansard #190 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-43.


Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Ottawa South Ontario


John Manley LiberalMinister of Industry

moved that Bill C-43, an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act and to make related amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak today at the third reading stage of Bill C-43, an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act. As the House knows, the government made this bill an important part of its broader strategy aimed at restoring confidence in its integrity.

Bill C-43 was one of the measures proposed by the Prime Minister last June so we could keep our red book promises. Hon. members will remember that, on the very day this bill was read the first time, the Prime Minister announced in the House the appointment of the first ethics counsellor in Canada, whose mandate is to administer a revised, more comprehensive conflict of interest code.

The Prime Minister also announced that he wanted someone he could consult on conflicts of interest and ethics. The ethics counsellor deals with ethics issues within the government. Bill C-43 proposes that the ethics counsellor be entrusted with more responsibilities. He would be responsible, among other things, for developing a lobbyists' code of conduct and would be given considerable powers to investigate alleged breaches. In other words, this code would provide for outside supervision of lobbyists' activities.

As the Prime Minister stated, by combining these functions, the ethics counsellor would be better able to monitor the situation, because he would have real powers allowing him to conduct in-depth investigations.

Another measure introduced last June dealt with federal contracting policy. This was modified to prohibit the use of contingency fees for lobbying on all government contracts, grants and contributions.

The Prime Minister told the House that a code of conduct for members of Parliament and senators would be created. It is the intention of the government to soon strike a special joint committee to begin this important work. As recently indicated by the House leader, a motion to establish a special joint committee will be presented within the next several days.

These steps are in keeping with the promises the Liberal Party made to Canadians in the general election of 1993. We told Canadians that we would restore trust and confidence in the decision making process. What is more, we promised in the red book that a Liberal government would give members of Parliament a greater role in drafting legislation through House of Commons committees.

That is why I am doubly proud of the legislation before us today. It represents a fulfilment of our promise to Canadians not only with respect to the content of the bill but also to the process by which these amendments to the Lobbyists Registration Act were brought about. I would particularly like to congratulate the hon. member for Fundy-Royal for the leadership he demonstrated as chairman of the industry subcommittee that dealt with the bill.

The bill before us provides Canada with the most far reaching lobbyist registration laws in the world. For example, the U.S. federal law on lobbying disclosure dates from 1946 and covers only senators and members of the House of Representatives. Congress unsuccessfully attempted last year to bring the legislation up to date, to include the executive branch and congressional staff.

No legislative provisions for lobbying disclosure exist in the U.K. or in the European Parliament. There is only a listing of association representatives who lobby the German government.

The legislation was referred to the subcommittee before second reading, before the House voted to approve the bill in principle. Therefore, the hon. member for Fundy-Royal and his colleagues had a very real say in amending the bill. They enjoyed a flexibility that I believe will become a hallmark of many committees studying legislation in the years to come.

All in all, committee members made 13 improvements. I want to congratulate them on the great precedent they created by working under the new system. Their work has resulted in a much better bill and a committee report which is a first, just like the parliamentary process it stemmed from.

This report describes the process that led to the amendments being made. It also contains minority reports stating dissenting opinions on certain issues.

I am very pleased to announce that under Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons, the government will be tabling today its comprehensive response to the committee's report "Rebuilding Trust". The government was pleased to be able to accept all of the amendments proposed by the committee as well as its recommendations. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the committee and its members on the excellent work they have done.

The committee made important improvements to all parts of the bill: the disclosure requirements, the lobbyists code of conduct, the ethics counsellor's reports, the registration system and enforcement. Let me provide the House with a few examples from each category.

With respect to the first broad area, namely information to be disclosed in returns, the committee considered thoroughly and at length the issue of grassroots lobbying campaigns, where a large number of members of the public may be persuaded to send letters or make telephone calls.

Such campaigns are sometimes organized by lobbyists. Under Bill C-43 as amended, lobbyists will be required to indicate if they used or expect to use grassroots communication in an attempt to influence the government.

As I mentioned a few moments ago, under changes made to federal procurement rules last spring, lobbyists are not permitted to charge contingency fees when lobbying for federal government contracts, grants and and contributions. Under Bill C-43 amendments, consultant lobbyists will have to indicate if they are paid on a contingency fee basis for all other types of lobbying. As well, any organization that lobbies the government will have to reveal the sources and amounts of funding from any government.

Two further amendments proposed by the Reform Party were made to the bill at report stage. The hon. member for Elk Island moved that government funding of clients of consultant lobbyists as well as corporations also be disclosed. I am personally very pleased to see these additional improvements to the bill.

The second broad area of amendments made by the committee involves the lobbyists' code of conduct. Bill C-43 mandates the ethics counsellor to develop a code for those who deal with the government. Under the amended bill, the code of conduct will be reviewed by a committee of the House before it becomes effective.

As well, it will now be mandatory for lobbyists to comply with the code. The ethics counsellor will be required, rather than just empowered, to investigate breaches of the code. He will act independently in deciding whether to investigate and his report will be tabled in Parliament.

The ethics counsellor's reports are the third broad area where improvements have been made to the bill. In the report of an investigation into a breach of the code of conduct the ethics counsellor will have the power to disclose information on fees and disbursements associated with any lobbying activity, not just government contracts.

A further amendment requires that the ethics counsellor's report of an investigation include his findings, conclusions and reasons.

The ethics counsellor will submit to the House a separate annual report on his or her activities regarding lobbying.

I would like to take a moment to clear up what appears to be some confusion about the ethics counsellor's reports. The ethics counsellor must report on every investigation and must also make an annual report. These reports must be submitted to the registrar general. Then the registrar general must, and I quote from the bill, cause a copy to be laid before each House of Parliament on any of the first 15 sitting days after it is received. There is no discretion in the tabling of the report whatsoever. All of the ethics counsellor's reports will be submitted in their entirety to both Houses of Parliament and those concerning investigations must provide details on the findings, conclusions and reasons.

The fourth broad area involves improvements to the registration process. Bill C-43 recognizes the importance of maintaining an active exchange and dialogue between Canadians and their government. Formal government initiated consultations will be exempted from the activities triggering the need to register as a lobbyist. This exemption responds to many associations' concerns that if they had to register each time they were consulted by government they would spend all their time on paperwork. The committee was aware that the exemption should

not be so wide that it defeats the very purpose of the Lobbyists Registration Act.

I have heard some fairly ridiculous comments from the opposition on this point. What needs to be understood is that we need to strike the appropriate balance. The notion proposed by some members opposite that this meant a phone call returned by a public official was not lobbying is ridiculous and simply is not sustainable by the wording of the bill. The exemption applies to those consultations frequently initiated by government to ensure that in proceeding on legislation it has received the views of stakeholders from all parts of Canadian society, a practice which is not only normal but which should be welcomed by members of Parliament, opposition and government alike.

Its report says the registrar should issue an interpretation bulletin to precisely define these circumstances. As well, the registrar will have the authority to issue interpretation bulletins to clear up any other questions as they arise. Therefore the more extreme examples proposed by the opposition, which might lead to the act not being applied as it was intended, can be taken care of through the simple administrative exercise of issuing interpretation bulletins to cover the cases in point.

The 30-day updating requirement has been changed to six-month filings for associations. This will reduce the paperwork for these organizations, given their lobbying goals do not change much over the course of a year. Furthermore, electronic filing will be available and will improve the efficiency of the registration process both for lobbyists and the registrar.

Finally, changes have been made to improve the enforcement of the act. The registrar will have the authority to conduct random checks of the information in the registry, and the limitation of proceedings under the act has been extended from six months to two years.

I am sure that all the hon. members will agree with the Prime Minister and myself that we need to restore public confidence in our institution.

This confidence is essential, if we want our efforts to redirect and redesign the role of government to be successful.

In all of these matters what I think Canadians and parliamentarians need to preoccupy themselves with is the existence of due process and rule of law.

If we are truly concerned about the maintenance of respect for our institutions, parliamentary, judicial or otherwise, what we need to ensure is that the processes pursued respecting them are at once transparent and subject to due process.

It is the easiest thing in the world to stand in the House of Commons, protected against the laws of defamation, and impugn the integrity of other individuals, whether members of Parliament, public officials or otherwise. It is impossible to ever remove the doubt that aspersions cast impose on the integrity of an individual.

I say to members opposite that when they tread on the grounds of issues of ethics they look to the questions of process, to the rule of law, because anyone of us at any time may stand accused wrongly. To stand in the House, as we have seen members do in the last few days, and make accusations without foundation, without fact, based on innuendo and circumstance, is to at once impugn the integrity of the people involved as well as to impugn the integrity of these institutions.

Process, rule of law, these are the things that have made this country one in which we are all pleased to live, safe from abuse. This is a case surely we ought to be able to debate. I refer directly here to the issue of satellite broadcasting and the DTH panel report. We surely ought to be able to debate in the House the substance of an issue.

Over the last few days I have seen members opposite try to make this into a case of ethics. Why? For nothing but sheer political expediency without a single fact, without a single issue being raised of any substance whatsoever; shameless casting of aspersions. That is the old politics and that is the way it is has been practised in the House by the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois in the last few days.

I want to refer exactly to this case. It is a demonstration of why process is so important. In the case of DTH satellite broadcasting the government was put in the position that many interested parties were looking for a review of an exemption order issued by the CRTC on August 30 of last year.

Let it be understood the initiation of the review of the policy was a response to clearly articulated interests quite outside those of parties that may or may not benefit. It was made clear to the government by many parties, and events since then have borne that out, that the effect of the August 30 order was the creation of an effective monopoly in this service in Canada.

What was the government to do about that? Within days we announced the policy was subject to review. The order was issued August 30. By September 12 that had been made clear publicly. Major policy is made by government. That is the reason people elect governments, to make policy decisions. It is the responsibility of government to make policy decisions. We would have abrogated our responsibility if we had refused to act, so we did act.

We established a transparent process. We chose three former deputy ministers, non-partisan appointments but truly people whose opinions we would respect; whose capabilities, honesty and integrity had never been questioned. However, members in the House were free to stand and impugn the integrity of persons who were providing a service to the government and to the people of Canada. Without fact and without any information they could stand up and say these people, because they were named to the panel, there is something wrong with them. That should not happen in a democratic society. If it can happen to those three individuals it can happen to me, to you, Mr. Speaker, and to members opposite without facts.

They made a report and nobody on the opposite side of the House has yet offered me a single substantive criticism of the recommendations made. On the contrary, ACTRA, the Canadian conference of the arts, the Canadian Consumers' Association, the Globe and Mail, the Ottawa Citizen , the Toronto Star have all said to adopt the recommendations of the report.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

How does C-43 fix this?

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10:25 a.m.


John Manley Liberal Ottawa South, ON

The hon. member for Elk Island cannot wait for his chance so he is talking away over there. I am trying to answer his questions.

We put this direction on the table in the House of Commons on Wednesday. It launches a process. Throughout this every step of the way we have followed the principles of transparency and legislated authority. The authority to issue a direction is clearly established in the Broadcasting Act. It has a process attached to it. That is the rule of law. It is open and transparent.

I invite members opposite to criticize the content of the direction and the expert panel report. Instead, repeatedly they choose to cast aspersions and raise innuendo about integrity.

This bill is about ethics, lobbyists and transparency. It creates principles by which government can function in a real world. I do not understand the notion that governments should exclude all outside influences.

Some of the proposals put before us both in committee and in the House would have the effect of ensuring that no official or minister would ever talk to anyone outside government. It would create a freeze in the kind of dialogue and openness that ought to exist in a free and democratic society.

The bill is about creating the appropriate balance. If we start from the presumption, as I believe some members opposite have done, that all officials, all elected representatives and all ministers are likely to be dishonest then the bill will surely prove inadequate. The government does not start with that assumption.

The government starts with the assumption that virtually all public officials are honest and motivated to do the things in the best interest of the country.

One of the things Canadians sometimes fail to appreciate enough is that many businesses that speak to me about their efforts to trade around the world tell me that throughout the world countries like Canada which have a political and bureaucratic system almost entirely free of corruption are very rare. This is something we have for which we should be eminently grateful. The purpose of this bill is to try to ensure that at the same time as preserving and protecting the fundamental honesty of our government system, we are also recognizing the fact that government needs to be open in a democratic society. People need to be able to consult and to contact their government.

It also operates on the assumption that all lobbying is therefore not bad, that lobbyists are not evil people. Some members opposite think that word just by its very nature has a negative connotation. In listening to some of the debate, I think in some cases they would like to eliminate lobbyists. That is fine and dandy for the large corporations, because they can always find other ways to get their messages across. But for the small firm, say in Saskatoon, that cannot have ready access to government in Ottawa or wherever, it is sometimes necessary to get professional advice and assistance. It is a useful function. As I said, often governments need to consult.

Having an open system requires achieving the right balance. This bill is about balance. It is about achieving the proper equilibrium. If we do not want any lobbyists at all, I am quite prepared to admit that the bill does not go far enough, because it does not outlaw lobbying. But it is intended to ensure that the activities of lobbyists are sufficiently transparent to assure the integrity of our system and yet do not impose upon officials or bureaucrats obligations that are so onerous that they would rather not talk to anybody in the outside world, but just stay in their glass towers here in the city of Ottawa.

Striking a balance is open to debate. Have we erred too far one way or the other? That is a point of legitimate debate. But to suggest at the extreme that we need a process that shuts the system down I think is wrong. I believe we have struck the appropriate balance in this bill.

I think that also pertains to the issues of integrity and honesty. The system must speak for itself. We ought to be trying for transparency and then when issues of integrity or ethics are raised we will have the facts to deal with that.

I implore members of the House of Commons to remember always that today's accuser may tomorrow stand accused. To make accusation without fact, on the basis of circumstance or innuendo, and thereby impugn a person's reputation-which in the final analysis is all that any of us have that is worth

preserving, our reputations-is something members of the House should be reluctant to do.

I am convinced that members from all parties represented in this House will welcome the legislation before us, which is about to be read the third time.

Bill C-43 is the result of the work of previous committees and the testimony of all the stakeholders. Bill C-43 will improve government transparency.

It will significantly strengthen the powers of the ethics counsellor. But perhaps most important, we have given the elected representatives of Canadians more say in creating the laws that will restore the people's trust and confidence in government.

I hope all members will join me in voting in favour of Bill C-43.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the government announced its intention to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act, we thought that it was sincere. We thought that those who, for almost ten years, took the Conservatives to task about their integrity, their way of doing things and their decision-making processes, would table a bill that would shed some light on what goes on behind the scene in this Parliament.

Yet, on June 16, 1994, when Bill C-43, an Act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act and to make related amendments to other Acts, was tabled, we were forced to change our thinking. The Liberal government, that is those same Liberal members who, in opposition, denounced the cosy deals being hatched in the inner circles of the Conservative regime, now seemed prepared to condone such practices by tabling legislation which contains nothing but good intentions.

We figure that, once the Liberals gained access to the pork barrel, they forgot what they were saying during their days in opposition. This bill has neither teeth nor substance; it is exactly the opposite of what we expected. The credibility of our democratic institutions is currently being questioned by the public. Never, in the short history of our democracy, have public officials been looked upon with such cynicism by voters. Everyone agrees that a climate of confidence must be restored between the governments and the public.

During the last federal election campaign, the Liberal Party of Canada pledged to reform our institutions and make their operations more transparent. In fact, the Liberals' red book, which we hear so much about, contains the following on page 94: "The integrity of government is put into question when there is a perception that the public agenda is set by lobbyists exercising undue influence away from public view".

Unfortunately, once it took office, the Liberal Party considerably watered down its commitments. Such an about face makes the population wonder, and rightly so, how committed the Liberal government really is to bringing in legislation to control influence peddling. When we compare the campaign promises and how they translate into legislation, we can only conclude that the lobbyists undoubtedly determined the final version of Bill C-43 and the resulting reversal of the Liberals' position.

I believe that the first thing a government has to do to restore the integrity of our democratic institutions is to stop buying votes with empty promises. It must also make the administration of the state's affairs more transparent, above all so that we can clear up all grey areas and reassure the population that public policy decisions are made in the public interest and not in the interest of powerful lobbies.

Everybody recognizes the need to restore the public's confidence in our institutions. Unfortunately, after only 18 months in power, the Chrétien government's track record on transparency is dismal. For example, on September 26, 1994, the Canadian press reported that documents obtained under the Access to Information Act showed that, in the months preceding the introduction of Bill C-43, there was a marked increase in the number of meetings with lobbyists and that some of them had threatened to take the government to court if the new legislation forced them to disclose their political ties.

As has often been the case, the lack of transparency in the process kept the public in the dark regarding the scope and the nature of the lobbyists' workings on Bill C-43 until the news hit the press. The daily newspaper La Presse eloquently summed up the situation in its headline on the issue: ``Ottawa's plans to shackle lobbies foiled''. Bizarre situation-lobbyists influencing the very legislation that was supposed to reduce their influence. Given this situation, the need for transparency has never been greater.

One cannot treat the public like a doormat, Mr. Speaker. The public remembers quite clearly the promises made by the Liberals in the red book and elsewhere. Duff Conacher, co-ordinator of the organization Démocratie en surveillance, appeared before the committee to refresh the Liberals' memory regarding their statements on this issue. I know that the members opposite do not like being reminded of some of the things they have said, especially when they are being hypocritical on such an important issue, but I will nevertheless subject them to a quote from this person, who has studied the issue in depth and monitored the government. Mr. Conacher said: "We would like to remind you of those promises and the requirement. We hope you will not

only take the opportunity but also keep those promises and fulfil that requirement in your deliberations on Bill C-43."

There is also a legislative history to be acknowledged. The Cooper committee and the Holtmann committee have preceded you. Both proposed measures that go beyond the provisions in Bill C-43. And now the Liberals are going to brag that they went further than anyone else.

Nevertheless, Bill C-43 does make certain improvements to the system for providing a framework for lobbyists. Of course it was not that difficult to improve the present legislation, since it was so permissive, smart lobbyists could easily get around it.

Government members, however, will have to admit that the commitments of the red book have been vastly watered down and that Bill C-43, in its present form, will be unlikely to prevent such troubling events as those surrounding the privatization of Pearson airport or the "Dupuy affair", both the first and the latest version. We will not be able to find out more with Bill C-43 than we can under the current legislation.

What is worse, Mitchell Sharp-Who is this guy? The senior advisor to the Prime Minister on ethical issues-admitted before the committee that, even if the statute arising from Bill C-43 had been in effect at the time of the negotiations for the privatization of Pearson airport's terminals I and 2, the public would have learned nothing more.

So what use will Bill C-43 be? What use is the statute arising from this bill if we cannot even find out about the administrative irregularities and the scandals around all this? The government drafted Bill C-43 because of certain events, including the Pearson affair. It has drafted a bill that will not give us any additional information. What are they doing? Why do they bother?

What the public has a right to know, legislators and members of this House are unable to tell them because of the government's attitude and the attitude of the Minister of Industry.

The public has the right to know, for instance, who influences the government, who in government is being influenced, why, and especially, for how much. The Liberals are denying the people's, the taxpayers' legitimate and democratic right to know.

The official opposition has been diligent. We were on the alert. The opposition was quick to condemn the Liberals' lack of courage in their proposals for providing a framework for lobbyists' activities and for ensuring the greatest possible openness in the administration of government affairs. I imagine the Liberals are upset because we were on the alert and did our job as the official opposition.

To try and change the object of this bill, I personally proposed more than 24 amendments in committee, amendments that were motivated only by a concern for transparency. The Minister of Industry ordered his second string to defeat all the amendments moved by the official opposition. I use the term "second string" because the Liberals who were present on Tuesday, March 14 voted against my amendments without being able to explain why.

We reached the height of absurdity when these same Liberals were unable to explain their own cosmetic amendments. It was department officials who explained the Liberals' amendments. Does that not take the cake. I used to know the House jester, I know the Prime Minister's ministerial puppets, now today I get to meet some of the pawns of the Minister of Industry. Nothing in this situation enhances the role of the members of the government.

On Tuesday, April 25, the opposition, again at the report stage, presented over 30 reworded motions in amendment in an effort once again to improve the bill. We were trying once more to give the government the opportunity to amend the bill in order to achieve the objectives that had been set.

All of the amendments were once again defeated by the Liberal government. We have presented over 60 amendments to this bill. They have all been rejected. Sixty amendments have been systematically rejected by the government. The Liberals have therefore said "no" 60 times to transparency. They have said "no" 60 times to government integrity. They have said "no" 60 times to shedding light on the activities of influence peddlers. I will let you draw your own conclusions.

The attitude of the government is incomprehensible, since the aim of the Bloc Quebecois' amendments was, in the end, simply to enable the government to fulfill its own campaign commitments. The Prime Minister in fact reiterated them last June saying that Bill C-43 would give the federal administration unprecedented transparency. Unfortunately, I have to assume that we have had the wool pulled over our eyes. I am not alone in thinking this. Both the francophone and the anglophone press is making this point.

Gilles Lesage, editorial writer for Le Devoir made the following comment a few months ago. I will read it for you: ``The Bloc Quebecois is right in believing that Mr. Manley's bill is watering down hugely the commitments made by the Liberals in their famous red book. Now that they are in power, they must do everything possible to keep their promises. As the opposition is

pointing out, the lobbyists' activities must be better regulated to ensure greater transparency in government decision-making and to ensure that the more fortunate do not have undue access to decision-makers through the actions of the influence peddlers".

In his editorial, Mr. Lesage accurately identified the issue of the bill currently before us. From the time the bill was tabled to when it reached third reading, the government added nothing to give more teeth to the legislation this bill will become.

It simply fussed about, adding cosmetic amendments here and there throughout the bill, without substantially altering the bill in any way.

After it studied the bill, the Bloc Quebecois identified eight major flaws in it and proposed legislative solutions to them. As you know, the government often accuses the official opposition of criticizing without making any constructive suggestions. Yet, as I said earlier, we proposed 60 amendments aimed at improving this bill. These improvements had a very specific goal: to correct the eight flaws in this bill that we had identified very quickly.

I will start by listing these eight flaws, before outlining them in more detail later. The first, very important flaw concerns the ethics counsellor. The other flaws have to do with the types of lobbyists, the requirement to disclose contracts, lobbyists' fees, the contacting of ministers and senior officials, the lobbyists' political ties, coalitions, contingency fees, and tax deductions for lobbyists' fees.

This bill has no avoidance rule or code of conduct for public officials. Finally, this great code of ethics will be practically unenforceable, as I will explain in my last point.

There are eight major shortcomings in Bill C-43, either because it does not go far enough or because it does not even mention the problem.

I could go on for hours about this bill, mostly about the expectations and concerns of taxpayers, because I followed committee proceedings closely, because my mind was not made up before I heard the people's concerns, because my only goal was to answer the questions raised by English Canada and especially by the Quebec people, instead of trying to please the lucky few who can afford to send lobbyists to Parliament Hill by exempting them.

Within the time allocated to me, I will try to explain clearly each of the flaws I identified in this bill. As I said earlier, the first flaw concerns the ethics counsellor. Need I remind the House of the Minister of Canadian Heritage's troubling interference in CRTC business or the Ritter affair involving a senior official at the Department of Health who, while still on the department's payroll, was lobbying his coworkers, trying to sell them on the merits of bovine somatotropin?

Also, when we look at Pearson International Airport, the helicopter acquisition contract, the Augusta affair as well as the recent damning positions taken by the Prime Minister and his cabinet ministers to benefit Power Corporation and, at the same time, the Prime Minister's own son-in-law, when we look at all that and at the government's attitude regarding the heritage minister's quiet trip to Los Angeles to visit Edgar Bronfman, owner of the Seagram Company, one can only wonder and be concerned.

Especially when the Prime Minister does not even consult his ethics counsellor or when he does but systematically refuses to tell us what advice he was given, when he will not tell the elected representatives sitting in this House what his ethics counsellor has recommended.

This deplorable window dressing clearly shows that the ethics counsellor is not independent enough to assume as crucial and fundamental a role as that of transparency watchdog in the federal administration. The Prime Minister probably just wanted to have an extra advisor on his staff. Smoke screens only hide the truth.

This appointment is therefore nothing but a sham to fool the public into believing that the government is actually doing something, taking concrete action to restore integrity in Canadian institutions. In actual fact, the counsellor conducts only secret investigations and accounts only to the Prime Minister. What does that give us, the elected represeantatives? And what does it give the people of Canada? Absolutely nothing.

So, we, in the Bloc Quebecois, believe that ethics, transparency and public confidence in democratic institutions and government management are not matters to be left in the hands of a political party, a government or a Prime Minister, but rather to be decided on by democratic institutions, the House of Commons and the elected representatives of the people.

In that regard, one of the government's star witnesses, Simon Reisman, the president of Ranger Oil Limited, supported the Bloc's views on the subject. Let me quote him because what he told the chair of the committee, who was a Liberal and had to submit a report to the minister, was extremely important. He said: "If we get into the business of a code of ethics to govern the behaviour of the members of this industry, it ought to be kept out of partisan politics as far as you possibly can. I think one good way of doing that is to make the appointment an appointment by Parliament, rather than by the government of the day. You are more likely to get someone more objective. If he is appointed by Parliament, I think he should report to Parliament-which is the recommendation in any event".

And he added: "There is another reason I think he should be reporting to Parliament and should be subject to accountability to Parliament. Members of Parliament, who are elected under a democratic process, have the mandate to legislate and they have the right to review legislation. In our democratic society, they are in the best position to prevent any abuse of power. The ethics counsellor will undoubtedly be a very powerful official". That statement was made by a government star witness, who testified at the committee's request. Yet, nothing in Bill C-43 reflects the recommendations made by that witness.

Do you really think that the ethics counsellor, who will work for the government and look after its interests, will be very powerful? I do not think that this is what taxpayers were hoping for when they heard the Liberals' election promises. An ethics counsellor, sure, but one who has some investigative powers and who is not under the Prime Minister's thumb. This is what the public wanted. What we need is a totally independent ethics counsellor who is accountable to Parliament. This means that he can hold public inquiries and report on his work, on his findings and on the reasons supporting his conclusions to the House of Commons.

I am also very concerned by the fact that Bill C-43 does not delegate any enforcement powers to the ethics counsellor. I fear that the counsellor will end up being like a traffic cop with no authority to give tickets. If you listen to the Liberals these days, you get the impression that they simply want to set up a system which will be administered behind closed doors, so that patronage can still go on without anyone really knowing what is happening. In my mind, that is what is going on right now. Is it not strange that the tabling of Bill C-43 would coincide with such a scandal?

A second flaw, equally significant, shows how the Liberals reversed their position on the tier system for lobbyists. In June 1993, after examining the Lobbyists Registration Act, a committee of the House of Commons recommended eliminating the distinction between first tier and second tier lobbyists. In fact, this was the first recommendation in the Holtmann report. The members who signed this report, including the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, the hon. member for St. Boniface, the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands and the hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood, who were all in the opposition at the time, agreed with the principle of eliminating the tier system. I assume they are not going to deny that. You are not going to deny you signed the Holtmann report. You signed it, and you agreed with its recommendations. Today, those very same members who are now government whip, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue, Deputy Leader of the Government and lastly, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry, are no longer on side.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

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10:55 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

What they said when they were in the opposition is not what they are saying now, and I find this very disturbing.

In fact, they all voted against the amendment I proposed to eliminate all distinctions between lobbyists. I do not understand the Liberal's retreat from their own position and the promises they made during the election campaign. What was not acceptable two years ago is still unacceptable today. Witnesses made this clear to the members of the committee that examined Bill C-43. A lobbyist is a lobbyist, whether they belong to the first, second or third tier. That is why Bill C-43 should provide for only one tier for all lobbyists in Canada.

I imagine this position was not palatable to the lobbyists and the financial backers of the Liberal Party. That is probably the only explanation we have for the current flexible conscience we note among government members.

Another flaw in this bill is its disclosure provisions. Here again, I proposed amending the bill to oblige lobbyists to disclose their real business, the real facts we could then investigate, so that we could see what is going on in this government.

The scandal surrounding Toronto's Pearson airport has amply demonstrated the lax nature of the current disclosure rules. The privatization contract, it will be remembered, was signed in the middle of the 1993 federal election campaign and an inquiry was instituted to shed light on the transaction. The Nixon report was submitted to government on November 29, 1993 and revealed misconduct on the part of the lobbyists, public servants and political assistants. However, the report raised a number of other questions to which we have not obtained answers: Who were the lobbyists who failed to comply with the most elementary rules of ethics? When did these events occur? In what way were their actions either illegal or improper? Bill C-43 will still not give us the answer to these questions.

I see that my time will be interrupted for question period.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Yes, the hon. member for Berthier-Montcalm may continue after question period and routine proceedings. At the resumption of debate on Bill C-43, he will have 15 minutes to complete his remarks.

It being 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 30(5) the House will now proceed to Statements by Members pursuant to Standing Order 31.

Health CareStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Rey D. Pagtakhan Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Reform Party argued in the House that medicare should be partly privatized, allowing user fees.

This calls into question the credibility of its leader who, during the last election, said: "I want to make it absolutely clear that the Reform Party is not promoting private health care, deductibles or user fees".

Canadians are aware of the need to make medicare more efficient, but we cannot surrender its five principles. The challenge is to balance fiscal responsibility with the preservation of medicare, implementing more effective alternative treatment approaches while containing costs.

User fees, like a zombie, should not be resurrected. We cannot have one standard of health for the rich and another for the poor. We cannot allow the Reform Party to drive a stake through the heart of medicare. Instead, let us work together to strengthen, not destroy it. Medicare shall remain the crown jewel of our social programs, reflecting the soul of our nation.

Canadian Advisory Council On The Status Of WomenStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Maud Debien Bloc Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, a number of voices that speak for democracy and the arts community were raised in protest at the Department of Immigration's decision with respect to the visa application by filmmaker Hafsa Zinaï Koudil.

She had only one purpose in mind in applying. She wanted to denounce through film the muslim fundamentalist attitude to the wearing of the hijab and the oppression of Algerian women.

An important voice was missing in the chorus of protests, that of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women. The council would surely have publicly criticized the unjust and unjustified decision by the department. This credible and respected voice was unfortunately silenced by an unreasonable decision of the Minister of Finance in his recent budget-another example of the government's insensitivity toward women.

B.C. Trappers' AssociationStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, following their 50th annual general meeting held recently in Prince George, the B.C. Trappers' Association communicated its concerns about the anti-gun legislation to me.

Its members are worried that the registration of all firearms and the prohibition of certain firearms as proposed by the government would impose an unreasonable burden on trappers, hunters, and other law-abiding citizens.

They also believe that the controls on firearms, ammunition, and lawful gun owners proposed in Bill C-68 are an assault on the traditional liberties and freedoms that are at the heart of our history and culture.

Therefore, they have requested that their provincial MLAs and federal MPs place a priority on fighting these elements in Bill C-68 and fight any other variants that might be proposed. I am one B.C. MP who intends to continue to do just that.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation TreatyStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Warren Allmand Liberal Notre-Dame-De-Grâce, QC

Mr. Speaker, discussions are now under way to extend the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

The non-proliferation treaty came into force in 1970 and was given a life of 25 years. The non-nuclear states, like Canada, that signed the treaty made a commitment not to develop nuclear weapons. The nuclear states, like the United States and the Soviet Union, made a commitment under article VI to reduce their nuclear arsenals. That was not done. While the non-nuclear states respected the treaty and did not develop nuclear weapons, the nuclear states did not respect article VI.

In 1970 the nuclear states had 8,000 nuclear weapons. By 1990 they had 50,000. Now the nuclear states and their allies want to extend the treaty indefinitely without any mechanism to ensure compliance with article VI. As a result, several non-nuclear states do not want to extend the treaty on that basis. This important treaty is now in jeopardy.

I urge the government and its allies to reconsider their position and to be more flexible. The world cannot tolerate another nuclear arms race.

Quinte Ballet SchoolStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Lyle Vanclief Liberal Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the faculty and students of the Quinte Ballet School, located in the city of Belleville.

During the past 22 years the Quinte Ballet School has consistently achieved recognition for the quality of its education and the professionalism of its work. The school's philosophy is centred on the principle that any student having the desire to dance can receive the highest possible level of dance training.

In particular, I would like to praise the dedicated work of the school's founding artistic director, Mr. Brian Scott, and his tireless efforts and artistic excellence.

It is only one of four private dance schools in Canada, and it is not supported by government funding.

The students at the school are taught in both classical ballet and contemporary dance and are currently performing professionally as graduates in many professional activities, including the National Ballet of Canada.

Next Friday night, May 5, the students of the Quinte Ballet School will be presenting their fourth annual spring performance at the Centrepoint Theatre here in the city of Ottawa. I encourage colleagues and all lovers of performing arts to attend.

Royal Newfoundland Regiment's 200Th AnniversaryStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Bonnie Hickey Liberal St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to tell the House that the Royal Newfoundland Regiment marked its 200th anniversary on April 25. This is the oldest regiment in North America and today is an outstanding unit of the Canadian reserves.

The Newfoundland regiment has a proud record of service in the War of 1812 and World War I and recently in the former Yugoslavia. During World War I, Newfoundland recruited and sent one of the highest numbers of soldiers per capita of all the Commonwealth. Sadly, we suffered extremely high casualties as well. At the battle of Beaumont-Hamel the Royal Newfoundland Regiment lost 91 per cent of their unit. Their commander praised them as better than the best, and this has become their unofficial motto.

The soldiers of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment are a reflection of the people of Newfoundland. They are hardworking and tough but with a sense of humour that carries them through the most difficult times.

Congratulations to the regiment on an extraordinary anniversary.

Seagram And Power CorporationStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


André Caron Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, the revelation of friendship and favouritism shown by government ministers to Seagram and Power Corporation causes us to fear the worst.

Three weeks ago, the Minister of Canadian Heritage was present when the President of Seagram announced his proposed takeover of MCA. On Monday, for the first time in history, the government overturned a decision by the CRTC in order to give a hand to a subsidiary of Power Corporation, headed by the Prime Minister's son-in-law.

The Liberals' incestuous relations with the business world are increasingly coming to light. The Liberal ministers consider the government their own and use it to benefit their friends. In the past, in Upper Canada, the term "family compact" was used to describe this sort of incestuous relationship between politics and business. Today the Liberal clique is running Canada, with its head offices at Power Corporation.

Substance Abuse In PrisonsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, over the Easter break I visited the Edmonton maximum security prison to get a better understanding of how this institution operates. I was shocked to learn that there is an enormous substance abuse problem among prisoners. When I inquired how this could possibly be the case, I was told that drugs are smuggled in by visitors during visitation periods.

My immediate reaction was that visitation in maximum security prisons should be stopped. The warden agreed that this was his preferred solution. If prisoners want visitation they should earn the right through good behaviour and self-improvement. They could then be transferred to medium security institutions.

What is Corrections Canada's solution to this problem? It is to provide inmates with bleach to clean their needles in response to this substance abuse. That sounds like sheer lunacy to me. Why do they not stop visitation rights and clean up this problem?

SchizophreniaStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, this week the Schizophrenia Society of Canada has launched an awareness campaign of this very tragic disease. I was pleased to accept this iris I am wearing today as a symbol of hope and faith for a brighter future for sufferers of schizophrenia.

One of every twelve hospital beds is occupied by a sufferer of schizophrenia. The costs of the illness are estimated to be upward of $4 billion per year, not to mention the incalculable toll on individual sufferers and their families. Tragically, schizophrenia most often strikes individuals in their late teens and early twenties and has been called youth's greatest disabler.

Yesterday the Prime Minister also received an iris from the Schizophrenia Society and expressed his support for their work. I would suggest that making money available for research and education and supporting the public awareness initiative must be a priority of this government. I hope the Prime Minister will make good on his promise to do so.

Parkdale Drug Awareness WeekStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Jesse Flis Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, the week of April 24 to April 30 marks the sixth annual Parkdale Drug Awareness Week in my riding of Parkdale-High Park. Drug Awareness Week, which is organized by the Parkdale Focus Community Project, attracted over 3,000 participants last year.

The week is packed full of activities aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle among Parkdale residents, young and old, newcomers and long-time residents. For example, in our local Parkdale schools students will learn that a full, meaningful, and active life is possible without drugs and without alcohol. Events planned for this weekend will feature sports celebrities, theatre performances, piano and steel band recitals, and a pancake breakfast for the whole community on Sunday.

I would like to congratulate both the organizers and participants of Drug Awareness Week 1995. They are making a better life for themselves and for their neighbours in Parkdale.

Workplace AccidentsStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Shaughnessy Cohen Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, on this national day of mourning we commemorate those working men and women who have been killed, maimed, or injured on the job.

In Canada, on average, a compensable work injury occurs every 38 seconds. One out of thirteen workers is injured at work, and two workers are killed every day. This is not acceptable. The human loss and the pain are devastating. Workplace injuries rob us of more than 10 times the number of work days lost due to strikes and lockouts in Canada. And workplace accidents are expensive. In 1993 compensation plans paid out a total of $5.2 billion in benefits.

Although the rates of occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities have substantially declined in Canada over the past decade, they are still too high. Improving occupational health and safety is a must. It makes financial sense for business, for workers, and for government, and it makes even more sense in human terms.

Please join me in remembering those who have paid such a heavy price in the workplace. Let us work together to reduce the pain and suffering of victims, their families, and friends.

The Late Hon. Charles R. GrangerStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bonavista—Trinity—Conception Newfoundland & Labrador


Fred Mifflin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to a fellow Newfoundlander and an outstanding Canadian. The Hon. Charles R. Granger was laid to rest in his home town of Catalina last Monday.

In his busy lifetime, Charlie, as he was affectionately called by his friends, was a journalist, union organizer, political adviser, federal and provincial cabinet minister, deputy minister, businessman, poet and historian. He was a lifetime champion of those in the fishing industry and a fierce worker helping to bring Newfoundland into Confederation.

His accomplishments and remarkable personal attributes were highlighted by his warmth, his sense of humour, vision and perspective. Above all, his love for people and his modest conduct were the mark of the man.

He was appointed as an officer of the Order of Canada in January of this year. Unquestionably, his password in life reflected the Order of Canada's motto: he desired a better country.

I am sure I am joined by all members of the House in conveying our thoughts and our prayers to his wife Betty, to their family and their many, many friends.

Minister Of Canadian HeritageStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, like lightning, strikes again.

After betraying Canada's interests in the Ginn Publishing case, sending a letter to the CRTC in an attempt to unduly influence a decision regarding a broadcasting licence, delivering Radio-Canada into the hands of the Minister of Finance and sacrificing Canadian content and our satellites in the Power DirecTv deal, he demonstrated his lack of judgment yet again and put himself in an apparent conflict of interest by being in the

entourage of the Bronfman family when it was signing a deal regarding Seagram which requires Investment Canada's approval.

Here is a man who has a taste for controversy. I would even say a thirst. Only one word comes to mind following these events: incompetence.

Criminal CodeStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, on December 14, 1993, a constituent of mine, Carol Goldie, was stabbed six times by her former husband after he had stalked her for five years. He was charged with 10 separate offences, among them attempted murder, criminal harassment, and stalking, under section 264 of the Criminal Code.

After a long process of plea bargaining, in February of this year the assailant pleaded guilty to mere assault and received a sentence of just two years less a day. All other charges were dropped, including, as usual, the weapons charges.

I find it difficult to express in strong enough terms the outrage of this sentence. It makes a mockery of the entire legal process. This precedent setting verdict renders the new stalking law impotent. Women who are harassed and intimidated remain unprotected by our justice system. The laws are in place but they are not enforced because justice is bargained away behind closed doors. No wonder Canadians are losing faith in our toothless system of justice. While the system can only bark, the criminals continue to bite.

Canadian National RailwaysStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the matter of the privatization of Canadian National Railways, which the Minister of Transport has so recently announced and which I personally applaud.

I would like to indicate the fact that Canadian taxpayers, for over half a century, have put billions and billions of dollars into this rail system, and for many people it represents a symbol of Canadian nationalism: a road that links both oceans together in this great country. In view of that, I would like to caution the government and advise that any sale should include the recognition of this great tradition and heritage. For that purpose I suggest that any sale include terms that the company which owns and operates these assets must use the symbol and name identification which reflects Canadian heritage. For greater certainty that said name must include the name "Canadian".

I believe that this is in the best interests of all the people and taxpayers of Canada.

Sisters Of Charity Of OttawaStatements By Members

11:15 a.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, 150 years ago, on February 20, 1845, Sister Élisabeth Bruyère, a Grey Nun, arrived in Ottawa. She promptly established the Order of the Sisters of Charity, giving it the mission of caring for the sick, teaching children and coming to the aid of poor immigrants.

Today, the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa are very active in several missions throughout the world, in Haiti, Brazil and Lesotho to name but a few. In addition, they run Saint-Vincent Hospital and the Elisabeth- Bruyère Centre, two institutions with the mission of caring for the sick in the Ottawa region.

On February 18, the opening ceremonies kicking off the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa were held. There will be several other ceremonies and events throughout the year and in the beginning of 1996 commemorating this century and a half of service.

Congratulations and thanks to the Sisters of Charity.

Occupational Health And SafetyStatements By Members

11:15 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, on this day of mourning, I join with all my colleagues in extending my heartfelt sympathy to the many families who have lost loved ones to work accidents.

In 1993, there were 758 work-related deaths in Canada. It is difficult to understand how workers can still risk their lives on the job in this day and age. Yet, thousands of workers still face this reality, especially in the construction, transportation, mining and manufacturing sectors, which still account for over 60 per cent of workplace fatalities.

We cannot be satisfied with the recent decline in the number of industrial accidents in Canada. Occupational safety is one of the most important social objectives of this century and must remain so as long as people continue to die on the job. In this regard, I can only urge the Canadian government to adopt occupational health and safety practices and policies based on those in effect in Quebec.

Occupational Health And SafetyStatements By Members

11:15 a.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, every day Canadians across the country enter a dangerous workplace.

Canadians remember and mourn the 26 miners tragically taken in the Westray coal mine explosion. This disaster only serves to underline the brutal reality of certain types of work.

Today is a day of mourning for persons killed or injured in the workplace. Canadians must learn from the mistakes of the past, take action in the present and ensure their health and safety are protected in the future.

Occupational health and safety should be foremost in the minds of management, labour and governments when decisions are made. A safe workplace translates into a productive workforce and a strong and vital economy. From the farm, to the mine, to the factory, to the lumber mill the Reform Party pays respect to all who put their lives on the line to make ends meet.