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House of Commons Hansard #199 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

Topics

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4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I know the hon. member for Calgary Centre has a great mastery of the English language. I would ask him to withdraw the expression he used-I do not think I have to repeat it-and to find another one that will be more appropriate.

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4:20 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I stand corrected. I apologize for using the word. It is a slang expression that former football players used. I would replace it with intestinal fortitude.

Where is the intestinal fortitude to stand up to their convictions? Why is it that only Reform Party members are willing to take the heat from the national media to express their points of view? Why does the national media seem to support and encourage the status quo when everyone across the country wants change? They want reform. However, because everyone in the House is worried about the media hit, they are afraid to speak their minds. I am embarrassed. I am ashamed. It lacks integrity.

I do not want to speak to the veterans because they are coerced. They are finished. They have done it. They are has beens. They are millionaires. They are ready to collect at any time. However the rookies in the House have an opportunity to make a difference. The rookies in the Liberal government have a distinct opportunity to exert pressure in caucus on cabinet. Many members of the Liberal caucus are doing so. We read about them in the paper. They are the ones who are reprimanded for making democracy live and making the changes that Canadians want. They are the ones who are getting respect, not the ones who are following the line with the status quo. We need more of that. That is what this debate is all about. That is the point of the motion before us.

The Liberals said a bunch of things to get elected. The rhetoric was up here; the promises were way up here. They issued the red book in which the implementation of the rules was achievable. The targets were easy but still a double standard. The pension plan is still three times as good as those in the private sector but very achievable. They made some improvements.

Their promises were up here, to get elected. Everybody knows they campaigned on the pension plan. They were to make it the same as those in the private sector. They were to address it. What did they do? They made these little changes.

My point is that everybody in the House, especially the rookies, can make a difference. If we are to restore integrity to politicians then we in opposition have to hold the government accountable. I am holding rookie Liberal members accountable for their lack of solidarity in encouraging the government and ministers of the crown to act in accordance with what the Canadian public wants. They know what I am talking about.

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will comment on a couple of matters.

With respect to the ethics counsellor, the Prime Minister made a clear statement before the House that regardless of

any positions out there the one person in Canada who is responsible for the integrity of the government is the Prime Minister. That is our ethics counsellor and that is the person to whom Canadians should look. We have an ethics counsellor-that was an undertaking in the red book-whom the Prime Minister, as the member knows well, consults.

The member commented on the matter of gun control and the removal of members from the committee. The member will well know that the bill at that time was only at second reading. The purpose of the vote was to move that important bill to committee. There has been much more consultation, much more work, much more deliberation and much more debate. Amendments are forthcoming, as the member also well knows.

When a position comes forth from a government it is important that government policy be supported by its members. That is what was asked but it was not forthcoming. I believe the three members acknowledged that they had not given the process the full opportunity and that it was not really necessary for them to stop debate at that point and make a decision. There was more to be said on behalf of all Canadians.

The essence of the comments of the member concerned the credibility of the government and the credibility of members of Parliament. I read with some concern reports of the Reform Party's immigration critic who travelled to the U.S. capital on taxpayers dollars to attend a rally for presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. He was there and shared a platform with people who were saying that immigrants should be controlled, that immigrants were creating violent crime, reducing the standards of education and murdering their children. Here was a Reform member of Parliament, a critic of the party, sharing a platform before the public. What would the member say about the credibility of MPs when things like that go on?

I raise the example of the hon. member who just spoke. In the House he recommended that members of Parliament should receive $144,000 a year. Now he is back pedalling. If the member is concerned about the credibility of members with regard to their voting record, does he not think that the public expects the actions and the words of members to reflect the views and the interests of all Canadians?

I point out to the member that he has made calculations that would effectively double tax free expense allowances and somehow end up with a figure of $120,000. I understand the mechanics. The member has failed to recognize that if expense reimbursements on a pre tax basis are put in salaries those expenses will also be deductible for tax purposes. Therefore on the tax return the gross salary equivalent which the member has said is $120,000 in fact is only $92,000.

The member's credibility on matters of importance such as tax matters is also in question. The member should try to explain himself in terms of credibility.

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4:30 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, it sounds like we are back on a budget debate here.

With respect to the ethics counsellor it interesting when we point out that the Liberals failed to keep their promise in the red book. They promised that the ethics counsellor would answer to Parliament. The fact is he does not and it is to a registrar or directly to the Prime Minister. The Liberals say the best ethics counsellor is the Prime Minister and that he really is who the ethics counsellor is. That is our point. We do not have an ethics counsellor and the Liberal government promised one.

On the business of the Liberal caucus members who now claim to have not allowed the process to work, the member claims they agreed that maybe the process could work. The point is that a lot of people are saying the gun control bill will not reduce crime. Registration will not reduce crime. We already have a registration system in Canada. It has proven that it works better than the old system. Whatever level of crime we have it will not change based on registration. Criminals will not register their guns. A lot of people are saying that. That voice is not being heard by the Minister of Justice.

In terms of credibility, let us take the member's intervention here. How credible is it for a member to rise and say that one of our members, the immigration critic, took a trip to Washington at taxpayers' expense? That member himself knows there is no way that a member of Parliament, outside of cabinet, gets reimbursed for travel outside this country. It is only for travel within Canada that we get reimbursed.

If the hon. member has facts, I leave it up to him. He made an allegation. I would like to have him prove that our immigration critic went to Washington at taxpayers' expense, because that is the impression he is giving. Travel outside this country is not reimbursed. He knows that and I know that. That is an allegation not based on facts. It is just that type of partisan political comment that I think hurts the House and the reputation of politicians.

Then the hon. member went on to attack my own credibility. He charged me with back pedalling on a suggestion I made in the House. In terms of MP compensation and restructuring MP compensation which everyone in the House agrees with me privately that we should be undertaking he said that during debate last week I suggested that an MP's salary should be $144,000. I said that and I am not back pedalling on that. It is out of line for that to be defended by me outside the House. I said that in the House and I will still say in the House that we have to restructure MP salaries.

What this whole debate is about is not the amount of remuneration. It is integrity I am talking about. It is about honesty and the lack of the will of the government to address the very issue of MP pensions. It shows the lack of integrity of the government, the rookies, the veterans and everyone in the House who supports this MP pension plan. It smacks of trying to promote something by using the argument that our salaries are frozen so let us overcompensate here; we are undercompensated here, so let us overpay there.

The member who asked me the question has an accounting background. Now that I have everyone's attention by saying $144,000 in the House, and which went outside the House, let me say what MPs really get.

Those people who have been here for six years or more get $64,400. They get $27,000 tax free. If the bill goes through, they will get three and a half times what they are contributing to their pension now; $25,000 accrues to their account. That is their benefit, their asset. They get it when they turn 55 years. That represents $114,000. In the private sector no one gets $27,000 tax free. Gross that up and they are already getting $140,000.

My point is if someone wants to talk about integrity and have an open and intelligent discussion on MPs compensation, let us have it. If someone wants to talk integrity and have an open discussion on MP pension plans and why they can justify this obscene amount of money on a fat cat Cadillac pension plan, three tier, trough regular, trough light, trough stout, then let us have that discussion. However, to take these cheap shots smacks exactly of what I am accusing the majority of the members of the House, because the majority are Liberals. They are the government. They lack integrity and they should restore it.

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4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

That concludes the period of questions or comments to the hon. member for Calgary Centre.

Before I recognize the member for North Vancouver, I am going to take the initiative to raise I believe in part the same issue he wishes to address, which is the following. Earlier today I understand the House leader for the Reform Party informed the House that all members of the Reform Party would be splitting their time on this motion. I cannot apologize for not being here, I simply was not here when that was introduced to the House.

The member for Calgary Centre of course with great enthusiasm and so on, used up the full 20-minute allocation. In part, I think we would all understand, due to travel commitments and otherwise, if the House would agree that the member for North Vancouver would do his 10-minute intervention now with five minutes for questions or comments. Then I would go back to the government where we will get at least two other interventions equally of 10 and five and there will be a little bit of time before we have to conclude the matter at 5.30 p.m. Would that meet the approval of the House?

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4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

There being no agreement, we will resume debate with the hon. member for Guelph-Wellington.

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4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain Liberal Guelph—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to indicate to the Chair that I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver Quadra.

It is a pleasure for me to rise in this House on behalf of the people of Guelph-Wellington on the motion introduced by the member for Kindersley-Lloydminster. I do so not to condemn the government but to commend its actions to encourage more openness and accountability to our constituents.

It has been a pleasure for me to have in the past 18 months sought the advice and counsel of the people of Guelph-Wellington at every opportunity. They have shared with me their concerns and suggestions. Through town halls and surveys, my constituents have expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to participate in decision making.

I find it ironic that the member rose in this House to speak about broken promises. The red book was our commitment to the Canadian people during the last election. We were very much aware that they were tired of politicians who made promises but failed to deliver and political parties that relied on short memories.

We want Canadians to remember what we promised them because we have kept our promises. That is the legacy of this government, a government that has reaffirmed the new politics of promises kept.

The Reform Party likes to speak in the House about promises. During the last election it offered Canadians its blue sheet, a list of principles and policies, a list that is rarely if ever mentioned by Reformers in the House. They like to speak about the red book but are strangely quiet about the commitment they made to the Canadian people during the autumn of 1993.

The Reform House leader, like many in his party, talks about openness in government. Reformers speak of it like they have a monopoly on consultation and accountability. When the members of the Reform Party presented their platform to Canadians during the last election, accountability of elected representatives was so important that it was listed as number 15 in their statement of 21 principles. They argue that it is the duty of elected members to override their obligations to their political party.

However, the platform also states that Reform MPs shall vote with the Reform Party majority unless a member is instructed to abstain or vote otherwise by his or her constituents. We have already seen that despite majority support for gun control, only one member has risen in support of the government's proposal. Promises made and promises broken.

Reformers like to share their vision of accountability but do not necessarily like to live up to it. In their own party assembly in 1994 for example, 600 constituency resolutions prepared for debate were reduced finally to 55.

Despite a promise in Reform's blue sheet to protect law-abiding citizens, one of its members suggested publicly that Canadians should not comply with gun registration. Reformers suggest we should break the law.

Despite promises to support a new relationship with aboriginal people, the very member who is sponsoring this motion suggested that the aboriginal language should be spoken briefly, such as the length of time it takes to yawn, pause between sentences, or to take a drink of water.

Reformers have asked for a minimum age in the pension plan for members of Parliament and are opposed to double dipping, but have spoken against the legislation that does just that.

Reformers promised in their blue sheet to reduce expenditures by lowering the pay of members of Parliament, while one of their own suggests that salaries increase to $150,000 at a time of restraint. More promises made and more promises broken.

I have said before that each of us elected in 1993 and our Liberal colleagues elected in the recent byelections are here because of circumstances of frustration and anger on behalf of the Canadian people.

The constituents of Guelph-Wellington were concerned that too many candidates promised one thing and then would deliver another. They asked me to ensure they would be consulted before decisions were made. They wanted to be informed. They wanted us to act and they wanted to be heard. They did not want to reach their member of Parliament by dialling and paying for a 1-900 telephone line. Their idea of accountability is their ability to contact their member of Parliament without incurring a service charge. For Reformers, accountability has a fee.

The success of the red book does not rest simply with its ideas and its suggestions. Success has resulted from action by this Liberal government that was demanded by the people of Guelph-Wellington and people throughout Canada.

The people of my riding welcomed the red book because for them it is a yardstick with which they can measure our success and they remind us of our promises. We are not afraid of that; we think this is a good thing. As much as the Reform Party said earlier that it does not like the idea of being reminded and having accountability, we are not afraid.

The red book is a contract made by the Liberal Party and affirmed by the people of Canada. The red book has set a legacy of election promises. It is a legacy in which I am proud to share.

Liberals know the old ways of governing can never be repeated. But the difference between Liberals and Reformers is one of substance. Liberals like success. We celebrate good news. We attempt to uplift Canadians and bring them to the best that they can be.

Our government was elected because the old way of doom and gloom was rejected by the Canadian people. Reformers do not yet know that Canadians like good news and want to share in prosperity and happiness. In a recent edition of the Calgary Herald writer Catherine Ford said it best. Speaking of Reformers she said: ``These are not real cheery, happy people. Everyone needs a spring break''.

Reformers saw the last election as a chance for change. They were correct. Canadians demanded and received change. They reduced the Mulroney-Charest Tories to two seats because they saw a government that failed to represent their concerns. They voted for the red book, for good news, for a party that has historically protected their interests. They wanted openness and accountability. They wanted not only a spring break but a break from everything wrong in government.

The government has responded. We are very aware of the commitments we made to the Canadian people. We know our contract is fragile, that Canadians are watching and that they demand the very best and will expect no less, nor should they.

We need no lessons from the other side on accountability. The blue sheet represents promises made and the red book is promises kept.

The blue sheet promises reform and the red book delivers a new Canada. The blue sheet offers a narrow vision, and the red book includes all Canadians and challenges them to return to greatness.

Rather than condemning our government, I encourage Reformers to join us in our efforts to rebuild Canada and to make our country strong again. I want them to remember and to celebrate that despite their constant reminders to the contrary, Canada is the best place in the world to be.

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4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Guelph-Wellington tried to point to contradictions in the speeches made by Reform members.

I will let Reform members take care of themselves. However, I myself see contradictions between the Liberal Party program, the famous red book, and some of the things which have taken place since the election campaign, including free trade. I asked the same question earlier to another Liberal member, and I was told-the member's colleague will certainly be able to give me an answer-that so many changes had been made to the free trade agreement that, in the end, the Liberals could not follow up on the matter.

There is also the GST. The Liberals said they would change and even remove this bad tax on goods and services. Unfortunately, the GST is still there. There is also the issue of transfers to the provinces. What did the government do to these transfers? First, it froze them and then announced, in this year's budget, a major cut which will take effect next year.

I represent the riding of Lévis and I was told that a summit on the future of Canada's shipyards would be held during the year. That was 18 months ago and there is still no summit.

The government can certainly point to the contradictions of the Reform members of the opposition, but I am talking about commitments made by the party now in office, when it was in opposition. There is a definite difference between the commitments made and the actions taken.

I want to ask the hon. member about another issue. What does she think of the power of banks as regards the monetary policy, among other things, given that six of the ten largest contributors in Canada are banks? I would like to hear her opinion on that issue. Would she support federal legislation which would limit political financing to individuals, instead of major corporations?

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4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain Liberal Guelph—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to answer some of the points my hon. colleague brought up.

Number one, the member talked about something achieved. I submit to members that in the last 18 months we have achieved a great deal as a party. I am very proud of that. Some things we certainly have made improvements to. I use the word improvements because the world continually goes around; it is not something one just does at one point and never looks at again, never fixes it or never goes ahead on it.

I will come right out; other parties may want me to hide from this, but I will not. We have made improvements to the pension reform. We hope that all members will support that, because it is the way the Canadian people want this to be, with a minimum age and no double dipping. We certainly hope that we have members' support on that.

We are working toward a united Canada, which is very important to all Canadians. We know that. The member across the way knows that too.

The member talked about free trade. Certainly that has been a real plus for the country. That is indisputable with the figures and facts out there.

The member spoke about the GST, and the reality of that is that we are working on it. We hope to have a solution to that soon. It has not been as easy as one might have hoped.

Real change is not easy, so we work toward it. We are proud to say that we are working hard toward it. We do not hide from that. There is no reason for us to hide from it.

There have been improvements to the GATT. Infrastructure has been one of our biggest projects. Every day I am in Guelph-Wellington I am stopped and told that the architects have benefited from this and the mayor says that things are going well. I see the member for Wellington-Grey-Dufferin-Simcoe is agreeing. This infrastructure program has been wonderful; interprovincial trade, I could go on and on.

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4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to follow my thoughtful colleague, the member for Guelph-Wellington, and to take part in the debate on the proposition of the member for Kindersley-Lloydminster, with whom I have had the pleasure of serving in committee. He is a thoughtful member and he usually brings forward in committee very helpful and reasoned propositions.

He did not acknowledge the source of his motion. Openness goes back to Mr. Gorbachev and glasnost, which he thought was a precondition of perestroika, the open debate. Behind that was also the larger global concept of novie mishlenie, the new thinking, which says that you can offer hope for constitutional or other propositions for change, but unless you have some unifying philosophical principles, some sort of larger vision of the sort of constitutional society you want to establish, you are not likely to take these things very far. That was one interesting thing in the constitutional revolution on Russia with perestroika, that there was a larger vision.

It is interesting to note that in looking for foreign models they looked extensively at France, Germany, the United States and other countries but did not borrow from Canada. The largest contributions were made through borrowing of German institutions, which then the supreme court based essentially on American constitutions but updated to post-war conditions.

What I think is rather sad in terms of our constitutional development in Canada in the last 30 years has been the

pre-emptiveness of the Quebec presence to the exclusion of debate on larger constitutional ideas. If we look back to the golden period of the quiet revolution, in a certain sense its main ideas were achieved very early, by the 1970s, in the languages laws, Mr. Bourassa's on the provincial side and the federal official language law on the federal side. In essence a large social economic revolution was achieved under the guise of a language reform, with very profound consequences.

Beyond that the constitutional ideas seem to lapse into the pursuit of constitutional particularity. If you do not have a larger pluralistic conception of a constitutional development, those ideas are not likely to go very far. Through successive failures they have not managed to go very far.

One problem therefore is the absence of motor ideas. I find the same problem with the Reform Party approach to constitutional change, even though there are some reputable right wing think tanks in the country and there has been a considerable amount of debate in some of these institutions.

One basic flaw in the Reform approach is the failure to analyse the contradictions in the proposals and to produce some sort of operational synthesis. The notion of establishing the independence of members of Parliament, of loosening the party ranks, and of encouraging free votes goes a certain way. When you link it to the concept of consultation and a notion that the results of the consultation are to be binding on members, you are riding horses running in different directions.

This is not tabula rasa. It occurs in terms of constitutional development in the history of many countries. In that cradle of so many of the contemporary liberal democratic ideas, the French revolution and the post-revolutionary settlement, you do find the antonyms-government by assembly, highlighted by the convention, where everything was debated at great length and where the convention made all the decisions, and the plebiscitarian idea, which is ultimately consummated by Napoleon and others, of submitting it to the people and getting a legitimate nation by direct popular vote and the legislative chambers become mere ratifying organs.

In this debate on questions of openness some of the contradictions have needed to be resolved, and that has not been done. I think that is a pity.

There has been a failure also to realize the complexities of governmental decision making today and the constitutional law making processes. The hon. member for Beaver River, for whom I have a very great respect, asked a question today that was very critical of the judiciary and the judiciary's role in law making. The essence of law making today is the recognition that there are many roads to Rome in terms of making laws, that there are many players, and no one of these has an exclusive role. They are in a very real sense complementary. There are some aspects of social policy making that are ripe for judicial law making, because judicial law making, in essence, is empirically based and problem oriented. It is a step by step process that proceeds in the particular fact context of particular cases, solves a particular problem in that specific context, and then moves on to the next case. After several of those decisions you begin to get what is called jurisprudence constante, an evolution of principles on an empirical basis.

Some other matters clearly are ripe for full popular consultation. I think one of the things that is very clear today is that no substantive constitutional change can be achieved in the future in Canada without submission to the constituent processes, without submission to popular vote. I think this is the irrevocable lesson of Charlottetown. However, it would be a mistake to believe that every aspect of social policy and every fine piece of legislation should go that way. There is a parliamentary role.

I think it would have been helpful in terms of the opposition motion today, of the second opposition party, to have had some recognition of the manifold nature of the law making process. There are some aspects that are ripe for judicial action, some for legislative action in the pure sense, and still others that might be left to popular consultation. Perhaps there should be some offering of criteria for deciding which of these fronts to move on.

In general I felt that the hon. member for Beaver River was on the wrong track today in her particular criticism. That probably was the sort of area where we could have the trial and error judicial process. Every judicial decision is subject to appeal. There is a discretionary issue for attorneys general and justice ministers, and one can expect, with the proper exercise of the executive process and recognizing that it does not conflict with the legislative process, that judge and company operate together, legislature and executive, and that decisions of this sort, if they are regarded as retrograde by some elements of the community, can be appealed. There are interest groups, more developed in the United States, but some of them in Canada, that have taken this a considerable way in terms of the investigation and bringing cases before the courts.

I think this has been a helpful debate. I thought that one of the questions relating to political parties, whether they should be constitutionalized, was a timely question. I hope there will be occasions in the present Parliament to consider that in some detail. I thank the hon. member opposite who raised the question.

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4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of his speech, the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra spoke of the lack of coherence in the Reformers' program. What took me a little aback, coming from him was that, without any prodding, he spoke of Canada's constitutional development over the past 30 years. I realize that the riding of Vancouver Quadra is quite distant from mine, Lévis, but I must say that one cannot truly talk about constitutional development over the past 30 years because there has been none. All of the constitutional conferences ended in failure and, in particular, I would like to remind him that the first version of the Meech Lake accord, which was signed by 11 premiers, was called into question because, following elections in various provinces, three Liberal premiers refused to respect the accord.

Given that the tone of the hon. member's speech would suggest that he is very open to consultation, relating back to the first point he made, which was the Reformers' lack of a coherent program, I would like him to explain to us the coherent program being followed by the Liberal government concerning the constitution.

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5 p.m.

Liberal

Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree that Vancouver Quadra is far removed from the centre of Canada, but I myself am certainly not far removed from this debate.

I acted as a special constitutional adviser to various premiers of Quebec, Ontario and other players in the constitutional game, but I repeat that in those years, the debate concentrated on certain details, while a broader constitutional vision was lacking. Canada probably needed a de Gaulle instead of officials discussing the finer points of a constitutional proposal.

As for what the future holds in store, once the referendum is behind us, and we are very optimistic that everything will be over with before the end of this year, we can then resume constitutional talks without the limitations of pursuing something that was clearly rejected by the Canadian people, including Quebec, in the referendum on the Charlottetown accord in 1993.

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5 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra mentioned in his speech that he thought that I, the member for Beaver River, was off base today in my question. In terms of openness in government and some of the opinions that he has just shared, could he explain to me what he was talking about earlier in his speech where he assumed that courts and the provincial and federal governments are the people that have these avenues?

Although provincial governments have the jurisdiction to administer and process adoptions, as he was referring to, they have absolutely no business, no jurisdiction and no right in either the federal, provincial or court system to redefine family.

In the member's expert opinion, could he explain to me how I am so off base when I asked the minister earlier about legislators making the law and courts interpreting the law. Federally and provincially it looks as though the courts are actually making the laws.

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5 p.m.

Liberal

Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I did not use the phrase off base with the hon. member. I have a great respect for the hon. member. It seemed to me that her question neglected to include the notion that lawmaking is not limited to legislators alone, that in modern society the judiciary, the executive and others partake in it.

Second, judicial lawmaking is particularly attuned to certain types of social problems because of the case by case development.

The decision the hon. member mentioned this morning is subject to appeal. In the normal process a good justice minister would consider that possibility.

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5:05 p.m.

Reform

Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, since the hon. member opposite spent so much time talking about the past, perhaps I will start my speech today with a quote from Edmund Burke dating back to 1774. The Vancouver Sun used this quote on May 21, 1994 to criticize the electronic referendum on the Young Offenders Act that I ran in my riding of North Vancouver.

Edmund Burke said:

Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

Mr. Burke made this statement more than 220 years ago, long before the information age. The level of education then was probably pretty low and it probably would have been doing a disservice to constituents to take their opinions to Parliament. In the 1990s people are well educated and well informed. A modification of Mr. Burke's statement is in order.

I would like to see modern politicians saying: "Your representative owes you not his industry only, but also his commitment to alert you to the affairs of government that affect you so that you may become informed and so that you may instruct him how to represent you".

The problem is that even if every member in the House agreed that his or her first duty is to represent his or her constituents, we would still have to overcome the hurdle of repressive party discipline that we have already seen illustrated in recent times. We cannot change our present, benevolent dictatorship into real democracy until we come to grips with that situation.

When I was in my late teens and early 20s I belonged to the Young Nationals in New Zealand. I worked at many elections, helping really good candidates to get elected to go to Wellington for which members can read Ottawa. I really hoped they would make a difference.

It was disappointing to me to find that excellent candidates got elected but as soon as they got to Wellington, they were unable to represent their constituents' views. They had to toe the party line. They never voted against the party under any circumstances. At the very least, the strongest statement any of them could make was simply to abstain.

In those olden days there were no computers or fax machines or CNN. Governments pretty well controlled what we knew about the world. Even then, I dreamed of a day when voters would be able to have a much greater say in the decision making of their governments.

We have reached a point in time now when the information age has made it possible for my dream to become reality. We are on the verge of a revolution in democracy, despite the unwillingness of the Prime Minister to see the writing on the wall.

Frankly I doubt whether our parliamentary system can survive the information age in its present form. It must adapt and change more quickly than it has ever done in history to cope with the new power each of us will have as voters. Reading the precedents from Beauchesne the way the government whip often does is going to have less and less relevance in the future.

I can recommend to members a comedy that appears on television on Sunday nights on The women's network. It is called "No Job for a Lady". It is based on the experiences of a rookie woman MP in England. Whilst the program is pretty funny, it is a fairly accurate portrayal of what happens in this place.

The writers obviously have a good knowledge of the workings of the House of Commons. They have no difficulty showing viewers that committee meetings and travel junkets have very little use other than to keep MPs busy between votes. They make no bones about the fact that the system is completely controlled by the Prime Minister and that the wishes of the voters are irrelevant to the process.

There is growing awareness that the present system is becoming less and less relevant in modern times. Let me read a segment from an article written for the Financial Post recently by Rafe Mair, a talk show host on radio in Vancouver:

Surely we must now all agree that the system the Fathers of Confederation devised of pasting a parliamentary government on to a federal system no longer suits us and our present difficulties. Our system, with victory to the "first past the post," means a minority becomes an official majority which can do as it pleases for five years. It usually oppresses the majority and certainly oppresses all minorities such as B.C. and Alberta, a clear lesson of the election of 1993-

The main argument against changing our system is that it will result in weak governments. If by "weak" it is meant that the prime minister will not have his way unless the Commons, voting freely, agrees, then I will take weak government. Surely the collective wisdom of all MPs and their leaders is greater than that of a caucus which must agree or lose the perks of power-

For under our system, power is from the top down. The party in power must, to stay in power, stay united no matter how bad things get. The party leader becomes a dictator-for it is he who appoints cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries. He controls the patronage. Every backbencher is held in check by his own ambition to get into cabinet; each cabinet minister is held in check by his desire to stay there.

If Chrétien proves incapable of handling our crisis how do we change him?-He can't be relieved of office unless the majority of Liberal MPs choose to share power, most unlikely given the track record of majority governments in Canada.

The leader to save Canada from its perils may be sitting in the present Parliament-it might even be the Preston Manning or Jean Charest-but we will never know unless the centrally dominated Liberal caucus wants it to happen. And it is an immutable political law-

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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Szabo)

I would remind the member to refer to members in the House by their riding and not by their name.

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5:10 p.m.

Reform

Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was quoting from a newspaper article. I assumed it was okay for me to use names in that case, but I will avoid doing so in future.

Canada, in its time of great peril, should not be hostage to an outdated system. Clearly, confidence in the ability of our present setup to settle the great questions which face us is confidence badly misplaced.

That was quite a long article but I thought it was very worthwhile reading to the House because Rafe Mair made some very good points. The Prime Minister will have to face the fact that the system is in the process of change.

Parliamentary democracies around the world are looking for new ways to be more democratic. Thirty years of experience under the old system are not going to account for anything in the information age. In New Zealand in late 1993 the government passed the citizens' initiative and referendum act. New Zealand's citizens now have the right to start initiatives and control referenda on the ballot.

In the 18 months or so since the implementation of the act a number of initiatives have been started. However in almost

every case, as soon as the initiative was registered with sufficient signatures, the government reacted, addressed the problem and the initiatives were subsequently taken off the ballot.

We have always been told that initiative and referenda are incompatible with parliamentary style democracy, but here is New Zealand proving it works. The real reason we do not have initiatives and referenda in Canada is because the Prime Minister does not want to give up the power he has to control what happens in this place.

Past governments have been no better. Twice the previous government passed a gag law to try to keep people quiet at election time. Twice the gag laws were struck down but the government still chose to appeal the decision of the Court of Queen's Bench in Alberta in an attempt to reimpose the gag law on free speech.

On May 8 the appeal was heard in Calgary. To refresh members' memories, the Alberta Court of Appeal reserved judgment after only one day of hearings on the case. On June 25, 1993, Justice MacLeod of the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench struck down several sections of the Canada Elections Act which restricted expenditures by individuals to only $1,000 and parties could spend up to $10 million or whatever they wanted.

It was clear from the reaction of the justices, particularly Justice Kerans, that the justices had no patience for the government's appeal. It looks fairly certain they will overturn the government's position and restore free speech, thank goodness.

For the moment the Prime Minister still has power over his MPs but sooner or later, little by little he is going to have to give it up. I condemn the government for its failure to keep its red ink book promise to make the government more open and to permit MPs to be more accountable to their constituents.

Besides all of that, the Deputy Prime Minister promised to resign if the GST was not gone within one year of the election and she still has not done it.

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5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am interested that he went back to Edmund Burke. He would have Parliament reduced to nothing more than having us be voting machines. We could have a questionnaire every night, push a button and there would be no need for the House to exist. There will be no need to study in detail various bills.

When I look at the motion the inference is members of the Liberal Party are not given more freedom. I remind the member that if he were to examine the record in the House he would notice there is a lot more divergence in voting among the members of the Liberal Party, the government side, than there is among members of the Reform Party.

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5:15 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

On government bills?

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5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Waterloo, ON

Examine the record. When we look at Reformers for the most part they vote as a block. It is borne out by examining the records of the House.

I point that out to the members. I think they are being hypocritical and they do not examine the record. They try to say they represent something they do not.

I applaud two members of the Reform Party who actually did what they said they would do which was represent their constituents' wishes in terms of legislation. It relates to gun control. I applaud the actions of the member for Edmonton Southwest as well as a member from Calgary who stood up and represented the wishes of their constituents.

How can the Reform Party, whose central campaign was representing the wishes of its constituents, do such a flip-flop and ignore the wishes of its constituents when it comes to the gun legislation or legislation supported by law enforcement officers, by chiefs of police, and something that is needed for law and order? Not only do its members not support that, they are preaching civil disobedience against it.

Could the member inform me why they do not follow the wishes of their constituents on the gun legislation?

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5:15 p.m.

Reform

Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his questions.

When it is obvious to any clear thinking person that we should vote down a bill on the other side it is not the least bit surprising that 52 clear thinking Reformers would vote against it.

The member brings up all the usual red herrings that MPs would become voting machines and so on. In my riding there have been in the last year only two really controversial issues which I have taken back to my constituents. I have done comprehensive surveys and even a scientific survey which I am currently undergoing with the gun control bill. I am perfectly satisfied that within my caucus members are representing their ridings. There is no problem with that at all.

These red herrings about how we would become voting machines are nonsense. New Zealand has proven with its initiative and referendum act MPs do not become voting machines if you give people more power. I have proved it in my riding.

Last year I overturned a grant for a women's monument project in Vancouver. The people who were organizing that were really upset. Two of them called me on a conference call and said: "We will make sure we get rid of you at the next election". I said: "Please, do not wait until the next election. If you can get 15 per cent of the voters in this riding to sign a petition to say I am not representing the majority, I will resign". They asked if they could get that in writing. I said yes. I put it in writing. To this day I have not seen one signature.

Democracy is powerful but we have to give power to the majority. We have to give power to the people. That is what Reform is attempting to do. It does not mean we turn into voting machines. It simply means we give a Canada to people built the way they want it to be instead of built the way the elite want it to be.

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5:15 p.m.

Reform

Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow my hon. colleague. I agree with what he had to say.

It is helpful to have this type of motion presented every now and then for a reality check to see if anything has changed in Parliament.

I will speak today about parliamentary reform. When we first arrived here in the cold of the winter 1993-94, I took on the responsibility of chairing the group in my party particularly interested in parliamentary reform. Except for the members for Lethbridge and Beaver River, we were all pretty new at this and we felt that with a little change here and there and a slight move parliamentary rules could probably be changed quite easily.

We became quick learners, realizing rules and traditions grown up over many years were not so easily changed. I admit in some instance we became aware of the need for these rules and why they should be left alone.

If life is a great learning experience, parliamentary life is at least doubly so. Two things happened very early in this Parliament that led me to believe real change was possible. The first was the introduction and subsequent adoption of the government motion which directed the procedure and House affairs committee to study a whole range of matters dealing with reform.

The motion referred to freer voting, sending bills to committee prior to second reading, allowing committees to draft bills, referendums, recall and other methods by which backbenchers or private members could become more involved in the policy influencing process.

The second matter that gave me hope was the adoption of my private members' Motion No. 89. During the third hour of debate it was amended by the government to read:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should continue to increasingly permit members of the House of Commons to fully represent constituents' views on the government's legislative program and spending plans by adopting the position that the defeat of any government measure, including a spending measure, shall not automatically mean the defeat of the government unless followed by the adoption of a formal motion.

Notice it does not specify Private Members' Business. It was adopted unanimously. This was the setting for real change, a committee ably chaired by the member for Kingston and the Islands and a motion advanced by an opposition MP from the Reform Party calling for freer voting adopted unanimously by the House of Commons. This was the hope. Let us look at the reality.

To be fair to the members on the government side, we have seen some change, and one measure I proposed as a private members' bill was the beneficiary of this changed attitude. Bill C-232, a bill to give grandparents right of access to grandchildren, passed through the House a week ago and was sent to the justice committee for study.

The bill had been kicking around Parliament in one form or another for more than 10 years and never came this far. I have a changed attitude towards Private Members' Business to thank for at least getting the bill through second reading and off to committee. Private Members' Business does seem to be one avenue where the government is attempting to make changes.

In my discussions with members opposite regarding whether they would support the bill, I was continuously assured free votes were allowed on private members' bills. It would seem from the number of private members' bills now in committee this is true.

However, this is only the first very tentative step along the way to true freer voting in Parliament. It is almost the government saying when it really does not matter all that much, backbenchers are free to vote as they please. I believe it is time we moved this beyond the first step and started to apply freer voting to government bills as well.

We have had with Bill C-68 first hand experience with punishment being handed out to those on the government side who dared to vote against the party line.

It was the opinion of those involved in the writing of the McGrath report in 1985 and those who sat on the House management committee in 1993 that dissent should be allowed to be expressed without fear of retaliation by the leadership of the political party concerned. Both groups believed the expression of dissent would make the House a healthier place.

I have to endorse that. It would be a healthier place. It would be a place where members who felt very strongly about an issue would not have to vote the party line and could do so without fear of retribution.

What happened? We need only to look at the voting patterns in other Parliaments similar to ours to realize the confidence convention has been relaxed and the sun still rises in the east every day and governments have not crumbled.

Some members in the House on the government side today worked on the McGrath report. What happened? The reality of the day seems to be while in opposition they protest loudly but when the people of Canada give the opposition a mandate to do everything it promised to do, suddenly it is no longer the champion of democracy.

As my fellow Reform member for Calgary North reminded us all earlier, democracy has to be looked after. It has to be protected. Sadly in the House we do not have rule by the people, we have rule by the party. She was quite right.

It appears party discipline is as strong as ever. When constituents clearly tell their MP how they feel on an issue that MP is not allowed to vote to represent a democracy. Rather, he or she is punished if they have the intestinal fortitude to rise in the House and truly represent their constituents, just for keeping their promises to their constituents.

Something is wrong. We have 295 MPs but we do not have democracy. It is a sign of strength to allow dissent to be expressed. It is not a sign of weakness or of weak leadership.

Professor Philip Morton, an academic in Great Britain who has devoted a great deal of study to this issue of freer voting or cross-party voting, has concluded this phenomenon, as he calls it, has led to a growing awareness of what can be achieved by such action by backbenchers. The lack of retribution or punishment of members who vote against the party line in Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand has produced a change in attitude on the part of many MPs as they now felt their views mattered and they were really participating in the policy process.

The process had been expanded beyond the cabinet table. I say to those like Professor Robert Jackson of Carleton University who oppose freer voting on the grounds they would lead to chaos, nonsense. We are not advocating free votes on every piece of legislation. We are simply advocating limited expressions of dissent from the party line be allowed to take place without fear of repercussions from the party leadership.

What happened in the House recently on Bill C-68 showed us very clearly on the government side-and let us be honest and truthful about this-it is not a fact yet. It is something I hope will come in the House but at this time it is not a fact that members of the government can vote according to the wishes of their constituents without severe repercussions. That is a sad state of affairs.

All this bickering back and forth, all these smart, snide remarks will not change the facts or the truth. Let us stop with the silliness and start dealing with the truth. It is a fact that happened in the House.

I spent many years teaching and I tried to tell students one thing. When one debates one does not make smart cracks or snide remarks to people; one deals with facts. When students debated in competition in British Columbia, which is the only experience I have to go on, judges and their peers sat in the back row. If a student were to ever make a point without fact there was a stroke right across the card. That student was never able to win in points on debate. I am really sorry because I thought when we reached this level we would see people really using wisdom and experience.

I have seen some excellent debaters in the House. I am always so sorry when I see this cheap shot being taken. I hope we can start remembering to treat each other more with respect in the House and debate as the House is worthy.

We would like to see the intent of Motion No. 89 adopted unanimously by the House to be applied to government bills. I also congratulate those on the other side who voted against the party line on Bill C-68, but definitely not because they went against the party line. They allowed the wishes of their constituents to be expressed in Parliament at great personal risk to their political futures. They are to be congratulated, not condemned. They should remember they can always find an ideological home right here. I think we still have some spare seats.

Moving on to other aspects of reform, committees, two in particular, have been allowed to draft bills. One bill deals with electoral boundaries and the other with lobbying.

We on this side are concerned that at least with regard to the lobbying bill it was ultimately drafted to corresponded with instructions from either the Prime Minister's office or the privy council office. However, it seems we have made a start in this area, albeit tentative, and we should do much more with regard to committees drafting legislation. No one knows better than I how much time the drafting of legislation takes and then securing support for the legislation, but we owe it to our constituents to take this time.

Will legislation be coming forward to allow for referendums to be of help on moral issues such as physician assisted suicide? What about the recall of members of Parliament who are not doing their jobs? What about legislation to provide for citizens initiatives?

I hope I am not wrong, but I believe to effect these changes we will have to change places with the political party opposite.

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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

It being 5.30 p.m., it is my duty to inform the House that pursuant to Standing Order 81 the proceedings on the motion have expired.

The House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.