House of Commons Hansard #195 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was income.


The House resumed from May 3 consideration of the motion 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.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate at third reading of the bill on lobbyists. I think that it is important to reflect on the role of lobbies. Their role is essentially to attempt to influence the positions taken by the government and parliamentarians on policy issues and to defend private interests.

I would also say that lobbyists end up reducing the direct influence that citizens have on their representatives. We have seen some instances of this in the past year, for example the lobby that formed around the somatotropin issue. One company that wanted to see somatotropin approved went so far as to hire a manager who was on leave without pay to lobby the government machine. There are also very obvious cases where Canadian banks are systematically making representations to MPs in an effort to either effect changes or to maintain the status quo in taxes and regulations.

I do not think that anyone is against the fact that lobbyists exist. The same thing goes on in all parliaments. What should be looked at, however, is their methods, because so many things have come about mysteriously in the past which could have been the result of lobbying. Parliamentary history, be it in Canada, England, the United States, or almost anywhere else in the world, is characterized by blatant examples of this. This has led other parliaments to reflect on the best way to monitor this activity to prevent abuses.

Other examples of this have cropped up recently in the news here in Canada. For instance, there is the connection between the Liberals, Power Corporation and certain decisions. Today, it is DTH television services. Yesterday, it was the railways. It is always there and it is always connected with important decisions. Under the Conservatives a major debate began on this issue because the Tory party was very close to the business community and there had been quite a few instances of practices that were doubtful, to say the least, the latest and most notorious example being the privatization of Pearson airport.

During the election campaign, the Liberal Party promised that it would make some major changes in this respect, and that was before it formed the government. Unfortunately, Bill C-43 is a typical example of much ado about apparently nothing. They promised us a transparent system, and what we get is, for instance, an ethics counsellor appointed by the Prime Minister and accountable to the Prime Minister. To the Bloc, this does not denote transparency. It is not the way to establish a code of conduct and restore public confidence in our democratic institutions, because how can you ask an ethics counsellor who is appointed by the Prime Minister to judge the actions of the government and the Prime Minister?

In the past, in fact this year, we saw situations where the ethics counsellor was put on the spot when he could not really give an independent opinion. We would have preferred the government to consider the Bloc's recommendations, including a request that the ethics counsellor be appointed by Parliament so that he or she is directly accountable to the members of this House and is free to criticize the government and in fact any parliamentarian, irrespective of the connection that is there.

We have a situation where a lobbyist approaches a member of the government, the counsellor evaluates the government's transparency in all this, gives an opinion and then reports to the Prime Minister who is himself a party to the case.

This is entirely unacceptable, and perpetuates the image that politicians are always looking out for their own interests. I think this government will assess this later on during debate. I think there is support in Canada to improve the situation, and the bill does not satisfactorily do so. Considering the commitments the Liberals had set out in the red book, it was very clear that they wanted to go a lot further.

Once it crossed the floor, how is it that the government did not manage to drop its old habits? We can only guess at what influenced it. I think the answer lies in the fact that, in Canada, political party funding is still very unstructured. Companies, unions, groups and pressure groups can all contribute to party funding. So, once a party is in power, it is forced to pay careful attention to the comments and suggestions of those who funded it.

I think that the big companies, such as the Canadian banking network, for example, want to make sure that their lobbyists have a lot of leeway.

We parliamentarians must ask ourselves the following question: Is this advantageous for Canadians? It is advantageous for Quebecers to leave all this leeway to lobbyists and to end up cancelling out the direct effect the public must have on the people they elected to represent them?

The second indication that a government has not let go of its old habits is the action of the lobbyists themselves. They are a highly polished group. We can see very clearly in the business of the Pearson airport that lobbying firms have interchangeable people. When the government changes, they have someone from the right family and the right school, who has access to a particular ear. When another party comes to power, they bring out of mothballs someone from the right family and thus ensure uninterrupted influence.

We in the Bloc Quebecois feel that the government should have given a much stronger message to the public that it wanted to ensure that the people of Canada were the primary agents of democracy and that they had the greatest influence on their members. To this end, we made some very constructive suggestions, which the government rejected. This is rather sad.

Let me give you examples of that situation. The Bloc Quebecois is in favour of registration for lobbyists, regardless of the tier to which they belong. Currently, some lobbyists make representations to ministers, while others are in contact with senior officials or MPs.

The existing rules regarding the disclosure of the fact that these people are lobbyists vary. These people should all have to register in the same manner, so that we know exactly who is lobbying, not just those who are paid specifically to do it, but also all those who do it under cover, as director of public relations, director of governmental relations, etc. We want to have an accurate and comprehensive overview of the situation.

It is important, for reasons of transparency, to know about all the activities and dealings which relate to government contracts. Lobbyists should be required to disclose, on a regular basis, which contracts they are working on, so that we could have a clear idea of how such representations are made and how contracts are awarded. The process must appear relatively fair, and there must be sufficient transparency to be able to determine whether the most deserving group or company was awarded a contract, in compliance with acceptable standards and criteria.

We also think that meetings with senior officials should be reported. After being elected to the House of Commons 18 months ago, one of the first changes I noticed compared to my previous job was that lobbyists were calling us and knocking on our doors asking, "Could we meet with you to discuss this or that situation?"

I think that this type of relationship with elected officials is normal and should be reported. What is a little more nebulous, however, is the representations made to senior officials. One of the ways lobbyists can exert influence is by becoming involved in the drafting of bills or regulations before decisions are made.

It would be interesting to receive a list of these interventions to see whether or not a given clause has been included in a bill as a result of lobbying. The disclosure requirement alone may even reduce the number of such meetings. Again, I think it would be interesting because it would allow elected officials to have more control over, and more direct contact with, senior officials, thus allowing the people they represent to exert, through them, greater influence on the work done by senior officials.

Therein may lie one of the causes of the current situation in which high level bureaucrats, senior public servants, often seem to govern through a third party and exert some control over ministers instead of the other way around. Much about this type of influence remains unknown and unclear at the present time.

Another decision, which was suggested by the Bloc and which, I think, is very important because money has been described as the root of war, is to eliminate tax deductions for lobbying expenses.

Paradoxically, companies can now obtain tax deductions for lobbying expenses often incurred to influence policies to their advantage even when these policies are not in the public interest. It is a government incentive to spend money on this kind of lobbying, while ordinary citizens trying to get organized to apply pressure often cannot obtain similar services.

We could look at this in the context of the ongoing debate on gun control, without getting into too much detail. There is lobbying around this issue, lobbying by those who want more gun control and by major associations which oppose gun control. For my part, what I see mainly is citizens trying to express opinions, one way or the other, on this issue. But they cannot

exert the same influence, mainly because the companies or corporations on either side of the debate can claim income tax deductions for their lobbying expenses, while the residents of a village cannot.

Here is an example. I met in Saint-Médard-de-Rivière-du-Loup, a locality in my riding, with 25 or 30 people who wanted to talk to me about this bill. It was not possible for them to form an organized group and defray the cost this entails. Still, they had worthwhile arguments that made good horse sense to put forward and they should be given the chance to do so.

That is why I think it would be important to reinstate the relative balance between stakeholders and one good way of doing so would be to stop encouraging companies to hire lobbyists by making sure that no tax deduction can be claimed for this purpose, as it acts as an incentive to hire lobbyists.

How could we finally get a government that would stand up and seriously tackle problems like this one? This would have a direct impact on the way people perceive their elected representatives. Just look at the degree of confidence the people have in their elected representatives, I would say it is far from satisfactory and we have to do something about it. One way is to show all Canadians that there is no hidden force acting within the system, that nobody has more power than they should have because of the rules of the system.

What fundamental change should be made? It all boils down to party financing. If we want a responsible government that will make changes in this area, we have to make sure that political parties do not owe anything to anybody. We have this model in Quebec where only individuals can contribute to the financing of political parties, which makes the government much more at arm's length with companies, unions and other groups.

If federal political parties would agree to this kind of financing, the party elected to office would be under a lot less pressure in terms of keeping its election promises, instead of feeling the kind of pressure that has forced this government to introduce such a weak bill.

The subcommittee report on Bill C-43 is coyly entitled "Rebuilding Trust". The way to rebuild trust is to make sure that the public knows everything there is to know and has an complete overview of the situation, that there is nothing secret going on. The only way to achieve this goal would have been for the government to do almost exactly what it had promised during the election campaign so that Canadians could see a clear relationship between what the Liberals said and what they are doing.

Unfortunately, in this case as in several others, this government has a double standard. It campaigned to be elected, but today it is implementing the agenda of a party that the public completely rejected, that is the Conservative Party. This is as true in the case of lobbyists as in the other areas. This is why the Bloc Quebecois is very disappointed with the choices made by the government and wants the public to be aware of it. For once, it can be said that this has nothing to do with the constitutional or with the national issue.

We should realize that for the federal Parliament to serve Canadians well-and this is true for any provincial legislature, any government-the appearance of justice and the citizens' confidence in government are of critical importance. But as with many other issues, the government has lost an opportunity to make history. It is our hope that it will have the courage to go back to the drawing board.

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10:20 a.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of my colleague from the Bloc. I note with interest that the Liberals promised great openness, great honesty and great accountability in their now infamous red book. I read that they will appoint an independent ethics counsellor who will report directly to Parliament. They say they will not allow the public agenda to be dominated by lobbyists as it has been since the Conservatives took office.

I invite my hon. colleague to comment on whether or not he thinks openness, accountability and independence have been achieved.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the criteria of the government's accountability and independence vis-à-vis lobbyists have not been met. The reasons are outlined in the Bloc Quebecois's minority report which also proposes solutions.

The report prepared by the Reform Party, which believes that the Liberal report has two major shortcomings, namely insufficient disclosure and the way the ethics counsellor is appointed and his accountability, concurs with the report by the Bloc Quebecois as far as these problems are concerned. However, perhaps because of the expertise acquired in Quebec concerning the financing of political parties, the Bloc Quebecois went much further, making some concrete proposals that may improve the situation. Having listed these proposals in my speech, I will not repeat them. But as we are about to enter the next century and we see that governments have less and less control over international decisions and the way things are done, I believe this will be one of the criteria people will use in determining whether their government is doing its best to ensure adequate development for their country.

People can understand that we can no longer control all the variables and that we live in a very complex world, but they will never accept that those variables may be controlled by others than their elected representatives. I believe that, in choosing their representatives, voters will systematically come back to

the following criterion: they will want to make sure that their elected officials really represent them and are not continuously influenced, with varying degrees of transparency, by lobbies that do not reflect the opinions of the electorate.

Having been made aware, since I was elected, of all the twists and turns involved in bringing about a policy decision, it is obvious that what people want is for their elected representatives to have control of what is going on and not simply be the puppets of people who have received no mandate from the voters. I think that the government will have to go back to the drawing board. I do not know whether it will have the courage to do so during this Parliament, but this whole issue will surely remain a fundamental one for voters, and the suggestions that were made by the Bloc Quebecois in its minority report will prove to be an interesting guide in this respect.

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10:25 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the remarks of the hon. member, and I think he did a very good job of pointing out the problems with this bill, and more particularly the fact that it does not go far enough. Members of the official opposition have been receptive to representations and comments made by the public during committee hearings. I was one of those who attended most of the hearings of the committee on lobbying. What struck me the most is that people want more openness in the public sector. They do not trust politicians any more. They said it quite bluntly: We do not trust politicians. We have the definite feeling that all the decisions made on Parliament Hill-or at any other level of government, but let us deal with our own House first-are made to serve the personal interests of politicians. That is what people told us. It is quite clear and easy to understand.

I think Bill C-43 was an opportunity for us, as politicians, to demonstrate our commitment to openness. We had an opportunity to pass a bill on lobbyists that would clearly show that we are not here to advance our own interests or those of the government's buddies. That was the very praiseworthy goal of Bill C-43, but the government did not take the necessary steps to reach that goal.

With Bill C-43, we had a chance to really shed some light on what goes on on Parliament Hill, but we let it slip by. One thing we could have done to promote openness and show Canadians how serious we are on this issue would have been for the House to have a say in the appointment of the ethics counsellor, and for the bill to stipulate that our code of conduct was binding, just like the one lawyers have. I am a lawyer myself and, when I used to practice law, our corporation had an official whose job it was to slap us on the wrist if we misbehaved. I think we should have taken this opportunity to develop a binding code of conduct to ensure some kind of supervision.

Instead, we will end up with a non binding code of conduct written by an ethics counsellor appointed by the Prime Minister, in other words, with a document that is just so many empty words.

The hon. member mentioned some issues and current events. My question is: Does he agree that, if we had had an ethics counsellor appointed by the House, accountable to the House, with the statutory instruments needed to enforce the law and ensure openness, would the goal set out in Bill C-43 have been reached and better defined? Could the hon. member provide an answer to my question?

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10:30 a.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Indeed, Mr. Speaker, I believe this is a symbolic example of the situation regarding the ethics counsellor.

I would like to remind you of a sentence which was in the red book of the Liberal Party of Canada. It says: "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". Hence, what our citizens want, according to the Liberal red book, is better information on the influence of lobbyists.

Opting for an ethics counsellor appointed by the Prime Minister and accountable only to the Prime Minister, is like saying that the person who is going to look into the situation has a direct tie with the one who might be implicated. This shows concretely that Liberals did not go to the core of things and did not deal, in a definite, long term way, with a situation which is unacceptable to the people.

This is something we had been trying to deal with following the last election campaign, and I repeat that Liberals will be accountable to the people for not having used the solutions which, in the end, were the results of a consensus in our society.

Today, the decisions needed are very complex and we have to make sure that things are open enough and that the people who are going to pass judgment have an independence somewhat similar to the one enjoyed by the auditor general. If the auditor general were not independent of the government, do you think that he could systematically report on the government's efficiency like he is now doing? A new auditor general would be brought in before he could get a second report out. The same goes for the ethics counsellor. The Prime Minister will either give him a very limited role or he will simply be obliged to give in to pressure from the lobbyists and, in this way, serve to cloak their activities even more. We have before us a perfect example-the MP's question is quite germane-of the fact that the government did not fulfil its mandate and that is the main reason the Bloc Quebecois will not support this bill.

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10:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The five hours provided for debate have now expired. We are now entering the ten minute period.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, everybody knows that it is high finance that controls the government.

If Bill C-43 had had more teeth, it could have had the merit of keeping this pack of predators at bay.

The hon. member for Berthier-Montcalm, my Bloc Quebecois colleague, introduced a series of amendments which would have effectively caged them in, but the Liberals rejected them all. How can they possibly hope to control the situation when they, like negligent shepherds, have flung the doors of the fold wide open, turning a blind eye to the hungry wolves killing off every last lamb in the flock, one by one?

Let us not kid ourselves. If Bill C-43 is passed as is, the government will not be able to pry open the stranglehold that the lobbyists have on the affairs of the state.

They will still be able to promote their own interests as they influence major decisions that should be made in the best interests of the people of this country. In the debate on this bill, the very credibility of our democratic system is at stake. We know and we said this earlier, that the public does not have a very high opinion of politicians. This attitude extends beyond elected representatives to include our institutions as well.

With Bill C-43, the Liberal government had a good opportunity to keep its promises and promote the transparency of our political life and our democratic system. Unfortunately, these promises will never be kept if it depends on hon. members opposite. They reject all amendments. They reject all the good ideas my colleagues submitted, although these were proposed in a spirit of co-operation, not as a way to score points.

My colleague submitted amendments based on the concept that democracy is the only valid system of government. We in the Bloc Quebecois believe that democracy is sacred. It is the only system we accept and practice, and we uphold its principles. The aim of democracy is to promote the public good. In a real democracy, governments are elected to manage the country's assets in the best interests of its citizens.

The aim of a genuine democracy is to ensure that all citizens have a chance to pursue their dream of individual happiness. In a democracy, this dream of individual happiness and success could be called the DIH. Today, the only thing that counts for this government is the GDP, the Gross Domestic Product or whatever contributes to the well-being of the financial community, the lobbyists, wolves whose only purpose in life is to feed on helpless sheep.

In a democracy, we all have the right to express our opinions. We have the right to promote and defend our interests, but we do not have the right to do so at the expense of our fellow citizens. However, that is exactly what is happening, and that is why public confidence in our institutions has hit a new low. Lobbyists for the financial sector manage to get government contracts through secret negotiations. They manage to influence government policy to further their own interests.

A good example is the fact that the wealthy in this country hardly pay any income tax. The rich can set up family trusts and avoid paying their fair share of taxes. The reason for this is simple: they have access to government and they use their influence. Our democracy is no longer being run by a group of individuals who have been elected to serve the community. It is governed in the utmost secrecy behind closed doors and on the sly.

We in the Bloc Quebecois agree with the need to restore people's faith in their institutions. I also believe that many of my colleagues opposite feal the same way, but I think the government is not willing to do the job. Since its election, the government has not been particularly transparent. A number of matters hint at the possibility of there being determinant outside influence, such as the matter of the Pearson airport in Toronto, for example.

However, what finally convinced me about the government's lack of willingness was the $400 a plate dinner in Montreal on May 3 given by the Liberal Party of Canada. You will never convince me that only Liberal partisans were involved. There surely were lobbyists there as well. Rest assured, Mr. Speaker, however, that there was no one, not even a Liberal, from Sainte-Irène, and there were no fishermen from Grosse-Roche. The people clearly remember the promises in the red book, but government leaders seem to have forgotten them.

If Bill C-43 were improved, it might mean greater transparency. A stronger bill, one with teeth, could at least increase public confidence somewhat. This was the aim of the amendments proposed by my colleague for Berthier-Montcalm.

In the case of the ethics counsellor, we in the Bloc propose that the person be accountable to the House of Commons, like the auditor general. The ethics counsellor must be independent and have his or her hands free to act, otherwise he or she would be subject to lobbyist influence. It would be a complete waste of time to appoint an ethics counsellor who could be influenced by outside forces. Such a gesture could only increase the mistrust of people for their own institutions.

Moreover, we recommend that there be only one category of lobbyists. Why differentiate? A lobbyist is an individual who,

on behalf of a group or a company, tries to influence the government. Are some motives more commendable than others? Certainly not, Mr. Speaker.

Lobbyists do not seek to improve the well-being of the community, they are hired to defend particular interests or to represent interest groups. I do not believe that creating different categories can be justified. If governing was adding up all the interests at stake, I would understand, but in a democracy, such is not the case. In a democracy, governing is thinking and acting with the best interests of the community in mind, which is contrary to private interests.

Also, we are asking that fees and meetings with senior officials and ministers be disclosed. The public has the right to know that information. Parliamentarians who represent Canadians have the right to know if a senior public servant was influenced regarding some major decisions. We talk about accountability in the public service, but let us not forget the notion of responsibility.

Public servants are paid by taxpayers to serve them. They are not paid to meet the expectations of lobbyists. What is at stake here is the credibility of the public service. Bill C-43 must provide for the disclosure of all meetings with senior officials.

The legislation includes a code of conduct for lobbyists, but no real means of enforcing it. This is like putting up a sign saying "No wolf allowed" in front of the sheep barn. Is the government so naive as to believe that such a sign will keep the wolf away? Is it so naive as to believe that a mere code of conduct with no enforcement measures will help rehabilitate our institutions?

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10:40 a.m.


Ed Harper Reform Simcoe Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-43, an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act. It is a very important bill dealing with a very major problem we have.

It is important we do all we can to restore the trust that has been lost between the voters and the politicians in Ottawa representing them. When I think about this bill it brings to mind the experiences I had when I was campaigning for the election. I was absolutely shocked at the number of people with the same response: "Here is another politician at the door telling me what I want to here now; however, you will go to Ottawa and do as you're told". I encountered that distrust and cynicism at far too many doors. It was a disheartening experience.

The bill is a small step in the right direction to do something about that. To reinforce what I am saying about the lack of trust and the cynicism I want to quote from the royal commission on electoral reform and party financing, 1992. It dealt with political cynicism in Canada. Seventy per cent of the people contacted responded: "I do not think the government cares much about what people like me think". Seventy-nine per cent responded: "Generally those elected to Parliament soon lose touch with the people". Eight-two per cent said: "Most candidates in federal elections make campaign promises they have no intention of fulfilling". And 64 per cent said that most members of Parliament make a lot of money misusing public office. Those are serious observations by the people we are here to represent. It is a very serious challenge, which we must do something about.

The mood of the voters was understandable. I understood where they were coming from as I went door to door. What was being said then has just been highlighted in the recent book, On the Take . That cynicism, to a large degree, was justified in the minds of the public. We are all tarred by that brush. We are dealing with a minority that does the things that were alleged, but it is a problem we all face and must address because we all pay the price.

It was evident that the government understood the problem, because in the red book it did talk the talk. Unfortunately, it has been words up to this point and not enough action. Page 94 deals with public trust:

Nine years of Conservative government have brought our political process into disrepute. A Liberal government will restore public trust and confidence in government. We will regulate the activities of lobbyists by appointing an Ethics Counsellor. We will reform the pension plan of members of Parliament. We will give more power to individual MPs by providing more free votes and more authority for parliamentary committees.

I suggest that has not been happening. The government apparently understood the problem but is somewhat reluctant to deal with it. Some half steps have been taken, but it has not gone nearly far enough.

If we look at members of Parliament from the voters' perspective, whether it is real or perceived, and certainly some of it is perceived, they look at us while they are paying higher taxes and receiving fewer services. There are more people unemployed and indeed under-employed. There are a lot of young people who have skills far beyond what jobs they are forced to take because of the economy. There is an increase in crime, particularly among our young offenders. Our social programs are threatened and there has been some deterioration in them. They had no voice in Ottawa. I believe that was manifested in the GST, where that most unpopular tax was rammed down the throats of the Canadian people without them having a say.

All of this resulted in 205 new members being elected to the 35th Parliament. That was a very strong message from the voters that they were very unhappy with what had been going on here

and they wanted major change. They wanted the windows and doors open to find out more about what goes on in this place.

Those 205 new members represent a great challenge. It is a great opportunity for us to bring about the changes that are needed in order to restore that trust. If we want trust we have to give trust. Things like freer votes, recall and referendum, and Bill C-43 all lead toward that. We saw what happened to freer votes in Bill C-68. Those Liberal members who had the courage to stand up and vote by the wishes of their constituents were stepped on rather heavily and removed from committees; so much for freer votes, as was indicated in the red book.

With respect to recall, we saw what happened very early in the life of this Parliament, when a member was thrown out of the government. He was not good enough for the government, but there was no opportunity for the people of that riding to do something about the member.

There is no place for the referendum. There is still no voice for the Canadian people in this Parliament. I think the comment from the Prime Minister was that he found the referendum revolting. I do not think that comment would sit well with Canadian people, given their current mood.

As I said, Bill C-43 is a small step in the right direction. In dealing with Bill C-43, I return to the royal commission on electoral reform, particularly that 64 per cent of the respondents said that most members of Parliament make a lot of money misusing public office. It is a terrible mood that is prevailing out there, and we have to do all we can to change that.

The Canadian people want a more open and transparent process. This bill has got off to a bad start, because it is not going far enough.

The Pearson mess has been mentioned a couple of times already this morning. The Pearson situation is a very good example of lobbyists and the lack of an open process. That situation continues to deteriorate. If we review that situation, we had a government that forced that through during the campaign, which was wrong as far as the Canadian people were concerned. Then the Liberals cancelled that program without having due regard for the cost of that cancellation and indeed whether the Pearson deal that had been struck was a good one.

In looking at that deal, one of the things they did in shutting the doors was appoint a Liberal to do the investigation. Without questioning whether Mr. Nixon is qualified or not, that was a very poor choice, given the mood of the voters. It smacked of trying to hide things from the Canadian people.

Now we find that renegotiating or taking a look at that contract was not even an option. It has been made clear that indeed it was a process that was started with a bias, and that did not change. We have no idea of what might be the eventual cost to the taxpayers. The report was accepted by the government without one ounce of proof as to whether in fact there had been any wrongdoing. People's names were dragged through the mud. They were being denied the opportunity to have their day in court. Here again this is happening behind closed doors. The Canadian people want a more open process.

When we talk about infrastructure, the Pearson airport is Canada's most important infrastructure and it continues to deteriorate. Jobs could have been created in overhauling those terminals. Indeed jobs are going to be lost in Ontario and all across Canada because that airport is continuing to deteriorate.

One of the things that really bothered me on that Pearson deal was the comments that were coming from the other side about the sleaze, the corruption, and how rotten a deal it was. Yet the government was prepared to pay $30 million to this sleaze. If these people are half as bad as the government is making them out to be, why would they get one nickel of taxpayers' dollars?

We were demanding that an open and public inquiry be held. That was denied over a year ago, and reluctantly it is being agreed to now. It is unfortunately too late, because now we are going to have the Liberal hacks and the Conservative hacks in the Senate deciding who is the worst in this whole affair.

A problem with Bill C-43 is that the lobbyists should be identified by activities and not by employers. Another item is there is a definition in the bill that the lobbyist activity should be significant. How do we measure significant? If we go back to the Pearson deal, there was enough potential money to be made on that deal that you could be in once and out and be set for life. The word significant would not have applied in the case of the Pearson deal. The bill ignores the anti-avoidance schemes that are there.

The appointment of the ethics counsellor is another broken promise. On page 95 of the red book we were going to get an ethnics counsellor who would report directly to Parliament. Another broken promise. Another golden opportunity to restore the confidence of the Canadian people has been lost. Having him report through the registrar general is like having the auditor general report through the finance minister.

Remind all members we have an opportunity, with 205 new members, to do something to restore that level of trust and lost confidence. Let us not lose it. Bill C-43 is a small step. We can open it up so that it is a much larger step, taking us down the road to a much better and more open Parliament.

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10:50 a.m.


Philippe Paré Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak about Bill C-43, which seeks to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act and thus, we are told, ensure greater transparency regarding representations made to the Canadian government by lobbyists.

The Bloc Quebecois has always insisted on the need to monitor the activities of those who make representations to politicians and public servants in an attempt to influence decisions for the benefit their clients.

The Liberals' red book is infamous, because it was their election platform, but has become the graveyard of all their unfulfilled commitments and promises. The red book stated that "a Liberal government will move quickly and decisively in several ways to address these concerns about conflicts of interest and influence peddling". A few weeks later, as soon as they got to power, the Liberal government stressed in its Speech from the Throne that "legislation will be placed before you to increase the transparency of the relations between lobbyists and the Government".

Despite the far from exemplary past of the federal Liberals in this area, Quebecers and Canadians were ready to believe that this was it, that this federal government was finally going to clear out this dark corner of our political institutions and bureaucracies. Patronage and partisan politics have fed the public's cynicism regarding the government apparatus for much too long now for the government to be able to restore their trust. The 35th Parliament was given a clear mandate to change these old ways. Canadians and Quebecers opted for change and they elected us to defend the interests of all our fellow citizens.

Bill C-43 and the Zed report on the registration and control of lobbyists brought Canadians and Quebecers back to the sad reality. We have learned that the Liberals should carry a "best before" date, just like dairy products.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt, but the hon. member will have the floor after Question Period.

It being eleven o'clock, we will now proceed to statements by members.

Burmese RefugeesStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Herb Dhaliwal Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I recently returned from a trip to Burma and Thailand. While making that trip I learned a lot about human rights and some of the concerns the local people have.

I had an opportunity to visit the refugee camps on the Thailand-Burma border, where there are more than 90,000 Burmese Karens on the border. One of the major concerns they had was the security problem of the military government, the SLORC from Burma, attacking them. More recently I have learned that some of the camps I did visit in fact were attacked and more than 200 houses were burned down.

I made these concerns known to the ambassador of Thailand and to our foreign affairs people.

I would urge this House and all my colleagues to continue to put the pressure on to ensure that the refugees along the Thailand-Burma border are secure and that the Thailand government gets the security it deserves.

FisheriesStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, speaking in the House on Tuesday, the federal Minister of Fisheries admitted that his plan for managing snow crab in 1995 changed the historic shares of the provinces, but he maintained that the measure would be temporary, just for this year.

This is a complete contradiction of a statement made by his secretary of state in Shediac on April 23, which indicated that the plan might be extended as long as the snow crab biomass remained stable.

Because of this measure, Quebec will lose 400 tonnes of crab and 40 factory jobs, while fishermen in the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands will lose three million dollars in income. And the minister has the nerve to claim that his decision is fair to Quebec fishermen.

We are beginning to understand why the federal government insists on maintaining its right to manage fish quotas and continues to ignore Quebec's demands. Quebec fishermen, who are caught in the middle, are feeling the impact of this policy and are not about to forget it.

V-E Day CeremoniesStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure and pride that I say these words today.

I was moved by the ceremonies performed today across Europe in recognition of war's end and especially to remember Canada's role with the allies in the liberation of Europe. The news coverage revealed the incredible feelings of hospitality,

thankfulness and warm affection these people feel for Canadians.

To see the Canadian flag waving, to hear the cordial words from their youth, to participate in the prayers in their churches, to see the bloom of flowers on every street and city square made me, and I am sure all Canadians, even more proud of our heroes and country. It is this that shows us the true bond that exists between our nation and our people with the former allies overseas. We should all pause to consider how fortunate we are that we inherited and formed these bonds as a result of the sacrifices our fighters made in defending freedom.

It is moments like these we should dwell on to put into true perspective our lasting relations with our friends across the seas. Today in Canada we feel truly proud and grateful that God has blessed us and our country with such history and friends.

Cfb ChilliwackStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government has chosen to close Canadian forces base Chilliwack, a decision which many people in British Columbia regard as unwise.

I received a letter bearing thousands of signatures requesting that the government keep the base open. A public rally was held a few weeks ago, the weekend before the minister visited the base. Unfortunately the minister stated that the decision to close CFB Chilliwack was carved in stone, although both civilian and military personnel have posed questions about the closure that remain unanswered.

If this decision is final, it means that the government must now participate with the local committee to plan the transition. It must provide clear information on the timing and disposition of both personnel and facilities at the base as soon as possible.

The closure of CFB Chilliwack means the loss of over $100 million to our area. Now that the government's position is clear, it is time to begin working with the community to minimize the disruption to our local economy and to the thousands of families affected by this unfortunate closure.

LiteracyStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week we celebrated the fight against illiteracy in Canada. As someone who has been involved in this issue for a number of years, I want to take the opportunity to congratulate all the non-profit organizations, school boards and people involved in the issue of illiteracy from coast to coast.

Members will know that illiteracy costs Canada about $10 billion a year in lost productivity. To business alone it costs about $4 billion a year. That is quite appalling.

The initiative the government has taken on the issue is commendable. I take this opportunity to congratulate the minister responsible for literacy in the other place as well as the minister of human resources for their initiatives.

I hope that by the year 2002, we will have a literacy perfect society, whereby everybody will have a chance to read and write as they should be doing.

YouthStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Harold Culbert Liberal Carleton—Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, we often refer to our youth as the future of our country.

The majority of young Canadians are ambitious, intelligent, hard working and caring citizens, including the students from the Carleton North high school choir, those participating in the forum for young Canadians and the adventures and citizenship students, all of whom are visiting Parliament Hill this week.

Our youth are learning Canadian values that will enable them to grow into the leaders of tomorrow, who will protect others who are not as fortunate as they are, while providing every opportunity for those who follow them to flourish in the best possible environment.

Today I salute tomorrow's leaders, thank them for what they have done for Canada today and for what they will do in the future to ensure Canada remains a united and strong country to be envied throughout the world.

Health CareStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, in an article that appeared in the Quebec media, former Senator Claude Castonguay, the father of health insurance in Quebec and former health minister, gave a very clear analysis of the state of our health care system and the future of the system.

According to Mr. Castonguay, the federal government's withdrawal from health care funding is a major threat to the survival of our health care system.

Still according to Mr. Castonguay, despite this withdrawal, the federal government continues to act like an inflexible regulatory agency and dogmatically enforces the standards of the system. By calling the shots without sharing the costs, the federal government puts the provinces in an almost impossible situation. To us, it is clear that the only way to guarantee the

survival of our health care system is for the federal government to withdraw, with full financial compensation for the provinces.

The Bloc Quebecois continues to say, loud and clear, that the provinces have exclusive jurisdiction over health care.

InuktitutStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Jack Iyerak Anawak Liberal Nunatsiaq, NT

Mr. Speaker, Canada is a country of many cultures and languages. Our diversity strengthens and enriches us. In Canada we have values of respect for one another and accommodation of our differences. In Canada we do not have to be the same as everyone else. We do not all have to have the same roots or the same mother tongue to be Canadian, to love this country and to work for its betterment.

My mother tongue, Inuktitut, has been spoken in this country for thousands of years, long before European languages were spoken here. Along with other aboriginal languages, Inuktitut is an original language of Canada. Inuktitut belongs in the House of Commons.

Tax ReformStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present the fourth instalment of the Liberals copy Reform awards.

Today's lucky winner is the hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood, who last Monday stated: "If we do not have total tax reform in the House in about 25 or 30 months from now, I agree with the people who say we will hit the wall when it comes to our deficit and debt".

In those words, I see a member who is frustrated and lonely because his party is not supporting tax reform in Canada. It is a party that in one year in the name of simplicity has added 1,288 pages to the Income Tax Act.

Canada's tax system is out of control. It takes too much money from hard working Canadians who earn it and gives it to high spending politicians on that side of the House who blow it on pensions, on junkets, on programs like TAGS.

Reformers believe in a flat tax. It is supported by our entire party, unlike the Liberal member who is truly a lone wolf, whose unanswered howls for tax reform echo through the halls of Parliament.

V-E DayStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


John Murphy Liberal Annapolis Valley—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, on Monday, May 8 Canadians will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of V-E Day.

I am honoured to rise today to pay tribute to our veterans. I am especially proud to recognize the many veterans who live in my riding of Annapolis Valley-Hants. I look forward to joining them on Monday to commemorate this momentous occasion.

For our military personnel, for our merchant marines, for our medical teams that worked on the front lines and for all those Canadians who contributed to the home front I am sure I speak for all my colleagues when I offer my deepest gratitude for their sacrifices.

On this occasion, I ask all Canadians to stop and reflect, to say a prayer of thanks for those who risked their lives and for those who died to preserve freedom. We are truly indebted to all of them.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


John Maloney Liberal Erie, ON

Mr. Speaker, the grade 5 students of William E. Brown Elementary School in the village of Wainfleet in my riding of Erie ask that the government ban the use of lead shot in Canada.

Lead shot is used for hunting waterfowl, upland game birds, small mammals and for trap or skeet shooting. This results in 4,125 tonnes of lead being discharged into the Canadian environment each year. Lead is a highly poisonous metal that when ingested by birds or animals as they forage for food leads to a slow and agonizing death, a death that is totally unnecessary.

The use of lead shot is one more source of environmental contamination that is unacceptable, especially when there are non-toxic alternatives available, such as bismuth shot. It is my understanding that lead shot has already been banned in the United States and some European countries and that some non-toxic shot zones have been established in our own country.

I ask the Minister of the Environment to ban the use of lead shot throughout Canada. Let us follow the lead of these students by thinking globally and acting locally. Preserve our wildlife, simply ban led shot.

The EconomyStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


André Caron Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to information received recently from the Conference Board, the job situation in Canada is of major concern to consumers and business people.

In the world of business, 38 per cent of managers foresee an upturn in the economy in the coming six months, as opposed to 64 per cent last year. Fewer than one third of consumers in Canada consider this a good time to make major purchases.

Only 16 per cent of consumers think there will be more jobs in their community in the next six months, whereas, at the end of last year, 26 per cent of consumers felt there would.

Confidence in Canada's economy is shrinking daily, despite what the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance are saying. The Prime Minister should look at what is going on around him. Has he spoken recently to any of the millions of Canadians reduced to unemployment insurance and welfare?

EpilepsyStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Jesse Flis Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I recently had the pleasure of meeting with one of my constituents, Mr. Richard Aihoshi, who represents the Epilepsy Association of Metro Toronto.

Having personal experience with persons affected by epilepsy I know the true nature of this disorder which has long been distorted by myth and fear. Epilepsy is a physical disorder; it is not a disease.

People with epilepsy can and do lead full, productive and accomplished lives. Alexander the Great, Richard Burton, Alfred Nobel and Agatha Christie all lived with epilepsy.

I therefore congratulate the Epilepsy Association in metro Toronto. We must all do our part to better understand the 280,000 Canadians that live with this disorder.

Raf Ferry CommandStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, this coming Monday marks the 50th anniversary of V-E Day. Under the banner "Canada Remembers" Canadians will spend that day paying tribute to those Canadian soldiers who fought for their country in the second world war.

However the "Canada Remembers" slogan has a somewhat hollow ring. Many civilians contributed much to the war effort, at great risk to themselves, but have been largely forgotten. One such group was RAF Ferry Command to which I would like to pay tribute. Ferry Command was a group of determined civilian pilots who delivered more than 10,000 planes to the battle zones of Europe and Asia.

Ferry Command began in November 1940 when pilots from Canadian Pacific Air Services ferried seven Lockheed Hudsons non-stop across the Atlantic and continued their work for the duration of the war. Their casualty rate was a significant 20 per cent.

I would like to ask all members in the House today to take a moment to remember the brave men and women of Ferry Command.