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House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was promise.

Topics

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

4:55 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague, the member for Prince George-Peace River, for the question. The answer to his question is that this is not a waste of time. This is very important. It is an issue that tackles the very essence of government and of politicians.

We are talking about integrity. We are talking about trust. We are talking about believability. When you knock on doors and ask people to vote for you, you stand for something. You have pride, you have principles, you have goals and you have objectives. You tell people that you stand for these things. You tell them that you

would do these things if you were government. What frustrates me is that once they get elected, once they get here, they do not deliver on what they promised. They will not do what they said they are going to do.

This is what frustrates the Canadian voter. This is what frustrated me when I just voted and did not participate in the system. Government is really controlled by a very few people. Very few people participate in our political system, therefore there is a lot of opportunity and chances for people to get here without much effort. When they do get here, the system lends itself toward a democratic dictatorship. We freely elect a dictator every four to five years.

We need some protection and control against that. This House is the place where that is done. This House is where the government is held accountable and responsible. Members are questioned on their competence and integrity. Therefore, accountability, integrity and competence are things for which we look and make sure they are adhering to them.

The Prime Minister makes all these patronage appointments. We call it patronage because there are 3,000-plus positions to which the Prime Minister can appoint people without review. Yes, we can object to them when the names are put forward. It appears that every leader who is the head of a government appoints those people who either have made the biggest contributions or who have worked the hardest on somebody's campaign or who have had long term, outstanding commitments to that party or who was a candidate and did not get elected.

What is hypocritical about the current Prime Minister is this. If that is the system and that is the way the game is played, fine. Incompetence will surface and that person will eventually be fired.

When you are in opposition and you are the leader of the opposition like he was for so many years, when he says on this side of the House that Prime Minister Brian Mulroney is making patronage appointments, that he is only appointing his hacks, his supporters, his contributors. Stop. When you get to that side, you should not be doing the same thing. He did not change it. This is part of politics as well. It is an opportunity for the member for Kingston and the Islands and this government to have one member from the opposition side as a deputy chair. We could have another election on it. This shows that Reform is committed to systemic change.

The member for Waterloo brought up the question of intellectual honesty. The standing orders say that we are supposed to be given 48 hours' notice for a motion to be presented. We were not. They say that we are wasting taxpayers' dollars. They are dictating to us who goes where, what happens and when. Therefore the who, what, why, where and when should not just be at the whim of the government. It should be subjected to opposition commentary.

That is why there are rules in the standing orders that we should get notice of what is going on. This government has invoked closure more times than the previous government that it criticized for doing it five times. This government has done it 19 times already. We still have a year to go. According to the member for Fundy-Royal, there are two more years to go before we have another election. They have all that time to keep all these promises. I am practising the finance minister's style. I need that pen.

He goes: "Another thing, Madam Chair, I want to tell you about this government. I want to tell you about the policies I made. I didn't raise taxes. I know the tax base has gone up. I know I have reduced exemptions. I know I raised excise taxes. They are up. I have not raised taxes. We have done this through sound government. We have done this through good government. The members on that side don't know what they are talking about". Then they all clap and cheer.

The issue is about patronage. The issue is about partisan politics. This is an opportunity to take partisan politics outside of it. We have to be partisan. We have to fight for those goals and ideas that we each believe in, even if we disagree.

That chair, the position that you are sitting in, Madam Speaker, is a very important one. We have not questioned anybody who has been in that chair so far. They have applied the standing rules to the best of their ability. What we are saying is that here is a chance to improve the system a little more.

I know the member for Kingston and the Islands would make a good chairperson. I saw him work in the committee on procedure and House affairs. That is not the issue. The issue is this. He said that he believes that the junior chair should be held by a member from the opposition. Therefore, here is his opportunity to help us implement his plan and guarantee the independence of the Chair, not only talk the talk but walk the walk or do the thing that they should do which is right for Canadians.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:05 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to make my comments reflective of my party. I did hear from a member opposite that Reformers are intellectually inconsistent.

I remember when this position was open to you, Madam Chair. This exact debate went on at that time. We discussed the independence of the Chair. We discussed whether or not the commitment which was made in the red book should be kept. That commitment is extremely important.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mary Clancy Liberal Halifax, NS

Oh, yea. How come you never agreed to do it, Grant or Jay or whatever your name is.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:05 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

There seems to be a fair amount of chatter in the House, Madam Speaker. I wonder if you might instruct the loudmouth from Halifax to quiet down.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

That is definitely unparliamentary language and is not acceptable. Would you please excuse yourself.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:05 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Madam Speaker, back to the independence of the Chair-

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Would the hon. member for Macleod please withdraw his words toward the hon. member for Halifax?

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:05 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Madam Speaker, I would be happy to withdraw.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mary Clancy Liberal Halifax, NS

Well done.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:05 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Madam Speaker, back to the independence of the Chair. As you will recall, this debate took place. We asked for and continue to ask for a member of the opposition parties to sit as deputies in the Speaker's chair. I suppose it will take another government to come in from the opposition that really intends to keep its promises for that to take place.

If the independence of the Chair was important in opposition, why is it not important now? I speak to a lot to the youth in high schools. Those kids have become cynical about the whole political process when they hear promises made in opposition which are not kept in government. How many promises have not been kept? We could give a litany of those promises which have not been kept. But this one for sure has not been kept.

How would Reformers be different? What could I say to a youthful high school student in Cobourg, where I was last week, about how could they be certain Reformers would keep their promises? We have made a host of promises in our new platform launch. For instance, we have promised that once the budget is balanced $4 billion will be returned to health care and education.

A high school kid would ask: "Why should I trust you? Why in heaven's name would I listen to you? You are just saying that to get elected and once you are elected, you would break your promises". Reformers have a guarantee on our promise which is very specific. We believe and will institute a promise which is so important to the kids across the country that I am going to say it as plainly as I can. Reformers would submit to the Canadian public the right to be able to fire a liar. That is as plain and as clear as I can state it. A promise made in the fresh start campaign which is unkept will enable the Canadian public to fire the liar.

The example I use in my high school class is one that relates directly to them. I say to them, during the election campaign I, the member for Macleod, decide that there needs to be a restoration facility for old Camaros in a building that is currently unoccupied. I found money from Japan. The Japanese love our old cars. They are going to come over here and provide the money for this facility. This facility, motor work, upholstery work, painted body work, will all provide jobs for the high school students in this school. There will be advertising and some tourism. We have calculated very accurately that the total numbers of jobs will amount to 217. There is also enough money in this promise to build a small hotel near the abandoned and unoccupied old airport. That hotel would provide for the purchasers of that Camaro a place to stay. They want to come over and view their very own cars that go through the restoration process before they take delivery of it. This involves another 30 or 40 jobs.

There will be a spinoff from that. There will be bus tours that will go from this facility and travel around the country. I promise all these things if I am elected: Camaro restoration facility. We will be there for sure.

Oh boy, they scrub their hands and say: "Finally somebody thinks about the kids". They elect me and five minutes after election I say: "Ah, sorry kids, the money ran out. The Japanese investors walked away. This is the hardest thing I ever had to say to you as my electors, but I cannot keep my promise".

I ask the students: What should happen to that politician? It does not take them 15 micro seconds to answer: "Fire the liar. Recall. Turf him out. Boot him". They look right at me and say: "You had better not make that kind of promise".

Here we have that kind of a promise. "In order to enhance the independence of the Chair and in an effort to reduce the level of partisanship, when the Speaker is from the government party two of the junior Chair officers should be from the opposition". I will state publicly that I would vote for a member of the official opposition as a matter of principle on this issue. This is not a matter of partisanship.

I was very pleased to first come into Parliament and have the Speaker of the House elected. I considered that to be a significant step forward in the democratic process. I was reasonably pleased to see this commitment of the Liberals in opposition to take these steps when in government.

One of the most significant results of the McGrath round of procedural reforms was the decision that the Speaker should be elected by secret ballot by all members. This has gone a long way toward assuring members of the independence of the presiding officer.

The three deputy Speakers, however, remain, in effect, government appointees. As a consequence, when one of the junior officers is in the Chair, his or her independence

and authority is less well established. Their authority would be greatly enhanced and the non-partisan nature-

-evidence if we had individuals from the opposition as deputy chairpersons.

How long will it take to have promises kept? I suppose it will take only as long as the Canadian public will put up with the sort of unkept promises that we have had. How much spin can the government put on the red book when its members say that 78 per cent of the promises have been kept? I have gone over the major promises in the red book. Let me list a few of them. The jobs, jobs, jobs one I think is difficult to pin down. There have been some jobs from the infrastructure program, temporary jobs though they were.

Let us talk about a few of the other things: stable funding to the CBC, not kept; day care spaces for Canadians, not kept; medicare protection, $3 billion per year in provincial transfers dropped, not kept; on and on they go, major promises, not minor promises.

This one I suppose could be called a minor promise. It is so easy to keep. Simply accept a member of the opposition in the position of deputy chair. I repeat, for those individuals who say no politician will keep their promises, recall is the method to assure that happens. If a politician does not keep his or her promise we should be able to fire a liar.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:15 p.m.

Reform

Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's speech. I heard him mention the sort of related topic of when the budget is balanced the promise that Reform had made to restore funding that the Liberal government has cut for medical programs, medicare. I know that is a major concern to Canadians. It is slightly related to what we are talking about today. I would really like to get a clarification on that from the member. It is something important that Canadians want to hear.

I know they are disappointed and upset with the long waiting lists in medical centres today. It is very difficult to get an operation. I have a friend who waited about 18 months for an operation. This all stems from a failure to keep a promise to protect an industry that is very important to Canadians, just as is the failure to keep this promise today regarding the junior chairs.

I ask the member if he could expand a little on this aspect of restoring faith in a system that has been destroyed by broken promises from the other side.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:15 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to explore that a little further. The reason I came to Parliament was that medicare as far as I was concerned was under some stress. I did pay attention very closely to the promise and watched the funding reductions for medicare.

Reformers have quite a different view of deficit reduction. We believe deficit reduction must have a purpose. That purpose is to support and promote the most important social programs that we have, medicare being number one, post-secondary education being number two. As we reduce those funds down to zero and get the interest payments settled down so that they are no longer an oppressive burden, cutting things like the MP pension plan and transfers to favourite businesses of the government, we can provide more money for medicare.

The promise is straightforward and a promise that Reformers will keep. When the budget is balanced we will put $4 billion of the lost money back into medicare and post-secondary education.

I ask my colleagues across the way who have not kept their promise on medicare to adopt that. Put that money back into medicare. Take a page out of the Reform Party fresh start book. Medicare is more important than partisan considerations.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Harold Culbert Liberal Carleton—Charlotte, NB

Madam Speaker, I had the opportunity to work with the member for Macleod in the health committee for a year and a half. We carried out a number of studies. As I recall at that time, to follow up on his comments that he just made about our health care system, how valued our medicare program is to all of us in Canada, how dear it is to the Liberal government and the Liberal members of this place, we will continue to protect that and those principles that go with it in every form, in every manner. We have exemplified that time and time again in this House.

However, I recall a few months ago when the hon. member for Macleod suggested that it was quite okay to have a two level system in this country in health care, that it was okay to have system in which those who had a fat wallet could get the best service and those with no money in their pocket could get no service at all.

It is gratifying this afternoon to hear the hon. member for Macleod now say that he agrees with our medicare system and wants to support it. That is a move in the right direction. That is the first move in the right direction for that party and for the member for Macleod. I am delighted to hear him say that.

I would ask him to comment on what has caused him to move to this great revelation where he has suddenly realized the tremendous benefit of the health care system and our medicare system regardless of how many dollars Canadians have in their pockets. Is the hon. member for Macleod aware of the agreement that was made a year ago in the budget where the provinces were guaranteed the amount of transfer for social programs and health care and where through 1998 those increases will start to go forward and where this is exactly what the provinces asked for and what they wanted? I ask the member to comment on that. I am delighted to see the

revelation of this member and this party in this House on medicare in Canada.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:20 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Madam Speaker, it is nice to get some praise from my colleague across the way.

Let me go back to the original promise from the Reform Party on medicare. Our original promise was deficit reduction that would not take a penny from medicare. As the deficit got worse, in our taxpayers' budget we projected $1.5 billion from the Canada health and social transfer, which the Liberals brought in as an obfuscation measure in my view, over three years, while my colleagues cut $4.3 billion over two years.

As the deficit reaches the point where it gets to zero, as we are able to take those funds that are currently going into interest payments, as we shrink government down to a lean and mean government rather than a fat, bloated government, we will be able to preserve medicare. Reformers simply say to our colleagues let us see them trim down the government so that we can save this program.

They say their program will produce an increase of funds for medicare. How much? How many dollars? Reformers have found $4 billion per year to put back into medicare and post-secondary education. Their promise is a paltry promise.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:20 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I know time is short for questions and comments but I have a question for the hon. member.

Earlier the hon. member for Waterloo accused Reformers of supporting the Bloc Quebecois and I endeavoured to point out that the Liberals have been supportive of the separatists over the past three years in this place. We can clearly show that on a number of fronts.

Could the member elaborate further on his comment that in the interests of non-partisanship he is prepared to support a member from the Bloc Quebecois over a Liberal to the position of deputy chair? The member for Calgary Centre suggested that there be a full election. He suggested that there be one name put forward by the Bloc, one name put forward by the Reform Party and that the House be allowed to decide who the new deputy chair would be.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:25 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Madam Speaker, that is an excellent suggestion. It is one which I believe most members of the House would say is a step toward the democratic process.

Should there be a partisan consideration? There should not. The Chair should be independent, and a free, open and democratic election would be ideal.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:25 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, what is wrong with the House of Commons is very well displayed by what is going on in the debate today.

When we came to this place in 1993 over 200 members of Parliament were new. At that time we did something which all of us remember well. We were all on the list for potential Speakers of the House. In order not to be on the list of eligible Speakers we had to indicate so and our name would be taken off the list. It was open to any member from any party with any tenure.

The reality is for the most part the members with tenure in this place, members who had been here in previous Parliaments, were the most logical candidates to run for the position of Speaker of the House. Therefore it was only logical when the voting took place that we were voting for Liberal members.

It was a rather exciting evening in this place because the ballot went to three votes. There was a tie ballot after the second vote. It was a very exciting time. We made a choice and we have all lived with that choice. The Speaker who was selected that evening is the Speaker we still have today. We have all been very comfortable with the choice we made that evening.

Now we are discussing the appointment of a deputy chair. Why should deputy chairs be arrived at in any different form than the Speaker? That is the core of the question. If deputy chairs are strictly government appointments, then we are demeaning this place.

I would like to endorse the comments of the member for Calgary Centre. An appropriate vehicle in the current circumstances would be to have a nomination from the Bloc and a nomination from Reform. There is one vacancy. We could have an election. That would be consistent with the recommendation that was made. It would enhance the non-partisan nature of the Chair.

The British practice has been mentioned, which alternates the Chair positions between government and opposition. Thus, if the Speaker were from the government party, such as is the case now, then the deputy speaker would be from the opposition, the next officer would be from the government, and so forth.

The government knows that this debate is going on in the House today. I hope there is someone who is empowered to make a decision other than the nominee who was announced. It was assumed, from all signs, that his appointment would be immediately adopted by this House.

Who is making an issue out of this? The Reform members are. Why are we making an issue out of this? I have explained some of the background. Time after time in this House of Commons the Reform caucus has done its job. Reform has done its homework

and is representing the interests of Canadians. We are representing due process, or what we see due process should consist of.

We have heard time after time that we are the third party. Government members take great delight in calling us the third party. As an MP from British Columbia, I know what a struggle it is to represent all interests in this Parliament.

I believe in the last Parliament there were 43 or 44 members of the New Democratic Party in this House of Commons. I have talked to some of those members and I know what a difficult time they felt they had in this environment to get their message out. Under the circumstances Reform has done quite well in that regard. I make that point because an effective opposition in this place is very important.

There was a recommendation by an opposition member at the time in developing party policy which then became a government policy document. It was enlightened and would lead to one subtle movement toward creating a more non-partisan and better Parliament. We are seeing an attempt to cripple Reform and the opposition at every turn because the government feels threatened. This is quite inappropriate. There is a singular focus on Reform in this case because it is recognized as the only party that can replace the government.

Will the government accept the amendment the Reform Party has put forward today? I have a great concern that it will not. Why would I say that? Because the signs and symptoms are all there.

We have all had experiences at the committee level. I have been through elections and consistently I have seen that no Liberals have voted for adoption of a Reform vice-chair to any committee and all Liberals have supported vice-chairs from the Bloc.

In my last experience with an election in committee, at the time of the nomination of a Bloc vice-chair, I asked that the Bloc vice-chair explain his position on the northern Cree in Quebec should the PQ make a unilateral declaration of independence. That was a litmus test as to the suitability and appropriateness of whether or not that Bloc member should qualify as vice-chair. In response the Liberals said that it was irrelevant and voted against making it a debatable motion.

The government has shown on many occasions that it does not want to share and it does not want to consult. I endorse the idea put forward by the member for Calgary Centre that we have elections from the opposition. We will see how that stacks up for this deputy chair position, a non-partisan election, a free vote.

Why is it whenever the Liberals are held to debate on an issue, that if they know they cannot win based on the logic of the debate, they turn it into a procedural debate? That is what they did in committee when I brought forward a motion for debate about the northern Cree in Quebec. There was no attempt or any desire to upset the Bloc or to upset the Quebec agenda but rather than debate the issue, a procedural argument was brought in so that debate could be avoided.

If government members cannot turn it into a procedural debate, they turn it into a personality issue. We have seen that in the debate we are having today. Or they turn it into a partisan issue; we have seen that in the debate today; or fill in the blank. We just saw another fill in the blank which was to turn it into a medicare issue. I am puzzled as to how that relates to the election of a deputy speaker, but that is where we ended up in this debate.

Two-thirds of the members were new to this House in 1993. We have fallen a long way from that heady idealism of 1993. I would like to see us move forward. I would like to see this amended motion or some other compromise adopted, such as the one put forward by our member for Calgary Centre. We should not put ourselves in the position of entrenching that it will be done the way it was done before because that is the way it has always been done. That seems to be where the government is coming from at this moment.

If we look at western democracies, when Canada has a majority government it has every potential of having all the signs and symptoms of an elected dictatorship. We do not have the checks and balances of other western democracies. Looking to the south of us, the U.S. president is given a veto power. That is done for a reason. It is because they have a Congress and a Senate which act quite independently. They do not have the entrenched party discipline system we have seen from the old parties in Canada. It is a two-edged sword. In the United States, this has a tendency at times to handcuff the government but on the other hand, it makes the government more responsive.

What implication does it have for Canada? The major implication it has for Canada is that the party that forms the government has an even larger onus placed upon it to fulfil its election promises because we do not have all those other checks and balances. This was recognized very early by the Reform Party. It is why we set out such a detailed platform document prior to the last federal election.

I believe it was that document which led to the development of the red book by the current government. The Liberals had to have a platform to respond to our platform. We are seeing that all over again in the lead up to the 1997 federal election. Reform now has its fresh start platform. We are setting the agenda and we are going to see the Liberal Party once again do the same thing.

My point is, this is a singular contributing reason why it is so important that government-

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Speller Liberal Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I heard the hon. member say earlier that the debate was going off track. I am wondering how his comments relate in any way to the motion before the House.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:40 p.m.

The Speaker

My dear colleague, in these debates we give members as much latitude as we possibly can. I know that the hon. member is going to tie in all his remarks and make his debate very coherent.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:40 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the reason this is all so important is that it is very important that the government meet its promises. It is an election promise which is still outstanding. We want the government to fulfil its promise.

In summary, I wish to endorse the idea put forward by the member for Calgary Centre that we have an election for the position of deputy speaker based on names put forward by the opposition generically.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:40 p.m.

Reform

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

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for North Island-Powell River raised a very relevant point in his presentation in relating what is happening here today to what happens with regularity in committee. That is the collusion of this government with the official opposition to cause vice-chairs to be selected by appointment, and there is no other word for it other than appointment, rather than by election. We want the position under discussion today be an elected one. We also want all other important functions outside of the House, in committee, done by a fair election, preferably by secret ballot.

Does the hon. member for North Island-Powell River think that would be practical?

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:40 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of things that could be done by committee. In the transition, I am sure some things which are now done by appointment would be laborious for a committee. However, once everyone recognized the ground rules, that all parties would have access to all information relating to those appointments, then I think it could be a very smooth process.

What could be better in terms of ensuring that blatant patronage is taken out of the appointment process than ensuring that all parties have a chance to blow the whistle on an individual if there is a problem? In the long run it would be in the interests of the government because it would lead to better appointments and it would also bring buy-in from all political persuasions in terms of who the appointed people were.

Therefore yes, I think democracy is hard work. We all know that. However, this is a major move forward in terms of responsive democracy if we could make the kind of changes that my colleague has suggested.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:45 p.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the speech by the member for North Island-Powell River and the point he raised regarding democracy. I compare that to the point raised by the member for Fundy-Royal earlier on this afternoon, complaining about using House time to debate this motion.

There seems to be a fairly stark contrast between the concept of democracy on this side of the House and the concept of democracy on that side of the House. I think we believe in the concept that we debate the issues, we come to a conclusion, we vote and we apply the best exercise of our judgment.

On that side of the House members seem to say: "Let us crack the whip, everybody toe the party line and that is how we arrive at decisions on votes in the House".

My question for the member for North Island-Powell River is as a parliamentarian and not as a politician. I think this afternoon we are speaking as parliamentarians who are debating a motion regarding occupying the chair which you sit in, Mr. Speaker, during your absence. It is a very important role that the person would play. We as parliamentarians should be very much concerned about the decorum of this House and how we represent our constituents from one side of the country to the other.

How does the member for North Island-Powell River feel or think he would feel when he talks to the people in his constituency and tells them that this place where we protect democracy, this bastion of democracy and free speech, has been eroded by the process that has gone on here this afternoon where we have had to stand up and argue for a policy proposed by the Liberal government and on which it ran in the last election and said "if you elect us we will deliver this"?

All we are asking is that the Liberals fulfil their commitment. Yet we have had the complete and absolute refusal on their part to acknowledge this.

Also, how does the member feel, not as a politician but as a parliamentarian, back in his constituency when he is talking to his constituents and the people of Canada asking if this House is being debased or is this Liberal government really upholding the traditions of democracy in this land?

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:45 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, how do we separate ourselves in this Parliament from the democratic process and talk of ourselves in terms of the political process? I believe that my colleague's opening comment is probably the most appropriate. I believe that the Reformers in the House have a very different view of democracy than the other members in the House. Perhaps it is one of the main planks in our platform.

I have been constantly amazed at how some of our fundamental tenets, things that underpin us philosophically and resonate back home, are still denied by the old parties in the House. There is still a complete misunderstanding among many members in the House

as to what a free vote actually means to a Reform member of Parliament.

In terms of discipline, we heard my colleague talk about cracking the whip. We have a much different view of discipline as well. When it comes to the fundamental principles of democracy, I do think we are talking about what appears to be a small item here, when we are talking about deputy speakers. It is not a small item. I have talked and I am sure every one of my colleagues has talked about the behaviour of the Speaker or deputy speaker in various circumstances that have happened over the last three years in this House. Certainly not in your case, Mr. Speaker, but yes, there have been some concerns about individual decisions or postures or behaviours of various deputy speakers.

There are times in this House when there are not firm guidelines. There is free speech in this place and the deputy speaker does set the tone when the Speaker is not in the chair. It is of fundamental importance that the deputy speaker have all-party support in the House of Commons.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

5:50 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am curious that with the comments my colleague just made I am sure that he concurs with me that there is the issue of settling disputes from time to time and the impartiality of the Speaker. In this case that is not the issue with respect to the member we are talking about.

What we are talking about here I believe is the issue, the most fundamental principle, that this government made a promise and it is not keeping the promise. That is what this debate is about. This is a pivotal point in this Parliament, that the government once again is not keeping its word.

The issue of the member for Kingston and the Islands, as my colleague has said, really is not the issue. The member himself is not the issue; the principle is.