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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

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

October 28th, 1996 / 3 p.m.

The Speaker

I wish to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of a delegation from the Parliament of Finland. It is led by my sister Speaker, Riita Uosukainen.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Windsor West Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That Peter Milliken, member for the electoral district of Kingston and the Islands, be appointed Deputy Chairman of committees of the whole House.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the motion moved by the government House leader is out of order because he has not given the House 48 hours' notice.

I understand that on the opening day of Parliament or on the opening day of a new session this motion can be moved without notice because on those occasions no notice can be given since the House is not yet in session. In addition, since the opening day is known and is publicized in advance, technically there has been notice given that event will occur.

This is not an opening day of Parliament or a new session. I believe that notice should be required for this motion.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

A point has been raised by the hon. whip of the Reform Party. It is the practice of the House that such a motion in the past has not needed 48 hours' notice. I would refer the hon. member to the annotated standing orders on page 18 for a fuller explanation. I am going to allow the motion to stand.

This motion is debatable.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to debate this motion. I have sent a letter to the Prime Minister, I have sent a copy to the government whip and I have talked to the nominee for the position of Acting Speaker.

I made the Reform Party's position very clear on this. We are looking for an opportunity for the government to live up to its promises. I have nothing against the hon. member whose name has been put forward. We all know he knows the rules of the House as good as anyone. We all know in committee his reputation is to be fair and even-handed. We appreciate that.

During the election campaign the Liberal Party campaigned on a red book promise. The nominee for the position of deputy speaker co-authored a paper that was quoted in the red book as the way things should be run here in the House of Commons. In that red book it says that two deputy speakers should be appointed from the opposition parties.

The hon. member will remember that report because it came on the heels of the 81st report of the Standing Committee on House Management, which was presented in the 34th Parliament in 1993. That report dealt with presiding officers. It also recommended that two deputy speakers be appointed from the opposition benches.

During the last couple of days we have been subjected to the Prime Minister's tally of how many promises he actually kept. He says that he has kept 78 per cent of the promises. That is the same number which described the scratchy old records that the House leader may at one time have listened to.

In the 1993 election 198 specific promises were made by the government. Government members say 197. Maybe this is the one they want to forget. They promised to reform the institution of Parliament. One of the reforms was that two of the deputy speakers would be appointed from the opposition benches.

I do not have the years of experience which the hon. House leader has. He has been here for more than 30 years. The Prime Minister has been here for more than 30 years. The hon. member for Kingston and the Islands, who has been nominated, has been here forever. He thinks he has been here forever, but he has been here for a good long time. The former whip of the party, now a minister of the crown, has been here for a long time. They all signed their names to the document which said that two of the deputy speakers should be appointed from the opposition side of the House.

We had the 81st report of the Standing Committee on House Management which was presented in the 34th Parliament. They were a part of that report. They took part in that debate. The suggestions were theirs. In that report they suggested that this is the way it should be done.

During the weekend the Prime Minister said there were several promises which he has not yet been able to keep, but they are promises in progress. They will be completed at the earliest possible date.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Squeezed.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

He will squeeze the truth out of them.

This is not an "if, and or but" question. This is not a question of: I wonder what the Liberal Party meant? It is absolutely crystal clear that two deputy speakers should be appointed from the opposition benches.

The member for Kingston and the Islands co-authored the report which suggested that should be the case. The Prime Minister signed the red book promise which said that will be the case. The Prime Minister said that he would honour the red book commitments which have not yet been completed as soon as possible. That was on the weekend. I was at the convention to hear that.

The first opportunity to complete one of those promises is today. Today the government can say: "We are about to complete more of our promises. Today is the day that we put our money where our mouth is". What is it he said? We do not just talk the talk, we walk the walk. To use another analogy, this is where the rubber meets the road.

Suddenly a position is open in the House of Commons. It is a very important position. Mr. Speaker, you had the best of health before they took your best of health away, in a sense. Your good right hand man is now the government whip. We appreciated his work in the Chair. We always supported his work, but he is no longer here. Now there is a vacancy.

The symbolism of this comes down to the integrity of the Prime Minister, the promises made during the election and the promises made by the proposed deputy speaker. The hon. member for Kingston and the Islands has a decision to make in the next few minutes or in the next few days. What is his response to a specific proposal that he himself proposed, that he himself endorsed, that he himself submitted as the red book position, the Liberal Party position on how deputy speakers should be appointed?

What the member for Kingston and the Islands said, and I know him to be an honourable man, was that the position should not go to

a government member. Those are his words. It should not go to a government member. It should go to somebody on this side of the House.

The conundrum facing the member for Kingston and the Islands now is a serious one. All of a sudden, talking the talk and walking the walk and doing what is right not only in Canadians' minds but following through on the promises made by the governing party, suddenly 24 hours after the Liberal convention is shut down we find out that promises are like the Prime Minister's imaginary friend, they do not really mean anything and they do not really exist.

Mr. Speaker, the motion we are debating at this time is symbolic of the non-partisanship that you have shown toward this House. The position of deputy chairman is an extension of yourself. It is an opportunity, as the member for Kingston and the Islands recognized in his report, to show that your position, Mr. Speaker, is not partisan but is open to all members of the House. Not only that, it has been promised as kind of a balancing act to show that very thing.

At the convention that I sat through on the weekend there were a lot of shoulder strains. A lot of Liberals were patting themselves on the back and tore ligaments in their shoulder. At a convention, that is their right to do that. They can pat themselves on the back all they like.

The Prime Minister says "we will not demand your vote, we will not buy your vote", although Bombardier would perhaps question that, "but will earn your vote because you will watch us and you will see us fulfil the promises that I have made".

What is one of those promises? The very first thing that the Prime Minister can fulfil, acknowledged as an unfulfilled promises, is the appointment of the deputy speaker. It will be the test.

I do not want to politicize your position in the chair of course, Mr. Speaker. I do not want to politicize the deputy chair, or compromise his or her position. The Chair absolutely has our respect. I should not say it has nothing to do with you, as I do not want to cut you out of the picture, but the argument here has nothing to do with your position which, of course, is without disrepute. It is held in the highest esteem.

However, the promises of the Liberal Party of Canada and the promises of the Prime Minister are at stake. Think of that. When someone does not fulfil a promise and fills a role in the deputy chair's position, a very important role, and that person gets to that position in spite of a promise by the Prime Minister to the contrary, what message does that send? It sends the message that the promises of the red book are hollow, the promises of the red book are only expedient, the promises of the red book whether they are 30 per cent, 40 per cent or 50 per cent are more of an accident of birth than they are of a grand design.

If the Prime Minister pushes ahead with this appointment, the member for Kingston and the Islands will have to take a serious second look at his acceptance of his position. He needs to do some soul searching on this issue.

I spoke with the hon. member at the Liberal convention, and he knows this. I told him this was going to come up if his name came forward. I told him exactly where this was going: "Your name has been talked about here in the hallways and it may or may not come up in the debate. But if it does, this is what I am going to say". I told him because he has been so outspoken on this issue.

It is not enough just to speak about it. He put together a report. He argued persuasively on a position, basically saying this role should not go to a Liberal, it should go to the opposition. It was so persuasive that I have quoted it back to him on several occasions.

I said that the hon. member, the hon. House leader and the Prime Minister have the experience and they have collectively endorsed the 81st report of the Standing Committee on House Management and have appended their own report to the Liberal red book saying: "This is what we will do when we form government. We will give the deputy chairman of the committee of the whole to the opposition parties. You can count on it. You can rely on us. You can trust us. You can know that we will not deviate from our red book promises". It is now bunk, bunk, bunk coming from the government side.

It is not "if the GDP exceeds 3.3 per cent we will consider this option". It is not one of those promises. It is not a promise that we will somehow have a rolling target on deputy speakers. None of that. As far as I know we are not going roll all four positions together and call it the Canada health transfer subsidy. We are not going to do anything like that. This is just a cut and dried promise, succinctly put in the red book, appended, which says "when we form government we will make sure that the opposition party is represented in the chair with not one but two deputy speaker positions".

If I had put together a report in a learned study as the member for Kingston and the Islands had done and said that it was my opinion, so take it for what it is worth, I think the government would say it was an interesting thought, that it will look it over and maybe refer it to a procedure and House affairs committee and maybe study it, as opposed to precedents of other Parliaments of the world". Who knows? Study it until time ran out.

I did not submit the idea. It is not my idea. It did not come from the official opposition. It did not come from the Reform Party. It did not come from the independents. Where did it come from? From the member for Kingston and the Islands, the very member

who is being nominated today in contravention of everything he has written about that position.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

An hon. member

I would not want to use the word hypocrisy.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

I do not want to get into mud slinging or name calling in any way.

However, the principle that is involved here is one that will cast aspersions where they should not be, on the most neutral position in the House of Commons.

I am not sure whether the member for Kingston and the Islands shaved this morning, but if he had looked in the mirror today he would have seen someone who said "what is happening here today is wrong". That is what he said-not me and not the official opposition. The House leader knows it. He signed that paper too. The Prime Minister knows it. He says he is going to walk the walk, talk the talk and do what is right. This is not right.

It is unfortunate that the government has chosen to do this. There have been no consultations, no words, not a second and not a minute of consultations with the opposition parties. It has not even asked the opposition parties whether they are comfortable with this neutral position.

Mr. Speaker, you know you earned your position in a sense because all members of this House voted for your position. You have the support of the entire House.

However, on this issue not only has the government broken a promise, but there has been no consultation and no discussion. It has not been referred to any committee. There has not been a slate of names put forward. There has not in any way been an attempt to keep the promises the Prime Minister made during the election campaign.

Whether it was 60 per cent or 78 per cent of the promises made, it is dropping, dropping, dropping. It is now 68 per cent, 58 per cent, wherever. When the government intentionally breaks the spirit and the letter of its own book, its own law, then it has in essence broken its trust with the Canadian people.

I move:

That the motion be amended by striking out "Peter Milliken" and substituting "Daphne Jennings".

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

We have an amendment on the floor by the hon. member for Fraser Valley East and seconded by the hon. member for Lethbridge. Procedurally the amendment is acceptable.

The debate will continue and it is on the amendment. I am going to go to the parliamentary secretary to the House leader.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's comments regarding our friend from Kingston and the Islands.

The member for Kingston and the Islands has had a lifelong interest in this place.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

You weren't even here.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Zed Liberal Fundy Royal, NB

If the hon. member wishes to participate in the debate, perhaps she could wait until a courteous time and let me finish my comments.

As I said, the member for Kingston and the Islands has had a lifelong interest in Parliament. He knows the rules. He is fair minded. He is experienced.

I find it somewhat amusing in the presumption the chief whip for the leader of the third party has made in his comments in that there has been some reference to the red book. Perhaps the hon. member is not familiar with the fact that there are 24 months left in this government's mandate.

The decision to move the motion which the government House leader moved was given in view of what was in the best interests of this House. I listened with great interest to the fact that the member felt we should not want to politicize this. He said that we do not want to cast aspersions upon the character of the member for Kingston and the Islands. He said that we need experienced members.

When one reads the resume and sees the background of the member for Kingston and the Islands, it will be seen that he is one of very few members who would adequately best serve the interests of the House. Perhaps we could familiarize our colleagues in the House, including members of the third party and indeed all Canadians with what our friend from Kingston and the Islands has done.

It is important to know that this individual was educated at Queen's University, Oxford University and Dalhousie University. When most young Canadians were involved with different activities, he was involved with parliamentary procedure. He has taken it as a lifelong interest, an interest that many Canadians have looked at with great admiration.

As a new member of the House, I came to this place with an appreciation for the importance and integrity of the Chair. What strikes me as being very important, Mr. Speaker, is that members look to the team that needs to support you in your activities. It becomes very important for us to look to experience, to integrity, to leadership-

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Reform

Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

To look at the Liberal Party.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Zed Liberal Fundy Royal, NB

-to look at the Liberal Party. Thank you very much for that.

The member for Kingston and the Islands is fair minded.

When Canadians view the fact that we mean what we say when we put forward commitments from the red book and the appendices to the red book, we have already stood the test of public opinion.

I find it a little sad that the members from the third party came to this place telling Canadians and all members that they wanted to do things a little differently. Frankly, their interventions today demonstrate that they are doing things a little differently. They are coming forward and attacking the integrity of the process which they do not like because it does not serve their interests, it is not self-serving.

The former parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands, has served this House well. He has served as the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader. He has served as the chairman of the procedure and House affairs committee. He has served in many capacities, in many committees, and has served the interests of this House, which is the member's first love as many members of the Reform Party have acknowledged.

I encourage members of the third party to view this appointment, this nomination and this motion with the spirit in which it was given. If they have a complaint about certain aspects of the red book, I encourage them to stay tuned. There are 24 months left in the mandate of this government. There are many months left for the remaining 22 per cent of the promises that will continue to be met as they relate to the red book.

I urge members not to use up government time or House time for this matter. Canadians have other issues they want debated. There are bills that need to be passed. I strongly urge that members reconsider their amendment and that they consider supporting the motion.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I hate to say that the hon. member who just spoke has missed the point, but he has missed the point.

There is absolutely no doubt about the qualifications of the member for Kingston and the Islands. I mentioned that repeatedly in my speech. I realize he is a student of the parliamentary system. I understand his interest in it. I understand his qualifications. But the number one qualification he has is that he is a Liberal and the Liberal Party promised that the number one qualification should be that the position should go to an opposition party member.

On a point of clarification, I would like the member to admit up front that I have not, nor has anyone in our party said anything about the member for Kingston and the Islands to suggest that he is not technically qualified for the job. What we have said is that it does break a promise in a book appended to the red book which said that the position should go to somebody from an opposition party. That in essence is the argument.

We want to straighten out the matter. First, we have not been picking on the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands. That is not the issue. Second, the promise was explicit. I could read the promise to him but he has no doubt read it himself since it was a promise. That of course is the nub of the debate today and the argument comes down to that. Does the member believe that that promise should be fulfilled?

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Zed Liberal Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, before I give a direct and succinct answer to the question, it is important to go back to something my hon. colleague just said. He said that the number one qualification of the member for Kingston and the Islands is that he is a Liberal. That is not true. The member for Kingston and the Islands has been proposed because of his experience, because of his interest in this place, because of his knowledge.

The other point is that the hon. member said there was a promise broken. As I said in my speech, there are 24 months left in this government's mandate and there are 24 months left in which to complete the balance of 22 per cent of the promises that have not yet been addressed or that are still in progress.

I believe the hon. member for Fraser Valley East is somebody who is fair minded. I believe he should be intellectually honest enough to recognize the reality of what in fact has happened.

In answering the hon. member's question, the number one qualification for the member for Kingston and the Islands is his integrity, experience, fair mindedness, his appreciation for the House and his lifelong interest in this place.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

And he is a Liberal.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Zed Liberal Fundy Royal, NB

If because he is a member of the Liberal team disqualifies him, then there are a lot of Canadians who would be disqualified because there are a number of Canadians who support the Liberal Party.

I do not believe we should be conducting the way we do business in this House based on popularity. We should do it based on tough decisions that are being made, important decisions and decisions that are right. The right decision is being based on the experience and fair mindedness of a member in this place who can serve the interests of the House. That member is the member for Kingston and the Islands.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, there are two issues I would like to touch on.

First, I would like to reiterate what my colleague for Fraser Valley East mentioned. Not once in his speech did he say anything derogatory about the member for Kingston and the Islands. The member for Fundy-Royal should be aware of that and he should acknowledge that we are not casting aspersions on the member. I

worked with the member on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. He was chair of that committee and I did find him to be fair. Should he become deputy chair, I would not have any problems with that.

Second, for all the glowing comments the hon. member for Fundy-Royal made, he should clear up this issue that we are not picking on the individual's character and integrity. It is impeccable and he would be a fine deputy chair. There is no question.

However with all those glowing compliments, with all those glowing remarks and all the experience that the member has-and those are the grounds upon which the Liberal government wishes to put his name forward-why does the member not go one step further and accept the advice of the member for Kingston and the Islands, to accept the high degree of intelligence, accept the high degree of thought and effort that he put into this idea as to who should be deputy chair? Should it or should it not be a member from the opposition parties? Should it not be a member from the official opposition? Should there not be a second deputy chair from the third party?

That is what the member for Kingston and the Islands put forward. With all his years of experience, with all his knowledge and integrity and honesty, he said that was what the government should do. It is signed with the signatures of the Prime Minister, of the House leader and of the former whip. All of these people have recommended that the two deputy chairs be appointed from the opposition benches.

Why does the member from New Brunswick not recognize that comment? Why does the member from New Brunswick not acknowledge that it is a promise which was made? It is a promise that should be kept. He knows it is a cop out to say that we still have 24 months left. Why does he not just admit it?

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Zed Liberal Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Calgary Centre has asked a question. The question that I hear him asking is: Were there certain issues that were raised in the red book which relate to the Chair? That is how I understand the question. The answer is that there was an appendix to the red book which contemplated changing the way this place does business.

We have lived up to a lot of those promises. There were issues regarding greater participation by members of Parliament, changing the way the committee system works, referring bills to the standing committees after first reading in order for members to have greater involvement in legislation.

In replying directly to the member for Calgary Centre, it is important to reiterate the fact that there are 24 months left on this mandate. I hear them saying they do not believe this promise will be kept. All I can say to them is stay tuned.

Seventy-eight per cent of our promises have been kept. The other 22 per cent is in progress. I look forward to the day when we campaign in the next general election, when we put our stock on the table and let Canadians decide whether they feel our promises have been kept.

I know that the integrity of the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands is not questioned by any member of the House. What members are questioning is the process. I know that all members of the House share my interest in supporting the motion for the member for Kingston and the Islands.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government House leader is a very experienced man, so I am sure he is not surprised to see his motion give rise to what I would call very interesting discussions.

Unfortunately, the official opposition will vote against the amendment of our friends in the third party for a very simple reason: If this House did break with tradition and decide to appoint a Deputy Chair who is not a government member, it is clear to me that this Deputy Chair should come from the official opposition. I am convinced that our colleagues from the third party can only agree with our arguments.

We, however, feel sorry to have to do this. The government party is just emerging from a convention where everything was hunky-dory.

I imagine that during the convention there was no discussion as to whether or not the government should keep its promise to fulfil an important responsibility and appoint an opposition member to assist the Chair in carrying out one of its most basic, if not its most basic duty: the orderly conduct of House business and, ultimately, good governance.

Of course, there was no question about this, but it would have been a good idea to appoint an opposition member as the new Deputy Chair.

We will also vote against the motion. Yet, we will do so with regret. We will do so as a matter of principle because everyone of us recognizes that the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands has but one flaw: he is not a member of the official opposition. He has excellent judgment. He is well mannered. Every time he had to assume committee management responsibilities, he met the expectations of both government and opposition members.

I can assure the man who will likely be the next Deputy Chair that he will, of course, have our co-operation because we are confident he will be do a very good job of moving House business along.

I therefore move an amendment to the amendment. I move:

That François Langlois be appointed Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:50 p.m.

The Speaker

Hon. members, we have an amendment to an amendment by the hon. member for Laval-Centre, seconded by the hon. member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie. In my opinion it is not in order because it is not an amendment to an amendment but an alternative amendment. There is a difference. For these reasons, this amendment is not admissible at this time.

Committee Of The WholeOral Question Period

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a brief comment because this is an issue that has come up before. There is no question that the House is not dealing with the credentials of the nominee.

The issue has to do with the status of an appendix that was included in the red book, a report which was authored in part by the nominee. The report included a recommendation. I had an opportunity to speak with the member earlier about the wording. It was suggested that the positions may be filled by opposition parties. I asked why it was parties and he explained to me that if there was a small official opposition it might be appropriate to look to a third party.

The results of the last election came as a surprise to many Canadians and certainly were unknown to members of the House at the time this report was written. The fact that a party reflecting a position that Canada should separate became the official opposition put the context of that report in a much different light than the member's report may have indicated.

I am assured that the Reform Party would be the first to object if the government were to nominate a member of the Bloc to fill this position.

I have a question for the hon. whip of the Bloc. Although it is true there are 24 months in the mandate, does the member understand that it would probably be inappropriate, given the view of Canadians at this time, to appoint a member of the official opposition as a speaker of this House?