House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was research.


Agricultural Marketing Programs ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members


Agricultural Marketing Programs ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Agricultural Marketing Programs ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members


Agricultural Marketing Programs ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Agricultural Marketing Programs ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Agricultural Marketing Programs ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

The division on Motion No. 2 stands deferred.

The House resumed from October 29 consideration of the motion that Bill C-49, an act to authorize remedial and disciplinary measures in relation to members of certain administrative tribunals, to reorganize and dissolve certain administrative tribunals, to reorganize and dissolve certain federal agencies and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee; and of the amendment.

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 1996 / 11 a.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate today on Bill C-49, the Administrative Tribunals (Remedial and Disciplinary Measures) Act.

Wherever I travel in my constituency or throughout the country I speak to people who are terribly cynical. They are not cynical about life necessarily, but they are definitely cynical about the political process.

For example, a couple of weeks ago I met a lady who told me in very plain language her estimation of politicians. I was a bit surprised at the vociferous nature of her attacks. She said: "They say one thing and do another". We all know this is not necessarily true, or it is not altogether true, but it gives an idea of the cynical attitude that exists in our country.

The pervasiveness of the cynical attitude begs a major question: Why is this so? Why are so many Canadians so cynical about their political leaders and the political system? Why are they so angry?

One of the biggest reasons I have heard why politicians have such a bad reputation is the lavish patronage this government, like governments before it, has dished out and still dishes out to its party friends.

As members of Parliament we want Canadians to have faith in their leaders, to feel confident that politicians will do what they say they will do fairly and honestly. We need a measure of this trust to do our jobs properly in representing our constituents and the nation. As legislators we have a role in establishing this positive reputation for ourselves simply by doing our jobs well.

For example, we could pass legislation which would eliminate partisan appointments to key government positions. That would ensure that key appointments would be ratified by an appropriate body.

Unfortunately Bill C-49 is not that kind of legislation. For that reason it should not pass the House of Commons. Bill C-49 allows the shameless abuse of patronage to continue. This bill will only perpetuate and reinforce the cynical attitude that Canadians already have toward their leaders.

How does patronage relate to Bill C-49? This bill is supposed to be the second legislative step in the government's program to streamline the operations of federal agencies, boards and commissions. It is also supposed to change the appointment process,

reduce the number of governor in council or cabinet appointments, more closely manage some agencies and eliminate redundant bodies.

This bill has an enormous flaw. It does not ensure that employment positions to government agencies, tribunals and boards are awarded strictly on the merit principle. It allows the government to continue to build its legacy of patronage abuse.

A moment ago I mentioned that partisan appointments made by this government and former governments helped to create the cynical attitude Canadians have toward politicians. Patronage causes people to think this way for two distinct reasons. First, the government broke its word to Canadians regarding patronage appointments. The Liberal red book, now called by many Canadians the Liberal dead book, promised that a Liberal government would make appointments to boards, commissions and agencies on the basis of competence, but that has not happened. These positions are still granted to the Liberal Party faithful.

When Canadians are not told the truth, who can blame them for being cynical? Just to give an idea of how blatant the Liberals have been in breaking their word, let me read a bit of their patronage record.

First, there have been 18 partisan appointments to the Senate, the institution the Prime Minister said in 1991 should be elected, equal and effective. Second, Richard Campbell, a former campaign manager, was appointed a director of Marine Atlantic. Third, Richard Cashin, a longstanding member of the Liberal Party and MP from 1962 to 1965, was appointed a member of the Canadian Transport Harvesting Adjustment Board. Fourth, Dorothy Davey, wife of former Liberal Senator Keith Davey, was appointed to the Immigration and Refugee Board. Fifth, Fred Drummie, the executive assistant to the Minister of National Defence, was appointed to the International Park Commission Board. Sixth, Raymond Guay, Liberal MP from 1963 to 1980, was appointed to the International Trade Tribunal. Seventh, Roy Heenan, partner in former Prime Minister Trudeau's law firm, was appointed to the CBC board of directors. Eighth, Ethel Teitelbaum, Pierre Trudeau's former executive assistant, was appointed to the Immigration and Refugee Board. It goes on and on.

This Liberal government, after saying it was going to be above board with Canadians, after saying it was not going to be like the Tories and after saying it was going to make appointments to boards and commissions based on merit, not based on loyalty to the Liberal Party, has made over 200 patronage appointments. What a shame.

What is even more shameful is that some Liberal members, point blank, support these practices. Last week the hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood said: "I believe in patronage. I have always believed in patronage. I am not going to change". It is no wonder Canadians are cynical when there are members of Parliament who have this kind of attitude.

Patronage appointments create cynical attitudes for a second reason. It says to people that the government is more interested in scratching its friends' backs than in protecting the interests of our nation and treating every Canadian fairly.

For example, there is a serious problem in our justice system. Since coming to power the Liberals have appointed lawyers who are not competent crown prosecutors. When a judge must depend only on the evidence brought to the courtroom by the lawyers and the prosecution's presentation of evidence is lacking or faulty, the judge still must adjudicate on the basis of the evidence and the law. No wonder justice is not done. No wonder the justice system is not protecting our citizens from criminals. No wonder people are cynical, when the evidence is not properly presented and the judge is forced to let people go free without facing the consequences of serious criminal activity.

Patronage jeopardizes the interests of Canadians when political appointments are made to governing bodies like the National Parole Board and the Immigration and Refugee Board. Now even these boards are left without the credibility they need to properly serve their purposes.

By all the criminals released from jail on some form of early release in 1995-96, a total of 165 serious crimes were committed. These included 15 murders, 15 attempted murders, 22 sexual assaults, 21 major assaults and 71 armed robberies.

We were told when the National Parole Board released these individuals they were not considered risks. Boy, was it wrong. Historically people who sit on parole boards have been well paid patronage appointees with little or no knowledge of criminal justice. Parole board members now must have some background in criminology or corrections. But the point is still the same. When Liberal cronies with very limited knowledge of the criminal justice system are appointed to the National Parole Board, the chance of poor decision making increases. Canadians need and deserve certainty of safety before the Liberal government looks after its party needs.

The same case can be made for the Immigration and Refugee Board. Many of the 215 appointees to this board are political appointees. For example, I found a list printed in the Vancouver Sun , October 5, 1995. The list outlines the British Columbia Immigration and Refugee Board members and when they were appointed. Only nine of the nineteen appointees have any formal training or education in immigration law. Immigration and Refugee Board members are responsible for hearing the oral testimony of a asylum seekers and for determining whether claimants qualify for refugee status. When the government appoints its cynical buddies and bagmen to the IRB, incompetent decisions are a certainty.

In March last year the citizenship and immigration committee heard from two former members of the IRB. These men stated that

at least half their former colleagues did not have the educational expertise needed to do their jobs. Let me quote from the testimony of one of those witnesses, Mr. Bauer. He said:

I would say, and I think most of my colleagues would have agreed with me, that about a quarter of the members of the IRB are incapable of even properly conducting a meeting. Even as second members, some of them are a bit embarrassing. I say that rather reluctantly, and I do not say it lightly, but I can assure you that it is true. Approximately another quarter, with a tremendous amount of training, education, coaching and monitoring, might be able to barely get through the process single-handedly, although I would think there would be a number of legal and procedural problems arising that would cause a great deal of difficulty with the board.

We have seen the incompetence described by Mr. Bauer in action. For example, on November 12, 1995 the Federal Court of Canada had to throw out a refugee board decision that denied a woman asylum. This woman was first ordered by her boss to submit to sexual assault and then convicted of prostitution. Mr. Justice Frederick Gibson who overturned the decision said "there should be a new hearing because the board made legal mistakes and overlooked key evidences".

This is a classic example of what happens when patronage appointments are made to government boards. We cannot blame people for being cynical when we have a government that takes care of its friends better than it takes care of the people of our refugee and immigration process and those seeking safety of Canadians.

Patronage not only endangers the safety and interests of Canadians, but it treats people unfairly. For example, the electoral returning officer in my riding is now a Liberal appointee. The person may be able to do the job competently but that is not the point. The person who had the job was competent, had done it through two elections but was fired to make room for this person. The job was not advertised. There was no open competition. How do the people in Cariboo-Chilcotin know that the most qualified person got this job? In fact, they do not know. What they know for sure, however, is that the Liberal government is more interested in doing favours for its friends than in treating Canadians fairly.

A moment ago I mentioned that the Canadian public is cynical toward politicians. The main reason for this cynicism is the patronage appointments that this government and the Tory government before it dished out and still dish out to their party friends. Just as the government is to blame for the problem, it could be part of the solution if it chose to do so.

The way for the government to give Canadians confidence and earn their trust is by giving them a fresh start. This means taking the Reform platform and putting it into action. We have an entire section on how to make politicians accountable.

Reform's fresh start to Canadians, guaranteed, will do the following. First, it will give Canadians the tools to ensure politicians keep their promises by bringing in the means to recall MPs who do not keep their word. Second, it will provide Canadians with a better representation, more direct input into the democratic process, and the ability to hold politicians accountable for their decisions. Third, it will allow freer voting in the House of Commons. Fourth, it will replace the current undemocratic, unrepresentative Senate with a Senate that is elected, equal and effective. Fifth, it will give voters direct input into the decision making process through referendums and citizens' initiatives on important issues. Sixth, it will involve citizens directly in amending our most basic law, the Constitution.

Most important in relation to this debate, Reform's fresh start guarantee will end patronage appointments by ensuring that employment positions and contracts are awarded on the merit principle and subject to open scrutiny by parliamentary committees.

If the government amended Bill C-49 to include this kind of provision, it would be taking an important step toward earning the trust of Canadians and putting the needs and concerns of the Canadian people over the interests of its Liberal friends.

In closing, I reiterate that a cynical mood exists in Canada toward politicians and their public institutions. Patronage is one of the root causes of this mindset. As members of Parliament we want Canadians to have faith in their leaders, to feel confident in their politicians, that their leaders will have the interests of the people first in mind and that we will act fairly and honestly in representing Canada and our constituents.

As legislators we have a role in establishing this positive reputation for ourselves. For example, we could pass legislation that would eliminate partisan appointments to key government positions. Unfortunately Bill C-49 is not this kind of legislation. For this reason it should not pass the House of Commons. Bill C-49 allows the shameless abuse of patronage to continue. It will only perpetuate and reinforce the cynical attitude Canadians already have toward their leaders.

Patronage creates a cynical mindset for two reasons: first, the government broke its word to Canadians regarding patronage appointments and, second, patronage says to people that the government is more interested in scratching its friends' backs than in protecting the interests and needs of society and treating every Canadian fairly.

Therefore I urge the government to pass legislation not only to end patronage appointments but to ensure that employment positions and contracts are awarded on the merit principle. This is one way we can earn the trust and confidence of people. It would also be the fresh start Canadians are asking of their political leaders and political institutions. It would be a fresh start that Canadians truly deserve.

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Bruce—Grey Ontario


Ovid Jackson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Madam Speaker, I would like to make a few comments.

The government's criterion is based on competence and merit. It is an open process. The jobs are advertised and appear in the official Gazette . Our selection process is transparent and is based on job descriptions.

What the member said are his words and his imagination. The record will show that since we have taken office the government has appointed approximately 2,000 people to agencies, boards, commissions and crown corporations since November 4, 1993. Of this number 525 were reappointments. We do not know these people, but they were reappointed obviously because they did a good job. They knew what they were doing. They carried out their functions quite well. We had transfers and promotions of persons appointed by the previous government. The government then had a principal concern, that appointees should qualify for the jobs they do.

It is meanspirited to make comments that cannot be backed. It is meanspirited to say the government is not here to work for the people. That is why I came here. I was one of the first to speak in the House and I said that integrity and competence were important to me. That is the way I operate. I am sure most members of the House would like to do that.

The member talked about the member for Broadview-Greenwood. As I recall at the time the member said that bankers or industrialists appoint people they can work with, people they had confidence in and people with ability. These people are from right across the board. They may be Reformers, Conservatives or Liberals. Why would that exclude them from the job?

When the hon. member makes these comments he should give examples. He should make them transparent and ask questions in the House. That would make the process better. He should not just rise to say that government is bad. I do not think so. We have play a significant and important role for the people of Canada. The people of Canada want us to be transparent. They want us to be honest. I think most of us are.

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Madam Speaker, I am dismayed the hon. member paid so little attention to what I was saying. I backed up what I said with concrete illustrations.

With regard to the matter of competency, I pointed out the serious problem in our justice system with the appointment of prosecuting attorneys who are not qualified and who are not doing their jobs well. Judges have problems dealing with evidence that is not properly presented and are unable to hold people to account for serious criminal activity. That is a very serious situation. It points directly to the patronage appointments of lawyers who are not qualified to do their jobs.

I also mentioned the situation in my constituency where the job of electoral returning officer was not advertised. We only found out about the appointment by accident. I talked to the previous returning officer and learned he had been fired although he had done an admirable job through two previous elections.

He was not a Reformer. He was not politically motivated but he was not a Liberal either. He does not have the job, which he regrets. He did the job very conscientiously. He took it very seriously. He entered into the program of witnessing elections in other parts of the world on behalf of the government. He did an outstanding job. I do not speak about him as a Reformer because he is not one. He was a credible returning officer who no longer has the job.

I am sorry that in asking the question the member is not aware of what is happening within his own party. It is a serious situation in terms of the results of appointing people who are not qualified. It is also serious because it feeds the cynicism of people toward their political leaders. Many of us are trying to change this reputation but we cannot do so until the government with the power to change begins to act in that way.

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, could the hon. member for Cariboo-Chilcotin advise the House if in his opinion there are circumstances upon which it is appropriate for the government of the day to make appointments based on the party or philosophical approach of a person in any circumstance? Is there an occasion when patronage is an appropriate consideration in government appointments?

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Madam Speaker, the blatant patronage we see today that has no reference to the qualifications of the person involved but simply the loyalty of the person to the party is what I am speaking about.

It would be unfortunate if the qualifications did not list the needs, the intention of the governing party and the direction it is going so that the person appointed can properly act out government policy.

I am speaking against are people who are not qualified and are being appointed primarily, if not only, on the basis of their party relationship. That has to come second. The needs of the nation must come first.

Just to emphasize what I have said to my hon. colleague, it would be unfortunate if the government selected or appointed a person who was not in tune with the direction the government had in mind in changing programs. It would be unfortunate if a person was appointed to maintain the status quo when change was needed.

The government making the selections must do it very carefully. It must be open. The qualifications must be listed so that the general public knows what they are and can find out if they are interested. The appointment should be made with the government's needs in mind and ratified by the appropriate body.

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Madam Speaker, what does the hon. member feel should be added to the bill? What kind of an amendment could be made to make political patronage more or less vanish or disappear? That is something that must happen.

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased my colleague asked this question. Perhaps the single most effective means of accomplishing that purpose would be to have appointments ratified in a public forum such as a parliamentary committee. If that were the case the public would know, scrutinize, understand and make its objections if it was not properly done.

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Bruce—Grey Ontario


Ovid Jackson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Madam Speaker, I have a quick comment. In my previous role I spent 19 years in municipal politics. There is no easy way of finding people.

At one time we had to hire a police chief. People said let the rest of the police chiefs select the person. If the person is not screened, in the culture of that organization they may hide all the facts. It is the minister's decision. There is no magic way of hiring people.

Does the hon. member think that all people are perfect and his selection process is a perfect one?

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Madam Speaker, I agree with the member that there is no magic in the process, but the process must be open. The Canadian people, the appropriate people, must be involved. It must be more than a political adventure in appointments. When openness is there, when people know what jobs are available, what they can apply for and when the applicant who is successful has the scrutiny of not only the government but of the public at large, the process will become much fairer and will much better serve the needs of the Canadian people.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That any recorded division requested Thursday, October 31, 1996, on any government orders, including the divisions already requested on Bill C-34, and on Friday, November 1, 1996 on the address debate, be deemed deferred until Tuesday, November 5, 1996 at 5.30 p.m.

(Motion agreed to.)

The House resumed consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


Nic Leblanc Bloc Longueuil, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today against Bill C-49, an act to authorize remedial and disciplinary measures in relation to members of certain administrative tribunals. We must particularly note the word "disciplinary". The minister wishes to have the power to smack his administrators around a bit. Our colleague and fellow member of the Bloc Quebecois has proposed an amendment stating that there ought to be a parliamentary mechanism governing the appointment or revocation of the appointment of members of administrative tribunals.

As my introduction, I would like to offer a brief explanation of what administrative tribunals are, what their importance is. Bill C-49 makes major changes to the operation of administrative tribunals. Although these modifications have not attracted much media interest, they are nonetheless important.

The administrative tribunals, while often less well known than the superior courts, nevertheless have major impacts on the daily lives of Canadians and Quebecers. Often they bring down far more decisions than do the superior courts. What is more, the consequences of their decisions are often very important to citizens and to the state, whether Canada or Quebec. Indeed, the significance the administrative tribunals have assumed in recent years is now an accepted fact. They have become the preferred decision-making venue, where citizens wishing to confront government regularly stand up for their rights.

I will name a few of these tribunals to show how significant they are and the role they play in our society. The Veterans Review and Appeal Board, the agricultural products review board, the Canadian Grain Commission, the Immigration and Refugee Board, the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, the Competition Tribunal-this one is very important-the Copyright Board, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. These are commissions and tribunals that play a very important role in our society.

The Liberals have decided to change the way these tribunals are administered. This will have serious consequences. I believe the main reason, and they have said so, is to cut positions and administrative spending. That seems legitimate. But if we take a really good look, it is not the real reason.

The changes the government makes will infringe on the independence of these tribunals and will also further centralize the powers of the federal government in Ottawa. The real reason for these changes in the constituent legislation of administrative tribunals is

mainly that the government wants to designate the presidents instead of appointing them.

To designate is a very serious matter. When one designates, one can also revoke a decision very quickly, and as mentioned in the legislation, if the minister responsible feels that he has a role to play and the president of a tribunal does not exactly reflect the ideas of the minister or the government, he can be removed-in other words, fired-for reasons that are more or less substantiated. This is supposed to enhance administrative flexibility, but it is a very serious matter, and I will explain this in a few minutes.

In the past when the president of a tribunal was appointed, it was for two, five or seven years. This created a certain stability and a certain independence in the way the president made his decisions. However, if the president is designated and can be removed at any time, this means he will always be at the beck and call of the government in power.

I think the main reason behind this bill is to make it easier to appoint friends of the government. As you know, the Conservatives were in power for nine years. During that time they changed practically all the incumbents, all 2,000 of them, on these tribunals. These are very attractive appointments to positions that are very well paid.

The Liberals have been in power since 1993. Three years later, they now realize they cannot hand out these positions fast enough to their friends. They are changing the act to be able to do so quickly, in other words, to have the power to fire most of the people who are sitting on these tribunals and put their friends in instead.

To me this kind of bill is outrageous. That is why I am pleased to have this opportunity to criticize publicly the current government's conduct in this respect.

We know that many of the people who will be appointed are friends of the government. In fact, during the last election campaign, one of the Liberal Party's officials came out and said publicly to the defeated candidates that they did not have to worry, that a job would be found for them, that there were plenty of jobs, and that those who so desired would be able to get a job from the federal government.

I think that today, the government has realized it cannot appoint its friends fast enough. So they are changing the legislation to make it easier to remove incumbents and appoint their Liberal friends to these administrative tribunals.

I believe that is the main reason for all these changes in the legislation. This is why they must be denounced, and also why my friend, the hon. member for La Prairie, has presented his amendment calling for the House of Commons to have a say in the appointment of members of administrative tribunals.

If we are to have responsible governments in future, we must not use this as a pretext for forcing people to back the winning horse. In recent years, we have noticed that often those involved in politics or political organizations are like weather vanes. Often, if the government is winning, if people or polls say that this or that party is on top, many people change sides at the last minute. In the final weeks, rapid changes can be seen taking place. Often one of the reasons they do so is to have a chance at an appointment to some commission or other.

In this sense, this does not seem good either. People involved in politics must be prompted to do so by their ideals, their belief in a party's philosophy, not because they are angling for a job, that is to say serving their own interests. In my opinion, if we want to have governments that are responsible and capable of selling their ideals, the machinery must be cleaned up, and when it comes down to it, this bill does the opposite. It has people working with a view to a chance at job in future if their party wins the elections. These amendments on the appointment of members of administrative tribunals are, to my mind, quite shameful.

What is unfortunate with this bill is that it will hamper the independence of the tribunals. Our judicial systems have always been world-renowned. Our judicial systems and our tribunals were truly stable. There was no interference between the legislative system and the justice system. What the minister and the government are doing now is providing the government with the power to interfere directly in tribunal decisions. A tribunal must be independent of the legislators.

What the government is proposing is exactly the opposite. It wants to interfere, by equipping itself with means of discipline. That is what is written into the law, moreover. It will be able to take disciplinary measures in order to direct the administrative tribunals, which means direct government involvement in the decisions of the administrative tribunals. This strikes me as very, very serious.

As we know, judges in the judicial system are appointed until the age of 75. These long appointments make it possible for the judicial system to be stable and totally independent. What the minister proposes is the exact opposite in that it would make administrative tribunals less stable.

The president of the Quebec Bar Association was very clear about this when she said that "the lack of job security may have an unexpected psychological impact on the decisions of a person who may be more concerned about pleasing the government than rendering a fair judgment". As I pointed out earlier, these people will be more concerned about pleasing the government and meet-

ing its expectations from day to day than about making the decisions they must be free to make.

This bill and these changes are a disgrace because they do the exact opposite. This goes against common sense. We want our society to move forward, but the government is taking us back to the 1920s, the 1930s, the Duplessis era, or the turn of the century. This kind of measure is totally unacceptable.

We often criticize the United States for the way they do things. But I can tell you that in the U.S., for example, tribunal members are appointed by committees, which, I think, is a much more equitable approach. Committee chairs and members should not be appointed by the party in power alone, but by House of Commons committees.

The government could propose names, but the appointments would be debated in committee so that these decisions can be made at arm's length from those in power and committee members chosen for their abilities and not their political ties. These people could then do their jobs with competence and great freedom of action. This, I think, is very important in order to clean up the system.

We should follow the U.S. government's example in appointing our legal authorities.

The government is giving itself enormous power over administrative tribunals. When the minister alone appoints all these people on behalf of the government, he does so unilaterally, without ever consulting the provinces, and yet these tribunals often need to make rulings in very important areas like the oil, uranium and electricity industries.

The large corporations in the energy sector wield a great deal of influence. If the minister is not happy with the rulings made by a tribunal, he might simply appoint someone else. The minister's power to appoint someone else is considerable as it gives him direct control over decisions. That is the issue. The minister's power to appoint and dismiss tribunal members for all kinds of more or less valid reasons gives him direct control over decisions. It makes no sense for the minister to establish tribunals while keeping this great power to decide.

We know full well that these people will have to meet government expectations and that decisions affecting major areas like those I mentioned earlier-the oil, uranium and electricity industries-could displease or penalize Quebec, especially when electricity is concerned. The government could take matters into its own hands instead of letting the tribunal decide, for the reasons I gave you earlier. It could make its own decision and hurt Quebec's interests. It is very important to mention this.

As you know, it has been quite difficult in the past to get justice as far as Quebec's major economic sectors are concerned. And the government is about to give itself extraordinary powers. What this means is that the government will never consult with the provinces before making appointments, and that the person appointed to the chair will not make a decision without first notifying the minister because, if he displeases the minister, the minister can dismiss him-as the bill points out-without compensation. He could be dismissed just like that, because the government does not like the way he handles cases.

This is a real case of judicial interference, which I condemn today, like several of my colleagues as well as some Reform members. We can never say it often enough. I hope the minister will reverse his decision, because this is really unfair and unacceptable. This is a step backward instead of forward.

Bill C-49 will have serious consequences for our tribunals' independence. Instead of moving democracy forward, we are regressing. The government is giving itself way too much power. That is why I am in favour of the amendment put forward by my colleague from La Prairie and opposed to Bill C-49.

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Bruce—Grey Ontario


Ovid Jackson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Madam Speaker, a lot of the discussion we are having today has to do with change and people's imaginations. They are imagining hypothetical situations which may or may not occur.

When I listen to question period in the House, the minister is accountable. When the minister does not do his or her job, opposition members want his or her head on a silver platter. The image I have in my mind is a cabinet minister in a ring with Mike Tyson with his or her hands tied behind their back, but the minister is supposed to win the fight.

If we want good government, we must have competent managers responsible for a file. We can then hold them accountable with regard to their competence in running that file. Competence in that file does not mean that we put so many regulations in it that they cannot do their job.

I ask the member: Who is responsible for the file? Who do they hold responsible when something happens in a department?

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.


Nic Leblanc Bloc Longueuil, QC

Madam Speaker, there is no doubt that the government is responsible. But being responsible is one thing and giving oneself excessive powers is quite another. Here, in Canada and Quebec, it was decided that the legislative power and the executive power, that is to say justice, should be separate.

If the government is linked directly to its courts, why bother creating any? The minister might as well make his own decisions and appoint administrators, but there is no point establishing a tribunal to settle disputes while giving himself the authority to settle disputes.

Furthermore, the real reason for these tribunals, in my opinion, is that the government wants to appoint its friends. When this bill is passed, it will be able to make at least 1,000 appointments. I say at least 1,000; the fact is there are 2,000 positions to fill in various tribunals. With an election just around the corner, the government cannot wait to be able to appoint its friends. It has not been able to do so up to now, because the Conservatives had already done the same thing, but at least in their case, they did not appoint a friend just for a month. Now, the Liberal government will we able to designate friends for one, two, three or four months, then throw them out and designate another bunch, playing this little game over and over. This whole thing is scary and downright outrageous.

At least, there were appointments for three, five or seven years in the past, but now this is all changing. Appointments are being replaced with designations and these will be for as long as the Liberals have left on their mandate. They have one year left, so designations will be for one year, and if they get re-elected, they will get to start over, appointing new people whom they can expect will work hard for them in the next election. This is what this means. This is outrageous. It is really taking us back 100 years. We are going backward instead of forward with this government, might I say a totalitarian government. Are we headed for a totalitarian regime or will democracy prevail?

We want those who have responsibilities to be free to exercise them, without having to account directly to the government. There lies the big problem. Such an approach must be strongly condemned. This is serious, much more so than what the hon. member of the Liberal Party suggested, when he said that the government's role was to manage. The government is indeed elected to pass legislation and make regulations. Then, people are appointed to implement the legislation or regulations, but the government must not get involved directly in the implementation of the legislation and regulations it puts in place. The two must be kept separate to ensure that, after it has been passed by the government, the legislation is implemented by individuals operating at arm's length, without having the government on their backs.

What the government is doing on an interim basis, by designating the chairpersons of administrative tribunals, is giving itself the power to dismiss them at any time. That is the problem with the government's interfering with administrative tribunals. In many cases, this will have serious implications for anyone who has to face the big machine often.

In the judicial system, the little guy is often the winner. He has the advantage. It used to be that this was also the case in tribunals, but with the administrative changes the government is introducing, the tables will now be turned and the big guy will win. The little guy will always come out the looser. The government will interfere directly and indirectly with the decision making process. That is totally unacceptable. The Bloc Quebecois will vote no, a strong no.

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak on Bill C-49, the administrative tribunals act.

Before speaking on the bill, I want to quote from the Liberal red book, the tome that was going to govern the actions, responsibilities and promises the government made to the Canadian people. The red book promise on Liberal patronage and patronage in general appears on page 92:

A Liberal government will take a series of initiatives to restore confidence in the institutions of government-.and make competence and diversity the criteria for federal appointments. Open government will be the watchword of the Liberal program.

What have we found instead? We have found that patronage is alive and well in the Liberal government. No fewer than 1,800 positions have been put forth. It is fairly wide ranging.

For example, the National Transportation Agency, which was reorganized this summer, was appointed with well connected Liberals, such as former MPs Richard Cashin from St. John's, Newfoundland and Keith Penner from Kapuskasing, Ontario. Let us look at some recent appointments to the bench. One appointment with a salary of roughly $140,000 per year went to the minister's sister, a former Liberal Party president. Another appointment went to an ex-Ontario Liberal MPP. Defeated MP Gary McCauley, Pierre Trudeau's former executive assistant, received an appointment to the Immigration and Refugee Board with a salary of over $86,000 per year.

These are but some of the hundreds of appointments that have gone to people whose only claim to fame, or whose primary claim to fame, is that they are members of the Liberal Party. That flies in the face of the Liberal red book promise of decreasing patronage.

Bill C-49 does not smack of the cavalier attitude that the former Conservative prime minister had. Rather it smacks of political hypocrisy.

A number of important issues affect this. The budget for consulting contracts should have been cut by at least 15 per cent but this has not been done. No chopping has occurred at all in

consulting contracts by the government even though it promised to do that.

Parliamentarians should have been given mechanisms to review senior cabinet appointments but have we seen that? Not at all and no excuse has been given as to why this important aspect of accountability has not entered into the process of ensuring that the best people are appointed to these important jobs. All appointments should have been made based on competence and merit and not because they hold a card to the Liberal Party in their back pocket. So far more than 1,800 appointments have been made, the vast majority of which have been longtime members in good standing of the Liberal Party, the party of the government in power.

The government said that individuals should be appointed to positions on the basis of merit and on the basis of competence, that those were the primary reasons. We have not seen that. We believe the most important aspects upon which a person should be deemed appropriate for a job should be merit and competence. It should not be the sociodemographic groups they represent, nor their gender, nor the colour of their skin, nor their racial group, nor their language, nor the province they come from. It should be on the basis of merit.

To judge anybody on a basis other than merit and competence is to be discriminatory. That is why affirmative action, in our view, is discriminatory. However, we must do all we can for underprivileged groups within our country, for those groups that have traditionally had a difficult time succeeding. We must do all we can to give them the tools and the opportunities to become the best that they can become.

We are opposed to determining outcomes. We cannot say in this House that we want 25 per cent of a certain group and 15 per cent of another group represented. The determination of outcomes by its very nature is discriminatory and disturbing. The process insults the people intended to be put forward in these positions. They are being judged not on the basis of their competence and merit but on the basis of the colour of their skin or their gender or any other criteria which really has no bearing on their ability to do the job.

It is one of the most disturbing issues for me as someone who is from a very mixed ethnic background. It is discriminatory for individual human beings to be judged by anything other than their merit and competence.

When the time comes in Canada that we can all be judged on our merit and competence but primarily as human beings, then we will have created a society based on equality, mutual respect and understanding. To do anything else and to judge people on any other criteria is to do a disservice to them. It is discriminatory.

I am sure the public would be very interested to find out that our charter of human rights, the document that is lauded as a tome for

equality which preserves the rights of people, is actually a discriminatory document. Much to my shock when I read this document, it says specifically that it is acceptable to discriminate against a group of people who have previously been advantaged in our society.

That has to be struck because it is a discriminatory statement by its very nature. It defeats the purpose of being Canadian. It defeats one of the many things that we are very proud of as Canadians; that we are for equality for all individuals regardless of their colour, their race, their nationality, their gender, or whatever other criteria we could define people by. At the end of the day those criteria do not matter at all. It matters what kind of a person one is and the merit and competency the person will bring to a job and all situations. This is not what the government has done.

The bill does a number of other things, or I should say that it fails to do a number of things. It does not affect cabinet's power to make appointments. It removes the ability of this House or any overseeing body to look at the appointments that cabinet makes.

The bill states that it will eliminate 271 jobs. Members should be interested to know that those 271 jobs are currently vacant. The government is being hypocritical in presenting legislation to the House, saying that it will eliminate jobs although those jobs are currently not in existence.

The bill also makes very few changes to existing travel and per diem perks. It also does not add an element of accountability.

The vast majority of people I know who work in this House or in the bureaucracy are honest individuals. They take their responsibility to the Canadian people very seriously. They are very concerned about the amount of money they spend because at the end of the day, that money comes out of the pockets of the hard working taxpayers.

There are individuals who choose not to recognize this and have shown irresponsibility in the travel that they do. They have abused their power as elected individuals within Parliament or appointed individuals. These individuals must be brought to heel. There must be an element of accountability and transparency in the way in which spending takes place by these individuals. Bill C-49 does not do that even though it provided the government with a great opportunity to do so.

Remedial and disciplinary measures also should have been standardized by the administrative tribunals. However, the power of the minister to interfere with disciplinary measures is not decreased but is increased. It is the minister who in all likelihood made the appointment who is now responsible for disciplining the very person the minister put in the position. This is not what the

Reform Party thinks should be done. Those responsibilities should be done in conjunction with other individuals. Increased transparency, reportability and accountability must be added into the system.

There are many other plum patronage jobs I could speak about. The list as I said amounted to 1,800 in total. I remind the House again of the red book promise and I would like to compare it with the promise the Reform Party is putting forth.

The Liberals promised to Canadians in 1993 that they would take a series of initiatives to restore confidence in the institutions of government and make competence and diversity the criteria for federal appointments. Open government would be the watchword.

Our promise to the Canadian people is as follows. The Reform Party supports restrictions and limitations on the number and types of orders in council permitted by government during its term of office. We also want to add that element of accountability into the system.

The government had an ideal opportunity when it came into power to restore the confidence of Canadians in this institution. We in this House and the Canadian public know very well that an extraordinary amount of apathy exists in the Canadian public about this House, about this institution and about the elected officials who are here. It is not without a great deal of truth historically.

The government had an opportunity to democratize this House. The government had an opportunity to bring back into this House the power of the people through their elected officials. Instead, the government chose not to. Even when the Liberals themselves were in opposition, they brought forth good documents and good ideas on how to democratize this House. We have not seen anything of that in this House.

With the new appointment to the Chair this week, we found that the government itself broke its promise. The government should have put forth a member from the opposition into the Chair, but it has put forth one of its own.

We can still do some things regarding the committee structure. Committees were put in this House to keep members busy and to keep them running around in circles. The vast majority of work that a committee does is often done at great expense not only to the members themselves in terms of their time, but also to the House and the ancillary staff who work very hard and conscientiously to put forth documents that they hope will make a difference.

What happens in committees? Committees sit and listen to the hard, earnest and learned opinions of members of the public. A committee document is put forth after many months of study and review. The document gets about a day of play in the media and then it is shelved with numerous other documents.

A poignant example of this took place in the health committee when the head of the Inuit Tapirisat society came before the committee. The House of Commons health committee was going to consider studying aboriginal health in Canada, which is a very serious problem that should have been dealt with decades ago, a profound tragedy in our midst.

The head of the Inuit Tapirisat society came to us with an armful of dockets. She said: "If you want to come up to Inuvik and study us, you are not welcome because these documents in my arms are just a small example of the dozens upon dozens of studies that I have on aboriginal health. We do not want any more studying. We need action".

It is action that the Canadian public wants to see come out of this House. But it is not action that we often see. The government could have taken it upon itself to give committees the power to introduce legislation, to give committees the power to put forth good solutions, to decrease the reins of the whip structure.

The whip structure cowers members of Parliament and prevents them from representing the public in a way that is effective in this House. For government members to speak against the government of the day is to bring forth the wrath of the whip. Members of Parliament could have their rights and responsibilities to speak in this House removed. They could be ostracized by their colleagues and removed from committees.

Two poignant examples occurred, one of which was on Bill C-68, the gun control bill. Members of Parliament, a half dozen or so from the government, courageously represented their constituents and spoke out against the bill, as they should have done, and were summarily hammered by their own government. They had their ability to speak in this House removed. They were removed from committees. They were ostracized and for a significant time were made defunct, superfluous and vestigial.

When a government does that it is not doing it only for the member. Most important it is doing it to the members of the public who elected that individual to represent them in the House. We do not live in a democracy; we live in a fiefdom and that is part of the problem.

On private members' bills, the government through Bill C-49 could have brought forward good solutions in making sure that private members' bills could be put forth in the House and become votable. We are the only nation in the world that calls itself a democracy and has non-votable private members' bills. Why do we bother to go through the hoops to bring forth private members' bills

that are going to be made non-votable and therefore can never become law? What a waste of the taxpayers' money.

We could empower the public through their members by ensuring that all private members' bills could become votable and therefore could become law. It would maximize the great talent that we have in this House by members across party lines. It would bring those talents to bear and would bring the good ideas that are in the public domain to bear in this House for debate so that we could have effective legislation being brought forth for Canadians.

If the public looked at the pea soup type of agenda that exists in the House, they would be appalled. They would be shocked to find that the legislation we have today does not affect by and large jobs, or the economy, or safety in the streets, or poverty in any meaningful way. It does not strengthen our social programs. It does not touch the hearts, souls and the lives of Canadians in any meaningful way.

The vast majority of legislation brought forward in the House is a pea soup agenda that will only affect a small number of people. The government should be ashamed. It should have brought forth good legislation to address the situation.

In closing, we will vote against the legislation because it demonstrates the hypocrisy of the government. It had an opportunity to strengthen the democratic institution of the House and once again it has chosen not to do so. It is just another broken promise.

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was interested in the comments of the member. I am sorry the bill was not addressed fully because there are some important aspects to it.

The member has taken the opportunity, as is his right, to make the debate a partisan one and to look for opportunities for partisan gain.

The member began by making reference to the whole issue of patronage. It is a word that conjures up a lot of negative connotations. He did correctly quote from the red book with regard to the undertaking of the government to ensure that competency and diversity were the hallmarks of approving any appointment.

The member suggested the only people who get appointments are well connected Liberals. I do not think the member would suggest to the House that Liberals need not apply. That has nothing to do with competency or diversity. He referred to some appointments as that their only claim to fame. I do not think he gave any examples or qualified whether competency or diversity was part of the appointment. He referred often to political hypocrisy. I do not see how appointing competent people who represent diverse interests to public bodies or boards has anything to do with political hypocrisy.

Unfortunately when we get into partisan types of debate it tends to paint all members of Parliament with the same brush. It tends to degrade the position of member of Parliament. All members are working very hard to improve the credibility of the elected representatives of the people in the House.

The member should know there is a risk in making an appointment to any board or body. They are subject to the scrutiny of the public at large.

I have a specific question for the member and will conclude with this point. The credibility of an individual or body approving an appointment that is publicly announced is subject to the scrutiny and the criteria of the public at large.

Notwithstanding his remarks, could the member give the House an example of any appointment that does not reflect competency or diversity?

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question.

I will give some examples. As much as I respected the former Minister of Foreign Affairs in that capacity I wonder what he knows about Canada Post. This former MP received $160,000 in addition to his MP pension which, I might add, all members of the Reform Party but one gave up. He has received the top job of chairman of Canada Post and I fail to see the connection between foreign affairs and Canada Post.

We could talk about defeated MP Gary McCauley, a former executive assistant of Pierre Trudeau, being appointed to the Immigration and Refugee Board. I wonder what knowledge and qualifications the individual had about the Immigration and Refugee Board. There is a list I would be happy to provide to the member. The list goes on and on and I will not bore the House with it.

The fact remains-and this is not partisan; this is calling a spade a spade-that one of the prime criteria for receiving a plum patronage job quite simply is to be a member of the Liberal Party. That is wrong.

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the point has been well made. I clearly asked the member whether he could give any examples that would show there was not competency or diversity in an appointment. His example was a former minister who is now head of Canada Post. He asked what possible linkage there could be between foreign affairs and Canada Post. That is a good question, but he should also know that minister happened to have been responsible for Canada Post in a previous post and ran the post office. He is in error in that example.

The second example he gave was the stipend a person received. The amount of dollars involved is subject to guidelines for certain jobs. Also in the second example the member did not give an

example in which incompetency was demonstrated. It is not speculating whether someone has competence. It is showing that it was a bad appointment and they did not demonstrate competence in discharging their new responsibilities.

Again I ask: Could the member give an example to the House of an appointment that demonstrated there was incompetency in the appointment?