House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was session.


Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Windsor West Ontario


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


That, in order to facilitate the conduct of the business of the House in the Second Session of the Thirty- fifth Parliament, this House order as follows:

That, during the first thirty sitting days of the Second Session of the Thirty-fifth Parliament, whenever a Minister of the Crown, when proposing a motion for first reading of a bill states that the said bill is in the same form as a Government bill was at the time of prorogation of the First Session, and, whenever any Private Member, when proposing a motion for first reading of a public bill states that the said bill is in the same form as a private member's public bill that he or she introduced in the First Session, if the Speaker is satisfied that the said bill is in the same form as at prorogation, the said bill shall be deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation and shall stand, if necessary, on the Order Paper, or, as the case may be, referred to committee, at the same stage and under the same legislative procedural process at which it stood at the time of prorogation;

Provided that any evidence adduced by any committee with regard to any bill in the First Session of the Thirty-fifth Parliament that is affected by this Order shall be deemed to have been laid upon the Table, and, as the case may be, referred to the appropriate committee;

Provided that, if this Order is applied to any bill, the consideration of which had been completed in the House of Commons, but which was before the Senate at the time of prorogation, the said bill shall be deemed to have been introduced, completed at all stages and passed by the House of Commons in the present session; and

That, for the remainder of the calendar year 1996, Standing Order 81 shall be amended as follows:

  1. Section (4) is suspended and the following substituted therefor:

(4) The Main Estimates for the year ending March 31, 1997 shall stand referred to standing committees up to and including June 21, 1996. Each such committee shall consider and shall report, or shall be deemed to have reported the same to the House not later than the said date, provided that: a ) not later than the third sitting day prior to June 21, 1996, the Leader of the Opposition may give notice during the time specified in Standing Order 54 of a motion to extend consideration of the main estimates of a named department or agency and the said motion shall be deemed adopted when called on Motions'' on the last sitting day prior to June 21, 1996; <em>b</em> ) on the sitting day immediately preceding the first allotted day in the supply period ending December 10, 1996, but, in any case not later than ten sitting days following the day on which any motion made pursuant to paragraph ( <em>a</em> ) of this section is adopted, and not later than the ordinary time of daily adjournment, the said committee shall report, or shall be deemed to have reported, the main estimates of the said department or agency; and <em>c</em> ) if the committee shall make a report, the Chairman or a member of the committee acting for the Chairman may so indicate, on a point of order, prior to the hours indicated in paragraph ( <em>b</em> ) of this section, and the House shall immediately revert toPresenting Reports from Committees'' for the purpose of receiving the said report.

  1. Section 14( a ) shall be suspended and the following substituted therefor:

(14)( a ) Forty-eight hours' written notice shall be given of motions to concur in interim supply, main estimates, supplementary or final estimates, to restore or reinstate any item in the estimates. Twenty-four hours' written notice shall be given of an opposition motion on an allotted day or of a notice to oppose any item in the estimates, provided that for the consideration of the Main Estimates for the year ending March 31, 1997, forty-eight hours' notice shall be given of a notice to oppose any item in the said estimates.

  1. Section (17) is amended by inserting, immediately after the word "ending", the words "June 23".

  2. Section (18) is amended by deleting the words "On the last allotted day in the period ending June 23" and by substituting therefor the words "On the first allotted day in the period ending December 10";

Mr. Speaker, this motion is intended to provide a framework for the effective management of the business of the House at the beginning of this new session of Parliament.

This motion is intended to provide a framework for the effective management of the business of the House.

Our standing orders are designed to provide a framework for the normal operation of the House of Commons on an annual calendar without regard for the periodic disruptions of that calendar which may be caused by dissolutions, prorogations or emergency situations. Whenever that calendar has been interrupted and for whatever reason, the practice has been for the House to amend its standing orders or to pass a special order to deal with the situation in question.

Therefore the government is placing before the House a motion for a special order to deal with the current situation. We are not proposing permanent amendments to the standing orders at this time. Instead we are proceeding in a manner which we view as being similar to but more constructive than that used in the past to deal with a situation that has occurred on a number of occasions previously and will no doubt recur many times in the future.

For that reason there may appear to be similarities between some of the solutions we are putting forward in this motion and some of the actions of a previous government in a previous Parliament which some members on this side of the House as well as others criticized at the time. I submit there are fundamental differences between our proposals now and those put forward in 1991.

On that occasion the government of the day dealt only with specified government bills at specified stages. There was no attempt to provide a system that would apply equally to private members' business as well as government bills and the motion attempted to reinstate a limited number of government bills only in one fell swoop. Of course this is not what is being done with this motion.

If the procedure we are proposing for the special order operates effectively, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs may want to recommend some permanent revisions to the standing orders along the lines of our proposed special order. Of course this is for the committee to consider.

The rules governing the business of supply require that the main estimates, that is the spending proposals of the various departments and agencies, be tabled and referred to the several standing committees by March 1 and reported by May 31 in order to be passed before the summer adjournment. Also, in order to facilitate government operations in the first three months of the fiscal year, an interim supply bill is passed in March.

With the opening of the new session, if this motion were not adopted, under the regular rules in our standing orders governing the opening of a new session, the standing committees of the House need not be organized before mid March at the earliest. This means that if the normal procedure were followed, the time available to study the main estimates could quite properly be truncated, be cut by 20 per cent or more. In addition the normal rules, if this motion were not adopted, would require the tabling of the main estimates before the budget.

The budget when presented could alter the fiscal needs of the government as initially reflected in the estimates. Therefore this would make the estimates a less reliable instrument for Parliament's scrutiny of government expenditure.

It is therefore proposed in this motion that for the year 1996 only, the supply cycle be altered to remove the referral deadline of March 1 and the report deadline of May 31 and to provide a new report deadline of June 21, the day the House adjourns for the summer.

The House will be asked to give final approval to the main estimates in September or October rather than in June. This will replace the three weeks of what I might call dead committee time in March with three weeks of live committee time in June. In other words, the full period of time that would have been available to standing committees to study estimates would be restored to them through this motion. In order to facilitate this, in March the House will be asked for seven months rather than three months interim supply.

Members will recognize that the government could well have ignored this situation. We could have presented the main estimates sometime this week before the budget and met the March 1 deadline for their referral to the standing committees. Under the rules, even though these committees would not have been able to meet before the middle of March, they still would have been compelled to report the estimates to the House by May 31.

The government does not view that as a desirable course at all. The work of standing committees on the expenditure process is an important element in our approach to the revitalization of Parliament. Therefore, we are not prepared to take advantage of a quirk in the rules to deprive members of upward of 20 per cent of the time normally allotted to this process.

We believe that the proposed temporary supply calendar for 1996 as set out in the motion now before the House will work to the advantage of members on all sides of the House and to the public at large.

In a similar vein, we believe that the provision of a procedure for members to reinstate bills on which progress had been made in the previous session to the stages which they had reached at the time of prorogation should be viewed as a progressive and constructive step.

It is important to note, as I have said on another occasion, an initiative in this regard was actually taken last autumn by the House leader of the Reform Party, the hon. member for Lethbridge. At

that time he put down a notice of motion calling for private members' bills to be reinstated after a prorogation.

When this motion was chosen as a votable item on the order of precedence, my colleague, the former parliamentary secretary to the House leader, the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands, privately indicated to him the positive interest in his proposal and our likelihood therefore of offering an amendment to his motion that would treat all bills the same, government bills as well as private members' bills. It seemed to make sense. It seemed to be fair and reasonable. If it was sensible to reinstate private members' bills to where they had left off at the time of prorogation, it was equally sensible to do the same thing for government bills.

Unfortunately, on the day the proposal of the Reform House leader was to be debated, the Reform House leader, the hon. member for Lethbridge, unexpectedly was not present in the House. As a result, under the rules his proposal disappeared from the Order Paper. In effect the government is now picking up the ball where the hon. member for Lethbridge had dropped it last fall.

The motion we have put before the House does not deal with any specific bill. It may well be that some members, whether ministers or private members, have reasons for not reinstituting proceedings on their bills that were terminated by prorogation. We are therefore merely providing a procedure to apply equally to ministers and to private members.

Under this procedure, bills on which valuable parliamentary time had been expended in the last session may be proceeded with in the new session without duplication of work and the resulting waste of both time and taxpayers' money. At the time of prorogation 15 government bills and 11 private members' bills had at least been advanced to committee but had not been given royal assent.

There are ample precedents for the House of Commons deeming government bills from previous sessions to have been advanced in new sessions to the stages at which they had expired at prorogation. This has been done in the interest of not wasting parliamentarians' time. It has been done in the interest of not wasting the time of members of the public who otherwise would have to come back to committees to present their views and briefs all over again. It has been done in the interest of not wasting taxpayers' money by repeating exactly the same debate or committee hearings on exactly the same bill.

What is unprecedented in our motion is that we are proposing to give private members exactly the same rights as ministers on this matter. Since taking office in November 1993, this government has acted to enhance the role of the private member especially with regard to private members' public bills.

As far as supporters of this government have been concerned, every vote on a private member's public bill has been a non-whipped, that is, a free vote. It would not therefore be either equitable or consistent with its policy on private member's business for the government to seek authority from the House to reinstate its legislation without also asking the House to grant the same authority to private members. Consequently, for the first time in Canadian parliamentary history, private members' bills will be eligible in a new session to be reinstated to the point they had reached in a previous session.

The proposal in this motion will apply only to bills from the last session in which the House and therefore the public had invested a significant amount of time, namely those bills on which the House had at least taken one more decision in addition to permitting first reading. This would be those bills that had at least been referred to committee, whether before or after second reading. Bills that had merely been introduced but not advanced any further in the last session do not represent any real investment of House time and may simply be reintroduced in the new session in the ordinary fashion.

The procedure will work as follows. During the first 30 sitting days of the new session any minister or private member who introduces a bill precisely the same as a bill in the old session and which had at least been referred to a committee will have the right to request that the new bill be reinstated to the stage at which it had progressed at the time of prorogation.

If the Speaker is satisfied that the bill is precisely in the same form, it shall be ordered reinstated at that stage. This procedure does not oblige a minister or a private member to reintroduce a bill. It merely gives them a new right to do so during a limited period at the beginning of the session.

For the government's part, it has already decided to reintroduce a number of bills under this proposed regime. There will be some bills returned to the committee stage, some resumed at the report stage and some at third reading stage. At least two will, under this special procedure, be deemed by the House to have passed all stages in this session and be sent forthwith to the Senate where they were at the time of prorogation.

Not every minister has reached a final conclusion on this matter, but the list will include Bill C-7 regarding controlled drugs and substances; Bills C-52, C-95 and C-96, reorganizing a number of departments; Bill C-78 respecting witness protection; Bill C-84 respecting regulations; Bill C-88 respecting internal trade; Bill C-94 regarding fuel additives; Bill C-98 concerning oceans; Bill C-100 regarding financial institutions; Bill C-101 respecting transportation; Bill C-106 respecting the Law Reform Commission; Bill C-111 respecting employment insurance.

This may not be an all inclusive list. Ministers as well as private members will have 30 sitting days to make their final decisions on restoration of bills.

I cannot speak with authority on which private members will reintroduce their measures. At least four of my colleagues on this side of the House have been in communication with my office, demanding the action we are proposing. I hope it is not presumptuous of me to expect members on the other side to be equally committed to their own legislative proposals.

One initiative actually came from the hon. member for Lethbridge. I am looking forward to his thoughts, which I hope will be positive, on our acceptance of what could be argued to have started with his own proposal.

In closing, I think this is a very good motion and I ask the House to support it.

I commend the motion to the House and I ask for its early approval.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise today to speak to this motion and especially to present my arguments to someone like you, Mr. Speaker, who has a great deal of experience as both a lawyer and a member of this House. Moreover, you lived through that whole period in 1991 when members of this government were sitting on opposition benches and singing a very different tune.

I think, Mr. Speaker, that it gave you an opportunity to assess the opposition's arguments to the government then in office and today I am sure that they will recognize some of what I will be saying regarding the first motion tabled by the government in this session.

I can tell you that there is nothing reassuring in this motion for the opposition, and more particularly for Canadian democracy. They want us to support the kind of motion presented today as if it were a routine matter.

According to the government House leader, this is a routine motion intended to provide a framework for effective management, as though Parliament did not already have a framework. I am going to show you that Parliament already has a framework, a tradition, which this government wants to bypass this morning by tabling this motion.

This is an exceptional case. On February 2, 1996, the government decided to prorogue Parliament, with full knowledge of the facts, including the consequences of prorogation. Should this motion be adopted today, it will mark the end-and I am weighing my words carefully-of the value, principles and effect of prorogation in this Parliament.

We should perhaps determine what prorogation means. What is the effect of prorogation? We as members of the House are used to this kind of language; we know what it means. Some people, however, may not know what prorogation means or how it can impact on Parliament.

Since I do not want to quote myself, I will quote law experts, people with a great deal of experience in this area who have written at length on the subject. According to citation 235 in the sixth edition of Beauchesne:

The effect of a prorogation is at once to suspend all business until Parliament shall be summoned again. Not only are the sittings of Parliament at an end, but all proceedings pending at the time are quashed. Every bill must therefore be renewed after a prorogation, as if it were introduced for the first time.

As an effect of prorogation, it is rather important.

In the fourth edition of his book, on pages 102 and 103 of the French version, Bourinot is even more explicit:

The legal effect of a prorogation is to conclude a session; by which all bills and other proceedings of a legislative character-in whatever state they are at the time, are entirely terminated, and must be commenced anew, in the next session, precisely as if they had never been begun.

This is important. At page 137 of his 1993 book entitled The House of Commons at Work -you know, the reference material newly elected members are given to acquaint themselves with the operation of this House-your predecessor, the hon. John A. Fraser, whom you knew, says:

Proroguing a session does not dissolve Parliament, but it does have a similar effect-

He is going very far.

-on the business before the House.

He then says:

All current business is abandoned, committees cease their activities, and bills die.

As you can see, over the years, prorogation has always been construed this way. I will come back to 1991 later. For the moment, while Mr. Fraser had decided a certain way in 1991, he took a slightly different stance in his book, in 1993, and I will tell you why in a moment.

Over the years, custom and tradition have shaped the meaning of "prorogation". We have before us a government that claims to be respectful of the system and is trying, through this motion, to strip a parliamentary principle of any real meaning.

This motion is unacceptable in that it disrespectfully circumvents the established legislative process and raises political interference to new heights.

With this motion, proroguing a session would not mean anything any more, except a chance for the government to pay a visit to the other House, waking up a number of senators who are asleep-that

is the bright side-and spend the rest of the day enjoying a big bash at Rideau Hall, at the taxpayers' expense naturally.

The government is trying to make us swallow a principle that is trend setting and unacceptable, under our current system.

When one reads the motion, one realizes that, deny it as they may, it says exactly the same thing as the 1991 motion. Of course, this motion having been moved by the Liberals, it cannot be identical to the one put forward by the Conservatives. But it is identical. In fact, it is just worse.

What does the government motion say? It says, in essence:

That-whenever a minister of the Crown, when proposing a motion for first reading of a bill states that the said bill is in the same form as a government bill at the time of prorogation of the first session-the said bill-shall stand, if necessary, on the Order Paper, or, as the case may be, referred to committee, at the same stage and under the same legislative procedural process at which it stood at the time of prorogation;

Basically, under this motion, while the government may have prorogued the session, there is no actual prorogation. "We can do as we wish, we are in power. So let us go, we are the government". But the Liberals are doing so in a way that they condemned when they sat on the other side of the House.

If the government wanted to prorogue a session, it had to live with the consequences of its decision. It did not have to prorogue the House. Who calls a prorogation? The Prime Minister. He is the one who decides to prorogue the session or not. He does not have to do it. Why did he do it, knowing full well what the consequences would be? If there is a problem, as the government House leader said earlier in his speech when he stated that this motion seeks to bring a solution to a current problem, that problem was brought about by the Liberals. Must they now invoke their own turpitude to find a solution? I believe the Liberals are responsible for the situation that currently prevails in this House.

I doubt that the legislative agenda for the first session was too heavy, since the issues that we discussed here led us to conclude that the government did not have much to propose. It kept putting off all the important legislation because Quebec was holding a referendum. The government did not want to displease anyone; consequently, it kept putting off the really important bills.

The UI bill was controversial; consequently, the government had to manoeuvre carefully. It postponed introduction of that bill. The result is that the government prorogued Parliament when these bills had not yet been passed. Is that the opposition's fault? Is that the fault of our democratic system? No, it is the Liberals' fault. Why did they choose to go that route?

If this government were serious and had a clear legislative vision, we would not be debating such a motion, because the government would have passed the bills that it deemed important, before deciding to prorogue Parliament. The government's way of doing things makes me wonder.

Could it be that we have in front of us a government that does not know where it is going? I think we can rightly ask ourselves that question. Or could it be that we have in front of us a government that does not care at all about Parliament and would rather run the show-Mr. Speaker, I apologize for using that expression-like an autocrat? This is also a question that we can ask ourselves.

Indeed, acting in this fashion and trying to use some procedural trick that one would expect on the TV show Les Parlementeries , so as to circumvent a clear and well established principle, can only be done by a government that rules and manages the country's business with arbitrary and absolute authority. The government claims to know what is best, and that is it. It often displays this attitude, as evidenced by this motion.

I know that, in order to justify such undemocratic behaviour, the government will refer to a so-called precedent dating back to May 29, 1991. I am getting to it now. The government will try to find differences between what was done in 1991 and what is being done now and it will say: "We are not proceeding in the same way. We are much more open. It is much more transparent in this case". We heard the government House leader earlier.

But let me tell the House: there is no difference. Even if there is, the motion before us today is worse than the one tabled in 1991.

It might be worthwhile reviewing what happened in 1991 for those who are not aware of the details. The motion tabled by the government of the time, the Mulroney Government, was to reinstate six bills that had died on the Order Paper as the result of prorogation.

The government tabled a motion clearly indicating the bills it wanted reinstated, the stages they had reached and at what stages they wanted them to be after the motion was adopted.

I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you will recall that the Liberals were up in arms over this move by the Conservatives, accusing them of having committed just about every sin in the book, at least every one of the seven deadly sins, and stating that this motion represented a denial of the legislative process of this House. In that instance, however, six very specific bills were involved. The ones they wanted reinstated were listed specifically, whereas this time anybody can get up and say "This bill is at the same stage as it was

at the end of the session", and we start up where we left off, as if nothing has happened.

I am going to refer to some portions of the speeches made by the Liberals of the time. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you will find this amusing, because it will bring back to you what those Liberals had to say on an identical motion.

The hon. member for Cape Breton-East Richmond said: "I contend that the motion is in principle unacceptable in that it seeks to circumvent, indeed to subvert, the normal legislative process of this House. In the past this kind of thing has been done only by unanimous consent. Now the government is seeking to establish an ominous precedent by attempting to force this procedure on the House. This is an offensive and dangerous departure from the practices of all parliamentary bodies and the Chair is, I believe in accordance with Beauchesne's citation 123.(1) and Standing Order 1, required to refuse to put the motion because of its unprecedented violation of the checks and balances written into the rules governing the normal legislative process."

That speaker is now a government minister, and I am dying to hear what he has to say. I hope he will rise and say that what his government is doing makes no sense, because the procedure is the same as the one before us today.

Another member who rises frequently in the House, or at least who rose frequently in the House, the member for Kingston and the Islands said: "What is happening today is unprecedented in that the government is moving a motion under Government Orders for debate to reinstate bills in this session. I have searched precedents back to 1938 and did not find one where a motion of this kind was moved for debate. It was always agreed to by unanimous consent. Never before has a government moved to suspend the rules in effect and put bills back into their position at the time of prorogation of a session".

His comments become even more significant: "If royal prerogative is to meaning anything, the prorogation ended those bills. They have to be reinstated in the usual course, but they ought to have been introduced and dealt with as new bills in this session. That is proper procedure in the absence of unanimous consent".

Further on, to really impress the Speaker at the conclusion of his speech he said: "The government itself exercised its royal prerogative on May 13 to bring this session to an end on May 12. The publication has been made of the Governor General's proclamation declaring the session at an end. He started it again. It was the government's decision to do it. It cannot have it both ways and now bring one of these motions to trample on the rights of this House and in effect prevent us from debating these bills".

Further on, he said: "The government wants to impose a new definition of democracy on Canadians, one of the greatest affronts

to the House in years. It is immoral for the government to introduce this motion. The government is short-circuiting the legislative process to consider five bills. This behaviour is reprehensible. The government knows it. He has not produced a single tittle of evidence to support this gross breach of our practice, and I suggest that it is totally inappropriate".

I hope that the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands will rise in this House to condemn what his government is doing with this motion. It is exactly the same thing. If it was unacceptable in 1991, it is just as unacceptable in 1996. Are there two systems of justice, two ways of proceeding, one when you are in the opposition and one when you are in the government? Is this the Liberal way of doing things?

Another good member, the hon. member for Halifax, said in 1991: "The government should be ashamed. We are wondering today why there was a prorogation". I am also wondering today. "The House leader is presenting us this pernicious motion, and I emphasize the word-it is the hon. member for Halifax, and not I, who says it-in order to speed up the passage of five bills, in total disregard for the traditions of the House and the British parliamentary procedure and in disregard for the Canadian people".

I hope that the hon. member for Halifax will rise today to condemn the actions of her government. I hope she will be here to say: "What you are doing makes no sense. I do not want to go back on what I said; what I thought was unacceptable in 1991 I find wrong in 1996". I hope that she will rise to make that point.

The hon. member for Saint-Léonard is another member who was in the opposition in 1991 and is in the government today. What was he saying regarding this motion? "If the government really intended to examine these bills, it should have done it before the prorogation of the House and that should have been negotiated." You know, things that can be negotiated before proroguing the House.

Did the government ask us anything to speed up things? No, it can do anything when in power. It can do anything. That at least is what I am led to conclude today.

I see an hon. member, and I will come back to him, because he also made an excellent plea in 1991. Before I do that, I want to mention another member who is now a senator; he was then the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

An hon. member

He is sleeping.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

I do not know whether or not he is sleeping in the other House, but he is not here now.

After examining and analyzing the effects of prorogation, he quoted Beauchesne and other legal experts. He came to that conclusion after careful consideration. I will quote from his speech because it deserves to be read, even if it is a little long. I think people have a right to know what today's senator was saying when he was in opposition.

He said this: "I now oppose-being presented with this jumble of legislation, some of which we seriously oppose and some of which we have agreed to. I cannot understand why this government, these government bullies now want to impose their will on the House of Commons through force of numbers".

He went on to say once again: "There are good arguments that the government has no business proceeding as it is doing and that it is contrary to parliamentary reform and all political decency". He concluded by saying: "I think that is bad management, bad policy and, in my opinion, unparliamentary".

The hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell-

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Ah, ah!

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

An hon. member

Now we are getting to it.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

I see that the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell is here. I hope he will rise to denounce his government for the way it is proceeding. I am going to tell you what he said in 1991 when he was sitting on our side of the House. You are smiling, Mr. Speaker, because you can surely remember it.

The hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell had carefully reviewed all the consequences of prorogation. He said he feared the kind of precedents such a motion would create, and what it would mean if the Speaker accepted the motion put forward by the Conservative government. He said he was afraid it could resuscitate any bill. I will even give you a specific quote from this great law expert. "Finally, if this precedent is allowed to proceed, then what is next? I ask the question rhetorically. If one can resuscitate five bills with this motion, or four bills, what stops one from resuscitating all legislation from the past?" He even waxed poetic. Indeed, what would keep the government from adopting another motion whereby all bills before the House are deemed to have reached third reading? "What stops us from resuscitating a bill from 1977, saying that that particular bill has now reached third reading, and we are going to vote on it right now? As a matter of fact, we could actually pass a motion stating it has completed third reading debate".

If I interpret his words correctly-because he is so poetical at times that it is difficult to understand what he meant-had the government motion been ruled in order by the Speaker in 1991, the government could have done just about anything thereafter. It could have taken a bill that died on the Order Paper in 1970, brought it back and considered that the bill was at third reading. "Hey, there. We have decided to pass this bill; we have a majority in this House". That is what he meant.

He went on to say, and this is really good: "What we are in fact doing is amending completely the rules of the House by adopting this motion, were we to do so, or were this motion to be ruled in order". For once, I must say that I agree with him. "The implications of ruling this motion in order would be such that I fear we could render-if a government wanted to, and I am not saying it does-this House of Commons totally irrelevant and redundant. Render this House of Commons totally irrelevant and redundant? I hope this rings a bell. I hope that the hon. member will rise in this House and condemn his government's first motion, saying: "Listen, the government made a mistake. We cannot go back on our word. That is the position we took in 1991". I do not know if certain members opposite have Alzheimer's disease, but they seem to have forgotten what they did in the past. I have many more quotes.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Great. How interesting.

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10:40 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

This is interesting, indeed, especially coming from the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands, whom I quoted earlier and who, at the time, had risen to condemn the Conservative government's motion. I see that he is here and that is listening carefully to what I have to say. He is nodding that it is the case. He agrees with me. I hope that he will rise in this House and muster the courage to condemn his government and say: "Look, we are making a mistake". I hope he does that. I hope he has the decency to do so, because it is indeed a matter of decency.

In 1991, the Liberals were right-yes, you heard me correctly, Mr. Speaker-to be infuriated by the process that the Conservative government was trying to impose in this House. The Liberals were convinced they were right in 1991, and they showed it very clearly to the Speaker. They pleaded their case on several occasions and they voted against the motion. Therefore, if they were right in 1991, how can they now table a motion that is even worse than that of the Conservatives?

Should this motion be adopted, it would have major repercussions on the traditions and practices of this House, but also on the democratic system as a whole, on the values that we Quebecers hold dear and on the values that you, as Canadians, hold dear, and on democracy. Such would be the consequences of adopting the Liberal motion now before us. Let us be clear. Political parties in this House cannot keep changing established practices, setting precedents and doing as they please just because they hold the majority, without jeopardizing democracy. They cannot always bend the rules. Nor should they try to get too much mileage out of some precedents. Speakers in this House may, at times, have made

mistakes. They may have given too wide an interpretation of certain principles. This is not the way to make law and jurisprudence any better: it only generates anarchy in this House.

The motion before us today is totally unacceptable in terms of its content, form and goal. Let me elaborate on each of these three points.

By its very content, as I have already said, Motion No. 1, the first motion tabled by the government in this session, more or less gives ministers the discretion to rise anytime during the first 30 days of the second session of the 35th Parliament and say "Now, this is such an important a bill that it must be reinstated exactly where it was in the previous session". The motion the government would like to see adopted as the rule for this House confers unwholesome discretionary powers and is unacceptable.

The same applies to its form. They have not even taken the trouble to go into any detail. I have just heard the government leader listing all of the bills that have died on the Order Paper which it would be important to reinstate this session. They cannot be so important as to eradicate all precedent in this House.

Some, no doubt, are more important than others. Where does the government stand with respect to all those bills? What was it up to before prorogation if all those bills were so vital? I believe that the government ought to have shown good faith by making a selection, provided there is any good faith on the other side, but I doubt it. I was trying to comply with the rule of law which states that good faith is to be presumed. If so, I guess there are some four or five bills that are more important and it could have listed them. And even before that, it could have taken the precaution of seeing they were passed before prorogation. But, when one does not know where one is going- We will give the government the benefit of the doubt, but there are four or five bills that could have been specified and that was not done.

The most important point is the objective of the motion, and that is unacceptable. The objective is to block democracy, and to block our growing opposition to certain of those bills. It is to block the opposition taxpayers are organizing against those bills. It is to push through their passage with undue haste. It is to thumb one's nose at tradition. It is to attempt to manipulate public opinion and, particularly, to deprive the members of this House of their right to make decisions on these bills.

We knew that the government, and the Prime Minister in particular, had lost control. We knew that the Prime Minister had lost control of his cabinet, that we have evidence of daily. We knew he had even lost control over his own actions, and today this government wants us to be sucked into the same loss of control, because it has lost control over its legislative agenda through its own fault. No, that will not do. The official opposition refuses to get on side with the government, refuses to support the government's intent to have this motion adopted.

If we strip prorogation of its meaning and consequences, we pay a price. If, despite all, Mr. Speaker, you decide to allow the government motion and go along with this formula for avoiding the consequences of proroguing a session, I would like to propose an amendment to the government's Motion No. 1. I move, seconded by my colleague for Joliette:

That the motion be amended by adding at the end of the first paragraph, after the word "prorogation", the following:

"except when a Member states on a point of order his of her opposition to the Bill whose reinstatement is being proposed, in which case first reading of the said Bill shall be moved and it shall be debated like any other new measure introduced in the House by the government".

That is the amendment the official opposition proposes.

In closing, I know that common sense, justice and parliamentary fairness will be reflected in your ruling.

As I said at the start of the debate, if you believe in all good conscience that, by making a ruling that could, at first glance, go against the 1991 ruling on a similar motion, be aware that the Supreme Court of Canada in certain instances has felt the need to adjust things to the point of rendering inconsistent decisions.

I think you have the power to do so as well, to make adjustments, to put the pieces of the puzzle back in the right place and to identify and clarify the customs and traditions of this House. I think you also have the right and the obligation to do so, because the government seems to have totally eliminated common sense and fairness from this House.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I can tell the member and our colleagues that the amendment is in order. The hon. member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley has the floor.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Val Meredith Reform Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, as a new member I had the expectation that when I came to the House with a new government things would be done a little differently from the previous government. It is interesting for me to see not only in this instance but in many others that the present Liberal government and the former Conservative government appear to be the very same thing.

When the members on the government side sat in opposition they were very much against this type of motion. When my hon. colleague from Berthier-Montcalm read from the transcripts of Hansard in 1991 he quoted many of these members who were very opposed to this type of motion. It is very interesting to see that with the transfer from opposition to government the Liberals have

changed their stripes and are now the same as the Conservative government before them.

I also find it very interesting that in the last session the government was debating issues that were almost irrelevant to the Canadian public. It was debating whether it should add MMT to gasoline and what the national horse of Canada should be.

If this legislation the government wants to reinstate is so important, why were we not debating it last fall and last spring? This is the same government which last spring let important legislation sit for months and months after passing committee and second reading.

This is the government that sat on legislation and tried to pass it in one week before summer recess. If the government felt its legislation was so important to reinstate it in this session, what was it doing last time other than sitting on its hands?

The lack of serious legislation last session does not justify reinstating it in this session.

I would like to know where all the new government legislation will come from to support the honourable things they will supposedly be doing under the new speech from the throne. When are we to get the new legislation to bring in all of these programs, policies and promises under the new speech from the throne? The government does not have any idea where it is going or how it will get there.

The House leader for the government says we will treat Private Members' Business in the same way; we will be magnanimous and allow Private Members' Business to come forward and be reinstated as well.

I am one of the individuals affected by Private Members' Business. I have Bill C-240 which is supported by hundreds of thousands of Canadians, along with Bill C-226 from the hon. member for York South-Weston. Canadians all across the country support those private members' bills. Let me tell government members, in case they do not know, those two private members' bills have been stuck in committee since December 1994. They have not been dealt with and there has been plenty of opportunity for the government in committee to deal with those private members' bills.

To have the hon. House leader tell me he is being gracious in allowing my private members bill to be dumped into committee for another two years is certainly no encouragement.

If the government is really serious about doing something for private members it would separate Private Members' Business from government legislation, stop controlling private members' legislation and allow it to go through in the manner it should. When private members' bills are passed through the House of Commons at second reading they deserve to be heard equally with any government bill. I do not think any government should have control over private members' legislation and bury it to the extent it has.

The government is actually showing contempt for Parliament in the way it has treated not only my private member's bill but my colleague's from across the way. These two pieces of legislation have the support of the Canadian public but the government does not have the courage to bring those bills to a vote. It is content to bury them in the committee where it does not have to face the Canadian public and stand up and either support these bills or vote against them and to be seen by the Canadian public to be voting against some very good legislation.

The government tells me and my colleague that it will be gracious and allow our private members' bills to be buried in committee for another two years.

I have had two chairmen of the justice committee assure me over the period of a year and a half that my private member's bill will be dealt with. I have witnesses who have waiting since December 1994 to appear to speak to this bill. To have the government with two chairs of the justice committee making that assurance to me, I will have another chairman of the justice committee making that assurance.

I would like to know whether it is three times lucky or three strikes and you are out. I would like to know if my private member's bill is reinstated whether it will be buried, whether the government will refuse to have the guts and the fortitude to be accountable for supporting legislation that will provide safety to Canadians, that will kept dangerous offenders off the street, that will keep convicted first degree murderers incarcerated for the period of time the courts deem appropriate.

I would like to know whether government members have the courage to show the stripe they wear or whether they will simply be warmed up Conservatives for another two years. I hope that is not the case. I hope members on the other side will listen to some of the comments about how it is just rehashed Conservative government crap and do things a little differently.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

It being 11 a.m. we will now proceed to Statements by Members.

Jessica Lynn PerkinsStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Gar Knutson Liberal Elgin—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, the riding of Elgin-Norfolk has a distinctive history. It is the birthplace of Thomas Edison, of Mitch Hepburn a former premier of Ontario, and the world renowned economist John Kenneth Galbraith.

The city of St. Thomas in my riding has distinguished itself once again by producing another Canadian first. On the morning of January 1, 1996 at one second after midnight, Canada's first baby was born at St. Thomas-Elgin Hospital. Jessica Lynn Perkins is the daughter of Charlene Winkworth and Randall Perkins. Her twin sister Christina was born one minute later. These two girls join a brother and a sister. Jessica shares her record with a baby born in the city of Laval, Quebec.

I congratulate Jessica's parents and welcome her and Christina to a great community.

Unemployment Insurance ReformStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, while hon. members in the other place were relaxing, or even sleeping soundly, during the speech from the throne, workers in my riding of Matapédia-Matane decided to inform this government that they will always be opposed to unemployment insurance reform.

They will never let this government force them onto welfare when it is wasting millions of dollars on a totally obsolete institution. I want to salute them, and I am very proud of them. I hope they will keep up their fight for justice. My thoughts are with them all.

Gasoline TaxStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, over the past few months since the environment committee and the finance committee recommended a two cent increase in the excise tax on gasoline, Canadians have been signing petitions, writing letters to their MPs and raising a public outcry over the recommendation.

I am shocked to find yet more Liberal hypocrisy on this issue. The government whip when in opposition stated in Hansard : ``Every budget since this government came to power in 1984-has increased the excise tax on gasoline. This tax alone, with this latest increase, will add $600 million to the burden my constituents pay''.

I am delighted to see his concern. I challenge him and all other Liberal members to demonstrate some backbone and to represent their constituents for a change and to present the petitions they have received opposing the gas tax increase.

Canada Pension PlanStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Judy Bethel Liberal Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, providing a retirement income support system for Canadians is one of the greatest achievements of our Liberal government. Canadians across this country value the CPP and are counting on it for their future. In Alberta a recent poll indicates that 57 per cent of Albertans believe that the CPP is an important part of their retirement income, yet many I have spoken with are worried that the rising cost of CPP is placing their pensions at risk.

We heard our Prime Minister commit this government to working with the provinces to preserve the fabric of our social programs, those very same programs that we as Canadians value as our social responsibility one to another no matter where we live in this country.

The CPP belongs to Canadians and they deserve to have a say in its future. That is why our government will be consulting with Canadians in their own communities this spring about how we can sustain the CPP.

You may be sure, Mr. Speaker, that the collective wisdom of the residents of Edmonton East will be part of securing CPP for today's and for future generations of Canadians.

HousingStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, the need for adequate housing for all Canadians remains a very serious issue. Canada's housing programs provide a source of social stability and economic strength for many individuals.

In my riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore and indeed in urban areas across the country, people understand that the government cannot do everything. In a rapidly changing world when we are setting up new forms of federal-provincial partnerships and joint management, we must continue to explore innovative partnerships with private and non-governmental organizations in the creation of housing for those in need.

While being committed to rebuilding Canadian communities through job creation and renewed economic growth, we must look at creative and cost effective ways in which there can be the provision of housing for all Canadians.

Napanee BeaverStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to congratulate a prominent newspaper in my riding of Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington.

The Napanee Beaver is celebrating 125 years of publishing. Recently I had the pleasure of presenting Mrs. Jean Morrison, the owner and publisher of the Napanee Beaver , letters of congratula-

tions from our Prime Minister and from Canada's Governor General.

The Napanee Beaver has made a significant contribution to the lives of its readers. It has kept the people of the Napanee area informed about the issues that are relevant to our country and our community. Its cartoons have brought smiles to our faces. It has played an important role in the commerce of our area by bringing advertisers and consumers together in its pages. Most important, a free exchange of news and views is fundamental in a democracy.

My best wishes for continued success to the Napanee Beaver , 125 years young. Colleagues, please join me in congratulating my local paper and all of the community papers across Canada for the role they play in the democratic process.

Refloating The Irving WhaleStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Réjean Lefebvre Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, in February, the Department of the Environment and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans asked for new studies on the Irving Whale issue, which could very well challenge the validity of the operation under which the barge is to be refloated.

According to the most conservative estimates, the government's dithering may have cost, for last summer's aborted attempt alone, at least $12.5 million. So far, not one penny has been recovered from Irving.

Due to the incompetence of some officials and the former environment minister, the Irving Whale issue has become an environmental, administrative and financial scandal.

The Bloc Quebecois is hoping that the solution chosen by the new ministers in charge will be based on unbiased studies and not on some officials' whims, and that it will take into account the environment, the economy and the health of the people in the Magdalen Islands and Prince Edward Island.

Rich WinterStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, character is the single most important defining element of a human being. Character is to do the right thing when no one is looking, to persevere when the going gets tough.

Colleagues, I ask you to join with me in acknowledging Mr. Rich Winter of Edmonton, a man who exemplifies character, a man who took on the entire professional hockey establishment to bring to an end an odious era in Canadian hockey history.

In January 1990, Mr. Winter at great personal expense lodged a complaint with the RCMP against Alan Eagleson. Over many of the six years between then and now, Mr. Winter was alone in pursuing the case, fighting the inertia of the entrenched legal, media and hockey worlds.

Today Mr. Eagleson is under U.S. indictment and an extradition request has been made to Canadian justice officials.

Mr. Winter, on behalf of all Canadians, I thank you for your inspiration. I thank you for being an example to all of us to relentlessly pursue our causes. And if the cause is right, then by your example we know that justice will prevail.

National UnityStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Francis Leblanc Liberal Cape Breton Highlands—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, on October 30, Quebecers voted to stay in Canada. Since then, our government has been delivering on the commitments it made during the referendum campaign. The House of Commons passed one bill recognizing Quebec's distinct character and another one giving a veto to the five regions in Canada.

No later than yesterday, our government reaffirmed its intention of withdrawing, as soon as possible, from manpower training. The Canadian federation is evolving and there are more changes to come.

Our government is confident that its actions will show Quebecers that Canada is their best choice and that it is through unity that we can best express the richness of our diversity.

Special Winter OlympicsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Wellington—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to salute a proud group of athletes who recently gathered in Calgary for the Canadian Special Winter Olympics. Between February 12 and 19 special olympians participated in these national games with a spirit of sportsmanship that can serve as an example to all other athletes.

It is my pleasure to congratulate the city of Stratford's floor hockey team for representing the province of Ontario at these national games. I applaud the members of this team for their determination and hard work which allowed them to bring home a bronze medal from Calgary.

I would also like to recognize Ingrid Newbery, the Ontario special olympics co-ordinator for the Stratford community, whose dedication has allowed many mentally challenged individuals to realize athletic success on a provincial and national level.

Congratulations to each and every athlete who participated in the Calgary games.

Business Development Bank Of CanadaStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleagues will certainly be happy to learn that the financial help awarded by the Business Development Bank of Canada reached a record level in 1995. The loans granted by the Business Development Bank of Canada reached a total of almost one billion dollars and they helped support investments of $1.7 billion in businesses borrowing from the bank.

The loans awarded by the Business Development Bank of Canada cost nothing to taxpayers and they lead to the creation of a great number of jobs. In 1995 alone, businesses borrowing from the bank employed 188,000 persons across Canada. Here is another proof that strategies put in place by our government to support small businesses are effective.

Human RightsStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Philippe Paré Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, last January 24, we were stunned to learn that Mr. Tran Trieu Quan had been condemned to life imprisonment by Vietnamese authorities after a mock trial. How can the foreign affairs minister accept that this Canadian citizen, clearly the victim of a conspiracy, be held prisoner in Vietnam without any action on the part of the Canadian government to get him out of that plight?

We have the right to ask ourselves today if the powerlessness and inertia of our government can be explained by its decision to put financial considerations before human rights. Instead of turning a blind eye to that situation, the foreign affairs minister should prove that Canadian citizenship still means something abroad by carrying out his fundamental duty, that is to protect the interests of Canadians everywhere in the world.

Health CareStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the throne speech the government shows a commitment to defending publicly funded health care in Canada. It recognizes that we are faced with increasing costs and increasing demands, but it does not give a single constructive solution on how it is going to save this program. While the government politically postures over defending the Canada Health Act, people are dying while on waiting lists.

We in the Reform Party are committed to ensuring that all Canadians regardless of their income are going to get their health care when they medically need it. We have the solutions and we are willing to share them with the government. I urge the government to take those suggestions and employ them for all Canadians across the country who want their medical care when they need it, not when the government says they need it.