Madam Speaker, quite frankly I find it incredible that the Bloc is opposing this motion.
Reform members have looked at this clause and feel that our motion is very appropriate and quite reasonable. I will go back over this clause so that the people back home who are watching can understand exactly what it is we are talking about. Clause 20 states:
For the purpose of facilitating the formulation, co-ordination and implementation of any program or policy relating to the powers, duties and functions referred to in section 6, the Minister may enter into agreements with a province or group of provinces, agencies of provinces, financial institutions and such other persons or bodies as the Minister considers appropriate.
On the surface it would seem quite reasonable to allow the minister to have that type of power and authority. However, as has already been articulated by my hon. colleague, we felt-call us a bit gun-shy or perhaps call us paranoid at times-we would like to see, especially in areas like this, as the Bloc has been articulating, that these are primarily areas of provincial responsibility. There has to be a proper check and balance put into place.
My hon. colleague has proposed a quite reasonable amendment to this clause merely by inserting "after obtaining the approval of the lieutenant-governor in council of the province". That is all we are talking about, not some lengthy legalistic mumbo-jumbo but just a very basic amendment that would see the government held in check by the provinces. I might add it is the provinces that the government is always saying it is consulting and in ongoing discussions, and with which it has excellent working relationships.
My party has difficulty with that. Unlike the member for Kenora-Rainy River, Reformers have very strong recent memories of some of the bills that this government has enacted over the course of the 35th Parliament, just one of which is Bill C-68, the gun legislation.
I would question whether the government had the support of the provinces when five of the provinces and both territories were very outspoken against that legislation. I need not remind the House that legislation is going to have a direct impact on the financial well-being of the provinces when they are called on by the federal government to enact the registration scheme for all long guns in this country.
That type of program has a very strong and definite economic impact on the provinces. Yet the government just arbitrarily declares it law and forges ahead. That is our fear in this area as well. The minister, when he runs up against some resistance from certain provinces, may just by-pass them and just forge ahead, putting the programs in place expecting the provinces to pick up the administrative costs or what have you.
Another incident of note for members of Parliament from British Columbia is what happened last November and December. This government decided to bring forward a constitutional veto for the regions of the country. In its wisdom it decided, arbitrarily once again, on very short notice that British Columbia did not constitute a region. The government was just going to lump British Columbia in with the three prairie provinces, in with the west, when it was doling out this constitutional veto.
Therefore, the provinces are more than a little gun-shy when it comes to these types of clauses, clauses that on the surface seem quite reasonable. Reformers feel that some appropriate check is necessary. We do not understand in this particular case at least why the Bloc Quebecois would not support it.
This is the party that is always concerned about the provinces having some authority. This amendment would see that before the minister could forge ahead and enact certain programs that would have a definite impact on the provinces, the minister would have to clear those programs with the lieutenant-governor. Obviously it would have to be cleared with the lieutenant-governor of Quebec where that program would be a bilateral agreement between Quebec and the Government of Canada. Yet a couple of members from the Bloc have indicated they are going to be voting against this amendment. Quite frankly I find it amazing that a party that is always seeking to have more control for its province is going to vote against an amendment that would do exactly that.