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House of Commons Hansard #37 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebeckers.

Topics

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4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Your time has expired.

The hon. member for Mississauga South.

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4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, in looking at the motion and listening to the member, I think it is clear that the debate which has gone on, particularly by Reform members, has shown their true lack of understanding of Quebec and Canada.

The member well knows that one of the principle features of Canada is our mobility rights which allows all Canadians to travel throughout this wonderful country, to each and every province, and to enjoy all of the things Canada has to offer. This member has defined Canada as a bunch of parts.

I would ask the member whether or not he believes the federal government should have control over the enforcement of national standards to do with our Canada health care system.

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4:55 p.m.

Reform

Cliff Breitkreuz Reform Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have gone from talking about the whole unity issue to the national health standards issue. I really do not know what connection that really has with the whole business of talking about national unity. We support a standardized health care system across the country. We support the Canada National Health Act.

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5 p.m.

Bloc

René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebeckers listening to what the Reformers are saying today can rest assured that this gives us further arguments in favour of sovereignty.

As the hon. member's colleague indicated earlier, distinct society does not mean anything to them. I am pleased to hear that. It does not mean anything, it is meaningless. I agree. They have stated in this House—and they took the entire day to say so—that it is meaningless. I must thank my colleagues from the Reform Party. They are giving the riding of Matapédia—Matane one more reason to be in favour of sovereignty.

I have a question for the hon. member. In our region, 64% voted in favour of sovereignty. What does he have to say to these people who sincerely wish for Quebec to become sovereign? What does he have to say to them today?

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5 p.m.

Reform

Cliff Breitkreuz Reform Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where there were 64% who voted in favour of sovereignty. He also made the statement that we do not put meaning to the whole business of distinct society. Obviously the member has not been listening. We have put a lot of meaning into the whole notion of distinct society and that is why we do not like to see it entrenched in the Quebec constitution.

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5 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Turp Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must comment on what the hon. member said about distinct society because the concept of distinct society was diluted to such an extent in both the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords that it was clear, very clear in fact—and that is what ministers and anyone who supported the Meech Lake accord at the time said—that this would not give Quebec any more power. This is one of the many reasons that led Quebeckers to vote against the Charlottetown accord.

If today we use a different terminology to describe a notion like the unique character of Quebec, the result will be the same, that is to say that Quebeckers will not accept any such proposals because they do not mean anything, they are just empty words that do not give Quebec any real power, when that is what Quebeckers want.

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5 p.m.

Reform

Cliff Breitkreuz Reform Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the notion the member has put forward. I would agree that the leaders of the day at the Charlottetown and the Meech Lake accords had a tendency to say one thing in one part of the country and another thing in another part of the country. Of course, that is dishonest and deceptive and it is not the way to bring about a unified country.

We have put a lot of meaning into the whole term distinct society.

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5 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, just to reiterate, on this side of the House we understand distinctiveness not only in Quebec but throughout our country.

I wish to share my time with my colleague, the member for Mississauga South, although there may not be time.

Only two weeks ago I was at the commemoration of the first time we issued a historical plaque outside of this country at Vimy Ridge. I was taken aback by the ceremony and going through some of the trenches and seeing some of the carvings on the walls that had been done by people who had been shot or killed at Vimy. I realized that both French and English had fought together in that war.

Nobody asked them when they showed up to free France from the invaders whether they were French or English, whether they were Quebeckers or Ontarians, whether they came from the west. They fought together as a nation of Canadians, and very successfully.

Over 3,900 Canadians, if I recall correctly, of all backgrounds lost their lives there. These are some of the histories that we have shared together as a country.

It is with that view in mind that I rise today to speak in favour of not only the Calgary declaration but the motion that has been moved by my hon. colleagues opposite.

We have discussed a variety of issues today and there is this constant issue of decentralization versus centralization. I sometimes do not think that we have given proper address to how our world is significantly changing.

Often the debate is very sterilized because it talks about taking power away from some kind of central authority. I would like to indicate that over the last 10 years Canada has entered into a number of international treaties such as NAFTA, GATT and some of the other treaties that we are now discussing and will be discussing in this House such as the multilateral agreement on investment.

All these treaties, if you will, have resulted in the delegation to a certain degree of authority from the so-called central government to international bodies, often dispute settlement mechanisms.

What I am trying to get at is that we have actually already given up a certain degree of power at the federal level to international institutions to effect more global trade. This is the reality of the world.

If we sit at the other end and constantly try to take power away from this institution that has already given up power internationally, we can understand how we are slowly but surely weakening our system of government and weakening the ties that bind us together.

I was heartened today by the Reform Party's talking about national standards because I very rarely hear it talk about those. I hear it defending provincial rights. Once again, I sometimes do not think we have given enough thought to how our country has changed.

I sometimes wonder if we should be debating provincial versus federal rights or talking more about urban versus rural rights. When we talk about the delivery of services on a local basis, of course large municipalities have the ability to do that.

We have just seen in my own province the amalgamation of the city of Toronto. Whether people like it or not it seems that is a very huge governmental authority that could probably deal effectively with a lot of local issues.

On the other hand, there are communities within our country that have a great deal of difficulty making even the basic services available to their people just because they are few in number or they are spread out over a wide geographical area.

I have often wondered if we should not restructure some of this debate about dealing with how to deliver services directly to the people who require them.

I support the initiative of the Calgary declaration. I think we very much have to continue the dialogue, but I think also we have to start talking about how to build this country. We have to stop talking about how to tear it apart. We have to start talking about how to build a stronger nation as we move toward the 21st century.

We have institutions of government. I have come to believe that there is a role for some kind of reformed Senate. I suspect it has some of the parameters that some of the members are talking about today, guaranteeing some kind of minimum standards and ensuring that our medical system, for instance, in British Columbia is not significantly different in a minimum kind of way from those in other parts of the country.

I have been appalled in some ways to find that people who have a cardiac or a diagnosis cardiac operation in British Columbia have to wait three weeks for an operation, while those in Manitoba only half a week.

Therefore when we talk about things in the Calgary declaration such as equality of people, I sometimes wonder whether we are really addressing those issues and whether, if we are really concerned about the equality of people, we should find ways to ensure there are minimum standards across this country we can all agree to as a nation.

Most people who have studied national unity would say that the things that unite us as a nation are the ways we treat each other. Most people would say one of those things is the health care system. Another is education. Heaven forbid, it says here that belongs to the provinces, but most people would say we should have some kind of minimum standard on which we can all agree that people can move around this country without needing an entry test to discover whether they are in grade two or grade twelve or whatever grade. We should all have some standards recognized which can unite us as a nation.

As my hon. colleague from Mississauga South would like a few words, I will conclude. I am definitely in support of the Calgary declaration initiative and of the motion before us today. More important, we have to find ways to reinvent our country. We happen to think that devolution is the way to do it. There may well be cases where we should be giving power back to the central government in order to create national binding standards in our country.

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5:10 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Speaker of the House is about to arrive to give his decision on a fairly significant point of order. Could I get agreement from this House that we have an opportunity to respond to this and not be excluded from that opportunity by virtue of bells?

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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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5:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, I am now ready to rule on a point of order raised by the hon. member for St. Albert on Monday, November 24, 1997. At that time the hon. member raised a point of order relating to the following items in the estimates: vote 1, policy and farm programs under agriculture; vote 15, convention refugee determination division under immigration; vote 1, health, environment and safety from environmental hazards under environment; vote 5, lands and trust services under Indian affairs; vote 1, policy and programs and divestitures under transport; vote 35, international trade tribunal under trade; vote 15, supply and services under public works; vote 40, Canada Information Office under heritage.

Supported by the hon. member for Langley—Abbotsford, the hon. member argued that the first five items seek to bypass the legislative process because certain bills related thereto are now before the House or died on the order paper in the 35th Parliament. As to the remaining three, he claimed there was no legislative authority at all.

This morning the hon. President of the Treasury Board returned to the House and responded with his explanation of the eight items complained of.

Before I go into the details of my review of this matter, might I suggest with all respect to the hon. member, as have suggested several Speakers before me, that points of order on estimates are usually very serious and almost always very complex. To leave these matters to the eve of the final decision by the House puts the Chair in a difficult position to say the least, if intelligent consideration is to be given to such procedural issues. In the absence of an appropriate procedure to challenge specific items in the House, hon. members should bring these matters forward as soon as they are aware of difficulties.

In presenting his arguments the hon. member for St. Albert made abundant reference to past rulings by Speakers Lamoureux, Jerome and Sauvé. Over the last several hours I have refreshed my memory and reviewed these rulings and in particular Speaker Jerome's ruling of March 22, 1977 and Speaker Sauvé's ruling of June 12, 1981.

The rulings make it clear that the supply procedure ought not to be used to bypass the normal or regular legislative process. In other words, items in the estimates must not attempt to amend existing statutes or be used to obtain authority which normally would be sought through proper legislation.

In order to better understand what on these occasions was the basis on which certain provisions of the estimates were challenged, let me quote two examples of the exact wording used in the estimates as tabled in the House.

The first example relates to industry, trade and commerce, vote 77d of the supplementary estimates (D) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1977, as referred to in Speaker Jerome's ruling of March 22, 1977. The description of the vote was as follows:

Vote 77d—Export Development

(a) To increase from $750,000,000 to $2,500,000,000 the amount set out in Section 26 of the Export Development Act; and

(b) To increase from $750,000,000 to $1,000,000,000 the amount set out in Section 28 of the Export Development Act.

The second example concerns energy, mines and resources, vote 45 of the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1982, as referred to in Speaker Sauvé's ruling of June 12, 1981. Again the description of the vote was as follows:

Vote 45—Canada Oil Substitution Program—Payments, in accordance with regulations made by the Governor in Council and payments pursuant to agreements with a province or a person in respect of—

It was based on the wordings as they appeared in the estimates that both examples were ruled out of order.

Having gone back to the basis for the rulings referred to by the hon. member for St. Albert, I then examined the wording used to describe the eight votes which he challenged in his point of order.

In the first five votes grouped by the hon. member, that is, vote 1, agriculture; vote 15, immigration; vote 1, environment; vote 5, Indian affairs; and vote 1, transport, nowhere could I find in the wordings an attempt to bypass the legislative process by seeking approval for funds which have not yet received legislative authority. I therefore cannot agree with the hon. member's conclusions.

In his second group the hon. member included vote 35, Canadian International Trade Tribunal; vote 15, supply and services program; and vote 40, Canada Information Office. Again in examining the wording of these three votes, I cannot conclude that an attempt is being made to amend legislation through the use of an appropriation act.

I want to refer to arguments that were made yesterday and again today that the House is being asked to grant supply before it legislates. May I respectfully remind hon. members that when granting funds through the adoption of an appropriation act, the House is in fact legislating. Again let me repeat that what was objected to in the past and what different Speakers have ruled out of order were attempts to amend existing acts or legislate new programs as part of a legislative measure granting supply.

This morning the hon. member for St. Albert in response to the hon. President of the Treasury Board further argued that the information provided to Parliament in the part IIIs of the estimates requires improvement. The hon. minister himself indeed agreed with such an objective. I should remind the House that part III expenditure plans, if imperfect, are a recent innovation by the government. The content of most expenditure plans goes beyond the next fiscal year and covers several supply cycles. That some projections contained therein are at variance with stated past, present or future government policies is in my view understandable. Things change. Events affect plans. That anticipated legislation or bills now on the Order Paper or bills outstanding at the dissolution of the 35th Parliament be referred to in these documents in no way impacts on the supply proceedings or the legislative proceedings of the House.

What is important and paramount is the accuracy of the votable items reflected in part II of the estimates. Once concurred in, the estimates in part II become the schedule to the supply bill which itself becomes the appropriation act granting authority to spend to the government. This authority must be renewed on an annual basis. As was stated this morning by the hon. President of the Treasury Board, the statutory items are included in the part II for information only so that the House can get the whole picture on spending.

In his reply, this morning, the President of the Treasury Board quoted part of a paragraph in the Preface of Part II of the 1997-98 Estimates. I will quote more extensively from page 1-5 under the heading “Changes in the 1997-98 Estimates”:

The purpose of this section is twofold. As in previous years, it will describe changes in Vote, Program and other presentations in order to permit the reconciliation of the 1996-97 Main Estimates with the 1997-98 Main Estimates. In addition, this section will detail those Votes that contain specific authority that differs from that included in the previous year's Main Estimates as well as new expenditure authorities appearing for the first time. In light of the House of Commons Speaker's rulings in 1981, the government has made a commitment that the only legislation that will be amended through the Estimates process, other than cases specifically authorized by Statute, will be previous Appropriation Acts.

I used this statement, which is based on Speaker's rulings made in 1981, to review the votes to which the hon. member for St. Albert objected. In none of them was I able to find any violation of the principles established by my predecessors.

Consequently, the said votes are in order and the House can now proceed with the taking of the recorded divisions.

It being 5.23 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

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

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5:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

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5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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5:25 p.m.

The Speaker

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

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5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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5:25 p.m.

The Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

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5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

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5:25 p.m.

The Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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5:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Call in the members.

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6 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I arrived late, but I would have voted with my party.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 27Government Orders

November 25th, 1997 / 6 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the amendment carried.

The next question is on the main motion, as amended.

Division No. 27Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe you would find unanimous consent to apply the results of the vote just taken to the main motion.

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6:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent?