House of Commons Hansard #151 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was amendment.


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4:45 p.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

That is pretty attractive to a Liberal government that does not know the meaning of cutting spending but only knows the meaning of taxation.

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4:45 p.m.


Gordon Kirkby Liberal Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK

There you go again.

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4:45 p.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

One again the parliamentary secretary is trying to defend Bill C-68, a bill that is completely indefensible. All through the debate we asked the Minister of Justice and the parliamentary secretary from Prince Albert to give us one shred of evidence that Bill C-68 would cut firearm crime like they said it would.

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4:45 p.m.


Gordon Kirkby Liberal Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK

We gave you a ton of evidence.

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4:45 p.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice is heckling me. At that time he had a chance to give us one shred of evidence and could not do it. Now he can heckle while he is off camera. He had his chance. We even had the Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General stand in the House during debate and say that n Canada people must consider it a privilege to own a firearm. We are talking about legal property.

We could embellish on that. If it is a privilege to own a firearm which is legal property, is it also their opinion it is a privilege to own a car or a house or any other kind of private property?

Reading from the Constitution, 1982, which Mr. Trudeau put in place, one wonders whether there are any rights of individual Canadian citizens to own property anyway: "not to be derived thereof without due compensation or process of law". The Constitution took care of that in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, so to speak. That is an oxymoron.

In the same way the Minister of Justice failed in respect to the amendment being debated today, he failed in Bill C-68 miserably. Let him try to sell that on the election trail, particularly in the Prince Albert-Churchill River riding.

The Liberal government and the Minister of Justice failed on Bill C-226, a private member's bill put forward by the Liberal member at the time for York South-Weston who was kicked out of the party because he would not toe the party line. We do not blame him on this side of the House.

Bill C-226 was unanimously adopted in the House. It was a private member's bill that would abolish section 745 of the Criminal Code. It would ensure that life meant life for someone convicted of the highest crime in the land, the crime of murder. The bill would suspend the Liberal version of life imprisonment with 25 years without chance of parole.

We have introduced the Reform version of life imprisonment in the House in which life means life. We have also introduced a private member's bill to allow the people of Canada to debate, to have a referendum on the return of capital punishment. The Liberal government shot that one down even though a huge majority of Canadian people would not only like to see the return of capital punishment in Canada but would like the chance to voice an opinion on it. The Liberal government would not allow that to happen because it did not fit into its philosophy.

What is the job of members of the Liberal Party opposite? Is it to represent their constituencies or to represent the philosophy of the Liberal Party? One wonders what is more important to Liberal members. There are some Liberal members in the House who have their heads on straight and are very sensible when it comes to criminal justice. Unfortunately the member for Kent is not running for the Liberal Party in the next election. We are very sorry to see him leave the House because when it came to justice issues there were at least two or three sound thinking Liberals on the other side. We are very sorry to see that.

I would encourage the Liberal government and the member from Prince Albert to go to the polls tomorrow, try to run on their justice positions, and let the Canadian people decide who they want to choose. I think they will be in for a big shock.

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4:50 p.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I will venture forth some impromptu comments on this minor amendment to the code. It symbolically goes to the heart of the justice system and what the justice system is all about.

We as a society delegate to justice system specialists the handling of law and order. For instance, the development of police forces, the adversarial system, the concept of the burden of proof and of innocence until proven guilty are all evolutionary changes.

The justice system is now out of touch with Canadians. That delegated trust we have placed in the justice system is broken. As society values change so must the justice system change. It must reflect mainstream Canadian values. This is the point where residents of my riding of New Westminster-Burnaby are most cynical about the governance from Ottawa. They are not happy with the results delivered by the justice system. They look for answers and even provide their own common sense solutions which never seem to be listened to. They also look for who is minding the store and who is accountable for the poor results of the administration of justice.

The justice minister comes along and tries to soothe. However the Young Offenders Act and how young offenders are processed are not acceptable as far as the community is concerned. Violent offenders are still dealt with in a manner that fails to protect the community. It seems at times the whole community is hostage to an unresponsive system of weak law and weak federal government that does not have the courage to set a climate of justice and security for those who pay the bills and those whom the system is supposed to protect and serve.

With the climate of legal rights over citizenship and responsibilities to family and community, we have a government that continues to behave like many others before it. It failed to make the justice system accountable for the results it delivers. A system that once took its authority of delegation from the community fails to give due diligence to the reasonable desires of those it is supposed to serve.

The motion before us today is a small measure but is symbolic of what is needed. The justice system must serve the community and not the other way around. We must change the preoccupation of it being offender focused and make it more community focused.

When an offender is brought to court, through that delegation in effect the offender is brought before the Queen. The crown cannot fulfil its role when successive governments do not provide the laws or the appropriate social philosophy that truly delivers peace and order in our communities.

For example, section 745 of the Criminal Code should not exist. It has little support across the country. The more Canadians learn of

its absurdity and the workings of it, the more my community wants it repealed.

I have been on the front lines of endeavouring to administer the Young Offenders Act. I have been a parole office, a probation officer, a family court counsellor, a divorce mediator and an adviser to the courts. In a previous career I was in the middle of trying to balance the needs and rights of victims with the need to process offenders fairly within the limits and the bounds of law and community sentiment.

That experience and others are some of the things that motivate me to offer myself in service to the House, for the law that comes from the House sets the limits and the tone for the justice administered in the community. Therein lies the current conflict. Old fashioned parties based only on partial or limited democracy are completely out of touch.

In the main Canadians have a different view. They are correct. They are not misguided. In the final analysis the community knows best.

The Liberals therefore have a problem of the soul. The public has a basic view of the administration of criminal justice which is not being represented by the Liberal government. It does not represent mainstream Canadian values. The government is too slow to change.

Liberals are no longer the small r reformers that maybe they once were. They no longer represent the aspirations of average Canadians who expect the crown to protect them.

The motion today and perhaps the convoluted way in which we have come to this moment are evidence that the Liberals are not good administrators. They are quite lacking in being fundamentally capable of administering the country's affairs, the kind of governance Canadians so desperately want.

Canadians in my riding tell me they want a stronger, more protective justice system. They want a system that is not so offender focused. They want a system that facilitates personal deterrence and accountability for what offenders have actually done, not being able to blame everything else in society except themselves.

The guide must be taken from the good citizens of Canada. It is my commitment to my community to deliver more competent governance. We can be a safer and more just society and that is my commitment.

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4:55 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Madam Speaker, we are here today to discuss the amendments to Bill C-17. It is my understanding that the only reason we are discussing the amendments is that through Bill C-45 the minister inadvertently removed the right of victims to make a victim impact statement. As a result it was necessary to bring forth the amendments.

The minister seems to have had a new found enthusiasm for victims rights and for toughening up the whole criminal justice system. It is a little late. In Bill C-17 the minister did not even address the issue. He had to add an amendment to give victims the right to make victim impact statements in section 745 hearings.

It bothers me that the government would leave this until the very latest date it possibly could. I suspect the reason this was done was due to pre-election polling which suggested the government was not tough enough on criminal justice issues. Therefore it had to introduce amendments to shore up support.

The minister got himself into difficulty. If we go to the polls within two or three weeks he knows this legislation will not be passed in time. Therefore he has made an amendment to Bill C-17 that has nothing to do with the bill. He has to shore up support in the criminal justice area which is so badly lacking. He has discovered that he had better make an amendment to allow for victims rights in section 745 proceedings.

We support the measure. It is important for the victim to be able to make a statement. The victim should be able to make a written statement in any criminal proceeding. We believe in it so much that my colleague from Fraser Valley West introduced a private member's bill to that effect. In the last 3.5 years we have said that we should put the rights of victims before the rights of criminals.

Unfortunately we did not see that kind of support coming from members on the other side of the House until an election call was imminent. I think they are hearing footsteps. I think that at the doors and in their polling they are finding out that they are very weak in this area. Canadians want them to tighten up the criminal justice system. They want to stop the harassment by people who are writing letters from jails to the family members of those who have been murdered and putting them through a very painful process. They are hearing it loud and clear and they are trying to shore up their support.

I want to mention that I have an interesting situation in the riding of Peace River where somebody who committed a very serious crime, in fact murdered an elderly couple in the town of Valleyview some 10 years ago, a cold blooded murder in my view, is now about to receive his statutory release from a federal penitentiary. In fact he has had statutory release three times in the last two years, parole if you like.

This individual, whose sentence was changed from second degree murder to manslaughter, was a minor at the time of the murder of 16 or 17 years old. In every case when this person has received a statutory release he has offended within two or three days of that release. Obviously he does not want to be back on the streets. He cannot function in society. He has not shown any

remorse for his crimes. He has never apologized to the family of the victims and has not accepted any rehabilitation.

In spite of that, six years of a ten year sentence will be up May 1. This individual could easily be back in our community. What is the message that this is sending? We are sending a message that this person has not accepted rehabilitation. He does not intend to apologize for his actions. Yet he is going to be released.

It really bothers me and it bothers people of our community where this couple was murdered that this should happen. Individuals should have a chance for rehabilitation but they have to accept the responsibility of trying to improve themselves and admit that they made a mistake in their life and try to move on.

This individual has not done that. In spite of that he is going to be released into the community within approximately six weeks. This is just symptomatic of the problems we are having. It just seems that the government is a little late in recognizing that Canadians are demanding some big changes in the criminal justice system.

Two years ago the government went through the steps of trying to put some window dressing on the Young Offenders Act. That did not satisfy Canadians. What happened? A committee travelled across the country to hear what was wrong with the Young Offenders Act.

I believe other members are finding the same thing that I am when I am at town hall meetings. The words Young Offenders Act have become so repugnant that in order to change it we will even have to change the name of the act to something that people can accept and think that they are going to get some meaningful change in.

The Young Offenders Act was not in place when this individual murdered two elderly people. In fact he and his friend were telling friends when they were drinking that afternoon that they were going to go out and kill somebody. They broke into a home. The gentleman was home and they tied him up, waited for his wife to come back from playing bingo and then murdered them both in cold blood. What happens to that individual? He gets sentenced to six years for manslaughter. He is going to be out May 1 of this year.

Has he accepted any rehabilitation? Obviously not. The man has a drug problem. He is on drugs in one of our federal prisons. He has not made any move to accept any rehabilitation. He has not admitted to the family that he did these actions or is sorry for them. I cannot see how we can possibly let that person out.

In fact, we have a bill in the House right now which suggests that in order to be designated as a dangerous offender the court should have the power within six months to determine whether that person on sentencing is going to be a dangerous offender. It seems to me that that is kind of ludicrous. That option should be open to the courts at any time during the sentence of that individual. In my view they should be assessed near the end of the sentence, shortly before they are released. Would that not be a better time to see if that person has accepted rehabilitation?

If individuals are no longer a threat to society, why limit it to six months after their sentence? If we have any faith in the rehabilitation system at all obviously that person may decide they want to make a change in their life and become a better person and be a constructive member of society. How can you determine that within six months of that person's sentence? It has to be done toward the end of the sentence. That could happen at any time of the individual's sentence and the assessment should take place near the end of his or her sentence.

It bothers me quite a bit that the government has been dithering. All of a sudden it realizes, through polling and individuals going door to door in preparation for the election that this is a very sensitive issue. We have recognized this all along. They are suddenly finding that out and trying to make some corrections. Now we are seeing amendments made to Bill C-17 which allow victims to make impact statements.

I certainly support it. It is a little late but nonetheless I support it. I hope the public remember on election day who has recognized that these as important issues and reflected their concerns in Parliament and who has just discovered it within the last couple of days.

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5:05 p.m.


Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise in support of this amendment which in effect restores a right taken away by previous legislation for an automatic written victim impact statement. In speaking to this motion I would like to talk a little bit about a very serious story that unfolded in my riding of Skeena.

About two months ago a young lady named Tammy Fee came to see me. She lives in the community of Terrace in my riding. She asked for my assistance and told me her story. Several years ago she had a boyfriend and recognized early on that it was a destructive relationship, not one that she wanted to be in. She told her boyfriend that she was going to end the relationship. At this point the fellow became unglued. He did not want to accept that.

He was a very controlling individual and could not accept the fact that Tammy Fee was no longer going to be his girlfriend or have anything to do with him. He harassed and stalked her for some period of time after she broke off with him.

The day before he attacked her he chartered a helicopter and flew over her house so that he could plan how he was going to gain access to her dwelling. He came into her house in the middle of the night. He obviously knew what he was going to do because he had masking tape fixed on to his vest or shirt so he could gag her immediately on entry. He came in through a window at two o'clock in the morning. He cut the screen. Tammy was asleep on the couch

when he came into the house. The very first words she heard this man utter were "you're dead". You can imagine the terror.

I have never been in a position where I have been assaulted in this kind of manner. I have never been put in fear of my life. I can only imagine what that would feel like because I have never experienced it. "You're dead".

Over the next several hours this individual assaulted Tammy sexually and otherwise. He indicated he was going to take her life. She realized the only way she was going to survive was to play along so she did.

The very minute she had the opportunity, when he relaxed his guard, she ran out of the house to the neighbours and phoned 911. I have heard transcripts of the 911 call. They are hair raising, they are frightening.

The RCMP arrested this fellow, took him the the local lock-up and took Tammy in at the same time to make a statement. Tammy told me that she was so afraid, so traumatized by this event that she did not even want to be in the same police station with this fellow even though there were all kinds of RCMP officers around and even though on an intellectual level she knew she was quite safe there.

The RCMP arresting officer told her: "Do not worry, Tammy. This guy is gone for 10 years at least. For 10 years this guy is going to be not only out of your hair but out of society. He is going to be incarcerated". This was the gut reaction of the arresting RCMP officer to this attack.

Members can imagine how I felt as Tammy's elected representative when she came to me and said: "This assault took place two years ago. The individual who assaulted and raped me and threatened my life is to be released on May 23 of this year". She said: "I am so afraid that this man is going to come back to Terrace to seek retribution for my turning him in. He is going to want to finish the job". She said: "Mr. Scott, I am so afraid that I have made arrangements to change my identity, my social insurance number and relocate somewhere else in Canada so that this fellow cannot track me down and do any more damage to me than he has already done. I am afraid for my life. I am afraid that this fellow is going to come back and take my life".

How can we as a just society, as a caring society, let this happen? How can we stand by and watch a young woman who has already been traumatized, already been through hell, be traumatized again by a justice system that refuses to take the responsibility for the safety of its citizens as its first priority? I am absolutely appalled that I have to deal with a constituent on this level on this matter. I have no answers for her. What am I supposed to tell this young woman? "Take your chances. I do not think he will come back".

That is not what the police have said and it is not what an independent psychological evaluation has suggested. As a matter of fact parts of that psychological interview were put in the Sun newspaper shortly after this fellow's trial where the psychologist said that it was highly likely this individual will offend again. If it is not Tammy Fee, there will be some woman, somewhere in the country, probably in British Columbia who will pay a price for his release. Somewhere somebody is going to pay a terrible price for the release of this fellow back into society.

How can we let this happen? I heard the justice minister over the last three year talk about the fact that we are a caring society. I do not have a problem with that and I do not think most members in the House have a problem with being a caring society. The question is, who do we care about? Do we care about the fellow who attacked, raped and threatened this girl's life? Or do we care about the girl?

The problem with the present criminal justice system and with the weak-kneed efforts the justice minister has made to date, is that we continually place more importance in the rights of the criminal than on the rights of Tammy Fee and others like her.

My colleagues have spoken over and over again in the House about incidents very similar to this and yet nothing happens. I appreciate what the justice minister said today in question period. He said that Reformers did not have a lock on caring, that we did not have the sole domain on caring about victims in Canada. I would hope not. I would hope that everybody in the House and every right thinking Canadian would be concerned about that.

Why has the justice minister not done anything about it? I do not believe the justice minister would purposely like to see Tammy Fee reassaulted, but I do not think he has done anything to ensure that it does not happen. As justice minister in Canada he has the absolute power to change it and the government has the power to change it.

The government has sat here and listened for 3.5 years to very serious suggestions from this party and has failed to act. Half the time I hear members of the government across the way snickering and laughing when Reform brings these matters forward. Then on the eve of an election-talk about cynical-the justice minister tries to paint himself as a person who is legitimately concerned with the rights of victims. He will not accept Reform's victims rights bill but he is legitimately concerned about the rights of victims. I do not think so and I do not think Canadians think so.

This issue is so important that it should cut across political lines. It should not be a matter of Reform, Liberal, Bloc and NDP. It

should be a matter of decent Canadians caring about their fellow Canadians, the personal safety of their fellow Canadians, and doing something about it. To the great discredit of Parliament that has not happened.

As a result of that failure to act there will be many more victims out there and will continue to be victims out there until such time as we have a government and a justice minister who are willing to take tough measures to keep our citizens safe.

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5:15 p.m.


Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, one of the most important things a government is elected to do, if not the most important thing, is to look after the safety and well-being of its citizens.

While I agree the amendment to Bill C-17 does something to to restore the impact statements of victims, I wonder how we lost that right in the first place. I think of what the government has done in its 3.5 years of inactivity with regard to the justice system. I also wonder if maybe what I am hearing around the Hill and reading in the papers is right, that we could be into an election in the next three weeks or so, some time in June.

Finally I wonder if the government has awoke to the fact that justice issues are a concern. The Liberals have decided that in some areas their seats are looking a little bit rocky, their members' seats are a little tippy. They had to come up with something to shore up what they have let fall apart so they brought in Bill C-17.

Let us go back to what I originally said would happen to victim impact statements. Let us go back to a few hours ago in the House during question period. The hon. member for Beaver River said she would almost think there was an election on the horizon. It is ironic but the justice minister who has been terribly soft on crime for 3.5 years all of a sudden is trying to pass himself off as a champion of victims rights. She stated that the people would not be fooled and I believe she is right. She went on to state that she would like to know if the Liberals were really serious about putting victims first. Will the justice minister commit here, now and today to passing Reform's victims bill of rights before the next election? He should not think about it. He should do it.

The hon. minister said there was one reason why the justice committee was devoting time today, tomorrow and later this week to the proposed victims bill of rights. It was because he asked them to do it. The last time the matter was debated in the House of Commons he undertook to direct the matter to the justice committee so that it could look at the proposals in detail. He wrote to the committee. It has kindly taken up his request and is looking at the matter. There is always more to do to make justice systems better and that includes the rights of victims. He did not think the Reform Party or anybody else should overlook what has been achieved by the government on behalf of victims.

I do not know about that, but he went on to say that over the last 3.5 years it introduced more meaningful changes to the Criminal Code for the benefit of victims than any government in memory. He also indicated that the Reform Party ought not to think that it has any monopoly on concern.

He went on to state that a few months later in 1994 they tabled Bill C-41 to provide for the rights of victims. Bill C-41 is before the courts. It has been challenged in the courts of B.C., Ontario and Alberta. I wonder exactly what the minister meant and what he was so proud of. It provides for written statements. We argued unsuccessfully that verbal presentations should be applied too. However the government, which now says it is caring, sharing and worried about its citizens, did not pass that amendment.

That was the great Bill C-41 the minister was so happy about today. It makes absolutely no sense to me. Bill C-45 is the one which actually took away this right. All of a sudden the government is playing catch up. The government was warned time and time again back then that it would run into serious difficulties.

While the minister goes on to say how great they have done, I do not think the public out will be fooled. They have done absolutely nothing.

It seemed awfully strange when we were talking about the rights of victims and their concerns to hear the minister mention Bill C-68 that requires law-abiding citizens to register their firearms. Has anyone read anywhere in that bill where it states that criminals should also register their firearms? Has anybody read that? I think not. Why? People out there have to start wondering why the justice minister is going after law-abiding citizens and not the criminal element.

I know some of the arguments he put forward. Let us look at some of them. It will stop the smuggling of guns in Canada. I do not have to go back too far in my memory, because it has been since I have been in the House, to when I listened to the same government say to me and to the rest of the House that to control smuggling of cigarettes we had to drop the price. We had to take off the taxes.

I now hear a minister say that through Bill C-68 they can control the smuggling of guns. I have to wonder about that. They cannot control the smuggling of cigarettes. That is easier to do than firearms. However that was one of the justice minister's arguments. He said that it would control suicides. I do not know how. If somebody is going to commit suicide they are going to do it with or without a firearm.

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5:25 p.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Liberal logic.

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5:25 p.m.


Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Yes, it has to be. I can think of no other reason for it.

I wonder what could be the real reason behind Bill C-68. I heard an hon. member say today that maybe it was some form of tax grab. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind about that. They say it will be a one-time implementation fee. I have to ask the people out there when was the last time the government only charged once for anything. I have never heard about it. It is an ongoing thing. Three years down the road there will be an increase. Once people register their firearms there will be an increase.

It is not a crime control bill, no matter what the minister says. It is a smoke screen. He knows it. We know it. The people out there know it. They know the whole justice system has been a smoke screen since the minister got in. His priorities go first to the criminal element. They do not go to the victims. It would only take the stroke of a pen to change that. It should not take 3.5 years or 5.5 years. Most of this garbage was brought in by previous Liberal governments.

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5:25 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta


Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to be involved in the debate on Bill C-17.

We have considered the other bills that were before the House, Bill C-41 and Bill C-45, and we have talked about victim impact statements. We are talking about not those bills themselves but the whole approach of the Liberal government to dealing with crime, safety, victims and criminals. That is really what we are dealing with.

As we proceed with debate in the next two, three or four weeks prior to embarking on a national election, I know Canadians will want answers to those questions.

My hon. colleagues on the standing committee dealing with criminal justice issues have focused on these issues for over 3.5 years. They have tried in every way possible to move the government from the position of being soft on criminals and giving no real attention to the victims of crime, either direct victims or their families and friends.

The question on the table today is whether the Liberal government has dealt with the matter of crime and safety on the streets of Canada. Can we walk at night without fear?

We visited many people in our constituencies in the last two weeks and found no clear answers. Members of Parliament in all parties heard from many people that victims of crime, their families and friends were not being recognized by the government. The criminals had a higher priority than the victims. That is wrong. I beg leave at this time to adjourn debate.

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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from March 20 consideration of the motion and the amendment and the amendment to the amendment.

Standing Orders Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

The hon. member for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca has six minutes left.

Standing Orders Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today on Motion No. 267 put forward by my colleague from Mission-Coquitlam. She has put forth a very interesting private member's bill which really goes to the heart of why we have certain problems within Parliament today.

The substantial changes needed in our country will not come from the legislation we put forward in this House. Before we make the changes in the country we first have to start with changes within Parliament, which is what my colleague is trying to do through her motion.

One major problem we have in this House and indeed in this country is that Parliament does not operate as a democracy. Rather, it operates more like a medieval fiefdom. The principles of democracy are repeatedly and continually trashed in this House. The government knows this and the government has ignored it. Perhaps the greatest example of this was a study which was done by members sitting in the House today, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Labour, the newly elected Acting Speaker of the House.

All these individuals put forth a very erudite study which basically took apart the structure of governance we have in the country today and said that we do not live in a democracy but here are some constructive solutions we could put forward that would bring the power of the people into this Chamber so their wishes, desires and ideas could be brought to bear on the legislation we debate in this House. They were ideas we would support and indeed they are ideas that members from the Reform Party have put forward repeatedly.

However, once these members and this group came into power as the government, these good ideas were tossed under a table and

have been ignored by this government. It has been a huge lost opportunity. There were such ideas as recall, giving members of Parliament the ability to represent their constituents through private members' bills, which is what my colleague from Mission-Coquitlam is putting forward. She is saying that private members' bills must become votable and that they must be entertained in this House in a very sensible and respectful fashion instead of being tossed under a table to be forgotten, as most of them are.

We are the only democracy in the world where private members' bills are non-votable. Why do we use taxpayer dollars, why do we use the efforts and the intelligence of members across party lines to put forward private members' bills only for them to have one hour of debate in this House and be made non-votable? Why do we have private members' bills, such as the one my colleague has put forward on victim rights, go through the system only to be held up by the government in committee? The government can and does block intelligent, compassionate and fair private members' bills in committee if it chooses to do so.

That is not a democracy. That is a trampling on the rights not only of the members in this House but, worse, it is a trampling on the rights of the public to have its wishes, desires, ideas heard in the House. That is what is happening.

We talk often about ideas and how we can strengthen our democracy, ideas on how we can put forward new solutions for our country. We will not have those changes, the substantial changes that our country needs to make it strong, to make it powerful, to make it as good as it can become unless we first begin to have changes in this House. That goes from justice to the national unity issue, to economics, to the environment and to health care. Each of these important issues is not going to have the effective solutions they require and demand unless the government says "Enough is enough. We are going to bring the power of Canadians into this Chamber. We are going to bring the power, the knowledge and the intelligence of members of Parliament to bear on the legislation that we debate here and we are going to make it effective".

If we do that we will be able to achieve the potential that our country can have. Until we do that it will not occur.

I ask every member in this House to support the very intelligent private member's Motion No. 267, put forward by my hon. friend and colleague from Mission-Coquitlam, to make private members' bills votable, to make them debatable, to make them transparent and to make us truly answerable to the people of Canada. If we do that we will certainly be doing Canada and Canadians a huge service, which at the end of the day is our role and responsibility.

Standing Orders Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 1997 / 5:35 p.m.


François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak today in the debate on MotionNo. 267, which the hon. member for Mission-Coquitlam tabled in this House and which is a votable item.

It is followed by an amendment by my colleague from Rimouski-Témiscouata and an amendment to the amendment I myself tabled in the second hour of debate. The hon. member for Rimouski-Témiscouata and I are not in disagreement. An event led to the tabling of this amendment, and I will take the following minutes to explain it.

The aim of the motion by the hon. member for Mission-Coquitlam is to include in the Standing Orders of this House the requirement that every parliamentary committee-standing, legislative or special-report to the House on a bill referred to it. Obviously, the intent is to avoid having bills, especially those of private members, which have been approved at second reading by this House, disappear in the woodwork. The committees consider them without any set schedule or agenda, and we end up often months later without the committees having dealt with them.

The aim is commendable. The committees are the extension of this House, and this House is always entitled to know the fate of a measure it has approved in principle, which was then referred to a standing, special or legislative committee.

The problem is that a number of private members' bills literally collapsed before committees. The bill introduced in the first session of this legislature by my colleague from Mission-Coquitlam, Bill C-234 if I am not mistaken, was not reported to the House, and all its clauses were defeated in committee.

The hon. member for Vancouver East, who is in the House today, had greater success. The government supported the principle in her bill on polling hours across Canada, in view of the various time zones.

Formally, however, the House has no knowledge of what took place in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs during consideration of her bill. No report has been made, and the bill is in a sort of limbo before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, although we all know that Bill C-63, a government bill, settled the question of the different polling hours across Canada. It will apply in the next election.

Another bill, introduced by my colleague from Surrey-White Rock-South Langley, also died before the committee without the committee ever reporting on it. When we study a bill in committee, and I will use the example of the bill of our colleague from Surrey-White Rock-South Langley, and go over it clause by

clause, the last questions put by the chairman to the committee members are: Is the title of the bill adopted? Is the bill approved? Shall I report it to the House?

In the case of the bill I have just mentioned, all of the bill's clauses were defeated. It was the committee's basic right to defeat all the bill's clauses. However, when we get to the point of deciding whether the bill's title would be accepted, I think a substantial problem occurs when the House votes at second reading on a bill that has a title. Perhaps the title can be changed by a standing or legislative committee, but can it be withdrawn? Can we wipe it off the record? This is a question of substance that deserves closer study.

As to the last question "Shall I report it?", the answer is obviously yes. It is common sense that, when a bill has been studied, whether the committee has made amendments or not, or has rejected all the clauses in a bill, the committee must report promptly to the House since the bill belongs to the House.

Motion No. 267, as it stands, with the amendment I moved, would make it possible to have a report from the committee within sixty sitting days from the date of the bill's reference to the committee. Why is there a difference between the amendment moved by my hon. colleague, the member for Rimouski-Témiscouata, who called for a report within six months, and the sub-amendment I myself moved, calling for a report within sixty sitting days?

The reason is that between the time the member for Rimouski-Témiscouata moved her amendment and I moved mine, the Sub-Committee on Private Members' Business, which had received an order of reference to study, among other things, this very question of reports from committees, produced its report and referred it to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The Sub-Committee on Private Members' Business recommended unanimously, by consensus of all parties, that any bill referred to a committee be reported on within sixty sitting days.

The wording before us, with the amendment I moved following the tabling of the report of the Sub-Committee on Private Members' Business, is more or less the same as that recommended by the Sub-Committee on Private Members' Business. I say more or less, because the sub-committee's report contained the additional recommendation that, in the absence of a report, the bill be deemed approved by the standing committee or the legislative committee or the special committee, but approved without amendment.

This part is not repeated. I think that it is easier to reach a consensus in the House with the motion as written and with the amendment moved in the second hour of debate requiring a report within sixty sitting days. This issue was discussed for several months by the Sub-Committee on Private Members' Business and the report was unanimous. I think that this merely endorses a recommendation approved by representatives of all parties on this committee.

That ought to simply speed up and gain respect for private member's bills; in other words, a bill must be handled in the same way, whether it originates with the government or with a member. It is a parliamentary matter which must be handled with diligence, and which must not be swept under the rug to suit everyday preoccupations or agendas, whether short term or medium term.

It is obvious that people sometimes feel uncomfortable with voting against a bill, but they say to themselves that it will get held up in committee and then it will die on the Order Paper; it will get dealt with when there are only two weeks left in the session.

I believe that inclusion of new Standing Order 97.1 will be a step forward. I say a step forward because it will not solve the problem entirely. It will not solve the problem of the political will of those sitting on committees. If they have it in mind to reject a bill, reject it they will. Political will cannot be legislated. A standing order cannot create political ideas or orientations. It is a support which can, of course, help those who tend more toward weakness; it can serve as a guideline to committee members, but all the rest is political will.

Madam Speaker, you are indicating that my time is nearly up. Thank you for having the patience to put up with me for twenty seconds more. When the issue is put to a vote, I will be voting in favour of the amendment to the amendment, which I moved, and of the motion as amended, if the amendment passes.

Standing Orders Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, this is the hour allotted in the House to put away party politics and talk about, debate and discuss specific pieces of legislation proposed by members not as an extension of a party platform or part of a campaign promise but as a specific initiative directed at a perceived problem. That is why I am speaking today in support of the amendment to the amendment to Motion No. 267 proposed by the hon. member for Bellechasse.

The amendment to the amendment to the motion is entirely consistent with Recommendation No. 4 made by the subcommittee on Private Members' Business, namely that the present Standing Order 97 be changed to require the committee to which a private member's bill has been referred to report it back, with or without amendments, within 60 days, or with a recommendation not to proceed further with the bill, or to request additional time. Failing any of those, if it is not reported within the 60 days it is deemed to have been reported without amendment. In my opinion this is a proper recommendation and certainly an amendment worth supporting in this place.

We all know that to be referred to a committee a private member's bill must first receive approval by vote in the House. I

will not get into what precedes that, but it certainly must be voted upon and approved by the House.

Private members' bills are by their very nature smaller in size, narrower in scope and generally targeted toward one issue or what is regarded as a deficiency in the present law. It is the government which tables much broader comprehensive bills, the big ticket laws that define policy perspectives or the direction of the government. These large comprehensive bills can require considerable time in a committee in terms of hearing from witnesses, the department, experts and the minister. Often it is a very lengthy process followed by a clause by clause review and the amendment process. It can certainly be time consuming. In any event it is in the government's interest to pursue its legislative agenda, get a bill out of committee and get it back into the House for third reading.

With respect to a private member's bill a member has no one to push or pull it through a committee other than the collectivity of the House, and that by itself is not enough in a committee room.

By tradition committees give priority to government bills. As we know from the history of this Parliament on occasion they give no consideration whatsoever to private members' bills. Or, as we know by the history of this Parliament, they fail to report it back to this place after they have considered it.

Certainly there are any number of combinations that may occur in a committee hearing whereby a bill may be reported back as is, untouched, or may be reported back amended. It may be deemed not to be a good bill and in one sense not approved by the committee. Yet when it is not approved by the committee it is not returned to this place because the rules at the moment appear to say that if a committee kills a bill that is the end of it.

It is rather strange that a committee of 8, 10 or 12 people can, when it chooses to do so or for whatever reason, never deal with a bill. Or, if they choose to kill it or not to approve of it, they have authority and power greater than that vested in the collectivity known as the House of Commons. That is perverse and is wrong.

That is what Motion No. 267 as amended will stop. If we have any respect at all for the House, for our elected office in the House and for the work of sponsoring members who have done the work of getting a bill passed at second reading, that is no way to behave.

With this subamendment the committee will not be constrained but will be directed to do its job. There will be those in committee who will say their committee is very busy and they cannot get around to it. The subamendment says if they cannot get around to it for whatever reason they should explain that to the collective wisdom of the House which may in fact extend the time.

At the present time there are committees, sometimes properly and sometimes perhaps one could say improperly, that do not want to impose upon themselves the workload of dealing with Private Members' Business.

In those cases where a committee refuses, is unable or for whatever reason refuses to deal with a bill, the committee is saying to the House that it is not interested, that it is very busy and it chooses not to deal with it. That is an insult to the House, an insult to the member and an insult to the office of member of Parliament.

We are looking at this subamendment as empowering, which is probably a very overworked word, the average member of Parliament. We are saying that they were not elected to come here and simply speak in favour of their party principles. There is a time in this place to lay aside all of that. There is a time in this place when elected officials of the people can be legislators, make a difference, propose a law and attempt to sell the message of that law to the others in this place. When the majority in this place agree, a law can be passed. In reality that is probably about as great as my chance of winning the lottery tonight because there are a lot of forces converging against it.

I understand in every case the majority will not agree with the message contained within a bill. At the same time we have an opportunity to do something about it.

There is one final remark I want to make on this subject. Sadly it does not matter how many private members' bills we push out the door here and down the hallway into the other place. We also have to start talking to the people in the other place about how they regard the role of members of Parliament and how they regard this place.

I want to relate to the House the fact that I was just at a committee hearing in the other place considering a private member's bill which happens to be mine. The chair of the committee said that backbench MPs should not get involved in legislation.

I sent him a note which said that I appreciated the high regard in which he held members of Parliament. Notwithstanding this subamendment which I am totally and unequivocally supporting, all of the change made in this place becomes meaningless with this anchor called the other place down the hall.

I will certainly be here tomorrow to support the motion. I congratulate the sponsor of the motion and the mover of the subamendment.

Standing Orders Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak on MotionNo. 267 in its last hour of debate.

The motion is about returning the business of the House to the House. At this time I thank Bloc members from Bellechasse and Rimouski-Témiscouata for the amendment and the subamend-

ment which add a time element to my motion, that is to have the committee "report on its work within 60 sitting days from the date of the bills reference to the committee". I feel this time requirement is necessary to complete Motion No. 267.

When one considers the amount of time members of the House have waited to see their bills emerge from committee and the total disregard by some committee members of the obvious wishes of the members of the House when they vote unanimously to pass private members' bills, one realizes we must have change in the process.

I believe that change will come best from the members themselves in establishing rules and guidelines within which we must all work, rules such as the subamendment that the committee must report the bill back to the House within 60 sitting days. In this way the committee shows respect for the House and respect for legislators.

Motion No. 267 did not come about because the subcommittee on Private Members' Business was undertaking a study on the disposition of private members' bills at the committee stage, while I am very pleased it is doing so. Motion No. 267 came about because a bill to which the House gave unanimous consent was literally destroyed in the committee stage. It was treated with disrespect. The words of witnesses from across Canada were treated with disrespect. The democratic will of the elected members of the House of Commons was treated with disrespect.

The motion came about because Bill C-232, also known as the grandparents bill which got unanimous consent from the House in May 1995, when sent to the justice committee was treated with such contempt that I wonder how the Liberal members of that committee can hold their heads up. Their total disregard for families, for children of divorce and for our seniors who are the longest paying taxpayers is inexcusable.

We had excellent speakers as witnesses: Grandparent's Rights President Nancy Wooldridge from British Columbia and long time family law practising lawyers such as Charles Merovitz of Ottawa, Barbara Baird of Fredericton and Sheila Keets of Vancouver. Their testimony alone demanded in our family law to have the Divorce Act changed slightly to address a need to keep families united and supportive in spite of divorce.

I am concerned by the lack of respect shown for testimony that is often shown for the testimony given by some very expert and well trained Canadians who come as witnesses to the committee. The justice committee voted down the grandparents bill. It voted down each clause and it voted down the title. Members of the committee were so arrogant that I realized we had a serious problem with our committee process.

There was the interference of the Canadian Bar Association, in particular the family law section chair Steven Andrew who advised members of the committee on what they should do. He presented himself as spokesperson for family law lawyers across Canada when in fact they had not been notified. They had not received a questionnaire. Nor had they asked him to speak on their behalf. Misrepresentation of the greatest latitude was committed by this person and by the umbrella representative, the Canadian Bar Association. When one considers most of the Liberal justice committee members are lawyers, one begins to question the fitness of these members to sit in judgment of any bills passed in the House and deferred to committee. If the Canadian Bar Association keeps close watch on every piece of legislation passed, and I am told that it does, are not these lawyer MPs in conflict of interest? What happens when an election comes around and they lose? Is not the Canadian Bar Association their mother organization again? Do they pay dues to keep their law degree in good standing while in office as a member of Parliament?

No, the need for change, in my mind, for the committee system began when a small group of elected MPs decided they could do what they wanted with the business of the House of Commons without just reason.

When the committee votes down a bill, its clauses, its title and votes down returning it to the House, the bill has in fact two lives. As far as the House is concerned it has not been returned to the House, so it is technically and procedurally alive, yet it is buried in committee and not allowed to emerge. Therefore, to the member, the bill is dead because he or she can do nothing more with it.

When the bill was resurrected after the February 1996 prorogation of the House, along with other bills which had passed second reading, the committee voted the bill, now known as Bill C-245, down again, without discussion and without respect for its content.

It was then that I knew I must put forward a motion in the House to seriously look at the way our committees do business. In the spring of 1996 my Motion No. 267 was introduced in the House. I am very pleased that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on September 19, 1996 adopted a motion that a subcommittee be struck to look at the way private members' items are made votable and to study the disposition of private members' bills at committee stage. I commend the three members of the subcommittee. The chair was the Liberal member for Mississauga West, and the Bloc member for Bellechasse and my colleague from Saanich-Gulf Islands were the two other members.

I also realize that recommendation No. 4 proposed by the subcommittee and revised on March 13, 1997, deals very closely with the content of my motion, especially with the subamendment which is now before the House.

Democratic reform is part of the Reform platform. As chair of the parliamentary Reform caucus task force in 1994 I put forward

private member's Motion No. 89 to ask the members to allow free votes in the House. The motion passed in the early spring of 1994. We have been voting freely on Private Members' Business since that time, but now we have another calamity. The members of the House have passed good private members' bills from all sides of the House and they are being buried in committee, without just cause and without reason given. Even a judge has to give reasons for his judgment.

The deputy House leader says that we cannot do things in a rush. There has certainly been no rush. It is now three and a half years down the road since we allowed freer voting in Private Members' Business and our bills are still buried, without just cause, in committee.

While the hon. member for Stormont-Dundas said: "The government has also taken a free vote approach to Private Members' Business," I would remind him that was in response to a Reform member's free vote motion which was passed in the House. It was not initiated by the government.

The member for Stormont-Dundas stated correctly that the government reinstated nine private members' bills after the first session was prorogued, but what was the point of the government making this grand gesture if it was going to allow these bills to be buried again in committee, without just cause? Was it all smoke and mirrors?

I must point out again to the member for Stormont-Dundas that the reason committees are taking so long to report bills back to the House is because they have buried these bills with no intention to report them back to the House. The member for Stormont-Dundas stated: "Perhaps the sponsor has not done everything to identify the bill as a priority for the committee's consideration". Let me explain.

First, a member must argue to make the item a votable item. The member had to convince other members of the House. Then the member should and did contact every member of the House to ask for their help and for any suggestions, not once but three times, before each hour of debate in the House. Then the member worked with all interested members of the House, with a gallery containing considerable numbers of grandparents watching each hour of debate. The members of this House gave the committee its directive: unanimous consent at second reading.

Then this member ensured that the witnesses the committee members heard were among the country's most experienced and competent family law lawyers from across Canada, as well as from the grandparents' groups, speaking on behalf of their grandchildren. That, as I see it, is the responsible way for a member of this House to get a private member's bill passed.

The members of the House in committee must be free to deliberate on the expert testimony of excellent witnesses, without side deals being made, without lobbying. They must be free to deliberate on what is presented by the witnesses.

Canadians want their members of Parliament to do their jobs, study the bills proposed, hear from a good slate of witnesses and then discuss and deal with clause by clause in an intelligent fashion. This was not done. It was not even contemplated.

The members of the committee did not even discuss the testimony of the expert witnesses brought from across the country or their findings. As the Reform member for North Vancouver stated: "The present system is designed to prevent Private Members' Business from getting anywhere". I am afraid at this time that is true.

I agree the amendment to change the reporting time to 60 sitting days by the member for Bellechasse is a good, practical amendment. I am glad members can work together to get good legislation before the House.

Motion No. 267 is badly needed at this time to encourage members of the House to work on private members' bills and motions and represent their constituents. As the member for Skeena stated in his submission to the subcommittee about the lack of respect shown for private members' bills: "Many members, such as myself, felt that under the current rules this respect is missing and consequently we do not pursue opportunities to advance bills or motions". This is a tragic state of affairs for democracy.

Therefore, I ask the support of the House to send a strong message to the government, a message that brings democracy back to the House in some degree. Please support Motion No. 267.

Standing Orders Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Anna Terrana Liberal Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise in support of this motion because I spoke earlier on the effect of private members' bills and the need to make them votable.

I believe that the role of a member of Parliament to represent his or her constituents can be reflected in a private member's bill. As members know, a private member's bill, no matter how short or uncomplicated, takes a lot of work and it is important that a member of Parliament be recognized for this work.

Changes have occurred in the House but we must move forward and be more innovative. I tabled two private members' bills. The first one took forever to be drawn. It was deemed non-votable but it was still important. It was a question of fairness. It addressed an amendment to the Elections Act which would make parties illegal if they did not slate 50 candidates in an election and asked the parties to liquidate all assets and disband.

The 75-year old Communist Party was deemed illegal and no longer exists. However, my private member's bill eventually collapsed with the adjournment of the House.

My second private member's bill was a lucky bill. I tabled it in June at 10 a.m. and at 1 p.m. on the same day my name was drawn. This is very unusual. It became votable and, with the assistance of all parties, it was sent to committee within 45 minutes of debate. It was later adopted by the government and became law. It was the staggering of hours across the country on election day.

I would like to conclude by saying that private members' bills are extremely important. They are one of the few tools for a member of Parliament and I feel they should all be considered votable and come to the House all in the name of fairness.

Standing Orders Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Madam Speaker, let me congratulate the hon. member who moved Motion No. 267 and the seconder.

In this session members from all sides tabled private members' bills and I believe those ideas came from communities right across the country. As individual members of Parliament or, as this Chamber calls us, backbenchers, we do not have the same resources as the government or the ministers have. We cannot prepare and draft a bill as polished as the government does.

From my own experience, I have tabled three private members' bills. One of these bills has been stuck at committee for one year. I have been hearing excuses for one year that the committee is overloaded or is too busy with other issues. Then I found out that on many occasions the committee did not even sit. After complaining with some force, the committee finally moved on. Then we hear from hon. members some support for this motion.

I believe that the motion is very important for the democratic process of the House. We were all sent here by the people of Canada. I believe that if we come up with good ideas that those ideas should be dealt with here in the Chamber, not at the committee, and not by two, three or ten people on a committee. They should not have the power to stall bills and destroy the ideas which, in my opinion, are very valuable and important to building a democratic society.

I know that time is running out. Once again I declare my support for the motion. I believe that other members of the House will do the same so that the democratic process will lead to a stronger and better Canada.

Standing Orders Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Pursuant to order made earlier today, the question on the motion is deemed to have been put and a recorded division deemed demanded and deferred until Wednesday, April 9, 1997, at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Standing Orders Of The HouseAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


Len Taylor NDP The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK

Madam Speaker, I still find it hard to believe that the government has allowed the railways to impose an additional freight rate increase on prairie farmers. On March 11, I rose in the House to express my concern and ask for a justification. Of course, there was no way to justify this insult to farmers.

Late last year, about November, grain was piling up in prairie elevators and elevator agents began placing orders for grain cars. In December when those cars did not arrive they started phoning to ask where they were. The railways reported to agents throughout the prairies that there were a few minor problems in the system, but the cars were coming in a few days.

In January, the agents phoned again, and again they were assured that the cars would soon be arriving to move the grain to port. By February there were some 50 ships in the port of Vancouver waiting to be loaded with grain that was still backed up in the prairie elevator system and on the farms.

The Canadian Wheat Board reported that the transportation problem was likely to cost the Canadian farmer some $65 million in demurrage charges and deferred sales.

The matter received some media attention at the time and I was the first to raise those concerns in the House by late February. At that time the minister of agriculture expressed some concern about the problem and said that the railways had to take some of the blame for the problem. For my part, I think the railways had to take a large part of the blame. After all, they did have the responsibility to move that grain.

The responsibility was all theirs because the Liberal government in the past three years had surrendered the Crow benefit and the guarantees it protected; had turned over regulatory authority of the system to the railways; had changed the way rail cars were allocated; had privatized CN so the public interest no longer had influence over the way the railways operated; had encouraged downsizing to the point where so many railway maintenance workers were laid off that they could no longer maintain the locomotives and cars needed to move the grain.

In a short three years, the Liberals had given away the store but were now still trying to sell the inventory.

Now in response to the railways' further demand for more money, the Liberals through the Canadian Transportation Agency have improved a further freight rate increase which will likely

result in an additional $15 million being taken out of farmers' pockets.

In the House the other day in March I called this a Liberal reward for the railways' poor performance. It is nothing less. The loss of the Crow benefit was an insult and this is an injury. On top of all this, I read in the Financial Post that the Liberals are considering even further railway deregulation as their answer to this problem. It is obvious that they do not understand deregulation is at the heart of the problem facing us.

When we had the Crow rate and the Crow benefit we did not have the problems we have today because there were performance guarantees required of the railways. Those guarantees are gone and so is the service. A number of provinces including Saskatchewan are calling for a public inquiry into the grain transportation system. I think such an inquiry is necessary. Nothing has been put in place to positively identify where the problems come from and nothing has been put in place to ensure that the problems do not exist again. After more than $80 million in additional transport related costs farmers deserve nothing less.

I ask the minister to justify how any of this is possible and to give us reason to believe that the interests of farmers are in good hands. I do not think he can do it.

Standing Orders Of The HouseAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Hamilton West Ontario


Stan Keyes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, despite the doom and gloom scenario and the obvious lack of knowledge exhibited by the member opposite on this issue and the work being done by the Minister of Transport on this very issue, the severe weather this winter has had a significant impact on rail movement in western Canada, in particular for grain deliveries to the west coast.

Unseasonably cold weather and heavy snow in November, December and January had a serious impact on rail operations at a critically important time of the year for grain deliveries. Fortunately the situation on the prairies and the west coast has improved. As of April 2 there were 14 vessels waiting for grain on the west coast compared with 20 the week before and 39 vessels the week before that. This marked improvement is the direct result of the combined efforts of all system participants to get the grain moving again.

However, the delivery problems encountered this winter show that the grain transportation and handling system continues to be vulnerable. We have a responsibility to ensure Canada has the most efficient, effective and reliable grain transportation and handling system possible.

This government intends to use this season's events as an opportunity. In this regard the Minister of Transport is currently evaluating several proposals designed to look at the entire grain transportation system with the objective of making it better. In the short term, the Minister of Transport is continuing to actively monitor the performance of the grain transportation system to ensure that any remaining backlog of grain is cleared up as quickly as possible.

Standing Orders Of The HouseAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.18 p.m.)