Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise following the remarks of the learned House leader for the New Democratic Party to take part in the debate concerning Bill C-304, an act to amend an act for recognition and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms with respect to property rights.
This legislation would afford greater protection in the Canadian bill of rights for the property rights of both individuals and corporations.
I congratulate the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville on bringing the issue of property rights to the floor of the House of Commons again. He has been a strong and consistent advocate of his position.
Ensuring the right of every Canadian to enjoy property ownership has been a long and sacred principle of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. The Canadian bill of rights enacted in 1960 by Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker extended protection in the following areas: the right to enjoy property, the right not to be deprived of property except by due process and the right to a fair hearing.
The Conservative Party of Canada has repeatedly supported and recognized the importance of property rights. In 1995 our party from across Canada improved a new party constitution which lists as its principles a belief that the best guarantees of prosperity and well-being for the people of Canada are as follows: the freedom of individual Canadians to pursue their enlightened and legitimate self-interest within a competitive economy, the freedom of the individual Canadian to enjoy the fruits of his or her labour to the greatest possible extent, and the right to own property.
The protection of property rights has long been a recognized and fundamental aspect of social and economic justice. In 1690 John Locke wrote:
The great and chief end of men—putting themselves under government, is the preservation of property.
A century later, Edmund Burke, one of the great conservative philosophers of the British tradition, wrote:
The power of perpetuating our property in our families is one of the most valuable and interesting circumstances belonging to it, and that which tends the most to the perpetuation of society itself. It makes our weakness subservient to our virtue; it grafts benevolence even upon avarice.
In 1948 the Government of Canada signed the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights which included the protection of property rights. Appropriately John Humphrey, a Canadian law professor who was working as a director of human rights for the UN Secretariat, was a key drafter of the document.
Not only was the bill of rights passed in 1960 but the House of Commons, through a motion passed in 1988 with the support of all parties at that time, indicated its support for property rights.
Sadly the Liberal government saw fit in the last parliament to trample over the spirit of that UN declaration, Mr. Diefenbaker's legacy and his expressed will of the House through the Pearson airport fiasco.
In 1993 the Liberals cancelled the much needed agreement to privatize Pearson International Airport and nobody would dispute a new government's ability or right to reverse the decision of its predecessor. However, a new government has a mandate to take different policy directions. The Liberals decided in this instance that their decision would go one step further, that they would remove the rights of Canadian companies from seeking fair and just compensation from the government for cancelling the Pearson agreement.
Bill C-68 which has been referenced by the member for Yorkton-Melville is another example of where Canadian individual property rights have been trampled. The Liberals have even introduced legislation to do that. It is interesting to know, however, that the Reform and Bloc caucuses in the last parliament did very little to highlight what the Liberals were doing at that time with respect to the Pearson airport debacle.
Thankfully members in the upper chamber, Progressive Conservatives for the most part but with a few Liberals on side, rose to defeat Bill C-22. For all the abuse that the Reform Party inflicts upon the Senate it is paramount for Canadians to realize that those individuals concerned about property rights in the Senate did their job. They recognized that this was an opportunity for them to protect the property rights of Canadians where the Reform Party dropped the ball.
Perhaps the Reform Party in this instance should spend more time working on property rights and less time having its taxpayer funded staff engage in libelling and misrepresenting senators in political campaigns.
I am nonetheless pleased to discuss Bill C-304 and protecting property rights in this context. This is an appropriate forum for us to do so. To cite the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker:
Parliament is more than procedure. It is the custodian of the nation's freedom.
Bill C-304 would accord stronger protection for the freedom of Canadians to enjoy their property. As mentioned by the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville, it would amend the Canadian bill of rights to include protection for the following property rights: the right to be paid for fair compensation, the right to have that compensation fixed impartially, the right to have timely compensation, and the right to apply to courts to attain justice if they feel in any aspect that their property rights have been denied or infringed upon.
Members will forgive me for highlighting the inconsistency in the Reform member proposing that the courts already have the authority or may be given more authority, given the fact that we have seen in the House repeatedly Reform members stand to criticize the judiciary. Many Reformers have attacked our judges and our courts, have referred to them as greedy little parasitic fraternities and have proposed a U.S. style of justice as a remedy to Canadians' legal problems. It is therefore refreshing to see the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville break from the rhetoric of his caucus colleagues and propose that additional authority be granted to our courts in this important area of protecting property rights.
I express the support of the Progressive Conservative caucus for this piece of legislation. We need to protect the freedom of Canadians to enjoy their property to its full extent. We need to ensure the government respects the property rights of Canadians. We need to ensure there exists a due process through which property is not seized without fair and just compensation and that there is due process to make that determination.
Bill -304 meets those requirements. In light of that and in light of the recent firearms legislation protest on the Hill and other protests, we feel there is an existing trend with the Liberal government abusing its authority. For those reasons we feel there is a need for legislation such as that proposed by the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville and we will be supporting the bill.