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House of Commons Hansard #68 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

Topics

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Herb Gray Liberal Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Debates of this House will show that at least one Reform member of the two who spoke mentioned Mr. Landry personally and accused him of breaching the privileges of this House. I this is an unwarranted and unproven slur on a very distinguished Canadian. Before this House adjourns, the Reform members should not only withdraw their point of privilege, they should apologize to Mr. Landry.

To sum up, not only have Reform Party members made unwarranted and unjustified accusations without proof against a distinguished Canadian, but in making those accusations they are attempting to raise a point of privilege which is not supported by the facts, in particular the language of the press release.

We are talking about something that had already been mentioned in the Speech from the Throne and mentioned again in the budget speech, which at the end and the beginning was based on a ways and means motion.

I say, Mr. Speaker, that the Reform Party has not provided a prima facie case for a point of privilege. I respectfully invite you to totally reject its unwarranted requests.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that what the government is doing is, having brought Mr. Landry into this mess, trying to hide behind him—

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

On the same point of privilege I will go to the hon. member for Qu'Appelle.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to make two brief points. I support the member who raised the point of privilege for the following reason.

The press release that was quoted by the two ministers across the way said that the fund will be managed, in terms of the fund will be there, and that Mr. Landry will be the chair of that particular fund. What they are doing is anticipating what Parliament may or may not do.

That is the basic point of the privilege. They are expecting Parliament to rubber stamp a ways and means motion, rubber stamp a statement by a cabinet minister. That is not what Parliament is about. We are the representatives of the people and we make that decision. They cannot anticipate that Parliament will agree with their particular bill. Therefore I think it is a genuine point of privilege.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Independent

John Nunziata Independent York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, this House either means something or it does not.

The reason why the Prime Minister's office put out a press release was to inform Canadians of a fact, that Mr. Landry was appointed or accepted the invitation to head the foundation. As a result of that press release the Toronto Star ran an article in today's paper. The headline of that article is “Chrysler chief to run scholarships”. The sub-headline is “No bias for high-tech training, Landry says”. This is the information that those who read the Toronto Star are receiving.

That assumes that the announcement made by the Minister of Finance will in fact become law. Not only has legislation not been presented in this House, we do not know the nature of the legislation. This House might decide, for whatever reason, that instead of having a foundation to dispense the millennium fund, it might choose another mechanism. By inviting Mr. Landry to be the head of the foundation, they are in effect assuming that this Parliament will ratify and endorse whatever the plan is for this foundation.

As a member of Parliament, I have not seen the legislation. I do not know how many members will be on this board. I do not know what the provisions are with respect to the head of the foundation.

Not only is this action a contempt of this Parliament, it is also a contempt of the Senate. While the Prime Minister and his majority might be able to make an assumption that they could in effect pass legislation through this House, they cannot assume that the Senate down the way will also give its endorsation to identical legislation.

At the very least, the invitation was premature. The government should recognize that the invitation was premature. If it has any confidence in the integrity of this House, that invitation should be withdrawn pending the passage of that legislation in this House and in the Senate.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, I intend to take the information from both sides into consideration. The hon. House leader has said that he would table this press release. I would like that to be tabled.

The hon. member over here has an article from the Toronto Star and I would like to see that article, please.

I will take this information into consideration and I will study it. I will come back to the House at an early future date.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a copy of the news release that named Mr. Landry to this position and I would be happy to provide that to you.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

I would like that information and I order the page to bring it forth to the House. I want to let this point of privilege sit until I get back to the House with my decision.

I am now going to points of order.

The first point of order I will hear comes from the hon. member for Roberval.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have eleven years of legislative experience, first seven years in the Quebec National Assembly and now four here in the House of Commons.

In all those years I, like many others here, have been a fighter. The political arena is here. This is the place where the people speak. The political game dictates that we face each other in accordance with certain rules.

During my political career, I have seen members break those rules. I have seen speakers bring down rulings and they were always justified, as their purpose was to enhance the quality of debate in the home of democracy.

It is, therefore, with great sorrow that I rise on this point of order. Never, in all my years as a parliamentarian, have I seen members of this Parliament, the Quebec National Assembly or any self-respecting Parliament show such disrespect to the flag of their country, using it in a demonstration aimed at causing disorder, preventing someone from exercising the right to speak, and disregarding the Speaker's orders.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

An hon. member

The lack of respect is on your side.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, shut up.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, it would be a good idea for all of the members of this House to listen, because if this House functions smoothly, if it is viable for you there, for them over there, and for us—and if anyone has not understood it yet, the veterans here can explain it to them—it is because the House leaders speak to each other, co-operate with each other, trust each other. It is because the House leaders, above and beyond differences of political opinion, first and foremost respect democratic values, the forum for debate Parliament represents, and the rules that govern it.

I have always given that co-operation, and am often the one who initiates compromises to make things run more smoothly in this House. For instance, this evening we are finishing earlier to accommodate colleagues who are not of my political persuasion. We are always pleased to oblige, since democratic debate must be carried out in the most correct, most comfortable, most respectful way possible. But that could change.

This is why I am asking members of this House to listen to my point of order, because we can never again let the flag be used to protest or to disrupt the proceedings in this place.

This morning, the Chair issued a ruling prohibiting members from using the flag as a tool of protest inside the House of Commons and allowed the hon. member for Rimouski—Mitis to take the floor.

My colleague is fully entitled to rise in this House, like any other member of this place. Liberal members will not change that, at least as long as I am parliamentary leader on this side of the House.

Four years ago, when we arrived here as sovereignists, everyone said we would show no respect for the House of Commons. Yet, if there is a political party that always listens to the Chair, that always co-operates with the Clerks-at-the-Table and with parliamentary leaders, it is the Bloc Quebecois. In spite of our diverging views, we have always done our work with dignity, by defending our ideas, and not by doing stupid and inappropriate things like those we have seen today.

Never will we tolerate again people using the national anthem in this House, during Oral Question Priod, to ridicule the proceedings of this place, or one of our colleagues, or the national anthem itself. It was quite something to see these great Canadians, who boast about the flag every day, use it as a mere tool of protest. It was quite something to see these great Canadians use the national anthem to disrupt the proceedings of the House of Commons. They must step aside.

In conclusion, I will tell you this—

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, in many of our debates we go not only to the heart of the matter but we go to the hearts of one another. I remind all of us here of the following.

I remind all members of this House that we are members of Canada's Parliament. This means we were all elected by Canadians across the country.

That is one thing about which there is no doubt.

When members of Parliament stand in this place, they stand among us as equals. It does not matter what province they come from, it does not matter what region they come from. You have elected me to see that you are respected and indeed that you respect yourselves and the rules of this House.

We have a Canadian member of Parliament on his feet. We are going to hear what he has to say. We do not have to agree with it but he is elected like every one of us in this House. I am going to hear what my hon. colleague from Roberval has to say. The hon. member for Roberval.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This is the kind of ruling that has earned you the respect of all members and got you re-elected as Speaker.

Indeed, Parliament is the last place where people can talk to one another. The day Parliament goes silent, the country ceases to exist. And so does democracy.

My point was, and I will conclude on that: if our co-operation is expected in this House, never again will we tolerate that our national anthem or flag be used in the middle of question period or any debate to prevent a member of the Bloc Quebecois or any other member of this House from speaking.

In closing, I hope that the media will report to all Quebeckers and Canadians the behaviour they witnessed here today, on both sides of the House, unfortunately. I hope Canadians will see what happened. I hope Quebeckers will as well, as they will think “How arrogant these people are. And, just yesterday, they came to Quebec to tell us how much they loved us”.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, there is a point of order. I do not want to get into a debate on wrongs that took place. Colleagues, we heard from the hon. member for Roberval. We are parliamentarians of Canada. We can hear each other. I will listen to all of you.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am almost tempted to say that it is not a bad thing the House is adjourning a day early.

Whatever the case, I think the Chair should consider whether a demonstration in support of a flag or the pretext of one contravenes the Standing Orders of the House.

In any case, I do not think this debate will be resolved through lengthy discussions on the floor of the House of Commons.

In a spirit of calm, the House leaders of the parties will carry on their tradition, as the member for Roberval said himself, of finding some common ground on a number of thorny issues. Our behaviour this afternoon in this matter indicates just how thorny it is and perhaps for obvious reasons—without going into all the details.

For someone like myself who believes strongly in the unity of his country, flag waving is not provocation, but an act of pride. Someone of a different persuasion may see it differently, and I accept that. I find it regrettable, but I accept it.

A lengthy debate in the House of Commons will not likely resolve the matter, and I propose that we let the matter rest awhile and allow our emotions to cool and then let the House leaders discuss it further.

I must say that there has been a considerable level of co-operation in this Parliament, and I can agree with the hon. member for Roberval, on that point at least. There has indeed been considerable co-operation by all of the parliamentary leaders, and consequently by all members of this House who have placed their confidence in their parliamentary leaders for settling contentious issues.

I thank my colleagues and the Prime Minister for their trust, and I must also thank the hon. members across the floor. Generally, when one enters this House as a leader and introduces a motion, the members across the way do not even have to hear it to know what is being proposed. They know that if we say in introducing it that the others have agreed, that is true, by definition. Such trust has built up that most of the hon. members no longer read it. They know there was agreement or one of us would not rise in the House to claim there was.

So we have developed that kind of confidence in Mr. Speaker and this Parliament. And I am proud of it, not just for myself although I would like to consider that I contributed to it but all the House leaders and all members of Parliament.

That is why I think if we give it a bit of a rest we can get together and find if there is any common ground on establishing when a demonstration might or might not be perceived or really as being acceptable or not. We can discuss it at that time.

In either case, I want to again use this occasion perhaps on this day with all the questions of privilege and points of order to say that there has been that level of confidence. It has assisted me. It has assisted the government. It has assisted the House. I believe it has also assisted the Chair in fulfilling what I think so far is a very good Parliament notwithstanding.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:50 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the constituents, the Canadians of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, I was elected to serve this House. The last time I checked, every member in this House was elected by Canadians for Canadians to work in this House, the House of Commons of Canada.

This is not the House of Commons of another country. The flag is the central emblem of this House of Commons for our country. If there is one place where we can sing the national anthem of our country, to wave the flag of our country, it is in the heart and soul of this country, which is the House of Commons.

If there is any member in this House who does not believe that they cannot be a part of Canada or for Canadians or they feel uncomfortable with our national anthem or holding our national flag in their hand, then they should not be in this House of Commons.

Last time I checked, the majority of people in Quebec had decided to remain within Canada.

I ask on behalf of the constituents of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, on behalf of all Canadians, that we make a statement here today that the national anthem of Canada and the flag of Canada always be welcome in this House of Commons.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I truly regret that I have to rise in this House today to speak on a matter such as this.

I am not from Quebec. I am a proud Canadian but I am ashamed of what happened today in this House.

We in this House are here for all Canadians. From what I have seen today, however, if we wish to have national unity, if we wish Quebec to stay in Canada, it will be done not by provoking Quebeckers but by respecting them. That is one thing that can be said.

I am proud of my flag. I have it here in my office, and in my New Brunswick riding office. But our Canadian flag must never be made a mockery of. I feel really discouraged, and my colleague from Halifax West feels the same way.

If you continue to shout and behave in this way, it indicates that you agree—

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:55 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, with respect to the point of order, I think we have a fairly good flavour of what members are thinking in this House.

The hon. member for Roberval has raised a point of order. We have had discussions on both sides.

What occurred today for all of us, as I mentioned, we are Canadian members of Parliament. Look. The flag is here.

Sometimes in enthusiasm things are done in the House of Commons. For example, an hon. member has a particularly incisive question and his party or one side of the House will applaud. A minister on the other side will have a particularly good answer and he or she will be applauded by other members of Parliament.

I think what has been brought up here is a point of order which contains this question: Should we at all times not be permitted, for example, to sing our national anthem in our House of Commons? It would seem to me that could not be acceptable. On the other hand, sometimes we use very important icons to convey other messages.

I would be hard pressed, as a member of Parliament and as your Speaker to say that the Canadian flag cannot be displayed in this House. I would be very hard pressed to do that.

I cannot look into your hearts. I do not know what the intention was of all hon. members. It would seem to me that if it were a matter of pride that we were doing that, that is one thing. If it were a matter of some hon. members using this device to insult or put down someone else, I would say if that was the intention, it is not the Canadian way. It is not our way to do that.

I wonder if we could disengage for just a little while because we have touched on the heart of our country today; we have, as to who we are.

As to the point of order, I want to reserve my decision for the time being. I want to think about it and I hope you do too.

We have had a suggestion from the hon. government House leader that the House leaders of the different parties come together to discuss how these things should be handled—

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:55 p.m.

Independent

John Nunziata Independent York South—Weston, ON

Then it is not properly represented, Mr. Speaker. It is a matter for Parliament to decide, not some guys in backrooms.

You should have respect for all members of the House, not just those represented by political parties.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

4 p.m.

The Speaker

The member of Parliament for York—South Weston is correct in bringing that point out. I suggested that we start with the House leaders as a point of reference and I myself will be the representative for the member York—South Weston. He will have a voice through me.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

4 p.m.

An hon. member

Why does he get special treatment?

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

4 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, I mean no disrespect to the member for York—South Weston. Know that, because I would speak for him as readily as I would speak for any of you.

I would like to take a few days to consider this point of order. At this time, I would like us to stop talking about this point of order. After consultations, after I have thought it over, I will get back to the House.

I hope we will be able to reach a solution to the events of today. Moving on now from this point of order.

I will hear other points of order, starting with the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

4 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, in light of the passion and emotion that was in the last point of order, I do not want to dwell on this point.

We have been discussing, in the context of this last point of order, the House leaders and the integrity of the House leaders. On behalf of my party I take great exception to the reference that has been made to my personally misleading other House leaders at this meeting with respect to the national council meeting that will be taking place in Ottawa this weekend. This is a national council meeting that will involve over 500 people coming from all parts of the country to participate.

The point I would like to make is that this item was put on the agenda by the government House leader, not by the House leader of the Conservative Party. I would appreciate the support of the government House leader in this matter. I am surprised that he did not respond appropriately when he rose in response to the Leader of the Opposition.

The point to be made here is that this weekend we agreed unanimously at the House leaders' meeting that this Friday would not be deemed a sitting day of the House. However, in light of the allegation that has been made, I am ready on behalf of my party to suggest that we move a motion and sit tomorrow.

I would expect when the House leaders for the other parties, including the House leader of the official opposition, want to have their national council meetings that once again they would be prepared to put up or shut up.

This brings into question my integrity and the integrity of my party. This was a malicious, politically motivated point of order, and it is a new low.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

4 p.m.

The Speaker

I think when the Thursday question was asked the other question was piggy-backed on it. When the question was asked and the hon. House leader for the government responded to it, I thought we could clear it up.

Of course the House leaders of the various parties, when they get together for these discussions, have to take a lot on good faith, and I would hope that would continue.

I do not know the discussions that took place on the whole. I would hope that there would be no question of the integrity of the House leader of the Conservative Party.

I think the matter has been dealt with. As far as I know we will not be sitting tomorrow. I would hope, whatever negotiations take place among the House leaders, they will be very fruitful ones but, more than that, they have to be carried on in an era of trust with one another. I hope that will continue.