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House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was wheat.

Topics

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5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, for a change I thought that was a fairly thoughtful question from a member of the Reform Party. I appreciate the question.

The point I am trying to raise is not to muddy the waters at all. The point I am trying to make is that had they chosen the issue of a judicial decision for debate on whether the parliamentary prerogative should prevail over the judiciary, that is one debate I think we could have in this place. I know where I would come down. I would come down clearly on the separation of the two houses.

However, they have tied it into the other issue. They are acting like school boys in the fifties with a Playboy magazine inside the textbook in the school and snickering. They are tying it into the sexual orientation issue instead of dealing with it on the basis that it should be dealt with.

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5:35 p.m.

Reform

Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. While the member for Mississauga West may have taken a Playboy magazine to school, I can assure you that none of our members did. He should retain the exclusivity of that.

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5:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

And of course the Speaker.

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5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know what that was about except that they are awfully sensitive.

The point of the analogy is that they are taking a subject which should stand in debate on its own merits, the role of the two links of parliamentary procedure in the judiciary. Were they putting it into a higher level of debate we could have a clear debate and establish the different guidelines.

I know what Reformers want. They want shoot 'em up justice. They want to elect their judges. They want the power to tell a judge “If you don't do what we say we are going to fire you. We are going to change your decision because we are elected and you are not”.

I know what they want. It is not what Canadians want. Canadians do not want their courts to make quick, bad decisions. They want them to be well thought out and the government decision should also be well thought out.

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5:35 p.m.

Reform

Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in debate on this supply day motion.

Let me start out by saying that although I am not surprised I am somewhat disappointed that some members of the Liberal Party have lost sight of the issue we are debating today. They have chosen not to put forward substantive debate backed up with sound thinking but have resorted to slander and vicious attacks on members of my party.

I point out particularly the Minister of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women who spoke earlier, the member for Kitchener—Waterloo, the member for Windsor—St. Clair and now most recently the member for Mississauga West.

If I had to choose a title for my debate today it would be just who is running the country anyway. I chose that title because I am often asked it as a member of parliament by constituents who have become aware of a seemingly insane or idiotic judicial decision been made somewhere in the country. The phone rings in my riding and I hear from a mad constituent who is asking “What on earth are you guys doing allowing judges to make decisions like that? I thought parliament was running the country. Just who is running the country?” That is the question which I think supports the supply day motion today.

In this supreme court decision we have a body of judges that was given the power through the 1982 constitution to undermine laws made in the Chamber. There was a time before the 1982 constitution when the House reflected democracy in a rather pure form. Representatives who came to the House were sent here by the people who elected them to represent the views of their people.

As I understand it, that is what a House of Commons or a parliament is for. Elected, accountable parliamentarians should be able to come to the House to debate and truly represent not only the people of their ridings but the overall feeling in society. Perhaps that is where some Liberal members have become confused. Maybe they have forgotten exactly what democracy is.

Through the constitution power and responsibility were passed on to judges to undermine laws that have been debated and set in the House. I accuse former Prime Minister Trudeau of making a provision in the constitution that forever allowed parliament to abrogate its responsibility to make decisions that may not be seen as popular by some factions in the country. He simply provided the tool through the constitution so that parliament did not have to do anything but sort of maintain the status quo, carry on and make decisions that can be called, at best, middle of the road, fence sitting type laws. That responsibility was given to the judiciary. It is wrong that judges should have the power to say to parliament that they will rewrite the law and at the stroke of a pen simply do that.

The case mentioned in the supply day motion today, the Rosenberg case, is an example of that as the member for Dewdney—Alouette pointed out so appropriately. This body of judges took a standing law of parliament and did not make a recommendation that in their opinion parliament should redress the particular law. They did not say that. They did not recommend or come up with a report that parliament should revisit and debate it. They unilaterally made a decision to rewrite a law which affects the lives of every Canadian living in the country. The judges rewrote it. It was not debated in the House. It was made by a small group of appointed, unelected and unaccountable people.

We as politicians, as representatives of the Canadian people, simply cannot allow that to happen. We can allow judges to interpret the law given their best judgment. We can allow judges to carry out the laws that were laid down in the House. That is their job. However we cannot allow judges to make new laws. That is job of the House.

The fears pointed out by the member for Mississauga West about how a majority of one party, a government, could simply run roughshod over parliament and the people of the country is actually a supportive position for a triple-E Senate.

That House in a true democratic fashion should be elected. It should have equal representation from all parts of the country, even the areas that simply have rocks and trees and a few people. It should be able to be effective in changing the views of this House which is represented by population. I thank the member for making our case on a triple-E Senate. If we got that, some of the fears that this member had would not be present.

This is not an isolated case of judges making laws. As the member for Calgary Centre pointed out, there are a number of different cases and he pointed to the Feeney case. Here was a case where the police were carrying out their job of catching the bad guys—which I think is what they are there for—and bringing them to justice. The supreme court ruled that they can no longer carry out their job in this fashion. They can no longer go into a place where they know there is substantive evidence to convict unless they get a special warrant. This has thrown the whole concept of police work into huge uncertainty.

This decision was made by a judge, not by this place. Not by the Parliament of Canada. As a result of this judge's decision, a person who was convicted of a savage murder is walking free. In some fuzzy logic of a judge's mind, this decision was made.

The court in the Delgamuukw case has taken upon itself the responsibility to deal with the aboriginal land claims in this country. It has to be the Parliament of Canada that does that, not a body of judges. The body of judges may make recommendations to the Parliament of Canada and urge the Parliament of Canada to deal with them. They cannot make decisions themselves.

We can talk about the Singh case, the immigration case regarding refugee hearings. This decision, made by an unelected, unaccountable board, a group of judges, caused a huge upheaval in the refugee system. It cost the taxpayers millions of dollars and created an untold backlog of cases because the courts, the judges, chose not to make recommendations but to change the law.

I hope the members opposite will see clearly the point of this debate. The debate is that it is the Parliament of Canada that must become and continue to be supreme in the law making of this country.

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5:45 p.m.

Reform

Jim Pankiw Reform Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, on two occasions I have tried to have Liberal members elucidate whether they understand the difference between judges ruling whether or not laws are constitutional and judges actually writing law and changing the meaning of laws in their decisions. I have been very unsuccessful in having them explain whether or not they understand that and furthermore whether or not they agree with it.

I would like to ask the hon. member what position he feels judges should have. Should they have the authority to simply rule on the constitutionality of the law or should they be allowed, as they have done in this case, to change the law and write new meaning into the law?

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5:50 p.m.

Reform

Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, in my opinion the role of judges is certainly not to rewrite the law. The role of judges is to examine the Criminal Code as we see it, to examine the Constitution as we see it and to make recommendations to the Parliament of Canada as to their opinion as to whether there is validity in the points of concern for them. They make recommendations and urge the Parliament of Canada to consider making changes in the areas that they feel are necessary. That is the role of the judiciary in my opinion when it comes to the Constitution and the Criminal Code.

We can never allow the courts of this country to make new laws. That is our job. If we do not fulfil that responsibility, then we should not be here.

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5:50 p.m.

Reform

Grant McNally Reform Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with great intent to my colleague and I thank him for his speech.

The point I made earlier was that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is appealing a particular case. The reason I would suggest she is doing that is because it would set a legal precedent. That decision will set a legal precedent which then again could affect other rulings in that particular area.

Here we have another example of this particular case affecting legislation in the definition of spouse and perhaps the redefinition of marriage.

I am wondering if my colleague could comment on the fact that the Liberal government says one thing in one area, it takes a specific action in appealing a particular case that will affect law in one area, yet it does absolutely nothing. It seems as though it does not even want this issue to be brought to the forefront, underpinning the fact that judges are reading in a new meaning to this particular law.

Could the hon. member comment on this contradiction, this lack of action in one instance when there is action in the other instance? How does he think the government might be able to explain this contradiction?

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5:50 p.m.

Reform

Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, I think it is very irresponsible of this government, of any government, to take a position of picking and choosing which court decisions it is going to challenge.

In every law of this country that is changed unilaterally by a judicial board or a supreme court, if in their decision they rewrite the law, it is the obligation and responsibility of the government of the day, whatever government it is, to challenge that rewriting of the law. The government must say clearly to the courts “In case you have forgotten, it is not your position to rewrite the laws. It is our position. Therefore we will take up the challenge. We will challenge that decision. In fact, at the end of the day when we have successfully won that challenge, we will then take your decision as a recommendation and an urging for us to deal with it in the House of Commons and the Parliament of Canada”. That is the position the government should be taking.

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5:50 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to speak to this supply motion today.

I would like to say first off that the Liberal member for Mississauga West need not worry too much about my heart. It is pretty strong. In fact, I am sure it is going to be around a lot longer than this Liberal Party. There is pretty good evidence of that because of the attitude we have heard today coming from that side of the House. It was the same attitude which existed in the 35th Parliament and guess what. There was a whole section of Liberals over there and poof, they are gone. So just keep it up. It will not be long. I know my heart will be around when the rest of them are gone.

I do not know how many times I have been asked the question in my own riding and at other times when we go around to other parts of the country by people who are quite concerned and they say to me “Why are the courts making the laws? Is that not what we sent you to parliament for, to make the laws? Why are the courts making the laws?”

My colleague from Calgary Centre gave a whole list of examples of where that has happened. The only reason the Rosenberg decision is in the supply day motion is that it is the most recent case where there is another example of the court changing the law arbitrarily with this House not having anything to say about it.

People out there in Canada believe that when they pay good money to individuals to run the country that whoever is doing it should be accountable to them. I always believed that and I am sure you did, Mr. Speaker, before you came here. Taxpayers believe that the people they pay, including those in the courts, should be subject to some sort of accountability for the big bucks taxpayers pay.

Canadians ask who is running the country and who is making the laws. Their other question is to whom are those people accountable? Unfortunately my answer has to be no one. Under the present system they are not accountable to anyone.

I do not think for a moment that there is anyone in this House or from my side of the House from this party who would deny for a second that the expertise of people who understand our Constitution and the laws that go along with it should not be there to make absolutely certain that what we do is according to what the law of our land, the Constitution including the charter of rights, intended. There is no doubt about that.

When a piece of legislation that needs change comes into question, I believe and I think most Canadians believe that the change has to be made in this House. Then they have the opportunity to hold us accountable in the next election. At least one day every four or five years Canadians get to exercise their democratic right to send the message that they are or are not pleased with our performance and what we are doing. When taxpayers do not have the opportunity to do that because something is arbitrarily done through judiciary activism, they get a little upset, and I do not blame them.

We are bringing this before the House today to try to get this government to understand we need to have a little better understanding of what the taxpayers of Canada truly want. They want good representation. They want people to be accountable for the big bucks and we know they are big bucks. We are number one in the developed nations in terms of taxes. They want to know where their money is going and whether it is producing what they would like.

I am quite certain now that the court has written a redefinition into a piece of legislation regarding the word spouse without going through this House there will be some upset people. I certainly hope they let those members over there know it. When that decision was made I certainly found out in a hurry, as did my colleague from Prince George. People do pay attention to what is going on. My phone started ringing and letters started coming. That is why not too long after that decision, I made a member's statement in this House regarding that very thing. I was trying to put forward the voice of the people.

The government has an obligation to defend its stated position on the definition of spouse. We have the obligation to defend what we had in place. If an appeal fails, then bring the issue before parliament to debate it and settle it in a democratic fashion. I do not understand what is wrong with that. That is what we are supposed to do, debate, make the law. We can even show our appreciation to the courts for calling to our attention that the legislation is not properly done and that it needs to be changed. Let us do our job here. The courts are not supposed to do it for us. I did not think that was the case.

The former justice minister, now the health minister, said while defending the need for Bill C-33 “We should not rely on the courts to make public policy in matters of this kind. That is up to legislators and we should have the courage to do it”. I could not agree with the minister more.

I do not always agree with this gentleman but that was one statement that he was right on. That statement was something I thought these people across the way would have accepted as being real good common sense. It came from that side.

We are currently on the clock. The deadline for the government to appeal this is June 22. It is clearly a judge made law. It rewrites a major federal statute and is of a timely nature. This decision must be appealed immediately.

I do not understand why the courts decided to read in a same sex definition when parliament has already said no. During the 35th parliament Motion No. 264 proposed the legal recognition of same sex spouses and was defeated by a vote of 52 to 124. Out of those 124 votes many of them came from that side. They had to or it would have never been defeated.

Why the flip-flop? What is going on? Out of the blue this becomes okay but in the last parliament it was defeated soundly. It took every party of the House to do that.

This is something I know Canadians across the land are quite concerned about. I know this because of the question that was asked of the member from Prince George at town hall meetings, who is running this country, the courts or us. We must recognize that is being said. We must recognize that people are concerned about this and we must do our duty. We have a major task to do and we should live up to it.

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6 p.m.

Reform

Eric C. Lowther Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I really enjoyed the member's comments. They are always straight to the point, refreshing and very clear.

I know a bit about the member's riding, about how much he is appreciated in his riding and how much the people in his riding respond to him personally, to his approach and to how well he is respected by the people there and his personal commitment to represent those people in this House.

I think the House should be interested to hear the voice of the people of Wild Rose. What would those people say? What are their concerns? What would they say about this motion and judicial activism or whatever we want to call it in general? Let us hear the voice of the people of Wild Rose on this issue if we could.

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6 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, all I can say is that initially when I made the member's statement I mentioned a while back following this case a number of people phoned, wrote, faxed and E-mailed to thank me for bringing the issue before the House because it was something they were wondering what was going on and they were concerned about it.

There were not a large number of them because a lot of people do not really pay that much attention to what does go on. Unfortunately for this country there are too many people out there who do not pay enough attention. However, those who did were quite pleased that it at least was brought forward. They did not even comment on whether they objected to the decision or not. I think the major thing they were concerned about, and I believe it is a logical one, is who is running the country. Are the courts making the decisions and running the country or is parliament? That is a fair question.

I know the people over here hear the same questions and comments lots of times, if they would just admit it, live up to it and be willing to do their duty.

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6:05 p.m.

Reform

Jake Hoeppner Reform Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague from Wild Rose how he feels about governments using the court system.

The Soviet Union had a dictatorship for a long time and what my mother always told me is at the start before the revolution the government used the courts to put people into prison. Once they had control of the government, they had the revolution. Then the dictatorship did away with the courts altogether. We have seen that happening the same way in some third nation countries. I am wondering if he has any fear of that happening here. I would like to hear his thoughts on that.

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6:05 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, the history of the tragedies that took place in that land over those years is indeed tragic. Rather than direct my answer to that situation and how it compares to today, I simply say that we live in the greatest country in the world. There is no doubt about that. I know the Liberals agree with me. But we have to stop all the silliness like you had better calm down or you will have a heart attack, blah, blah, blah, and genuinely look at what is going on and take a look at history, because history is valuable.

Look at some of the things that have happened in the past. What can we do in this place that will prevent any tragedies from occurring in the future? What can I do here that is going to make my four grandkids live in a better country than we have today? What can we do for their future?

All we have to do is stop all the nonsense and realize we are the top court of the land and the people are expecting us to maintain this place in a fashion that will make this country the greatest we could ever imagine. That is what I want to do. I object to all the nonsense that goes on in that regard.

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6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Parrish Liberal Mississauga Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, on first reading today's motion my reaction was of pleasant surprise. It appears to raise an issue of Canadian governance that is both philosophically important and publicly current. That was on quick first reading. But a moment's reflection reveals that the motion has serious problems and does not deserve our support. In fact, there is more than a bit of the old Trojan horse in the hon. member's proposal, not to mention some contradictory logic.

First, by focusing on the Rosenberg decision involving pension benefits for same sex couples, the opposition raises disturbing questions about what its real agenda is here. Is it the defence of parliamentary prerogative that is actually at issue for it? Is Reform saying appeal because it does not like the judicial process involved? Is it the application of the charter of rights and freedoms by a court that it objects to or is it really its dislike of the fact that a court has decided that same sex couples qualify as spouses under the Income Tax Act and that the government may decide to accept the consequences for existing income tax legislation?

There is a second reason why the House should reject this motion. As I said a minute ago, there is a distinct whiff of self-contradiction here. The motion clearly suggests that judicial rulings are pre-empting the government's ability and authority to govern. But surely that same ability and authority must rest on government's having the opportunity and obligation to deal with issues in a considered, comprehensive manner.

Courts should not carelessly rush to judgment and neither should governments. It makes for bad law and much worse national leadership. That is not an attribute that this opposition seems to appreciate or apply, be it on social values or national unity.

Let me remind the House that the government does have until June 22 to decide whether to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. Our government is considering the implications of the Rosenberg case. We will take as much of the time available as we need because only that way do we have the best chance to ensure and give Canadians the confidence that our decision is in the best interests of the country and all its citizens. That is how a country should be governed. We will not be pushed to judgment and risk enshrining intolerance or a partisan whim.

I have no trouble speaking against this motion. It has nothing to do with the important issue of the balance between legislative authority and the obligation of Canada's courts to apply the charter of rights when required. Clearly this balance is not always an easy one. I will listen with great interest to members of all parties who can bring real legal and philosophical expertise to the debate when and if the opposition lets that take place.

Maybe I can help today's debate become more than a typical opposition grandstand by doing what I can to encourage a different balance here today, a balanced understanding of background to the Rosenberg issue.

At question is a recent ruling by the court of appeal. It found that the charter of rights requires that employer sponsored pension plans offering benefits to same sex partners be accepted for registration for income tax purposes. The courts remedy reads same sex partners into the definition of spouse in the Income Tax Act for this purpose.

In other words, it means that the judgment effectively amends or overrides the tax act definition of spouse which limits entitlement to a spouse of the opposite sex. Let us be clear about something. As it stands, the court's decision applies only to determined eligibility for pension survivor benefits. It does not affect the definition of spouse for other purposes in the Income Tax Act.

It should also be noted that this judgment does not require employers to include survivor benefits for same sex partners in the package of pension benefits they provide to their employees. Nor do current rules prevent them from doing so. What the judgment does require is that when an employer does offer such benefits, the pension plan must now qualify under the Income Tax Act to be registered and to receive the same tax treatment as any other registered plan.

There is nothing arcane or ominous about this tax treatment of registered plans. Any pension plan registered for tax purposes simply receives beneficial tax treatment similar to the treatment enjoyed, for example, by anyone who holds an RRSP. Contributions to such a pension plan by employers and employees are tax deductible. The contributions made by employers are not treated as taxable benefits to the employee and there is no tax on the investment income earned by the plan. Instead this tax is paid when funds are withdrawn from the plan normally as pension amounts paid to the employee after retirement.

I said earlier that the Rosenberg decision relates only to the registration of pension plans. There is no question that the decision, as it now stands, could have significant implications for other provisions of the Income Tax Act and could extend to other legislation. To begin with, provisions such as the tax free transfer of RRSP balances to a surviving spouse are parallel in function and logic to the survivor benefits provided under pension plans. Amendments to these rules would need to be considered. Beyond this is the question whether the logic of the Rosenberg judgment should be considered to apply to other tax provisions that provide benefits to married and common law heterosexual spouse.

There are literally hundreds of provisions related to spouses in the Income Tax Act. Such benefits include the spousal credit, the transfer of unused credits, including the age credit, pension income credit, disability credit, education and tuition fee credits, and the ability to contribute to spousal RRSPs. These are benefits provided to Canadians under the Income Tax Act. We should also recognize that the act contains many provisions that impose obligations on spouses as well.

These include the requirement to combine incomes for purposes of income tested refundable tax credits such as the GST credit and the child tax benefit, limiting couples to one principal residence only, the income attribution rules and the extension to related persons of restrictions applicable to significant shareholders.

Clearly it would be difficult to justify extending only the benefit conferring provisions of the ITA to same sex partners and not the provisions that impose obligations. The result would be a tax system that systematically advantaged same sex couples over married and common law couples. In contrast, the existing rules do not systematically favour one group over another since those who qualify as spouses are exposed to a balanced mixture of benefits and obligations.

This leads to another interesting point. If all the provisions of the ITA that relate to spouses were extended to apply to same sex partners, it is not at all clear that the same sex couples as a group would be net beneficiaries of the change. Although data do not allow precise estimates I understand that work done by the Department of Finance suggests that if we modify the current rules to treat same sex couples in the same way as married and common law couples for all purposes of the ITA it would actually result in a small annual aggregate net financial loss for same sex couples.

The result is that the gain to the government in lower benefits under provisions like the GST credit would exceed the additional revenue cost of benefit conferring provisions like the spousal credit. We fully appreciate that the question of recognizing same sex partners in government legislation must not be limited to questions of financial advantage or disadvantage for the individuals concerned or for the government.

It is proper and useful to debate such a topic. The balance of rights and obligations for spouses under the ITA is not a win-win situation. The issue of how some same sex partners are treated by the tax system is not simply one of denial of benefits available to other Canadians.

We all know that opposition members, especially those of the official opposition, likes to reduce things to issues of black and white. It allows them to thunder and thrash with great emotion. Anyone who has real passion for good governance and its fundamental basis in human rights, social justice and tolerance knows that effective decision making demands the application of both head and heart, which means considering all aspects of an issue. That is what our government is doing because that is the real way of doing things. That is the fair way and that is the logical way. That is why the principled response to the motion is to reject it. When they are willing to engage in open and honest debate the House should listen, but for the motion the only response possible is to send it to defeat.

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6:15 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a question based on the very last sentence of the hon. member.

She said when this party, referring to Reform, is ready for honest and open debate they were ready to listen. That is the whole point. It did not get to the House. The whole point is that the courts made the decision on behalf of Canadians without consulting Canadians and without consulting their elected representatives in this place.

I would say yes, let us do it. Let us debate the issue. Let us talk about whether we are ready in society to allow an appointed court to start making rules and regulations which govern our lives without reference to what Canadian people are ready to support. That is the crux of the issue. The member's comment would be much appreciated.

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6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Parrish Liberal Mississauga Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member opposite was listening right to the very end. I always find it interesting that the Reform Party wants to consult. I think consult is the buzzword. They should become the party of consultation rather than the party of reform.

One thing that would be most difficult would be for any of us to consult intimately with every constituent. Often our job as the governing party and as members of parliament is to consider issues in great depth and to make decisions based on what is best in consultation with people. It is not a ritualistic thing.

It is also very difficult to take the knowledge of a very learned body like the supreme court and try to impart it to every citizen in the country and then consult to see what they would like to do. If we consulted every Canadian in Canada we would often find they want us to do something based on incomplete knowledge, incomplete facts or a lack of expertise. It would be very interesting to let Reformers run the country for about a day to see what they came up with. They would not have the time to do all the consulting they would like to do.

I believe we have very learned people appointed to the positions of judges. They have a body of knowledge that they take to those positions. They make learned decisions based on information that the Canadian public and members of the House would not be able to do.

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6:20 p.m.

Reform

Jim Pankiw Reform Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, does the hon. member think that judges should have the authority to write or rewrite legislation to change the law? Does she think their role should be not only to rule on the constitutionality and the applications of law but to change the meaning of laws and to write laws? A simple yes or no answer would suffice.

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6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Parrish Liberal Mississauga Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, if I ever got a simple yes or no question I would probably be able to do that.

The judges are basing their decisions on upholding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They are not being told to rewrite it. They are being told to read it, understand it, become expert at it and make decisions based on it. I do not think they are being told to change the laws. They are being told to interpret based on protecting the most fundamental document in Canada.

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6:20 p.m.

Reform

Grant McNally Reform Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the debate throughout the day and it has become clear now through what this member has just stated that there is a certain belief on the government's part about this idea of intellectual elitism.

We recognize that our supreme court justices or justices across the land are learned people who are working hard to do their job. They have opinions and perspectives. However what the hon. member just stated in her comments was that decisions by judges should override the majority of people in the country.

I am wondering if she is exerting the fact that individuals should be quiet, not raise any issues at all, but simply leave things in the hands of the judiciary, a group of unelected officials however learned. Is she telling the people of Canada that they should sit down and we will take care of everything?

Is she saying that we know better, that the learned people in society know better, and that we should reject the common sense of individuals and not allow them the opportunity to debate important issues?

I am wondering if that is what she is purporting because it is a thinly veiled argument. It is becoming very clear in her comments and those of other members of the government that that is at the hub of their belief of the Canadian electorate. As the minister for multiculturalism stated, it is the tyranny of the majority, in fact the majority that elected the Liberal government. Is that what they are indicating on that side?

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6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Parrish Liberal Mississauga Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been in several levels of government and I always find it fascinating that there is no prequalifying test to run for election. Walking and chewing gum at the same time is the basic level to get elected.

I find it appalling the member opposite would feel something as important as the laws of the land could be the subject of common debate, that anyone is an expert on it. If he had a very severe pain in his internal organs would he call in for consultation a group of people from the streets of Ottawa to say “Let us try to find out what is wrong with you?” He would call in a medical practitioner who has been trained to analyse the situation.

Judges and lawyers go through a very stringent process. People become judges when they have qualified by understanding the laws and being able to show good judgment, which is something we do not always see from members opposite.

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6:25 p.m.

Reform

Jim Pankiw Reform Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I did not get a simple yes or no answer to my question. I guess the hon. member felt that my question was wordy, so allow me to try to shorten it.

Should judges have the authority to add new meaning to laws in their rulings?

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Parrish Liberal Mississauga Centre, ON

No, Mr. Speaker.

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Reform

Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not have a lot of time left to engage in the debate, but there are a couple of comments I would like to add to the debate that has been going on in the House.

From my point of view it is unfortunate that the subject of judicial activism and how the supreme court is writing things into Canada's laws has to be tied to the subject of redefinition of spouse. Probably that was inevitable, simply because that area of judicial activism is the most blatant example of the courts—

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

June 8th, 1998 / 6:25 p.m.

Reform

Jim Pankiw Reform Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe you would find consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding the provisions of the Standing Orders, for the remainder of this session, motions pursuant to Standing Orders 57 and 78(3) shall not be receivable by the Chair.