Mr. Speaker, I very much support and attach myself to the comments made by the member for Sydney—Victoria. I know that he has a very innate personal interest in this, as was apparent by his remarks.
This is a matter which unfortunately could be put on the slate as more unfinished business on the part of the government. We have seen many indications that the coming days and weeks may result in an election call. This is an election call that I think a growing number of Canadians are looking at with a great deal of cynicism. They are viewing this as merely opportunistic, something that is being driven by polls rather than by public commitment and a commitment to complete very important pieces of legislation.
This is but one among many. We know that there is a health accord which was ratified by the provinces and is supposed to in some small measure address the crisis in our health care system. That legislation is a postdated cheque which will never be cashed if the House is dissolved for a general election.
There is important legislation pertaining to the criminal code, the youth criminal justice act, which is badly in need of fixing or replacing. We know the government gave a commitment over seven years ago to do something about that legislation. However, we are on the possible eve of an election and it has not been done. That promise has not been kept or fulfilled.
There are numerous pieces of important legislation regarding the environment, health care, justice and taxation. There are important legislative initiatives which do receive support from the opposition. They will simply die on the order paper. Canadians need to understand that. The initiatives will go to the Senate, if they pass through the House, and will be gassed. They will not see the light of day. These are hollow promises. If the government is to point to this legislation as something which has been fulfilled, it is dead wrong.
This particular debate that was brought about by the hon. member for Sydney—Victoria deals with Motion No. 79, which was moved by the Progressive Conservative Party. It called upon the government to respond to the recommendations of the Westray report by Mr. Justice Peter Richard on the tragic event in Plymouth, Nova Scotia when the Westray mine exploded killing 26 men.
That poignant moment resulted in the renewed discussion about workplace safety, the renewed focus on how we could try to prevent such disasters and how, through legislation, we could bring about greater accountability and responsibility.
Not all disasters are preventable. Arguably and quite rightly, this is one that most agree could have been avoided by taking proper steps to ensure the safety of those workers who went down into the mine was protected and that all the necessary steps had been taken by the management and the province, which oversaw the safety of the workplace environment. It could have been avoided if those parties had taken real cautions to ensure that a dangerous workplace environment did not exist. Sadly, that did not happen.
There has already been much discussion on Motion No. 79 in this place which was a carry-over from a previous parliament before prorogation. It gave members of the House the opportunity to put forward their positions and their party's position. Initially, members of the government were very reluctant to embrace even the idea of bringing this matter to the public debate. They were very reluctant to discuss it. They did not want this matter to go to the justice committee, where it eventually did aspire. When it got there, as was alluded to by the member for Sydney—Victoria, there was an incredible catharsis. There was suddenly a change on the part of the government in its willingness to discuss this issue. It was very heartening and encouraging to see that happen because it washed away some of the partisanship and politics involved in workplace safety and in this type of issue.
Let us make no mistake about this. This is a human issue. This is an issue that touches lives and potentially takes lives if we do not act. The indication that we heard from many of the witnesses was that shocking numbers of people are killed and injured in the workplace every day. Not all of that is preventable and we would be naive to suggest otherwise. However, the reality is that much of it is preventable. Much of what has to change and evolve as a result of initiatives from this place is the attitude and the thinking on the part of corporations and people who have the final say over the setting of rules and regulations within the workplace.
How do we do that? Part of the solution lies in changes to the criminal code which will bring about a sense of accountability and will in instances where there is neglect and obvious situations being ignored, bring about some form of accountability, deterrence and denunciation. All of this is in the name of public protection and in the name of prevention.
This is a mother's milk type of issue and one that everyone can agree on. Yet we do not seem to have the inner fortitude or the ability to mobilize to get this matter moving in terms of legislation. We had that unique opportunity at the justice committee as was referred to. There was a very real significant move in the room. I was in that justice committee and felt it as well. There was a genuine intent that we would move forward. Sadly, that seems to be lost. Like many of the other initiatives we have seen, it stands there on the precipice ready to take that leap yet, cynically, all of that is cast aside.
We have an opportunity to salvage that. We can ask for and rightly so expect that the government will now take the initiative and bring about legislation. The justice department should have been clearly instructed. The intent was there. The intent of parliament was what led this motion to get to the justice committee. Then it continued, it snowballed and we did hear testimony from the United Steelworkers.
We heard the testimony of Howard Sim and Vernon Theriault. Mr. Theriault was part of the heroic effort by draggermen from Cape Breton, Pictou county and surrounding areas who went down into the mine with the hope that some life had survived the tragic and massive explosion in Plymouth. That is the sort of human spirit that should inspire us to keep the dream alive of somehow bringing about improved laws and legislation. It is not the total answer by any means but it certainly moves the yardsticks and takes us forward in a futuristic way.
We hear the rhetoric. We hear constant references that we have to do this and that this is the underpinning of parliamentary democracy. We hear some party members, the Liberal Party members in particular, very cynically indicating that they are the only ones who speak out for Canadians. That is not the case. It is completely cynical to suggest that this party, this natural governing party as it likes to refer to itself, is the only one speaking out for the interests of Canadians.
We are faced with an issue of complete moral duty when we talk about protecting lives and workplace safety. It is something so fundamental. When people get up in the morning and go out the door to their workplace, whether it is into a factory or on a trawler or in the woods or into a mine or an office building, it is not too much for them to expect or hope that they will be able to return to their homes safely that evening to be with their loved ones. Surely that is not something which should be too much for any Canadian to expect. Yet we are tasked in this place with trying to ensure that is just what happens.
Obviously there are workplaces that are more dangerous than others, but there are natural consequences that can flow from putting oneself in harm's way. I think particularly of firemen and police officers for whom it is implicit in their job descriptions that they may find themselves in danger. We should be looking constantly for ways to improve safety and protection of human life. We can do that through legislation to a large extent.
That is all. That is the simple, fundamental goal we are seeking, all members of parliament across party lines, across the floor, and we hope not too many more will cross the floor. This is something that is most serious and most timely. The easy thing to do would be to do nothing. The easy thing to do would be to simply bump along.
It is an aberration when we see bold moves from the Liberal government. It has inherited a healthy economy, or at least an economy that has stabilized, much as a result of a prior government's economic planning, plans and legislative initiatives, bold and unpopular as they were. When I say unpopular, members of the same Liberal government while in opposition chastised and absolutely railed against those initiatives. However, through the glass ceiling of hypocrisy we have seen that attitude change. They have embraced and called their own the same legislative initiatives they railed against.
Not to digress on that record, to look at this issue with anything other than a humanistic, impartial eye is a derogation of our responsibility. We must encourage the Minister of Justice and her department. I would suggest it is broader than just looking at criminal code amendments. The issue goes beyond simply suggesting that changing one provision or one section of the criminal code will provide the answers. We have to look at labour laws. We have to look at occupational health and safety. We have to include the provinces to ensure that there is the same standard.
When I talk of standards I talk of the health care issue we will be debating at some point in the very near future. Again, it is spurred very much in its timing because of a looming election. Health care is not fixed. Let us be clear about that. The government is putting back a portion of the money removed since it took office. It is putting back a small portion that in many ways pales by comparison to what was removed. It reminds me of Freddy Krueger offering a band-aid to one of his victims after he slashed them.
Canadians are tired of that type of cynicism. They want to see action. They want to see real action, not just the perception of action and talk of action. The government has not lived up to its commitment in that regard.
It has talked a great talk. It has given very much the perception and feeling to Canadians that health care is fixed, that the criminal code has been fixed and that taxation is under control. That is not the case. One only has to visit a local hospital, to talk to individuals who are struggling to get by, to talk to a student who is saddled with a huge student loan and debt and has to leave the country to find work, or to talk to individuals who are doing their very best as single parents to get by on seasonal employment and face horrendous cuts to seasonal unemployment insurance.
With all this coming to fruition and with people struggling out there, the government says that it will help. By the way, since Canadians will be going to the polls very soon, the government wants to remind them that it is helping them. It asks them to forget about the fact that it is the one who put them in the situation. It is now ready to throw a rope and pull them ashore. It sees that they are drowning and it will now throw a rope. They are only being pulled halfway ashore.
What Canadians want to ask themselves is whom do they trust to be on the other end of the rope. Which national leader do they want to be pulling them in as they are drowning? Do they trust the person on the other end of that rope? I would suggest there is only one leader in this place that should earn and has deservedly earned the trust of Canadians, and that is the Right Hon. Joe Clark. He has always done what he said he would do. When we talk about trust in government—