House of Commons Hansard #48 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was elections.


Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Paul Mercier Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, for years the funding of political parties by corporations, which would ask for control and favours from the government in exchange, has been the Achilles heel of western governments.

But contrary to Greek heroes, these democracies do not die—at least none has died yet—from the low blows to this weak point in their bodies. Each time, however, they are damaged and their image is severely tarnished, which could eventually throw them out of balance.

We recall the series of scandals that shook France five years ago, when the public was at first astounded and then indignant upon learning how just about every national party was bending the law and accepting money from powerful corporations. The French government hastened to pass an act of indemnity to calm people down and save top political figures from legal proceedings.

In recent weeks, France's top political figures have yielded their place in the pillory of public opinion to the once-respected, once-adulated Chancellor of Germany, Helmut Kohl, the father of a unified Germany, he whose party funding over a number of years now appears to be just the tip of an iceberg on the rough seas of German democracy, below whose waters lurks a huge mass of dangerous liaisons between politics and business.

This lax attitude in the western world's legislation on party funding, and worse yet the indulgence with which infractions are tolerated are, in my opinion, what lies behind the dangerous disrepute into which elected representatives today, in Canada as elsewhere, have fallen. The end result of massive financing of parties by lobbies is, of necessity—you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours—nice little subsidies to generous donors, political favours, patronage, hush money, all of which quite properly scandalize public opinion.

The most recent—and most juicy—illustration of this is the discredit currently being focussed on the Minister of Human Resources Development. Do you realize this, fellow citizens? We have just taken money from your pockets that will go to pay back—with heavy interest—the money lobbies have paid to the party that governs us, so that it may continue to reign over our province, when two-thirds of the population have rejected it.

These dirty dealings are possible because of our electoral legislation. In Canada, no one has to even put any effort into getting around it. The Elections Act sets a limit on election expenditures, but there is no such limit on what amount of election funding can come from business.

When the government announced that it was going to freshen up this legislation, when Bill C-2 came up on the floor of the House, we were perhaps incurably naive to imagine that the Liberals had decided to finally tackle a thorough cleaning of the Augean stables of party financing. It meant really not knowing these people and having underestimated the man leading them, the incarnation of vote winning gimmickry and political scheming.

However, our Prime Minister did not have to look far for a model in this area. The Quebec elections act prohibits corporate donations. In shutting off this tap, it put a stop to the disgusting stench that rose from the trough of political favours because of the conniving about contracts and grants.

Do you see in Quebec this sort of endless scandal, which, in Ottawa, delights the columnists, but little by little, dangerously, adds to the up to now silent—regrettably—disdain of the public for its representatives?

The Bloc Quebecois has therefore moved an amendment to limit election funding of the parties to voters and to a maximum of $5,000 per contributor. This is the third time we have tried to change the law in this regard. On the first two occasions, the Liberals rejected our amendments.

If it is accepted this time—we can always dream and God willing—if such a miracle were to happen, it would put an end to the resolution we voted on at our convention to enable our party, so that it could fight as an equal, to accept corporate donations—with a $5,000 limit—as our adversaries can.

In conclusion, if our amendment is rejected, Parliament Hill will remain the centre for the distribution of the billions of dollars this government has acquired improperly by rationing the provinces, overtaxing the middle class and the ransoming of two pension funds, by the barons of the system to their buddies, who, never disappointed in their expectation of the favour being returned, will finance their return to power.

But as it is an ill wind that blows no good, we may hope that the bill will help finally convince Quebecers that sovereignty is the only route of escape from the cesspool the federal system has become.

A few more bills like Bill C-2, a few more HRDC scandals and those of us who hoped that Canadian federalism might yet rectify itself, will in the end recognize and understand that there is no hope for a rotten apple. We pitch them.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on behalf of the people of Okanagan—Coquihalla to speak to Bill C-2, an act to amend the elections act.

As a young man I joined the Canadian armed forces. I was very proud of our country's democracy and I still am today. But as we look around the world we see that Canada still operates in some areas where we can improve our democratic system. I think all people in the House would agree that the way in which senators are appointed should be changed. That is why Bill C-2 is very important.

Webster's Dictionary defines democracy as “a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their agents under a free electoral system”.

Legislation that governs the way in which people elect their representatives is a statement of how democratic a nation is. If it is to meet these ideals of democracy, it must be as free and unhindered of restrictions as possible. At the federal level in Canada, the elections act governs the way Canadians elect members to this House.

In the past, the elections act has been criticized for having a number of restrictions that limit the ability of Canadians to exercise democracy. The Liberal amendments have done nothing to address these restrictions. In fact, they have strengthened them with the intent of ensuring that the Liberals as a governing party are re-elected.

I will test three aspects of the bill to show they do not meet the definition of democracy. They are the debate over third party spending limits, the blackout on poll results prior to election day, and patronage appointments.

The first aspect I will test is the debate over third party spending limits. Two separate court decisions in Alberta have struck down the elections act spending limits on third parties as unconstitutional and for good reason. Spending limits always work in favour of the governing party which in this case is the federal Liberal Party. It has a big advantage. The Liberals by virtue of having the most MPs have the most free broadcasting time. In their role as government they can use taxpayers' dollars to advertise for re-election under the guise of information from the government.

The Liberal Party's election spending limit is close to $30 million. The official opposition has a spending limit of closer to $9 million. Third parties cannot spend more than $150,000 or not more than $3,000 in any one riding.

I for one fail to see how spending limits enhance the freedom of Canadians to elect representatives. The spending limits are obviously biased toward the Liberal Party with its massive spending advantage. Associations and private individuals can barely get their message across given the $150,000 spending limit in this bill. The whole idea behind Bill C-2 is to curtail freedom of expression and the democratic process.

The second aspect I would like to test to show that it does not meet the definition of democracy is the poll results publication blackout period. In a recent court case, Thomson Newspapers v the Crown, previous legislation preventing the publication of poll results in the final 48 hours of an election campaign was struck down and for good reason. Canadians do not need a paternalistic government trying to black out information from the voting public.

Not to be foiled, this Liberal piece of legislation re-establishes a poll blackout during the last 24 hours of an election campaign. The Liberals believe that if the polls are favourable for them on election day, voters will be more likely to vote for an alternative party to send a message of protest. A blackout on polls during the final 24 hours limits the constitutional rights given to all Canadians while favouring the governing party. It will certainly be challenged by the media in another costly court case which of course again will be lost.

The Reform Party has suggested a compromise that would see an end to poll blackouts. Blackouts would end if the media disclosed their methodology, who paid for the poll, the number of respondents and the question asked. The Liberals rejected this sensible solution, even though it better informed the electorate, because there is no advantage to the governing party.

The third aspect of the bill I would like to test that it does not meet the definition of democracy is the continued use of patronage appointment. There is not too much to examine because the continued use of patronage appointment fails the test straight off the mark. It is unacceptable in a democracy for the Prime Minister to appoint Liberal Party loyalists to key positions like a returning officer in every riding of the country.

I know the parliamentary secretary stood in debate and said that appointments were no problem. Even the Chief Electoral Officer has asked that he be given the power to hire returning officers based on merit alone.

It is ironic that when Elections Canada assists emerging nations during their elections it recommends avoiding a patronage ridden system like Canada's. The Chief Electoral Officer has gone as far as to say that he would not recommend this elections act to a third world nation or emerging democracy, calling the appointment of returning officers in Canada an anachronism.

This patronage system must be abolished. Returning officers and poll clerks should be selected on the basis of ability, experience and impartiality and these positions should be publicly advertised. By not eliminating patronage appointments within the electoral process, the Liberal government is blatantly trying to ensure it has the advantage in every riding.

To conclude, the Liberals had an opportunity to modernize our electoral process by increasing the freedom of the electorate to choose their representatives. This would have strengthened our democratic process making Canada the envy of the world. Instead the Liberals have reaffirmed the regressive aspects of our elections act ensuring the governing party has all the advantage while limiting the freedom of Canadians to elect their representatives.

These regressive measures not only fail to meet the test of the definition of democracy but have created the situation where our own Chief Electoral Officer would not export our system to a developing nation. Instead of vesting the power in the people, the Liberal government is vesting it in itself.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Joe Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to move the following amendments:

That Motion No. 90 for Bill C-2 be amended by

(a) substituting the following for the proposed substituted text contained in paragraph (a) of the motion:

“(a) a statement, prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, of its assets and liabilities,”

(b) replacing paragraph (b) of the motion with the following:

“(b) by replacing line 40 on page 153 with the following:

“whether that statement presents fairly and in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles the”.

That Motion No. 94 for Bill C-2 be amended by

(a) substituting the following for the proposed substituted text contained in paragraph (a) of the motion:

“(a) a statement, prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, of the fair market value of”

(b) replacing paragraph (b) of the motion with the following:

“(b) by replacing line 11 on page 160 with the following:

“whether the statement presents, in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, the fair”

That Motion No. 123 for Bill C-2 be amended by

(a) replacing the opening words of the motion with the following:

“That Bill C-2, in Clause 430, be amended by replacing line 33 on page 178 with the following:”

(b) substituting the following for the proposed substituted text contained in the motion:

“report presents fairly and in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles the information con-”

These motions are signed by the minister.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

At this point I would like to take these amendments under consideration. When the bill is brought back to the House, the Chair will have an answer as to whether they are receivable.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I appreciate my hon. friend has introduced a set of amendments. In light of the fact that this is a very crucial piece of legislation, could I seek some explanation of what is going on at this point. I do not understand the procedure.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, members opposite will know that the government has suggested approximately 13 technical amendments. Most of the opposition parties have agreed to the introduction of those technical amendments.

The amendments just read to the House were three of those technical amendments contained within Group No. 2. Because we did not yet have full agreement among all the parties in the House to the introduction of all of the technical amendments, we thought we should deal with the three in Group No. 2.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

It is almost 2 p.m. I want to apprise myself of what has gone on with this point of order. We will come back to this later on if it is necessary.

As it is 2 p.m., we will now go to Statements by Members.

Craig SwayzeStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Walt Lastewka Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, may I pay tribute to a respected member of the St. Catharines sports community and the world of rowing, Mr. Craig Swayze.

Mr. Swayze's rowing credentials were many. He was president of the St. Catharines Rowing Club, the Canadian Henley Rowing Corporation and Rowing Canada. He was regatta chairman for the 1970 World Rowing Championships, a Canadian Olympic Association member and a special adviser to the 1999 World Rowing Championships.

Craig Swayze passed away in St. Catharines on February 13. To his wife Lois and family I extend my condolences. Craig Swayze was more than a rowing icon. He was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather.

I am reminded of an interview Craig Swayze had with the St. Catharines Standard in 1996 where he had worked as a journalist for 40 years. He was being honoured by his rowing peers for his tremendous support, commitment and promotional expertise in rowing. In the interview, Mr. Swayze said “Winning races and competing is important, but it's the people who make it worthwhile”.

Craig Swayze was one of those people. He was a true friend. He will be missed.

Human Resources DevelopmentStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the people of Okanagan—Coquihalla to draw to the attention of the House a formal complaint I have made to the Summerland detachment of the RCMP against the Minister of Human Resources Development.

The minister promised several times in public last week that members of parliament can acquire information regarding grants and contributions in their riding from local Human Resources Development offices. All my inquiries at the local offices have been turned down, and I have four such offices in my riding.

The Liberal government has imposed a gag order and local HRDC offices are not allowed to release any information on local grants despite the minister's assurance.

The shovelgate scandal has exposed the questionable ethics of this government once again. The minister promised to be open with Canadians, yet refuses to release information to members that was readily available only two weeks ago.

The Minister of Human Resources Development should not only be ashamed, she should resign.

Garth LeggeStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to honour one of my constituents, Reverend Garth Legge of Richmond Hill, on his being named a member of the Order of Canada.

He was honoured at the investiture ceremony on February 9, along with many other deserving Canadians. I would like to read his citation:

A man of vision and action, he is an example to follow in missionary work. He was a strong influence in the establishment of Zambia's United Church. Later, as head of the United Church of Canada's world outreach division, he championed justice and autonomy for indigenous peoples in many parts of the word. He has consistently promoted an approach in missions that is based on respect, equality and partnership.

Congratulations to Reverend Legge on being named to the Order of Canada.

Gasoline PricesStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, the increase in the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel in Canada does not reflect the gross price of a litre of gasoline before taxes. Consumers are always the ones footing the bill. Canadian oil corporations will have to make public across the country the cost of gasoline before taxes, and this every day.

The refinery sector is operating strictly to generate profits for major Canadian oil companies. Why do oil companies such as Imperial Oil, Petro-Canada, Shell Canada and Ultramar not respect consumers?

I would like to hear from the CEOs of the Canadian oil companies, by fax, at (613) 996-0828, within a week.

Heart And Stroke MonthStatements By Members

February 14th, 2000 / 2 p.m.


Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House and all Canadians that, this year again, February is Heart and Stroke Month.

We are proud of the Canadian heart health initiative, a world renown partnership in which Health Canada is co-operating with the provincial departments of health and with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

More challenges remain to ensure that progress continues in the reduction of the major risk factors: smoking, high blood pressure, elevated blood cholesterol and diabetes. By investing in heart health, we can enhance the quality of life for countless Canadians.

HealthStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, more and more Canadians are living with a disability as a result of heart disease or stroke. For each death attributable to a stroke, three victims require prolonged hospitalization as a result of neurological damage. Heart failure is also becoming an increasing problem, putting strain on our limited health care resources. These statistics point to the importance of having a low fat diet, exercising and limiting stress.

The Government of Canada needs to work with NGOs and professional associations to focus on prevention, such as the Hearth and Stroke Foundation's heart smart program for kids. It should focus on developing a national cardiovascular surveillance program, supporting research by the CIHR and putting resources back into the trenches on the sharp edge of patient care.

Cardiovascular disease is a killer. Let's have a heart to save a heart.

HealthStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, today representatives from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society are meeting with members of parliament and senators as part of their annual Heart on the Hill day. Their aim is to raise awareness of heart disease and stroke, which is the number one killer of Canadians.

Cardiovascular disease kills almost 80,000 Canadians every year and accounts for almost $20 billion in direct and indirect health costs.

As we begin the new millennium, the burden of heart and stroke disease will continue to rise. This epidemic will become more pronounced as the average age of our population increases. Of particular concern are the growing number of Canadians who are living in a state of disability as a result of heart disease, especially congestive heart failure.

Heart and Stroke Month offers Canadians an excellent opportunity to learn more about heart disease and stroke. By fostering awareness we can increase preventive measures and hopefully save lives.

Canadian RangersStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, for the past 50 years the Canadian Rangers have acted as guides and advisors to the Canadian Forces as well as performing search and rescue duties in northern remote and isolated communities often in harsh weather conditions. The majority of Canadian Rangers are aboriginal, often unilingual, who have served Canada for more than 50 years.

Today at Rideau Hall 17 Canadian rangers received the first presentation of the new ranger bar to the special service medal which recognizes at least four years of honourable service. Many others will also be receiving this special award. From my riding of Nunavut, Peter Kuniliusee and Jimmy Tassugat from Clyde River represented their colleagues.

I congratulate all Canadian Rangers for their outstanding dedication and, on behalf of all Canadians, thank them for their work and contribution to our great country. Mutna. Thank you.

Father Georges-Henri LévesqueStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, all of Quebec paid tribute to one of the architects of its quiet revolution, Father Georges-Henri Lévesque, who died in January of this year. Le Devoir wrote that those who knew him considered him instrumental in helping to free Quebec from the yoke that weighed it down between 1940 and 1960.

He will best be remembered for founding Université Laval's school of social work in 1938 and its faculty of social sciences in 1943. But for some, of much greater importance than founding these two institutions was his contribution to the social debates of the day.

I take a particular interest in this because he led and encouraged many debates from the Manoir Montmorency in Beauport, in my riding. This centre, directed by Father Lévesque, was a hub, where all the agents of change in Quebec society debated ideas and received their training.

I can only hope that in my riding, as well as in the rest of Quebec, Father Lévesque's memory will continue to inspire us to continue along our path toward a society where all are equal and there is no place for exclusion.

The Late Charles SchulzStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Val Meredith Reform South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, in one of life's unexplainable quirks of fate, as millions of people around the world opened their newspapers this weekend to read the last Peanuts comic strip, they heard of the death of Charles Schulz.

As a baby boomer, I do not recall a world without Charlie Brown, Lucy and Linus Van Pelt, Peppermint Patty, Snoopy and Woodstock.

For half a century, children and adults around the world have faithfully followed Charlie Brown's determined efforts to kick that football or fly that kite. We were enthralled by Snoopy's air battles with the Red Baron or his persistent efforts to steal Linus' security blanket.

While the world underwent great changes over the last 50 years, Charles Schulz was always there to bring a smile to our faces.

Today the world is a little sadder with the loss of Charles Schulz, but it will always be a better place because he has provided us with his enduring gifts of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and company.

Clayoquot Sound And Redberry LakeStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Joe Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the communities of Clayoquot Sound in British Columbia and Redberry Lake in Saskatchewan on their recent designation as international biosphere reserves.

Biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial or coastal ecosystems which are internationally recognized within the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's Man and Biosphere Program for promoting and demonstrating a balanced relationship between people and nature.

This is an incredible honour for the communities involved and the many partners that contributed to the success of these nominations.

The declaration of Clayoquot Sound and Redberry Lake as biosphere reserves is recognition of our substantial progress toward a sustainable future for the regions, including their biological, economic, social and cultural values.

Canada has six other biosphere reserves: in Quebec, Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba making the Clayoquot Sound and Redberry Lake biosphere reserves the seventh and eighth such reserves in Canada.

Yukon ActStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Louise Hardy NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, Yukon government leader Piers McDonald and opposition leader Pat Duncan are in Ottawa in a co-operative effort to lobby to modernize the Yukon Act.

The Yukon Act does not but needs to recognize the current system of democratic government and give effect to the devolution of power over land and resources to the elected legislature. This transfer is critical to the future of the Yukon and must include first nations and the federal government.

The Yukon needs the support of parliament to update the Yukon Act for economic development and to create a fireweed fund, the first labour sponsored fund in all of the north.

Bill C-20Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Maurice Godin Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, arrogance is increasingly becoming the trademark of the Prime Minister and his government.

After weakening health care and education systems throughout Canada by slashing provincial transfer payments, and ignoring the legitimate requests from the premiers, after invading provincial jurisdictions and adding to waste and duplication with its $95 billion surplus, after using discretionary job creation funds to reward its cronies, all the while denying doing any such thing, and laughing off opposition and public concerns, now, with Bill C-20, the Liberal government is claiming the virtue of clarity and the right to be sole arbiter of the future of the Quebec people.

The common thread in all this is arrogance. But so full of arrogance is this government of clarity that the future it offers Quebecers is sombre indeed.

Arrogance reigns supreme. I salute the master of arrogance.

Human Resources DevelopmentStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Gary Pillitteri Liberal Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, lately the official opposition and the media have focused their attention and energies on the human resources department and its minister.

The Ottawa Citizen reported that the minister was seen in Niagara Falls on Friday having a fundraising breakfast. It informed us that the minister misused the Challenger jet at a great cost to Canadian taxpayers.

Let us be truthful with the people of Canada. The minister was in Niagara Falls for round table discussions scheduled months ago that had to do with the Business Education Council of Niagara. This organization, well-known for the excellent work it carries out throughout the peninsula, provides young Canadians with the hands on training necessary to make the transition from school to employment.

Fundraising indeed. Those who are seeking the truth and who often use methods reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition should be aware that it is wrong to embellish the truth and in doing so to mislead Canadians.

HealthStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, few Canadians are aware that more than 4,600 infants are born each year with congenital heart defects. That means that one in every one hundred children are born with these sometimes life-threatening defects making it the number one birth defect in Canada. Congenital heart defects affect more children than cancer, kidney disease, diabetes and junior arthritis.

The number of adults living in Canada with congenital heart defects is between 70,000 and 100,000. Of these adults, 12,000 are currently receiving follow-up care. Approximately 3,000 pediatric and 300 or more adult cardiac surgeries are performed each year in Canada for congenital heart disease. These numbers are expected to double by the year 2006.

I will soon be introducing in the House a private member's bill to officially recognize February 14 as a day for hearts. This bill will recognize and increase the awareness of congenital heart defect.

HealthStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Sophia Leung Liberal Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, despite years of public education, heart disease and strokes remain the leading killers of Canadians. The Heart and Stroke Foundation and medical specialists like Dr. Vicky Bernstein and Dr. Larry Barr of Vancouver are the unsung heroes in the battle against heart disease.

However, they cannot do it alone. Canadians young and old need to help minimize the risk of heart disease or stroke. We can reduce the risk by living a healthy lifestyle, by exercising daily and by not smoking.

Allow me to thank all Canadians who continue to fight the battle against heart disease and stroke. Their contributions will save lives.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.


Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources Development says that she was only briefed on her department's billion dollar boondoggle on November 17. That is by no means certain.

Let us look at her first response to the scandal. On November 18 the minister hauled out her chequebook and signed off on six more grants worth almost $1 million.

Why did the minister dole out another $1 million less than 24 hours after receiving a damning audit?

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Brant Ontario


Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, as I said on a number of occasions, we are working on this issue. We are taking it very seriously and taking a strong response to it.

The auditor general agrees that the approach we are taking is the right one. We will fix this problem.