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House of Commons Hansard #83 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-23.

Topics

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. We cannot refer to a member's absence or attendance in this House. However, for the record, I was here, and I listened with some—

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I think that is a point of debate and not a point of order.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Reform

Grant McNally Reform Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would conclude by saying that what the government voted against yesterday was a definition of marriage in the bill, over a hundred times. What the member says is outrageous. What the member says is an instrument of destruction and hatred, and that what people of my ilk do is put forward a definition of marriage in legislation. That is the very offensive act that we were participants in last night and I plead guilty. I will plead guilty every day that I stand for marriage and stand against the Liberal government.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this debate in another direction, in a direction that I hope members opposite, indeed all members, will be interested to hear.

I begin by saying that I support this bill. I support this bill because it does what needs to be done, and what needs to be done and why this bill exists in the first place is that it defines same sex relationships as outside marriage and it defines marriage as the lawful union of one man and one woman. I support it. It is there.

The question I bring forward is that while the opposition, obviously being the opposition it must oppose the bill, this is right and proper and it has to find all the means to oppose the bill, I would like to concentrate my remarks on the fact that 19 members of my own party voted against the report stage motion yesterday. There is a good chance those same 19 Liberals—maybe more, maybe less—will vote against this legislation when it comes before the House tonight.

I have great respect for my colleagues. I think it may be of great interest to you, Mr. Speaker, to comprehend why some of us who share exactly the same values, the same Liberal values if you will, the same values about family, and the same concerns about protecting the traditional definition of marriage and so on and so forth, would vote against this legislation, which I believe is very good legislation, and some would vote for it on this side exclusively.

We have to go back a bit to understand where this bill comes from. I am one of the ones who promoted it originally. The reason I promoted it was because it was becoming very clear that unless parliament acted the courts were going to define marriage and spouse as a same sex relationship. It was coming. It was occurring at the Ontario Court of Appeal level and in various other court cases. This has been a fear of mine for a very long time.

The first time I voted against my own government was when I voted against Bill C-33 when it came up in 1995. I voted against my government because it failed in that legislation to define marriage and to define a same sex relationship in the context of a legally married relationship. I voted against that legislation precisely because it left it to the courts. Finally, this bill produces the definitions.

Incidentally, Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with a colleague.

Let me examine what happened yesterday. The 19 Liberals who voted against the government voted on Motion No. 5, moved by the member for Scarborough Southwest. The member's motion, which was echoed by other motions from the opposition, would have had the definition of marriage as the lawful union of one man and one woman, which is in the bill, repeated in every piece of legislation that the bill affects. In other words, this is an omnibus bill and it affects 68 other statutes. It defines in those statutes that same sex partnerships, for the purposes of benefits or anything else, are to be seen in the same sense as a common law partnership. That should have been sufficient, but the member for Scarborough Southwest felt that this should be repeated in every bit of legislation.

I take the position that to have marriage defined in law when it was only defined in common law is a huge step forward. In fact, by all analyses, that should be sufficient to guarantee that marriage legally is only a heterosexual relationship. So why did the member for Scarborough Southwest feel it was so important to repeat this in every statute affected by Bill C-23?

I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, he did it because he does not trust the courts to interpret or to see this definition of marriage that exists in Bill C-23. He does not trust the courts in future arbitrations that will involve the definition of marriage to pay due attention to the piece of legislation that we have passed.

Why does he take that position? This is the bad news, and it is very unfortunate. I hope the justice minister and all Canadians are listening. The reality is that members on this side of the House no longer trust our own justice department. The problem is that on this side of the House there is a sense that people in the justice department are resisting common sense measures to define issues like this because they have some kind of secret agenda. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I have heard time and time again on this side of the House, on all kinds of legislation, the observation that we cannot trust the impartiality of justice department officials.

I really hesitate to say that because a great many of the justice department officials are very competent and very sincere in what they do. But there is no question that an element of suspicion has been created among parliamentarians and the justice department.

There are many examples. It goes back to the original gun control bill. It was one thing to have legislation creating a scheme for controlling firearms, but what we found on this side of the House was that it was very difficult to get even the most common sense amendments to that legislation. Then, there are countless other examples since I have been a parliamentarian since 1993.

There was a bill on electronic monitoring that would have enabled the authorities to affix a transmitter to a person who was never even charged with a crime. There were bills that limited the rights of the accused to get the documents of his accusers when it was a case of a sexual assault charge.

Even in this very same bill that we have before us, in my original speech at second reading I suggested that we change the word “conjugal” to “sexual intimacy”, because “conjugal” was used by error in the wrong sense by a judge who did not know language sufficiently well. Yet the justice department, which could have made the change and could have made everyone feel better, opted to carry on with the word “conjugal”, which in fact implies a heterosexual relationship.

The unfortunate thing that we have before us is legislation that is good. It does do what needs to be done. It does define marriage and it does give benefits to same sex couples in a way that does not conflict with traditional values. But we have this feeling on this side of the House that this bill is not as perfect, is not as complete, is not as polished and as well aimed as it could be because we believe, or some believe on this side of the House, that there is some kind of hidden agenda which means that later on the justice department may take this to court. Because the justice department creates laws in the House, it also defends them.

So we have this very uneasy situation that worries a lot of us around here, that we are not entirely certain that the people who produce the legislation for the government, who advise the government on its legislation, are indeed as impartial as they should be.

I hope that the justice minister thinks about this, and that the justice department officials themselves think about this, because this criticism is long overdue. I am sorry it has to appear on a piece of legislation that, in my mind, is excellent legislation. It brings back to parliament the definition of marriage and the definition of same sex relationships. It is exactly what parliament should have done long ago, but unfortunately the optics are not what they should be because perhaps the legislation is not as thoroughly aimed as it could have been. In that sense, the 19 members on this side of the House who are not willing to support this legislation do have a point, and I regret that is the situation.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

There will be five minutes for questions and comments, and I propose to do that after Oral Question Period so there will not be an interruption.

Report Of The Auditor GeneralGovernment Orders

April 11th, 2000 / 1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of the Auditor General of Canada to the House of Commons, Volume 1, dated April 2000.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 108(3)( e ), this document is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

FirefightersStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the members of the International Association of Fire Fighters across Canada work hard and risk their lives every day.

Retirement at the age of 55 is accepted as a standard that is in the best interests of firefighters and the communities they serve. However, in part because they experience shorter lifespans, firefighters are prevented from enjoying pension plans to which they have contributed while employed.

Due to an inequity under Income Tax Act regulations, firefighters argue that a regulatory change is needed and would be an important first step in pension fairness.

I encourage all members of the House to consider this proposed regulatory change in the name of fairness for Canada's professional firefighters.

Health CareStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

Gary Lunn Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to voice my concern about the state of Canada's health care system.

In British Columbia there are only two level two ICU pediatric centres, one in Vancouver and one in Victoria. The level two ICU centre for children in Victoria is about to close, leaving only one. This decision is based solely on reduced funding.

On March 20 the opposition called on the Minister of Finance to increase health and social transfers by $1.5 billion and forgo the $1.5 billion increase to federal grants and contributions. We have all heard of the billion dollar boondoggle. That is the amount we are trying to shift to health care. The Liberal majority in the House voted the motion down.

I suggest the preservation of health care across the country is more important than handing out grants to buy votes. Canadians deserve better.

National Organ Donor RegistryStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Lou Sekora Liberal Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week begins April 16 and ends April 23. My private member's bill, Bill C-420, recognizes the need for a national organ donor registry in an effort to save lives.

To all members of parliament and Canadians I say let us do the right thing and save some lives.

Canada CustomsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, on April 7, the Canadian government announced its plan to streamline customs control processes at borders and airports over the next four years.

It will do so by automating services and providing travellers with special permits. Pre-approved travellers will be able to use biometric technology (hand readers) for identification purposes and automated kiosks for paying duties.

Essentially, this more flexible approach will improve service to the clientele. Travellers and corporate clients will be able to obtain a “Canpass” that will allow them to cross the border quickly. Customs officers will, however, continue to carry out spot checks.

The two overall priorities for Canada Customs in coming years will be greater flexibility at Canada's borders and effective surveillance.

Let us hope that the Canadian public will appreciate these new measures, which have been implemented for their benefit.

EducationStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Liberal Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Ontario's fixation on the need for higher education to be dominated by acquiring high tech skills is out of step with business leaders.

While the high tech sector is expanding rapidly and generating half of all new jobs, what is not true is the notion that workers in this field do not need an education in the liberal arts and humanities. An article in the National Post quoted CEOs of 30 top companies, ranging from Jean Monty at BCE to Kevin Francis at Xerox as saying:

Funding of higher education in this country need not be an either-or proposition between technology or liberal arts and sciences. It is critical that all universities in Canada receive sufficient funding to ensure a well-educated workforce and a new generation of leadership.

The Harris government's policy to focus on technology programs for funding betrays its own low level of cultural and civic literacy.

Prime Minister Of CanadaStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, prior to the Prime Minister's departure for the Middle East he promised not to create controversy, but he failed again.

First he upset the Palestinians by refusing to meet with them in east Jerusalem. Then the Prime Minister did not know where he was, in east, west or north Jerusalem. He then upset the Israelis by giving bizarre advice to Arafat to use a unilateral declaration for independence as a bargaining chip in negotiations. Then he did not know what he said. This is not new.

In 1994 the Prime Minister said in France that he would have been happier if Canada had not been conquered in the past by the English and if this part of North America had remained French. In 1997 he bad mouthed the Americans to other G-7 leaders, not knowing that his microphone was on. He had lame excuses when he chose to go skiing in Whistler rather than represent Canada at King Hussein's funeral.

The Prime Minister should be vaccinated for foot in mouth disease along with his usual flu shots before he is allowed to visit the remaining countries on his trip.

Honda InsightStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Bonwick Liberal Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, good news. It is indeed a pleasure to announce today that Honda will be introducing the first Canadian made hybrid gasoline-electric vehicle into the market this year.

This technological revolution is called the all new Honda Insight. The Insight is powered by Honda's advanced integrated motor assist system. Combined with its lightweight aluminum shape, the Insight goes an astonishing 100 kilometres on 3.2 litres of gas. As well, the Insight is designed to meet ultra-low emission standards.

On May 9 Honda officials will be showcasing this vehicle on Parliament Hill. I encourage all my colleagues in the House to visit the display and see this incredible vehicle and maybe even take it for a test drive.

I am sure that this exciting new Insight will be well received by Canadian consumers.

Congratulations to Honda and its entire team. Well done, Honda.

A Vision For CanadaStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, everyone has their own views as to what makes a healthy country.

For me, more important than more money in my pocket I want to build a society based on sound values. I want my family to feel safe and secure and to feel that they have the opportunity to be as good as they can be. I want to know that every Canadian has a roof over their head, food to keep them nourished, a health care system to care for their medical needs and an education system that allows everyone the opportunity to learn and to grow.

These I believe are the first priorities of a healthy society. They would provide all Canadians with the tools they need to pursue their dreams and to be contributing members of society.

Taxpayers' RightsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Reform

Rick Casson Reform Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, on January 30, 1994, Deborah Starr-Stephan, a mother of 10 and beloved wife of Tony Stephan, took her life. In 1993 her husband, after exhausting all other options, was forced to declare bankruptcy. From that point forward his family was unceasingly harassed by overzealous Canada customs and revenue agents. With her family driven into extreme hardship, unable to cope with the immense stress she was under, Deborah Stephan committed suicide. This should never have happened.

In the fall of 1997 the official opposition proposed a taxpayers' bill of rights and an office for the taxpayers' protection. The government needs to adopt this proposal so Canadians such as the Stephan family are protected from the summary treatment and abusive actions of CCRA agents.

Without enacting a strong taxpayers' bill of rights, the CCRA could be plagued with the same accountability problems that makes the IRS the most hated agency in the United States.

Canada Book DayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Parrish Liberal Mississauga Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House that on April 27 we will be celebrating Canada Book Day. Canada Book Day is an initiative of the Writers Trust of Canada in support of World Book Day. It has taken place annually since 1995. Canada Book Day is the largest single day celebration of reading and book buying in Canada.

This year Public Works and Government Services Canada is playing a major role in supporting this event. A quarter of a million items have been distributed to Canadians through our department's active network of over 700 bookstores. Today there is a promote a book table in the rotunda of Centre Block to display key government publications and to distribute additional promotional items.

I encourage all members to take time out of their busy day to visit the display in the rotunda.

Sayisi DeneStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, poetry preserves the memory of our society. More than just a historical record, poetry preserves the feelings of those who live through historical events.

From the 1950s to the 1970s the Sayisi Dene of northern Manitoba were the victims of shameful treatment at the hands of the department of Indian affairs. Fully one-third of their people died from their forced relocation, an entire generation lost.

The poetry of Ila Bussidor captures the pain and loss of the Dene but also the strength and hope for healing. Today Ila Bussidor is the chief of the Sayisi Dene. She is leading her people in their fight for compensation. Her poetry speaks of night spirits, the spirits of those who died.

I dream of an eagle Forever coming to me with messages of strength Always in friendship and kindness. I touch the great sacred bird of spirit. He cares for me, each time I vision him. He lets me carry him. He gives me his sacred feathers. He walks with me. I am not afraid of him. I believe he is my guardian. The spirits of my father and mother Beside me in my times of pain.

Aéroports De MontréalStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Mercier Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, for a number of weeks now, the papers have been full of revelations on the inadequate management practices of Aéroports de Montréal. These troubling revelations have led the Bloc Quebecois to send for the chairperson of the board of directors, Ms. Pageau-Goyette, to have her appear before the Standing Committee on Transport. Problems of labour relations, lack of transparency and the appearance of conflict of interest have been raised.

The responses provided by ADM management have been, to say the least, unsatisfactory and perplexing. Crucial decisions on the development of Montreal were made by ADM, and major investments were announced in a context that shook public confidence considerably.

The Bloc Quebecois does not intend to stop there. The airports of Montreal are public assets funded out of the public purse.

Management of ADM will have to review its practices in order to win back the confidence of the public and elected representatives. There will be no question of repeating the practices being followed at Department of Human Resources Development within an agency given the task of developing infrastructures so important to Quebec.

IranStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Liberal Toronto Centre—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, Thursday of this week will see the beginning of a trial in Iran that those of us who value human rights and democracy will be closely watching.

Thirteen Jewish citizens of Iran stand accused of crimes against the state. Many foreign observers are of the view that these charges are unfounded and have been trumped up by Iran's conservative clergy as a part of their scheme to slow the opening of Iran.

Many of us watched with interest and hope during the recent elections in Iran which moved the country closer to being the open and democratic society that its citizens wish.

We are encouraged by some of the recent positive initiatives put forward by the Iranian government concerning the prosecution of the accused. Basic rights, such as the right to choose free and independent counsel, and certain bail provisions have been granted. However, the Iranian government must act to ensure that provisions of a fair trial are upheld throughout the course of the proceedings.

Many of us respect Iran for its rich history and its dynamic and educated population. However, our eyes will be on this trial and we expect that the accused will receive a fair verdict and that religious freedom will be protected in Iran.

Prime Minister Of CanadaStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, what better to bolster the Prime Minister of Canada's image, which is suffering from scandals, investigations and challenges to his leadership, than a nice little trip abroad, better yet to the Middle East where, with lots of coaching, he will be able to show what a statesman he is and how deft he is at international relations.

His advisers must be sorely disappointed. Instead of the hoped-for success, the Prime Minister is busily forgetting what he was told, getting his foot in it, and upsetting everyone.

“Personally, I think it better to keep the declaration of independence as a bargaining tool”, he told Yasser Arafat in French, while the Jerusalem Post had his advisers quoting him in English as saying the exact opposite.

It seems that the Prime Minister is inconsistent, whatever the time zone. Stay tuned tomorrow for what happened during the Prime Minister's trip to the Golan Heights.

Employment InsuranceStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals' so-called reforms to the unemployment insurance system have been devastating to Canada's unemployed. These days only 36% of unemployed Canadians qualify for EI benefits, down from 87% in 1989.

In St. John's East the EI cuts are costing my constituency $50 million annually. In neighbouring St. John's West, in byelection country, they are costing it $56 million a year. The riding of Burin—St. George's is losing $81.7 million annually and Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte is losing a further $74.7 million. All told, the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador has lost over $1 billion in EI revenues since the Liberals came to power in 1993.

What have the Liberals given back? They have increased EI maternity leave from six months to a year. However, given that only 31% of unemployed Canadian women actually qualify for benefits, that is very cold comfort.

VolunteersStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is National Volunteer Week and it gives us an opportunity to look at some of the profiles of our volunteers.

In a report entitled “Religion, Volunteering and Charitable Giving” there is one very startling correlation. The more active one is religiously, the more active one is in making Canada a civil society.

Only 14% of Canadians describe themselves as active religiously, but they make up 43% of the volunteers and contribute over 50% of the overall time volunteered. In addition, they are responsible for over 65% of charitable giving.

If the religiously inactive contributed in the same manner, donations would double and volunteer time would increase by 60%.

All members should congratulate those who are religiously active in their communities and who make our society more civil as a result of their faith and their commitments.

I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all of my constituents, religiously active or otherwise, to find time and moneys to truly make a difference.

IranStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, this Thursday, 13 Jewish-Iranian men will be put on trial in Iran on false charges of espionage.

Even if one sets aside the critical issues of religious freedom raised by this case, what is clear is that these men have the right to a fair trial under Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

That right includes access to legal representation of their own choosing and adequate time to prepare their defence in an open trial which international observers are free to attend and monitor. Unfortunately, at this point it appears that these men will be tried in a closed, Iranian revolutionary court without their chosen legal counsel.

The NDP joins the international community in demanding that these 13 Jewish-Iranians receive a fair trial. We call upon the Iranian government to ensure religious freedom for all its citizens, regardless of their faith.

Revenue CanadaOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Edmonton North Alberta

Reform

Deborah Grey ReformLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, it is report card day today, and it ain't pretty.

The auditor general criticized mismanagement in immigration, Indian affairs, HRD and the solicitor general's office, but it was the revenue department which got first prize today.

Revenue hands out more than $2 billion, mainly to large corporations. That generates $20 million to $55 million of benefit to the Canadian economy. It is another massive boondoggle. It is hardly a deal.

Does the revenue minister think that taxpayers really enjoy having their money wasted by the very department which collects it?

Revenue CanadaOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of National Revenue and Secretary of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec)

Mr. Speaker, let me be clear from the outset. Canadian Alliance members would have people believe that there were problems and that funds under the responsibility of the Department of Human Resources Development disappeared. They are once again trying to suggest that funds have disappeared.

I simply want to say that there is no mention of money having been lost in any department. It must also be understood that what the auditor general's report refers to goes back to 1994 and even long before that. But in 1994, a decision was made to set deadlines for claiming tax credits for research and development, resulting in 16,000 claims being submitted at the same time, all within a four month period.