House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was leader.


Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Canadian Alliance Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his maiden speech.

In 1993 we were told that there was a huge deficit in the country. The Liberals chose to cut funding for health care as one of their priorities. I felt that was a mistake in priority and thought that possibly areas such as HRDC grants and contributions could have gone down so health care could have been preserved.

From the member's perspective would he share the belief that there were other areas that could have been cut to reduce the deficit rather than in our health care system?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2001 / 11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, health care is priority number one for Canadians. That is absolutely essential. To have the government reduce the funding so radically and take such an adversarial approach in doing it is unconstitutional. I do not understand how it can do that and live with itself.

I understand that with the constraints in the budget the government had to reduce. However, there was no collaboration. That destroyed the relationship between the provinces and the federal government and stepped over bounds. The repercussions of that decision have yet to come home to roost.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, congratulations to you. To my colleagues around the floor of the House, I pledge my respect for their opinions and pledge that I will work with them toward the goal that I believe will create a better Canada for all of our constituents. I believe we come here with the same goals in our heads and in our hearts.

This is my third time in the House and I want to take the time to thank my husband John and my children Amanda, Devon and John Anthony.

By necessity all of us share our energy and our time. We know we always give our love to our families, but they share in our geographical separations that are occasioned by our work in the House and across this land.

It is a great pleasure and honour to be here among you. I am greatly honoured. Like all the other members of this House, I am learning my second official language. I am studying with a good teacher.

Mr. Speaker, I am sharing time with the member for Scarborough East.

I am well aware that the historical significance of having two founding nations sharing this land with our aboriginal peoples is the prime significance in the development, the history and the future of this country.

The inclusiveness I heard spoken in the Speech from the Throne and the response by our Prime Minister is at the heart of everything we should be looking toward when our setting our goals and plans. Social and economic ideas have to be integrated taking into account the real life of our constituents.

I would be remiss if I did not thank the constituents in London West who voted for me, as well as those who did not. I work on their behalf everyday and will continue to do so.

We all come here with special interests. My special interest since 1993 has been research and the economic development that has resulted.

When we formed the government in 1993, Canada's record was not good nationally or internationally. There were valid reasons. The state of our economy, the debt and the deficit were very real inhibitors. I am grateful that we have now set a very realistic goal of being among the top five in the developed world for allocating research dollars. I realize that not only will government have to invest research dollars into its own operations, but it will have to invest in our universities and industries so they can share in this very important endeavour.

Not only shall we be doing the basic science research, research which will translate into jobs and products, we will also need a trained workforce. With a department like Human Resources Development, we will be there for those people who are striving to learn. Over the past number of years we also put in place a number of plans. We now have the registered education plan which will allow people to take time out from their working life to retrain and update skills so they can more fully participate in their communities and take care of their families.

I am especially pleased that we have targeted special programs that have tested well already in certain jurisdictions. There is a need to help single parents. Sharing wealth and opportunity is very worthwhile, which is the theme of the throne speech. It is necessary for us to share this with our communities.

Last term I spent some time in the aboriginal affairs committee. I am very pleased that we are further looking at governance and inclusion. We will be putting hope and dollars back on the table so people can advance.

I have been in regions where young children have to separate from their families at the high school level to finish their early years of education. I am not talking about university or college, or a separation for a week or a day. I am talking about separation for a term. The infrastructure is not on site. Family nurturing cannot be done in the home.

I am aware that in the aboriginal community money is not always available to every person who is ready for post-secondary education. It comes parcelled from our federal government. We are looking for leaders in all of our communities but these leaders need tools. One of the basic tools, and I think all members in the House would agree, is an education.

People need housing. In the aboriginal communities there is a vast need to share housing dollars. They also need clean water. There are communities in Canada that do not have clean, accessible water. A lot of those are aboriginal communities. This is not right.

I think we understand the problems. In the document “Gathering Strength”, the government mapped out a long term solution. I am very happy and would be very willing, as I hope all members of the House and the broader Canadian public would be, to see an expansion of this very necessary work. This would enable us to hold ourselves proud together with our brothers and sisters in Canada and say that one community can strive for the same amenities that other communities have like public health and public access to the educational needs.

I will speak about our children. It is a cliché to say that our children are our future, but we help shape that future. The provinces have the primary responsibility for education. However, through an agreement with them, we are partners in those programs. We have assisted in many ways and will continue to assist.

Most employment statistics show that over half of the employees in Canada will need in excess of a secondary level of education. We need a very trained workforce. All communities need access to it.

I am very grateful that we are continuing to put money into our Internet access in urban communities. I understand the Minister of Industry will be handing out more. Seniors will have access to the Internet. I am also very pleased that our children will now have access and the capability to obtain knowledge in the new economy which many of us are striving for that in middle life.

The Speech from the Throne and our response signalled that our banking community will get the tools it needs with the legislation that hopefully will be placed before us again. That resolution will help Canada's economy modernize and be competitive in a global environment.

When I knocked on the doors of my constituents during my campaign for re-election, I was surprised that many people had put the environment at the front burner of their thoughts. They said it was worth spending money on. In the past environment was not my top issue. Today I am concerned about my health. I am concerned about clean water, clean air and the pollution from our industries and across our borders.

The value of forests and the value of sustainable development is also important. People have been talking intensely about this for many years but it did not gather public support. People had not related to the fact that an endangered species perhaps needs the same things we need to live and survive. We know now because we are a species sharing this environment.

I applaud the government for going ahead on the environment, on the health needs of our population, on research and on the new economy. I would be remiss to say that I did not applaud or fully support the economic development increase going to the global community. We share the world and we have a responsibility to share its resources and, where necessary, extend a helping hand.

We will have many opportunities over the next few years to debate these issues in the House. I wish all of my colleagues well in their work. I pledge to you, Mr. Speaker and the other members sitting in your chair, my co-operation and respect.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your election. I am absolutely confident that you will make a fair minded and wonderful Speaker.

I also want to thank the electors of Scarborough East for returning me to this Chamber to offer their views on these important issues.

A throne speech is really only a document that gives direction. It is necessarily less specific than some would wish. However, Canadians should really only see the throne speech as a book with a number of chapters to follow. I will comment on one of those chapters which deals with strong and safe communities.

Until now Canada has enjoyed a relatively buoyant economy. Interest rates are relatively low. People's real incomes are rising. We have reduced the national debt and interest rates are down.

The level of prosperity may or may not continue. Some say that it will not. However, with the prudent assumptions of the government we are hopeful that our buoyant economy will return. We are much better positioned to weather a downturn in the economy if and when it comes. For the time being, we can still dream dreams and address some of the pressing needs of our people.

Yesterday I listened to the Leader of the Opposition in his reply to the Speech from the Throne. He was talking tough on crime. He went on to talk about how criminals seem to have all the rights and that victims do not have any.

I would like to take the opportunity to correct the mistaken impression that the Leader of the Opposition may have unintentionally left, namely that criminals have all the rights. All Canadians enjoy exactly the same rights when faced with a criminal offence.

It is simple minded rhetoric to say that criminals have all the rights and victims have none. All Canadians are presumed innocent. All Canadians have the right not to self-incriminate. All Canadians have the right to present a full defence. All Canadians have the right to have the crown prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Those rights, among many others, are enjoyed by all Canadians charged with any crime and therefore, in my view, it does a disservice to victims to speak of victims' rights and criminal rights in a cheap rhetorical flourish.

It is a pity that the hon. Leader of the Opposition has not reviewed the work of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights from the last parliament. Had he reviewed the work of the committee he would have come across Bill C-79, commonly called the victims' rights bill. The genesis of that bill was in the committee's report called, “Victims: A Voice not a Veto”. The report was unanimously put forward to the House by all members, of which one of his members, particularly the member for Surrey North, made a significant contribution.

The bill arose out of that report and was introduced into the House. It came back before the committee and was quickly returned to the House because it incorporated many of the suggestions contained in the report. I have yet to hear any person who represents victims that advocates that the bill is substantively flawed in any way.

The hon. Leader of the Opposition would also have been interested in the work of the committee on drunk driving. Again an all-party committee produced the bill, which, among other things, substantially increased the penalties for drunk driving. His own members contributed to the drafting of the bill. The Minister of Justice was gracious enough to introduce the bill into the House because she was persuaded of its merits. Included in the bill was a potential life sentence for those convicted of drunk driving a third time; three strikes and they would be gone.

I do not think it can be tougher without getting into issues of disproportionality. On this side of the House we are plenty tough on crime. We are not so foolish, however, as to skewer the entire system of justice and the criminal code just to show how tough we really are. If he still wishes to be tough he should look at the committee report on organized crime. Our report was very detailed on how we as a committee felt that organized crime should be dealt with. I was pleased to see that the Speech from the Throne picked up on that issue. It said:

The Government will focus on safeguarding Canadians from new and emerging forms of crime. It will take aggressive steps to combat organized crime, including the creation of stronger anti-gang laws and measures to protect members of the justice system from intimidation.

I, for one, look forward to the opportunity to review our initial work on organized crime and spend time making suggestions to the government with respect to specific amendments to the criminal code and enhancements to the authority of police officers and people in the justice system.

Justice is more than just getting tough. Any fool can be tough, and we may even have some examples in the House. Justice is far more subtle than just merely being tough. A society that incarcerates aboriginals at rates vastly disproportionate to the rest of the population is a society that must look itself in the mirror.

I remember questioning a judge from the Northwest Territories, a former professor of mine at Queen's University, who was gracious enough to come before the committee on Bill C-3. I asked him about the disproportionate incarceration rates of aboriginal youth. His answer was ultimately quite sad. Tragically many justices incarcerate aboriginal youth because they have no real alternatives. Youth homes are either dysfunctional or do not exist at all.

The thinking is that throwing the kid in jail is actually doing him a favour. I submit that this is the brutal indictment of our own society. The throne speech read:

It is a tragic reality that too many Aboriginal people are finding themselves in conflict with the law. Canada must take the measures needed to significantly reduce the percentage of Aboriginal people entering the criminal justice system.

I agree with the throne speech and the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has set a generation bar of 20 years to reduce the number of aboriginals in conflict with our criminal justice system.

I have said that justice is more than just getting tough. Justice means that there will be a sentence after a conviction, not before as some would like. When that sentence is served the convicted person will return to the street, with the exception of those serving life sentences.

Everyone returns to the street some day. One way or another they will return to us, to society, to their communities and to their families. Getting tough by throwing someone in jail, walking away and throwing away the proverbial key creates a lifetime criminal. Since everyone returns to society some time, we either manage the reintegration and rehabilitation or just walk away and leave the criminal to make out as best he or she can. I prefer a system which stands beside the person on the way to completing his or her sentence.

Getting tough with rehabilitation and reintegration is just plain stupid. It is in society's best interest to try to assist individuals so that recidivism rates will be reduced. If an offender is let back on the streets a bit at a time, it only makes sense that the chances of him or her returning to a lifetime of crime are reduced, rather than simply pitching the criminal over the proverbial walls of the jail and hoping that he or she makes out and saying in effect “You are on your own, buddy”.

I look forward to the Minister of Justice following up on the commitment in the Speech from the Throne to reintroduce the youth justice bill, which will:

—encourage alternatives to custody for non-violent offenders, emphasizing rehabilitation and reintegration into society, while toughening consequences for more violent youth.

In closing, any fool can be tough. Being tough on crime is merely a rhetorical flourish, but it is far more difficult to be just. The record of the 36th parliament showed us getting tough on drunk driving, getting tough by taking DNA samples from certain convicted criminals, getting tough on organized crime, and getting tough on child prostitution and sex tourism. In some respects that is the easy part.

The greater challenge is to be just. I believe we have taken some steps in that direction with the victims rights bill and the youth justice bill. It remains to be seen whether parliament will be serious about aboriginal crime, organized crime and youth justice.

I am hoping that over the course of the next number of years the House will have the opportunity to be serious about being just.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Canadian Alliance Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have always found the member opposite to be reasonable and balanced in his approach. I congratulate him on his re-election.

There is quite a debate on justice issues. One that I thought gave the member opposite an opportunity to show his colours was the issue of child pornography. As the member will remember, that law was struck down in B.C. Many of my colleagues opposite asked the Prime Minister and the government to take all necessary steps to have that law reinstated, even if it meant something as drastic as the notwithstanding clause. If my memory serves me well, the hon. member opposite signed a petition to the Prime Minister asking for that step to be taken.

When that very motion was put before the House, I do not recall the member voting for it. The wording was similar. Maybe he could explain to me why the rights of children did not take precedence over the rights of the pedophile and the rights of the true criminal.

We have not had a chance to go over it privately, so I will give him the opportunity in the House to explain why he would not vote for the motion when it came before the House.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is correct. I did not sign the petition. The reason was that it was the cart before the horse: first the sentence and then the conviction.

The justice in the B.C. court said that subsection (4) of the child pornography laws was unconstitutional. That was upheld in the 2:1 decision in the court of appeal. I think that was the time at which the petition was circulated. The Government of Canada had intervened and it was to be a constitutional issue before the supreme court.

The invocation of the notwithstanding clause would have been premature until the supreme court ruled. The supreme court ultimately ruled in a 9:0 decision, which is an enormous decision on the part of the supreme court that this was a constitutional law. Therefore we as parliamentarians and the government would have looked like classic fools to have said that we would invoke the notwithstanding clause at any stage prior to the ruling of the supreme court.

The supreme court has deferred to parliament. It has recognized that when parliament speaks on a significant issue such as child pornography it will defer as long as there is some causal link between the harm that parliament is trying to remedy and the infringement on the freedoms contained in the charter.

I found the decision of the supreme court to be measured, realistic and something of which all Canadians could be proud. It restored something of the dialogue between the court and parliament. Until now I could make the argument that it was something of a monologue, that the court spoke and parliament listened. In this instance parliament spoke, the court listened and Canadian society is much better off.

My reasoning for not signing the petition was that it was entirely premature.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Canadian Alliance Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wish to ask a supplementary question. The two years that have transpired between the law being struck down in the court in B.C. allowed pedophiles to escape justice. Many of them carried on with these activities. Their cases were not brought before the court. That gave them an opportunity to practise a craft that I will never understand.

Would the hon. member comment on the two years the law was not being enforced in Canada, thereby allowing pedophiles to conduct their craft?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the striking down of that law was applicable only to British Columbia. The rest of the provinces were still proceeding with charges. In Ontario 41 cases were held up pending the disposition of the Supreme Court of Canada. I have received assurances from justice officials that all those cases will proceed in the normal fashion.

The comfort that we take and the surety we gain by a 9:0 decision was worth the minor delay.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the floor. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville.

I would like to begin by expressing my thanks to the people of Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier for entrusting me for the second time in a row to represent them in the House, despite a tough campaign in which issues having nothing to do with federal politics were constantly being brought up.

Despite the smokescreens, they were able to see that what was principally at stake in this election was a repudiation of the Liberal government. This they have done, having resisted the demagoguery of certain individuals aimed at transforming this federal election into a referendum on an issue with no impact whatsoever on the federal scene.

The speech we heard a few days ago is very clear. Its underlying premise is very clear: denial of the reality that is Quebec in every statement it contains. Behind every word, every sentence, every paragraph, every chapter, lies the desire of the Liberal federal government to deny the existence of the Quebec nation and, worse yet, to deny the existence of certain consensuses in Quebec, be they federalist or sovereignist.

I would even venture to say that there has never been any consensus in Quebec this government has not wanted to go against. Every time a consensus is reached in Quebec above party lines, be they federalist or sovereignist, Péquiste, Liberal, Action démocratique, socialist or whatever, this government tries to oppose it.

This is very apparent in the latest speech from the throne. I will give you only three examples, because, unfortunately, my time is limited. However, if the House were to give me more time, I would be pleased to give more examples.

First, let us look at parental leave. There is broad consensus in Quebec in support of an effective parental leave plan. In its Speech from the Throne, the Liberal government announced with great pomp that it wanted to make children a priority. Unfortunately, it is refusing to transfer the necessary funds to the Government of Quebec, which wants to establish a more complete, solid and effective policy on parental leave.

Among other things, the Liberal government is ignoring self-employed workers entirely. Heaven knows, in this new economy, many people, especially young people, work for themselves. They work at home, in the new Internet economy, in communications and so on.

With the proposed government plan, these people, especially the young, will not be covered by the parental leave plan. It is generally the young who have children and who need parental leave. So this entire segment of the population is denied the possibility of taking parental leave. This is an example of a consensus in Quebec, which the federal government has decided to oppose.

The second example is young offenders. Once again, the Bloc has done exceptional work representing the Quebec consensus on the federal scene. The member for Berthier—Montcalm, who is here today, has done a particularly fine job in this area.

All the Quebec stakeholders—judges, crown attorneys, defence lawyers, social workers and the police—everyone involved in juvenile delinquency in Quebec are saying “Do not touch the existing Young Offenders Act, it works”.

Not only does it work, but when the Standing Committee on Justice travelled across Canada to hear witnesses on the government's intention to change the existing act, all the stakeholders said that the act worked well in Quebec, and was indeed an example that ought to be emulated.

But what did the federal government do? It seems to have taken the stand that, regardless of how well the act is working—provided it is properly implemented, of course—it shall be shelved and replaced with a harsher, more repressive measure.

I discussed this issue with friends, including Europeans, and commented that only in Canada could such a situation occur, whereby an act that is working well if it is properly implemented could be shelved and replaced with an unproven legislative measure. This is totally surreal.

This is why I am telling the government that, instead of imposing this new, harsher vision and running the risk of throwing out legislation that works very well in Quebec, it should include a clause allowing Quebec, if it so wishes, to implement the existing legislation.

If the other provinces want a harsher, more repressive law, they will have that option. But let Quebec manage the program the way it wants because, I repeat, it is working.

This was the second consensus the federal government decided to ignore.

The third example is education. To my astonishment, the throne speech went on and on about the federal government's desire to interfere in the area of education although, as everyone would agree, this is a provincial jurisdiction and the one most staunchly defended since the British North America Act, 1867.

Certain passages took my breath away, and I will cite one of them from page 6:

Youth at risk are among the most likely to drop out of school or to have difficulty in making the transition from school to work. The Government will ensure support for youth who particularly need help staying in school or getting their first job.

What is this if not a clear sign that the federal government wants to interfere in a jurisdiction that does not concern it?

Here is another example:

—many Canadian adults lack the higher literacy skills needed in the new economy. The Government of Canada will invite the provinces... to launch a national initiative with the goal of significantly increasing the proportion of adults with these higher-level skills.

The goals are great, but this is none of its business. Why is it getting involved at all?

This is the third example of a consensus against which the federal government has decided to pit itself. Those are three examples.

And that is not all. The federal government has announced its desire to invade the fields of manpower, immigration, health, the municipalities and family policy. In short, a massive invasion into areas of provincial jurisdiction has been announced by the federal government.

Unfortunately I do not have much time left, but I did want to say a word about the aboriginal people. We support the government's avowed intent to make some progress in this area, but I would caution it to take care and to avoid reinventing the wheel.

Some years ago, after thousands of hours of testimony and after thousands of pages had been written on the subject and millions of dollars spent, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the Erasmus-Dussault Commission, came out with some suggestions and conclusions that were, on the whole, very well received by all stakeholders. I am therefore asking the government to use the Erasmus-Dussault report as its basis, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.

In conclusion, the historical framework does not change. After the 1982 repatriation in which Quebec was betrayed, after the sinister agreement on the social union, which sanctions the federal government's invasion into areas of provincial jurisdiction, after the federal government's avowed desire in the throne speech to invade areas of provincial jurisdiction and, in a way, to trample over its own Constitution, Quebecers are faced with this choice: an increasingly unitarian state to be called Canada, or a new country they will construct for themselves, to be called Quebec.

I am willing to bet that this choice will be made sooner than expected and that Quebecers will choose to give themselves a country.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my colleague on his accurate interpretation of the throne speech.

He looked at the speech from a Quebec perspective, naturally, and I think all Quebecers are analyzing much the same way the government opposite's views of provincial jurisdictions and the powers Canada has or is giving itself, since, as we know, Canada now has very considerable financial manoeuvring room.

It has accumulated billions of dollars on the backs of the provinces. With the throne speech, we can see just how the government is going to use this money to overlap provincial jurisdictions and oppose often vital consensus, such as on the Young Offenders Act, parental leave and other matters we will be seeing during the course of the government's term in office.

My question, however, is much more specific, in order to enable the member to answer it and also further enlighten our audience, especially the members here, the government members opposite, so they may make the appropriate representations to the Prime Minister and the leaders of this government.

I recall very clearly, when we arrived here in 1993, the government opposite, in an effort to stymie the sovereignist movement a bit, passed the famous motion—you will no doubt recall it—in which it said it recognized the distinct nature of Quebec society.

My question is very simple and it is for the member who examined the throne speech from Quebec's perspective, from the perspective of everyone in Quebec. Did the government opposite mention or hint at a follow-up to its motion on Quebec's distinct society in this speech? Where in the throne speech do we see that this motion has any value?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, members opposite are wondering why the percentage of voters has gone down significantly. To answer the hon. member's question I would say that perhaps it is because of a certain government and certain politicians who are not following up on their commitments and fulfilling their own promises.

Take, for example, the vote on the notion of distinct society. At the time, that motion was a pledge, a contract of sorts passed with Quebecers by the Liberals, whereby, in any bill or motion, the government would take into account the fact that Quebec is a distinct society. That was the promise made by the Liberals.

Unfortunately—and this did not surprise me—that promise was broken once again. Nowhere in the throne speech is there any mention of Quebec's specificity. Worse still, the government has decided to go against the consensus that exists in Quebec. And then it wonders why people do not bother to vote. People do not bother to vote because of such actions. The federal government promised to treat Quebec as a distinct society but then reneged on its word, on the motion that it passed in the House.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the voter turnout is dropping when promise after promise after promise has been broken by this government.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House as the new member for the riding of Terrebonne—Blainville.

I owe this first term of office to my constituents and I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to thank them most sincerely for their vote of confidence. Ever consistent, they elected a sovereignist member, for whom Quebec is not a francophone minority in the rest of the country. Quebec is my country, my homeland.

My constituents are well aware that I am here to defend their interests and I assure them that I and my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois will be following the federal government closely, knowing as we do how it delights in bringing in legislation that almost always ignores the jurisdiction of Quebec and leads to waste through constant duplication.

The Bloc Quebecois, for whom I am the status of women critic, will be on the lookout and will firmly condemn any failure to respect the interests and values of the Quebec people.

Tuesday, in the Speech from the Throne, Her Excellency the Governor General, the Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, mentioned that the government's goal, and I quote, is to “secure a higher quality of life for all Canadians”.

As a woman and as the Bloc Quebecois's status of women critic, I wish to draw the attention of the House to the concerns expressed by the thousands of women who took part in the World March of Women, absolutely none of which are addressed in the throne speech. These women came to speak to us about poverty. They even suggested solutions, none of which have been acted on.

In my opinion, and it is one shared by national, provincial and community organizations, the government has not taken any real initiative to combat poverty. In my opinion, much more needs to be done.

Ten years or so ago, when one in seven children was living in poverty, a resolution was passed unanimously in the House to “seek to achieve the goal of eliminating poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000.” Yet in the year 2001, one child in five is still living in poverty in Canada, or approximately 400,000 more than in 1989.

The researchers and specialists who have studied this agree that poverty is the outcome of a number of unresolved problems relating to living conditions, and that poverty remains an essentially female phenomenon. Did the Minister of Finance, himself not tells us last September 27 that:

Today we have come to realize that poverty is not merely a matter of lack of income or even of knowledge. It is much more fundamentally the outcome of exclusion, insecurity and social and human inequality.

Yet, unfortunately, in his minibudget of last November he neglected to deal with this.

This prompts me to draw to the attention of the hon. members certain programs which, in my opinion, ought to take the following facts into account. More than 70% of part time jobs are held by women, and this blocks them from full access to employment insurance. What is more, the legitimate desire of women to combine child-rearing with the equally legitimate desire to create their own jobs through self-employment also denies them access to employment insurance, at least as it now stands. Let us keep in mind that those who do not contribute to employment insurance are not entitled to it. This means they are also not entitled to other compensations available to full time workers.

Therefore, women must have access to full time jobs, quality jobs, that are better paid and based on equity. In Canada, women are entitled to economic equality.

In addition, elements of other programs must also be significantly improved, including parental leave. Notwithstanding the extension of this leave, the program provides only 55% of the employee's salary over a maximum of 50 weeks. And so it has the opposite of the effect intended, that is, the parent receives only about half of his or her usual annual salary and this is a form of impoverishment.

In the context of its family policy, the Government of Quebec is calling for the transfer of the amounts Quebecers pay so it can set up its own parental leave program, which would be both a lot more generous and universal. Workers without any exception would be entitled to it, even those who are self employed, and without any waiting period.

Third, proper social housing has been completely ignored. Do we need to point out that the Liberal government has not invested a single cent since 1994 in new social housing starts. In a pinch, some of the money in the employment insurance fund surplus could have been transferred to the provinces so they could attend to regional needs for renovations to existing housing.

Poverty is also about single women and senior women, around 42% of whom live in poverty. The Bloc Quebecois has long been calling for an increase in old age security payments for these women. It is about immigrant women, native women and disabled women who are isolated and excluded. In short, all these women, through their contribution to their community, have contributed or are still contributing to the economic, political and social life of Canada.

Poverty is also about all the men and women who care for others, either at home or in community organizations and who have been hard hit by the cuts to social programs. It is about all these people who feel forgotten and abandoned by the Liberal government.

I could give many other arguments for improving the living conditions of Quebecers and Canadians, all of which require that we first improve the living conditions of women. I would merely be echoing the demands of the thousands of women who took part in the World March of Women.

In conclusion, I wish to emphasize that, although women have made common cause around legitimate and shared concerns, they realize that those concerns do not impact on all of them equally. In their respective provinces and regions, they warned that justice, mutual assistance and social solidarity must take precedence over any partisanship.

The women of Quebec, like the women in Canada's other provinces and territories, are entitled to expect a genuine plan of action to address the ever-increasing poverty afflicting families, women and their children.

I want these families, these women and their children, to know that I will proudly carry the flame representing their hopes and that I will defend, with every fibre of my being, the fundamental right of the full citizens of Quebec and of Canada.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to congratulate the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville on her election. The Bloc Quebecois is very pleased to have such an energetic woman in its ranks. My colleague will undoubtedly know how to protect Quebec's interests, as the Bloc Quebecois has been doing since 1993. Her constituents have made an excellent choice.

I want to raise a more specific issue that relates to the throne speech. We just had an election campaign and the hon. member probably heard the same things I did. Women are currently the victims of several injustices in the federal system and this is what I want to discuss.

The hon. member talked about parental leave. In Quebec, such benefits are much more generous and universal. We should get the money from the federal government and have a single program that would be even more beneficial. But there is the whole issue of employment insurance, an area where women are often penalized. Currently, even pregnant women are adversely affected. If a woman is covered by the CSST's preventative withdrawal from work, her weeks are not calculated to determine her benefits. The system is not geared to deal with the situation of these women.

There is also the fact that the family allowance program is obsolete. Shared custody is increasingly common and women must often fight to get the cheques. The system has not been adjusted.

Then there is the POWA program for those who lose their job when they are close to retirement. The federal government gives these people access to POWA, but when they reach age 65 and are entitled to old age benefits, the moneys paid during the previous year are taken into account. This means that these people are penalized for at least two years because of the income supplement. It is often women who are affected.

I am sure that the hon. member has heard about these problems. So has the Prime Minister. Upon reading the Speech from the Throne and from what she has heard, did the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville come to the conclusion that the government has understood the demands that have been made, including through the World March of Women? Has the government understood the demands made by women during the election campaign and in recent years? Has the government opposite understood the needs of these women?

Is there hope, with the throne speech, that women's urgent needs will be met once and for all? Poverty affects everyone, particularly women.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, the throne speech really has nothing to say in this regard.

I acknowledge that certain actions were taken after the March of Women. In Quebec, however, women are not satisfied. They have this in common with the women in the rest of Canada. There was a Canadian chapter at the World March of Women, with demands by the women of Canada and by the women of Quebec.

Each of these two groups reached agreement on certain general demands that were not heeded. Even when emissaries from the March met with Mr. Chrétien, they reported that they were offended. They were shunted aside after barely more than an hour with him. They knew they had not been listened to. The throne speech speaks clearly with its silence on this issue: there is no mention of what women want.

The women of Quebec are greatly offended by this, in part because they are very much aware that we in Quebec need all of our money to be able to function. They are very much aware of the fact that Ottawa is holding back sums of money, supposedly for redistribution, but that redistribution is not happening. The money is not going to Quebec and so they do not have access to it. Yet they are entitled to it and I hope that they will finally be listened to.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders


The Deputy Speaker

If I may make a comment, I hesitated to interrupt the hon. member, particularly in her maiden speech.

I would remind her that in the House ministers must always be referred to by their duties and responsibilities, and not simply by their surnames.

I congratulate the hon. member on her maiden speech.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders



Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot. This is an opportunity for me to address issues of concern to the residents of Oak Ridges, to my colleagues in the House and indeed to all Canadians. First and foremost, I welcome back my colleagues from the previous parliament and welcome the new members.

Elections by their very nature can be extremely partisan experiences, but when we enter the Chamber we come here for a common purpose: to work on behalf of all Canadians for the public good. I hope that in this session of parliament we will become better listeners and that we will try to strive together to deal with issues that are of concern to Canadians at large. It takes time to learn the procedures, practices and protocols of the House. Indeed every day is a learning experience. I wish all new members a very speedy learning curve.

The responsibility placed on all of us, by our constituents in our individual ridings and as a whole across Canada, is very awesome. Over the course of this parliament we will shape the very future of the country. I certainly would not be here today if it were not for the confidence again placed in me by the residents of the riding of Oak Ridges. I thank each and every one of them for their support and reassure them that I will dedicate my efforts to working on their behalf every day in the House.

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Speaker. There is no question about your vast experience and I look forward to fair rulings and orderly procedures. I must say that you have already started off very well today. I congratulate you.

I will focus on two key areas that I believe are important not only to me personally but to the residents of my riding. Today I will be dealing with the issues of urban centres and the conservation of Canada's natural spaces. My comments will focus on the issue of partnerships, which again I believe the Speech from the Throne addresses very well.

The roles that cities and towns and our local governments play in contributing to the quality of life of Canadians has been recognized in the Speech from the Throne. They are vital roles, impacting on everyday life, from water and waste water services, garbage collection and parks and recreation services to local roads, bridges and public transit.

Our cities are tasked with providing services that are essential to everyday life and they do so under great jurisdictional regulations. Every day our cities search for practical ways and means to meet the increasing demands on their financial resources.

For example, in Ontario the scope of provincial control over municipal governments remains largely unfettered. Municipal responsibilities can be altered by votes of the provincial legislature, although it was heartening to read that the premier of Ontario just indicated that he would like to see a more activist role by the Government of Canada in assisting with a number of key issues facing people who live in the cities, towns and villages of the province of Ontario.

In my own riding the municipal governments are faced with particular challenges, including homelessness, affordable housing, public transit, air pollution, and potential development of large tracts of land of the Oak Ridges Moraine.

The greater Toronto area federal caucus of the Liberal Party has been very active in articulating these issues over the past few years. I am very pleased that the Speech from the Throne addresses issues such as housing and the need to work with all orders of government in improving public transit and in dealing with environmental concerns, both in the greater Toronto area and across the country.

The Speech from the Throne also deals with the issue of improving municipal water and waste water systems through the federal-provincial-municipal infrastructure Canada program. I am very proud to say that in 1994 the government launched the first Canada works infrastructure program and renewed it in 1997. The fact that we are going forward again indicates that there is a very constructive and very positive role for the federal government to play, not only with the provinces and territories but with cities across the country. That is extremely important.

It is also important to note that the federal government in launching the national infrastructure program has recognized issues such as the need to improve public transit, water systems and waste management systems across Canada. It is providing dollars for that in conjunction with not only our provincial, territorial and municipal partners but also by encouraging and involving the private sector.

Close to home, one of the issues dealing with the environment which is very important to residents in my community is the issue of development on the Oak Ridges Moraine. Nothing would please me more than to see development on that moraine curtailed to conserve this unique part of the Canadian landscape, the rain barrel of southern Ontario. In the past I certainly have favoured, and I continue to favour, a commission similar to the Niagara Escarpment Commission to ensure that the moraine is well looked after.

The moraine is a 160 kilometre ridge of sand and gravel that runs from the Niagara escarpment to Cobourg. It contains the headwaters of at least three major rivers: the Humber, the Don and the Rouge.

Conserving the natural spaces of the moraine and developing a greenbelt around the greater Toronto area would enhance the quality of life for people who live in an area with a population of about 4.5 million. With increasing urban pressures and mounting pollution problems, it could play a number of roles. It could be a place to go hiking or to ride a bike or a horse. It could be a protected area in which to preserve species at risk.

The Speech from the Throne addresses the point that we will be reintroducing the very important species at risk legislation. On the moraine there are 17 identified species at risk. Whether they be plants or animals, this is very important legislation which I hope will be embraced by all members of the House to protect those habitats and to safeguard the quality of water for the people of southern Ontario and the many others who draw their drinking water from the wells.

Many groups and individuals made a large and sincere effort to preserve this important physical feature. I commend the nine conservation authorities which have united as the Conservation Authorities Moraine Coalition to advocate for and protect the Oak Ridges Moraine along its entire length. Together the authorities own about 5% of the moraine and will work to preserve the integrity of the moraine.

There is a role for the federal government to play and I will continue to urge it to do so. Although the best approach is to permit local solutions to local problems and challenges, each order of government can and should be playing a very constructive role in this effort.

Issues also addressed in the Speech from the Throne that are of concern to my constituents include, interestingly enough, the issue of the agricultural sector. Although I have a very urban riding I do have some farmland and very active farms. The comment that we will move beyond crisis management in the farming sector is an important one because we are at a disadvantage when dealing with our American counterparts and the Europeans, particularly in the oilseed and grain areas. Others have applied subsidies that obviously have affected the farming sector very negatively.

The greater Toronto area federal caucus was involved in promoting the family farm last March. I was very pleased that my colleagues were involved in that promotion, recognizing that although we come from a predominantly urban area we cannot survive without the support of strong farms.

Issues that have been raised by my constituents include health care, taxes and debt reduction. The government's announcement last September of $21 billion for health care was very welcome in our rapidly growing area.

We are here to improve Canada for the betterment of all Canadians. It is certainly my hope that we will be able to secure a strong, united Canada with opportunities and security for all in the future.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague, who is from a riding in Ontario and with whom I have worked on a number of occasions.

However, as a Quebecer and a member of the Bloc Quebecois, I noted, as did other colleagues, that in the Speech from the Throne there is no reference or consideration given to the motion on a distinct society, something he in fact voted for, I believe.

How does he interpret this neglect of a great promise, since it followed the 1997 election and was considered very important at the time? I would like to know what he himself thinks about a distinct society, because he concluded his remarks with the words “a strong, united Canada”. It is all very well to have a united Canada, but when the party in government forgets its own resolution on a distinct society for Quebec, which it introduced into the House, I would like an explanation.

I know he will agree to that, and will answer my question directly drawing on his personal opinions.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I have enjoyed the opportunity of working with the member on a number of occasions and have always found him to be a very forthright and honest individual, particularly when it comes to his convictions.

As far as the issue of distinct society is concerned, the government certainly has indicated that wherever they are in Canada residents are part of a greater good. The government has worked extremely well in embracing that.

The country was created in spite of geography and in spite of history. We have managed to create one of the best societies in history. The fact that we have been recognized continually by the United Nations as the best place to live, along with the fact that people continually want to immigrate here, would indicate that this is a country of opportunity.

I support the view of distinct society. Quebec is a distinct society, although one might argue that British Columbia or Newfoundland are distinct societies. Within the cultural and linguistic roles that we see in Quebec, I would definitely concur.

The government has taken very constructive steps over the years. There is the fact that we have official bilingualism in Canada. Anyone in the country can obtain services in either French or English from the federal government. I think that is an important recognition.

There is the fact that Quebec participates in international conferences with federal representatives. There is the fact that there have been more federal-provincial conferences. As a student of history, Mr. Speaker, you may know that the first federal-provincial conference was developed by Sir Wilfrid Laurier. He listened to our provincial counterparts.

I intend to rededicate myself this term to working with my colleagues, particularly those from Quebec. As a former president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities I have had the great pleasure of working with many mayors and councillors in Quebec. I have learned a lot about their concerns and their issues, which are often not much different from ours.

The fact is that people want a strong economy. People want to be recognized for their individual worth and they want respect, and we are working to ensure all of those things.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague commented on the situation of the United States subsidizing its farming industry and as a result making it tough on farmers in Canada. From my perspective, it leaves the government open to blaming the guys down south.

Will the member acknowledge that the Government of Canada can address that issue? Under the trade agreement the government is allowed to improve the conditions and support farmers in Canada but it is failing to do so. Is the government willing to allow family farms in Canada to just go by the wayside because it does not want to support them? Is it willing to allow the U.S. to do it but not willing to support farms in Canada?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne talks about moving beyond crisis management. We talked about partnerships. Quebec is an excellent example of having a very important farm support income program. The federal minister has written his counterpart in the province of Ontario but has yet to receive a response in terms of specific proposals because in the 60:40 cost sharing that we talked about, it is important that the province has a role to play and that it comes to the plate.

The government has certainly taken appropriate steps but there is more that needs to be done. It is not a question of blaming the Americans or the Europeans. It is a fact of life that it is an unequal playing field and we should not have a situation where that occurs. We will have to address it and may have to be more aggressive in the future. I have and will continue to raise those issues with the hon. minister of agriculture.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, what an opportunity was lost yesterday. I came into the House and sat through the entire speech by the Leader of the Opposition. I did so because I was anxious to hear whether there were really any new ideas that the opposition might be considering approaching in this new parliament.

When I say new ideas, I am talking about the kind of things that we hear from our constituents that we know are major problems, that the government perhaps has been slow or reluctant to act upon and that we as backbench MPs might like to press the government to act upon, and certainly that we might like the opposition to put the government's feet to the fire on important issues affecting the nation. I was disappointed.

I heard 54 uses of the word empowerment as a noun, an adjective or a participle. It takes about a minute to say empowerment 54 times, but other than that there was very little of substance that I, as someone who likes to think of myself as someone who is always trying to find new approaches to the issues of the day, could not find very much. In fact, it was the opposite.

The Leader of the Opposition stated in his speech that charities needed more financial support from the federal government and not federal invasiveness.

The Leader of the Opposition is going entirely in the wrong direction in that statement. He obviously little realizes that the charitable sector, the not for profit sector, is one of the most important economic sectors in the land. It is a sector, Mr. Speaker, I should tell you, that runs almost completely without regulation, without legislation, without transparency and without accountability.

I will give some figures. There are 178,000 non-profit organizations in the country of which 78,000 are charities. Of those 78,000 charities, they receive more than $90 billion in revenue a year. They employ 1.3 million Canadians. That is 9% of the entire workforce in the country. Yet there is not a regime that demands of those organizations the same kinds of standards of corporate governance or standards of transparency and accountability that we expect of the private sector.

The Leader of the Opposition really should reconsider what he said because what is wrong with the charitable sector is that for too long it has operated without government involvement. The consequence, as every Canadian knows, is that we have everything in the charitable sector, from scam charities using telemarketers to charities involved in financing ethnic conflicts abroad, but most of all, we have very expensive charities using the taxpayer dollars but not using them effectively.

For example, half of the $90 billion is used by charities that are either hospitals or teaching institutions. That is $45 billion. Yet we do not see the kind of transparency that we need to know that the money has been spent on our health care system in effective and efficient ways.

One might ask how I would know that. I can give an excellent example of the Hamilton Health Sciences Corporation in my riding, which is a very large teaching hospital. In 1996 it fired its chief executive officer and gave her a golden handshake of $818,000. This year the Hamilton Health Sciences Corporation has fired another chief executive officer and the institution has given that chief executive officer a $500,000 golden handshake.

What the institution has now done is it has hired a new chief executive officer from the Vancouver Hospital & Health Services Centre. That person was fired in October with a $540,000 golden handshake and was hired by the Hamilton Health Sciences Corporation for $346,000. That is $1.8 million in golden handshakes alone between these two institutions. How many beds will that buy? How many nurses can be paid out of $1.8 million? How many research scientists would like to have that kind of money? If those are only two hospitals, what is occurring across the country?

Mr. Speaker, I think you would find that politicians in this room can cite examples of where there is a lack of transparency and lack of proper management standards in the hospital and medical institutions within their own ridings.

It is very typical that the boards of directors have no guarantee that their chief executive officers will even report properly to them. The reason is that charities and non-profit organizations are not governed by the Canada Corporations Act. The only thing the Canada Corporations Act states is that charities and non-profit organizations will subscribe to guidelines of transparency and corporate governance but not to actual requirements, as are required of for profit corporations.

This goes on. If we extend the envelope and look at all the other charities and non-profit organizations out there, the 100,000 non-profit organizations, there is no public accountability whatsoever. We cannot obtain their financial statements or be guaranteed that their financial statements have the signature of government to say that they are indeed honest and complete. These organizations do not have shareholders, so they can report what they want.

The unfortunate thing about this is that I have been on this problem since 1996. I prepared a report in which I examined the financial information returns of some 500 charities. I found all kinds of problems. In my report I recommended the government bring down legislation to actually define what a charity is, to set standards of corporate governance and so on.

I paid the price for that report. In the 1997 election I was the most attacked backbench MP by third party advertising. The charitable institutions took out full page ads during the election against me. The headlines read “Do you have no sense of decency, Mr. Bryden?” They had radio jingles depicting me as someone who obviously wanted to destroy the charitable sector: I wanted to destroy the charitable sector because I wanted to see transparency and accountability. Does that figure? That is why I say what an opportunity was lost.

When a backbench MP gets an initiative, he would like to think that he can get the support from his opposition colleagues; but, no, what I hear from the Leader of the Opposition is that he takes the side of these charitable institutions that are pressuring government to reform in some ways but not have mandatory reporting requirements.

The Leader of the Opposition alluded to the Prime Minister's task force on the voluntary sector. That report was released just last year. It is true that as a result of the reports that I did there was a response both in the voluntary sector and here in government. That response was to do a study of the problem.

I do not doubt that some legislative changes or some changes will be coming in this mandate. I am terrified that the enormous lobby that is represented by the not for profit sector will persuade the government to set voluntary standards for transparency and voluntary standards for corporate governance.

I am hoping against hope that I can put pressure as a backbench MP on the government to really force this important sector of the economy, the $90 billion sector of the economy, to be properly accountable.

I would hope that I would have the support of the opposition when we move forward in that direction. However, I do realize that often the initiatives of the backbench are really the initiatives of the backbench on one side of the House. They can be guaranteed of no support from the other side. I will press forward and I am sure that one way or another we will get the reforms that we need.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. I congratulate you on occupying the chair. I saw you operate there several years ago and you did a good job then. I welcome you back to the House. It is a pleasure to be back with you.

I will divide my speech into three parts: first, the Maclean's annual poll about what Canadians value; second, leadership for Canada; and third, the foundation upon which leadership of the country should be based. Maclean's poll is conducted annually by Allan Gregg. This has been done for 25 years. This year's poll indicates a shift. It used to be that economic issues like a balanced budget, paying down the debt and lower taxes were the primary issues bothering Canadians.

However that has now shifted. Social issues have become primary: health care, reorienting our educational system, grappling with homelessness and caring for our elderly in terms of health, home care, pensions, and the ability to provide food, shelter and clothing.

Canadians say that the role of government is central to our ability to develop a fair society which will deal with these issues. However there is no consensus on what are the solutions or what the specific role of government ought to be in dealing with these issues.

That draws us to the inevitable conclusion that to develop consensus in these areas requires that government take a leadership role. That leadership falls squarely on the shoulders of the Prime Minister and upon each member of the House, simply because people believe government should have a central role in this issue.

What is the context in which these things have been brought forward? Allan Gregg, who has conducted these polls over the past 25 years, concluded that there was a pattern of change in values over time. He said:

Our minds are better, but our institutions and our hearts perhaps aren't. We don't have the same kind of ethical and moral standards or health care system—these sorts of things are on the decline.

That is pretty significant. That same poll, conducted for the year 2000-01, found that 50% of Canadians want Canada to be governed according to Christian principles. I was drawn to that finding by the last sentence in the Speech from the Throne which reads:

May Divine Providence guide you in your deliberations.

Divine Providence, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, is God. That sentence reminded me of the findings of the poll conducted by Mr. Gregg for Maclean's magazine.

What do Christian principles actually mean? I suggest among other things that it means there is a natural law, a single objective universal order. All laws, physical and moral, are subject to it. Physical and moral laws are seen as different because moral laws are obeyed by choice while physical laws operate independent of choice.

For example, stones fall and planets move in their orbits without choice, but men and women engage in moral behaviour by choice. While a stone cannot defy the law of gravity, man has a choice and may rebel against moral and ethical laws. That choice, however, does not do away with the reality of a single objective universal order covering both physical and moral laws.

To defy the law of gravity is to invite the consequences of such defiance. To defy the moral law of treating others as we would have them treat us is to invite the consequences of that defiance.

The inevitable consequence for people who defy the law of treating our neighbours as we would ourselves by engaging in such activities as racism, tyranny, bullying and fighting, is to destroy harmonious relationships between people as surely as walking off the roof results in physical injury to the body.

Despite the inevitable consequences of breaking moral laws, some people believe they are based on values that are subjective and relative only to the individual and therefore do not have to be obeyed in the same way as physical laws.

Why are moral laws so important? They are important because they form the basis of creating just laws, which in turn are the basis of a fair and just society. They require the pursuit of virtue.

Virtue is defined as moral excellence, uprightness and goodness. It consists of a clear understanding of right and wrong. It is personal. It comprises the full range of habits and dispositions that constitute good character among persons who are just, courageous, patient, kind, loyal, loving, persistent and devoted to duty. A virtuous society can be created only by virtuous people whose individual consciences guard their behaviour and hold them accountable.

We do not produce a virtuous society by allowing everyone to do what they want. People must adhere to a common set of values. If they do not, chaos will result, crime will increase, authority will be disrespected, and the people will become incapable of governing themselves.

At such a time conditions are ripe for tyranny. In a tyrannical regime, order is created by coercion and fear. There is no individual freedom in such a society. Neither is there any semblance of personal responsibility for acting appropriately.

I quote Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcy in their most recent book. They write as follows:

Virtue is essential for freedom. People who cannot restrain their own baser instincts, who cannot treat one another civilly, are not capable of self-government. Without virtue, a society can be ruled only by fear, a truth that tyrants understand all too well.

Michael Novak, who won the Templeton Prize for religion, agrees and observes that:

Our people are losing virtue and that is why we are losing self-government. And if we cannot govern ourselves, then we invite others to govern us.

This observation applies to Canada today. The United Nations conventions, for example, have more influence on supreme court decisions about moral and ethical issues than do the laws passed in the House of Commons because parliament has not indicated the intention of those laws.

We parliamentarians should do our duty. It is our duty to legislate responsibly, and in particular:

Questions of morality and social policy should not be the exclusive preserve of a constitutional court, but should be debated and acted upon by those who represent us in Parliament...Our political leaders deserve opprobrium for sloughing it off.

That was the National Post editorial of January 29, 2001. I would ask the Prime Minister if he agrees. If so, why would he not give some indication of this in his speech, particularly as there are several references to law and order?

I believe he does, or did the Governor General include the last sentence of the Speech from the Throne without his knowledge or permission? It states:

May Divine Providence guide you in your deliberations.

These remarks were addressed to the House of Commons, members of parliament and the Senate.

It is my hope and my prayer that the Prime Minister and all members of the House will recognize that there is Divine Providence, God, whose law must be obeyed, and that to have peace and harmony in our society we must do so.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I begin by congratulating you. I know you will do a tremendous job in the chair as you always have done in the past in other venues. I wish you the very best.

I listened with interest to the member opposite in terms of things moral and otherwise. Could he comment on the morality of people saying that they will never be part of a pension plan, that they will never be part of dipping into what they consider to be a gold plated pension? It strikes me that members on that side of the House even went so far as to make pig noises in this hallowed place.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

They wore pig buttons.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

They wore pig buttons. That is correct. They went on to have pink pigs out on the front lawn of the House of Commons. Now we see this interesting twist of fate, with members from the reform alliance, those holier than thou people, getting up and saying they want to buy back in.

For example, the high priestess of principle, the member for Edmonton North, and others who said with great principled statements and morals up to the teeth that they would never be part of this, are now part of it. I wonder about the morality of that and I wonder if the member could comment on that.

I also wonder about the morality of people who make strong public statements about the wise us of tax dollars, the morality of spending tax money wisely, while the leader of Her Majesty's loyal opposition bellies up to the trough and asks Alberta taxpayers for $800,000 when it could have been settled long before that amount of money was spent.

I want to hear from the member opposite about the morality of bellying up to the trough for pension money, having stated categorically they never would. I want to hear why his leader asks Alberta taxpayers for $800,000 to pay a lawsuit he could have settled for about $60,000. Where is the morality in that? I want to hear the hon. member's response to that.