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House of Commons Hansard #20 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.

Topics

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

Noon

The Speaker

I think the hon. member for Calgary Southeast, with his extensive experience, knows that he is engaging in a debate and not really raising a point of order.

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendment Act, 2001Routine Proceedings

Noon

Willowdale Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Liberalfor the Minister of Finance

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-13, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

Noon

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

Noon

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

Noon

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-9, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2001 / 12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to speak to Bill C-9, the Liberal government's proposed changes to the Canada Elections Act.

The purpose of Bill C-9 is to amend the Canada Elections Act which became law on September 1, 2000. The Liberals passed the bill only a few months ago, but we are correcting their mistakes.

We are doing the work today that we asked them to do in the 36th parliament. We do not mind helping them again to do their homework, but we are disappointed that Canadians did not choose to send us to Ottawa to do our work, because we would have done our work right the first time.

Bill C-9 will overturn the current law that requires a party to have at least 50 candidates before it can be identified as a political party on the election ballot. The Liberals will now require parties to possess 12 candidates in order to be recognized as political parties and be entitled to certain benefits and privileges.

Only registered parties are eligible to obtain the final list of electors, to obtain free broadcast time for political announcements and to issue tax receipts to donors on behalf of the party. Only registered parties are entitled to such benefits and privileges.

Canada's chief electoral officer confirms the number of candidates. The 12 candidate minimum conforms to the requirement that a party have at least 12 members of parliament to receive official status in the House of Commons, as the fifth party has.

Let me explain how the Liberals arrived at the magic number of 12. The Liberals are trying to make it as hard as possible for any political group to challenge them at the ballot box. In their twisted logic they have figured out that they would be too ashamed and embarrassed to make the required number of seats any higher than the number of seats required by the House for a party to qualify to be recognized as a political party.

I am sure that members will remember that in the last parliament the Liberals originally set the bar high at 50. It is a lot more difficult to field 50 candidates in an election than 12 or so. The Liberals like the number 50. They were crushing a number of parties and preventing them from qualifying for certain privileges and benefits. They have been forced to lower the bar and to allow smaller parties to have a greater level of participation in our democracy.

In the last parliament the Liberals kept the bar high at 50 candidates for what they knew would be the last time. In the most recent election the Liberals could put in a fix by denying parties with less than 50 candidates from being major political parties in Canada.

Before the Liberals passed the previous Canada Elections Act during the last parliament, the official opposition warned the Liberal government that the 50 candidate rule should be dropped. We told them upfront, but who listens on the other side? I spoke to that bill in various debates in the last parliament.

We had the approval of most of Canada's smaller political parties for the proposal, but the Liberals did not listen at that time. It appears perhaps that they are listening now.

Even so, parties with 12 candidates will be allowed to have their party's name on ballots but will still not be able, as will parties with 50 candidates, to provide donors with tax receipts, to access the list of electors or to obtain free broadcasting time on TV.

Those three things are crucial for a political party to be able campaign and to have its message communicated across the country. Those three things are very important, and parties with 12 members will not be entitled to such privileges.

With Bill C-9, the bill we are debating today, the government would create two tiers of political parties with different sets of privileges. On one hand, registered political parties with 50 or more candidates would possess all possible benefits. On the other hand, political parties with less than 50 candidates would possess few benefits other than having their name on the ballot if they have at least 12 candidates.

Bill C-9 continues to discriminate against smaller parties. It is not only undemocratic, it is anti-democratic as well. The Canada Elections Act should be neutral and should treat everyone equally and fairly. Canadian voters, not the government, should decide whether a political party or candidate is worthy of their vote. It should not be up to the government to decide, it should be up to Canadians.

The Liberals are trying to pass the legislation because a court case has necessitated changes to the Canada Elections Act. As the House will recall, in my speech in the last parliament I warned the House of possible legal action. I told the Liberals that they were exposing the Canada Elections Act to a legal tussle, and now here it is. If they had listened at the time this probably would not have happened.

The Ontario Court of Appeal decided the case in August 2000. The court decided that the Canada Elections Act provisions concerning the identification of political parties on election ballots was invalid. The court said that the provisions were invalid and suspended its decision for six months, until February 16, 2001, so that parliament could address the court's decision.

If this had been done right the first time we would not be doing it again. We could be spending the valuable time of the House, as well as of the court, on something more important.

Bill C-9 also clarifies the calculations of the electoral expenses limit. If the revised list of electors differs from the original list, the candidate's expenses will be adjusted accordingly.

The reimbursement of election expenses is also covered in the bill. Under section 435 of Bill C-2, which was a bill in the previous parliament, only registered parties, and not the small parties we must define today, will be reimbursed for election expenses providing they obtain either 2% of the national vote or 5% of the votes in the ridings in which they endorse candidates. Those are two conditions parties must satisfy before they get any reimbursement for election expenses.

Bill C-9 does not amend the reimbursement of election expenses provision that was in Bill C-2 in the last parliament. Therefore this section will be discriminatory against smaller parties.

Again I am standing in the House and warning the government. It should get its act together and correct these mistakes so that the Canada Elections Act is neutral, fair and treats everyone equally.

The Canadian Alliance, and my colleagues on this side, proposed election rebates. We do not believe it is fair that only registered parties, and not the smaller political parties, are eligible for these benefits.

Another important point in the bill is the fundraising activities. If Bill C-9 is not amended, as we are asking, it will be difficult for the smaller parties to engage in fundraising activities.

Bill C-9 does not make amendments to the income tax provisions of Bill C-2 which was debated in the House and passed in the last parliament. The provisions are discriminatory. Receipts can be issued on behalf of registered parties during and in between elections. Whereas, candidates of non-registered political parties, the ones we talked about earlier, can only issue receipts during the writ period. How can they prepare themselves to have their messages conveyed to Canadians when they do not have enough resources? They are not permitted have fundraisers between elections.

During those 36 or 37 days they can receive funds and issue tax receipts to donors. Other than the writ period, they are not entitled to raise any funds or issue tax receipts. When tax receipts are not issued, it is very difficult to get money donated from someone to a political party or a political cause. That is very unfair.

I will move on to another point about asset liquidation. Under clause 394 of the former bill, Bill C-2, with respect to registered parties which failed to run 50 candidates, they become suspended and the assets of a suspended party need not be liquidated if the party applies for re-registration within six months. However, if they do not apply within those six months then they are suspended. Bill C-9 does not amend this very important provision. The Canadian Alliance does not believe that a party should have to liquidate its assets under any circumstances, which is exactly what the Ontario Court of Appeal decided.

The Liberal government may be facing another court challenge over this if this clause is not amended. We are telling the Liberal government what to do about this bill to avoid any potential lawsuits. Whether or not it listens to us is another story.

The voting process is another issue. Among other technical matters, Bill C-9 also stipulates that if the chief electoral officer wishes to examine alternative voting processes, such as electronic voting, the alternative cannot be used without the approval of the House of Commons and Senate committees. Why does the chief electoral officer, who is supposed to monitor elections in Canada, have to get permission for electoral alternative electronic voting, for example, or other alternative methods to make the process efficient and effective?

There are some other changes in the bill but most of them are housekeeping changes. Under the current legislation, only the approval of the House of Commons committee is required. This sounds to me like a way to prevent change, but I will reserve my comments and allow the committee that will hear this bill, and many witnesses over time, to decide what this section really means.

I look forward in seeing how the committee proceeds. I look forward to seeing whether it will give a fair chance to witnesses to come forward and whether or not its recommendations will be taken into consideration. The amendments to the former Bill C-2, which were discussed in the committee, were ignored.

Let me talk about the relationship of Bill C-9 to Canadian Alliance policy. Canadian Alliance policy states:

To improve the representative nature of our electoral system, we will consider electoral reforms, including proportional representation, the single transferable ballot, electronic voting, and fixed election dates, and we will submit such options to voters in a nationwide referendum.

The government House leader is in charge of the bill. He was in charge of the last bill during the last session and did a very bad job. I apologize for making this comment, but all the good amendments which we proposed and those which were discussed in committee were not taken into consideration. Even when the red light was flashing signalling a warning that there might be some court actions, the House leader ignored it. Now, the House leader is heckling me on this.

While the bill does abandon the 50 candidate rule, it does not go far enough to democratize our electoral process. We believe all parties should be treated equally and fairly, not merely those with 50 or more candidates. All political parties should be treated fairly and equally. That is called real democracy.

The Canada Elections Act is a mess. Not only are the Liberals not learning fast enough, I do not know if they are learning at all. They do not have the political will to make a fair and level playing field for all political parties to contest an election.

The level playing field is very important. Equal opportunity for all political parties is very important but it is not there. The Liberals not only have it in the back of their minds but they also have it in the front of their minds to have an elections act that will benefit the governing party, which in this case is the Liberal Party. That is why they did not listen to the Alliance amendments in the last parliament and will try to ignore our amendments once again.

The bill maintains the most objectionable provisions of the Canada Elections Act. Our elections should be democratic, free and fair, offering equal opportunity to all candidates and all political parties. This would be a great way to start a new session of parliament.

The weak, arrogant and corrupt Liberal government that lacks vision is wasting an opportunity to modernize and democratize the patronage ridden Canada Elections Act. It has this opportunity again. Our election act is even worse than the election acts in developing countries and where this government's representatives go to monitor elections. If our own elections act is a mess, is not democratic, how can we send our representatives to developing countries to monitor their elections? I do not know if we are practising what we are preaching at home.

The members of the official opposition have proposed a number of worthwhile amendments to the bill. We will continue to do that. It is our job, not only to criticize the government, but also to propose amendments, suggest new ways and worthwhile change to open Liberals' eyes. As usual we are holding a flashlight for them but they are closing their eyes. They refuse to look when we shine the light into their intellectual darkness.

The Liberals resist change. That is why they do not want parliamentary reform. That is why they do not want to democratize our electoral system. The more I think about it, I am quite convinced that the Liberals' actions are not just undemocratic, they are anti-democratic. The government is the dictatorship of the 21st century. It is nothing short of a dictatorship when it will not accept amendments that would improve the system.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is the House ready for the question?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I declare the motion carried.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I heard some members on this side of the House say no. I said no. I would suggest to the Speaker that the no was probably not heard because some members were making noise. This should be taken into consideration.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Madam Speaker, these things do happen, and although I believe your ruling was quite correct, there were not five members in the House who stood. We would be quite willing to accept the objections of the opposition if it were willing to agree, by unanimous consent, to defer the vote until Tuesday night.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The recorded division on the motion stands deferred until Tuesday.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Beaches—East York Ontario

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberalfor the Minister of Transport

moved that Bill S-2, an act respecting marine liability, and to validate certain bylaws and regulations, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ovid Jackson Liberal Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and speak to Bill S-2, the marine liability act. It is the reincarnation of Bill S-17 which died on the order paper during the last session of parliament.

The bill introduces for the first time Canadian legislation regarding shipowners' liability for the carriage of passengers and new rules for the apportionment of liability in maritime law. At the same time, it will consolidate existing marine liability regimes, which are currently scattered throughout various statutes, into a single statute.

This important Canadian legislation will modernize the Canada Shipping Act to make sure it concur with the legislation. Some 40 million Canadians travel by sea. There are various oil spillages. Liabilities have resulted all around the world, in Europe, in Canada and in Greece. The act will consolidate and make shipowners responsible. It will take away the fact that in the fine print on tickets and so on they can exempt themselves from looking after their liabilities to Canadians.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I was taken aback a bit by my hon. colleague along the way in that he made quite a succinct speech on an important piece of legislation. Obviously there is a need to adjourn the House for the weekend or something. I am not sure exactly what is happening here.

At the outset of my remarks this afternoon on Bill S-2, the marine liability act. and because I only had 10 minutes to reply to the Speech from the Throne, I will begin by congratulating you, Madam Speaker, on your appointment to the chair; the Speaker on his election; and your colleagues who occupy the chair from time to time. I know it is not an easy task riding herd on this place. I not only congratulate you but will endeavour to support you in as non-partisan a way as possible from time to time when you are called upon to make a tough ruling.

I also wish to thank my supporters as I did in quite a succinct manner during my brief remarks in reply to the throne speech a couple of weeks ago. As all of us know, regardless of what party we represent in the House of Commons, we would not be here without the support, hard work and monetary donations of many individuals back in our respective ridings from coast to coast to coast. In light of that, I assure the people who supported me back home that I indeed greatly appreciate their support.

I have been very fortunate. I have run in four election campaigns dating back to 1988 when I was unsuccessful. People who supported the Reform Party of Canada's principles and policies at the time stepped forward to work hard on the party's behalf and ultimately on my behalf when I became the candidate, which saw me elected with about 56% of the vote. I believe that increased to 66% in 1997 and almost 70% in the latest election in November 2000.

I am always quick to point out that I do not take it as a great affirmation that I am doing such a terrific job that 70% of the people who show up at the polls would mark their ballots for me. I take it as 70% of the people who were looking at the alternatives on election day decided to support in this case the Canadian Alliance's principles and policies first and foremost. They obviously decided to support the leadership of our present leader. The reason I would get those types of numbers is primarily the support and the word of mouth translated throughout the riding of Prince George—Peace River by the people as much as by me.

I thank each and every one. I obviously would not have time to record the hundreds of people who are members of the Canadian Alliance in Prince George—Peace River and all the people who gave so willingly hours of their time to volunteer to make my re-election campaign ultimately successful.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

And now to the bill.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I will get to the bill. The hon. House leader of the government probably has some urgent business back in his riding that he must attend to and would like to see the House adjourn early today, it being Friday afternoon.

I wanted to describe as well, as a lot of my colleagues did when they gave their first speech, the riding that I am so pleased to represent and have represented now for seven years in the House of Commons.

The hon. government House leader might be interested to know that the riding of Prince George—Peace River is the only riding in Canada that actually straddles the Rocky Mountains. It is some 200,000 square kilometres in size. It is the eighth largest riding as far as geographic size is concerned. While it is difficult to get around in a riding so large, and certainly my hon. colleague from Skeena is well aware of the problems that are inherent in that, the reality is that it is enjoyable as well to represent a large rural riding. There are terrific grassroots, hard-working people from one end of the riding to the other.

I am very pleased and honoured, as I have been for the last seven years, to represent the people of Prince George—Peace River not only in the House of Commons, but also try to be a worthy representative of those people when I am out in the real world speaking on their behalf.

Bill S-2, the marine liability act, is a multifaceted bill that will finally legislate protection for Canadians travelling by water in a manner similar to the protection that has existed for decades in the aviation industry. Many Canadians have been waiting a very long time for the House to resolve that issue.

The reason I say that Canadians have been waiting a long time for the MLA is that this is its third incarnation. It has died on the order paper twice, the first time as Bill C-59, the carriage of passengers by water act, and the second time in October of last year. Both times were the as a result of a premature, unnecessary election call by the present Prime Minister. I am hopeful that the Minister of Transport and his government are serious about passing the legislation this time.

When we think about it, marine travel is one of the oldest modes of transportation in the world. One only needs to think of Samuel de Champlain, Eric the Red and Christopher Columbus to realize just how long we have been travelling the high seas. However, it is now the year 2001 and we are without comprehensive laws defining liability for those travelling and working in the shipping industry.

If one has spent any time in Vancouver or elsewhere on the west coast, one will appreciate the incredible volume of cruise ships that travel the Strait of Georgia and the inland waterways toward Alaska. The port of Vancouver alone handled over 800,000 cruise ship passengers just last year. The cruise industry has also grown on the east coast of Canada, with the ports of Halifax, Saint John and Quebec City showing considerable growth in cruise ship traffic.

On both coasts, greater numbers of people are taking to the water on ferries, whale watching ships, fishing boats and pleasure craft. It is hard to believe that these vessels and their millions of passengers operate without a legislative framework defining liability for damage to property, injury, loss of life and the economic and legal consequences of maritime accidents.

It is also hard to believe that the government opposite has allowed the bill, as I said earlier, to die twice on the order paper, leaving a void of liability in one of Canada's busiest modes of transportation. We are fortunate that the void in shipping liability does not extend to the protection of our coastlines and marine environment. We have had for some time legislation establishing civil liability for pollution from ships.

One of the merits of Bill S-2 is that it extracts these laws from the Canada Shipping Act and combines it with other relevant marine liability legislation into a single act.

We do, however, have concerns about whether the wording of the provisions for civil liability accurately reflect the intent of the legislation. The clause in the bill devoted to establishing civil liability for pollution from a ship deals with all types of pollution, yet the clause creating this liability itself speaks only of oil pollution. We believe that this clause requires closer examination to ensure that the marine environment is adequately protected from all sources of pollution.

The remaining pieces of legislation that found their way into the marine liability act included the Carriage of Goods by Water Act provisions for the limitation of liability and marine accidents and the Canada Shipping Act provisions for fatal accidents.

In addition to consolidating existing liability laws into a single reference, Bill S-2 also introduces two new liability regimes that are long overdue. I am referring to the rules regarding apportionment of liability and to the rules defining the liability of shipowners for the passengers they carry on their ships.

The introduction of rules for apportioning liability will finally bring the federal court up to speed with developments in the provincial court systems. The provincial courts have had rules regarding apportionment of a liability for years, but because marine claims are considered to be exclusively a federal jurisdiction, claimants and their families have been unable to rely on these rules when suing for compensation for injuries or in the case of the death of a family member.

As a result of this void in federal law, claimants have had to rely on antiquated common law principles. These laws provide that if the defendant can prove that the claimant contributed in any way to his or her injuries, awards would be forfeited. That is a very unjust and unacceptable situation. With the passing of this federal bill, courts will now have the ability to hold each party accountable for their actions. The percentage of liability will correspond with the percentage of fault.

I wish to illustrate this with an example. If a tour boat were to sink as the result of the captain's negligence and all the people on board wearing life jackets survived except the one individual who refused to wear a life jacket, the captain would be liable for the accident but not 100% liable for the loss of life. By refusing to wear the life jacket some liability would be assumed by the passenger and under the existing law he or she would not be entitled to any compensation. Clearly this is unacceptable and we are pleased to see that the government is finally taking steps to correct that situation.

Another new provision of the bill is the introduction of a system for establishing a shipowner's liability for commercial passengers. As I mentioned previously, it is unconscionable that a country which sees in excess of 40 million passengers carried by water each year does not have legislation protecting those passengers. While we are pleased to see the reintroduction of the passenger liability provisions, we do not believe that this protection goes far enough. Put simply, the limits are too low and there is no guarantee that the claimant will ever see the money.

The passenger liability section of the bill caps the maximum amount a shipowner will ever have to pay a claimant at $350,000, regardless of the extent or severity of his or her injuries. This is a result of basing our domestic legislation on an international agreement that has not been updated since 1990. I encourage the government to take the lead internationally on this issue and set limits that would provide real benefit to passengers injured in Canadian waters.

When comparing the amount of compensation available to passengers on ships, it is interesting to note that there is no limit for liability for passengers travelling by air.

Our other concern, and the most significant one, is that there is no requirement for shipowners to provide proof that they can meet their financial commitment to passengers after an accident. I believe this omission seriously undermines the entire premise of the legislation.

I urge the government to act quickly to establish an enforceable regulatory framework for issuing operating certificates and requiring proof compulsory insurance or financial responsibility.

The area of commercial shipping is not the only area of water activity where the government is not doing enough to protect Canadians. The government is very quick to assert its authority over all Canadian waters, including the lakes and rivers of the provinces, but it is very slow to develop policy relating to the use of those waters.

Here I would like to give a personal example. When I was a young man I was fortunate enough to be able to save enough money to purchase a boat for waterskiing. I learned to water ski at quite a young age. It is interesting to note that while I had to insure and license the trailer for the boat there was no requirement, other than a sort of convenience requirement, to register the boat itself.

My understanding is that this continues to this day, that there are a lot of boats for which the province or the federal government requires no registration. It is a matter of convenience. The view is that if the boat owner registers and gets a bow number for the boat, in the event of an accident or misuse of the boat the number would be helpful to the authorities in ascertaining the actual legitimate owner of the boat.

However, in many cases I have found that the new owner of a boat does not actually transfer that number with the registry of shipping for small watercraft. It is never transferred to the new owner. There are probably thousands, if not tens of thousands, of watercraft on our rivers and lakes that have never had their ownership transferred to the new owners. There is no real strong deterrent to force them to do so.

There is no requirement for insurance, none whatsoever, when one operates a small pleasure craft. It astounds me that this situation is allowed to continue.

By way of an example of that, one day we were waterskiing on the lake that is near my hometown of Fort Saint John. As is often the case when slaloming, if people are not used to starting out on one ski they start on two skis and drop one. At some point in time hopefully they can remember where the other ski is and go back and pick it up. On that particular day, we came back after the skier had finished. I was operating my boat. We picked up the ski, threw it up on the bow of the boat and took off. The wind caught the ski, flipped it and quite severely cut a friend of mine. He had to be taken to the hospital and get some stitches.

I was very fortunate that he was a good friend of mine. I was quite young at the time and was not worth a lot of money anyway, so even if he had not been a good friend and had decided to sue me for damages, I do not think he would have got a lot. That is the whole point of the story.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

But is he still your friend?

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

He is still my friend and that is quite remarkable. I thank the hon. government House leader for his interventions. It certainly keeps the debate a bit more lively and keeps me on track.

The point of the story is that today in Canada, with the situation of small pleasure craft not being required to be properly licensed and insured, if someone is injured or is fatally injured and dies, there is no way other than civil litigation in which to sue the owner of the boat for damages if it is proven that he or she was operating the craft in a negligent way. One never knows if that person has any net worth to make it worthwhile suing.

It seems to me that there is something wrong with that. In every other mode of transportation in Canada, there is a requirement that the operator be licensed and insured, either federally or provincially. What is it that makes watercraft so special that they are exempt from these concepts?

I encourage the government to bring in legislation that would grant the provinces the ability to regulate recreational boaters. It is time that we recognized that Sea-Doos should be treated equally to Ski-Doos and that yachts are no different from cars when it comes to responsible and safe operation.

I would be remiss if I did not express that we take exception to the fact that the bill originated in the other place. I note that this is the second time the bill originated in that other place and that during this session the Senate gave first, second and third reading to the bill in a single day. I also note that the bill is not identical to Bill S-17, the previous incarnation that was introduced.

In the previous version of the bill there were provisions in part 1 dealing with the relationship of dependency that could not be defined because the matter was under debate in this House. This is a prime example of why this place is the only place where it is acceptable for legislation to originate and to be debated, amended and voted on.

Had the previous version been introduced in this House, it would have been debated after the debate on dependency had been concluded. This would have ensured that the bill would have been passed correctly the first time and would not have required amendment after the fact, as it were.

I understand the rationale behind utilizing the other place when this House is congested with business, but at the beginning of a session, indeed, at the beginning of a parliament, I do not feel that this is the case.

The fact is that this House is the only one with elected representatives who are accountable to their constituents. The other place lacks the legitimacy, credibility and accountability to serve as the originator of government legislation. Until such time as the other place is true triple E—elected, equal and effective—my colleagues and I will be opposed to its intervention in legislative matters prior to their consideration in this Chamber.

The majority of marine industries affected by this legislation support it, as do the majority of the provinces. The sole exception is Quebec, which believes the bill interferes in provincial jurisdiction.

Earlier in my remarks I addressed the official opposition's concerns with the bill. Although these concerns are serious, it is our intention to support this legislation at second reading.

I am pleased to sum up by saying that we will be supporting this legislation. I look forward to other interventions from my colleagues about this legislation as they point out whatever they feel are the flaws or the attributes of the legislation.

I also look forward to having the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations deal with the legislation. I suspect it will be the first legislation referred to the standing committee once we pass it at second reading. In that light I must relay a concern that I have in regard to the inaugural meeting of the standing committee on transport, which occurred just yesterday.

I need to explain something to the viewing audience, the people out in the real world, because they probably will not be able to make the connection as to why what I am about to relate to them should be of importance to them.

At an inaugural meeting of a standing committee a number of things take place. The clerk takes the chair initially until such time as a chairman is chosen by the committee. I have no dispute with the fine gentleman who spoke just before me and who has been acclaimed as the chairman of the standing committee on transport. Likewise, there are two vice-chair positions and two individuals are elected to fill those roles.

A number of other procedural things take place at the inaugural meeting, one of which is what I want to discuss right now for a few moments. It is the matter of time allocated for questioning witness who appear before the committee. A motion was put forward yesterday at the standing committee for transport which basically suggested that after a witness appears before the committee and makes a presentation, there will be questions—as at all committees—but the time allocated to the parties to question the witnesses will be equal.

In other words, the original motion was that it would start with the Canadian Alliance, the official opposition, for 10 minutes of questioning, then go to the government, the Liberals, for 10 minutes, and then to the other three parties, the Bloc Quebecois, the New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservatives, each for 10 minutes.

If that had been allowed to stand, it is very easy to see that on one front people watching on television might think it is fair, because there are five recognized political parties in the House of Commons and they would all receive 10 minutes to question a witness. I respect the fact that committees are a power unto themselves and they decide, but I think it is important that we relate these types of stories to the Canadian electorate so that it understands what takes place.

The reality is that on any committee on which I have served there was some balance for the representation in the House of Commons. In other words, if the government is a majority and has over 50% of the seats in the House of Commons, legitimately it has a larger number of people serving on the committee, seven or eight members versus three for the Canadian Alliance, a couple for the Bloc Quebecois and one each for the two smaller parties.

There is a fairness aspect. If there are seven or eight members of the Liberal Party sitting on that committee and participating, and they all have to share, as in this case, a 10 minute spot to ask questions, it stands to reason that many of them would not get to ask even one question of a witness on behalf of their constituents. I think that is unfair.

The original motion was defeated. I voiced that objection on the part of both the Liberal government and the Canadian Alliance: that if that motion were allowed to go forward it would be unfair to the parties that have the largest number of people or the largest representation in the House of Commons. It was defeated, whereupon an amendment was put forward and the motion was re-introduced. It basically said that questioning of witnesses would go to the Canadian Alliance, as Her Majesty's loyal official opposition, for 10 minutes, then to the Liberals on the committee for 10 minutes, then to the next party, the Bloc Quebecois, for 10 minutes, and then to the Liberals for 10 minutes, to the New Democrats for 10 minutes and the Liberals for 10 minutes. It would alternate back and forth.

While that solved one problem in the sense of being fair to the Liberal members who sit on the committee, because we would now have a situation where the Liberals, the government, would get half the questioning time of the witnesses who appeared, it was grossly unfair to the official opposition. Anybody who does any math can understand that there are 66 members of the official opposition, whereas the two smaller parties have 12 members and 13 members each. If the Alliance has its full allotment of MPs sitting on that committee, we have three people present to share one 10 minute slot to question someone, whereas the NDP and PCs get a full 10 minutes for one member.

I raised that as a concern, but it did not seem to resonate well with the other four parties, as one can imagine, because of partisanship. The Liberals got what they wanted, and of course the other parties, in particular the two smaller parties, had representation totally out of balance with the representation they have in the House of Commons.

I raised that matter, but we were constrained by time because the bells were ringing for a vote. Even when a standing committee is sitting, a call to come to the Chamber for a vote takes precedence; the committee meeting has to adjourn so that members can attend to the House and their duties here. I respect that fact. It is unfortunate that the debate was cut short on such an important matter.

I have been made aware through the official opposition whip's office that negotiations have been taking place and I appreciate that. Hopefully we can resolve this.

We must ensure that standing committees, as much as possible, operate in a non-partisan manner. I made the comment that it was grossly unfair to the official opposition. It might have been fun for the other four parties to all agree because they can simply raise their hands and vote. Our party has only three members on the committee, and whether we vote for or against is irrelevant. The government can set whatever procedures it wants.

If the Canadian Alliance is to properly represent the millions of Canadians who voted for it and who believe in its principles and policies, then the time its members are allotted to question witnesses should be in equal proportion to the support they have enjoyed.

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1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Democracy.