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House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was lobbying.

Topics

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-259, an act to amend the Criminal Code.

Mr. Speaker, the bill is being reintroduced on behalf of the families of Craig Powell, Amber Keuben, Brandy Keuben and Stephanie Smith, who were all killed instantly by a drunk driver on June 23, 1996, near Morley, Alberta as they returned from a camping trip.

The drunk driver in this case was Christopher Goodstoney, who was charged with four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing injury. At his hearing the judge was required by law to refer to Section 718.2, which states in regard to sentencing that the judge must take into account whether or not the offender is aboriginal. In our view and the view of the people we are representing, we believe that those who commit a crime should serve the time, no matter who they are. We should stop this discrimination within our criminal code.

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

Hazardous Products ActRoutine Proceedings

October 25th, 2002 / 12:15 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-260, an act to amend the Hazardous Products Act (fire-safe cigarettes).

Mr. Speaker, I am reintroducing the legislation to amend the Hazardous Products Act pursuant to Standing Order 86.1. The bill would add cigarettes that do not meet flammability standards to the regulations that list prohibited products under the Hazardous Products Act. The effect would be that fires could not be started inadvertently by careless smoking or by people falling asleep while smoking.

Simple changes in flammability standards could save the dozens of lives lost and the millions of dollars spent because of careless smoking, so I hope that the House will see fit to pass the bill.

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

Hazardous Products ActRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair is of the opinion that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-236 was at the time of prorogation of the first session of the 37th Parliament. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86(1), the bill shall be added to the bottom of the list of items in the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to present three separate petitions on behalf of the good people of Dauphin--Swan River.

The first petition calls on the government to focus its legislative support on adult stem cell research to find the cures and therapies necessary to treat the illnesses and diseases of suffering Canadians.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls on the government to protect our children by taking all the necessary steps to ensure that all materials that promote or glorify pedophilia or sado-masochistic activities involving children are outlawed.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, the last petition, signed by hundreds of petitioners, calls on Parliament to enforce the laws of Canada so that those who take advantage of their status and who breach the federal laws be held accountable for their actions. This is in regard to unlimited net fishing by aboriginals. The petitioners believe that Canada needs a single justice system for all citizens.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dick Harris Canadian Alliance Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to present petitions containing over 5,000 names of Canadians living in the Prince George--Bulkley Valley riding. They want the House to know that the creation and use of child pornography is condemned by a clear majority of Canadians and that the courts have not applied the current child pornography law in a way that makes it clear that such exploitation of children will be met with swift punishment.

The petitioners therefore call on Parliament to protect our children by taking all necessary steps to ensure that all materials that promote or glorify pedophilia or sado-masochistic activities involving children are outlawed. I support all of these petitions.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order. The Chair must remind the House that while tabling petitions it is contrary to the rules of our chamber to either associate or dissociate ourselves from a petition, in fact presenting the petition without making a representation either in favour or otherwise. I simply wish to remind members of that good order.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table a petition this afternoon which is signed by many residents of my constituency of Burnaby--Douglas and others in the lower mainland. I particularly pay tribute to my constituent, Iris Schwenneker, who was involved in this petition on the subject of ethical stem cell research.

The petitioners raise concerns about the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who suffer from debilitating illnesses and diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, diabetes, cancer, muscular dystrophy and spinal cord injury. They note that they support ethical stem cell research, which has already shown encouraging potential to provide cures and therapies. They raise concerns about the use of embryonic stem cells: ethical problems and immune rejection. They call upon Parliament to focus its legislative support on adult stem cell research to find the cures and therapies necessary to treat the illnesses and diseases of suffering Canadians.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions signed by a number of Canadians, including residents of my own riding of Mississauga South.

The first petition relates to fetal alcohol syndrome. The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House the fact that fetal alcohol syndrome and alcohol related birth defects are 100% preventable and that the consumption of an alcoholic beverage impairs a person's ability to operate machinery or an automobile. The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to require health warning labels on the containers of alcoholic beverages.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

The second petition, Mr. Speaker, has to do with the definition of marriage. Again it is signed by a number of Canadians, including residents of my own riding of Mississauga South. They want to draw to the attention of the House their opposition to the redefinition of marriage. The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to defend the existing definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

The third petition, Mr. Speaker, relates to stem cell research. It is also signed by a number of Canadians, including residents of my own riding of Mississauga South. The petitioners simply want to point out that they support ethical stem cell research, which has already shown significant potential in finding cures and therapies.

They also want to point out that non-embryonic stem cells, also known as adult stem cells, have shown significant research progress without the immune rejection or ethical problems associated with embryonic stem cells. The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to pursue legislative support of adult stem cell research to find those cures and therapies necessary for Canadians.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, today I add 73 more names to the petitions of people in my riding, from Sherwood Park in the south all the way to Newbrook in the north. Many people are saying that we need to stop child pornography. The issue of the petitioners is that they deplore the inaction of the government in addressing this problem in a meaningful way to actually stop it. That is what the petition is about and I am very honoured to present it on behalf of the petitioners.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Mississauga South Ontario

Liberal

Paul Szabo LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

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

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed. .

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent of the House for the following motion:

“That the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources be authorized to hold an organizational meeting pursuant to Standing Order 106(2) on Monday, October 28, 2002, at 3:30 p.m., and that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs also be authorized to hold organizational meetings pursuant to Standing Order 106(2) on Tuesday, that is October 29, 2002, at 9:30 a.m.”

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the Deputy Government Whip have the consent of the House to present this motion?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yes.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Judi Longfield Liberal Whitby—Ajax, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to join in the debate on the motion to refer Bill C-15, an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act, to committee before second reading.

In 2001, the all party industry committee reviewed the Lobbyists Registration Act and made a number of suggestions for change. I am very pleased to learn that the government wants to refer the new Lobbyists Registration Act directly to committee before second reading so that all members of the House from all parties will have an opportunity to review, to discuss and to make amendments to the bill.

Today I want to focus on some of the details of the bill. Bill C-15 is about taking a system that works well and making it work much better. It is a bill that draws on the experience of our lobbyists registration process to date in order to make an even stronger system. The bill includes the usual technical amendments, of course, but the core of the bill is the changes that it proposes in three major areas. I would like to comment on each of them now.

The first issue is about clarifying what kind of lobbying the law covers and who has to register as a lobbyist under the act. The law as it stands now makes it clear that people who are trying to influence government solely as citizens or as members of some voluntary group, and who are not getting paid to influence government, are exempt from the act. The focus is on people who are attempting to influence the government as part of their paid employment. They may be consultants who lobby on behalf of other clients. They may be government relations officers or companies or associations or some non-governmental organization. These people need to register. The question is, what triggers the requirement? What constitutes lobbying?

Right now the act states that someone needs to register if they are making an “attempt to influence” a public office holder. There are concerns that this definition is too vague to be well enforced. The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology recognized this. When that committee examined this act in 2001, it recommended that the Registrar of Lobbyists, the Office of the Ethics Counsellor and the Department of Justice consult on this issue. That has happened. We have the results before us today.

The act states if there is communication with a public office holder, there is lobbying, plain and simple. Quite simply, the act of communication brings about the need to register.

Clearly not all communication is the same. The bill focuses on communication about legislation, regulations, policies, programs, grants, contributions and contracts. That is lobbying and the rules are clear.

On the other hand, if a person calls a public office holder for basic facts or information, there is no attempt to influence, so that is not lobbying and it is exempt.

The bill takes another step forward because it also cuts out something that the standing committee saw as a potential loophole in the act as it stood. This was the exemption when it is a public office holder who initiates the contact instead of a lobbyist. In essence, the concern was that if it is an attempt to influence, when all is said and done what difference does it make who made the first phone call?

The overall result is to clarify what lobbying is under the law and the requirements for registration. The bill will end confusion that may result when people who should register do not. That will be an important contribution to an even more transparent system.

I would now like to turn to the second major change. This one relates to creating a single registration system for corporations and non-profit organizations, along with simpler registration requirements and stronger de-registration requirements.

As things stand now, the act sets out two different systems. One covers people who are employed by businesses. The other covers people who are employed by non-profit organizations.

For businesses, the registration requirement kicks in if an employee spends 20% or more of his or her time lobbying, so normally only government relations staff and some other senior people may need to register. For non-profit groups, things are different.

The senior officer of a non-profit group has to register on behalf of his or her organization if the total time that staff spent on lobbying is 20% of the time of the single employee. Under Bill C-15 all organizations will follow the process now in place for non-profit groups. Whether for profit or not for profit, if the amount of time spent lobbying by all employees adds up to 20% or more of the working time of a single employee in that organization, then that organization has to register. It is a simple consistent standard for every organization, public sector or not.

To make it even more consistent, it will be the responsibility of the chief executive officer or the equivalent person to register. Under the law all persons who normally do lobbying would be listed too, but by making the CEO responsible for the organization's registration, that leader will be responsible for making sure that his or her organization is meeting its obligations under the law.

There is another element of the registration system: clear rules on how often lobbyists who are consultants need to update their registrations. Under this bill, a consultant who lobbies for clients has to register within 10 days of taking an assignment or a project. These consultant lobbyists would also be responsible to update their registrations at least every six months.

The third and final point that I want to make is a new provision in the law that relates to situations that are uncovered that may point to possible law breaking. Bill C-15 would explicitly direct the ethics counsellor to contact the police when he or she suspects that the law is being broken because of information turned up in one of his or her own investigations on lobbying activities. It could be the Criminal Code. It could be some other federal or provincial law. The result is the same: a requirement to contact the police.

These are the only major changes that would be brought about by the Lobbyists Registration Act. Of course, they are not the only changes. There are other minor technical changes here and there. Some take care of small wording problems. Others resolve inconsistencies between the English and the French versions of the law. However the key point is simple. Bill C-15 makes Canada's lobbyists registration system stronger, more transparent and more effective.

I urge all members of the House to pass the motion promptly so that these proposals can be sent to committee and discussed where all members of the House, all members from every party can make recommendations and examine the provisions under this bill.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's comments about this bill which amends the Lobbyists Registration Act. Our major problem with the bill is it goes to the heart of the ethics issue because who is responsible for enforcing this toothless act? It is the ethics counsellor, who is appointed by none other than the Prime Minister and who is answerable to none other than the Prime Minister. That is a serious problem.

The government is pretending to roll this act into its “new ethics package”. However members from all the opposition parties, and indeed many government members, have repeatedly asked the Prime Minister for an independent ethics counsellor, one who is appointed not by the Prime Minister and his office but appointed by the majority of the members in this House who are here because of the wishes of the Canadian public.

This also speaks to a larger problem in Canada, which is that we do not have a democracy. This country is ruled by a king who sits in the Prime Minister's Office. He appoints not only the ethics counsellor but every cabinet member on the front bench. He appoints the deputy ministers. He appoints the senators. He appoints the supreme court justices. He appoints the assistants to every cabinet member. The public would be shocked to learn that the assistants to the ministers are appointed by none other than the Prime Minister's Office. That is not a democracy.

The best thing that could happen would be for the government to listen to members across the House and implement solutions that would democratize the Parliament of Canada. Then the Canadian people would have a voice through their elected officials, and not the current situation where cabinet members are answerable to and are forced to do what the Prime Minister's Office tells them to do.

Cabinet is toothless and impotent to implement solutions to deal with in a meaningful fashion the problems Canadians care about. Whether it is health care, economics or the environment, cabinet members cannot do their job right now. They cannot innovate, no matter how good it is, because they get their marching orders from the Prime Minister's Office.

Today in Canada today we see a clash between the old way of doing politics and hopefully, a new way of doing politics. With the old way a party in power says, “We will buy the votes of the Canadian public by pouring money into constituencies, by favouring people who sponsor and put money back into the party”. In return, people get electoral favours when the party gets voted in.

We have seen that occur in the Department of Public Works and Government Services, and in the Department of Human Resources Development. That also exists unfortunately in CIDA where large sums of money which were supposed to go toward helping the most impoverished people around the world ended up in the hands of people mostly here in Canada. The Canadian public would be shocked to know that most of our aid money is actually being spent here as opposed to dealing with the big problems of corruption, conflict and lack of capacity in primary health care and education that the most impoverished people in the world are facing.

We do not see that in industry. If the government were really interested in implementing solutions that are good for industry and therefore for jobs, it would lower our taxes. It would also remove the existing onerous restrictions that prevent business from moving forward and creating jobs so we can build a tax base to pay for health care and the other social programs we enjoy in Canada. That is something useful the government should do.

Over the last few years we have also seen what can only be termed as the massive theft of savings from the middle class through scandals such as Enron, Livent, Andersen accounting, and many others. A small number of individuals have removed billions and billions of dollars from the hard-earned savings and moneys that the middle class, the poor and indeed the rich have acquired over the last few years. This was done knowingly. We do not have a system that protects the hard-earned money and savings of Canadian citizens. This ties into the Lobbyists Registration Act and I will explain why.

We need an act that will protect Canadians from the rapacious, illegal theft of their hard-earned savings which took place by the aforementioned companies and many more. The impact has been massive. There has been the loss of jobs, the loss of capital, and the loss of confidence and a disruption in the stock markets. There has been a massive downward trend, a massive downward pressure on our economy. This was done by a very small number of individuals in this country and south of the border who stole money from innocent investors.

What needs to be done? We need provisions that will protect people from this type of white collar crime. I would recommend that we look at the Sarbanes-Oxley act which came out in 2002 in the United States. There are 11 parts to the rather large 1,100 page bill.

There are a few major points I wish to make. The first is that the government ought to establish an independent auditing oversight board in this country for security. Second, it should beef up penalties for wrongdoers so those who steal money will meet with stiff penalties. Third, it should require faster and more extensive financial disclosure on the part of companies. Fourth, it should create avenues of recourse for aggrieved shareholders.

The Canadian public would be shocked to know that we are one of very few western countries where auditors make the accounting rules. It is a bit like having the fox guard the chicken coop. That is what we have today. We have a system with a lack of protection for investors and one which does not have the proper controls.

The following are things the government could employ in an act to protect investors and by extension, the savings of Canadians. One is that there be a public accounting overseeing board that is absolutely independent from those who are involved in securities issues. Two is that there be an independent auditor to analyze the issues. Three is that there be a code of corporate responsibility that is transparent and doable. Four is that there be a system of enhanced financial disclosure. Five is that there be a system that clearly articulates conflict of interest rules. Six is that there be a system of corporate and criminal fraud accountability. Seven is that there be a system of white collar crime penalty enforcement. Eight is that there be corporate tax return rules that are clearer and more transparent. Nine is that there be corporate fraud and accountability provisions within our legal system.

In closing, if the government were truly interested in having a system that is more accountable and transparent and which protects the public and enables the House to do its job and by extension enables we parliamentarians to do the job for the Canadian public, the people who sent us here and who pay our salaries, the government would implement a package of solutions. That package would democratize the House of Commons.

That package would have a Lobbyists Registration Act that had a clear code of conduct for lobbyists and for members of Parliament. It would have a governance act that deals with corporate governance in the private sector. Investors would know exactly what was happening. Financial accounting statements would be transparent and believable and would truly represent what was going on in the company.

If we had that type of package, we would have a stronger economy and a stronger democracy.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, who I have great respect for, drives me crazy when in attacking governments he attacks Parliament and the democracy in this place.

Canada, as you know, Mr. Speaker, is one of the oldest democracies in the world. We had a democracy when they were all monarchies and dictatorships in Europe. We have held one of the largest land masses together with the greatest ethnic diversity. We are a country of two official languages. The whole world knows that Canada has the most admired democracy in the world and one of the most successful democracies.

The member complains, as an example of a lack of democracy, that the Prime Minister appoints senior officials to government. How would he have it? The Prime Minister is elected. Would he have unelected people appoint these people?

It just drives me crazy because we do have a democracy and it is the best democracy in the world. The reason the government appoints the officials is that the government is elected by a majority to take these actions.

Coming to Bill C-15, the amendments to the Lobbyists Registration Act, I will not go over the debate that went on here earlier because I think all would agree that the bill that is before the House is a good bill. I do not think there is anything in the bill that is contentious and that should not go through the process and be passed into law.

However I do agree with the member from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, who, I point out, is a member on the opposition side, that the bill does not go far enough. I am not satisfied that we took advantage of the opportunity, when were reviewing the legislation, to make it stronger and to throw more light on the way lobbyists operate in government and how they influence government.

My connection to the legislation goes back to 1994, to the previous review, when I served on the industry committee at that time. I said it then, and I have proposed it at various times in the intervening years, that the shortcoming of the legislation is that it provides for transparency in terms of who it is that is lobbying the government but that it does not provide the identities of those who are being lobbied in government.

As a former journalist, I am not particularly interested, either as an MP or a former journalist, in who is doing the lobbying so much as I am interested in who is being lobbied. I have had occasion to use the Lobbyists Registration Act and the Access to Information Act on various occasions, particularly in connection with the animal cruelty bill, Bill C-15B, in which I was very concerned that there was policy being implemented that was coming from lobbyists. I wanted to trace not only who was putting the influence on government but who was reacting to the influence. I could identify the International Fund for Animal Welfare as the lobbyist but I could not figure out how it was getting to government.

The problem, and it is a serious problem, is not whether or not lobbyists are reaching senior bureaucrats, ministers or politicians. The danger is when lobbyists are reaching mid-level officials, mid-level officials who may be preparing policy papers which they are going to send up the line. There is no way of determining whether these lobbyists are getting in the back door and influencing the deputy ministers because they have been lobbied.

One of the proposals I had at the time, and on which you can be ready, Mr. Speaker, because I will be moving an amendment in due course, is that I believe we need to have a situation where the officials keep a log of the lobbyists who approach them. We, not the senior officials, need to know what these lobbyists are doing, how they are making contact, how they are influencing the mid-level bureaucrats and the extent of that influence.

I can say that I was very concerned regarding the animal cruelty legislation that there was improper lobbying in my view, that there was lobbying behind the curtains that had got to low level bureaucrats, low level officials who had influenced the people up the line.

Another aspect that we need to address in the legislation, and one I hope we can address through an amendment, relates to what I have been saying, the influence that former members of Parliament, ministers and former bureaucrats have on the lobbying process.

One of the ironies is that when the industry committee studied the Lobbyists Registration Act in 1994, the chairman of the committee became a lobbyist. He now lobbies government. I can cite former ministers who are lobbying government and cite senior bureaucrats who are lobbying government.

There is no problem, in my view, with allowing those people to lobby. They are recorded under the Lobbyists Registration Act. However, in the interest of transparency and in the interest of understanding how policy is developed, we want to know who they are lobbying. The Lobbyists Registration Act is entirely silent on that. We can find out that they are lobbying the Department of Justice or Environment Canada but we cannot find out who they are lobbying.

I would suggest that if bureaucrats and officials were required to keep logs of the lobbyists who approach them, and by that I mean a telephone log or a mail or solicitation log, and if these logs were accessible to the public so that we could see which officials were being approached, I think we would have a better grip on how policy is made in this place. It is of great concern to members of Parliament that decisions are being made and influence is being brought to bear in ways that give the advantage to those who are paying for the influence legally and to the disadvantage of those of us who are here representing Canadians and the points of view of Canadians. That is a major change that I would bring in.

I actually put that forward in 1994 and the government responded that it felt that it would be too much of a burden on officials to keep lists of the lobbyists who approach them. I submit that in the eight years intervening computer technology has advanced so far and so fast that there would be little problem in keeping such a record. Indeed, in my own constituency office I routinely record all the telephone calls that come in for some very good reasons.

Years ago when I was at the Toronto Star that was again a routine procedure made much easier now because we can put it right into the electronic file. I do not see any reason why this cannot be done. If the officials have nothing to hide, and indeed they should not have anything to hide, then I think this is something that the government could consider. I can assure the House that I intend to put it forward as an amendment.

One final point is that Professor Stanbury, when he appeared before the committee in 1994, pointed out that it would be very advantageous to know how much money is being spent by an organization to lobby for a particular point of view. It is not the lobbyist and the hiring a lobbyists that is so interesting, what we really want to know is how much money someone will spend behind the scenes to influence officials in order to get their way. Members of Parliament really have nothing but this place in order to bring influence to bear, to change legislation or to act in the public interest.

Lobbyists, on the other hand, or organizations that hire lobbyists, have vast sums of money and I think the public is entitled to know when vast sums of money are being used to influence public policy.

So those are two changes that I hope the committee and the government will consider before the legislation comes back to the House.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in Canada's House of Commons once again to discuss an important issue.

I have been quite interested in lobbyists and this type of legislation for quite a while, basically ever since I came here when one of my first jobs was to work on the same committee that the previous member just mentioned. I, too, find it curious that the chair of that committee subsequently himself became a lobbyist.

First, I would like to say a few things about the actual motion that is before the House today. Most of the speakers today have talked about the bill itself but the motion is, as I understand it, to refer the bill to a committee prior to second reading. I would like to make a few comments about that because I am not as enamoured with that process as are some people.

I think that came about as a response by the Liberals when they first became government, having dealt with it under the Conservative regime, where over and over they experienced the Conservative government sort of jamming legislation through. They seemed not to have enough influence on it because if a government tables legislation from then on it just seems to be sort of lockstep, everybody salute on command, the legislation then goes in and amendments from opposition parties generally are not accepted.

When the Liberals took power, to their credit, they said that they wanted to do something about that and they thought, and I believe those members who supported it thought correctly, that if a committee could be involved in a bill prior to its final etching in stone, so to speak, there would be more ready openness to actually shaping the bill according to the wishes of the legislators.

I would like to comment briefly on that process because I have been very disappointed in it. I have found that the process has actually reduced the amount of debate and reduced the amount of influence. We find that instead of debating in this House on the principle of the bill, we end up going in and dealing with the details right away. Because of the fact that the committee structure in a Parliament that has a majority, as this one does, is dominated by the majority of the government members, those government members are either ignored or whipped into action.

In the end it makes no difference because what the minister and his minions come up with as legislation is jammed into existence anyway. Even if the committee comes here with other proposals, the government will make amendments. It has done this. We all know the examples where it has actually gone to work and introduced amendments that would undo every act of a committee in studying a bill.

I was part of the finance committee in the ill-shamed event where a member actually was persuaded by good logical arguments to favour an amendment that we were proposing. That member, before the amendment came to a vote, was replaced on committee by the government whip. Unless we are going to actually open up committees to truly be free, I think this process of referring a bill, whether it is before second reading or after second reading, really does not make that much difference.

Way back, before I was a member of Parliament, I used to think that lobbyists should be outlawed. I wanted to know who needed them. The impression I had of lobbyists prior to my life as a parliamentarian was that their only function was to unduly influence parliamentarians in passing laws or giving contracts that should be done by a better process. To a degree, I am still of that opinion in certain areas of lobbying.

I do not know if anyone within the sound of my voice today read the article I wrote, as a special article to The Hill Times , more than a year go about the role of lobbyists in Parliament. I said that there really are two kinds of lobbyists. One kind is very healthy for us. As an MP, I would much rather deal with one representative, for example of the forest association, than 2,000 individual practitioners in the forestry industry.

It is good for these different organizations, like the chambers of commerce, the taxpayers federation, the citizens' coalitions, the industrial coalitions such as the Chemical Producers' Association and others, to hammer the issues which are most important to them at a convention or in their own meetings instead of 2,000 organizations bringing us 100 different issues. It is good for them to get together, take these 100 issues and bring them down to the six that are of the greatest priority. Having then honed them down, their representatives can present them to us as members of Parliament. It increases its forcefulness and impact, and as a result of that, Canada can become a better place because we can respond to the most important issues that these different organizations bring to us.

To a degree, I also agree that it is important when it comes to other parts of legislation. For example, in some of the social issues, instead of dealing with many organizations, we would deal with that group which represents all of them.

That is the positive aspect to it. However there is a very negative aspect to it as well. When they go beyond just simply providing information and start putting some great pressure on parliamentarians, particularly when they put those pressures on members of cabinet, their deputies and other people in the bureaucracy who can influence these decisions so greatly.

I also feel there is a reverse lobbying that has come into play under this government, which I have found rather bizarre; issues like the Prime Minister phoning the president of the Business Development Bank. This is reverse lobbying where the Prime Minister uses the influence of his power to try to overcome the issue of making decisions in a pseudo-government agency. That type of thing should also somehow be regulated or exposed and ceased.

Decisions should be made, as much as possible, on objective criteria. If those criteria are met, the decision will go one way. If the criteria are not met, it should go a different way. It should not matter who has lobbied on behalf of the individual; it should matter what the facts are. I would like to see lobbying controlled in that area as well.

I have real concerns with the ethics package of the current government. It seems to be focusing on individual members of Parliament. I know of no cases that have come to the attention of Canadians as being an untoward issue from ordinary MPs. There have been many from those who have the real power. It seems to me that the package is not properly addressing the real issues.

I appreciate the opportunity to make this presentation. We will of course be adding as much influence as we can in committee. I simply would appeal to the government, to the people who make the final decision, to please listen to what the committee discovers by listening to witnesses and giving reasoned thought to the whole bill so that Bill C-15 will become an act which truly and properly will serve the well-being of the people of Canada.