Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to take this opportunity at the beginning of this new session to raise some of the issues that concern us, especially with regard to the topic at hand here.
The whole effect of prorogation is to quash all the business that was on the order paper. The purpose is to start anew with a fresh agenda to inspire and lead Canadians for the rest of the government's mandate.
What have we done at the beginning of this second session instead? Nothing. It is not new, it is not inspiring and that is the essence of the debate that we have here. What we have is an old, tired Prime Minister with a self-serving agenda, leading a caucus of members who are fed up with his leadership. The Liberal leader in waiting, the member for LaSalle--Émard, is not getting any younger himself and everyone over there is becoming impatient. Those are the dynamics the Canadian public might as well know.
Compounding this whole mood of discontent, the Prime Minister is proposing a throne speech made up of worn out promises with a few new promises ready to be broken. To make things even worse, the government has introduced a motion that gives it authority to reinstate bills from the last session. Included in that list of bills is Bill C-5, the species at risk bill, and Bill C-15B, the cruelty to animals bill. If reinstated, both of these bills will bypass the Commons and go straight to the Senate.
Those two bills represent the Liberal government's esteemed legislative and political attack on the lives and livelihoods of rural Canadians and the communities where they live.
The Prime Minister has to learn that he cannot make travel plans for every member and every region of the country by using the map of Toronto. He will get lost just like he did with the gun registry.
I would like to talk a little bit about Bill C-15B and Bill C-5. I would like to start with Bill C-5. This would have a very negative impact on agricultural producers. They were hoping that when this session ended these flawed and misguided bills would be dead. Now, with the debate we are having here this evening and the vote that will take place in probably an hour, they will all be back on the agenda and the nightmare that agriculture producers were undergoing will come back.
With the species at risk bill back, the government has not looked into the social and economic impact of this bill on Canadians. What kind of costs are we going to see from this bill? The minister says that it will cost more than $45 million. Is he sure? Has he taken into account the cost of enforcement and the costs that will be placed on the industry and property users? He has stated in committee that the legislation is open-ended in terms of what it will cost property owners.
I have stated in the House before that compensation must be made available to property owners who lose their land due to the bill. It is imperative that in order to alleviate the social and economic costs of the bill adequate compensation must be made. As the bill currently stands, it preserves the minister's right, his discretionary power, to decide who gets compensation and how much compensation. He decides whether provincial laws are effective or not. It gives him power to impose federal laws on provincial jurisdictions. This power in the hands of one person totally eliminates any transparency in the bill. That is why this omnibus bill should not just point blank reinstate all of this legislation. One of the reasons is Bill C-5.
The other bill that I want to briefly touch on is Bill C-15B, the cruelty to animals bill. It is even more hideous. The bill as it currently stands is much too vague. It is too broad. It shows a hidden agenda put forward by animal rights activists. If we take a close look at the bill, the main thrust of this was to increase penalties to those who abuse and neglect animals. However the bill has become a broad net, going away from its original intent to moving toward a redefinition of “animals” in our Criminal Code. As the bill reads right now is so unclear that animal rights activists will use it as a tool to destroy the livelihood of thousands of agricultural producers.
We must ensure that there are three clear changes to this bill. We must maintain the status of animals as property under the Criminal Code. The ownership of animals is the fundamental principle of Canada's agricultural industry. A farmer's legal right to use animals to produce food comes from his right to own these animals. Moving animals out of the property area would cause farmers to be under an unfair risk of prosecution. I wish the government was listening. These are key concerns and the bill should not be included in this omnibus motion to reinstate all of the bills.
It would be to the great joy of animal rights activists if the bill is passed. They want to test this new law in the courts because a farmer would have to reconcile his own right to own animals with the new status of animals under this code. Farmers are not able to defend themselves against these large multinational animal rights groups. The bill itself infringes on civil liberties, the most important being the ownership and enjoyment of property.
I would like to point out that the definition of an animal in Bill C-15B is much too broad. A vertebrate other than a human that can feel pain would subject farmers to long legal litigation, causing a judge of the Canadian courts to deem whether an animal can feel pain or not. This definition does not further the original intent of the legislation to increase penalties for those who abuse or neglect animals. We supported that basic aim but the bill has gone way beyond that and is not acceptable in its present form. No one is more concerned about the welfare of animals than those who work with them every day. I will leave those two bills at this time and I hope the government will seriously concern itself with what farmers are worried about.
With respect to reinstating any unfinished business from the last session, I would like the government to reconsider its resistance to implementing one of its own policies, the policy to appoint an independent ethics counsellor who reports directly to Parliament.
Members will recall that in the last session of Parliament the Canadian Alliance introduced a motion that lifted that promise word for word from the Liberal red book. The government voted against it. Believe it or not, the government voted against it and took away the opportunity to carry through on that promise in the first session.
One Liberal member who must have been uncomfortable voting that motion down was the former finance minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard. He was one of the principal authors of Liberal red book one, introduced in 1993. That red book contained that promise. What must be even more embarrassing for him is to have that on his record at a time he is promoting parliamentary reform. That member has quite a parliamentary reform record. He is not a young man and perhaps his memory is becoming faulty.
I do not know if members recall the program Dallas , when Pam Ewing woke up beside Bobby Ewing and everything from the last season, including Bobby's death, turned out to be only a dream.
Our former finance minister is hoping for the same second season. Instead of Pam Ewing waking up, the member for LaSalle—Émard wakes up, it is the 1990s, he is nine years younger and there is no government record to taint his reputation. All of the corruption and internal strife attributed to too much pizza before bedtime.
Mulroney is still the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party has not yet broken its promise to scrap the much hated GST. As he rubs the sleep from his eyes he slowly realizes that his record has been expunged. The unpleasantness is trapped in a moment of rapid eye movement. There is no record of him voting against a motion to appoint an independent ethics counsellor who reports directly to Parliament.
He is pleased to discover that it was only a dream that he supported a record 78 closure motions, many of which were used to prematurely close off debate on finance bills when he was finance minister. He sighs a sigh of relief to discover that the rat pack is still jumping over tables and screaming at former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney with righteous indignation.
While this is truly a nightmare, it is no dream. The member for LaSalle—Émard cannot wipe out his parliamentary record and that of his government. He cannot pretend that the first session of the 37th Parliament and the sessions of the 36th and 35th Parliaments were only a dream. As much as he would like, he cannot rewrite the script like it was done on Dallas .
Let us turn to some business from the last session that I would be happy to reinstate. There is the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs which I worked on intensively, proposing that all private members' business be made votable. This is not a government initiative but a battle fought and won by private members.
The proposal to provide for all private members' business to be votable was part of our reform initiative at the beginning of the 35th Parliament, the 36th Parliament and from the first session of this Parliament. In the first session, the Canadian Alliance introduced “Building Trust: A plan to make Parliament more responsive to Canadians”. As we face the second session, we have offered an updated version of “Building Trust”, “Building Trust II--Making Parliament More Responsive to Canadians”, which represents our ongoing commitment to make Parliament more responsive to Canadians.
The purpose of “Building Trust” was to propose modest parliamentary reforms that the government might accept with the aim to restore some of the procedural ground that private members have lost over the years to the executive branch of government.
The government's powers are sweeping and if members are to provide the necessary checks and balances they must be accorded certain rights. While we convinced the government to accept a number of proposals from “Building Trust”, we ran out of time to convince it to implement the remainder. “Building Trust II” carries over a number of proposals from “Building Trust” and introduces new initiatives that we trust can realistically be accomplished in the 37th Parliament.
The motion the government has put forward establishing a procedure for government bills to be reinstated should be defeated. What we would like to see reinstated is a commitment to reform private members' business. Canadians would be much better off if a lot of these bills from the last session remained but a memory. Generally the government would want to forget everything that happened in the first session and not try to relive that nightmare.
Did I inform you, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time?