Mr. Speaker, I will pick up from where I left off last evening with respect to the report on democratic reform that the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada voted on and adopted at a convention in Edmonton this past August.
I would like to raise a very important issue. We had a situation a few moments ago where the Government of Canada exhibited a complete and unfettered disrespect for parliamentarians and Parliament itself. An announcement was made, with respect to a very significant aspect of business of the Government of Canada, on the closure of the cod fishery. Parliamentarians were not given the courtesy of the minister explaining to us first in this place as to why the Government of Canada was taking that action. The members of Parliament who represent those areas affected should have had an opportunity to hear it directly from the minister in this chamber.
The Speaker just made a comment that he did not know the details of the announcement by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. The reason for that, Mr. Speaker, is that you, as well as fellow parliamentarians, as a colleague, were not provided the opportunity to hear that information firsthand so that you could make a learned decision about whether an emergency debate was required.
On this day above all days it is a shameful disregard for Parliament, given the fact that today's business before the House is designed to empower Parliament, to have parliamentary reform which will make the work of parliamentarians even that much more meaningful.
Also today the Government of Canada tabled a document with respect to the implementation of the Kyoto protocol. I would not call it a plan because it is not very comprehensive. Again, the minister met with government members and provided a briefing. Opposition members were provided a briefing with officials, and we commend those officials for their due diligence.
Regarding accountability to parliamentarians, whether government members or opposition members, the minimum the members should have, on the most pressing domestic issues from a pan-Canadian basis, is the courtesy of having ministerial contact, and I would say that an announcement of that nature should be done in this place.
I would like to comment on a couple of the issues which I spoke to last evening.
With respect to the relationship between Parliament and the courts themselves, in recent years some Canadians have become concerned about the appearance that courts have encroached upon the supremacy of the Canadian Parliament by reading into our laws interpretations that appear to be inconsistent with or outside the intended laws when passed by Parliament. This appears to many to be a violation of the basic constitutional principle that Parliament makes the laws, the executive implements them and the courts interpret them. The roots of this perception of judicial activism is that the 1982 Constitutional Act included, for the first time in Canada, a constitutional entrenchment guarantee of civil rights through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We arbitrarily bash the courts because we do not like some decisions they have taken. We think there is a responsibility on behalf of Parliament that if an interpretation has been made, which is outside of the will of what Parliament had intended, there has to be a method to rectify that situation. Therefore we have three proposals that would address that aspect and I will read them into the record as follows.
First is that we should have pre-legislation review to ensure that Parliament clearly specifies within each statute the intent of that statute and obtains independent legal advice on the charter compatibility of the bills before they leave Parliament in the first place. It is almost like a pre-emptive strike that we do not have these constitutional challenges.
Second, we should establish a judicial review committee of Parliament to prepare an appropriate response to those court decisions which Parliament believes should be addressed through legislation.
Third, the name and qualifications of any person proposed for appointment by the Prime Minister to the Supreme Court shall be presented to Parliament which shall after debate make a recommendation on the suitability of the nominee's candidacy. This vote shall be conducted and communicated to the governor in council prior to any such appointment being made.
I believe these three initiatives would help enhance the rights between Parliament and the courts. If we look at the issue pertaining to child pornography, it might be a very solid example. Obviously one aspect of the Sharpe decision by the Supreme Court, in the view of most parliamentarians, is an unacceptable loophole that could expose our most vulnerable population, our children, to heinous acts related to child pornography. If we had a judicial committee of Parliament set in place that would provide us with the opportunity to address that court decision with legislation, we could fast track it to remedy that problem.
Our report is also to restore the confidence of Canadians in their political institution and to involve our fellow citizens more closely in the functioning of their Parliament.
We are convinced that the initiatives we are proposing in this context will strengthen parliamentary democracy.
To conclude, there is a myriad of initiatives that Parliament could undertake. We believe the Government of Canada is not taking steps forward that would empower parliamentarians, empower committees and make a stronger parliamentary process.