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House of Commons Hansard #142 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was leader.

Topics

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4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member spoke eloquently about his support for the present Prime Minister. I suppose we ought not to be surprised since his title is Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. I do not know whether he wrote his own speech or whether it was written for him, but it was a pretty supportive one.

He did not say too much about the next prime minister and he did not really address the issue that is before us today at all. That is the issue that when the leadership vote is held and the Liberal Party chooses a new leader, by tradition, as soon as the transition can be organized, the leader becomes the new prime minister. I compared it earlier with the transition between Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell. That transition happened relatively quickly after the vote was held.

The member has not addressed that question at all and I think it is an important one. After November 14, Canadians and certainly we in the House are going to have a very difficult question, which is, who is really in charge? Is it the leader of the party with the greatest number of seats in the House, or is it the member from Shawinigan who, so far at this stage, has failed to hand in his resignation as he should probably do after the new leader is selected?

I would like to hear the comments from the member on that topic. It is an important one and it needs to be addressed.

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Bras D'Or—Cape Breton, NS

Mr. Speaker, we have one prime minister, and the Prime Minister is sitting. We will have a leadership convention. Certainly the Prime Minister has set his date for retirement. The member that we anticipate will be the next prime minister is active on the ground. I think he is proactive on the ground in trying to develop policy in certain areas so that when the time comes he will hit the ground running. However, I do not think the Liberal Party of Canada will take any cues on organizational mentorship from the party across the way. I do not think we will hold up Kim Campbell's short reign as what we want to aspire to as a party.

As I said, our Prime Minister is in complete control. When the transition is made, I know that the people of Canada will continue to have good leadership under the Liberal government.

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4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Canadian Alliance Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member referred to the Kim Campbell-Brian Mulroney transition. I would remind him that there was a transition from St. Laurent to Pearson, there was a transition from Mackenzie King to St. Laurent, and there was a transition from Pearson to Trudeau that definitely reflected the principle that my colleague referred to.

It is unprecedented in Canadian history that this could carry on. Quite frankly, to ridicule other parties or refer to Kim Campbell and Brian Mulroney, the member should look at the precedents set in his own party. This is unprecedented. He should look at the history of his own party before he makes rather quick, sharp comments like he just did.

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Bras D'Or—Cape Breton, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comment from the member. We do live in interesting times when I see the Canadian Alliance Party and its hostile takeover of the Progressive Conservative Party. Well over 100 years of history have been cast aside in that current marriage of convenience.

I will stand by my party. After the convention and after the change in leadership, we will continue to provide that good leadership to the people of Canada.

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4:20 p.m.

York West Ontario

Liberal

Judy Sgro LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to a motion which I think is quite outrageous. For any of the viewers who are trying to follow the debate, the Bloc motion reads as follows:

That, although the Prime Minister has a mandate and should be able to end it as he chooses, given the democratic imbalance that currently prevails and that results in the government's decision making occurring outside this House, and more broadly outside any public institution, this House calls upon the Prime Minister to leave office as soon as possible after November 14, 2003.

As I said, I think it is an outrageous motion and is wasting valuable time. The opposition has the opportunity once a week or so to raise an issue of importance to Canadians. To choose to stand up and tell our Prime Minister when he should be leaving office I think is an insult to the institution. I would suggest that Bloc members should look after their own leader. If we continue to do the work that we and our Prime Minister are doing to preserve the country and to prevent it from being separated by the Bloc, they may not even be here after the next election.

I am quite pleased to have a few minutes to talk about this issue and to illustrate that there are huge costs to operating the House of Commons. We are wasting a day's debating time. We could have been talking about the issues that really face Canada and which are important to Canadians, such as global security, health care, or any of the other issues. Putting one of those issues on the table today would have been a much more effective use of the expensive time of the House of Commons.

I am quite proud of the Liberal record and the things that have been accomplished since 1993. Our country is in an enormously positive economic position. It is moving forward. As my colleague has said, it is more prosperous than any other G-7 country. That did not happen by itself.

When the Liberal government led by the Prime Minister took power, there was a huge debt. Approximately 40¢ of every dollar was going toward paying down the debt. We have been able to reduce that through lots of hard choices that we made and that Canadians made, to where today it is about 22¢ of every dollar that goes toward the debt. There were a lot of sacrifices made by a lot of people, but there was also strong leadership by our party and our Prime Minister.

When the Bloc members say that nothing is getting done in the House, I can say that this week I put about 18 hours into committee work. I am sure some of the other members have done exactly the same. Of the 55 bills that my colleague referred to earlier, 22 of them have already been through debate at first, second and third readings in the House, have been approved by the Senate and have moved forward. They suggest that the House has been hijacked and that work is not getting done. It may not be getting done on their side of the House, but it certainly is getting done by the Government of Canada.

If we look at the confidence Canadians have in the Liberal government, they have given us three straight mandates and have given the Prime Minister in particular 10 years in office. That says quite a bit about what people think of us as a government and the priorities we are moving forward on.

The Bloc members say we have done nothing, but I have to wonder when the Bloc members started to take an interest in the importance of effective national leadership. They certainly have never been interested in it before. It is precisely because there is effective leadership at the national level in Canada that their option does not cut it at all.

I would like to address a few of the issues in and around my colleagues in the NDP. I thank them for their tacit support for a wide range of policies and legislation that our government has brought forward. I am well aware that the NDP caucus wishes to continue to push forward with the legislative agenda that the Liberal government has established. I look forward to the NDP continuing to put its solid support behind our Liberal agenda.

Perhaps Mr. Layton and the NDP are supporting this Liberal government because the Liberal government continues to shape policy which reflects the values of Canadians, something which the NDP frankly has never been able to do. Whatever the reason, we on this side of the House appreciate the NDP support. Nevertheless, we ask its caucus members to remind their absent leader that he is boasting of Liberal achievements, not NDP achievements.

Through three elections the people of Canada have demonstrated their confidence in our party and we will move forward on all of those issues. The Prime Minister will leave when he is good and ready. As we move forward, Canada's success has been a direct result of the successful decisions that we have made on all of the policies and directions that truly matter to Canadians.

I would suggest that the Bloc already realizes that its intention to try to embarrass us or the Prime Minister is clearly failing. We are moving forward in a very positive way. The Bloc should rethink its position, especially as the opposition. We do not need any lessons from the Bloc members on how to run our country and how to treat our leaders. They are the last people who should suggest that we do that.

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4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a few comments. I will try not to be too tough on my colleague.

When I hear that you do not need any lessons from the Bloc, I think the member is fantasizing a little. There is nothing in today's motion that says the Prime Minister did not do his job. What the Bloc wants through this motion is that for government to get on with its work.

This morning, the government House leader started to say that the motion was a non-confidence one. I would like to quote the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia and I would like the member to comment on this. I quote:

My guess is that [the Prime Minister] will step down maybe two, three or four weeks after the convention. I think it's in the interests of all.

The member said this on September 23, 2003 and it was reported in the National Post . These words from the member sum up exactly the Bloc motion we are debating today.

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4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, when the Bloc has its convention, the Bloc members can choose their leader and decide how to do that transition. We are doing exactly the same.

On November 14 we will choose the next leader of the Liberal Party. The Prime Minister has already indicated what his plans are. We will respect that and we will continue to work on behalf of Canadians.

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4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is totally different. We are talking about the government, the party that is supposed to be giving leadership to the country. In other parties, including our own, when there has been a transition, we have arranged for interim leaders when appropriate. When the new leader was elected, within a day that leader was in place and the previous interim leader stepped aside.

Now we have a party that is pretending to lead the country. It is saying that it will have one person who ostensibly is the prime minister but not really, because by tradition for centuries in this system the leader of the party with the most seats is the one who is the prime minister. It is an aberration.

I think the purpose of the motion today is to correct that aberration and to make it clear that once the Liberal Party has chosen a new leader, that leader should then become the prime minister. It would not necessarily be the next day. We know that transitions take maybe five, six or eight days but then the new person should be sworn in as the prime minister and should carry on as the leader.

I would ask a very obvious question. We would not be here except for the fact that the Liberal members themselves pushed the Prime Minister out. He would not have resigned had it not happened that at the convention he was being threatened and then finally to kill it he promised that in February 2004 he would resign. It was the party members themselves who put pressure on him to step aside in order to give the new person a chance. If they will not have him, why should the rest of Canada have him?

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4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is so ridiculous it is hard not to laugh. Every time we turn around we have a party that replaces its leader every year. There is another one struggling and the one at the very end is trying to deal with the whole issue of who is leading the Conservative Party.

We have these members trying to tell us about leadership. The Prime Minister is the Prime Minister. He is the one who is showing leadership. Along with all of us in the government and the rest of the party, he has provided the leadership that has put our country in the number one spot.

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4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on this subject. I will share my time with the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

I will tell a story to try to inculcate to you how today, at 4:30 p.m., we have a government that is not working. In order that members understand me well, I will compare the government to a ship, which I will call CSL. No, do not be afraid, my ship is not called Canada Steamship Lines, it is called Canada Sans Leader.

In 2000, during the last election, voters chose a ship, the CSL. It was red and white, with large maple leaves. The Liberals chose a captain, who is the current Prime Minister. The first officer on the ship was the former Minister of Finance, the member for LaSalle—Émard. When the ship was sailing, some people noticed that things were not going very well and that the first officer, our member for LaSalle—Émard, wanted to become the captain.

There is a lot of jockeying going on; all kinds of deals have been made. The captain of the ship had to say, “Enough. First mate, if you want to take my place, fine; but it has to be done right and by the book”.

What did the first mate do? He left and became a deckhand. He started a mutiny. He became a mutineer. During his mutiny, all the Liberal sailors put on their life jackets and grabbed a flotation device so they would not drown if the boat sank.

For the past few weeks, or about a month, they have picked the delegates who will choose the new captain of the CSL ship. Unofficially, not officially, the nod went to the former first mate, former finance minister and member for LaSalle—Émard. At that point, things started to go wrong.

The deckhand from LaSalle—Émard already has half the wheel since he will be the next captain. So he started to take a port tack. The other took a starboard tack. The ship started to roll from side to side. It was impossible to tell if the ship was going forward or backward. That is where things stand now.

The ship is in dry docks. The anchor has been cast, and the ship is at a standstill. Work in committees has ground to a halt. The mechanics are unable do anything because they do not know who they report to, the current captain or the future captain.

The proof is that the first mate, the current Minister of Finance, has a $7 billion surplus.

On the one hand, the current captain had promised to give the provinces $2 billion for health. But the future captain, the member for LaSalle—Émard, is saying, “No decision has been made on that”.

So what do we do? The new first mate, the current finance minister, is staying put and waiting. The future captain, who is currently a deckhand, has started putting his team together to form a government. That is terrible. No wonder the ship is not moving.

Where does this inertia lead? Bills are not going anywhere. Everything is on the rocks, so to speak, because it does not please the future captain. The current captain wants to move his bills forward as his legacy, but the future captain is saying no. They are at loggerheads. That is what happens when a ship has two captains. It does not work, as we can see. I am not the only one who says so. Let me quote a few others.

The hon. member for Vaudreuil—Soulanges is not a member of the Bloc Quebecois or the Canadian Alliance, but a government member. Since the ship is at a standstill, he says, “It is clear that some major projects are on hold. If the Prime Minister decides to remain in office until January 28, we could find ourselves, as a government, paralyzed”. These remarks were reported in La Presse , on September 13, 2003. That was before we moved our motion. What he said then is along the lines of our motion.

I could also quote the hon. member for Verdun—Saint-Henri—Saint-Paul—Pointe Saint-Charles. She said, “If the Prime Minister announced he is retiring from politics, everyone would be relieved”. That is from Le Nouvelliste , on August 5, 2002.

I could quote many others, but I am running out of time. Nevertheless, I will quote the hon. member for Compton—Stanstead, who said, “The best time for the Prime Minister to leave is immediately after the leadership race. It would make no sense for him to stay on after that. How could things work with two leaders?” That is from La Tribune , on August 27, 2003.

On these brilliant quotes from members of the Liberal Party and potential cabinet material—since they openly support their future captain—I leave you to ponder. Our motion must be seriously considered. I cannot fathom why one would choose to remain at a standstill and vote against this motion.

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4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague to explain how government members go about their work, especially in his committee. I would like him to give us examples of the strange behaviour of the government right now. We have no choice but to ask the present Prime Minister to step down, so that the government can behave more appropriately.

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4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

In all committees or most of them, it is crystal clear that if we are examining a bill the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard is pleased with, Liberal members try to make things work and to push the bill forward.

However, if it is a bill sponsored by the one who is still captain of the ship, they try to stop it, instead. When it is a bill promoted by the present Prime Minister, the inertia is complete.

It is there for everyone to see. There is no need for lengthy explanations.

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4:45 p.m.

York West Ontario

Liberal

Judy Sgro LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, maybe the hon. member should be sitting on a different committee. Those of us who have been sitting on the Government Operations and Estimates Standing Committee have been able to do some fabulous work over the last six months or so, regardless of the issues he says are big problems.

So, maybe he should change committees. He might want to join some of the other ones that are frankly being very progressive and doing a lot of work on behalf of Canadians.

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4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish my colleague had listened carefully, and I do not want to pick on the interpreters. I said in my answer to the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel that this was happening in most committees. There are exceptions. The committee on which I sit with my colleague works just fine, but this is a committee whose mandate is to scrutinize everything that has to do with the administration of the former captain. It has nothing to do with anything the new captain could have been or could be implicated in later.

Picking on the former captain is fine. We hope the problem will be settled before the new captain arrives.

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4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague. That is how we need to react. We need to tell the truth to the people who are watching us tonight. I commend the member for having had the fortitude to say what is going on here, something the Liberal members would never tell their constituents.

Following his comments and all the speeches made by the Bloc members in this House, does my hon. colleague think that the Liberal members will support our motion?

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4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, they cannot vote in favour of a motion put forward by the Bloc Quebecois. Why? This morning, the government House leader came up with all kinds of reasons and excuses, even going so far as saying that the motion could lead to an election. It is not true.

The motion would only bring about what the Liberal members have been telling us since the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard is in the hot seat, since he has been chosen as the next captain. Their statements keep popping up in newspapers.

They should be consistent and vote in favour of the motion. But we know they will not do so.

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4:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before resuming debate, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville, Royal Canadian Mounted Police; the hon. member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, Coast Guard; the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Foreign Affairs.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

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4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on the motion presented by the Bloc Quebecois. This motion simply asks the Prime Minister to leave office as soon as possible after November 14, 2003, for the good of the government.

I would like to give a very striking example. I sit on the Standing Committee on Transport. This committee has felt the impact of a change in direction by the members of the party in power, the Liberal Party. In effect, the Liberals on the committee were mostly pro-Prime Minister, that is pro member from Shawinigan. Obviously, after we returned from the break last January, there had been a change. Those who favoured the member for LaSalle—Émard had taken control.

The Transport Committee actually did some work then, because there was the airline crisis to deal with. It submitted a unanimous report, agreed to by all members of the committee. Finally, the report was flatly rejected by the government. None of the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Transport were retained by the government.

The recommendations were intended to help the industry. They included reducing airport rents. They included lowering the tax on aviation fuel in order to help the industries. They also included completely abolishing the airport security tax. It was a unanimous report. It was completely rejected by the Department of Transport. It is well known that the Minister of Transport is a supporter of the member for Shawinigan. That is recognized here in the House. In fact, he is the person whom the Prime Minister trusts to lead the Department of Transport.

But now, since the month of September, since we returned to the House, nothing at all is happening in the Transport Committee. There are two bills, C-26 and C-27. I predict that they will not be passed by this House because the committee and the Liberal committee members who support the member for LaSalle—Émard have decided that these bills are not to their liking.

So, discussions will go on. We have more than 60 witnesses to hear on Bill C-26. I am giving this example and I believe the hon. members know why. In Bill C-26 there is one part, part 3 of the bill, which establishes the new VIA Rail company.

For example, the Minister of Transport announced several times officially a new rapid rail service along the Quebec City-Montreal-Windsor corridor. Obviously, it was his baby. He wanted this to happen. Since the team headed by the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard came to the Standing Committee on Transport, it is clear that the members of this team are opposed to any investments in rail transportation. They do not want this project to happen. Obviously, they are using all the means at their disposal so this bill will not be adopted.

The Minister of Transport announced that this bill was on hold. This morning, against all expectations, the Minister of Transport appeared before our committee. We expected instead to hear from government officials about budget increases. The minister arrived. He was nice enough to answer all our questions, like any other minister at the end of his mandate, meaning a minister who knows he will not be Minister of Transport much longer, in a new government.

He quite openly answered all our questions. As for VIA Rail and the Quebec City-Montreal, Montreal-Windsor rapid rail service, I want to quote him to make sure that his words are understood, “I am keeping this option for the next government”.

That was what he said. That is what the Minister of Transport said about a matter concerning Quebec and also, no doubt, Ontario. It concerned the implementation of this important corridor and rapid rail service between Quebec City-Montreal-Windsor. This is important to Quebec. Why? Because Quebec City and Montreal are tourist destinations, as are the other destinations along the corridor, including Trois-Rivières. It is important so that we can attract tourists, particularly Americans. It is important so that they can travel quickly by train so we can try to promote tourism. This is an important project.

In response to my questions, the minister said that cabinet did not support him and added that the current government—and he said the name of the current Prime Minister, the member for Saint-Maurice—could not afford to invest several hundreds of millions of dollars, that we would have to wait for the next government.

Why would there not be a motion in this House today dealing with this current issue, when even the Minister of Transport tells us to wait for the next government for major investments? I am saying this because the journalists are asking for the minutes. There will be talk about it tomorrow. That is the reality. The reality is that the government is paralyzed. We are waiting for the next government.

What should we tell our constituents in Quebec, those who are hoping for a Quebec City-Montreal-Windsor rapid rail service? What do we say to those who would also like there to be a Montreal-Boston corridor to attract American tourists to enjoy the sights of Quebec and the rest of Canada? What do we say to them? We are waiting for the next government.

The point we are trying to make in this House is that we want to see the next government as soon as possible. We want the current leader of the government, the member for Saint-Maurice, to step down after November 14, and no longer be the leader of the government. It is as simple as that. We should not have to go through what we went through today, where government decisions are blocked and delayed because we are waiting for a new government.

It is not just any member who made that statement. I am not quoting Liberal backbenchers. It was the Minister of Transport talking about a current issue, and what he said was “I am keeping this option for the next government”.

Again, this is unacceptable to us. Quebec needs as much investment as possible to develop tourism, among other things. I need hardly tell you how difficult this past year was for the tourism industry. We all know it.

After the war in Iraq, the number of American tourists decreased. And SARS also had a negative impact on the number of foreign tourists. We need to do everything we can to create projects that will attract tourists. For example, we could reduce the waiting time to travel to Quebec City, Montreal, Trois-Rivières, the Drummondville area and all the most beautiful places in Quebec and in the rest of Canada. This is a current issue that needs to be discussed.

Today, in the Standing Committee on Transport, this issue was totally swept aside for the simple reason that the present government is unable to commit funds. We have to wait for the new government, or at least that is what the transport minister said.

It is just as if we were waiting for the next election. It makes no sense. It makes no sense that we do not even have the support of Liberal members. When they hear that, they should understand very quickly that the point is not to have a new government. If they want a new government, they just have to call an election immediately after November 14. Otherwise, nothing will get done until next spring, until the member for LaSalle—Émard takes over as head of the government. That is the reality.

I am aware that, like my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles said, some committees can go about their work. They scrutinize the former administration. But as far as I know, the sponsorship program has been put forward by the former finance minister, the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard. They would have us believe that he will do away with the sponsorship program, but he is the one who set it up.

We should be consistent. I hope a few Liberal members, at least in Quebec, will demonstrate some consistency. And I hope they listen to what their constituents have to say.

The federal government has a lot of money, as we saw again yesterday. The news has been repeated today. The budget surplus stands at $7 billion instead of the forecast $3 billion. Important decisions should be made. If all the ministers say the present government cannot make commitments of millions of dollars because they have to wait for another government, it means the government will stay put until next spring, and that the economy in Quebec and the rest of Canada will be paralyzed.

I am not surprised that the unemployment rate is rising, for the simple reason that Liberal members are unable to take their responsibilities. Otherwise they would vote with us for this motion so that we would have a new leader, so that the government would keep doing its work, and so that the present Prime Minister would leave office after November 14.

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5 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my hon. colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel on his speech. I do not know if the Liberal members paid attention and listened carefully. Our colleague just provided glaring evidence of how important it is that all the members of this House vote for the motion put forward by the Bloc Quebecois.

He referred to the Standing Committee on Transport and the promises made by the Liberals. They have been promising a Quebec City-Montreal-Windsor train link for decades. The current leader of the government wants it to happen, but the one behind the curtain does not.

I would like my hon. colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel to expand on this a little and tell us what lies beneath all this? Does he want an election to be called? For the sake of the Canadian democracy, should there be an election after November 14?

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5 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Jonquière for her question.

It would be the perfect solution to sort out once and for all this situation, which is adversely affecting the economic development of Canada and Quebec.

I am speaking very candidly. All is not always well everywhere in Quebec. Given what the tourism industry has gone through this past year, substantial support is necessary. The reason for a rapid rail link between Quebec City and Montreal is to promote the development of the tourism economy in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, Jonquière, Chicoutimi, the North Shore and the Gaspé. That is what we are seeking.

The government is saying that any major spending or substantial investments— for a rapid rail link between Quebec City and Montreal, and Montreal and Windsor for example—will have to wait for the next government.

I hope, therefore, that the Liberal members, particularly those from Quebec who are well aware of the sorry state of the tourism industry over the past year, will support us. We really need to move on. The Prime Minister should leave after November 14, 2003. This is the way to go, even if it means calling an election in the fall. That is fine with us; we are not afraid.

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5 p.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord Québec

Liberal

André Harvey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Madam Speaker, my colleague just said that he is prepared to go to the polls the day after the leader of our party is chosen. I think that he cannot seriously mean that.

Polls show that Quebeckers are disappointed by the Bloc Quebecois in the House of Commons. They went from 54 members in the House to 35 members. This number will fall to 10 or 15 after the next election. I think he cannot seriously mean what he said.

I think he cannot mean that because, when a $2 billion strategic infrastructure program was adopted to repair the highway between Quebec City and Chicoutimi and repair highway 30 to Montreal, they voted against it. There is no better example of inconsistency.

They are talking about rapid rail. Mr. Pelletier, the President of Via Rail, and the Minister of Transport have met and have reached an agreement. This type of deal does not happen overnight. It is important to put the issues on the table, declare firm intentions and say that you will move forward in certain areas. That is how things get done, whether it be for infrastructure, research and development, or the environment. The government had good policies with the budget, as a result of the decisions we made.

Therefore, I think the member cannot mean what he said. I think it is a pity for my colleague, whom I got to know very well on the Standing Committee on Transport.

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5 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I hope that he will read the Minister of Transport's words tomorrow. I would like to say that we are not afraid of an election, because we are defending the interests of our fellow citizens. We are not here to defend the interests of the Liberal Party, which chooses its moment carefully so as to win as many seats as possible. We are not afraid of that and we will leave it up to the people to make their choice.

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5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, when I read this motion this morning what went through my mind was whether this was a valuable use of the House's time. With the challenges that face governments today, with the number of issues and the number of forces at play in a global world, I really thought this would be a waste of time, but the fact that we are here and debating it certainly gives me an excellent opportunity to reflect a bit on the gentlemen whom the motion is intended to embarrass.

I tell a lot of groups that I speak to about politics of my own personal experiences, and I say that because as a former parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, I think I was privileged to have a window into the world of this man.

I came to Ottawa as an MP in 1997. My family was an extremely political family. My father was a member of Parliament. My grandfather, although he ran unsuccessfully, managed a number of campaigns in very tough areas of the country to try to get the Liberal vote out. I came here with that very partisan grounding.

One of the things that struck me when I got here was that for the good politicians, the effective politicians, although they can engage in the rhetoric of question period, the real work that goes on here is at committee. I can say that for the most part my work on committees has been very rewarding and very non-partisan, much to my initial disappointment. We get excited about things and it takes a few years to sort things out.

The thing that strikes me about the business of government and governing a nation is that the black and white issues are easy to deal with, and governments do an easy job of dealing with them. It is the grey areas that cause us problems. The grey areas are a small portion of what we do, but they get a disproportionate amount of attention given to them in the media, which brings me to my point.

As the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, one of my jobs and one of the things I concerned myself with was my minister. One gets a little protective. I was constantly frustrated when confronted with this ongoing paradox of the Prime Minister and the opinion people would have of him if all they did was read the National Post and the opinion that I had from working with him on a daily basis.

What struck me was that this seemed to bother me a lot more than it bothered him. He was constantly providing me with advice, and one point was not to read the newspapers, which he did not do; he made it very clear to me that this is not leadership. One does not stick a wet finger in the air, see which way the wind is blowing and make decisions. He made his decisions based upon a very deeply entrenched set of principles.

What bothers me about this motion and its intent is that here we have a politician with 40 years of service in this country. This gentleman has been around this place longer than the eternal flame on the front lawn. When the Prime Minister showed up for his first day of work, the member for Leeds--Grenville showed up for his first day of kindergarten.

We have a country that is infinitely better off because this Prime Minister chose public service. We have an economy that is infinitely better off because this Prime Minister chose to accept the responsibility of leading the Liberal Party in the last 10 years. When this party came to power, we were facing a $42 billion a year deficit. If government were a business, we would have been bankrupt. Tough decisions had to be made. It is very easy now to gloss over this and gloss over this period. Certainly the Tories tried. I can remember that the finance minister of the Tories at one point was preaching belt tightening. It appealed to Bay Street. It appealed to the fiscally responsible business people in our society.

When that plan of belt tightening got around the cabinet table, it was completely decimated. What would have been a little belt tightening then ended up being the equivalent of the Atkins diet in 1993. We had to make tough choices, tough choices for Liberals, tough choices for politicians who understand that things like investing in children are not costs. They are just that: investments. Things like investing in the environment are not costs on a balance sheet. Even with those deeply held principles, the job was done and the economy is much better off. We lead the G-7. The Economist magazine has highlighted Canada as the place to invest internationally. International agencies point to Canada as a market with the least amount of corruption in terms of a market for international business.

If we listened to the opposition, we would think the sky is falling. That is its job. Its job is to oppose and that is fine, but I think that in the twilight of this career this type of motion really is insulting.

I know that the current parliamentary secretary touched on the fact that in the last year we have seen the benefit of 40 years of experience in public life, certainly as a political party. I do not want to get partisan, but the job of political parties is to get power and put in place the principles and the values that the members hold. That is the job of the party, not the government.

In terms of the Liberal Party, the success of this current Prime Minister is unprecedented. People can spin it any way they want and they will not find a more successful political party leader than this particular gentleman, so that debate is moot. The opposition members may think that what they are looking at is a light at the end of the tunnel. I can tell the House that they may very well be looking at the light of a freight train. They do not want another election. One can only take losing so many times. I do not want to appear arrogant, but on a partisan political basis they cannot argue with his ability to win elections.

But let us look at what he does when he wins. I have never been prouder of the stand of our Prime Minister in the wake of what happened in Iraq. Certainly I was not proud of how that unfolded. I was not proud of some of the personal statements people made, but at the end of the day history will show that this Prime Minister's instinct was absolutely correct in terms of how we handle those types of situations and in terms of the fact that multilateralism, with its flaws, is the only option in dealing with issues of international crisis.

One of the issues that I feel very strongly about is the environment. I am of the view that we must structurally change our economy so that activities that harm the environment are taxed and activities that do not are not. We must encourage the self-policing concepts of profit and competition to make buckets of cash for companies that are good for the environment and to make sure that pollution does not pay. If we do not change structurally, we are in trouble.

The Prime Minister ratified the Kyoto Accord in the wake of some of the most ridiculous fearmongering and naysaying from the opposition. He stepped up to the plate, and generations and generations from now will look back at that small step. That is all that it was. The reductions that are inherent in the Kyoto accord represent about 10% of what we actually need to do if we are serious about sustaining life on this planet.

In the wake of that crisis and knowing that international agreements take decades, not years, to ratify, the Prime Minister stepped up and ratified Kyoto. I think we are seeing now with Russia's potential ratification that we are going to move on the file. It is not a panacea. It is not going to solve the problems. But that is leadership. That is what we have had and that is what we have from this Prime Minister.

When I woke up this morning I looked at the motion and thought, “This is ridiculous. This is a waste of the House's time. This sort of tips the scales when we have this debate about whether the House is going to prorogue or not”. I thought that we have more important things to spend our time on. We have more important things to do.

At the end of the day, the motion is designed essentially to run out of town a gentleman who has given 40 years of his life to a very high level of public service. He has always considered public service to be the most noble of professions. We should not be running him out of town. Canada should have a parade in honour of one of the finest prime ministers that we have ever had or ever will have.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It being 5:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

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

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.