House of Commons Hansard #76 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was iraq.


Business of the House

11 a.m.

The Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 81(14), it is my duty to inform the House of the motion to be addressed Tuesday in studying the business of supply.

The motion reads as follows:

That, as this House supported the reduction of funds for the firearms program in the Supplementary Estimates of December 5, 2002, this House should continue to support the reduction of funds for the firearms program in this supply period and subsequent supply periods until the government can provide a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis for the program and provide an accurate total of expenditures to date and a realistic estimate of future costs of implementing the Firearms Act including the total cost:

to fully enforce the Firearms Act;

to verify the 5 million unverified firearms in the registry;

to verify and correct the information in the 4 million records in the Firearms Interest Police database and to bring it into full compliance with the Privacy Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms;

to register the 10 million unregistered guns in Canada;

to license the half million unlicensed gun owners in Canada; and

to the economy and jobs.

This motion, standing in the name of the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville, is not votable. Copies of the motion are available at the table.

It being 11:05 a.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from January 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-205, An act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act (disallowance procedure for statutory instruments), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Statutory Instruments ActPrivate Members' Business

March 24th, 2003 / 11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-205, an act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act, is designed to provide a statutory basis for the current disallowance procedure and to extend the application of that procedure to regulations made by persons or bodies, other than the governor in council or ministers of the Crown. The bill is consistent with recommendations made by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations for the reform of the current disallowance procedure.

One aspect of the current disallowance procedure that has long been identified as problematic by advocates of better parliamentary control of delegated legislation is that it limits the possibility of disallowance to those statutory instruments that are made by the governor in council or by ministers of the Crown.

As a result, the considerable body of delegated legislation promulgated, for example, by the CRTC, the Canadian Transportation Agency or the National Energy Board is not subject to the disallowance procedure provided for in the Standing Orders. This is a consequence of the choice made in 1986 to implement the new disallowance procedures by means of amendments to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons rather than legislation.

In any event, it is clearly both logical and desirable that all statutory instruments subject to review by Parliament under the Statutory Instruments Act be subject to disallowance. There is no reason, either in theory or in practice, why a regulation made by the governor in council or a minister can be disallowed by Parliament while a regulation made by some other delegate of Parliament cannot.

The effectiveness of the current procedure also relies on the cooperation of the governor in council or the minister concerned to carry out a disallowance after it has been ordered by the House of Commons. In itself, an order of the House of Commons cannot affect the revocation of a regulation. The authority that made a disallowed regulation must still formally intervene in order to revoke that regulation following the making of a disallowance order. Putting the disallowance procedure on a statutory footing will allow Parliament to enact that a disallowed regulation will be deemed to be revoked and thereby streamline the disallowance procedure as well as improve its effectiveness.

On reviewing some of the interventions that have been made against this bill or its predecessor in the last session, Bill C-202, one is struck by the fact that many of the arguments put forward do not go to the principle of the bill, but focus on alleged perceived practical difficulties with the bill as it stands. In many instances these difficulties are more apparent than real. In any event, the objections that have been raised could easily be dealt with, if warranted, by means of amendments to the bill in committee.

We have heard a curious claim that for the Parliament of Canada to enact a statutory disallowance procedure might be incompatible with the principle of responsible government.

The reality is that the procedure laid out in Bill C-205 is entirely consistent with, and in fact promotes, responsible government by increasing the accountability of the executive branch to Parliament.

There are at least 12 parliaments in the Commonwealth, including provincial legislatures, that have adopted a statutory disallowance procedure. I believe no one would seriously suggest that these jurisdictions have turned their back on the principle of responsible government.

In addition, the Parliament of Canada has itself previously enacted a negative resolution procedure in some of its statutes. If the argument that was made was correct, those who are making it would have to conclude that the federal Parliament has already abandoned the principle of responsible government. Of course, this conclusion is absurd.

The purpose of Bill C-205 is to expand the scope of the current disallowance procedure so as to allow parliamentarians to exercise the same control over the making of regulations by all its delegates that it already exercises over the making of regulations by the governor in council or by a minister.

At present, regulations made by persons or bodies other than the governor in council or a minister are subject to parliamentary scrutiny by the Houses, acting through the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, but the Houses are powerless to control these regulations through disallowance. This is an anomaly that needs to be corrected.

An attempt has been made to present the correction of this anomaly as involving an unwarranted parliamentary intrusion in the affairs of regulation makers. For example, in her intervention the Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General drew attention to the fact that rules made by the courts--one of the three pillars of a democratic society--would fall under and be captured by Bill C-205. She then asked: “What about the separation of the judiciary and the government?”

Court rules made under statutory authority come within the scope of Bill C-205 because they are delegated legislation, just as they come within the scope of the existing Statutory Instruments Act because they are delegated legislation.

Bill C-205 is a bill to amend the Statutory Instruments Act and, as such, the provisions of the bill reflect the structure and organization of the statute it amends. If the possible application of the disallowance procedure to rules of procedure is problematic, it is the Statutory Instruments Act that should be amended to exclude court rules from the definition of “statutory instrument”. This is not something that is within the scope of Bill C-205.

While making that argument, the parliamentary secretary was probably not aware that in its 10th report of the second session of the 33rd Parliament, 1988, the scrutiny committee informed both Houses that it would not scrutinize the rules of procedure made by courts intended to have the same degree of independence as that guaranteed by the Constitution to superior courts. The committee took that decision nearly 15 years ago out of its sensitivity to the principle of the independence of the judiciary.

Given that court rules are also subject to examination by Department of Justice employees under the Statutory Instruments Act, it is the subjection of those rules to the control of the Department of Justice employee that might properly be said to breach the “separation of the judiciary and the government”. In these circumstances, any concern about the separation of the judiciary and the government might be better directed to the current practice of the government than with regard to the parliamentary procedure proposed in Bill C-205.

It is interesting to note that on more than one occasion the House has been assured that the disallowance procedures of the Standing Orders process have worked well. If anything, this should be an argument in favour of adopting Bill C-205, but more fundamental, those who use this argument to justify the status quo are overlooking the fact that the statutory disallowance procedure proposed in Bill C-205 is not put forward because the current procedure has not worked. It is put forward because it is necessary to adopt legislation to expand the scope of parliamentary control of delegated legislation to include all instruments that are now subject to parliamentary scrutiny. As has been said by others, this purpose simply cannot be achieved by the standing orders and requires a legislative approach.

Thirty years after the enactment of the Statutory Instruments Act the benefits that have accrued from our scrutiny of delegated legislation are indisputable. Effective parliamentary scrutiny, however, requires effective parliamentary control. A step in the right direction was taken in 1986 and I believe the time has come to complete the process and to eliminate the gap that now exists between scrutiny and control of delegated legislation.

This is what Bill C-205 proposes to do. Full parliamentary control of delegated legislation with such exceptions as are warranted represents a meaningful and significant reduction of the democratic deficit. More than 30 years after the enactment of the Statutory Instruments Act it is believed that the time has come for the Parliament of Canada to give itself the means to ensure full democratic control of federally delegated legislation.

I congratulate my colleague from Surrey who has put forth the legislation. I trust when the House has to vote we will all support it like we should.

Statutory Instruments ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Tom Wappel Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-205, an act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act, is intended to provide a statutory basis for our current disallowance procedure and to extend the application of that procedure to regulations made by persons or bodies other than the governor in council or ministers of the crown. This bill is consistent with recommendations made by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations for the reform of the current disallowance procedure.

Criticism has been levelled about the fact that the revocation of a disallowed regulation 30 days after its disallowance by the House would create a situation in which the government would be deprived of the flexibility it needs to consider the implications of a disallowance. This is a specious argument. Why? Disallowance would almost invariably take place after long and extensive discussions with the responsible department and, in practice, a regulation making authority would have ample time to consider both alternatives to its regulation and the consequence of a repeal.

Second, disallowance will usually only take place after the joint committee has specifically advised the responsible minister it is being considered. Even after a disallowance resolution is tabled in the House, Bill C-205, in keeping with the current procedure, requires that the resolution can only become an order after 15 sitting days. That means the government will always have almost a month in which to decide whether or not it will object to disallowance. In practice, if the House is not sitting, the period will be even greater.

In addition, it is precisely in order to preserve the ability of the government to establish an appropriate alternative temporary regime where one is needed that Bill C-205 suspends the effective date of revocation by 30 days. This is more than what is provided by other disallowance procedures in the Commonwealth.

For example, repeal of the subject regulation is immediate upon adoption of the disallowance motion in the following jurisdictions with such procedures. In the Commonwealth of Australia. New South Wales; Victoria; Queensland; South Australia; Tasmania; Northern Territory; and Western Australia. In New Zealand, it is immediate or on such later date as is specified in the resolution. In our very own province of Quebec, it is immediate or on such later date as is specified in the resolution. In Saskatchewan, the subject regulation is to be repealed or amended by the regulation making authority on receipt of the resolution forwarded by the clerk of the legislative assembly. In Manitoba, the regulation is to be repealed or amended by the regulation making authority in accordance with the resolution of the legislative assembly.

If civil servants in those jurisdictions are capable of providing advice to their ministers with respect to the regulatory measures that are needed following the revocation of a disallowed provision within 15 sitting days, why would this be an insurmountable difficulty for our federal civil servants?

The procedure proposed in Bill C-205 gives a full additional month before the revocation takes place. This feature is unique and provides the federal government and other regulation making authorities with greater flexibility than any other statutory disallowance procedure.

Again, if the government, in any particular case, believes that the standing joint committee failed to take certain factors into account, such as the time required to put in place a replacement regulation, it is free to make that case in the House of Commons and to ask the House not to disallow.

It is also of interest to note that the usual notice and comment period for proposed regulations following pre-publication in part I of the Canada Gazette is 30 days. If that is a sufficient period of time for citizens to assess and comment on a proposed regulatory initiative, often involving many pages of regulations, one wonders why a similar period, which is really in addition to the minimum of three weeks provided before a resolution becomes an order of the House, is not sufficient for those advising the government or other regulation making authorities to assess and react appropriately to the disallowance of a regulation.

Are members of the House expected to believe that our public service is incapable of dealing with a proposed revocation within a period of 51 days while it is perfectly possible for their Australian or Quebec counterparts to do so within 21 days?

It should also be noted that the usual procedure in the federal statutes that provide a negative resolution procedure is for the revocation to take effect immediately upon adoption of the resolution in question. The existence of these federal precedents is sufficient to dispose of the claim that Bill C-205 imposes an impractical burden on regulation making authorities.

Here again the fact is that Bill C-205 is more generous in that regard than any previous federal legislation in that it suspends the effect of a disallowance order by a full month following its adoption.

Finally, it has been argued that by leaving in the hands of the government the power to revoke a disallowed regulation, the current procedure provides a fail safe mechanism against a rash or ill-considered disallowance.

The fact is that the procedure proposed in Bill C-205 already provides a mechanism for the reconsideration of a disallowance resolution. Under proposed subclause 19.1(4), any minister may request that a debate take place on a disallowance resolution put forward by the standing joint committee. That mechanism provides the government with an opportunity to make its case to the House of Commons that the revocation of any particular regulation would have unforeseen consequences or create a damaging legal vacuum. If a valid case is made, the House will refuse to approve the disallowance. If the government is unable to make a convincing case then the House will approve the disallowance. Either way, it is the collective judgment of the House of Commons that prevails.

The argument in favour of a statutory disallowance procedure is that the Parliament of Canada is the source of the legislative authority that is exercised, not only by the governor in council and ministers, but also by various other regulation making authorities, such as the CRTC and the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Accordingly, Parliament has a valid interest in overseeing the manner in which the legislative powers it has delegated to such bodies and agencies is obvious and has long been recognized in Canadian law. Effective parliamentary scrutiny requires effective parliamentary control. The existing procedure could only deal with a portion of the regulations subject to parliamentary scrutiny, those made by the governor in council or by a minister.

In order for the scope of the disallowance procedure to coincide with the scope of parliamentary scrutiny, Bill C-205 is necessary. There has been much talk lately of a democratic deficit. Full parliamentary control of delegated legislation with such exceptions as are warranted would significantly reduce that deficit. The procedure that is proposed by this bill is one that has been endorsed by parliamentarians of all parties and that has been the subject of unanimous recommendations by various committees of this parliament.

I believe the time has come for Canada to give parliamentarians back the means they require to ensure the accountability of public authorities for their exercise of law making powers given to them by Parliament. Bill C-205 gives us this procedure and I support it.

Statutory Instruments ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-205. It is not a very voluminous bill, being only two pages in length, but it is far more important than its size would indicate, since its purpose is to monitor the application of statutory instruments adopted by the government.

I will explain what I mean by that. Those listening may think it sounds simple for the government to pass legislation and then afterward the related statutory instruments. But what the public does not realize is that those instruments are not passed in this House, in other words are not subject to a vote by members and naturally do not reflect the representativeness of those elected to represent the people here.

That is basically what this bill is intended to do. The Bloc Quebecois agrees with this bill, which does not come from a Bloc MP. We agree with it because its objective is to establish a mechanism which would allow the House, once a statutory instrument were adopted by the government, to demand the non-adoption, or disallowance, of a statutory instrument, or a portion thereof.

Thus the deputation in this House would have the opportunity to vote or to oblige the government to explain itself and to submit for approval of the House the text of that regulatory instrument, or a portion thereof.

This is something of great importance, and I will give you an example to show why. I am my party's transport critic and currently a member of the legislative committee examining Bill C-17, the Public Safety Act. I will not go into all the complexities, all the dangers this bill represents for our rights and freedoms. I will limit myself to giving the people of Quebec and of Canada one example from Part 7, which addresses the Explosives Act.

Bill C-17 adds some new offences to the Criminal Code, including a prohibition from knowingly manufacturing in whole or in part an explosive from an inexplosive ammunition component. This represents the addition of a new offence.

And what do inexplosive ammunition components comprise? Any cartridge case, bullet, or projectile used in a firearm. Thus an additional offence under the Criminal Code is being added in connection with the manufacture of explosives.

Gun owners, hunters and other people came to tell the committee that it made no sense for this bill to prohibit them from making their own ammunition, among other things, when the guns were being used for recreational purposes.

The government is telling all those people who demonstrated their opposition by appearing before the committee that they must wait for the regulations and that, when the regulations come out, individuals whose use is personal will be exempt.

However, when this bill is adopted, the regulations will not be issued. So, obviously, I understand the hunters, recreational gun owners and firing range groups who are saying, “Listen, now you are prohibiting us from doing this, and this is dangerous because we can be considered criminals”. And Bill C-17 as it relates to the Explosives Act is not simple. For example, it says, “For the purpose of ensuring compliancewith this Act...aninspector anyreasonable time, enter and inspect any...factory—”

This means, therefore, that this bill will also allow for the appointment of inspectors who will be able to inspect homes. I will not go into how this violates rights and freedoms because they do not need a warrant, for one. Suffice it to say that this could have very serious implications.

Again, we want to defend the interests of Canadians, the average citizens we represent. Those who hunt or engage in target practice are asking whether they will be able to pursue their hobbies and carry on as they did before. In committee, the government told us, “You will see once the regulations have been tabled”. I am glad that Bill C-205 is before the House and I hope that it will be passed.

If ever the regulations were not consistent with the interpretations of representatives of civil society, in terms of the Explosives Act for example, this House would have to be able to request disallowance of the part of the statute that did not deliver the same message as that delivered to the organizations representing hunters and firearms owners who engage in target practice, in order to more properly represent the interests of the men and women who practice these sports and reload their ammunition.

This bill provides a mechanism. As my colleagues have pointed out, there could be a resolution in the House to disallow a statutory instrument or a portion thereof. The bill provides that a resolution shall be deemed to have been adopted on the fifteenth sitting day after the report is presented, unless, before that time, a motion to the effect that the resolution not be adopted is filed. Consideration of the motion shall be on the Wednesday next.

This bill establishes a mechanism. Statutory instruments could be passed under legislation, such as Bill C-17 amending the Explosives Act, regarding which representatives of civil society had requested in committee regulations to protect their rights and freedoms.

Bill C-205 guarantees members the ability to defend the interests of average Quebeckers and Canadians. We will be able, here in the House, to act as their advocates and introduce amendments to statutory instruments that could threaten or violate their rights and freedoms. These regulations would be subject to a vote and a review process. This would surely satisfy representatives of civil society, of the men and women who elect us to defend their interests.

All too often we are forced to admit to them that we have no control whatsoever. Statutory instruments are a good example of this lack of say: members of the House have no control over them. It is up to the government, often ministers, to prepare the regulations, which are then submitted to executive committee. There is a procedure, but it completely excludes members, the men and women that are sent here by the public to represent them.

Bill C-205 will allow us to submit the regulations that are not in the interests of our constituents for approval in the House. For this reason, understandably, the Bloc Quebecois will support Bill C-205. We hope that all members will support it, and that the House will pass it unanimously.

Statutory Instruments ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-205, submitted by the hon. member for Surrey Central. I am glad that this will be a votable motion because I think it is an important subject that we are debating here today. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the hon. member for what I am sure took an enormous amount of time, to actually research the issue and bring it forth in the form of a bill that could in a very precise and technical way redress what really has been a longstanding grievance within Parliament: how we can place under public scrutiny regulations that are enacted.

First I would like to speak in a general way, because in reading some of the background to the bill the first thing that struck me is that it is very technical. Probably most folks out there would wonder what on earth is going on and what are we trying to do here in Parliament.

Probably the most important thing to say is that a lot of our constituents who watch the debates in the House see us debating bills and engaging in sometimes very contentious debate that is reported in the media. Hopefully people have some sense of what is taking place in the House in terms of bills that are being debated. Then, when the bills are sent to committee, there are often witnesses called and again there is often a representation of the issues within the media, so there is some sense of transparency and disclosure about the debate that takes place.

What is important to note is that what we do in the House in terms of our legislative authority in making those bills covers only about 20% of what actually finally becomes enacted in terms of both bills and legislation coming from bills. More importantly, the other 80% ends up being encased in regulations that really receive very little public scrutiny. It is at this point that Bill C-205 would become a very key instrument in terms of bringing them under public disclosure through procedures to ensure that the limited procedures we have available to us now as members of Parliament through various committees are actually strengthened and enhanced, to ensure that there is a procedure to deal with scrutiny of regulations which may be at deviance from the legislation, contradictory, unclear or illegal.

Having said that, I hope it is an adequate explanation in a general sense of what the bill is all about.

I come from a municipal background, having been a member of Vancouver city council for 11 years, and I know that there are quite a few members of the House who have a municipal background in city council, school boards and so on. One thing that has always struck me is that in the municipal arena the way we do our business is very much up front. If one goes to a city council meeting, a public hearing or a committee meeting, the business of the council or the municipality is very much on the table. It is very visible in terms of bylaws or policy decisions that are being made.

When I came to this place in 1997, elected as the member of Parliament for Vancouver East, I was immediately struck by the complexity of the rules that govern this place and how hard it is to really get at the essence of a matter in terms of understanding what it is that is taking place and to present that information in a way that is accessible to people, that is understandable and that takes place in a way that provides accountability for government decisions.

I know that the former NDP House leader, the member for Winnipeg—Transcona, who is now our parliamentary leader, was very involved in the McGrath commission way back in 1986. One of the interesting features of that commission is that it also addressed this issue of lack of oversight when it came to dealing with regulations.

Through the McGrath decision, with which the member for Winnipeg--Transcona was very involved, a provision was recommended and adopted to ensure that a Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations would have some ability to look at regulations and where they were at variance, to issue a report that they should be disallowed. However the interesting thing is that procedure which was enacted 16 or 17 years ago was done on a temporary basis. It has never been made permanent through a statutory order. Although it has been a step in the right direction, it has been defective in other ways and it does not include quasi-government agencies, crown corporations.

For example, when we look at organizations like the CRTC, the National Energy Board, the Canadian Transportation Agency or the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, these are important government agencies that conduct all kinds of business in the interests of public policy and of Canadians. Yet what they may or may not do in terms of regulation has no public scrutiny for procedures that exist within our Parliament. That is a very serious shortcoming and it is something that has not addressed or followed up through the McGrath commission.

The bill before us today, Bill C-205, seeks to address some of these serious shortcomings. Although I will not go into all of the technicalities of the bill, one of the key issues on which it focuses is this. Under the limited provisions we have now, where the joint committee through its deliberation establishes that a regulation should be disallowed because it is contrary to legislation or for whatever technical reason it should be disallowed, when that order or resolution is brought forward to the House, there is nothing to enforce it. This is a very serious shortcoming in that the committee must then rely on the goodwill of the minister involved to do something about it.

We have a committee that may have spent hours and hours going through hundreds and thousands of regulations. Then it may have come to a determination, on an all party basis, which makes it a very non-partisan work, and concluded that a particular regulation needs to be allowed only to find out that it is at the mercy or the goodwill of a minister to then follow up. One of the most important aspects of the bill before us today is that it would change that procedure and ensure that Parliament would have the wherewithal and the powers to ensure that where the committee had put forward for a disallowance it would be enforced through a parliamentary procedure. That would be a vast improvement over what we have now.

While obviously the bill has to go through more debate, I hope very much that it will continue to receive very strong support from all sides of the House. It is part of a larger question about the modernization and the democratization of Parliament.

I am one member of a committee that is dealing with the modernization of Parliament and we have been looking at other parliamentary entities such as Australia and the U.K. We are trying to learn what other places do so we can use that to improve the transparency, the efficiency and the accountability that exists within this place.

Again, I congratulate the member for the work he has done. I would suggest that this bill is one very specific thing that we could agree to do to improve democracy in this House and to ensure that Parliament is in control of its own business. I would urge members to continue to support this bill.

Statutory Instruments ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I also stand in support of the bill. It is very interesting to listen to debate on such a bill. Because the bill itself is an extremely technical one, the debate was focused on the material itself. Usually when we debate bills in the House, if we did not know specifically what we were talking about, we would never guess from the conversations and presentations that were put forth. Perhaps we should try to ensure that all bills and motions debated are technical.

The other interesting thing about this is, since the original introduction of the bill, I believe the House generally has become much more conscience of the need for change in Parliament. We have talked about parliamentary reform and a number of members are getting involved in trying to find ways to improve what goes on here and, in particular, to make government more accountable and more responsible.

In the original discussions we had a fair amount of opposition from the government. However this morning the one speaker from the government side, the formidable chair of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, spoke in favour of the bill. It does not surprise me because the gentleman certainly is a very intelligent individual who undoubtedly can understand fully the implications of such legislation, unlike perhaps some of his colleagues.

Attitudes are changing in relation to Parliament. The pettiness is starting to disappear little by little, but not quickly enough. As it does, we see much more serious debate on these issues.

In the words of a noted constitutional scholar, Eugene Forsey, a great Newfoundlander by the way, responsible government means a cabinet responsible to Parliament and a Parliament answerable to the people. I believe that says it all. There is nothing in Bill C-205 that detracts from this principle. On the contrary.

Senator Forsey was a member and joint chairman of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. He fully supported the adoption of a general disallowance procedure binding on government. It is very doubtful that such an eminent constitutional scholar would have given his support to such a procedure if he thought it was inconsistent with our constitution. Therefore, the arguments made to that point certainly are null and void. If that had been the case, I expect Senator Forsey would have been the first to make note of that fact himself.

The reality is that far from being inconsistent with the principle of responsible government, the proposed disallowance procedure serves to reaffirm the principle by ensuring that cabinet and other regulation making authorities are fully accountable to Parliament for the regulations they make in the exercise of powers delegated by Parliament. That is basically what the people in the country ask; that the laws and rules we make here are responsible, not only to Parliament but through Parliament to the people of the country.

The opposition one sees today to the adoption of a statutory disallowance procedure flows from the same source as did the opposition to the creation of a parliamentary scrutiny committee more than 30 years ago. It is a case of the bureaucracy resisting any change seen as lessening its own control and power.

The case for statutory disallowance procedure is a simple one. The Parliament of Canada is the source of the legislative authority that is delegated not only to the governor in council and ministers but also to various other regulation making authorities such as the CRTC, the Canadian Transportation Agency, and others. That Parliament has a valid interest in overseeing the manner in which the authority is exercised cannot be doubted, and this has long been recognized in Canadian law.

For more than 30 years now regulations by these regulating authorities have been subject to parliamentary oversight and scrutiny and have stood permanently referred to the Join Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. Effective parliamentary scrutiny however, requires effective parliamentary control. The lack of an effective and adequate parliamentary control procedure was partly addressed in 1986 when the government accepted to be bound by standing orders providing for such a procedure.

We have heard other members talk about the McGrath Committee, which really was an extremely revolutionary committee. I should remind the House that the chairman of the committee, James McGrath, was also a great Newfoundlander.

Because of the now legislative nature of the standing orders however, that procedure could only deal with a portion of the instrument subject to parliamentary scrutiny, those made by the governor in council or by minister. That experiment has been a success, as even those opposed to Bill C-205 have acknowledged.

As we have seen, there has been opposition to this procedure in the past but as people begin to realize that we are really here to be responsible, number one to Parliament and particularly through Parliament to the people of the country, we have become much more conscious of having the proper procedures in place that will ensure this accountability exists and can be carried out.

I would like to congratulate the person who introduced the bill. The amount of work and background material that has been provided and the attempt to offset the naysayers in relation to their presentations factually says a tremendous amount for the interest and the dedication of the individual involved. In congratulating him, I want to say we support the bill and look forward to it coming to a final vote.

Statutory Instruments ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see a fair bit of support around the House for this private member's bill, Bill C-205. I hope that will carry us through the vote which ultimately will take place.

Remarks were made earlier in the House congratulating the member for introducing the bill. I also congratulate him but want to pay tribute to others before him who introduced bills similar to this one. It has been almost a tradition of joint chairs of the standing joint committee to introduce a bill of this nature to, in effect, remedially correct a small omission existing in the disallowance procedure, also referred to earlier by members.

I will abandon a lot of my formally prepared remarks because members have been good enough to recite the history, going back to the 1970s and the reform in 1986.

Essentially, the bill corrects an omission which was acknowledged even as the procedure was put into place in 1986. The disallowance procedure allows the House to disallow a regulation made by the governor in council and by a minister if the regulation does not comply with the law established by the House and the regulation delegated under procedures in law created by the House. If a minister or agency of government is delegated authority to make subordinate legislation, they must comply with the laws and the procedures put in place by the House. If not, they must correct it. In the end, if there is an impasse the House will disallow it.

The standing joint committee has done this work for almost 30 years, and 98% of the time the committee spends it time correcting errors in regulations. In many cases, the government itself will withdraw the regulation and make the corrections. A lot of work done on this is about as exciting as dry toast. In fact, the debate on the bill today will not appeal to many people because it is just that, a technical thing.

One member earlier suggested that the House did not have a disallowance procedure. We do have a procedure and we use it. The House has disallowed regulations nine or ten times over the last 10 years. The system does work but there is a piece of it that does not.

Approximately 90% of the regulations that are made are governed by the existing disallowance procedure. It is only a small segment of regulations made by agencies to which the House has delegated a power to make regulations. Examples are the CRTC, the Canadian Transport Commission and a few others. The reason the House does not and cannot disallow is that our authority to disallow is only enforceable in relation to ministers, the Prime Minister, the governor in council, and members present in the House. We can enforce in relation to them, and it works. However, for a technical reason, it is constitutional in nature. The orders and resolutions of the House cannot be enforced against citizens out there in the real world, such as an agency. Agencies do not sit in the House. Regulations made by those agencies under authority of the House sit in a no man's land, not subject to the full and final scrutiny of the House and the disallowance procedure.

We deal with defects in those regulations. We work with them all the time. We write them, deal with them and corrections are made but occasionally we have an impasse.

I have noticed that sometimes it takes a lot of extra time to hear back from agencies when the committee writes to them. Why? I am not sure why. However they know that at the end of the day the House is not in a position to disallow. The House cannot use the hammer or the nuclear option, as we sometimes describe it on the committee.

All the bill would do is remediate the missing 10% of the ambit of the net of the disallowance authority. To many people it may seem like a small thing. It is only about 10% of the volume that we do. In fact, I cannot recall a case where we actually did want to do a disallowance involving an agency. The point is that the procedures and authority that we have are incomplete. They were acknowledged as being incomplete by the justice minister in 1986 when the procedures were put in place. Anybody who sees the whole procedure understands it is incomplete. All the bill would do is complete it. We do that by placing the procedure into statute form.

By putting this in statute form, the bill would create a clock. It would provide a 30-plus day timeframe within which the bill would be deemed disallowed. The current disallowance procedure involves the House making an order to the minister, the governor in council or the Prime Minister, to revoke the instrument. In every case the government has done that when the House has ordered it. What the statute would do is directly revoke the instrument or allow the revocation of the instrument when the House makes its order, and there would be a 30-plus day period when the department could re-enact, replace or correct the revoked order. That seems like a reasonable procedure and, as colleagues have pointed out, that 30 day period exists. It does not exist in some jurisdictions, such as, I believe, Australia. The Province of Quebec has a similar procedure. In those cases, when the House does the disallowance, it is immediate and we end up with a timeframe when there is not a regulation in force.

We acknowledge in the House that there are times when it is just practically stupid to revoke a regulation and leave nothing in its place. It may cause inconvenience, extra costs and disorder. In every case, the committee takes these issues into consideration when it feels it has to move toward a disallowance. We realize the implications, and the authority of the House, through the committee, has been used very responsibly over the years.

It is not worth very much in terms of critical mass but I want to point out that about a year ago I wrote and published a pamphlet dealing with parliamentary reform. It was called “Backbench Exercises”. One of the 16 recommendations in the report was that the House remediate, fix, make complete this statutory disallowance power simply because it was an omission. It is a defect.

In the end, I can only submit that it is absolutely illogical for the House to have a procedure in existence involving disallowance, which it has already, that controls those to whom we delegate the authority to make subordinate law and not include all the regulations, all the subordinate instruments. It is an omission. All we are trying to put in place here is some remedial legislation, a statutory procedure, that would in effect make the whole disallowance procedure whole, complete, logical and effective.

I will of course be supporting the bill. There may be some need to fine tune it a bit at committee if it is adopted by the House, which I hope it will be, in the vote. I want to signal to those who care about this very dry, technical area that I will be working very aggressively on both sides of the House to do my very best to see that the legislation is put in place so that it will serve the House and Canadians in the future.

Statutory Instruments ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, prior to becoming involved in politics and coming to this Chamber I never in my life thought I would actually be making a speech on an act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act, disallowance procedure for statutory instruments.

It is one of the most arcane subjects and titles that I have ever run into. I commend my colleague for Surrey Central for bringing this to the attention of the House. I think he must stay up awfully late at night pouring over books or doing something because I cannot figure out how in the world anybody would even have discovered this as being a problem, much less being able to come up with a title for it.

As I understand the situation, we in Canada, being a civilized democracy, are in a position of taking rules and regulations from government. We are in a position of responding to those rules and regulations as put forward by government and the government in turn comes to the legislature and speaks to us, the members of Parliament, who in turn, hopefully, are doing an adequate job of representing the people in our constituencies and the people of Canada.

In fact, if we were to take a look at the rules and regulations under which Canada is run, we would realize that approximately 20% of all the rules and regulations that we are asked to adhere to are actually legislation. The other 80% are brought in by regulation and that, indeed, is what this is about.

I make that explanation because I am a novice to this particular topic. I had to have the member for Surrey Central kind of walk me through this so that I could understand how important this actually was to the people who either read Hansard or are watching the debate on CPAC today.

Parliament has the moral responsibility and the responsibility to the Canadian people to make laws. At the same time, we as members of Parliament, as politicians, have a responsibility to react in an appropriate way to the direction that we take from the Canadian people. However, if we are only responsible for 20% of the laws that directly impact on the people of Canada and 80% of the other regulations that impact on the people of Canada, surely this place, where we are responsible to the people of Canada through an election process in our great democracy, should have the ability to oversee and possibly override the regulations of these agencies.

In my critic role as the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, I am aware of a couple of places where the rubber really meets the road, and I use the following as examples.

The CRTC reports to Parliament on an annual basis as is prescribed by law. Therefore our committee and people in the House of Commons who come to the committee have the opportunity, in public, for about a two or three hour period, to grill the people who are at the CRTC. However this is where the rubber meets the road because there are so many people in Canada who have serious concerns about the CRTC, the power and the regulations that it has and what it is bringing forward.

The CRTC designates licences. It designates how broadcasters, for example, will actually come to the marketplace with entertainment, information or with products. It comes forward with rules and regulations about Canadian content.

Interestingly, the direction the CRTC takes about Canadian content does come from the heritage minister and from the government to a very great extent, but the way in which it interprets Canadian content and the level of power that it brings against private broadcasters, and, indeed, even the CBC, is very profound. These are bureaucrats. I will give them full credit and say that they, undoubtedly, are trying to work in the very best interest of Canada and under their mandate by legislation and under the direction of the heritage minister and of the government but, nonetheless, they have the ability to make these regulations without us, without we who are responsible to the Canadian people through the election process, being able to override those regulations.

I can give another example, also in the heritage department. Under Parks Canada, which is an agency of the government, we are going to have the bureaucrats in that department making regulations with respect to marine conservation areas. This is new legislation that has just come through the House. How this legislation will be enacted and what number of people will be impacted as far as their fishing rights and their mineral exploration rights are concerned in the marine area that will be covered by the marine conservation area, how those things will happen, will not come under the direct scrutiny or the ability of this House to overturn the regulations.

So we have an untenable situation wherein we have well-meaning bureaucrats, and I want to again point that out, that these are dedicated civil servants who are really trying to do the best, in their minds, to bring forth the appropriate regulations. But across from those people we have the individuals, the Canadian citizens, who are being impacted by those regulations. Those Canadian citizens do not have the power of this place, the power of the House of Commons, to be able to have a scrutiny of those regulations. Indeed, I see this proposed law, as arcane as the title may be, as a very important element of bringing the democratic process to where it should be, and that is where we, the elected people in our elected, democratic, free society, have the ability to override and to impact the bureaucrats and the decisions they are making.

Statutory Instruments ActPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It being 12:06, the time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC


That this House:

(1) endorse the decision of the Allied international coalition of military forces to enforce Iraq’s compliance with its international obligations under successive resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, with a view to restoring international peace and security in the Middle East region;

(2) express its unequivocal support for the Canadian service men and women, and other personnel serving in an exchange program with the United States and for those service men and women performing escort duties for British and United States’ ships, our full confidence in them and the hope that all will return safely to their homes;

(3) extend to the innocent people of Iraq its support and sympathy during the military action to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and the reconstruction period that will follow; and

(4) urge the government to commit itself to help the Iraqi people, including through humanitarian assistance, to build a new Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbours.

Mr. Speaker, as we sit here today, brave allied coalition soldiers are making a great sacrifice in their effort to disarm Saddam and to liberate Iraq. In these last several days, Saddam and his regime, through their own evil methods, have demonstrated once again the urgency and the need and the greatness of the endeavour now being pursued by our allies. Less than a week into this fighting, and already this vile tyrant has instructed his regime to torture and murder allied prisoners of war in direct violation of the Geneva convention.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

An hon. member

That's not true. That's a lie.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

I have just started my speech and already a Liberal MP across the way is defending Saddam Hussein. That is a shame.

Remember: these are soldiers of our closest neighbour, our strongest ally and historically our best friend who have been tortured and in whose hands Saddam Hussein stands guilty of violating Geneva conventions. This latest war crime only adds to the revolting record of this most vicious of modern day tyrants and dictators. These soldiers, our allied soldiers, our friends, are fighting to disarm a madman and to liberate the Iraqi people and our hearts and prayers go out to them and to their families and loved ones at this time.

Saddam hopes that this latest violation, this public humiliation, will weaken the resolve of allied countries. For the sake of decency and humanity, Saddam must be proven wrong on this point and I believe that this latest vile act of his will actually strengthen the resolve of allied countries to disarm him and to liberate the Iraqi people. Saddam's latest brutality constitutes further evidence that Canada should have supported the allied coalition to remove him.

Therefore today I present a motion that endorses the allied coalition to disarm Saddam Hussein and to liberate Iraq. It supports the personnel of the Canadian army, navy and air force, who are serving in exchange programs with the allied forces, and it commits us to help the Iraqi people to build those institutions of freedom and democracy that will be needed in a post-Saddam era.

This does not require the Liberal MPs to violate the orders they have been given in terms of previous instructions from the Prime Minister. They can endorse this and still keep their party line and not fear the crack of the party whip on their backs.

The motion supports the enforcement of 17 Security Council resolutions, the historic liberation of the Iraqi people, and the disarmament of Saddam Hussein. That has been the clear position of the leader of the Canadian Alliance, it has been the position of the members of Parliament of the Canadian Alliance, and we laid out this position in the House over six months ago.

May I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that in October of last year we made these three points. Should Saddam Hussein not agree to or not fulfill an agreement to unconditional and unrestricted access for UN weapons inspectors, or should the UN Security Council issue a declaration to demand Iraqi compliance and should Iraq fail to meet those conditions, or, and this was a key point of ours six months ago, should some UN Security Council members falter in re-emphasizing their own past declarations, Canada should stand with its allies in ensuring that Saddam understands that failure to comply will bring consequences.

That was our position six months ago. We have stayed with that. Our leader has been consistent on that point and so have we, and more and more Canadians are moving to that position.

Saddam has failed to disarm. The United Nations has failed once again to disarm him. Now is the time that we should join with our closest allies to disarm Saddam Hussein, and we are not doing that.

This motion, however, proposes something that is meaningful, something we could do, something that could add somewhat and something that at the same time could take away from the wrong-headed restraints of the federal Liberal government when it comes to helping our allies.

Let us examine at this point the only alternative to this course of action that the Prime Minister has put out as his preference, and that has been containment. As an alternative to true disarmament the Prime Minister has proposed that we try to keep Saddam in some kind of a box. Here is what the Prime Minister said on March 9: “...Saddam cannot do anything anymore. He has troops at the door and inspectors on the ground, planes flying over--and he cannot do anything”. The Prime Minister thought that was a sufficient policy. The Liberal position is that somehow Saddam Hussein can be isolated in a box and sanctioned into not threatening the Middle East or the international community.

The evidence is clear that this policy of containment has not worked over the last 12 years. That is because containment, as he says, is only working today because there are 250,000 allied troops on Saddam's doorstep at a cost of $1 billion a day. It is untenable that this kind of buildup could be held for a long period of time. We know from experience that the moment the troops were to leave his doorstep Saddam Hussein would once again restart his weapons program. He would have done it in a heartbeat, as in 1995 when, in defiance of everything he had ever promised, he moved troops once again to the Kuwaiti border. It was only when U.S. troops aligned against him that he backed off.

Ironically, the Prime Minister supported the containment strategy so strongly and thought it was such a great idea that he was prepared to contribute exactly zero troops to enforce it. The Canadian government has shouldered none of this burden, but it is prepared to insist that the allies continue it at a huge cost and do it indefinitely.

International unity is required for any containment policy, but when one considers the Liberal anti-Americanism of the government and its penchant for constantly obstructing the efforts of our closest allies, international unity was not achievable through Canadian attempts through the foreign policy channels. Even if Saddam were contained, we could not have removed the danger that he represented to the world. It would not have been difficult for his regime to slip those vile weapons that he has into the hands of vile terrorists. The world could not have afforded that risk.

It was also untenable to think that the world could stand by and allow him to continue with the murderous death rate of his own citizens: 100,000 citizens have died at his hands since 1991. That is a death rate of about 5,000 people a month. I respect protestors' ability and right to protest, but they never talk about the loss of life that has been going on under this man's hands for months and years.

To conclude this point, the policy of containment was not working. It could never have worked and we Canadians should have joined our allies in doing something about that. We can do something today with this motion, and we can send out a message of moral support, if nothing else, to the allied coalition, which is right now in the process of enforcing UN resolution 1441, disarming Saddam Hussein and in fact liberating Iraq.

If we fail to do this, to give some sign of support through this motion today, Canada's standing in the world will continue to be diminished. The Liberal government has seriously injured the interests and the reputation of Canada by refusing to support the United States, the United Kingdom and 42 other countries in their effort to disarm Saddam and liberate Iraq.

Because of the Prime Minister's decision, we have now taken a certain place as a country on this new geopolitical divide that has opened up around the world as a result of the war against Saddam. This Liberal government has placed Canada on the wrong side of that divide. Our most cherished historical allies either support or are actually a part of the allied action to disarm Saddam and liberate Iraq. The United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, these are the countries, along with Spain and the new emerging democracies of the new Europe, with whom we share the most in common and our interests are most aligned.

We now stare across the chasm of this new divide. We stare at our former historical allies. Now we are in the position of relying on our allies, and relying on them alone, to be taking these steps to protect international security and, at the same time, Canadian security. Indeed, it is really ironic that the Liberals have been able to decimate our armed forces through lack of funding, because they know, though they do not admit it, that our neighbours to the south would come to our rescue if ever we were under attack. Yet now, when our allied friends need us most, our government curls up into the political fetal position and cowers behind a UN resolution that was never passed.

Consider this divide and with whom we are now allied. We are now allied with a minority of nations at the G-7, a minority of nations at NATO, and a minority of the OECD countries. We are in a minority with those international groups.We have aligned ourselves with some of the fiercest and most deeply entrenched tyrannies on earth. We are now allied with Libya, Syria, Iran, China, North Korea, and Cuba. How do members think Canadians feel about that?

I remind the House that these tyrannies have a vested interest in the survival of their fellow tyrant in Baghdad. The dictators of Damascus, the tyrants of Tehran, and the Syrian puppets who now control the once free people of Lebanon all know one thing: that once the people of Iraq have tasted democracy and freedom, other oppressed people of that region will want it too. I want that for other oppressed peoples around the world.

These are our new friends and the rulers with whom the Prime Minister has aligned us. Does the government not understand that we will be judged internationally based upon the company we keep? Canada's historic reputation as a liberator, as a loyal friend to our democratic allies, and as a courageous defender of good over evil is now clouded and compromised.

This brings me to my next point of Canada's enlightened national interest. That interest lies in the advancement of democracy and freedom around the world. Often we speak of advancing democracy and freedom around the world as an act of charity or simply a humanitarian gesture, but it is more than that. All of the historical evidence demonstrates that democracies tend to trade more and go to war less with each other by virtue of the fact that they are democracies.

Democratization abroad therefore serves not only world peace and world interest, it serves Canada's economic and security interests at home. The infusion of democracy in Iraq could help democracy spread throughout the entire realm. With the eventual success of democracy across the Middle East would come a real curtailment of the terrorism that is associated with fanaticism from those regions.

There is no shortage of evidence that this is so. Renowned international relations professor Dr. Michael Doyle explained this proven link between liberty and peace. He said:

Democratic states, founded on such individual rights as equality before the law, free speech and other civil liberties, private property, and elected representation are fundamentally against war. When the citizens who bear the burdens of war elect their governments, wars become impossible. Furthermore, citizens appreciate that the benefits of trade can be enjoyed only under conditions of peace. Thus the very existence of free market democracies such as the United States, Japan, and our European allies...makes for peace.

It is hard to deny this argument. Over the centuries hundreds of wars have been fought, yet only a handful of these wars have been fought between opposing democracies. Spencer R. Weart explained this in his exhaustive study in a book entitled Never at War: Why Democracies Will Not Fight One Another . He wrote:

Yet several scholars (including me) did notice, independently, a peculiar regularity: during the past century there have been no wars between well-established democracies.

He went on to share the results of rigorous statistical analysis in which scholars compiled lists of hundreds of conflicts from the past two centuries. The researchers asked themselves an important question: “What was the probability that absence of wars between well established democracies is a mere accident?” Their answer: “Less than one chance in a thousand”.

According to another renowned political scientist, Jack Levy:

...this absence of war between democracies comes as close as anything we have to an empirical law in international relations.

Regardless of cultural, economic, religious, ethnic and social considerations, democracies have proven to resist the urge to attack one another, and that is where the rubber meets the road.

We know that Canada would be better off if the world were a more peaceful and secure place. We know that democracy is a prerequisite to long term security and peace. Therefore, we must conclude that democratization in countries like Iraq is not only a moral good, but also a major contribution to Canada's own peace and security. In this sense, Canadians could advance our own enlightened national interest while helping Iraqis to achieve theirs. It is yet another reason why Canada should have stood on guard with our allies in disarming Saddam Hussein and liberating Iraq, and yet another reason why supporting the motion could be a small step to letting the world know of where our hearts lie in that area.

It is in Canada's enlightened national interest to see Iraq transformed from a dungeon of despotism to a lamppost of liberty, a beacon in the region that could inspire change across that whole land.

I want to review for the House four tangible steps the official opposition has proposed to achieve these high ideals. We must help convince our once close allies that even though the Canadian government appears to be blindly clinging to a wrong-headed decision not to join our allies, that in fact we are still with our allies, that we are serious about assuming our responsibilities in a world threatened by terrorist groups and rogue states.

First, the House must pass this motion which endorses the allied coalition to disarm Saddam and to liberate Iraq.

Second, we must take the necessary step to send the signal that the government could protect Canadian security and rebuild our diminishing international reputation by outlawing all known terrorist groups.

We must ban, for instance, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, the group that routinely takes credit for suicide attacks in Israel and causes tremendous instability in the entire region of the Middle East. We must outlaw the National Liberation Army. This is an Iraq-based terrorist group with links to Saddam Hussein. Our own intelligence agency confirms that that group raises money in Canada. Canada must outlaw the group Jemaah Islamiah. They are the al-Qaeda linked Bali bombers. These are the terrorists who joyfully and proudly took credit for decimating hundreds of people. It is because of their commitment to continue to do so that our allies have banned them. The Liberal government refuses to ban their activities on Canadian soil. What is wrong with the government?

These are some steps that we can take to show our allies that we are serious about doing something, even in a limited way to advance security domestically and internationally. Canada must outlaw these and all other terrorist groups which our allies have also outlawed.

Third, we can take the funds that the Auditor General says exist in this slush of surplus which the Liberals have and commit the amount that the Auditor General has identified which coincides with the studied Canadian Alliance option which our armed forces need to become truly effective. The Auditor General herself has identified these funds. The funds are there and we could commit them. The federal government refuses to do that. We must shoulder our responsibility in that area.

Fourth, we must immediately expel Saddam's diplomats from Canada. Saddam's regime is once again engaged in odious violations of another convention and this is the Geneva convention with the torture of these allied prisoners of war. The government could demonstrate its commitment to that convention with the expulsion of Saddam's remaining representatives.

Other allied nations have done it but Canada refuses. Whose votes are the Liberals worried about losing? Our government, our Prime Minister and these federal Liberals do not have the intestinal fortitude to say to diplomats representing one of the most evil regimes on earth that they should go home and help Saddam clean up his act. The government refuses to do that. There is no excuse for that.

The government could simply do it today. It could simply tell those representatives to go home. There, sitting across from us, is a Liberal MP who gives the thumb down as we bring that forward as a suggestion. We cannot abandon the Iraqi people in a post-Saddam war. We must be there in the efforts of reconstruction. Canada has not been invited to be a part of the reconstruction effort and the rebuilding of the democratized Iraq.

The motion today is straightforward. Although the government still refuses to join our historic allies, the passing of the motion could send an important signal. It is a small signal for Canadians, but a big encouragement to our allied friends who are moving toward Baghdad as we speak and seeing their comrades in arms fall to the side.

Others are paying the ultimate price, a price Canadians dearly but willingly paid as peacemakers at Vimy Ridge in Europe, at the beaches of Normandy in World War II, the hills of Korea and in Kosovo.

The people of Iraq will always remember their liberators. They will also remember that Canada was not there. However, if we pass this motion they will remember that in a small way we were willing to support their liberation and the day when they, as people on this planet, would eventually experience freedom and democracy in their own land. We must pass this motion today.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech of the member opposite with great attention. He mentioned that there is a coalition of the willing and he equated those which had not joined to countries like Libya.

Given that the British parliament has given lessons of democracy to the Commonwealth countries, how does he account for the fact that of the 54 Commonwealth nations, only Australia and Britain are members of the coalition of the willing? Is he suggesting that the other 52 members of the Commonwealth should be lumped in with Libya?

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite had been listening, he would have heard clearly that I said the Prime Minister has put us in the camp with some of the fiercest tyrannies and dictatorships on the face of the earth today: Libya, Syria, Iran, China, Cuba, and communist dictatorships.

I know that the Prime Minister does not like the fact that we are now publicly in that camp. He may have had us privately in it before. I know he does not like that. I know there are other nations there also. However our historic allies, not only with whom we have had economic interests, but with whom we have had political and diplomatic interests, are now staring at us across this divide. We are not allied with them and there will be long term repercussions of that. They will remember.

By this motion we would like to give them something else to remember. That even in a limited way, at least by showing some moral support, we were there with them in this dark hour as they lead this movement to a far brighter hour for the people of Iraq and the people of the world.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to note that the member conveniently ignores the millions of people all across the continents who are demonstrating daily against the war. I suppose Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are great examples of democracy in the world.

The member deplores the fact that we have not joined the United States immediately and that we have turned our back on our greatest friend. In September 1939, Canada declared war immediately when war was declared by Britain and France. Does he blame the United States for having decided, for its own reasons, not to join in the war until 1941?

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, the question from the member reflects something I said in my own speech, that Canada was there in World War I. As a matter of fact we were into World War I before the Americans. Canada was there in World War II as I mentioned and as the member just reiterated. It is important that we recall these things. We were there in the Korean crisis and Bosnia.

The Prime Minister still has not told us why he said it was internationally correct for us to be bombing in Kosovo in 1999. I happen to agree that it was the correct position. That madman Milosevic had to be stopped, but Milosevic, as awful as he was, does not compare anywhere near the capabilities of Saddam Hussein, either in past history, present capability or future intent. The hon. member can do the comparisons if he likes. We were there and it just underlines my position.

The member also mentioned people who protest. I am thankful that people in Canada and many countries around the world have the right to protest, but they are still in a distinct minority. There were more people protesting in Quebec City, when I was there for the conference of the Americas, against our involvement in free trade. Because there were huge crowds in Quebec City and across Canada, does that mean the Liberals should abandon free trade?

I am glad they can protest. We should also keep in mind that protests would not be permitted in Iraq. As somebody pointed out today and it was interesting to read, the closer we get to Baghdad the lower the protests get. As people were protesting on the streets of Canada and around the world this weekend, Iraqi citizens were greeting the Americans by the hundreds and thousands that the protesters were saying should not be there. These are some other things to keep in mind on the other side of the ledger.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a joke to say that there is a distinct minority of protests when a great number of people in Spain, upward of 80% of Italians and a majority of British people are against the war. It is a joke to say that it is a distinct minority when there are millions of people across all continents who are protesting this war. The member cannot count too well.

He purposely evaded one point. He made the point that it was poor policy and a disgrace that we were not joining the Americans this time as war was declared. I asked him how he reconciled the fact that in 1939 we joined at the outbreak of war in September and the Americans did not join. He quietly and purposely evaded the question. Is he blaming the Americans for not having joined then and then joining in 1941? If it was consistent for the Americans to do it then, why is it wrong for us as a sovereign nation to take a different tact today?

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will reiterate what I just said. I am will give some credit to a Liberal prime minister and my colleagues might be upset with that, but in 1939 the prime minister of the day and the government of the day made a decision based on principle. Members did not lick their fingers and put them up in the air to see which way the wind was blowing. The government made a decision based on principle. That is the difference between the prime minister then and the Prime Minister we have today. The government did not wait to see who else was in. Canada was in based on principle. This government and this Prime Minister have subjected our sovereignty to a couple of nations on the Security Council.

Only a month or so ago the Prime Minister said that resolution 1441 justified action in and of itself and did not require another resolution. When he heard there might be a veto, he said that we could not do anything because a veto would be in place. We did not wait for the Americans in 1939 and we did not wait for them in 1914. We made a decision back then based on principle.

The member also has raised the issue of polls around the world, which exactly reflect how the federal government arrived at its position. It checks the polls. Now it has a problem developing. The member made an inaccurate statement when he said that a majority of the people in Great Britain were opposed to what Tony Blair was doing. That has changed in the last few days. That position has moved incrementally over the last two months until it is now a majority position. It happened the same way in Australia where the leadership took a principled decision with only 10% support in the polls, and it now enjoys a majority position. The same thing happened in the United States.

There is an amazing coincidence. If we stick to the truth and do the right thing long enough, if we are willing to be courageous at times and show leadership and not just go with the way the wind is blowing, the truth and the right position will eventually prevail. The Liberals should try it.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, it is very normal for countries when they are at war to have their populations support their soldiers in the field. I draw the attention of the member opposite to an item that was in the papers this morning where an Iraqi soldier, just an young man, had been captured and when asked why he was fighting for a regime like Saddam Hussein, he simply replied that he was fighting for his country. It is very normal for people to be moved when their soldiers are in the field.

The member opposite said that the Prime Minister did not take a principled position, but of course he did. He said that Canada should not go to war without the support of the UN Security Council. This was a position supported by 52 members of the Commonwealth. Only Australia and the United Kingdom have joined the coalition of the willing. The member has said that the coalition and the Americans are our allies, but surely the Commonwealth are the people who we have shared democratic values with for years and these are the people whom the Prime Minister and Tony Blair should be heeding, not Eritrea and Ethiopia and other countries like that which are in the coalition of the willing.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is an amazing position. First, I will address the remarks related to one Iraqi soldier.

I have had family members in the past who have gone to war, as I am sure many of my colleagues have, and maybe even my colleague opposite has. My father was in the second world war and my grandfather was in the first world war. I know many members here share that.

I never did have a chance to meet my grandfather on my mother's side because of the years of torture he endured. When he was rescued and liberated, he never really made it out of the hospitals when they brought him home and he died as a result of that torture. My grandfather on my father's side also suffered and was paralyzed in the first world war.

The accounts that I hear from soldiers is that although they are obviously on opposing sides, there is a mutual respect for people who fight for their country. Therefore it does not surprise me at all that there was one Iraqi soldier who said that he was fighting for his country. I do not know what that has to do with the issue.

There are also thousands, and we have watched them, rushing to surrender to the troops. They were so quick to surrender, I heard they were surrendering to the media, to journalists, much like a lot of Liberal MPs surrender to the media over here.

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12:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I regret the time has lapsed. Resuming debate, the hon. Secretary of State for Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

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12:35 p.m.

Elgin—Middlesex—London Ontario


Gar Knutson LiberalSecretary of State (Central and Eastern Europe and Middle East)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say it is with honour that I rise today to participate in the debate. Before I begin, I would like to inform the House that I will be splitting my with the hon. Minister of Defence.

In regard to the issue of what Canada has done, let me be clear that Canada has in fact done its part. We have carried our share of the diplomatic burden. Over the course of the past 12 years, we have made every effort to support the inspections process. Importantly, Canada was instrumental in working toward the increased effectiveness of the sanctions regime.

During our tenure on the Security Council, from 1998 through 2000, we worked to make the sanctions regime more humane. During the very tense last few weeks, Canada worked around the clock to find a compromise that would unite the UN Security Council but, unfortunately, that was not possible. This despite the fact that we do not currently have a seat on the Security Council.

We wholeheartedly offered our support to the efforts of the United States and to the United Nations' inspections efforts to secure Iraqi compliance and to press for Iraq's disarmament. Unfortunately, no agreement was reached among the Security Council on a way forward.

Canada's position has always been that we would require the approval of the UN Security Council if we were to support military action in Iraq.

The United States, the United Kingdom and others have undertaken a coalition military action against Iraq. As we have made explicit, Canada will not be participating in the military campaign against Iraq. We have made this clear to our colleagues in the House. We have made it clear to the Canadian public. We have made it clear to our partners internationally. For us to support military action against Iraq, it would have been essential to have the endorsement of the UN Security Council.

We have held to this position from the beginning of the crisis. This position is consistent with the longstanding Canadian foreign policy of multilateral engagements, support for the United Nations system and a deeply held commitment to diplomatic process as a means, where possible, to averting conflict.

This policy reflects broad based Canadian values and it reflects the interests of the Canadian public, in terms of going to war as a last resort. It is to the Canadian public that we in the government and in the House are ultimately responsible.

Our American and British allies understand why we have taken the position we have. Our relationship with these two key allies will continue to flourish, despite this difference of opinion. We continue to consult closely on a broad range of foreign policy issues and we will certainly work together toward Iraq's recovery and reconstruction.

The United States and Canada have always worked closely together. We remain close allies. We are working together in the ongoing war against terrorism.

Our relations with the United States and the United Kingdom are too broad in scope and too important to be derailed by any one foreign policy decision, no matter how weighty.

We continue to work side by side with our friends and allies in the campaign to prevent and combat terrorism. This campaign will require our constant vigilance and effort. Canada remains committed to making an important contribution to this campaign, a fact that is recognized by the United States and all our allies. Canada has every intention of keeping our commitments now. Nothing will shake our resolve to continue these activities.

In support of the global campaign against terrorism, we have ships and planes stationed in the gulf.

In regard to where we are now, we recognize that only Saddam Hussein bears responsibility for the current situation in Iraq. We arrived at this dramatic point in history because of the ongoing intransigence of the Iraqi government. This government, for over 12 years, has failed to live up to its international obligations. It has disregarded repeated calls from the UN Security Council for co-operation and full disarmament.

We have long hoped that it would not come to this, that the crisis could be resolved without military action. However now that the war has begun, we can only hope that victory for our friends, the United States and the United Kingdom, will be quick, decisive and with as few casualties as possible.

It is with great sadness that we have learned of the first casualties of the war. We extend our deep condolences to the American and British friends who have suffered their first casualties and of course to the families of the fallen.

Our hearts go out to the Iraqi people who have suffered gravely over the course of the last two decades and who have now suffered their first casualties of this war. We hope against hope that casualties will be few and call upon all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and to protect the civilian population.

The international community has a critical role to play in helping to meet the needs of Iraqi civilians. It is for this reason that Canada supports the UN's humanitarian preparedness and provided some $5.6 million to support its activities. It is also why we are urgently reviewing options for responding to the requirements which have emerged since the conflict began.

The Government of Canada will continue to uphold its internationally recognized humanitarian tradition of seeking to provide protection and assistance to those in need. In this respect, through our diplomatic efforts we will continue to encourage the countries neighbouring Iraq to facilitate the work of international aid agencies and to ensure access is provided for Iraqi refugee and asylum seekers who may be seeking protection.

We will, likewise, continue to strongly support efforts to ensure that there are minimal disruptions in the delivery of food and other humanitarian goods within Iraq, including those which have been delivered under the oil for food program.

It is critical that the Security Council reach an early decision on how to adjust this important mechanism so that it can be effectively tapped to meet the new and emerging needs of the Iraqi people.

We also are committed to reconstruction. We in the international community must be committed to the people of Iraq once hostilities have ceased. We need in turn to consider what we may do to help to lay the groundwork for a more stable, a more just and a more prosperous future for the people of Iraq. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that violence does not propagate itself and that the rule of law takes hold, that human rights are promoted and protected and that the Iraqi people are enabled to determine their own peaceful course forward.

This will be no simple task after over a quarter century of tyrannical rule. The reconstruction of Iraq will be a significant undertaking and an important responsibility for the international community. This process should be driven by the needs of the Iraqi people.

The United Nations has a key and essential role to play. It will be important very early on for UN agencies, alongside non-governmental organizations, to provide for basic humanitarian aid, protection, clean water, sanitation, food, shelter, medicines and so forth.

We are consulting closely with our international partners, including the United Nations, the United States and others regarding the involvement of the international community in Iraq. In the aftermath of the conflict we hope that the UN will be able to work with coalition members, international partners and the Iraqi people to redevelop Iraq's capacity to govern.

It is time for the international community to come together. For the sake of the Iraqi people it is time for the members of the Security Council to put their differences aside and to work to endorse the resolutions which will be key.

As an immediate priority, it will be important to find ways to ensure the continuation of the oil for food program on which 16 million Iraqis rely as their sole source of food. It will also be important for the Security Council to allow for some transitional arrangement which could provide a framework for the reconstruction and recovery of Iraq.

The Prime Minister has indicated Canada's willingness to participate actively in multilateral reconstruction efforts. It goes without saying that the extent and nature of our assistance will depend on the situation on the ground and the needs of the Iraqi people. We have a long and proud tradition of assistance in post-conflict situations as peacekeepers, as civilian police, as humanitarian workers, as non-governmental organizations and as civilian experts. It is a tradition for which we are renowned the world over and a field in which Canadians have experience and expertise that can be brought to bear.

However our responsibilities do not end here. They extend beyond this particular point in history and this particular crisis. In the weeks, months and years ahead we will have to redouble our efforts to prevent terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. We will continue to support and strengthen international and multilateral institutions. These responsibilities go beyond any crisis or region and they will remain critical elements of Canada's foreign policy in the years ahead.

For now we must hope that the Iraq campaign is over quickly and successfully for our allies and with a minimum of casualties on both sides. Throughout, we must work to address the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people and hope that a better future lies ahead for them.

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12:45 p.m.


Joe Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Given the unprecedented events of the weekend and the fact that the war was brought home to the living rooms of Canadians, and given the fact that some parties may disagree as to the fact that they are there, I think we can all agree or should agree to the following motion. I would ask the consent of the House to put the following motion.

I move that this House express its unequivocal support for the Canadian servicemen and women and other personnel serving in the exchange program with the United States, and for those servicemen and women performing escort duties for British and United States ships, our full confidence in them and the hope that they all will return safely to their homes.

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12:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member for Leeds—Grenville have consent of the House to table the motion?