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House of Commons Hansard #110 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.

Topics

Pension ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave, now?

Pension ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Pension ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Simcoe North Ontario

Liberal

Paul Devillers Liberalfor the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Science

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Pension ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Wood Liberal Nipissing, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased that today the House starts third reading debate on Bill C-31, an act to amend the Pension Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act.

The fast turnaround time from its introduction on April 10 and the speed with which the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs gave it unanimous approval on May 8 clearly reflects how strongly we all feel for the members of our Canadian Forces and the RCMP.

Thus, when they are sent to areas of operations of elevated risk, all of us are one in the conviction that they should have the most comprehensive coverage and the speediest access possible to disability pension and also health benefits. That is exactly what Bill C-31 accomplishes. Let me briefly recap the highlights of the bill.

For decades now, Canadian service personnel have served abroad in areas of elevated risk designated as special duty areas, or SDAs, as part of United Nations peacekeeping activities for which Canada has become renowned. Quite rightly, they receive disability protection 24 hours a day, 7 days a week when they serve in these designated areas, but the administrative process to officially designate such an area is unduly lengthy and can take up to several months.

The bill before us today will help relieve the anxiety of our service personnel and their families by speeding up the process.

An SDA can quickly be designated by the Minister of National Defence, or the Solicitor General in the case of the RCMP, in consultation with the Minister of Veterans Affairs, and thereby give peace of mind to them before they are sent out for deployment. In fact, the bill extends coverage to include travel to and from special designated areas. Simply speeding up the process does not help those who are similarly at elevated risk while serving inside Canada or in assignments that cannot be geographically described as falling within a special duty area.

The bill now creates a new service category called special duty operation. This new designation recognizes that the face of war and the other challenges to peace and security have undergone tremendous change. Geography no longer offers non-combatant nations a cocoon of safety. Terrorism, in all its forms and disguises, presents a real and a present danger. We may never know where or in what form terrorism may strike next.

It is to this less easily definable battlefield that Canada sends out her men and women in uniform to protect us. Often the enemy is hard to identify, the lines of conflict are not clearly known and the nature of danger is difficult to determine. The new SDO designation takes into account the fluidity of such operations abroad and within our country. These operations are just as hazardous as special duty areas.

It is important to emphasize that special duty operations can encompass situations within our own borders. Think of the devastating floods and the ice storms we have experienced in recent times in Canada, or of the dangers of search and rescue operations. They expose our uniformed citizens to greater than usual danger.

Just as with special designated areas, this piece of legislation also provides RCMP personnel who serve in special designated operations with the same degree of coverage as their military counterparts.

A large spectrum of military operations could be covered by an SDA or an SDO designation. They include armed conflicts in missions conducted under the auspices of the United Nations and NATO and within coalitions of like-minded countries. Domestically, operations authorized under the Emergencies Act or the National Defence Act could also trigger an SDO designation covering such eventualities as disaster relief operations and in-Canada anti-terrorism service.

The spectrum of RCMP operations that could be similarly designated runs a parallel but not necessarily identical track. These operations could include police service within armed conflict situations, again under the auspices of the UN operations abroad, where the officers would be exposed to elevated levels of risk over a specific period of time. These situations might well include activities aimed at re-establishing social order, rebuilding social institutions and offering police training and services to wartorn nations trying to re-establish civil order.

The bill allows for the provision of the best coverage possible for members of the Canadian Forces and RCMP sent to areas of operations of elevated risk, and their families. A grateful and caring nation takes it upon herself to provide this as a duty of pride. I thank all my colleagues in the House for their unanimous support for this bill and ask members to give it swift passage today.

Pension ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague has given an excellent summation of the bill. There are a few points I want to point out to those who may be listening in.

The bill is probably the most modern approach that we could have taken following the awful events of 9/11. It is designed to meet the needs of this decade. It is also designed to meet the needs of a different type of police force, both at home and abroad, so what used to take up to almost a year can now be accomplished with speedy resolution, and we might say within days. That is the way it would be under this bill.

I do not think anyone could raise opposition to the bill. It is modern, it has quick resolution and it deals with only three departments. Therefore, the bill is designed for today. No one in the House, I am sure, would oppose it. In discussions with my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance, we have supported the bill from the very beginning.

I hope the bill gets very quick passage. I do know that other groups of people in Canada have looked at the bill, and I think some of our larger police forces in the larger cities, and other groups such as the firemen, could well look at the bill and I expect they would have a reaction which would pattern after this bill. On behalf of the official opposition, I am very pleased to support the bill. We give it our full endorsement.

Pension ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, we also stand in support of Bill C-31.

We in this country take for granted the different agencies that put their lives on the line for us and protect us. Quite often we take for granted what is our own. How often, as we go through life, do we take for granted our families, friends, wives, girlfriends, sons and daughters because they are there. They are supposed to know what is going on. They are there to support, help and whatever. We think that is the way it will always be, not realizing that they also have concerns and needs and that they need attention every now and then.

We do the same thing with our agencies. We put them in place and talk about how proud we are of our different agencies and yet we often forget to pay the attention to them that they deserve. As time slips by many of the concerns and benefits that we should be making sure they achieve we overlook. We suddenly find they are falling behind other groups in society that are up front, lobbying, pushing and whatever, while our solid people and in some cases volunteer agencies are working day and night, putting their lives on the line, asking for nothing and we overlook them.

The hon. member who just spoke talked about other agencies looking at what we are doing for the RCMP and perhaps patterning their plans on the legislation with which we are dealing right now. I agree wholeheartedly with him, that the opportunity is there for the other agencies to make sure that we as legislators look after their concerns.

However let us concentrate on the RCMP. If there is one agency in this country that perhaps does not get the attention it deserves it is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. When we say the word “Mountie” two things come to mind. One is from a national perspective, the person on the horse with the red jacket for whom we feel so proud, a Canadian emblem.

Pension ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

An hon. member

The red serge.

Pension ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

The red serge, that is right.

The other is the person hauling us in on the side of the road because we are 20 kilometres over the speed limit. In between, it is not just a matter of the statesperson, the emblem of the country, the very proud emblem I might add, but the person we see at all major functions dressed in the red serge, holding the flag and saluting with respect. We have tremendous respect for these people.

On the other hand, we are looking at being the victim of the overzealous policeman sometimes. When we edge a couple of kilometres over the speed limit and we are hauled in and given a ticket, which we deserve by the way, in between we fail to see that there is more to it than just being there for the pomp and ceremony and, on the other hand, enforcing the laws of the land.

We do not realize until we start working with and becoming involved with such agencies the amount of extra work that they do. It is not only the prosecution that they are concerned with. It is prevention. It is the work they do in our schools. It is the work they do with our young people. It is the encouragement they give, rather than the fear and the threats.

When we were growing up we were told that if we were not good the Mounties would be called. We had this fear of police. However that is not the case. They are not to be feared. They are there for our benefit.

If we were to talk to them many of them would tell us that they would much rather spend their time working with young people, with society generally, along the lines of prevention, rather than going out and trying to force a cure by coming down with the heavy hand. We are not making life any easier for them.

Let me talk about the rules, the regulations and the bills that we bring in and the laws that we make in this honoured establishment and in our provincial assemblies. One might ask what provincial assemblies have to do with the national police force. As we know all, the provinces have the RCMP which has jurisdiction over many of the laws and rules that govern this country and there are all kinds of provincial implications. Every time a new law or rule is brought in the Mounties are expected to enforce it. We give them more and more work on the one hand but we give them fewer and fewer tools on the other to do the job.

Quite often, in relation to the personal recompense for the work and responsibilities that we shower upon them and the demands we make upon them, we seldom think of asking them how we can make it up to them for the service they provide. As I said before, it is an agency that we perhaps take for granted.

As we deal with legislation like this and when we, as representatives of the people across the country, stand in this hallowed Chamber, the hallowed halls of Parliament, it is only right and fair that we recognize groups such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the firemen, the local police establishments scattered throughout our nation, and the volunteers from other sectors, all of whom make society a bit better and a bit safer for us.

We are the ones who are in a position to thank them on behalf of the people we represent. We are the ones who can ensure that as we try to make life generally better for people throughout the country, we also try to make life better for those who assist us in making life a little better for people throughout the country.

Therefore it is with great pleasure that we support the bill. We should be very conscious as we introduce legislation in the House that we support legislation that will help all the agencies throughout the country that help all of us so much.

Pension ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my privilege, on behalf of the New Democratic Party, to throw our support behind this beneficial change. We believe members of the RCMP play a significant role in contributing to Canadian society. This pension issue could be classified by some as housekeeping or just some type of modern modification, but in reality it is about building confidence and showing that we can do some small things that go a long way.

Members of the RCMP are very important to my constituency. They are the instant recognition for what a Canadian is and Canadian symbolism, showing confidence not only in a government but also demonstrating the pride that we have out there in a very overt way. A good place to look at that is in Windsor where we have so many different cultures and groups of new people coming to get their citizenship. One of the things that we always have is a member from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at the ceremony. The constable is usually someone that is very personable and very involved with the actual ceremony itself, making a point to sign any autograph, to shake hands, to be part of photos and to say a few words of comfort as well as a congratulatory message. That is important because it exudes confidence in a nation and a confidence that we have which needs to be backed up. This pension addition is a minor modification, in a sense, but at the same time shows that we need to be doing the right things for them.

There are so many other different issues that we think about when we think about members of the RCMP. It is not just the colours of their uniform and the very overt way that we see their presence, whether it be on a horse or in a parade and those types of things, it is the work they do out in the field on a day to day basis. Once again, improving their actual conditions and their confidence in the government will only help that.

In our community and others, they represent the first line of defence in many ways for what is happening at our borders, the people who are needed to respond to more international matters. In our city, where we have a municipal force and a provincial force as well, the Mounties have a different stature than those organizations because they represent the nation. When we have issues they are certainly there providing another level of confidence that sits well with our other supports, be it those other organizations I mentioned, or our firefighters and other first responders that are so important.

Sometimes we take these things for granted because we have these traditions and we know we can always rely on them. Sometimes we forget to do the regular things that are necessary to ensure their long term viability. That is what the bill would do. It would ensure another piece of a larger puzzle and we will have it to pass on.

That is one of the reasons that we support this change. It is something that, once again, is going to show that there is a longstanding commitment behind the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. More important, the Mounties will improve their ability to feel confident in the work setting.

We have been debating most of the morning and over the last few days the working conditions of public servants. We know from the union's response that there are some concerns about Bill C-25 and their working conditions that are going to be enacted and the difficulty that they are going to face. That is the exact opposite from what this is, and that is unfortunate.

We have two situations here. In Bill C-25 we have some regressive actions that are being taken against those workers and the conditions in which they are going to have to live, but what we have here is something which will be of benefit to the RCMP. We think the way to go is to improve the morale of Canadians who are employed through government tax dollars.

In the last 10 years, far too many times there have been cases where those people have tended to be attacked by different individuals and organizations, and that is not right.

There certainly is an opportunity here to do more of what this recommendation says and with the changes that will happen. I hope the government learns something from this and applies it to Bill C-25. I hope it learns that it can do some of these things that sometimes are described as housekeeping but that actually do improve morale, that do improve the quality of service and that give security for those men and women who are serving this country, and their families, who also have to pay some price for being sometimes on the front line of public services. This is overdue for the RCMP and something that we in the New Democratic Party support.

Pension ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is the House ready for the question?

Pension ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Pension ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

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

Pension ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Pension ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and pased)

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Liberalfor the Minister of Industry

moved

the second reading of, and the Senate to Bill C-15, an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Beauharnois—Salaberry Québec

Liberal

Serge Marcil LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to open the debate on the amended version of Bill C-15, An Act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act. This version differs only slightly from that passed March 18.

The Senate made only one amendment to correct an inconsistency discovered in an amendment passed by the House at third reading.

The hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot moved the original amendment during debate at third reading. I understand that he supports without reservation the change recommended by the Senate.

Obviously, the Minister of Industry considers this amendment appropriate under the circumstances.

The Senate's amendment and the original amendment moved at third reading are fully within the meaning of Bill C-15, which is to create a lobbyists registration system that works well now and that will work even better in the future. It is about creating a more transparent lobbyists registration system that is easier to enforce and that continues to earn the trust of Canadians.

The House has every reason to approve the version amended by the Senate. Rapid adoption of the bill means it will be able to receive royal assent and be implemented.

Before addressing the substance of the amendment made by the Senate, allow me to take a moment to remind the hon. members of the context for today's debate.

As my hon. colleagues from all sides of this House will recall, the review that led to Bill C-15 was a lengthy and comprehensive one.

While the original lobbying legislation dates back to 1989, parliamentarians and the public were concerned that it might not go far enough to allow a thorough public scrutiny of lobbying. In response to these concerns, our party promised improvements to the lobbying regime during the 1993 election campaign.

We delivered on our promise. Our government introduced a bill to review the Lobbyists Registration Act, which Parliament passed, and a new act came into force in 1996. This act resulting in the development of the code of conduct for lobbyists and led us to work tirelessly to ensure the efficiency of the new system.

This work has met with success. Gone are the public concerns, which were commonplace ten years ago, about agreements entered into behind closed doors. Why? Because the Lobbyists Registration Act and the system supporting it have brought a high level of transparency to the situation.

A balance has been struck between four principles: first, free and open access to the government is an important matter of public policy; second, lobbying public office holders is a legitimate activity; third, concerning transparency, public office holders and the public must be able to know who is trying to influence the government; and fourth, with respect to efficiency, a registration system for paid lobbyists must not hinder free and open access to the government.

That having been said, enforcement of legislation normally reveals what improvements are necessary. That is what happened with the Lobbyists Registration Act.

In 2001, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology reviewed both the system and the act. It tabled its report, in which it recommended that the government make a number of changes and take a closer look at certain questions.

The government has followed up on these recommendations, consulted further and produced Bill C-15.

In addition to the usual housekeeping and technical amendments designed to correct minor drafting errors, the bill has three main components.

First, it contains a clearer definition of lobbying.

Second, it simplifies and standardizes registration requirements for all categories of lobbyists and strengthens the applicable cancellation requirements.

Third, it establishes more meaningful enforcement powers.

Neither the House or the Senate standing committees put forward amendments to the substantive elements of Bill C-15.

There were discussions and debates on specific points, but at the end of the day, parliamentarians from both Houses agreed that Bill C-15 would solve some key issues effectively.

Nonetheless, during debate at third reading, the hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot put forward an amendment to increase the amount of information required from lobbyists. More specifically, it amended subsection 7(1) and added sub-paragraph 7(3)( h. 3). Under this sub-paragraph, lobbyists who are former public office holders would have to describe their former duties as part of the registration process.

As the hon. member himself later admitted, this amendment included an unintended loophole. It required information only from corporate lobbyists and lobbyists working for not-for-profit organizations. Consultant lobbyists, who provide lobbying services under contract to companies, organizations, or other clients, were not required to provide the same information.

It is clear that this amendment is inconsistent with the pervasive theme of Bill C-15, which is the equal and transparent application of registration requirements to all lobbyists. Having seen this loophole, the hon. member wrote to the Senate Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament to ask that this omission be corrected. The committee made the correction as requested and the Senate accepted the amendment, which is the only change that was made to the version passed by the House in March.

Essentially, what we have before us is a significant administrative correction we have every reason to accept. It makes absolutely no change in the major thrust of the law, but merely adds one additional detail in the interests of uniformity and greater transparency.

As a result, Bill C-15 as amended will enable us to take one more step toward being able to meet Canadians' growing expectations as far as ethical issues are concerned. It will be compatible with the other steps taken by our government, such as increasing the number of auditor general reports, departmental measures broadening the internal audit procedures, and the adoption of a more comprehensive code governing the conduct of holders of public office.

This bill constitutes one more means of keeping the promise made by the Prime Minister when he revealed his eight-point ethics plan last June. It falls in line with the measures aimed at introducing a guide for ministers of state and parliamentary secretaries in connection with ethical and other issues, as well as with the new rules governing interactions between ministers and crown agencies.

The Senate has asked us to make one minor change to a bill we have already passed once. It is a reasonable change, and one we should approve. We will thus be able to implement the improvements proposed in Bill C-15 to the Lobbyists Registration Act. We will be able to make a system that is working well now work still better in future.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to stand and represent not only the people of my riding but, I believe, people across Canada when we address issues of such interest to the Canadian taxpayer and also to those who are looking for integrity in all the different aspects of the governing process.

Over the years I have been a member of Parliament, I have watched with interest things which have to do with the ethics counsellor, the registration of lobbyists and other related items. If the government can be accused of anything, it can be accused of making timid steps in the right direction but not really getting into the nitty-gritty of what is required.

When we are dealing with lobbyists, we are dealing with basically three kinds of people: those who come here and simply look for change in government policies, social policies, tax policies or whatever; those who come here as individuals representing organizations that are lobbying for change in legislation; and finally, individuals and businesses whose jobs are to lobby to get government contracts. I think the latter of these three groups probably present most Canadians with the largest concern.

When we look at things like buying helicopters for the armed forces or buying computers for all the different government departments, we are talking big bucks, large amounts of money. It is important that the process by which those contracts are let is very open and transparent.

I am in favour of the Lobbyists Registration Act per se. I believe it is a good thing that members, if they engage in these activities, are required to disclose that information and that it be made available. As a matter of fact, in the almost 10 years that I have been here, the accessibility to such lists has been improved vastly by the introduction of the Internet and the great amount of connectivity of Canadians in that mode of communication.

As we know, it is possible to click on an Internet site, the ethics counsellor's website for example, from anywhere in the world and find out who is registered as a lobbyist. Of course the Lobbyists Registration Act spells out who needs to be registered. It also spells out what information needs to be disclosed. Then when we click on the website and ask for that search, we can find out who is currently lobbying the government to get a contract, to sell it huge amounts of computers or whatever item is being bid on.

We spoke in previous readings of this bill, prior to sending it to committee and also in second reading, about the different problems inherent in the lobbyists registration. We must always remember a very important background, and that is disclosure has but one purpose and that purpose is to prevent behaviour which is unethical or illegal. Just the disclosure itself does not justify it. People cannot say that because they have disclosed they now have a licence to do anything they want. It still must be within the law and be within a very high level of ethics.

I compare this, for example, to a person who walks into a store and in plain sight of a clerk steals something off the shelf. That person cannot claim that because an employee of the store saw him or her do it, it is therefore not theft. It is theft regardless of whether it was seen. The same thing is true with registration. It provides disclosure but does not give a licence to engage in whatever behaviour is required to get the contract.

We must remember that the purpose and the principle of disclosure is to prevent behaviour which is unethical. In other words, hopefully people will know that what they do will be made public, that they will not get away with it and, therefore, they will not do it. I think that is the basis of the whole Lobbyists Registration Act and the public disclosure of the lists.

When this bill was finally completed earlier this year at third reading in the House, it was sent off to our unaccountable Senate. I know the rules of the House do not permit me in any way to speak disparagingly of the other place and I--

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I apologize to the hon. member for interrupting, but on a point of order the hon. member for St. John's West.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, I apologize to my colleague for interrupting while he is in full flight but he will have lots of time. I will not take very long.

I wish to inform the Chair that there have been consultations among the parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That the membership of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be modified as follows:

Gerald Keddy for Rick Borotsik

And that Rick Borotsik and Gary Schellenberger be added to the list of associate members;

And that Gerald Keddy be removed from the list of associate members.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to the amendment made by the Senate to Bill C-15, an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 1:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I do not mind that interruption at all because it helps the people in the party over at the other end of the House try to unscramble its egg.

I would like to proceed with my talk. The bill as passed was then sent over to the other place. I know a number of the senators over there and I have no need at all to question whether they are dedicated or hard-working. I know a number of them work probably much harder than some members of this House. Therefore that is not an issue.

However I really must take every opportunity where we get something back from the Senate, whether it is a bill that is initiated there or whether it is a bill that it has looked at and then sent back here with a revision. I always have to ask this, and continue to review with anybody who will listen. In today's modern age how can we, being a so-called democratic society, justify a whole House of legislators who control what happens in our country without them also being elected? This is an issue which I can never forget to talk about when we deal with something that comes back from the Senate.

I appreciate its work. I happen to agree with the amendment it has sent back on this occasion. It actually did some work which should have been done over here, recognized a shortcoming and sent back the bill with an amendment to fix up that shortcoming. That is great, but that is a specific issue. It was doing its job. It can also do its job and do it better if it had the legitimacy of elected office and accountability to the people that it purports to represent.

The Senate has sent back an amendment and I sincerely wish it would have come back from an elected Senate. However it came back from an hon. House over there trying to do its work and hopefully improving this legislation. I do not know whether the parliamentary secretary, when he gave his little speech, outlined this for whomever was listening, but the Senate amendment basically adds one line. It says that if the individual, who is acting as a lobbyist and who is registering, has been a former public office holder, then he must also disclose in the registration the offices that were held.

As an example, not very long ago I met a former Liberal member of Parliament. He happens to be a lobbyist now. He gets a very fine salary from a large corporation. His job is to come over here and talk to the Liberal cabinet ministers whom he knows intimately, and I mean that in the general sense of the term. He was a member of the Liberal Party and worked with it. Consequently he has the ear of the minister. When the corporation, which he represents, wants to get a government contract, he can walk into the minister's office and the minister will greet him with a “Hi” and use his first name. They are immediately on friendly terms because they have been colleagues.

I do not know about you, Madam Speaker, but I find something just a little offensive about that. Very frankly, whether the person who shows up in the minister's office knows him well or does not know him or her at all, should be irrelevant to who gets the contract. The contract should be based upon very rigid criteria that are written into the contract. Those are the terms to be met and those are the conditions. When the contract is let, companies should bid on it and it should be evaluated objectively as possible to see which contract gives taxpayers the best buy for the money. Whether it is computers or helicopters or vehicles for the government fleet or whatever, there should be a careful cost benefit analysis to see if we are getting the correct return for the money.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

An hon. member

That is the case now.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, a member across the way seems to have an ant under his shirt collar.

I hasten to add that it should have nothing to do with whether or not a person can somehow try to influence the minister toward a contract for a particular company. That is a given to me.

All the bill requires at this stage is that there be registration. The amendment from the Senate would require that the member of Parliament state in his registration that he has been a member of Parliament. I have not looked at the details. I think this would be due to regulation, but I wish the Senate would have explicitly said that especially if the lobbyist had been a member of the current government. If that were the case, then there would be a tighter relationship. It would warrant more rigid scrutiny by taxpayers and others accessing the website and the lists in terms of watching what the person did.

There is another disadvantage in this whole lobbyists registration thing. I cannot understand why the members of the government do not understand this. I would think it would be really wise of them not to accept interventions by lobbyists on these things.

Let us say that five bids were submitted and that the best bid was selected, the best value for the dollar on behalf of the taxpayer. Let us say also that it happened to be the company that was represented by the previous MP. Even though it may be legitimate, it would look suspicious and thereby would reduce the honour in which the whole process was held.

It would have been a lot better had there been no representation. It would have been an objective evaluation and the choices would have been made in order to get the taxpayer the best buy for the dollar. There would have been not even the appearance of interference on a friendly, person to person basis by having the best lobbyist.

This leads us to the next issue which is whether there is a process and a place for lobbyists? I hold that there is. I used to think not. Back when I was first elected, I thought there should be no lobbyists. I thought, who needs them? Members of Parliament should listen to their constituents and they should represent in the House what their constituents desire and that should be it.

I had my eyes opened when I became a member of Parliament and realized that we debate many bills and motions in the House, even some with respect to building laws and acts of Parliament in which there are many aspects. Communication is very important. It is valuable to members of Parliament to get a representation from some industrial group, perhaps on behalf of the forestry companies. If each company were to come here individually, we would never get our work done. For them to meet together and to boil it down to their five most important issues and then to visit the members of Parliament and communicate that, would be useful.

Not long ago the firefighters came to Ottawa for their lobbyist day, as they call it. I welcomed them. I like to hear from them and find out what the issues are in terms of the tax act, the Canada pension plan and other areas where we make rules that determine their livelihood and well-being after they retire, if they are not hurt or killed in action. We are making those rules. It is valuable for me to receive a representation from them as a group.

It is also totally useful that they should register as lobbyists. People would know that the firefighters association had a lobbyist. They would know who the person was who tries to bend the ears of legislators. I do not think there is anything wrong with that and it is useful to a degree.

It becomes very offensive when the government succumbs to pressure on a personal basis from an in-house lobbyist who used to be a member of the very department that the person is now lobbying. That happens. From time to time we hear of this. A high level employee, a person very high up in the hierarchy in--

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, on a point of order, the member for Elk Island seems to be going on indefinitely. Is there no limit on the time he has to speak?

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

No, the hon. member has unlimited time to speak.