This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.

Topics

Committees of the WholeRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

The Speaker

I am now ready to propose to the House a candidate to the position of Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole.

Pursuant to order made Tuesday, October 5, 2004, I move that Mr. Marcel Proulx be appointed to the position of Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole.

The motion is deemed moved and seconded. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the WholeRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Committees of the WholeRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

The Speaker

I am now prepared to propose, for the ratification of the House, a candidate for the position of Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole.

Pursuant to order made Tuesday, October 5, I propose the Hon. Jean Augustine for the position of Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole.

Pursuant to order made Tuesday, October 5, the motion is deemed moved and seconded.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the WholeRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Committees of the WholeRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

The Speaker

I congratulate both hon. members on their appointments.

Code for Public Office HoldersRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a revised copy of the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders, pursuant to section 72.062 of the Parliament of Canada Act.

I do not know if it is parliamentary but I would also like to congratulate the new officers.

Access to Information ActRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-201, an act to amend the Access to Information Act and to make amendments to other acts.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be introducing a bill today entitled an act to amend the Access to Information Act or, as it has come to be known, the Bryden bill, because the bill has been championed for the past 10 years by the former member of Parliament, John Bryden.

The bill seeks to expand the Access to Information Act so that it would include all crown corporations and virtually all the activities of government so as to expand the accountability and transparency of government so that we can shine the light of day on the activities of the government and so that scandals can no longer operate under the shadow of secrecy which I believe has plagued this Parliament since I have been a member of Parliament.

I am very pleased and honoured to introduce this important legislation today.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 7th, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.

Conservative

John Williams Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition on behalf of citizens in the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia who are calling upon Parliament to change the Income Tax Act, specifically section 118.2, to allow that vitamins and supplements be used as a medical expense on personal tax returns.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from October 6 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and the amendment to the amendment.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:05 a.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, it is with a great deal of emotion that I rise today again in this House after a twelve-year absence. I wish to thank the people of the riding of Outremont for their confidence in me, returning me to this place to make a contribution to public affairs and to try and make a difference.

For 12 years I was on the other side of the mike and I always deplored the cynical and judgmental attitude toward politicians. Over those 12 years, I did try to improve public attitudes toward elected representatives. I have always believed that theirs is the most noble job anyone can have. I have always believed that here in Parliament is where it all happens, and that is why I am so honoured to be back.

I am also honoured to have an opportunity to speak on this Speech from the Throne, which is totally in keeping with our campaign commitments. There are no surprises in it, because it reflects what we told Canadians during the election campaign. It is a faithful reflection of our commitments, with an approach that is responsible and pragmatic, and of course aimed at promoting a strong economy. People need only look at the current figures on the unemployment rate and the interest rate. They will see that many Canadians can now realize their ambitions, find the job satisfaction they seek, and ensure their families have access to housing.

All of this, of course, requires sound public finances. That is the Liberal way, the responsible way. The Right Honourable Prime Minister has made it his trademark. This government's finances are sound. As a result, we are able to fulfill some of our commitments without delay. Such was the case with our major commitment on health. Within weeks of our election, we have managed to deliver the goods, and deliver them properly. We did so in a way that would gain the signature of all of the provincial premiers and territorial representatives, thereby ensuring at last a stable and fair basis for funding health care, while accomplishing some extraordinary feats.

All the governments had the same goal of reducing wait times. It does not take a constitutional expert to know that, right across the country, waiting times are unacceptable for those who are the most vulnerable, the sick.

This agreement is historic in its content and its form. It reflects the Prime Minister's sensitivity to regional and provincial differences. In this agreement, the Prime Minister recognized the asymmetry in this country. He recognized that the Canadian solution does not need to be the same from coast to coast. He recognized that the provinces can adapt, since delivery, especially in terms of health care, depends exclusively on the provinces. Each province applies its own approach provided that every Canadian has a common program with common goals and values.

In the first poll since the election, the CROP poll in La Presse , 53% of Quebeckers say this is an historic event for the good of Quebec. We should all be delighted that this government's first item on the agenda, that of health, which is also the most important item, has been resolved to the satisfaction and with the enthusiasm of all parties involved.

We will be meeting again soon, on October 26, at which time we will be discussing equalization. Again, I am sure the necessary imagination and talent will prevail in finding a solution to prevent the occurrence of such excessive fluctuations, which make planning difficult for the provincial governments. I am sure that having a lot of money one year and uncertainty the next is very difficult to manage, especially since demand does not fluctuate at the same rate as the equalization payments.

Thus I am convinced that the Prime Minister, along with his provincial colleagues, will find a solution that will permit both predictability and growth. That is important, because the needs are there. We know that.

There is also the agreement we will be signing with the provinces, but which concerns cities, towns and municipalities. This too will require flexibility and an understanding of regional differences and the differences that exist everywhere in Canada. It is clear that we will find a way to come to an agreement with each province, which will then deliver the urban infrastructure, transportation and environmental goods.

I am convinced, too, that with the hundreds of millions of dollars available for such infrastructures, the goods will be delivered and a unanimous agreement will be reached among the provinces, the territories and the Canadian government.

There is also the coming agreement on day care. Obviously the program in Quebec is exemplary. The national program takes its inspiration from the Quebec day care program, which is respected and envied by all Canadians. Because Quebec has done the early work, a transfer will help to alleviate those famous fiscal pressures. And so it will provide another opportunity for federal-provincial collaboration.

Regarding parental leave, there is talk of transferring $600 million. Negotiations on this are going very well. The Minister of Employment is in talks with the Quebec minister and I am convinced that ways and means will be found. Working in good faith and wanting things to work makes all the difference.

When we look at this program, we cannot help but be pleased. As a Quebecker, I am proud to see this cooperation between the Government of Quebec and the Government of Canada. I am proud to see Jean Charest take on his role as leader of Quebec's government, looking for the best deal but wanting a solution. He does not come here to break things up; he comes here to help the country function for the well-being of our fellow citizens.

That is why it is impossible to support this Bloc Quebecois subamendment, which is not in good faith but instead appears to be motivated by some form of trickery, perhaps inspired by Mr. Parizeau.

Nevertheless it is clear that this subamendment is not being submitted to the right parliament. It asks this Parliament to permit a provincial premier to dictate the next budget. It is clear that this subamendment has been moved to divide the forces that are getting along well together. It is also clear that this subamendment is unacceptable because it asks us, the members of Parliament, to abdicate our responsibilities.

This amendment to the amendment basically says that we should manage things the way a provincial premier wants us to. Regardless of the province, no one in this Parliament was elected to relinquish his or her responsibility to a premier. I am convinced that each one of us here feels that he or she has a role to play in the administration of public funds. We have a responsibility regarding the taxes that we collect from our fellow citizens. We cannot let others dictate our actions. We must take our responsibilities and be able to count, to give and to share under a fair and equitable system.

This is why this resolution might be quite acceptable at the National Assembly. The problem is that a number of members may have made a clerical error, because they already see themselves in that assembly. Perhaps the Bloc Quebecois leader is training for when he is done with his leadership duties here.

One thing is certain: federalism is a game of give and take. As for the council of the federation, we know that this is a fantastic counterpart created by the Quebec Liberal government with the support of all its provincial partners.

I know that Mr. Charest does not want to come here to tell the Parliament of Canada what it must do. He has too much respect for the system. However, he will want to get as much as he can, along with his colleagues from the council. The council is the forum where the provinces should have this discussion amongst themselves.

Mr. Charest is not asking for a blank cheque, as the Bloc Quebecois is doing. The latter says “No limits”. What relief is it talking about?

Is it what is in the Séguin report? What are we being asked to do? We are being asked to sign a blank cheque. Are we being asked for a GST transfer? We do not know. This amendment will not make us relinquish our responsibilities.

We intend to govern for all Canadians and to deliver the goods for Quebeckers, but this will be achieved through a decision of this Parliament and not by—

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

I regret that I must interrupt the hon. minister, but his time is up. The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, through you I would like to tell the hon. member for Outremont that we are not asking the government to abdicate its responsibilities: we are asking it to assume its responsibilities while taking into consideration the fact that it is a minority government.

When we call on people's sense of responsibility, we must look at ourselves. The member for Outremont is saying “We do not want others to tell us how to govern”. What does this Speech from the Throne do if not dictate the Liberal Party's agenda to a Parliament in which the government is in a minority position, a Parliament in which a majority of members sit on this side. This is not a consensus. This is not the way to ensure that this Parliament will work.

As for being responsible with the taxes paid by Quebeckers and Canadians, we do not need to be lectured by people who are in it up to their necks with the sponsorship scandal. If they want to talk about sound management, that is fine with us.

During the last five years that the current Prime Minister was the Minister of Finance, the federal government's operating expenditures increased by 39%. This means an annual increase of about 8%, while inflation was at 1.9%. Is this what they call sound management? An abyss of sponsorship spending and operating expenditures out of this world?

Do you know how this came to be? When you make a surplus year in and year out, this means you have too much money compared to the responsibilities you have to fulfill. That is what happens. Laxness sets in. During that time, Quebec and the provinces have needs. Their people have needs in health, education and income security. We do not need any lectures from them. Anyway, we did not miss the member during his 12-year absence from the House of Commons.

I would like to ask him the following concerning the fiscal pressures referred to in the amendment. The current Prime Minister was the first to raise this issue during the election campaign, when he acknowledged that the provinces were facing fiscal pressures and indicated he was prepared to sit down and work on this.

Later, he made another commitment. After the conference on health, another conference was held, which dealt with not only equalization—there is this incomplete formula we were presented with two weeks ago, which does not take into account the demands of the provinces which benefit from equalization—but also transfers as a whole and the redefining of tax fields. The Prime Minister of Canada himself appeared to be open to this debate.

I have a question for him. Why is it that in less than three months the government has changed its tune?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for his question.

I must say this is quite extraordinary. I thank him for commending the Prime Minister for the fact that we have surpluses. That is quite something. Let me say this: we are the only G-7 country that currently has surpluses. It is all thanks to this government and this Prime Minister.

We are the envy of the world because of the fine administration of this government. I am pleased that we have surpluses and that we can help with the financial burden in Quebec.

The Government of Quebec applauds the health transfer. Everyone in Quebec applauds it. I had expected the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot to applaud it as well.

Thanks for the congratulations. There will be other opportunities in other matters, where we will be just as flexible and sensitive to the needs of Quebec and the other provinces.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

John Williams Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome back the Minister of Transport after an absence of 12 years. Before his departure, of course, he decided that separatism was the way to go in this country, by joining the separatist party. As he said, he was on the opposite side of the microphone advocating such policies.

Now he is here as a member of the federal Parliament, a member of the federal government and a minister of the Crown. I was wondering if he would like to stand and tell us where he stands on federalism and what his personal position is regarding federalism.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of Transport will do so, but very briefly.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be here today as the federalist member of Parliament for Outremont. The member has never learned the history. The Bloc Quebecois then was temporary functionally and a rainbow coalition. I was the red of the rainbow coalition, but I was the only one who became temporary because they all stuck around.

The reality is that the member does not know what has happened in Quebec for the last 12 years, because I have never advocated any political position. I was doing my job as a host and being very professional about it. I am back here because I believe we can make a difference in this country, and we are not going to play footsie with the separatists like you are going to do tonight.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

The Minister of Transport is an experienced member. I know he intended to address his remarks to the Chair.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in this House to take part in this important debate on the Speech from the Throne.

I am tempted to go there and suggest that not only was the Minister of Transport playing footsie, he was actually under the covers. We do not know what happened under the covers in his flirtation with separatism.

It is interesting to note his new-found enthusiasm. There is nothing like the enthusiasm of a recent convert. Yet, a few years ago, he would have been quite comfortable sitting with the Bloc, so the suggestion that somehow there is something improper about opposition parties trying to cooperate at this time runs completely contrary to the signals and the lip service that have been given by the government to the issue of cooperation.

Speaking of that, we are here to talk about the throne speech and the reasoned, measured attempts by all opposition parties to enhance, to add substance to, to in fact prop up what is otherwise a very vacuous throne speech. This particular document is so lacking in detail and so completely devoid of any real direction that it is difficult to know where to start. What we do know is that much of it is completely recycled. We know that at least 43 of the promises outlined in this document are regurgitated from a previous throne speech of 2002.

It is particularly easy to note the promise of a national day care program, which dates back to 1993. We have the 1993 red book, the 1993 throne speech, budget promises and election promises, so much of which is simply recycled.

This particular reference to the Citizenship Act is a project that goes back to the previous government as well. Promised legislation with respect to child pornography also dates back to previous legislation. We have seen it all before and the real question now becomes one of credibility.

The opposition parties are trying legitimately to improve this document. We are putting forward very measured, consistent amendments meant to add substance to what we see before us.

I listened to the speech of the government with respect to the 38th general election. The House leader, in reference to the throne speech, said just the other day, “We are working as if we have a minority government”. Well, maybe that was just a slip of the lip, but they do have a minority government.

The government has to explain. While it had all summer to prepare, to consult, and to do what it is now trying to do at the last minute in scrambling around, what is clear is that the government has lost its majority but it certainly has not lost its arrogance. Sixty-three per cent of Canadians voted against this government in the last election. That has not quite penetrated the skulls of some of the members opposite.

Despite the message of the electorate, the Prime Minister and his cabinet are simply saying, carte blanche, “Just trust us. Just believe us”. They have had 11 years to implement legislation to work on many of these very important issues, yet these programs have not been delivered. In fact, the promises that have been laid out have been laid out time and time again over the last 11 years, over four elections, and the government is saying, “Just allow us to manage affairs in the Commons in the way we always have”. That is, ineffectually, with no action, with no particular plan.

What we are seeing here where the opposition parties are now putting forward a spirit of cooperation is that it is being rejected. The posturing that is going on now in saying the government can absolutely not support an opposition amendment because somehow this would derogate from their throne speech is nonsense.

Let us look specifically at the subamendment that we will be voting on this evening. It is permissive. It speaks directly about including in the throne speech references to respecting provincial jurisdiction. It speaks of consequences from the fiscal imbalance that are currently being carried by the provinces. Why would the government reject an opportunity to embrace the opportunity to address this specifically with its throne speech?

It is there. It is a measured response, and not a response but a request for the government to actually follow through on this. It is coming not only from the province of Quebec. It is coming from all the premiers in the country. All the premiers are looking for this particular initiative.

Mr. Speaker, I neglected to mention at the outset that I will be splitting my time with my friend and colleague from Medicine Hat, the critic in the area of finance. I am sure he is going to be able to lay out in some very specific detail the shortcomings that he sees in the throne speech.

I also note that some of the more disturbing action that has been taken in the past number of days with respect to the throne speech has left many Canadians wondering how this Parliament itself is going to function if this is in fact the government's attitude. The throne speech left a lot of questions in the areas of environment, education, how the economy will be run, and particularly how we are going to continue to function vis-à-vis the United States of America and our trade relations with it and the concerns it has expressed over security.

Canadians have become quite skeptical not only of the government but of the political process itself. Many of the initiatives that we in the official opposition want to see take place are meant to enhance and build upon the concerns of all members regarding how we renew some of the credibility of this place itself, and how we establish arm's-length bodies that are meant to work collaboratively and in a non-partisan fashion to fix the EI system.

We want to ensure that we remove some of the politicization that takes place at committee level, the fiscal forecast, the way in which budget projections are laid out, and the way in which we currently examine supplementary and main estimates. There is a great deal of work to do. In the past, Mr. Speaker, you have expressed concerns over this particular subject.

This attempt by all members of the opposition is about building upon the initiative that the government is putting forward in its throne speech, about ensuring that the House of Commons will have votes on important issues of international significance, including a proposed missile defence system for North America. It is about ways in which the public, citizen assemblies, could examine the issue of electoral reform, and about ways in which we can lower taxes, particularly for lower and middle income Canadians.

The government is playing a dangerous game by suggesting that this amendment as well as the subamendment will derogate from the direction it is taking. To suggest that if the opposition were to vote in this particular area then the government would be in a position to fall and then visit the Governor General is simply not the case. That is pure poppycock.

Many on the other side were big fans of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. We learned from him. He engineered his own minority government's defeat in 1974 by introducing a budget that he knew would fall. This has been documented by cabinet documents that have been made public. This type of strategy is not beyond the realm of possibility. The government, while accusing others of playing games, knows it is very precarious if it goes down that road.

The throne speech promises accountability, and yet Canadians are still waiting for openness and transparency with respect to what took place with regard to the sponsorship scandal. Last February the Prime Minister talked about how he was going to ensure that no stone would go unturned and that every effort would be made to disclose information. We know in fact that is not the case. That is simply not true.

We are seeing disclosure daily at the Gomery commission that was not available to the public accounts committee and was not available to the public before the election. It is very curious that these documents are now readily available.

At the outset of the federal campaign last spring the Clerk of the Privy Council allowed Canada Post to delay the release of the findings of an audit which showed that André Ouellet, another famous Liberal, had directed contracts to firms that the Liberal government had chosen, hired relatives, ran up expenses of $2 million, and did not submit receipts. The average Canadian should try telling Revenue Canada that receipts are not available. I suggest there would be somebody knocking at the door pretty quickly. Where was the Prime Minister's outrage when the Clerk of the Privy Council failed to shed light in this area of the sponsorship scandal?

The throne speech makes promise after promise. The government was going to involve parliamentarians in the key review of appointments but that did not happen.

We know that the Minister of National Revenue appointed Gordon Feeney against those guidelines and the new chairman of Canada Post was put in his position without any consultation. Similarly, the process that was set up for parliamentary input into the appointment of Supreme Court judges was again a farcical, after the fact, consultation.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

We have chipmunks opposite chirping away, but they know that the facts are there.

We do not know what the government will do about court policing or enhancing security in the country. That was devoid. A plan for the fishery was devoid from any mention in the throne speech.

A big city agenda, what about a rural agenda? We hear very little about the rural agenda. Again, there is much that we need to discuss in this place and we will.

This amendment is reasonable, measured, and Canadians will judge it appropriately.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Leader of the Opposition made a statement that made me reflect somewhat. It was a statement to the effect that the majority of Canadians did not vote for the government, but that the majority of Canadians voted for exactly what is happening now, for the opposition parties to get together and make amendments to the throne speech. It was that theme that this is what Canadians voted for.

In terms of assuming that it is the majority, it is assuming that all of the opposition parties are of a like mind on policy issues. We have the Conservatives, the Bloc, and the NDP or in other words, the extreme right, the extreme left and simply the extreme.

I want to know the answer to a simple question and I might demonstrate it. Could the hon. member advise the House whether his party is in favour of proportional representation which is one of the matters in the amendment?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, it was an extremely inane and ridiculous allegation to cast this party as extreme right. The hon. member knows better and I would expect more from him.

Where is the position of this party on proportional representation? If the hon. member were to take the time, actually get out of his seat and read what is in our amendment, he would see that we are asking for the House of Commons to establish a non-partisan citizen assembly to re-examine changes to the electoral system including proportional representation.

So get a grip. We are absolutely prepared to look at this issue and to put it into a citizens assembly that would allow for this party to participate and put it into the area of proportional representation.

Talking about positions, the Liberals are turning themselves into pretzels over there to avoid any kind of accountability for the fact that they are governing. They want to govern and yet they want to know what the opposition thinks about it. It is not that they are going to listen to it, but that they can delay taking a decision on it, and putting it off as they did with the helicopter procurement and as they have done with so many other important issues.

The government has no lessons to give about accountability or positioning. The best position that it has taken is one that moves from time to time, depending on the electoral fortunes of the position of the party of the day, just like it did on GST.

The Liberals are for free trade now. They have wrapped their arms around it and called it their own. They did the same thing on the price of gasoline and wage and price controls.

The Liberal government has a reputation of not being left or right, but being like the proverbial political windsock. Wherever the winds are blowing that is where we will find the Liberals and they are doing a lot of blowing over there today.