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House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

Topics

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4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is widely recognized in the House that confidence motions usually occur as a result of financial questions. Ironically, they usually come as a result of a budget.

However, the opposition has chosen to pre-empt the budget debate by moving this motion of non-confidence, not pre-empting it in the terms that we will not have a budget or a budget presented or a debate but focusing attention at this particular time on this motion of non-confidence.

One would ask what the motivation of the opposition is, keeping in mind that it is using its time today, opposition time, to move non-confidence in this manner on the basis that the government is not introducing new legislation. That is the basis on which the opposition is moving non-confidence and, further, “that the current government is not new, but rather one that is intricately linked to the past decade of mismanagement”, et cetera.

It is ironic that the opposition is really wasting its opportunity to do that which really should be done in terms of engaging a constructive debate on those issues that are in fact related to a budget. Members of the opposition are doing it at a time which is on the cusp of a presentation that will take place very soon.

Again, without being disingenuous, it seems fair to ask why the opposition is squandering this precious time rather than focusing on questions of substance related to such things as international relations, health care, the present role of the UN with respect to the Middle East emergency, employment, or the economic state of the nation. The opposition chooses to continue to emphasize all that is negative, as implied in its motion.

In my time, let me put forward on behalf of Canadians an attempt to seek possible explanations for what appears to be a rather extreme obfuscation on the part of the opposition in dealing with substantive issues.

First of all, and most important on the eve of this budget presentation, why would the opposition not set the stage for debate on the budget? In other words, why would it not take the bull by the horns, to use an agricultural analogy, and focus attention from that kind of a point of view?

The reason could be that in the Speech from the Throne, which we have debated in the last few weeks, the opposition knows that the government has struck a resonant chord with Canadians and that in fact this resonant chord will be followed by a keen debate on the budget and will deal with the vigorous leadership that the government is taking in terms of international relations and a new environmental legacy and so on.

In fact, when we look at the throne speech, as my colleague has pointed out, we see there that we talk about those substantive issues: a healthy Canada, aboriginal Canadians and the issues related to them, a case for our children, opportunities for Canadians with disabilities, and a new deal for communities. What has the opposition offered up so far in that kind of debate? Opposition members have talked about corruption, a new generation based on reform of the democratic system, lower taxes and individuals taking more of the responsibility to look after themselves.

Is this the new vision? Charitably, it appears to this member that if the opposition wishes to engage in this type of navel-gazing concerning whether its government is old or new, it should really at the very least place its own vision, old or new, under that kind of microscope. In addition, it appears to me that when we talk about this vision, we should discuss the opposition's predilection toward the issue of corruption because it has said that is why there should be a discussion here with respect to non-confidence.

It must be obvious that without alternative policies and vision, the best defence is a good offence, but I would suggest that when we continue to talk about the corruption in the context that the opposition has, Canadians will find that tactic offensive.

The response to the Auditor General's report in the fullness of time will establish what the facts are with respect to all of the events that took place and what really is the truth.

What is the opposition afraid of that it would be so desperate to apply such tactics? Is the opposition afraid that the upcoming budget will implement a vision of Canada and hope for Canadians young and old that will convince them that the Liberal Party and its proven leader offer the only alternative to compassionate and progressive politics in a fragile world and society?

More serious is the old political sleight of hand, “Keep your eyes on the government because you can trust us”, without a vision and with the same shop worn kind of policies that appear to be put forward. Is that the kind of politics that we are actually playing here with respect to this use of time by the opposition?

I believe Canadians want to see us getting on with their business. They want to see us dealing with the substantive issues of these times.

There is a huge amount of turbulence out in the communities. People are concerned about criminal activity in their communities. People are concerned about the quality of their health care system and nursing care system. People have talked with their elected members about the future of employment, of growth and of competitiveness of their communities as compared to communities offshore. The people in my community have asked me what our policies are with respect to the environment. They want to know how we will assist the cities and communities to come to grips with the issues related to quality of environmental life and quality of social life. Those are the substantive issues that the throne speech dealt with and that the budget will deal with.

With this precious time and in parliamentary tradition, this is the opportunity for the opposition members to raise those questions. At a time when a budget will be presented by the government, it would seem that the opposition members, who seem intent on demonstrating to Canadians that the heart of their party and the capacity of their party is in the right place, would be using this time not to try to, in a sleight of hand way, direct attention away from the substantive issues of Canadians but to be using this time to set the stage for that debate. I can only say that the fact they have not is that they do not realize the great opportunity they have missed and one that will be picked up by the government in the presentation of the budget.

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4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish my Liberal friends would shred the spin sheet that they have had on their desks for the last 10 years about what the opposition should be talking about. “If only the opposition would talk about this, that and the other thing; if only they would talk about what we want them to talk about”.

When the governing party crosses over in the next little while and becomes the opposition party, when it has an opposition day I can guarantee we will not have that spin sheet on our desks and its members can talk about whatever they want to talk about.

It comes down to a matter of trust. At the heart of the issue in this debate today is a matter of trust and the government has lost the trust of Canadians. If the government does not have the trust of the people, all the well-intentioned programs and promises that have been in throne speech after throne speech and red book after red book do not mean a thing. If the governing party is squandering taxpayer dollars and, worse than that, funnelling them off to its friends, how can Canadians trust it to do anything? That is what this debate is about today.

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4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I did not hear a question in that but I can assure the member that, first, I do not have a spin sheet in front of me, and second, the government is always a matter of trust. However the matters of trust will be dealt with in terms of the process that has been laid out by the Prime Minister with respect to the most recent accusations, allegations and situations that have arisen from the sponsorship program.

However a matter of trust is also a matter of balance; to talk about matters of trust on the one hand that are constants in our political and community lives, but also to talk about the other things that go on in our community life. Those are the issues that the government has been attempting to talk about and there has been no offering up, I would humbly suggest, of alternatives to that total setting of the stage so that we can be judged, not only on how we have been the custodians of the public trust but how we have taken the initiative to put forward the higher public interest in balance to all of those expectations that the public has a right to expect from us.

I would suggest that what we are attempting to present is that the government is attempting to meet the total trust and the development of policy with and for Canadians.

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4:40 p.m.

Guelph—Wellington Ontario

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a comment for the Conservative member of Parliament.

He asked why we did not talk about something that was different. The reality is that Canadians want us to talk about things like health care. They want us to talk about agriculture. They want to talk about BSE. They want to talk about infrastructure.

The reality is that the Reform member should talk about what Canadians want us to talk about. That is what the Reform member should be doing.

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4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree that both sides of the House should be charged with the responsibility of bringing those issues to the floor of the House of Commons. The public is in a turbulent and volatile state and it is looking for guidance and leadership; the charts that allow us to steer our way through the competitive global waters.

There is no question that Canadians are looking for both sides of the House to be searching out, with good procedures and respect, differing points of view. There is no question in my mind that if we set the stage that way, in the matter that I have talked about in terms of using our time in a constructive way, we will achieve a higher degree of trust on both sides of the House and Canadians will be better served.

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4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to enter in the debate today. I will be sharing my time today.

Canadians have seen the obvious. They have seen what we have called the culture of corruption. The Auditor General has called it appalling, shocking, incredible and unbelievable. That is the list of problems that seems to chronically plague the Liberal government, and has since the new Prime Minister has taken over. Today we are highlighting that. We are showing what is obvious.

I think the government has lost the confidence of Canadians. My guess is that the Liberals will rally around the Liberal flag here today and support the government, but the truth is in what they have been hearing at home.

The newspapers have quoted Liberal after Liberal saying what they are hearing at home. Many have said that even their own sisters will not vote for them and that their mothers are wondering whether they are corrupt. It has become clear that people have lost faith in the Liberal government. Everywhere I go I hear the same thing.

The motion also points out that the government lacks anything new. Corruption is not new but we have certainly been made aware of it in a new revelatory way. What we have also seen is that the government seemingly has no idea of where it wants to go. The government would like us to believe that it is a new government. On December 12 a new Prime Minister came in and therefore all things old were made new again but it is clear from the government's legislative package that nothing is new.

Today the Liberals are pretty excited because they finally tabled new legislation, the whistleblower act. They have only been promising it for 11 years. However everyone in the civil service says that unless there is a culture change over there, the whistleblowing legislation by itself will not help. To date, anyone who sticks his or her head out of the gopher hole, it is like the whack a gopher thing at a fair; the poor little civil servant creeps up, sticks his or her head out to see what is out there and some guy whaps his or her head right flat. The culture has to change. We have to create something new, but the whistleblowing legislation, which is the one and only real significant thing they have brought forward 11 years late, will hardly do it.

I would like to respond to a couple of comments that I heard from the Liberals. This was from their cheat sheet on how to oppose the new Conservative Party when one gets into this debate and they are asking who knows what the Conservatives stand for. It is not hard to figure out what we stand for. Basically, almost anything that the Liberals stand for we stand against. It is almost that bad in this place now.

Let me give a brief rundown of the things that should have been in this supposedly new government's package.

For example, 100 days ago, or on December 12 when the Liberals first came in, why did they not check on the compensation package for the people and communities affected by the softwood lumber disaster? The only thing the government has done so far is spend $55 million of the compensation due to the softwood industry on creating a new bureaucracy and hiring new bureaucrats. In British Columbia, where this is the biggest problem, no money has been sent yet to the people and the communities that really need it.

Anything the Liberals could have done over the last 100 days on that front would have been much appreciated by the people in B.C. and the people in my neck of the woods, like Boston Bar, Lillooet, Hope, Pemberton and those areas. People who have put in applications are being told that their applications have been hung up in the bureaucracy and that if they do not starve to death in the meantime, one day those applications might be approved.

The government might have actually come up with a BSE compensation package before today. The Liberals have almost enough in the compensation package now that if the farmers survived this long they could have almost fed their cows for half of the time between the time this government came in and now, or, I guess, kept their cows alive.

The government waited months to do this job and it has yet to do it properly. I remind people that the government still has not got a single cent into the hands of farmers. That is why we have lost confidence in the government. The Liberals say the right things in the throne speech and they do not deliver.

How about democratic reform? The Liberals say they will change the democratic deficit, which they created by the way, that the democratic deficit is creating a crisis of confidence in the country. My party has put forward motions such as the creation of an independent ethics commissioner. The government voted it down. We put forward a motion which said that the defeat of a government bill does not mean the defeat of a government, that it means the defeat only of that particular motion. The government voted against that in order to make sure that iron will is imposed.

When the House leader came to committee I asked him whether on the supplementary estimates he would allow the government members to vote against more money for the gun registry, which is somewhere between $1 billion and $2 billion now. He said no, that actually they would have to vote in favour of it because if they have approved it, they have to fund it. In other words, they could not vote against it. There is no free vote over there. They have to do as they are told and vote as the whip and the House leader tell them to.

Every time we bring forward motions to address these issues, the government votes them down. Once in a while we would think a breath of fresh air would blow through this cavernous chamber.

The member for Wild Rose brought forward a motion to do away with child pornography and all the frivolous defences that people put forward on the child pornography file. The Liberals could see a vote getter when it is laid in front of them so they voted in favour of the motion by the member for Wild Rose. What happened in the following days is that they could not actually do that. They brought in other legislation that continues the frivolous defences that will keep child pornography on the streets, on the Internet and available to Canadians. It is a shame. They do it time and again.

My party brought forward a motion that we should transfer gas tax revenues to the municipalities. It has been our policy for 10 years. We actually used the wording from a speech that the Prime Minister gave to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. We took the exact words of his speech, brought them into the House and said we would take him at his word. We brought forward the motion and we voted on it. It passed nearly unanimously. It passed with an overwhelming majority.

The next day my party asked in the House, now that the House had passed judgment on the motion, surely the government would move ahead. The response that came from the government was “Well, we are considering this now and we will talk about it”. Actually, the government has no intention. It was not mentioned in the throne speech. It will not be in the budget tomorrow. I make a prediction here today that the gas tax revenue will not be handed over to the municipalities as the House has decreed and as the Prime Minister has promised.

Is it any wonder that we have a motion today saying that we have lost confidence in the government. How often do we have to go to the well and put forward substantive motion after substantive motion on agriculture, on softwood lumber, on foreign policy, on more funding for our military, on a proper environmental policy, on changes to the democratic system? Over and over again we have put forward detailed policy initiatives. We have been accused of being too policy oriented. Apparently we have too many policy wonks over here. It is a scary thing over there that people actually have policy.

We have put forward the policy. The distressful thing for Canadians is that even when it passes in the House they say “Sure it has been brought forward and sure it passed, but with the government, it does not seem to make any difference”.

That is why I have lost confidence in the government. It does not seem to understand that Parliament should be paramount, that Parliament should reign supreme. What is passed in this place, what is agreed to in this place, the government should take as its marching orders. Not all good ideas come from this side of the House, and certainly not all of them come from that side.

A culture of corruption has infested the government and has stalled it in its work. It cannot come forward with decent and new legislation of any sort that seems worthwhile. Therefore, quite properly, members of the House tonight when voting on this supply day motion should vote in favour of a vote against the government, vote non-confidence in the government. Let us get that passed because that is the truth. That is what Canadians are after.

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4:50 p.m.

Guelph—Wellington Ontario

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Mr. Speaker, I want to bring the hon. member back to where he started in his speech. To quote him, he said “We stand for: anything the Liberals stand for, we stand against”. That is true, and I want to say something that he did not mention in his speech.

The member did not talk about the fact that his party was in favour of going to war. That is an important thing to talk about. His party would have sent my sons and other Canadians' sons and daughters into battle and into a situation where we could not have won. No one has won out of that. It is important that the Reform-Conservative Party talk about the fact that it was for going to war. Those members should come clean and talk to the Canadian people and tell them that, because believe me, in the next election the Canadian people are going to want to talk about the stand they took, and it is a terrible stand.

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4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course when I said we were against everything the Liberals stood for, I was just in rhetorical flight, which I say is not a bad starting point, generally speaking. I really do believe that.

What was the truth about how that whole so-called debate about what our position should be vis-à-vis the Americans in the war in Iraq? Here is how it evolved, in case the member is guilty of selective memory. The government would not bring a motion to the House. The prime minister did not have the guts to bring a motion to the House. He stood there and said that actually it was too difficult for us to debate, that it was too difficult a thing to even discuss among ourselves, that in fact, Canada would not even make a recommendation to the Security Council. What he would say was that Canada was paralyzed, that we would have to do whatever Germany and France told us to do, because we could not have a debate or a vote. That was disgusting in my opinion.

Rather than call the Americans “bastards”, which is what happened on that side, rather than call them names, as they did over there, what we said was we should engage the Americans in a debate. Certainly we should have had a debate in this place. There would have been nothing wrong with saying that we support our allies, that we wanted to see Saddam Hussein's government toppled. They could not even say that over there. Then we could have said what we should have done about that.

That would have been an interesting and useful debate in which we could have concluded, as we did in Afghanistan, to send in some troops. We could have said we would help with logistical support. We might have just wished them well. I do not know what we would have done, but the debate should have been in this place and not in the backrooms of the Prime Minister's Office, hiding behind his desk, afraid to confront the issue and tell Canadians even where he really stood on it.

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4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I know I do not have much time but I will play a word game with the hon. member. I have two lists of adjectives. List number one is: democratic, honest, accountable, responsible. List number two is: undemocratic, dishonest, unaccountable, irresponsible. Which one of the two lists does the member think would be the best one for a government to follow and how are the Liberals faring up to that list?

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4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course most Canadians want honest, accountable, open, transparent government. It is interesting that the government in its first 100 days of office has failed on all counts. It has dropped 17% in the polls in Quebec and a dozen points in the rest of the country. It did that in a week.

I often wonder, when the government drafts legislation, as I heard earlier today how it was going to make Indian bands more accountable, transparent, honest and upfront, what must the Indian bands think when they get this lecture from the Liberal Party? They must wonder exactly how they are supposed to conduct themselves. Would the government have them have no paper trail, no accountability? Would it like the chiefs to just shrug their shoulders and say it is not their job? Should they pin the blame on an anonymous person? The only thing I can say is that at least the aboriginal people would not be able to recall their ambassador to Denmark. Why would the Indian leaders and the aboriginal people in this country take a lecture from the Liberal government on honest, open and accountable government? That would be the day.

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4:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Fraser Valley for sharing his time with me today. He provided some fodder for the member for Guelph—Wellington to ask her question. She provided me with some fodder to speak in this debate when earlier, in asking a question of one of her own colleagues, she asked would people not rather hear us talking about and she listed things such as health care, education and whatever, than doing what we are doing here today?

The member represents an area which has become very quickly a very solid Conservative area and she should be very much aware of that. Let me say to her that people across the country are sick and tired of listening to the government talking about these issues. What they want to hear in the House is some solid debate that leads to decision making.

We are supposed to flesh out ideas here to provide the type of debate that stimulates government into making not just decisions but right and proper decisions. There should be debate that holds it accountable. For a long time the government got away with it, but that day has ended. No more will the government members opposite get away with it after a few days, weeks, months, or perhaps even a year and a half, because they will probably try to hold on now with their fingernails. We will probably have to drag them out of here as we had to do with the Liberal government in Newfoundland. When it realized it was going to lose, it held on in order to get every last ounce of benefit it could out of what is provided by the people of the country.

What has the government done about resource development? We see resource rich provinces as they develop their resources looking at empty purses because of the clawbacks of the government. What about the equalization formula that it has set? It is so idiotic that no one benefits. What about the health care system? It talks about the $2 billion. For five years it promised a couple of billion dollars to health care. By the time the provinces get it, it is going to mean very little. In fact, all of the provinces ended up with less money than they had originally because of the effect on the equalization program.

In the health care system, one area that has been neglected is research. We could say the same for fisheries. Because of the total lack of research, we do not know what is going on and because we do not know what is going on, we waste a tremendous amount of money.

Imagine how much money could have been saved in the House by the government if it had done more research into amnesia. Many of the members over there on the government side have amnesia. They cannot remember what happened and because they cannot remember what happened, they have consistently spent more and more and more of taxpayers' dollars without any accountability.

On forestry, it has already been mentioned the mess the government made of the softwood lumber deal. I remember standing here. We were together on that issue. I remember my colleagues around me talking to the then minister responsible. We said that the softwood lumber agreement would soon run out and asked when would we have a new agreement. Day after day the minister kept saying “Don't worry, be happy. We have never lost an argument before the World Trade Organization. We are protected. We have no problems”. The time came for the agreement to end and the agreement ran out. What happened? History of course will write that Canadians got shafted from coast to coast. The softwood lumber issue has been a fiasco.

When it comes to managing our fishery, there has not been any management. The funny thing about it is this past week the new rookie Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, who would not know a cod fish from a McDonald's burger, came to Newfoundland and promised all kinds of new money. He promised money for aerial surveillance and he promised money to put more boats on the water so we could have greater surveillance on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, the Flemish Cap, and within our own waters, within the 200 mile limit.

More surveillance means one thing, and it gives us great consolation. It means we can now issue more citations to foreigners. One might ask, what is a citation? It is something like a warning ticket. Whenever one meets a friendly Mountie on the highway, and everyone is in a good mood and not too many people are around, instead of giving the speeding ticket, he gives a warning ticket which basically says, “Be a good little boy or girl, slow down and drive safely”, which we should do anyway. We have been doing year after year.

In the past 10 years alone the Government of Canada, through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and perhaps even National Defence, has issued approximately 300 citations to foreigners because they have been blatantly abusing the rules. We have to understand that out on the high seas, in the NAFO-regulated zone and within our own waters, we probably only have one vessel at a time, and for many periods no vessels. For months last year we had our coast guard boats tied up because the government would not give it enough money to put fuel in them boats. The people on the boats and the people involved in the coast guard could not go out and do the job they wanted to do. We have great people in the coast guard.

When they would catch somebody breaking the rules, blatantly fishing species under moratorium, blatantly fishing inside the 200 mile limit, blatantly overfishing, blatantly using gear types that were illegal, they would issue a citation, send the boats home and get the country of ownership to deal with the boat. Do we know what happens? I do not know and the government does not know because we have asked. What happened to the 300 citations and how many of them were punished? The government does not know. It has done research, but it does not know because when it sends them back home, nobody comes back and tells it what has happened.

We are now going to put out more boats and more planes. We have tremendous aerial surveillance in the country. A company from Newfoundland and Labrador actually does the work, top of the line, the best in the world. I am prejudiced, but it is true that it is the best in the world. It can do its job by spotting blatant abuses, but the government has to follow up and take action. There has been no action, none whatsoever. Nothing has been done except issuing citations, and now we are going to issue more citations.

Getting back to the member for Guelph--Wellington, do the people of Canada want us to talk more here? No, they do not. They want us to perform. They want to see some action. We have a reactionary government that has been throwing money at the issues across the country.

The Prime Minister today was in Alberta and announced $1 billion for BSE. It is two years too late and a billion dollars too short. The Prime Minister has been running around the country throwing out money like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, like giving out candy on Hallowe'en; trick or treat. It does not matter how the Prime Minister treats the people of the country over the next few weeks leading up to the election. The people of Canada are going to play a trick on the Prime Minister and members opposite, one that they will remember for a long time. We will get away from talking about things in this chamber, and start doing things that need to be done for the people of this great country.

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5:05 p.m.

Guelph—Wellington Ontario

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Madam Speaker, the hon. member has said that the Liberal government has not put money into research and development. I want to speak about my experience in my area, involving the University of Guelph.

In the last three years the University of Guelph has received $151 million for research and development purposes. I would agree with the member that more money is needed. However, the reality is a lot of money has gone into this field that is important for Canadians and for us to operate in a world market. I want to correct the record when he said that the government had not invested. It has and it has invested very wisely.

In case the hon. member does not know, the University of Guelph is an extremely fine university. I would say it is a leader in Canada. It has had a lot of new technologies. It has developed a lot of processes and purposes that have gone worldwide and have made Canada a leader. It cannot happen without government investing in this kind of thing. Maybe the hon. member did not know the facts, but it is important to understand that this is happening all across Canada and in ridings such as mine.

I do not know if the member really understood what was happening across Canada, but I would like to correct the record.

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5:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, I am familiar with Guelph and Guelph--Wellington. I have probably spoken there over the last three or four years, more often than she has herself. I am quite familiar with the students from Guelph who will be involved in the upcoming campaign, and that is a warning to the member, not a hint of help for her.

Let us look at the big picture of education. We can invest all the money we like, but we need proper planning and proper consultation. We see the government every now and then get an idea and throw out dollars. A lot of people at Memorial University back home in Newfoundland and Labrador, as I am sure there are a lot of people at Guelph University, are looking for money that will be well spent. I have no doubt it has been well spent, but it is a minuscule amount compared to what is needed.

The government is starting to listen to some of the things we have said on this side of the House. We do not care who delivers as long as somebody delivers. We must invest in our youth.

We have two choices in the country. We can invest early and educate our young people so they become contributing members of society, putting in for the rest of their lives. Or we can wait and react down the road, which is exactly what the government has been doing, and pay a heavy price. Instead of having a contributing population, we have a population depending on the state. Our population has not been given the opportunity, because of socio-economic status or the geography involved, to get the education it wishes. That is where government should show leadership. Consequently, we would have a contributing population that would make this a better country rather than having a population living off the people of the country. It is a no-brainer.

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5:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Canadian Alliance Skeena, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for St. John's West as our new fisheries critic. I would like to ask him a question with regard to a fisheries issue.

Some time ago the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, of which the member for St. John's West was also a member, tabled a report in the House to the previous fisheries minister regarding custodial management over the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap. That report was rejected out of hand by the minister. In fact he admitted several days later that he had not even read it. With regard to the democratic deficit, that really points to the type of issues we are trying to deal with and the problems we are having in trying to deal with them. It reminds me of the recent response from Mr. Gagliano to the committee, where he has been on the hot seat for the last couple of days.

I would like to ask the member about his--

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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

The hon. member for St. John's West in response.

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5:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is dead on in what he says. The committee presented a report to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans who rejected it without reading it. He did not have a clue what was in it, just like Mr. Gagliano, and rejected it.

He also rejected a unanimous report that was presented to him recommending that the government take custodial management over the nose and tail of the Flemish Cap. This was a report by an all party committee from Newfoundland and Labrador, including members of Parliament and Senators. Our report, including all members of the House, was also unanimous. What did the minister do? He rejected it even without reading it, and we are seeing the same thing.

Let me tell members something funny. Wednesday evening we will be voting on a motion asking the House to support the Government of Canada taking custodial management of the fish stocks on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap, our continental shelf which extends beyond the 200 mile limit. Is the government concerned about it?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans today sent a letter to every member in the House, not just to his own people, asking us to vote against it because the government had other plans. The other plans, and he even outlined them, are to do what we have done for years and years: go cap in hand, get no results and others will go off with our fish while we sit here with empty plants, empty boats and people headed out of the country. That is not the way the government members over here will operate once we move across the way.

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5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this debate. I am not so sure that as a government member I am as sanguine and content with the subject of the motion, but as all opposition motions are, they attempt to hold the government to account, and we on this side of the House attempt to respond.

The opposition would like to have us believe that Canadians have lost confidence in the legislative agenda of the government. The fact is that the government has the full support of Canadians on a number of legislative items now before Parliament. Let us talk about these, particularly measures aimed at protecting the rights and security of Canadians.

Since the beginning of this session, a number of important bills have been debated in this House. I believe it would be worthwhile to examine them closely.

I will start with a bill that I believe is of huge importance in protecting our children: Bill C-12, an act to amend the Criminal Code in regard to the protection of children and other vulnerable persons. It is currently at third reading stage before the House. It proposes reforms in five key areas. It strengthens the provisions against child pornography. It protects youth against sexual exploitation. It increases the maximum penalties for specific offences committed against children. It facilitates the testimony of child victims and witnesses and other vulnerable persons. It modernizes the criminal law through the creation of the offence of voyeurism.

The bill has been crafted to bring to our children better protection against abuse, neglect and sexual exploitation. Canadians are well aware of the gravity of the issue of child pornography. Even though Canada currently has on the books some of the toughest legislation to combat child pornography, Bill C-12 proposes to go even further by directly responding to concerns flowing from the child pornography case involving the accused John Robin Sharpe.

This is a case wherein the courts convicted Mr. Sharpe of possession of child pornographic photographs. He was, however, acquitted on the one charge of possession of written materials for the purpose of distribution or sale. Even though the court found these stories morally repugnant, Mr. Sharpe was acquitted of this charge because they did not meet the existing definition of written child pornography, that is, they did not advocate or counsel unlawful sexual activity with children.

Bill C-12 directly responds to this concern and proposes several changes to the Criminal Code to broaden the existing definition of written child pornography. It proposes to prohibit written materials, such as those authored by Mr. Sharpe, that describe unlawful sexual activity with children where these written descriptions are the dominant characteristic of the material and are written for a sexual purpose.

To the concern expressed by some Canadians that some people could circumvent the law by demonstrating the artistic merit of pornographic material, the bill includes a different test that draws on the wisdom of the Supreme Court of Canada. It proposes only one defence, the defence of public good, which involves a two-step inquiry. Does the material or act serve the public good? If not, there would be no defence. If it does, then an additional second question is asked: Does it go beyond what serves the public good? In other words, if the risk of harm to society posed by such material outweighs the benefit that it offers to society, then no defence would be available even if it had artistic merit or educational, scientific, medical or other value.

The government has as well clarified the notion of public good defence, including its legal interpretation. As amended, Bill C-12 now defines the public good as including acts or material that are necessary or advantageous to the administration of justice or the pursuit of science, medicine, education or art. This new, inclusive definition closely models the language of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Sharpe case, thereby strengthening subsequent reliance upon this judgment to assist with the interpretation and application of the public good defence.

The government also recognizes that we must do better in protecting youth against sexual exploitation by those who would prey on their vulnerability in other ways. Therefore, Bill C-12 also amends the law in order to allow a court to infer that a sexual relationship is exploitive, having regard to the circumstances and nature of the relationship itself. Essentially, this provision would remove the right to consent of a person aged 14 to 17 years of age, allowing for the conviction of the exploiter even where the young person actually had given the consent.

An additional fourth factor has been added to the list of factors that are considered in law, namely, the actual age of the young person. This more clearly indicates that the court must consider this factor as well as the age differential between the two parties, the young person and the older person. Up to now it was assumed the court would take note of the actual age of the young person. It appears that the court simply accepted this age as a given and extrapolated from that to look at the age of the other person. Now the court must consider the age of the young person who is alleged to have been exploited.

Bill C-12 also proposes important reforms to facilitate the testimony of child witnesses and victims and other vulnerable persons. Although this part of the bill has received less attention, it has been largely well received and was developed in close consultation with the professional community that works with child victims.

Bill C-12 also proposes to create a new voyeurism offence to better protect privacy of Canadians. It would prohibit secret observation by any means or recording in specific situations where there was a reasonable expectation of privacy, for example, when the person observed or recorded is in a place where a person is expected to be in a state of nudity or engaged in sexual activity, as in a bedroom, a bathroom or a change room, or when the observation or recording is done for a sexual purpose.

Bill C-12 would also prohibit the publication or distribution of any recording made as a result of an act of voyeurism. It would also enable the seizure of copies of any such recordings to prevent them from being distributed or sold, as well as for the deletion of electronic copies of these recordings from computer systems, including the Internet.

Bill C-12 is an important bill, one that the opposition and all members of the House should support and bring into law as quickly as possible. One might ask, then, why is the opposition intentionally opposing its passage? Why is it now putting up roadblocks? Why has it introduced what we call a hoist amendment at third reading? Perhaps members opposite will have a comment on that at the end of my remarks. The bill is aimed at protecting vulnerable persons and is, I suggest, too important to be the object of political games here in the House. I call upon the opposition to stop its tactics and pass the bill.

A second important justice bill currently before the House is Bill C-10, which is the bill to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This is another important piece of legislation. Regrettably, however, it is another bill for which the opposition has introduced a hoist motion at third reading in an attempt to prevent the bill from becoming law.

Canadians do not agree with the opposition. I suppose it is fair to say there may be Canadians out there who do agree with the opposition, but I, sitting on this side of the House, believe that the vast majority of Canadians agree with the intent of the bill.

The government committed itself in 2003 in the Speech from the Throne to act on the results of parliamentary consultations with Canadians on options for changes to our drug laws, including adjusting the penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. On May 27, 2003, the government introduced a bill that delivers on that commitment. I know; I worked on the House committee that worked very hard for a number of months, indeed, over a year, on this issue.

Presently under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the offence of possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana or one gram or less of cannabis resin is punishable by up to six months' imprisonment and/or a fine of $1,000. Very recently, two parliamentary committees--we have mentioned them here--examined the question of the use of drugs. The House of Commons Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs and the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs conducted thorough research and held numerous public hearings on the legislative provisions dealing with all drugs. Both committees concluded that changes to the legal scheme regulating these drugs were necessary.

Astonishing data emanate from recent research. Just to give a round number, about 100,000 Canadians use cannabis on a daily basis. Approximately 23% of Canadians have used cannabis at least once in their lifetime in spite of the fact that it is a criminal offence to possess this substance. In the last five years, cannabis offences have increased by more than 50%.

Canadians would like to see a reduction in the negative social impact of a criminal conviction. The opposition does not see it that way. I believe the opposition is out of step and out of touch with Canadians on this.

Canadians have also expressed concern over the unfair and unequal application of the law across the country. Police and court activity in respect of the possession offence varies considerably from region to region across Canada. In large urban areas, offenders often receive no more than a verbal warning, and if charged and tried will likely receive either a conditional or absolute discharge. In other parts of Canada, however, for the same offence an offender is more likely to be charged and, if convicted, to receive a fine and possibly a more serious penalty.

Based on these facts, it has been the commitment of this government to reform our legislation dealing with cannabis. The government has a responsibility to Canadians to adapt and address these current concerns. With this proposed legislation, our drug law would be reformed so as to reflect the Canadian reality.

The objectives of the bill are: to discourage the use of cannabis; to reduce the discrepancy in the enforcement of the law concerning the possession of small amounts; to improve law enforcement by peace officers; to modernize the law so that it better reflects the views of Canadians on consuming cannabis; to reduce the adverse consequences of a conviction for this activity; to maintain the crime status of possession of cannabis; and to combat large commercial cannabis grow operations. The bill contains large increases in penalties upon conviction for being associated with promoting or using these cannabis grow operations.

I have to point out as well that cannabis is one of a large and even a huge number of drugs that have been and are being used in our communities. The drugs being used vary. They include prescription drugs. OxyContin is one that has often been named as a culprit. It is a drug that is abused, over-prescribed and diverted from prescription use into illegal street use. I believe I recall that in one Atlantic Canadian city the street drug of choice was not cocaine or heroin but OxyContin, which of course is available at drugstores.

We all know that we have a serious drug issue, not just in urban Canada but across the whole breadth of our Canadian society. We must continue to take steps to educate and to deal with this. Not only do we have diversion from prescription use, but we have the old standbys. I do not want to pretend that it is just another routine drug description, but we have heroin making its way up and down the marketplace. We have cocaine and crack cocaine and we have all the other drugs which people have heard about and read about in their papers.

Among all those drugs, alcohol appears to be the drug that causes the greatest harm to Canadians, followed in close order, I believe, by nicotine. Tobacco is a bad one and extremely costly. We then get into heroin and cocaine, and we work down the list of addictions, and the cost to society.

This is my own view but I look at the overall picture, I regard cannabis as a bit of piker in the list of drugs that harm Canadian society. It is still a drug and it is still abused but it is not a drug that has a huge swath of addiction nor the broken lives and deaths that are associated with other drugs. I include alcohol in the deaths, broken families and ruined lives. While cannabis and marijuana use is an issue, and I will even rank it as an important issue, it is not the killer or as addictive as are all these other drugs.

As a country I suggest we have to focus on where the real harms are first. We will include all the drugs, including cannabis, but we must focus on where the real harms lay.

In conclusion, even though the opposition members do not like all of the government's agenda, I call upon them to please stop delaying passage of the bills to which I have referred today. This is social justice legislation that is of real importance. I call upon the opposition members to join with those members of the House who will vote yea in passage of these two important bills.

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5:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my 20 minutes with the member for Cumberland—Colchester. I look forward to hearing from him a little later.

I am concerned when I see a distinct lack of enthusiasm on the government side. It seems as though the government is deflated and has no energy. It does not seem to have any enthusiasm for doing its job.

The last speech was a good example of someone who seems to be apologizing for the government rather than coming forward with initiatives. The government is blaming us for the fact that it is paralyzed. I do not think that is fair and I do not think that is the case.

The government has been in power 100 days now but is basically a rehash of the old Chrétien government. It cannot get moving. We saw more of that today in Lethbridge.

It was interesting to watch the photo op in Lethbridge where so many cabinet ministers were trying to prop up the Liberal candidate and trying to get him elected in Lethbridge when he has no chance. The member of the Conservative Party who serves in Lethbridge is extremely well respected and has done an excellent job. After having spent the last year working on the agriculture file, the member knows it inside out. He has spent many hours trying to make BSE an issue that the government would pay attention to and did a tremendous job on that.

It was somewhat embarrassing today to watch the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the agriculture minister and the Liberal candidate trying to convince farmers that the $600 million that was finally being committed to the problem after 300 days will change the fortunes of western Canada.

I know our member on the Conservative side here, who worked hard on this file over the last year, was glad to see the money going out to producers, but earlier today he wanted to know why it took so long. One reason that it took so long has to do with our motion. I want to read the motion in sections and comment a little on each section if I have the time. It begins:

That, given the lack of new legislation introduced by the Liberal government during the Third Session of this Parliament--

I want to talk about that a bit. It is interesting to note that out of the 23 pieces of legislation that the present government introduced, 21 of those were rehashed from the Chrétien government. The vast majority of the bills introduced by the present government are nothing but reintroductions of the Chrétien legacy legislation.

Up until last week the only new legislation was the customs tariff bill and a bill apparently dealing with MP health benefits. We have another one today in which again the government has refused to take the action that is needed to deal with the issues. The government brings in half bills and then, as we heard a little earlier, it complains about the fact that we do not like them. If the government would show some leadership we would be a lot more supportive.

I want to point out that no new legislation is being brought forth by the government. It basically has stopped. Last week we called it paralysis by analysis. The government sits and is not able to bring forward the legislation that the country needs.

The second part of the motion today reads:

...this House recognize that the current government is not new--

It is important to point out that the government is a continuation of what happened before. In fact, not only is the majority of the cabinet old Chrétien ministers, but many of the promises and actions are ones that have been carried out by the present Prime Minister. In fact, many of the actions highlighted by him, where he said that he would change the culture in Ottawa, are rehashed, reheated promises from as far back as 1993. We think that if those folks were serious about dealing with issues they perhaps could have done something about them in the last 11 years.

The government included things from 1993: a greater role for MPs, an independent ethics commissioner, a parliamentary review of appointments. All of those were prominent parts of the 1993 red book but we have yet to see any of those things happen.

After 11 years I would ask why anyone would take the government's promises seriously. Actually, the Prime Minister has voted against some of the things that he claims he stands for. We know he voted against the independent ethics commissioner. He voted against expanding access to information legislation to cover crown corporations. He actually voted against that twice.

That is a disturbing thing. It is particularly disturbing for someone such as myself who is involved with agriculture and would love to see that legislation extended to the Canadian Wheat Board. Many farmers and producers would like to see what has been going on behind the scenes in the Canadian Wheat Board.

The Prime Minister voted against legislation that would have allowed Canadians to find out what goes on in their government. He just keeps reiterating that he will do what he said he will do but the records just do not bear that out. That was the second part of the motion.

The third part of the motion reads:

...that the current government is not new, but rather one that is intricately linked to the past decade of mismanagement, corruption and incompetence--

We have talked about corruption and incompetence in the House before and we are back again. It seems like it never ends. As the leader of the official opposition said today, he asked questions about these issues two years ago when he first came to the House of Commons. He came back today on his first day as the leader of our new party and he is asking many of those same questions again.

I wanted to point out the fact that the government is not only not new but it does not seem to be all that interested. In fact, it is difficult to even get the Prime Minister into the House to answer questions. He is out doing photo ops across the country. He is usually not here but when he is here he is really not here either because on February 25 he sat through question period but never got off his rear end once to answer a question. The opposition sees that as an insult, not only to us but to the Canadian people, that he would not show enough interest to stand and answer the questions that Canadians are asking us to ask the government.

There are so many broken promises and the government has only been in power for 100 days. The Prime Minister spoke about changing things in so many ways but unfortunately none of that has happened. I just want to give a couple of examples. He promised that he would increase the representation of women in the cabinet. Of course we know that he added one more woman to cabinet. I do not know if we can call that an increase in representation.

He promised greater representation for the west but he actually has one less minister from the west than he had before. Today, while we see him taking advantage of the photo opportunities in western Canada, in reality he is listening less to the west than he ever has. The members that he has in his cabinet from the west are seen in western Canada as being ineffective. We know that they come down here and they carry the Liberal members' message back to our people. They do not carry western Canadians' message down here and make it heard. That has been extremely disappointing. One of the reasons that I am involved in political life is that the member who is responsible for our province fails to represent the interests of his province to his party down here.

The Prime Minister promised to address the democratic deficit. That lasted about five days, because on the sixth day his government invoked closure to cut off debate. A little earlier we heard one member suggest that the government should do that again, that it should cut off debate, cut off the opposition so that it cannot continue to debate bills and to make issues that are important to Canadians a priority.

One of the things that disappointed me the most happened last year. We saw such a commitment, supposedly, by the government to share part of the gas tax with the municipalities. For a couple of weeks that was a huge issue. At the time the present Prime Minister was not the prime minister and he was making a big deal about it. Of course, as we saw in the throne speech, the government will not follow through with that at all. It has been a disappointment for many folks and we just wish the government would do a better job.

I want to talk a little about some of the scandals we have had to face with the present government in place. I actually will give some credit to Time Magazine because it has a good chronology of the scandals in its February 23 article. It talks about one of the initial ones which began with Shawinigate. With only one minute left I will have to race through this. I will just go through the list of headings: the job fund boondoggle in January, 2000; Gagliano under fire in March 2000; the fuel rebate disaster in December 2001; the ACOA disaster in December 2001; a missing report that just somehow disappeared in March 2002; accusations of patronage that took place in 2002. That is only halfway to where we are at right now. There was the breaking of the rules that was talked about in May 2002. We had MacAulay's resignation in October 2002, in which my colleague from Crowfoot played a tremendous role bringing that scandal to light. We have the gun registry fiasco that has gone on for years. We have the expense accounts of the privacy commissioner that were of such interest a few months ago where he had spent $380,000 on travel and hospitality in just two years. We had the Air Irving incident and now we have the sponsorship report that came back in 2004.

The list goes on and on but I see I have run out of time. However that is a quick list of why Canadians do not trust the government, why they think that we need a change and why we look forward to forming the next Government of Canada.

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5:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to commend my colleague from Cypress Hills—Grasslands on his speech.

I want to draw attention to an editorial that was in one of the papers this past week leading up to the Conservative Party leadership. One of the things it stated was that Canadians as a whole are lacking leadership at this time and do not see adequate leadership in the government. They see a Prime Minister who before becoming Prime Minister had envied the position for so long it would appear that more of an attempt was being made to take over that party's leadership than knowing what was going on in his own department. I think our country is paying the price because of it.

One of the things the editorial said was that taxpayers expect their political leaders to make decisions based on a sense of right and wrong. We have had an instance in committee where a cabinet minister stood up and said, “I had no idea as to what was going on in my department. I was not in control of my department. I am not to blame. Do not look at me. It was not my fault”.

My colleague from Cypress Hills—Grasslands talked about the leadership that this country needs, leadership in the party that governs and what he believes are the important things in that leadership. He ran out of time on what he wanted to say regarding some of the different scandals that are facing the government. Maybe he could tell us a little of what the government in power should do to change the system to make sure that Canadians have confidence in their government, confidence in the cabinet and confidence in those people who are to be in control of their departments.

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5:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, it is interesting that the Prime Minister tried so hard for so long to take over the government and then, once he got there, he has been so ineffective and has done so little. It is important, as my colleague said, that decisions need to be made on the basis of right and wrong and leadership needs to be shown.

It has been disheartening, I guess is the word we could use, to hear Liberal cabinet ministers when testifying saying “I did not know what was going on in my department. It is not my responsibility. Do not blame me. I do not know who you should blame, but do not blame me”. Interestingly enough, that is a defence that not only Gagliano has used, but the Prime Minister has also used that same defence. That really is disappointing because we know now that his staffers were involved early on in choosing companies that would be given advertising contracts. We know they were his closest staffers. Speaking in terms of “our” and “us” in their correspondence representing the minister, we are talking about the fact that they knew those companies were being chosen.

We know they were also involved in adjusting contracts. We know there was a contract that was moved up by $1 million just so one of the advertising companies could get a $170,000 commission and that the minister's staff was involved in that.

It has been interesting because I thought there would be some serious work done here and instead all we have seen is delay. My colleague asked about some specific things that we could do. I am going to talk about some of the things that have been delayed by the Prime Minister. I think if we would move on those, then we would be able to get something done here.

One of the things was same sex marriage. The government does not want to address that issue, so it has moved it into the Supreme Court. It is going to hold off on the reference to the Supreme Court until sometime in the fall so it does not have to deal with it before the election. Show some leadership and deal with the issue.

The second one is the Arar inquiry. We know the story of the gentleman who was imprisoned, came back to Canada and is trying to get some justice here. What did the government do? It announced one more inquiry and put things off one more time, “Let us get through the election. Hopefully we will not have to answer the questions and maybe we never will”.

The third thing was the question about the CSL contract discrepancies. We came forward and asked what kind of contract CSL had. That is the Prime Minister's former company. We were given one figure and then we found out that it was hundreds and thousands times bigger than that, up to $161 million in grants that his company received. We did not get that information directly.

Today we heard one of my colleagues talk about the fact that documents submitted by the head of the Treasury Board are not accurate. When we go through them we find what groups actually got for sponsorship money and it does not match up with the cheques that were paid out. We want to know where that money went. The government could move quickly on that. We think it knows because it has had a couple of years already. We saw it sit with the former public works minister for a long time and nothing happened on that file. We know that some of these things could be done immediately.

There are other things, too, such as a review of the gun registry. How much more money are we going to waste on the gun registry?

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5:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in this debate. I want to reiterate the motion:

That, given the lack of new legislation introduced by the Liberal government during the Third Session of this Parliament, this House recognize that the current government is not new, but rather one that is intricately linked to the past decade of mismanagement, corruption and incompetence, and has accordingly lost the confidence of this House.

That is quite a statement to make about a government. The evidence is very clear. It is interesting that today we were talking about some of the sponsorship scandal grants. There are pages and pages of them, and the government says, “Well, that is the old government. That is the Chrétien government. That is not us”.

This list was given to us by the current President of the Treasury Board and it is not right. It is deceptive. It does not give us the right information. It says that organizations and events received a certain amount of money and they did not receive that amount of money. They received substantially less. Today we were able to prove that in the House. The minister said, “Give us proof”. We have the proof right here.

We have a copy of the amounts that are supposed to be issued and then we have the cheques which are for much less. Where did the rest of the money go? That is a list of about 500 sponsorship grants. There is another one showing 721 grants. In it there is four contributions to the Bluenose Trust. One is for $2.3 million. The Bluenose Trust said it only got $359,000. Where did the almost $2 million go?

This is not the old Chrétien government. This is the new government. It says it is new but really they are the exact same people. They will not answer the questions. The Prime Minister stood and said, “I am mad as hell and I want to get to the bottom of it”.

All they have to do is give us the answers. This is part of the process. They pretend that the House of Commons is not part of the process, but it is. We ask specific questions and they say, “If you have information or evidence, table it”. They have all the information. They have all the grant information. They know where all the graft went. They know where all the commissions went.

Today I raised an issue about a tulip festival in Truro, Nova Scotia. It says right here in the government document that was tabled that it got $5,000. The cheque stub is for $3,625. Where did the rest of the money go? It is not a big grant, but it is a lot of money to the tulip festival.

Then, if we go to this list of grants, there are three more tulip festivals listed, but these are not for $3,000 like the one in Nova Scotia. This is a tulip festival for $310,000. This is through the Gosselin Communications Liberal advertising firm. There is another one for $172,000. This one went through Groupaction so we know it is legitimate and certainly all the money went to that tulip festival.

Here we are in Nova Scotia trying to get $5,000 and we cannot get it. They slice it back and give a third of it to some advertising agency, but they give tulip festivals that are sponsored by Gosselin Communications or Groupaction $310,000, $172,000, $194,000. This is crazy.

I wish every Canadian would go to the Public Works website and just look up under “Communications, sponsorship update” and go through this. It will make them sick the amount of money that went out.

Here is one that I like for Y2K, Groupaction, $1,276,000 and Y2K never even happened. My all-time favourite is number 699. It just states that for unforeseen events, paid to Groupaction, $200,000 even, just for unforeseen events.

Here we are trying to sponsor a community event like a tulip festival in Truro and we cannot get $5,000, but Groupaction puts a bill in for unforeseen events, whatever they are, and gets $200,000 of taxpayers' money. It does not even have to say what it is for. It does not have to say what it did with it. It just put its hand out and the Liberals truck it over in a wheelbarrow. It is disgraceful.

Again, I recommend that Canadians go to the Public Works website, go to Communications and go to the sponsorship update. It is absolutely disgraceful. There are pages and pages of them. Every time I look, I find more information and there are more grants.

The minister says, “We are going to do all 721 grants”. Well that is just one little package of grants. The President of the Treasury Board issued this package of grants. There are grants everywhere. There are more lists. These are just two lists and there are about 1,200 grants here.

The Minister of Public Works said that he is going to analyze 721 of them. He should analyze every single one of them, find out where every single cent went, who got the commissions, what Liberal advertising agencies got the commissions on all these grants. Every single one should be analyzed, not just a select few. The government should stand up. It has all this information. It has all the records. It can answer these questions.

The Prime Minister stands up and says that he is mad as hell and he is going to get to the bottom of it. There is no trouble getting to the bottom of it. All the government has to do is open the files, look to see what happened and report to the House what happened. However, it is not taking any responsibility. Nobody is taking responsibility. The government is getting to be a laughing stock. It is making a laughing stock out of the House of Commons, because when we ask questions about these sponsorship grants the Liberals say that is what the committee is for and they wish it would hurry up and do its job.

This is part of the system and the Liberals are neglecting it. They are refusing to answer any questions. They are hiding behind all these committees and solicitors and everything they have set up to cover it. It is certainly the same old government. It is the same people. There is nothing new. Even today, it is the new government hiding what the old government did. We are asking the Liberals today to produce a new list of every grant, all the commissions paid to the Liberal advertising agencies, wherever they are, in every single detail. I will be surprised if we get that. This information was given to us by the new government. It is the same old information and it is wrong and deceptive and it deceives the House.

There is a little headline here, “Where did the money go?” That is a good question. It should be, “Where did your money go?” not “Where did the money go?” That should be the headline to every single Canadian and every single Canadian should know where their money went. The government could answer those questions but it will not. It is the same as the gun registry, $1 billion here, $1 billion there. Who knows, is it $1 billion? Is it $2 billion? I do not know what it is and probably nobody does.

How could one spend a thousand million dollars on setting up a database with a bunch of computers? I do not want to over simplify it, but that is basically what the government had to do. It had to set up a computer database and write in firearms. How could it possibly spend a thousand million dollars? Now there is speculation it is two thousand million dollars. Anyway we look at it, there is no sense to this. There is no explanation. The Auditor General said she could not even figure it out. There is no way of knowing how the government spent the money. All she knows is that the entries are there where the cash went out. There is no accountability. There is no management. There is no responsibility for anything.

Now there is this fiasco where the former minister of public works, Mr. Gagliano, stood up and say that he is not responsible for his department, that we cannot expect a minister to be responsible for his department. My goodness, what a stupid concept. How could someone expect a minister to be responsible for his department? Then the deputy minister came and said that he is not responsible. No one is responsible.

We have been at this now for weeks and we have not seen one shred of evidence. We have not seen one person stand up and say, “We are accountable. We are sorry. We made a mistake. We did not do it right, but we will do it right”. They will not say that. They just say, “No, it is not me. It is not my department. Well, it is my department but I am not responsible”. It is incredible that nobody is taking responsibility.

Now there is a switch in tactics. It is going from the new government to the old government tactics because this weekend we heard the Minister of Canadian Heritage say that it was no big deal, it is just another file and it is just the way they do it. How can a minister say that? It is not just one file. It is hundreds of files and probably thousands of files and they are right here and every single one of them deserves to be investigated. It is not the way things should be done.

I will say one thing. We have a new leader in our party. When we go into the election, it is going to be about ethics and nobody is going to be able to point to our leader and say that this man will waste our money, because he will not. Nobody will be able to point to him and say that this man will steal our money, because he will not. Every Canadian will know it. The Liberals are not going be able to say that because everybody knows the Liberals will take their money and they will spread it around. They will waste it. They will squander it. They will give it to their friends and do whatever they want to do because they think they own the country and they run it.

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6 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, the member is right. There is a new leader in the House. The new leader is on this side of the House and has a very exciting agenda that we have been able to talk about all day. The motion sort of backfired. On the other side of the House there is the same old leader and the same questions that have been answered long ago.

I would like the member to show us that there is actually something new over there. We have outlined all day what is over here and it is a very exciting agenda with childhood development, health care, first nations government, quality daycare spaces, new deals for municipalities in GST rebates, the Great Lakes sustainability fund and the Windsor border crossing. We have outlined it all day.

My question for the member is, I would like him to name one policy that the new party has adopted that is not an Alliance policy. Everything is identical to what it was before. There is absolutely nothing new. It is the same leader and the same policies. I have a great deal of respect for the member. He is a very thoughtful member. I would like to know one policy that the new party has adopted from the old Conservative Party that would suggest to me that it is not just the same old Alliance party. I would just like one shred of evidence.

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6 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

The question is not relevant to the debate. If the member chooses to answer it, he may.

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6 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, I have an answer anyway.

When he began his comments, the member said that his party had a new agenda and a new approach, and that is what the Prime Minister said. He said he was going to have a new agenda. He was going to empower parliamentarians and give them new authority.

First of all, the Prime Minister forced closure on a bill that would change the boundaries of my electoral district. He is going to cause so much confusion just so we can accommodate the Liberal election agenda. There are 38 ridings in this country whose names will be changed as of April 1 because of legislation the government forced through by using closure.

Contrary to what the Prime Minister promised, members of Parliament did not have a chance to debate the legislation. The name of my riding would change from Cumberland--Colchester to North Nova.

There is another government bill right behind that one that would change my riding name again, probably September 1, depending on when the bill goes through. That bill would change the name of my riding to Cumberland--Colchester--Musquodoboit Valley.

All this is being done to accommodate the Liberal election platform. It means new election maps and new election lists. It needs all kinds of paraphernalia for 38 ridings in the country. The only reason for all this confusion is to accommodate the Liberal election agenda. It is an entire waste of money.

If the election were called today, my riding would be Cumberland--Colchester. If it were called during the first week of April, it would be North Nova. If the election were called during the first week of September, my riding would be Cumberland--Colchester--Musquodoboit Valley.

My riding is just one of 38 that would have to go through that shemozzle because the Liberals want to force an early election because they are scared to delay it. They know that these tonnes of files will prove that they have been very careless with taxpayers' money and that decision will come back to haunt them.

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6 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the Mississauga festival in my riding applied for a grant under the sponsorship program. I believe some $75,000 was approved, but it did not get $75,000. It received half of that amount. The reason was because of reporting requirements under the contract. The rest of the money would not be forthcoming until such time as the festival filed all the necessary documentation and demonstrated that it had executed the program it applied for in the first place.

I am pretty sure that the pile of paper the member has been waving around are the applications that were approved in terms of the amount groups were eligible to receive, subject to them executing the program that was applied for and demonstrating that it was in accordance with the rules of the sponsorship program. As a consequence, I would fully expect that very few of the sponsorship applicants ever received the total amount they applied for simply because they were subject to post-audit accountability within the department.

Therefore, it is very clear that one cannot look at a cheque stub and say it does not equal the total amount applied for. The difference between $5,000 and $4,000 is $1,000, so therefore that $1,000 must have disappeared somehow. The money was never dispersed. How can it be lost if it was not dispersed?

The member is talking about things he really does not understand or does not know. The member is simply suggesting that somehow the list that he has is money that should have been paid out but was not paid out, and he wants to know why not. The fact that there was not that much shows there was--