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.


Criminal Code
Private Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

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March 22nd, 2004 / noon

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS


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.

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The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Since today is the final allotted day for the supply period ending March 26, 2004, the House will go through the usual procedures to consider and dispose of the supply bills.

In view of recent practices, do hon. members agree that the bills be distributed now?

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Some hon. members


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Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I compliment you for the work you do in the chair. We are always glad to see you there.

The supply day motion is a very timely motion, on behalf of the new Conservative Party. It comes at a time when we are returning to this historic chamber with a new leader.

I want to take a moment of my time to congratulate the new leader of the Conservative Party. I also want to congratulate him on the work he did in achieving the broad support and overwhelming victory which he received on the weekend.

I want to take just a moment to congratulate the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada on his great victory. It is a momentous occasion for the new party to be represented by a new leader who is extremely capable and talented. All the party members are extremely enthusiastic about working with him as their new leader.

For the first time in over a decade, the Liberal government will face a very united, very focused and determined Conservative Party. To that extent, we are stating the obvious in the motion that is currently before the House. I want to recite that again for the record. It reads:

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.

I believe those words echo the sentiment that we would find at any Tim Horton's, mall, bingo hall or legion anywhere in Canada where Canadians are extremely troubled by the mismanagement and the level of corruption exposed by the Auditor General. The information that is dribbling out in the House of Commons from the Liberal side, as well as what we see not forthcoming in committee, is unsettling and shaking the very confidence of Canadians in their government.

Further to the point, the Auditor General's report speaks of hundreds of millions of dollars that have gone missing or, more frightening, can be accounted for if we go to those Liberal friendly firms that received that work, in many cases work that was not done, work that was not complete or work that was duplicated.

At this time more than any other, as Canadians are huddled around their kitchen tables filling out their income tax forms thinking about whether they should be sending their money off to Ottawa, what an unsettling feeling to have this type of scenario, this type of corruption and graft playing out in the government at the highest levels.

The government has been in limbo. It has essentially been idling since the new leader took over. Great effort and great aplomb was made to put a new face on the new Prime Minister of Canada and great effort made to try to detract from any previous association he might have had with the Chrétien government, knowing of course that he was second in command. He was, as has been described by one of our leadership candidates, the second mate on the good ship Chrétien, not a stowaway.

The current Prime Minister, by trying to put a new face on government, is really telling Canadians that he is the man of a thousand faces. He can put on any face they want and be all things to all people but the people are not buying it. More than that, they are angry at the way in which he has refused to take any responsibility for his own actions and involvement in decisions made by the government. I need not list them at length, but I will say that most Canadians are quite clear in their recognition that this man who wrote the red book was part and parcel of every decision and every big whopper that was put out there in that document, that red-faced reversal document known as the red book where the Liberals promised to get rid of the GST and to renegotiate free trade. They were going to clean up government. Do members remember that whopper? They were going to reinvigorate Canada's military. They were going to fix health care. They were going to work with the provinces.

What have we seen in this decade of debacle and debauched government promises? The man who was in the passenger seat, the man who was, as they used to call that seat in high school, riding shotgun, the man with the road map giving instructions to the man driving the car, was the man telling the Prime Minister where he thought the government should go.

Where did the government go? Where is the country going? It is slipping. It has fallen significantly in the areas of health care, of relations with other countries and of interprovincial relations. Our military capacity has been severely diminished. Our armed forces personnel is so much in decline. We are stretching those resources to the max. Our justice system has been undermined. Our national police force has been politicized to a large degree, as was noted in a recent article by Lawrence Martin in the

Globe and Mail.

The government is rotten to the core. The corruption is now starting to rise to the top like the film on an old cream can. It is rising to the top and some of the other scum is sinking to the bottom. It is time for a change. This Conservative Party is poised, ready and primed with new policies to present the country with a clear alternative.

The Prime Minister, upon achieving his reign over the Liberal Party and over the country, has seemingly backed away again from the commitments that he made. He talked about changing the way things would be done in Ottawa. One of the phrases he was so prone to using during his time undermining his predecessor was a democratic deficit in Ottawa. That democratic gulf has widened, even in the interim period that he has been here.

Before arriving here the democratic deficit was a major issue and yet we see very little change in the attitude and the approach taken here in the House of Commons. It did not take the Prime Minister more than a few days to invoke closure on a debate in the House of Commons, both here and in the other place. It did not take the Prime Minister any time at all to soften those promises.

We all remember how committed he was to a gas tax rebate to the municipalities. It is out the window, gone. He tells the provinces he will get back to them.

I know I cannot comment on the Prime Minister's absence, but he has become very much like the invisible man during question period. While this is the place in which he can be held to account, he has been on the mad as hell tour. Pardon my use of that term. He has been out touring the country. It reminds me of an angry mob gathering outside a window, yelling up at the king, “We're mad at you”. However, rather than come out and face the crowd, what does he do? He goes out and joins the crowd and yells up at the empty window. This is an absolute farce, an abdication of his own responsibility.

Yesterday was March 21, a significant day, the first day of spring. It marked the 100th day of the Prime Minister's reign and this little slogan of immediate action that he brought into play and the promises he made on dozens of priorities. He had all kinds of number one priorities and if he did not like those priorities, there were other priorities.

I would like to point out some of the promises that have been broken already. Before his cabinet was even unveiled, the Prime Minister spoke of the need to increase the representation of women in the Parliament of Canada. He was going to make dramatic increases in his own cabinet. One additional woman was added to his cabinet.

We had a female candidate in our race who fared extremely well. She knows she will not be knocked on the head in the same way we saw in the Liberal leadership contest. She will be running for a seat.

The Prime Minister also promised greater representation for the west in his government. His cabinet actually includes fewer ministers from the west; seven rather than eight. There are now more ministers from New Brunswick than there are from Alberta. I know my colleague from Saint John might like that.

He also promised to address the democratic deficit that I mentioned and yet six days after coming into office his government invoked closure and cut off debate in the House of Commons. He also delayed the reopening of Parliament. What a very democratic approach, to delay the opening of Parliament.

He used the Senate to force through a bill to allow for electoral redistribution by the April 1 deadline.

Similarly, despite promising more democratic reform in this place, more independence and more votes for MPs, the House leader of his new government, supposedly called, has made it clear that Liberal MPs will not be allowed to vote freely on votes on funding for such things as the flawed gun registry. There will be no free vote on the gun registry.

We are used to this flip-flopping on issues and Canadians are certainly used to it from this Prime Minister.

There is a tendency to flip off more of these controversial issues to the Supreme Court under this new Prime Minister. That is a new trend, is it not, to see the Prime Minister avoid taking those issues head on here in the House of Commons?

This place should be doing the important work of Canadians on those issues that matter most. That is certainly a commitment we will find from the new Leader of the Conservative Party and from this Conservative Party when it forms the government.

The Prime Minister also promised gas tax changes without delay, without equivocation. Delay and equivocation is all we have seen on that and many other issues. He repeatedly promised, and which may go down as one of his best in his first 100 days, a new appointment process for an independent ethics commissioner for Parliament.

This important watchdog may have been able to bite some of the members who needed it during the ad scam. This supposed watchdog I could only describe as a toothless, anemic, emaciated chihuahua that has no bite. It is time we put some bite back in that office if it is to mean anything.

I am quick to add that the ethics counsellor, who is still sitting in that office drawing a salary, cleared the previous prime minister of any wrongdoing on Shawinigate only to have a Quebec Superior Court judge absolutely castigate the Liberal government, the Prime Minister's Office and the BDC for the way that they persecuted François Beaudoin. This treatment of a senior bureaucrat will go down in history as one of the country's most atrocious cases.

There was also discussion on the legislative agenda. What an active agenda this was going to be under this new Prime Minister. Out of the 23 pieces of legislation that have come before the House since the Prime Minister took office, 21 of those bills are exact duplicates of bills introduced by his predecessor, Prime Minister Chrétien. These bills were not only reintroduced but they are part of the so-called legacy of Mr. Chrétien.

It spells it out pretty clearly that the current Prime Minister is very much a part of that legacy, and it is not a very proud legacy, if I might say so. Canadians are looking for new ideas that will get results and address the issues of equalization, health care, military, foreign affairs, environment and education. Action needs to be taken in so many important areas and yet all the Prime Minister and his cabinet could do was reintroduce, rehash, bring back and recycle--

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12:15 p.m.

An hon. member


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12:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

--regurgitate all the same legislation introduced by his predecessor.

The throne speech included commitments that date back to 1993. Again, a replacement for the Sea King helicopters was cancelled by the Prime Minister's pen. While his predecessor might have promised to write zero helicopter, the current Prime Minister took his pen and cancelled that contract. It cost the country half a billion dollars plus the component parts that would have been made in British Columbia, plus the lives that could have been saved, the protection that would have been there for our coastal communities in the rest of the country and the important work that has to be done by our military.

Similarly, that throne speech reiterated many of the commitments made under the Chrétien government, such as the Stryker purchase or the $2 billion for health care. At least the 39 promises outlined in the throne speech are repeated fully or in part from promises made in the previous throne speech.

If the Prime Minister's intention was to repeat the tired old Liberal agenda, the agenda that was left by the member from Shawinigan, he certainly has done a good job of it. He has certainly walked lockstep, cheek by jowl with his predecessor in his performance in the House of Commons, when he is here.

Why was the House prorogued in the first instance? Why was there an attempt perhaps to delay the arrival of the Auditor General's report? That is a common practice. That is something we have seen from the Prime Minister's predecessor: hold off, avoid, delay, deny and distract. Those are common catch phrases and words very much attached to both the past and present Prime Ministers.

The Prime Minister's advisers promised 100 days of action and decision. Well, the government has been adrift, awash in scandal, up to its ears in attempts to cover up and deny responsibility in the House and at the committee. These 100 days of promises have resulted in hundreds of broken promises.

In other words, this is exactly the same government that we have had for the last 10 years and it needs to be flushed out of office like the cleaning out of the Agean stables in Greek mythology.

It has been 100 days for the Liberal government and Canadians are no doubt hoping for 100 days in which to rid themselves of the government in very short order. Despite the dramatic promises of changing the culture in Ottawa and ending patronage and cronyism, we have seen nothing but evidence of chronic cronyism and a continued legacy of rewarding Liberal friends and putting patronage and partisanship ahead of principle when it comes to filling the important roles and important jobs within crown corporations, and other important work that has to be done by the government.

On ending cronyism, the Prime Minister had this to say, “We will put an end to cronyism. No longer will the key to Ottawa be who do you know. We are going to condemn to history the practice and the politics of cronyism”. The Prime Minister had no difficulty offering patronage positions with no parliamentary review or oversight immediately within hours of making that statement.

Allan Rock was placed as ambassador to the UN. Similarly, there were patronage offers made to former leadership rivals John Manley and Sheila Copps. The well-connected lobbying firm Earnscliffe, the PMO in waiting, a beneficiary of millions of dollars in contracts from the finance department during the Prime Minister's time in that office, became the hub of his leadership campaign. Now many of the staff at Earnscliffe are senior advisers and have been drawn directly from the ranks of Earnscliffe into the PMO.

Whistleblower protection was promised. We are finally seeing that today.

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12:20 p.m.

An hon. member

It was promised in the red book.

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12:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

It was promised in the red book 10 years ago. Many of those initiatives are yet to be even acted upon let alone initiated.

In 2002 the Forest Products Association of Canada was awarded a $17 million grant by the then international trade minister. Until recently, and this is quoted from the Globe and Mail , the Prime Minister's long time staffer, Ruth Thorkelson, was a tier II lobbyist with that group.

There are numerous examples of individuals who previously were lobbying government and who are now working for government. That dividing line, that protection, or Chinese wall if you will, has been permeated repeatedly by the Prime Minister.

I know that time is short and other members want to participate in the debate. The motion is very much intended to simply point out the obvious, that “new” is the last word we would use to describe the Prime Minister and the government. It is very much a continuation of the culture of corruption that Canadians have sadly had to live with during the last decade.

There is much that can be done in this place to improve upon the sad record and legacy left by a Liberal government, both past and present. They are one and the same. If we were to try to put some kind of a wedge between the present Prime Minister and the previous one, it would be next to impossible when we examine their records, their involvement, their initiative, or lack thereof.

I would encourage all members, including those on the government side, to indicate their support for this motion. I encourage them to indicate on behalf of their constituents how they feel about the inaction, about the Prime Minister coming to the job after 10 years of pining away and undermining his predecessor and finally achieving that role and coming here with nothing to do but try to defend and cover up the tracks of his predecessor and himself.

This is a place of action, not inaction. This is a place in which Canadians are looking for direction and leadership. We are going to see that in spades. We are going to see a clear indication of an alternative, a government in waiting, a man in the new leader of the Conservative Party who is prepared to take this country into the 21st century with confidence and with leadership skill and ability.

I encourage all members to speak favourably and to support this motion before the House of Commons.

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12:20 p.m.


Alex Shepherd Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I read today's motion and I was sort of mystified. I would have thought that a party which on the weekend presumably came together as a united party would have had a new vision, yet I have come here today and I have found that there is no new vision, there is no new policy approach. Those members are wasting the time of this chamber on cheap politics. I think the people out there thought things might be better, but once again they have been disappointed.

I was surprised when the member talked about the red book, on which I ran in 1993. He said that somewhere in those pages there was a commitment to abolish the GST. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that within those pages it talked about reviewing the GST to see how we could make it better. I was fortunate to be one of those people who went across this country and asked people what they wanted to do and how they wanted to reform it. I can only assume that the member has never even read the very book that he is seeking to criticize.

The fact of the matter is there is no change on the other side. It is the same rhetoric that we have heard from those people, whether they were the Reform or the Alliance or whatever they will be called in the next couple of months. Maybe they are going to change their name again or change their colours, like some kind of a chameleon that fits into the Canadian landscape and changes colour depending upon what the mood is. The fact of the matter is they can change their spots several times but the animal is still there. It is the old Reform party and the old Alliance party to me.

I am just making a comment. I am not even going to bother to ask a question because the member has stood here and said that there has been no change in the Liberal Party which presented a new throne speech and which tomorrow is going to present its first budget. It will have some very exciting things for the business community of this country, some very thought-provoking ideas about how we can encourage education, how we can get more people to raise the knowledge base of our economy. There are some very important things on people's minds today, yet members of that party, the very day after they have had a leadership convention, are using none of the House's time to talk about where they want to take this country or what their policies are, to talk about the things that mean something.

The member talked about the Tim Hortons of this world and I agree with him, but the people are talking about health care. They are talking about things that bother them. They are not talking about cheap political tricks in the House of Commons. They are talking about things that are important to them and those are the things people expected to hear. My comment is that it is the same old same old from that party.

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12:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, there were so many contradictions in that Janus based statement that I do not even know where to start.

As far as having a copy of the red book, like most Canadians, I think it has wound up on the bottom of a bird cage, because we know that any of those commitments went completely out the window. The prime minister of the day went around the country promising to kill, abolish and get rid of the GST, so there is absolutely no discussion on that point.

As for not having talked about health care, the military, education or the environment, the member was not in the House I guess, because I certainly touched upon all of those points.

The point I am trying to make is that the government, rather than addressing those issues and rather than ponying up the necessary resources to address the shortcomings of the provinces and their ability to deliver services in those areas and others, has been wasting money by funneling it to its friends. All of this has been uncovered not by a partisan opposition member of the House, but by the Auditor General, an impartial, dispassionate officer of this place.

If this is not an important issue, I do not know what is because the money that would pay for the issues to which the member opposite has pointed was there. It was in the government budget and the Liberals chose to blow it on partisan exercises. They chose to blow it on things like the gun registry, HRDC spending and other wasteful programs that have been pointed out time and time again.

If that is not the discussion going on in the coffee shops, then the member must be dining out at some fancy restaurant, because he is not getting the same feedback that I am getting in my constituency.

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12:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, I compliment my colleague on his comments today. Before I comment on one important point in his speech, I would like to congratulate him on his recent selection as our deputy leader. He is going to do a fantastic job in that role.

The Prime Minister said that it is a brand new government that started office on December 12. He also said that he is a policy person bursting with new ideas and that he could not wait to become Prime Minister to implement his ambitious agenda.

As our deputy leader pointed out, there have been 24 bills introduced thus far in the House of Commons. Three of those bills actually have some difference from those in the last session. Bill C-1 is a pro forma bill that implements the throne speech but does not actually contain any legislation. Bill C-24 was a correction to the Parliament of Canada Act regarding benefits to members. There was nothing whatsoever in that bill about policy.

Bill C-18 actually had something different from the bill in the previous session. Half of the bill was from the Chrétien government and extended equalization. The second part contained a one time payment to the provinces regarding the health care accord of 2003.

In 24 bills, what we have from the policy agenda Prime Minister is half a bill, half a piece of legislation. The government called the House back three weeks late and took six days to invoke closure to reintroduce Prime Minister Chrétien's agenda. The government is so bereft of vision, so bereft of a policy agenda that it is implementing Chrétien's agenda. Why did those members throw the last prime minister out if his agenda was what they wanted to implement?

I would like the member to comment on the fact that the government has absolutely no vision. This is shown in the fact that in all the legislation one-half of one bill is all the government can produce. That is all the policy agenda Prime Minister can produce.

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12:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, when it comes to policy there are few more informed and articulate members in the House than my colleague from Edmonton Southwest. I thank him for the work that he is doing in preparing this new Conservative Party in presenting Canadians with a thoughtful, costed, well laid out plan for the future in many policy areas.

Why the Liberal government even bothered to change its head when it is pursuing the same agenda is really a rhetorical question. It was more a matter of internal conflict in the Liberal Party, a real bloodless coup and a power thrust behind it.

All of the talk of who one knows in the PMO and the promises on the policy front are all gone. It is really what did they know in the PMO and how much dough did they blow. That is on the minds of Canadians.

Canadians would like to know what the government is actually going to do. It is nice to put these areas of examination into the hands of committees and into the hands of public inquiries. Unless people are willing to come forward and truthfully give an account as to how that intricate and deliberate process of funnelling money to friends was implemented and who was responsible, much of the policy discussion that should be taking place is awash. It is cast aside.

The undeniable truth remains. The former minister of finance liked to speak about his business acumen. He has now risen to the position of Prime Minister. If he ran his Canada Steamship Lines the way that he ran the Department of Finance with hundreds of millions of dollars wasted or spent on ill-advised priorities, his company would consist of nothing more than a couple of old tugs tied up in a harbour somewhere and not the multinational company we see today. However that is for another day. The story as to how that happened and what involvement the Prime Minister himself might have had in ensuring that tax loopholes were available to his company during the time he was in the Department of Finance is for another day and another discussion.

The main thrust behind the motion is the fact that the government is visionless, rudderless, is simply following along, kicking over the traces of the previous government's lacklustre agenda. That is not what Canadians need at this important time. We need a change in government. The government can try to reinvent itself. It can try to somehow portray its vision and its expertise as being new, but it is the same tired, old gang. The Liberals need to be thrown out of office. There is going to be a time in the very near future when Canadians will have their say on that important issue.

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12:35 p.m.

Brossard—La Prairie


Jacques Saada Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to take part in this debate on a motion by the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough

Before jumping into this debate, I want to congratulate his colleague, the member for Calgary Southwest and new leader of the Conservative Party, on his win yesterday. I wish him a happy honeymoon. His intellectual thoroughness will no doubt ensure quality debates in the House of Commons.

This motion is based on certain premises. Unfortunately, these premises have no basis. There is criticism about lack of change. However, those who say that are closing their eyes to what is going on here. Reference was made to a lack of new legislation. Such a conclusion could only be drawn by someone truly out of touch with what goes on in Parliament. Democratic reform was mentioned. The members opposite often talk about democratic reform, but it is increasingly apparent to me that these are hollow words for them, since they did not have the courage to do what we did in this area. I will show the House what I mean.

Our brand new government was sworn in barely three months ago. Almost immediately, we were confronted with the Auditor General's report. Faced with allegations like those from the people across the way, particularly following that report, no government has ever acted as promptly, or in such a determined and transparent way, to get to the bottom of the matter. Never.

It is not just the words. Let us look at concrete facts. For the first time, to my knowledge, in the history of our Parliament, cabinet documents have been revealed to a parliamentary committee so that it could get to the bottom of all this. That was a first. An investigation was conducted by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, which was convened earlier than planned. An independent inquiry was set up under Justice Gomery with absolutely extraordinary powers to get to the bottom of the matter. A special prosecutor has been appointed to recover any funds that might have been misused.

This set of measures is a perfect illustration of our approach to problems when they arise. It is a perfect illustration of the approach recommended by the Prime Minister to deal with the problems faced by our government.

The Conservatives are deploring, using rather dubious arguments at that, the lack of new bills, claiming that therefore nothing is getting done in Parliament. This is such a simplistic approach, to judge what is being done in Parliament by the number of bills before it, so simplistic that it is almost beyond comment.

It shows that they have grasped absolutely nothing about democratic reform. It also shows that they are not interested in what is done in committees. Committees are not necessarily involved only with bills. There are a number of other things they can do, and I will give some examples in a moment. Neither are they interested in the take note debates held in this House, which are so vital as a reflection of what the Canadian public thinks of the hot issues of the day. Does none of this count as parliamentary work?

To reduce parliamentary work to a mere list of bills is to mislead the public. Nevertheless, I shall offer in a moment proof that many new things have been introduced, including bills.

Since our government was sworn in, democratic reform has not only been a major issue in our debates in this House, it has also been the object of concrete actions taken unilaterally by this side of the House, after inviting opposition members to join us. To this day, I am still waiting for a reply to the invitation that I sent them to reform parliament to make it more receptive to the needs of Canadians. I am still waiting for a reply.

Now, I see that some very nice rhetoric is being used in electoral platforms, such as “We are supporting it”. What reform are they talking about? Are they talking about words or actions? About words coming from members opposite, or about actions taken by us?

Here is a concrete example of our efforts to implement a democratic reform. Members opposite know about this and, in fact, they agreed to it because they had no choice. Indeed, from a political point of view, it was neither proper nor feasible to reject this initiative.

The Supreme Court told us, in a ruling, that the criterion that we had been using, namely that to be recognized a political party must have 50 candidates, was unconstitutional. Some quick action was in order to correct the situation and act on this ruling.

We succeeded in doing two things regarding this issue, and this very simply. First, we tabled a new bill which, in the short term, will allow us to prevent the use of political parties for financing purposes. This is somewhat technical, but there is an important issue here. For the first time in our history, we have a definition of a political party. We did not have such a definition in our legislation before. Now we do.

Nevertheless, what I have done as well, as government House leader, at the instigation of the Prime Minister and our cabinet, of course, has been to say, let us go further. This is where democratic reform becomes important. Let us go further.

The consequences of this ruling are much broader than those covered in this bill. Is there a way to make the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs—a multi-party committee where all parties are represented—responsible for examining these consequences, producing and actually writing a draft bill, and not a draft bill written by the bureaucracy, however good it may be, or by a minister, however good he or she may be, but written by parliamentarians tackling a problem that affects all Canadians, that affects the definition of a political party, that affects the very foundation of our democracy?

We have implemented democratic reform. We have announced that the role of parliamentarians will be strengthened. I remind you that they have not yet agreed to this reform. Nevertheless, why is there a need to reform the role of MPs? The answer is simple. When a member rises to vote here in the House, and is told how to vote, when he goes home to his riding and talks to people, they ask him, “Why did you vote that way?” He replies, “I had no choice; I had to”. That is not representation. That is an echo; it is transmitting a decision made by Ottawa to the riding and not the opposite.

We have introduced the principle of a free vote. What does that mean? Each of us must assume our own responsibilities. When, as MPs, we assume our responsibilities and return to our ridings, we are accountable to the people. With free votes, the people will have the power to evaluate their elected representatives.

We have already been doing this. Other than those votes identified in the action plan, related to the budget or fundamental issues for the government, such as the throne speech, all the other votes in the House have been free votes and, for those opposite, not free votes. That is what we have done in concrete terms.

Democratic reform is absolutely fascinating. Currently, five provinces are seriously considering this issue. In fact, measures have been taken. I spent 24 hours in Vancouver. The day before yesterday, I went to Vancouver to meet the Citizens' Assembly.

The Citizens' Assembly in B.C. is a beautiful experience which proves that if we call upon what citizens have best to offer, they do offer the best. I came back from B.C. inspired. They are working on the other side of democratic reform, which is how people are sent here to represent them. We in this House have started to work on what it means to be representing the people. These two things are complementary.

I met with students at the Université de Chicoutimi and professors at the Université Laval. I met my colleague in Quebec City, the minister responsible for democratic reform. There is a fundamental movement inspiring the young and the not so young that has a growing national presence. This motivating and idealistic movement seeks democratic reform in the true sense of the term.

Our democracy is meaningful and has stood the test of time. It is time to take the next step. That is what we are doing, and they are still refusing to join in. They are lagging behind and there is nothing we can do about it.

Democratic reform is also, and above all in my opinion, a question of confidence. That is why, as the government, we have adopted measures reinforcing ethics standards and ensuring more transparent management of public finances. All this has been done here, and yet the opposition dares to say that no work is being done here. Can it be serious for two seconds? Can it be open-minded enough to stop playing petty politics and understand and recognize what has been happening here over the past three months alone?

While the parties opposite—in particular the Conservative Party of Canada—persisted in waging procedural battles when we came back to the House, we brought in a time allocation motion on procedural debates so that we could move on to substantive issues. We felt it was important for substance to prevail in this House in order to serve the public; procedure no, substance yes.

It is quite fascinating when we see the agenda that this government has already set for Canadians for the 21st century. Let us look at it. There is a new deal for Canadian communities. There are bold initiatives in health care, including transfers to provinces, of course, but also the creation of a public health agency. There are innovative measures for early childhood learning and child care. There are innovative measures to help students; we know how heavy the debts are on students.

There is a much needed environmental program to clean up contaminated sites. We have a plan to develop a 21st century knowledge based economy. There is the promotion of Canada's international role. I can give complete examples of a number of things which have already been done within the framework of this Speech from the Throne. They have already been done here in this House and those people do not even know they exist.

This is just the beginning. Tomorrow, my colleague, the Minister of Finance, will table this government's first budget. With seven consecutive balanced budgets, Canada is in a league of its own in the G-8. The budget also will introduce new financial control measures. In short, this government's plan has Canada poised to achieve unparalleled success.

Winston Churchill once said, “The empires of the future are the empires of the mind”. This is also a reminder to all of us that government has a responsibility to innovate.

Just over three months ago, the Prime Minister's government entered office determined to modernize government and to provide solutions to the rising concerns and priorities of Canadians. We created a new public safety and emergency preparedness department to promote safety for all Canadians. We instituted a new public health agency to better manage public health risks. We restructured the former department of human resources development to arm Canadians with two strong proponents for social policy.

To govern is also to listen. We are all aware of the challenges of globalization. The people demonstrating at the summits have to be heard. They represent the desire for social conscience that we all should have.

Many of the demonstrators at the summits are young people. Our young citizens have to be heard. That is why it was so important to reinstate Bill C-3, and allow Africa to get drugs from Canada under conditions beneficial to that continent, in order to address its problems and pandemics.

Yes, this bill was first introduced under the former government. I will not apologize for continuing to be concerned about Africa because we have a new government. I have no reason to apologize. Africa needs our help. We have to be there to help.

It is the same for tariffs. Hon. members know there are preferential tariffs that provide less developed nations access to our markets without tariff barriers. This helps them to start to develop their own industries. I have no reason to apologize for reinstating this bill. On the contrary, I am proud to do so.

As for the ethics bill, we began to study it a while ago. Your humble servant, at the time a member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, worked with the hon. members on establishing the position of ethics commissioner—independent and reporting not to the Prime Minister, but to Parliament. Was I to say that we should no longer do that because the government has changed? That would be nonsense. It was good, it was necessary, and we are doing it.

I could continue in this vein for a very long time. For example, we all know how strongly Canadians feel about the Assisted Human Reproduction Act.

We had begun work on a bill containing measures to prevent the exploitation of children. If the opposition could be serious for 30 seconds, could it say that we should have let that legislation drop just because we have a new government? Should we say that, because we have a new government, it is no longer worthwhile to protect our children? Of course not; that is ridiculous. Of course it is a worthwhile bill. Of course we brought it back. And of course I hope that it will be passed quickly.

The same is true of the sexual offenders bill. For those interested in specifics, it is Bill C-16.

We are not guided by dogma, or division, but by what we think is good—in our opinion—for the people of Canada.

I would like to speak to you a little about leadership in action and initiative. We are a new government and we are advocating a new culture; our approach is new and we are implementing a new program. Unfortunately, rather than trying to understand how important this is for Canadians, the other side is content to laugh stupidly, without really understanding what is going on. This revolution is beyond them. They have not yet understood it. It will take time; they will understand one day, not because they want to understand, but because the public will force them to understand.

Today, we are introducing a bill on whistleblowers. This means that a public servant who observes activities that are not normal or proper or acceptable in the management of public funds or in procedures, will be able to denounce such activities without fear of reprisal.

I hope that I will not hear that this bill will be opposed. It is a bill that ensures we will have more means of better administering government.

The health bill, as I have said previously, includes $2 billion in transfer payments to the provinces, plus the equalization arrangements. Moreover, the Bloc Quebecois, with all its loud hilarity, voted against equalization; yet Quebec benefits from it. Incidentally, they voted against the $2 billion for health care.

We are also going to introduce a bill implementing an agreement with British Columbia, Manitoba and the first nations on allocating parts of national parks to certain reserves to meet urgent housing needs.

The government we want to give Canadians is a government of passion, a government that is inspired and is not afraid to innovate.

No government can be perfect. We cannot provide perfect government, but we do have a duty to acknowledge what has not been done well and, above all, to learn from it.

This is a new approach. What we want to provide Canadians is a straightforward government, one that is not afraid to break down barriers, a government that brings people together. Canadians take pride in the lead role played by our country in a number of areas, including our international credibility and our social conscience. What we want to provide is a government that chooses to build bridges to the future rather than rehashing the past.

Canadians will be able to differentiate between allegations made in a motion that is not unexpected—a surprise to no one—and seek political revenge, and our government's determination to work to further enhance the greatness of our country, inspired by the people in all regions of Canada, a Canada where the best is yet to come. A Canada of ideals and vision, a Canada that will inspire our youth to great things.

A vote in favour of this motion is a vote in favour of the past; a vote against it, a vote for the future.

Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am particularly pleased that the hon. member mentioned health care. If there is one thing the government cannot erase from the minds of Canadians from coast to coast to coast, it is seeing the 50% originally promised in the act drop to 16%. Canadians across Canada see this on their televisions. It is the most powerful ad. What is the source of that ad? The provincial health departments across Canada.

To stand here and say that the government will rectify this with an infusion of $2 billion is sheer nonsense. Canada's health today, the health act and the future are dependent and will be determined in this decade. This is what everyone writes about. I do not see that coming with this government.