House of Commons Hansard #30 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was elections.


Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, let me go directly to the substance of the matter and not comment the political allegations made about my predecessors or myself.

On the substance, I believe the issue is clear. A proposal to recognize a 12 candidate party would have been rejected by the Supreme Court. The problem would not have been solved.

My problem and our problem, as a democratic society, is not the fact that Mr. Figueroa made a complaint and that the matter was brought before the Supreme Court. The question that was raised is the substantial question as to how to define a political party in Canada.

The Supreme Court said very clearly that the number of candidates cannot be an objective or a factor in defining a political party. Whether one, two or 50 candidates are proposed, it is not the number of candidates that must be the determining factor in the existence of a political party.

As for the allegation made by my colleague about an agreement with Figueroa, I am sorry, but it seems to me that an agreement between an MP and a complainant in a court case has less weight than a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Concerning the second allegation, I think a very clear distinction must be made between a political party and an independent candidate.

A political party under Bill C-3 would need to have 250 members that support registration of the party. It must have three officers in addition to the leader, in other words it cannot be a person alone. The party which is registering implies that the party accepts the burdens of reporting quarterly and annually which independent candidates do not have to face. The bill therefore makes a difference between independent candidates and a registered party. Once this is established, then in this case every individual concerned by the application of the bill will have to assume responsibility for the job they have to do.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I guess I do not need to remind the House of the legal requirement which led to this bill, but there is a sunset clause in this bill. Everybody realizes that we might need to amend this bill within a reasonable time.

I would like the government leader to tell us if, in fact, the government intends to quickly follow up on this bill. We will probably have an election campaign soon, which could prove to be an interesting test. Several elements of this bill probably deserve to be considered more seriously and thoroughly, but we do understand the legal requirement before us.

So, what does the government leader plan to do to ensure that the sunset clause is not simply extended when the deadline is reached, but that whatever steps necessary have been taken to develop legislation that is consistent with the reality of our electoral environment and the requirements of the Supreme Court and the law?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for having asked this important question.

Indeed, this is a transitional bill in order to avoid having a gap in our Elections Act. It is clear that this bill—as I acknowledged in my speech today—is not necessarily perfect. I would remind my colleague that the bill did not originally include a sunset clause. It was the parliamentary committee, upon studying the bill, that raised certain doubts. However, it did not want to reject the bill for that reason. Everyone is well aware that it is our responsibility to have legislation that continues to work, to avoid anarchy when it comes to creating political parties. Meanwhile, the committee had expressed a concern about what would happen afterward. That is why I accepted the amendment that would allow for a sunset clause.

Political interests aside, regardless of the government in power when this sunset clause comes into effect, decisions will have to be made on what amendments to introduce.

I have one last thing I would like to say. It was on our government's initiative, as this bill was being introduced, that I asked the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to take one year to look at the Supreme Court ruling and all its consequences for the entire Elections Act. I asked it to look at this within a year and the sunset clause within two years, to allow enough time to do what it takes to find a solution that satisfies everyone.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I find myself in agreement with the member for North Vancouver on this issue. The government has itself in a pickle because it did not accept the motion several years ago, indicating that 12 members would constitute a party. It is unfortunate that his colleague from Fraser Valley did not vote for it in committee because the vote was lost seven to six. Had the member voted the other way, this would be part of the bill today.

The government House leader said in his remarks that having parties with only one candidate would improve the democratic process in the country and in the House of Commons. Thinking about the member for Saskatoon--Humboldt who is in a party of one because no other political party in the House would accept him, how does that kind of example prove the democratic process in the House of Commons and indeed Canada?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, let me express my deep understanding of the concerns expressed by my colleague in the last part of his statement.

It is a matter of balance between the obligations that are imposed to exist as a political party and the possibility for Canadian citizens to have as much of a choice as possible in terms of a party representing them.

How do we strike that balance? The Supreme Court has said that we should not use numbers because that is not an acceptable criterion. One of the objectives of a political party should be to aspire to be represented in Parliament. If one of the objectives is the intent to present at least one candidate, then that criterion is fulfilled.

The question is very legitimate. Whoever wants to create a political party will have to fulfil a number of conditions, and I have already said the conditions are 250 members reporting obligations on a quarterly basis, on an annual basis. If the party is not good enough, then it should campaign to ensure that voters are not interested in it.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White Canadian Alliance North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was rather hoping there would be enough time for me to ask some further questions because the minister really did not answer my question, although he seemed quite happy to roll over and play dead for the Supreme Court of Canada, as if this place does not matter.

This is supposed to be the supreme legislative body in the whole country. We represent the people of Canada. We are supposed to be making the rules, not the Supreme Court. We had agreement from parties that they would drop the legal challenge and accept 12 as the number for a registered party. There is no excuse for it. It was pigheadedness and it wasted probably millions of taxpayer dollars fighting that in court.

The minister should be ashamed because he at the time did not support the amendment.

The minister claimed he sent the bill to committee before second reading because he wanted us to give it serious consideration and see what amendments we should make to make it workable and so on. Well, it was a complete sham.

We sent the bill to committee. The very first day that it appeared in committee it was ready for clause by clause. All the talk by the government about dealing with the democratic deficit is just nonsense. The very minister who is supposed to be in charge of dealing with the democratic deficit in this place, with his very first bill to committee, tried to rush it through so fast we could hardly see it go through the room.

We got to committee to discuss the bill. The minister appeared as a witness. One of my first questions to him was, had he made any of the parties affected by the bill aware of its existence. I do not have time to look in the exact transcript, but his answer was along the lines, of to his knowledge, no, the parties affected by the bill had not even been told of its existence. This was a bill that was to go through committee at super speed, go through the House at super speed and the people who would be affected by it did not even know it existed.

Right after the minister appeared as a witness, we on the official opposition side tried to get permission from the committee to bring forward other witnesses. The Liberals on committee tried to go straight to clause by clause with no witnesses, even though they had just heard that the parties affected by the bill did not even know it existed.

It was only after the official opposition threatened to filibuster the committee that an agreement was reached to have some witnesses, and then we only got two. They were not even going to agree to have the chief electoral officer appear. The person who had to administer the bill would not be a witness. It was only after the official opposition insisted that we got the chief electoral officer and Mr. Miguel Figueroa of the Communist Party who was the entity which got us into this pickle in the first place.

A few days later at committee we had those two witnesses before us. Of course Mr. Figueroa was completely surprised by the phone call he received him to appear before committee because, as the minister admitted, he had no idea that the bill even existed.

When I made some phone calls to some of the other parties, they did not know either. It was a huge surprise to them. Unfortunately, they were not given the courtesy of appearing before the committee, but we did hear from Mr. Figueroa and the chief electoral officer.

During the testimony given by the chief electoral officer, he mentioned a part of the bill that disturbed him a great deal. It was the part of the bill that would require him to make judgments about the appropriateness of a platform or policies advanced by political parties before he could deem it appropriate to register a particular party.

As Mr. Kingsley quite properly pointed out, it is entirely inappropriate for a non-partisan chief electoral officer to be making such judgments or to be put in the position of having to even consider making such judgments. He requested that the committee remove those sections of the bill. In fact he had even brought legal counsel with him who had taken the time to draft amendments which would achieve that goal so that we would not have to think about that and do it within the committee structure itself.

After some discussion about that possibility, Mr. Figueroa came forward to be a witness. He also expressed similar concerns about the bill and supported the amendments proposed by Mr. Kingsley.

Both the chief electoral officer and Mr. Figueroa suggested that instead of rushing the bill through committee, as we were doing, we should spend a little time to get it right. This is what is so appalling about the situation. The minister just stood not five minutes ago and said that the bill was not perfect. Yet he had told us we were taking it to committee before second reading so we could get it perfect. Once it got there, he was not interested in having us do anything with it. It is an extremely frustrating situation because we could have made the bill into good legislation that truly would have dealt with the problem and fixed it once and for all.

Frankly, the bill going through this place is no better than the pickle we were in before the bill was introduced. Yet we are between a rock and a hard place because we have to pass the bill before the end of next week. If we do not, the Canada Elections Act falls apart in June.

Because many sections of the Canada Elections Act are affected by the Supreme Court judgment in this case, the act will cease to function on what I think is June 27 of this year. We obviously have to pass this before the end of next week to keep the act intact. Otherwise we cannot go to an election, and I know the government wants to do that. What a nasty position we are in.

The government, in its haste, thought it could get this bill through the House really quickly, without amendments. It has tried to persuade us to put it through because the Canada Elections Act will fall apart. Frankly, it would have gone through the House a lot more quickly if the Liberals had been willing to listen to the amendments and suggestions that were brought to them. If they had been willing to hear a few more witnesses and if they had been truly willing to address the democratic deficit, as the minister keeps saying he wants to, we could have fixed the bill, got it perfect and it would have already been passed.

In committee I asked the chief electoral officer a question about of the Supreme Court ruling. Members will recall the Supreme Court ruled that sections of the elections act requiring the 50 candidate rule, that is a party to be registered must have 50 candidates in an election, were unconstitutional. My question to the chief electoral officer was that if an election was called in the spring, even if this bill had been passed, the Supreme Court had stayed the effect of its ruling until June 27.

Again the chief electoral officer is in another pickle because he has to work under an electoral law that has been deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada, and does not become fixed until June. How will he rule on the registration of parties over the next few months? Does he rule using the defective law that has been ruled unconstitutional or does he rule based on good will, that is with the knowledge that this other bill will be coming down the pike, which will fix the problem?

How would you like to be in that position, Mr. Speaker, where you do not know whether to apply an unconstitutional law and try to enforce it or to apply a law that does not even exist yet and which you know will fix the problem? It is a horrible predicament for the chief electoral officer. Again, we could have fixed it in committee. We had the opportunity to properly amend the bill and the act, to fix it, and the minister was not interested.

The government would have us believe that this bill is simply about the definition and registration of political parties in Canada. As I have mentioned, the truth is it only exists due to a Supreme Court ruling that came about because of the meanspirited oppression of small parties by the government opposite. Bill C-3 is designed to put the government into compliance with a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada. It was handed down on June 27, 2003.

It is important to note that it was a unanimous decision. There was no hesitation in terms of the Supreme Court ruling that what the government was trying to do with its 50 candidate rule was completely anti-democratic and unconstitutional.

The court ruled that the 50 candidate threshold for registration of a political party was unconstitutional and that fact had been obvious to just about everyone except the government. Maybe it really knew, but it wanted to keep that rule in place as long as it possibly could to prevent competition from smaller parties. That rule greatly affected us in the early days of the growth of the Reform Party.

As the House knows, I am one of the original members of Parliament elected under the Reform banner. In 1992 and 1993, as we were building for a possible 1993 election, we knew we would be penalized greatly. We knew we would not even to have our name on the ballot if we could not get 50 candidates to run across the country. I know the Bloc also was being targeted at the time because there was a growth of the Bloc in Quebec and it perhaps would not be able to get 50 candidates on the ballot either. That was an attempt by the established parties to prevent any threat from the growth of a smaller party that may affect them.

Luckily, we were able to build support regardless and irrespective of the 50 candidate rule and that is why we are in the House today as official opposition and perhaps now about to take the government benches in the next couple of months.

I guess the real shocker for the government was when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down sections of the Elections Act. However, instead of saying that perhaps the number 12 or some other number would be satisfactory, it said that one person constituted a party. The government was complaining when the court in Ontario ruled that two persons was a party. That was the basis, I believe, for the amendment that was being proposed today by the NDP. In Ontario the government, after having had the chance to accept the 12 candidate rule, which it rejected, had an opportunity to accept a two candidate rule from the Ontario court ruling, but no. Pigheaded as it was, on it went spending other people's money to challenge it in court until it ended up with a one candidate rule. What a ridiculous situation we find ourselves in that one person constitutes a political party. I guess they reap what they sow.

What the government is trying to do in Bill C-3, which was formerly Bill C-51 prior to prorogation, is to provide some additional conditions for registration of a party to try to get around the potential problems that can occur if just anyone walks in off the street and registers as a political party in order to get all the benefits of tax receipts for donations and rebates if they run an election, and so on.

The government has tried to increase the amount of bureaucracy that goes along with registering a party to counter this thing that only one person constitutes a party. One of the bits of bureaucracy it has put in there is the one I just mentioned a few minutes ago, which requires the Chief Electoral Officer to determine whether or not a party is a political entity based on its platform and its policies.

To try to deal with the problem that way is really inappropriate. I feel that it is a real pity that the government is proceeding with this. The Chief Electoral Officer warned that his office could be open to a legal challenge, to lawsuits, because of rulings he makes under clauses of the bill. Someone who is dissatisfied with a ruling that he has made will obviously take it to court and we may end up mired in years and years of court challenges again, all the way to the Supreme Court, based on this ridiculous clause that the Chief Electoral Officer should be partisan in some way and make judgments about political parties coming for registration.

The bill also requires that the party must have three officers, in addition to its leader, must have appointed a chief agent and an auditor, and must have a total of 250 electors who are members of the party. Those electors must sign declarations confirming their support.

The leader of the Communist Party, who started the original legal challenge, when he came before the committee as a witness, asked us if we would consider lowering that threshold of 250 members down to 125. His argument I think from memory was based on just the logistics of trying to get people across the country to sign declarations and that it would be a lot easier if it were a smaller number.

I do not have any strong feelings about that particular aspect but I did want to get it on the record because it was presented by a witness to the committee.

In addition to the various requirements for registration, part of the ruling by the Supreme Court was that the assets of a suspended party no longer needed to be liquidated and paid to the Receiver General. When we think about that, what an evil provision that was in the previous part of the Elections Act. If a party could not run 50 candidates in a general election it was required to sell all of its assets and turn them over to the Receiver General.

That was a mean-spirited type of law that was aimed clearly at the Reform Party of Canada and the Bloc Quebecois in 1992-93 to try to take away their ability to fight a subsequent election if they were not able to get 50 candidates in that 1993 election. What a mean-spirited attempt to keep control right there on the government side.

Luckily, the Supreme Court saw through that mean-spirited attempt to suppress smaller parties and eliminated that. Small parties no longer need to sell off all their assets and turn them over to the Receiver General if they cannot run 50 candidates in an election.

I should point out that we on this side of the House have consistently supported a lower registration threshold. As I mentioned, I have tried consistently, in my role as critic for these electoral issues over the last decade, to get the government to accept the number 12 as being the appropriate number but without success to date. Perhaps when we come back here after an election and I am the minister, we will actually get it done, but we will see whether that actually happens.

I would like to give a bit of history about the way the registration of political parties does work under the Canada Elections Act. The registration process was first advocated in 1966 by the commission on election expenses, known as the Barbeau committee. It concluded that political parties should be recognized as legal entities to encourage the development of the democratic system.

It is interesting that before 1966, the Communist Party, and anybody who just wanted to get a few people together and call themselves a political party, actually did not even need to register anyway. That is an interesting observation. It is only since 1966 that it has been necessary.

In 1970, rules for the registration of political parties were introduced in the Canada Elections Act and political parties that fulfilled certain administrative requirements were admitted. In 1974, the Election Expenses Act introduced spending limits for registered political parties and candidates.

That leads me into an interesting sidebar which is the spending by third parties. We are currently waiting for another ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada which I think will shake the government once again because it deals with spending by third parties. I have no doubt that members are well aware that the present leader of our party was involved in the challenge by the National Citizens' Coalition of the government's right to control the spending of third parties.

I would confidently predict that the Supreme Court will strike down that part of the Elections Act. It has been struck down at every other court level. It has been struck down three times in Alberta and twice I believe in British Columbia. It has been struck down in Ontario and it is going the way of the dodo. When that happens, what a mess it will make of the Elections Act because it will blow wide open all the controls on expenses that we as candidates have during an election campaign. I am not sure how many of my colleagues are ready for that eventuality, but we will be faced with a situation where the cap will be blown right off the top of our expenditure limitations.

I am pleased to have had the opportunity to speak today at third reading of Bill C-3. I look forward to answering any questions that come my way.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John M. Cummins Canadian Alliance Delta—South Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague from North Vancouver for his work over the years on this important issue and certainly the insights that he has provided the House this morning.

One aspect of the bill that I find especially troubling is the administration of it. The new process in the bill would allow for the registration of single person parties but it seems to me that underlying that very simple statement is a host of issues. How do we police this matter?

Theoretically, there could be single person parties in every riding in this country and maybe more than one. How will the electoral officer police this? Is it not a nightmare, as I suspect, or does my hon. colleague suggest that there may be a way out?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White Canadian Alliance North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think it was quite apparent in my speech that I feel some compassion for the Chief Electoral Officer who would be faced with the problem of trying to administer a bill that would not only put him in an almost partisan position of making judgments on people who are registering, but would also have him dealing with the very complicated administration of the bill in order to determine whether a person should be registered as a party.

Yes, the committee heard the concern that individuals could try to take advantage of the bill to get themselves into a position where they could become an entity that received political donations, with the very generous tax credits that go along with that, and that in time would be able to build quite a large organization whose purpose would be to get huge donations with nice tax rebates and everything little else. If they managed to run a few token candidates and got a percentage of the vote, then they would also get election rebates, which would help foster even more growth and fill their coffers.

Therefore, it is definitely a nightmare. It makes me think immediately of the other bill, Bill C-24, that we passed recently, under protest, which had to do with the registration of electoral district associations, the reporting of nomination contests and so on.

Just in talking with many of my colleagues around this place who have gone through nomination contests over the last couple of months, many of them are completely ignorant of the new rules and have already broken the law, inadvertently, in terms of what is required for their nominations.

I have discovered that many of my colleagues did not even know that they had to appoint an official agent, that they had to have a financial agent who opened a bank account and deposited all the money for the campaign into that account, that they could not spend without taking money out of that account to then spend it and that it had to be documented, that if any candidate took in more than $1,000 or spent more than $1,000, he or she will be required to file a report with Elections Canada.

I have come across a widespread ignorance of that provision in Bill C-24. Even though everyone on the government side stood and supported it, they obviously did not know what they were supporting. That certainly is an administrative nightmare for Elections Canada as well.

I heard an example today of a nomination contest in British Columbia where one of the candidates had a donor give money to the riding association, which then voted at its board meeting to send the money on to the candidate's financial agent. That cannot be done under Bill C-24. That is an illegal transfer of assets. The bill would require that money to be refunded.

It raises the interesting prospect that the riding association has to refund the money to the donor, but does the candidate have to refund it to the riding association? I do not know. I think once the Chief Electoral Officer or his department officials start to look at those records there will be quite a problem in sorting out that administrative mess.

In terms of the administrative problems in Bill C-3, there is much less of a problem than there is in Bill C-24. I would hate to be administering Bill C-24 right now, especially after 308 nominations for several parties. If we were to multiply that by at least three parties, we would have over 1,000 nomination contests. That will be an absolute mess.

It is supposed to be reported in 90 days. I suspect it will take 90 years to sort it out. Time will tell.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to my colleague's speech. He reminded the House of an interesting phase in the Bloc's evolution, when it first came here in 1993 as the official opposition with over 50 members.

We brought Quebec's experience to this public forum, as well as the conditions under which there could have been an interesting result in terms of Quebec's sovereignty.

Indeed, parties may be able to emerge as ours did, and the legislation before us will ensure the emergence of ideas, if not parties. But there are limitations. This is a British parliamentary system, which tends to restrict the number of parties.

In fact, traditionally, parties in such a system tend to be moderate. As a result, the kind of representation found in a proportional system does not exist here.

I would like to ask my colleague if he believes that, despite its faults, the bill before us will ultimately stand up to the Supreme Court test.

In any event, can we expect ideas and new parties to emerge, parties that may ultimately be represented in the House? Will there not be a second phase to this legislation, which should be developed as soon as possible to allow these parties to be recognized and have sufficient means of expression in order to contribute to the democratic debate?

It is important in a parliament for all voices to be heard. That fundamental principle explains the Bloc's presence here. Sovereignists represent about 45% of all Quebeckers, and we have always claimed that they had the right and the desire to be represented in this House, and that for a tool such as the Bloc Quebecois to exist was a democratic advantage.

Does the member believe that there should be a second phase, with rapid implementation, to ensure that this legislation not only allows for the emergence of new parties but also gives these parties the means to make their ideas heard?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White Canadian Alliance North Vancouver, BC

Yes, Mr. Speaker, the 1993 election certainly changed the face of this House.

I thank the member for his question and I congratulate the Bloc Quebecois for using the democratic system to grow and actually have a presence in this place. I do not agree with its policies, but I can certainly recognize that it took advantage of the democratic process to come here.

The member briefly mentioned proportional representation as a way of getting more variety in the House. Our party's position has always been that we would need to put that type of question to Canadians in the form of a referendum and ask them if they would like to change the system. Personally, I would hope they would answer yes to that question. The second stage would be to select a system and I would not like to prejudge what that would be.

Finally, in terms of the bill itself, we have reluctantly accepted the reality that this bill has to be passed before the end of next week. We will allow the government to eventually pass it and make it law. Otherwise, the Canada Elections Act will fall apart. We look forward to producing a second generation, as the member suggested.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, some people believe environmental policies are bad for the economy and that jobs are lost because of environmental policies. Yet, the contrary is true.

For instance, in the eighties, acid rain reduction did not cause job losses despite predictions by some. The same happened when lead was removed from gasoline. The same can be said with the removal of chlorofluorocarbons from certain products to protect the ozone layer. As to Kyoto and climate change, again the spectre of job losses is raised by ill-informed sources.

Energy efficiency, conservation and innovation will make us more competitive, create jobs, and reduce pollution and waste. Environmental and economic policies can go hand in hand and build on each other.

A polluted environment is an economic and social burden. Canadians can strive towards a clean environment which forms the foundation for a healthy society and economy.

Gasoline PricesStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, gas prices rose 7¢ per litre last week and crude oil futures soared to a 14 year high. British Columbians pay some of the highest gas prices in the country. Forecasters predict $1 a litre by the summer, yet the government does nothing.

As finance minister, the Prime Minister promised his 1.5¢ per litre gas tax hike was a temporary measure to balance the books. The books are balanced, but he is still hosing us at the pumps. He is collecting $7 billion in gas taxes, with more than $1 billion coming from B.C. motorists, yet less than 3% is spent on roads and infrastructures. Now he is weaseling out of his promise to send gas tax revenues to the cities.

It is time for the tired and scandal-ridden government to eliminate the deficit fighting gasoline tax, stop charging GST on gas taxes, and dedicate more gasoline taxes to highway spending.

VolunteersStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the very positive and generous qualities in the budget for charities and the voluntary sector reminded me of some great charities and volunteer organizations in Yukon.

First of all, the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre has been helping aboriginal people in the urban centres of Yukon for generations. The Yukon Volunteer Bureau has provided volunteers for all the organizations in Yukon that are looking for volunteers. The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition has people who have dedicated many hours of their family and personal time to help those most in need. Finally, the United Way of Yukon has increased its collections in Yukon for many years to help all the organizations in Yukon that applied to it for assistance.

Thanks to Steve Robertson of the Yukon News who pays all their administration costs. Every cent raised goes to these charities. I would like to congratulate them again for their successful AGM which will be held this week.

JusticeStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw attention to the seizure of thousands of guns by the Peel Regional Police. The knowledge that illegal guns are so readily available has led to increases in armed robberies and gang shootings.

As quoted in the Mississauga News :

“The use of weapons in the commission of crime is going up, no question,” said Constable Steve Rowe, officer in charge of Peel Crime Stoppers...“Getting illegal handguns is easier and there is less hesitation to use them,” said Peel Homicide Inspector Mike MacMullen.

Already this year there have been 59 robberies within the Peel region where weapons were used, up from 29 similar incidents last year. In an attempt to deal with this problem, a program called Gun Stoppers has been created where people can call toll free to report issues related to guns or other weapons at 1-800-222-8477.

Elk Island ConstituencyStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, for totally unwarranted reasons, the Alberta Boundaries Commission has decided that the Elk Island constituency will cease to exist. This may be my last opportunity to give tribute to all of the wonderful people of my riding.

The editor of the Sherwood Park News , a major small-town paper in the riding, referred to me and my beloved riding of Elk Island. It is true that I have grown to love the people of this riding over the past 10 years. Their kindness to me has been overwhelming.

When I inherited the north part of the riding in 1997 from the member for Beaver River, I had a hard act to follow. She served the people so very well and I have tried to do the same.

While I will be seeking re-election in the new riding of Edmonton--Sherwood Park, I know that the people of rural Elk Island will be well served by the present members for Lakeland and Athabasca.

So, with nostalgia, I say thank you to all of the people of Elk Island. It has been a privilege to serve them.

The BudgetStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, budget 2004 provides a great opportunity for our government to highlight our fiscal record since 1993.

This includes one of the best performing economies in the industrial world; seven consecutive balanced budgets, the first time this has happened since Confederation; over $52 billion in debt repayment, and this repayment translates into annual savings of $3 billion that can be used to fund the priorities of Canadians like health care and education; tax cuts of $100 billion that are still flowing today; a debt to GDP ratio that is projected to fall to 42% this year from a high of 68% in the mid-1990s; inflation has been held in check resulting in low interest rates; and a strong record of job creation in Canada, over two million jobs since 1993.

I believe that our government's track record is a good indicator that public funds will be properly managed in the future.

The BudgetStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


André Harvey Liberal Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the opposition is telling people all over the country, particularly my friends in the Bloc Quebecois, who are so delighted to be here in the Parliament of Canada, I must point out that one of the most important features of the latest budget is the $31 billion drop in taxes, including $24 billion in personal income tax.

In health, we have injected $2 billion. We are going to invest not 14¢, but close to 40¢ on each dollar.

As for the municipalities, the government has begun providing structural support through the GST rebate.

The Government of Quebec has been allocated $330 million for R and D and training.

One important aspect of the last budget—and I know this drives my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois a little crazy—relates to the social economy. This is a new initiative to provide support to all the stakeholders in the social economy. An amount of $160 million has been allocated to support—

The BudgetStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

Rural CommunitiesStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, a few days ago, I organized an evening of discussions on the future of our rural communities, in conjunction with Solidarité populaire and the Sans-Chemise Richelieu-Yamaska. Our exceptional guest speakers were Jacques Proulx, president of Solidarité rurale, Msgr. Lapierre, Bishop of Saint-Hyacinthe, Denis Marion, municipal councillor for Massueville, and Jean-Paul Saint-Amand, of Solidarité populaire.

This important event was attended by over 125 decision makers from the RCMs of Maskoutins and Acton. What is facing rural communities is not so much problems as particular challenges. There is a common denominator among all rural people: the desire to defend their difference and to refuse to allow themselves to be considered as second class citizens.

Twenty percent of the population is rural, but that 20% feeds and clothes the other 80%. The rural community therefore plays a vital societal role.

The Government of Quebec has understood this for some years now, and has systematically adapted its policies to rural specificities. It is high time the federal government did the same with its programs and policies. The Bloc Quebecois is solidly committed to fight for recognition of this rural reality, and support for it.

Salon du livre de l'OutaouaisStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, the 25th annual Salon du livre de l'Outaouais has begun, and the Outaouais region is extremely proud to greet spring with its book fair.

I want to congratulate the Salon du livre de l'Outaouais for the work it has accomplished over the past 25 years. Each year, the Salon attracts more than 30,000 visitors. It is an excellent opportunity for readers to meet a great many authors.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the 250 volunteers who have devoted so much of their time to organizing this event, particularly its chair, Estelle Desfossés.

Reading is essential to the development of children, the future builders of Canada. Since our country's future depends on knowledge, I am pleased to support an event that, year after year, fosters the acquisition of knowledge.

The Salon, which runs from March 24 to 28, is a major event in the publishing world. I invite all my colleagues and the public to visit the Salon du livre de l'Outaouais and to “lire aux éclats”, which alludes to the great joy of reading.

Foreign AffairsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, we are approaching the one year anniversary of an exciting campaign to rebuild Iraq that originated in Edmonton. It is called “Rebuilding Iraq...One Town at a Time”.

Each city in Canada is asked to support a sister city in Iraq. Edmontonians have chosen to adopt Abul Khaseeb, a city of 160,000 people which was on the front line of the Iraq-Iran war and suffered horrible retribution from Saddam Hussein following the 1991 Gulf War.

Last year, a fundraising rally was held in Edmonton's Hawrelak Park to launch this campaign to help the people of Abul Khaseeb. I would like to thank Dr. Yarub Al-Shiraida, an Iraqi native and resident of Edmonton since 1979, for his efforts in leading this campaign.

This is a positive initiative, and I would encourage all Canadians to visit to find out how they can adopt a town and help Iraq rebuild.

World Theatre DayStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Serge Marcil Liberal Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, March 27 is World Theatre Day, a day to reflect on the importance of this performing art in the lives of all Canadians who love theatre, particularly our young people.

Theatre allows communities to bring their dreams to life. Its numerous forms respect individual tastes, from classical to avant-garde, popular to abstract.

Energy and diversity are the trademarks of theatre in Canada. It fills us with emotions, laughter and magic. It stimulates our imagination, helps us see the world from a variety of perspectives, and contributes to our country's cultural diversity.

I would like to thank everyone who works on stage and behind the scenes to enrich our lives through this vibrant art form.

I invite my colleagues and all Canadians to take part in organized activities in their regions in celebration of this day.

Jacob Daniel EdelsonStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, Jacob “Jake” Daniel Edelson passed away in his sleep on March 24, leaving behind his mother, Miriam, his father, Jim, his sister, Emma, and thousands of people who knew him and were touched by him.

In his 13 years of life this young man made a huge difference in the world. He was born with lissencephaly, a condition which presented challenges every hour of the day to his caregivers, his loved ones and of course, to Jake himself.

His mother, Miriam, fought fiercely and publicly for quality care for her son and for recognition of his rights to a dignified life. She spoke out for the need for strong public policies that support families of children with special needs.

Last summer Jake had his bar mitzvah and it was a jubilant occasion for all who attended.

Last weekend his sister, Emma, and his mother visited Jake at Susie's Place, his home away from home, the excellent group home where he lived in Belleville, Ontario.

Jake gave back so much to the world around him. Today in the House we wish to celebrate his birth and his short precious life.

Official languagesStatements By Members

March 26th, 2004 / 11:10 a.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, recently the Official Languages Commissioner tabled a report that confirmed what the Bloc Quebecois has been saying for years about bilingual services provided by federal institutions in the National Capital Region.

The results of the study show that in Gatineau, telephone and in-person services are exemplary. In Ottawa, however, the results are, and I quote, “disappointing and there is plenty of room for improvement”.

Yet, according to commercial tenants, providing bilingual services has business advantages because it helps increase market share and, in general, the overall advantages outweigh the cost.

The federal government, as the landlord, must comply with the requirements of the legislation and ensure that language clauses are respected in its buildings. The facts are clear. On the Quebec side we obey the law. We expect the same in Ottawa.

International AideStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada has always taken part in peacekeeping efforts throughout the world and with the 2004 budget, this tradition continues.

The budget adds $248 million to the 8% increase in international assistance already allocated for 2004-05 in the last budget. This represents a new increase of 8% for 2005-06.

This money will allow us to provide humanitarian assistance in such countries as Iraq and Afghanistan, and help citizens rebuild their country. Of course, this is in addition to the $50 million to assist with peacekeeping in Haiti, and an extra $250 million to assist with peacekeeping in Afghanistan for two years.

We can continue to be proud of Canada's role on the international stage.