Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to address the debate on Bill C-30, the budget implementation act.
I would like to draw a couple of contrasts to what we find happening here in the House and to what is happening in the community of Kelowna in my constituency.
Kelowna is a jewel that lies in the middle of the Okanagan Valley, that place where people have experienced the joys of many friends coming to visit them from all parts of Canada and many different countries of the world. People have chosen this place because they have recognized its beauty, its tranquility and as a place where they would like to be at home. It will be a privilege, and I am humbled, to be able to contest the next federal election on behalf of the Conservative Party in this beloved constituency called Kelowna.
Into this constituency last summer came a voracious fire where 238 homes were lost. That fire respected neither time, place nor person. The fire brought us together as nothing else I have ever experienced. Even the Governor General of Canada came to visit Kelowna and recognized the spirit of compassion, consideration, kindness and friendship that was developed as a result of the coming together at that fire.
There were 238 homes lost and there were so many things that happened in terms of the individuals and the kind of help they gave to one another. They came together and they helped one another. Into this context we had the launching of the United Way appeal by Mel Kotler, who is the chairman. I have to give special credit to him. He said “our goal this year is to be $1 million and $1 for the United Way campaign. That was an unheard of goal for our community and a lot of us were cynical and said “This cannot be, after the devastation of the fire and all the other things that had come about. You cannot now expect us to raise that”. What happened? Not only was the goal met, it was exceeded by almost $10,000.
In contrast to that kind of benevolence and compassion that we find in our community, we had a Speech from the Throne followed by the budget, the implementation of that budget we are now debating. That Speech from the Throne, that budget said that we shall have an address to the democratic deficit and that there will be “more free votes”. A real test was presented to the House very shortly after the new Prime Minister came into office. It was to allow MPs to exercise the free vote in establishing and supporting more money for the long gun registry.
A little digression is absolutely essential here. One billion dollars had already been spent on this and it looks like it will be closer to $2 billion. I must put this into context for the people in British Columbia. If that $2 billion had not been spent on the gun registry, it could have been used to help people. It could have paid the tuition for every university student in British Columbia to the tune of a bursary of about $37,000. What is more important, helping our our young people to get an education or registering a hunter's rifles? In that kind of contrast, it is a waste of government money.
It looked like MPs would not support the gun registry. They recognized the foolishness of that particular registry and that we should not put another bunch of money behind it. The government had already wasted a lot of money on it. However, because of a fear that members would not support it, what did the Prime Minister do? Instead of saying that it should be a free vote, he whipped them into shape and told them to vote in favour of the allocation of additional money. Is that a free vote? No. That was a broken promise one week after Parliament came into session under the new Prime Minister.
This morning the Prime Minister was in Vancouver appointing persons to run under the Liberal banner in the next federal election. The constituents who make up the local Liberal association do not have the right to choose their own candidates. The Prime Minister is the one who will appoint the candidate. Is that democracy? That sounds an awful lot more like dictatorship than democracy.
When the Prime Minister was running for the leadership of his party he indicated clearly that there would be some kind of suitable system to vet the candidates for appointment to the Supreme Court, which now has two vacancies. What was one of the first things the newly appointed Minister of Justice said in response to the question: What will the vetting process be? He said that he did not know and that he was not quite sure whether it would be done at all. Yesterday it appeared as if there might be a process of vetting the appointment of those judges.
What are we supposed to make of these obvious missteps at the very beginning of the “new government” under the “new Prime Minister”? Thankfully, there will be an election soon and Canadians will be able to speak and say that it is time for a change.
We need a new government, a true new government, a government that believes that free votes are necessary, that democratic reform can be accomplished, and not in the way the current Prime Minister is doing it.
We need to move on from there. We need to recognize that as one reflects upon the contents of the Speech from the Throne and the budget, one is struck by the glaring omission of certain things.
First, there was no mention of the rights of victims of crime. Does the new Prime Minister not realize that the current justice system often protects the rights of criminals to a greater degree than the rights of victims? Has he forgotten or chosen to ignore the fact that victims of crimes also have rights? Does the criminal justice system exist to protect innocent Canadians from those who would perpetrate suffering, pain and loss of property, and sometimes death? Does the Prime Minister not realize that our justice system is much more of a legal system than a system of justice for the victim as well as the criminal?
The other omission is that no serious consideration was given to a plan to pay down Canada's debt. Each year something like $35 billion or $36 billion is paid out in interest to service that debt. Based on the 2002-03 budget of the British Columbia government, that is enough money to pay for the public health system in British Columbia for three years. If that debt were half of that, then the interest required to be paid would be half of that. It is obvious that if we maintain that debt and have no plan to pay it down, we will continue to have that burden and that burden will be carried forward to our children and grandchildren.
Another conspicuous absence in the Speech from the Throne and in the budget was the definition of marriage. That matter was referred to the Supreme Court of Canada by the previous minister of justice. Rather than deal with the matter, the new Prime Minister has submitted a further question and that matter will not become an issue in the immediate future.
What will the new Prime Minister do? Why does he do this? Is he afraid? Does he not have any courage of conviction based on a strong set of values? Is he so devoid of value commitment that he would relegate effective legislation for this country to the courts? If that is so, will he admit that under his watch Parliament is but a shadow of government and that the real governing is placed in the hands of those whom he has appointed to the bench of the Supreme Court of Canada?
What about his personal ethics? Could he really not have put into gear a flow of information that would have immediately corrected the error of some $160 million that CSL received from the Government of Canada?
The time has come for us to recognize that we cannot wait to see what the Prime Minister will do. He has an opportunity to become a new Prime Minister. Will he do it? The opportunity is his but he must do much more than what he has done thus far. As with all people, we must recognize that doing the right thing exults a nation but doing the wrong thing is a disgrace to any people.