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House of Commons Hansard #42 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was date.

Topics

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Maybe. Instead of getting at the meat of the issue on democratic reform, we send letters to the House leader saying that we love the idea of a more democratic Parliament, but there is no time to do it. It is just a farce. We should be working on that. If we had a four year cycle, this charade would not be going on.

Last night we debated an important bill on aboriginal accountability. Members on our side of the House spoke our peace and sat down. Members on that side of the House started ragging the puck. Everybody over there started to talk. They finished the day. They dragged it out for as long as they could so we could not vote on the bill. Why? They do not have any other legislation because there is no fixed election date. If that bill had been passed, they would have had to talk about something else, but they have nothing else to talk about. The Liberals started to talk about something that we on this side of the House had finished talking about and were ready to vote on it.

The government does not have a four year fixed election date. It is governing poorly right now. The House is not working well. That is why we should do it. It allows the government to do its job. It should do it for four full years and then get on with it instead of this farce where we are wasting months and months of time when we should be doing proper and good things for Canadians.

Although it binds the government to a four year cycle and it does tie the hands of the Prime Minister, what is democratic reform unless it takes some of the power away from the Prime Minister? The Prime Minister decried when he was in his wilderness time that it is who you know in the PMO. That is the trouble around here. There is too much power concentrated in the Prime Minister's Office, but as soon as he has to give up some of that power, the brakes come on.

Democratic reform and democratic deficits are only addressed if the Prime Minister says, “I have this power right now but I am going to give it up willingly”, in this case to a set election date, or in the case of a committee, to allow it actually to deal with something. For example, let the committees deal with the estimates and give us a good budgetary recommendation.

Instead, the very first thing I asked the House leader who was before a committee was whether there would be free votes now and could we have a free vote on the budgetary allotment for the gun control legislation. He said, “Actually, no you cannot. That is a three line whip,” or whatever it is called where members have to do as they are told, because he had decided that is what it would be. In other words, he has not given up any control. He has maintained the control in the Prime Minister's Office and the whip and the House leader, and is not allowing his backbenchers to vote as they really wish.

It does take away some of the power from the Prime Minister. Just as Premier Gordon Campbell has given up some of his power by saying there will be a fixed election date. People in B.C. think it is a good thing. There are no ifs, ands or buts. People who come forward as candidates know when they are going to be running. They do not have to put their lives on hold for a couple of years while they figure out whether the Prime Minister has seen the light, gone for a walk in the snow, taken a shower, or whatever it is he does to decide these things. It is done properly. It is done decently. Candidates, parties, provinces and business people all plan accordingly. There is no problem whatsoever. It is easy to do.

To address the suggestion one more time and knock it in the head, that it takes a constitutional change to have a fixed election date is nonsense. It is the same argument that his predecessor used when I suggested free votes in the House when I was a House leader. What came back to me was that we could not do that as it would contravene the Constitution, the government would fall, it would be a travesty of constitutional law, and other stuff that he dreamed up, none of which is true. It is all false. It is a dragon, an imaginary fearsome beast they put out, that somehow this would contravene some long held constitutional provision or it would require the unanimous consent of the 10 provinces. It is just nonsense.

I wish he would deal with the issue. The issue is he just does not like the idea, which is fair enough, but he talks in such circles.

The other argument the Liberals are using is that they need the freedom to go to the people because the Prime Minister they have right now has only been elected by the party, not by the actual people out there. An illegitimate Prime Minister is apparently what we have.

That will be the argument if we have to go to an election this spring, but if we hold them off until the fall, the argument will be that he has to govern to show his stuff. If we wait for another year, the argument will be it is a necessity for the good of the nation and the legislative package. In other words, whatever. Today his feelings may be that we need to go to an election because he needs a mandate. If he waits six months, he did not really need a mandate after all, he just needed permission. If he waits a year and a half, his argument will be that he had a full legislative package and could not go, it would not have been right.

The arguments against this motion are nonsense. The private member's bill drafted by the leader of the Conservative Party says there should be a fixed election date. He promises upon forming government that the first thing he will announce is the date of the next election. He has followed that up by a legislative bill that actually describes how it would be done. He has furthermore said that the confidence measure convention will not be contravened. It is well thought through. It is precise. It is in legislative form.

I encourage the Liberals to look at it, to adopt it and put it forward. It is something I think Canadians would welcome as a positive change in addressing, at least in part, the democratic deficit.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is serving his fourth mandate in the House. He knows very well about the functioning of the House and he has seen the democratic deficit that has been happening. He has worked diligently to point out that we need to change the democratic deficit that has been identified by the Prime Minister time after time.

The government House leader talked about the whole package. As my friend correctly pointed out, the Liberals twist and change it whenever it suits them to answer this question for not doing anything. If we look at the history, it is the party that has benefited most from this so-called democratic deficit.

I would like to ask my colleague, as a member for the last four Parliaments, what has he noticed that the Liberal Party is willing to do even to change the democratic deficit or give up the power?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Calgary East is somewhat prophetic but I have actually only been here for three terms. The fourth may be coming; we are not sure of those things at this stage.

I would address it this way. When I was House leader, I put forward a complete package of democratic reforms in a document called, “Building Trust”. I was talking about building trust, rebuilding trust between this place and the electorate that sent us here, because there is an awful lot of disillusionment out there. There is an awful lot of concern about the democratic deficit, if we want to call it that, and the fact that it remains unchanged after all this time.

In that package I put forward things such as free votes in the House, a better selection process for officers of Parliament where we would actually have a vote. We are going to have a vote on the ethics commissioner. That was our proposal. The vote on that is fine. The package included how the Clerk is selected, for example, and how estimates are dealt with. There was a whole package, a holistic package. I am sure the House leader would have liked it.

The response from the government House leader of the day was, “This cannot be done because it is just too big, it is too broad, it is too holistic. We have to do it piecemeal”. When that House leader got turfed and others came in, we found that working piecemeal on these things actually worked pretty fairly.

We changed the way the ethics commissioner was chosen, which everyone knew was a joke. We eventually had a motion in the House. We pushed it forward as an idea. We talked about it endlessly. The ethics commissioner eventually, as one part of it, starts to get adopted. It is still not right, but we are on our way.

How the Clerk is approved, the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, we have plans on all that. We have a huge package of ideas.

I find that the House leader of the day over there always says it cannot be done. It is only when the House leader is swept aside and the backbench takes over, when the opposition pressures, when they see an election coming that things happen. Does anybody believe that the ethics commissioner approval on Thursday is anything but a pre-election move?

We should be devising things. A fixed election date is not something we dreamed up last week. It has been the policy of this party for 15 years. We have been pushing it. It was in my report called, “Building Trust”. It was in the party documents. It was in our campaign literature. I campaigned on it in the last election. We have been consistently asking for this. To say that today it is somehow pre-election timing, it deals with an election sure enough, but I do not know how many speeches I have given on this. I get tired of saying the same things. It is not new. It is not revolutionary. I am just convinced that it will take a new government to actually make it happen.

That is why if there is an election coming up, this would be a great election issue. I would love to be on the stump somewhere sitting beside a Liberal, an NDP, or whatever, but certainly sitting beside a Liberal candidate who says that fixed election dates are a bad idea. In my riding I would suggest he sit with his eyes wide open and with his back to an open door because the people in my riding will say, “That is an excellent idea and if you do not agree with it, you will never get my vote”, as it should be, because this is a great idea. It should be endorsed not only by the House but I hope by the Canadian people.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the supply day motion put forward by my party regarding fixed election dates.

I have been in Parliament for the last two terms, six years. I am one of those members who originally came here with good ideas and with all kinds of energy. My constituents were looking at me to bring initiatives to the floor of Parliament and talk about what concerns them. I thought that I had finally come to a place where we could debate, where we could talk, where we could put forward issues, where we could do many things, but lo and behold, like everyone else, I hit the wall, what everyone now calls the democratic deficit. Over a period of time it has taken away the power of this Parliament and slowly has put it into the PMO.

The PMO has become a bigger entity than the Parliament of Canada. That erosion has been going on and on for many years. The Liberals call themselves the natural governing party of Canada. Why do we have a democratic deficit? Because those members started the erosion of parliamentary privileges.

When members go back to their ridings, people ask, “Why are you not doing something? Why can there not be effective change?” We tell them what is happening. We see time after time when Canadians vote that they are becoming cynical. They are asking why they should vote when there is going to be no change, when their members of Parliament do not have the right or the authority to bring issues forward that are important to them.

The tragedy of the whole situation in Parliament is that it not only affects the opposition party, it affects the government backbenchers. What do we see now? We see a little change here; some of the backbenchers have moved to the front and some of the other guys have moved to the back.

The motion put forward today is to improve one of the major democratic deficits. The motion suggests that there be fixed election dates. When I returned after the 2000 election and we were at the Governor General's ball on the evening of the opening of Parliament, the former prime minister looked at me and said, “We pulled the rug out from under your feet”. I said, “No, you did not pull the rug out from under our feet. You manipulated the system to your advantage. You called an election after three and a half years. You felt that things were in your favour, so you manipulated the system to win an election. You did not pull the rug out from under our feet”.

If we have fixed elections dates, then Canadians will make the real choice, not the Prime Minister. That is the difference. Canadians will make the real choice. They will then see that they are connected to this House which sets the rules under which they are governed.

Look at the spectacle that has been going on. Since coming back, what have we seen in the last two or three weeks? Every day we read in the newspapers that there is going to be an election or there is not going to be an election. There was a dinner yesterday at 24 Sussex Drive where they talked about whether we are going to have an election or not going to have an election. They look at the polls and decide whether we are going to have an election or not going to have an election.

What nonsense. The Liberals are supposed to be governing the country, not spending their time talking about whether or not we are going to have an election. That is all they do. In the last three weeks, nothing has happened in Parliament, as my colleague pointed out.

There is only one question, will we or will we not have an election? Nothing else. In the meantime, the country is drifting. The vision from the throne speech has gone out the window. The vision is still hanging in the air because the question is, will we or will we not have an election? That is all.

It is becoming pretty obvious that time, energy and everything this country has spent are being wasted on this one little question, will we or will we not have an election? If we were to have a fixed date, then we would know when elections would be held. The government would be able to plan its agenda. Everybody could plan. Everybody would know what is out there. The bureaucrats would know. Right now, I am sure most bureaucrats and most government agencies are now in limbo waiting for the answer to the question, will we or will we not have an election?

Look at the cost to the country of this ridiculous notion that the only person who can call the election is the Prime Minister and he will only call it when it suits him. We have to give the power back to the people. By having a fixed election date, we would be giving the power back to the people. We would be telling them, this is how it will be and they would decide, not us.

This motion that we have brought forward today on the eve of this same question, will we or will we not have an election, is pointing out to Canadians that it is time for them to take back the power and decide. The only way we can do this is if there is a fixed election date.

When I was campaigning on this question, as my friend from Fraser Valley rightly pointed out, the Reform Party put this out as a campaign issue and everybody on the street said yes, they wanted fixed election dates.

I have been here now for two terms. I will be going into my third election in seven years. It costs a huge amount of money to have an election. Sure, money is not the only criteria. The voice of the people is the criteria and that is why we have elections, to let the people decide.

The House leader on the other side raised some questions. I am sure when he was a backbencher, he was totally in agreement with what we were doing. Now that he is the government House leader, of course, why should the government give up its power?

The point is that Canadians need to know. We need to engage Canadians. We need to have them go back to the polls to vote. We do not need them to sit at home and say they will not vote because they feel they have no say in our political institutions. The reason the serious democratic deficit exists is because we do not give the Canadian on the street the opportunity to speak. Where did the democratic deficit come from? It came from the so-called natural governing party. It has taken the power away from this institution.

I am the international development critic and I see what is going on around the world. We tell other nations that they must have democracy, they must have elections, and that we will help them with elections. Elections Canada is a highly respected institution. However, when we go out to preach to somebody else, we need to look back at ourselves and ask, is our house in order before we preach to other people?

Right now, even the Prime Minister is acknowledging that there is a serious democratic deficit. Let us not even talk about the other place that is over there to show how serious is the democratic deficit.

The motion that this party is putting forward is again highlighting the point that Canadians want a fixed election date. Any other argument that the government puts forth is not valid.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I could not help but smile when the member for Calgary East talked about having an election or not having an election because it is the only question that is being puzzled over. All the weighty thought happening on the government side seems to be on that one subject. There are other subjects that Canadians would have us bear down on.

We can just see the machinations. There is all the damage done by the public accounts committee and the Auditor General's report, but then again this fall we are going to have the public inquiry. That could be bad, too. Maybe the election could be held at this time and justified, but if the Prime Minister waits it might get worse. Should there be an election?

I will bring up one other point on which I would like to have the member's opinion. When Jean Chrétien was the Prime Minister and things started to get a little unruly on that side over there, he actually threatened his own party members with an election if they did not do as they were told. That is why free votes are intricately tied to this subject.

Instead of saying the election would be held in October 2004 when he could resign, and it is kind of irrelevant here because barring a non-confidence motion the House would continue. He actually threatened his own people, and Canadians generally, by telling them to either vote for the bill and do as they were told or there would be an election over it, and that he would not sign their papers, perhaps. That is another bad issue.

The idea that the Prime Minister, in a snit or fit of some kind of fury, can tell members to do as they are told or he could call an election just shows us how bad it is and why we do need fixed election dates. Would the hon. member care to comment on that?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Fraser Valley for raising that point. He is absolutely right.

We were sitting here when the Prime Minister used the threat of an election to keep the backbenchers in line so that his bill could go through. Forget about all the other business. That is why we need to give this power back to the people, away from the PMO and the Prime Minister. That can only happen if there are fixed election dates. Then the people of Canada will be able to take back the power to where it belongs, to the people of Canada.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Claude Duplain Liberal Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to the opposition motion calling upon the government to take steps to hold elections on a fixed date.

I will, however, make no secret of the fact that I have some serious reservations about the wisdom and appropriateness of such a change. I would add, and I will return to this point later, that the opposition's sudden desire to make such a change with no further ado does raise some questions.

First of all, I would like to raise the point that it is important to make sure that changes to our electoral system are not made lightly and without sufficient thought. This is particularly the case when it comes to the ability to call an election, since this is at the very core of our Westminster-style parliamentary system.

There have been past studies of this issue, including the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing, better known as the Lortie commission, which recommended in 1991 against the introduction of a fixed date for elections. The Conservative party of the day had what I consider the wisdom to follow that recommendation. As hon. members are aware, the government has initiated a consultation process in order to advance its program of democratic reform.

Today's motion calls upon the government to turn its back on that process and move ahead without even consulting Canadians or taking the time to weigh the pros and cons of the proposed change. A question arises as a result. Reference has just been made to giving Canadians the opportunity to express their opinion, yet if a fixed date for elections is decided upon, as the motion today suggests, Canadians are not being given that opportunity. We must find out what they think.

What is more, if I remember correctly, the policy of what was until just recently the Canadian Alliance was not to move immediately to put in place a system for elections at a set date, but rather to consider the question after consulting Canadians in a national referendum.

That approach at least had the merit of acknowledging the importance of such a change, which ought not to be made lightly and even less so without seeking Canadians' point of view.

The motion before us today throws all caution aside and seems more motivated by a desire to avoid an election and to back the government into a corner than by any real desire for constructive public debate.

I do not mean that the question of fixed dates for elections is frivolous or unimportant, or that it should not be publicly debated; quite the contrary.

However, I think it is important to remember that changes to our electoral system, particularly serious changes that may have a significant impact on our system of governance, should not be made in a hurry, on the eve of an expected election, or for reasons of election strategy.

We must ask ourselves what effect a system of fixed election dates would have on ministerial accountability. Some people claim that fixed election dates would bring greater accountability. But it was precisely the fear of a lessening of government accountability that led the B.C. Civil Liberties Association to object to fixed election dates. In November 2000, its opinion appeared in the National Post , and I quote:

Legislation requiring fixed terms would either permit the house or legislature to call early elections or it would not. If it did, the result would differ little from our current system. If it did not, such legislation could hardly be said to increase government accountability.

Fixed election dates have some advantages. The primary one is that they make it easier for governments to govern...But such advantages are similar to the advantages of a blank cheque, and thus typically come at great cost.

For anyone who favours reform that increases, rather than decreases, government accountability, the idea of fixed electoral terms will not be an attractive one.

Today's motion recognizes the need to maintain the principle of responsible government, thus allowing elections to be held when the government loses the confidence of the House.

Without a doubt, this is an essential element, but one which to my way of thinking fails to address all the concerns I have just listed.

Even if an exception were specifically provided recognizing the principle of responsible government, I am not sure that in practice the introduction of a fixed election cycle would not diminish the accountability of the executive and the ability of the opposition to force the dissolution of the House.

This is not just a change in the electoral and parliamentary machinery. This is a change that would affect the political culture and conventions of our system by introducing a foreign element.

This type of hybrid system was also rejected, as I said before, by the Lortie Commission.

According to the commission, even if there were agreement on the constitutional amendments needed to introduce fixed election dates, it is far from clear that the results would be satisfactory and would lead to greater government accountability; quite the contrary.

Aside from the principle of responsible government and the related constitutional issues, the commission was concerned about the consequences of a system with fixed election dates on the duration and cost of elections.

Taking the U.S. experience as an example, the commission found that fixed election dates might contribute to prolonging the campaign process and compromise the effectiveness of election spending limits on parties and candidates.

Adopting a fixed election cycle would deny Canadians major democratic advantages related to the flexibility that our current system allows.

It is not unusual for a new prime minister to be appointed following a change in the governing party's leadership. In this context, it is not uncommon for a new prime minister to call an election and thus obtain a popular mandate.

Similarly, a government wanting to present a new platform or an important initiative may feel the need to obtain a clear mandate from the electorate beforehand.

These are perfectly legitimate choices in terms of democracy and would be impossible in a fixed election date system.

The motion before us today for fixed election dates may seem appealing at first glance. However, I fear that it is merely an illusion of progress.

We must resist adopting an easy solution that would create more problems than it would solve. Above all we must avoid hastily making changes to our electoral system that would have profound consequences and possibly adverse effects.

Even if I thought introducing a fixed election cycle were a good idea, which I do not, and putting aside any constitutional difficulty this might create, I would nonetheless be opposed to this motion for procedural reasons.

The spirit of democratic reform demands that we first consult the public on major changes to be made to our electoral system. Wisdom demands that we make reforms in a reasoned manner.

The motion before us does not satisfy either of these two criteria. That is why I intend to vote against it.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was actually amazed to hear the member's reasons for opposing fixed election dates. His reasons of procedural matters were just amazing. When we talk about fixed election dates we are talking about giving people the choice of fixed election dates, not his party the choice.

Does the member not remember that his own prime minister used the threat of an election to make backbenchers do what he wanted them to do to have his bill passed? How does that serve the Canadian people? Has he forgotten that his own prime minister threatened an election to keep the backbenchers in line?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Claude Duplain Liberal Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, obviously, the party representing the current government is able to make decisions. Perhaps, for the opposition, is it because, in their minds, they are unable to make decisions and so they will no longer have to make any if there are fixed election dates? Perhaps is it because they have no confidence in their leader's ability to make decisions about when to call an election?

If we want to let the public decide, the Prime Minister must be able to make decisions himself, particularly about when he needs a mandate from the people. There may be questions of principle, with regard to which he wants a mandate from the people. He must be able to do this.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, does the hon. member not think that this would be costly, not only for us but, I am thinking, for the people who have to set up the offices, the returning officers, and the people who run the elections?

What kind of a position does that put them in when they are renting space? Do they hold on to the space? Do they put downpayments on it? How long will this be? Will it be one year from now? Do they get their officers trained? These would be all the costs for an election that may or may not happen.

Could the member tell me what kind of pressures this has put on returning officers across Canada in a year when all the boundaries and names are being changed? The returning officers do not know what name they are running under sometimes. There are all sorts of difficulties that they themselves have.

Rules are being made and I would like to know whether the member thinks that is such a smart idea.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Claude Duplain Liberal Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, we thought of all that. Perhaps the member cannot take the pressure. Of course, if, some years, there are changes to the electoral map, there is additional pressure on those who have to answer for their actions and make decisions. We are capable of doing this.

If we start to debate whether elections should be held on fixed dates or called by a Prime Minister, we should hold this debate with Canadians so they can decide. In a democratic system, that is the most important thing.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. member for Portneuf will have six minutes remaining during questions and comments, after oral question period.

Copernicus LodgeStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, on April 18, I participated in the opening ceremony of phase III of the long term care project at Copernicus Lodge.

Copernicus Lodge is recognized as a leading facility of senior citizens care in Ontario. Not only does it provide high standard health care but also it is an exemplary case of integrating senior citizens in the heart of a vibrant community.

This phase adds 228 new beds providing full nursing care for the senior citizens in my riding and throughout the Polish community in Toronto.

On that occasion I took the opportunity to congratulate the board of directors, the staff and the numerous volunteers whose continued support and involvement made this project happen. His Excellency, Cardinal Ambrozic, gave his blessings and announced that the Copernicus Lodge will be renamed the Pope John Paul II Care Centre of Copernicus Lodge.

We were glad to play a small part in supporting this project through CMHC.

Energy SectorStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Canadian Alliance Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, the energy sector is one of the most important industries in the Canadian economy. It accounts for 45% of our trade balance and is the single largest private investor in Canada. In public policy discourse, though, its significance remains under-appreciated. There is neither a parliamentary committee nor minister solely devoted to energy, nor is there much public debate about the federal government's role in this industry.

The federal government has the responsibility to provide energy security and reliability across Canada. Research and development money should go toward developing cost-competitive technologies in new non-renewable resources in the medium to long term.

Our energy policy should seek to encourage a diversity of energy supply choices and focus on a long term view that builds a sustainable energy framework for Canada.

The federal government must also help facilitate future investments. The federal government must institute an environmental assessment program that balances environmental and industry concerns.

Semaine minière du QuébecStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Gérard Binet Liberal Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec mining week 2004 was kicked off yesterday in Chibougamau.

In Quebec, in both the regions and urban centres, tens of thousands of jobs depend directly and indirectly on the success of the mining industry.

Quebec is duly recognized as a centre for mining excellence. More than ever, there must be encouragement for this economic sector, which has to keep up with the dizzying pace of scientific developments and the evolution of specialized technologies.

Whether it is finding innovative ways to reforest tailing sites or developing a better asphalt by adding chrysotile fibres, those working in the mining industry show creativity and innovation.

I ask my colleagues to join me in celebrating the mining industry's important place in Canadian society.

Strite IndustriesStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, Strite Industries, a pioneer in the machining of ultra precision components for the aerospace, automotive, computer, medical and scientific industries, recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Founded by Joseph D. Strite in 1964 with eight employees, today this world-class company located in my riding of Cambridge has a highly skilled workforce of 230 dedicated individuals.

With its can-do attitude, innovative training methods and engineering excellence, Strite Industries has diversified and gained a global reputation.

The company represents the first Canadian survey for the best manufacturing practices program, and is an amazing economic success story.

For 40 years Strite Industries has been a leader in innovation and the adoption of best practices. I join all colleagues in the House in congratulating the entire team at Strite for their tremendous success.

ChildrenStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, young children who get a good start in life are prepared to learn when they start school and then go on to become healthy and productive adults.

In my riding of Ahuntsic, the Association de gardiennage d'Ahuntsic, La Rose éclose and the Institut de formation et d'aide communautaire à l'enfance et à la famille are just three of the numerous community organizations working in early childhood education and family services. I was there to honour them last week during volunteer week.

The Liberal government supports healthy child development through: providing funds for the Canadian Prenatal Nutritional Program, the Community Action Program for Children and the Aboriginal Head Start Program; investing $500 million annually to help Canadian families access prenatal programs, early childhood education, child care and parent resource centres; and providing an estimated $520 million a year in tax relief to parents for child care.

Our Liberal government believes that giving children a good start in life is one of the most important investments we can make. We are proud to help at such an important time, at the beginning of one's life.

Battle of the AtlanticStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to honour and pay respect to brave Canadians who must never be forgotten: the valiant men and women from the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Merchant Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force, who fought with their lives in the Battle of the Atlantic.

The Battle of the Atlantic is commemorated annually on the first Sunday in May. I rise today to take this opportunity to express my personal thanks to the many Canadians who came before me who fought for the freedom I enjoy in this great country.

The Battle of the Atlantic is considered the longest campaign of the second world war. For five and a half years, allied forces protected vital shipping lanes against German U-boats. Everything manufactured in North America for the war effort needed to cross the Atlantic. It was shipped and protected by brave men and women who stood shoulder to shoulder to see that cargo reach Britain.

This courageous effort in the North Atlantic directly contributed to turning the tide for allied success in Europe. Let us never forget our Canadian heroes.

2004 Allan CupStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Claude Drouin Liberal Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like all members of Canada's Parliament to join me and the people of the Beauce region in congratulating the Garaga hockey team from Saint-Georges, and its organization, for winning the Canadian championship for the second time in three years, in the 2004 Allan Cup tournament.

The tournament was held in the city of Saint-Georges, in the Beauce region, from April 19 to 25. Six teams representing various regions of the country fought for the Allan Cup, the trophy emblematic of the senior amateur hockey championship of Canada.

I take this opportunity to thank all these teams who showed us their passion, their determination and their will to win.

I offer my sincere congratulations to the event's organizers who made it possible to hold a top-notch tournament and, once again, my most sincere congratulations to the Saint-Georges Garaga hockey team and its entire organization.

Highway InfrastructureStatements By Members

April 27th, 2004 / 2:05 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, the people of the lower St. Lawrence and northern New Brunswick are completely fed up with seeing their friends and relatives dying on highway 185.

In September 2002, the Prime Minister, then campaigning for the leadership, made a stop in Rivière-du-Loup and promised to bring about the widening of the entire length of highway 185.

I am bringing a petition started by Adeline and Lise L'Italien, who have lost family members on this road. More than 5,600 petitioners and 7,000 students in schools between Rivière-du-Loup and Edmunston have reminded the Prime Minister of his promise and of the urgent need to work on this killer highway where 100 people have died in 10 years.

This issue must be settled before the election is called. I cannot imagine that people's lives would be made into a campaign issue.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, as we know, the Liberal government is committed to working with aboriginal communities to build healthier and stronger communities. Each year, more than $7.5 billion in federal money provides basic services for first nations on reserve, services such as education, health care and infrastructure.

Aboriginal communities face many challenges both on and off reserve. Budget 2004 doubles funding for the urban aboriginal strategy to $50 million, which is most important for my city of Winnipeg and other western cities.

Community programs receiving federal funding include the Canadian prenatal nutrition program, the community action program for children, and the aboriginal head start program.

The government also supports the first nations and Inuit child care initiative, which contains strategies for dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome.

In cooperation with the provinces, the government is further spearheading an initiative dealing with domestic violence specific to aboriginal communities.

These initiatives are only part of the government's commitment to helping aboriginal men and women acquire the tools they need to improve their quality of life.

Morden, ManitobaStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, the town of Morden, Manitoba in my riding is featured in this month's edition of Harrowsmith Country Life magazine.

Founded in 1882, Morden is home to 6,500 fine people and is a great place to raise a family. As the magazine states, “It's like a scene out of Leave it to Beaver ”, with a historic downtown and old houses “whose verandahs and Victorian charm are still intact”:

Remarkably well preserved, the town's Victorian character has not been forgotten. Its grain elevators still stand beside the CPR and the old post office... has been converted into an art gallery.

Being featured in this magazine is a well-deserved honour for this fine community. Visitors can enjoy the sights and smells of the Morden roses; the Morden and District Museum, which houses the largest collection of marine reptile fossils in Canada; lakes and beaches; and the top ranked, member owned golf course in Manitoba. Each summer, our Corn and Apple Festival is enjoyed by tens of thousands of people.

In the words of Harrowsmith Country Life magazine, Morden, Manitoba is the “Prairie town that could...and still does”.

Deschambault Aluminum SmelterStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Claude Duplain Liberal Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to extend my congratulations today to Alcoa Canada Primary Metals, and in particular its Deschambault smelter, a major economic engine in the riding of Portneuf.

This evening, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment will award the Pollution Prevention Award in the large company category to Alcoa Deschambault. It will join the illustrious ranks of former winners such as Novapharm and IBM Canada.

The Deschambault team of 570 employees contributes, along with Quebec's other aluminum smelters, to the economic spin-offs of over one billion dollars annually in Quebec.

I would like to pay particular tribute to the initiative of the workers of this company for recognizing the importance of taking care of the environment and for taking an active role in a project to reduce fluoride emissions. They are with us in the House today to hear my congratulations.

This evening's award is just confirmation of this company's long-standing commitment to the environment.

Status of WomenStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has been out on the election trail singing Liberal praises across the country. To Canadian listeners it sounds like an old, worn-out record, a broken record that no one wants to hear again.

Nowhere are the sour notes of the Liberal failure more pronounced than in gender equity.

A recent study by the Canadian Association of Social Workers takes stock of the Liberal decade: women's pre-tax income is still 62% of men's; 42% of unattached women aged 18 to 64 live in poverty; women's poverty has deepened; and lone-parent families headed by women remain on the bottom of the economic rung.

The study called for stronger transfers directed to women's needs, gender sensitive pension reform, progressive integration of tax and program spending, and flexible income benefits that foster equality.

Was any of this in the budget? Not a single note. When it came to women's equality, the silence was deafening. For women, Liberal budget day was indeed the day the music died.

HealthStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, the federal Minister of Health has made an active commitment to promote new health partnerships. He made that the core theme of his speech in Toronto on April 20.

The minister has clearly expressed his vision of the future of health care. The provinces would deliver the care, and Ottawa would guarantee its accessibility. In fact, for the Liberal government, health is becoming the matrix for the Canadian nation building it plans to carry out in the coming years.

Let us get serious. If the federal government wants to do something useful as far as health is concerned, it needs to improve aboriginal health, improve drug licensing processes, keep a better eye on the surgical equipment coming onto the market, and above all do what all stakeholders are unanimously calling for: raising its contribution through transfer payments to at least 25%.

It must also respect the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces over health. These are the conditions that must be in place for there to be a new health partnership.