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House of Commons Hansard #138 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was firefighters.

Topics

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Françoise Boivin Liberal Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a pleasure to take part in this debate. I want to thank the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster for introducing Motion No 153.

This is exactly the kind of timely, positive initiative Canadians expect from their elected representatives. I congratulate the member on what he has achieved in the pursuit of this very deserving cause. I say very deserving cause and I certainly mean it. I think hon. members would be hard pressed to find an issue that would be more clear cut than this one.

We are all lucky to live in a society where reliable and efficient firefighting services are part of our daily life. Everywhere in our country, in rural areas as well as in towns and cities, firefighters are always ready to protect our lives and our houses from fires.

Firefighters have been present at memorable events in our national history. We have two very good examples here, in our national capital. First, in 1916, the Centre Block of the Parliament buildings was completely destroyed by fire.

Then there is the great fire of 1900 which ravaged almost all of downtown Hull before jumping across the Ottawa River and laying waste to neighbourhoods in Ottawa. A quote from a newspaper story at the time captured the spirit of the valiant individuals we pay tribute to today. The Ottawa Evening Journal reported:

A lone fireman with a single line of hose stood on the roof of a kitchen on Victoria Avenue, while a pile of sheds and rookeries in the rear were a mass of flames. That line of hose cut off the fire at that point and saved several houses.

This is but one example and I am sure that there are thousands of others.

It is a fact that by the very nature of their work, firefighters live with danger, and the character of these courageous and noble individuals often pushes them to risk their own life.

Despite all that, the achievements of our firefighters often remain unnoticed.

With the motion now before the House, we have an opportunity today to give our firefighters the recognition they are due, first by paying tribute to their fallen comrades, but also by honouring all firefighters for the enormous and indispensable contribution they make to our society.

As many members know, the idea of a memorial to Canada's fallen fighters is one that is being actively pursued by the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation, also referred to as the CFFF. I particularly want to salute Dr. Will Brooks, president, and Gary Barnes.

The latter is the foundations's vice-president, as well as head of fire safety service operations for Gatineau. This may be the reason I share this cause with my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster. I have met the people from the foundation on several occasions. They put a lot of effort into gaining recognition for the fine contributions of their fallen comrades.

I am thinking in particular of its directors, Robert Kirkpatrick and Aaron Feldman, as well as George Potvin, who has set up an extraordinary museum on Maloney Blvd in Gatineau with exhibits of firefighting equipment through the years. I would encourage hon. members to visit it.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the primary objective of this foundation is to collect funds for the monument.

Canadians can consult the foundation's web site at www.cff.ca to find out how they can contribute to the erection of this important and long-awaited memorial.

As well, I and others including the colleague introducing this motion attended a ceremony here on the Hill this past September 11. There were a few thousand in attendance, but I would have loved to have seen it really packed. Firefighters devote themselves to our service and risk their lives daily for us. A memorial site as proposed in this motion is richly deserved.

The CFFF is currently working in collaboration with the National Capital Commission in the development of this monument and has accepted a wonderful location near the beautiful new War Museum. While the CFFF had previously expressed the wish that the memorial be located in the Parliamentary precinct, earlier this year it received the good news that the NCC was proposing an excellent location for the memorial on historic LeBreton Flats.

As the firefighters themselves have said, there are a number of advantages to having LeBreton Flats as the site. First of all, it is a large expanse with the infrastructure necessary for accommodating large crowds. This would be a great advantage when the annual memorial service is held, as well as at other times when thousands of people might attend a ceremony.

The LeBreton Flats site is more accessible than Parliament Hill, which attracts large crowds of tourists, where new security regulations make vehicular traffic very difficult, and where construction is always a factor. It should also be noted that this site is historically relevant for firefighters since this is the area that was devastated by the fire of 1900, where so many of their brethren distinguished themselves beating back the conflagration. The partners are ready to move forward with LeBreton Flats.

I believe the motion we are debating today can be seen as an important symbolic step. By amending it to endorse the construction of a memorial in a prominent location in the National Capital Region and passing such an amendment, we would be signalling our official support for this very worthy idea.

I remember how long it took to collect the funds for the War Museum. Those of us who supported the project sometimes felt it would be an eternity before it ever saw the light of day. But now it is in place to celebrate the lives of those who fought and died in the defence of our country and the values on which it is built.

Now it is time to build another monument honouring the selfless and courageous men and women who save lives and save homes as members of our nation's fire services. It is time to honour the many Canadian firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty throughout our history.

One had to have been there on the Hill to see how moving—

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member for Gatineau, but I will now rule on the admissibility of the amendment. Then I will give the floor back to the hon. member so that she can continue her speech.

I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for his intervention and the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre for his very helpful response.

I trust they, and the House, will understand if, in the interests of time and given that this is the last hour of debate for this item, I do not exhaustively review the precedents they cited but rather summarize the situation as I see it.

The hon. parliamentary secretary raised two basic objections to the procedural acceptability of the amendment. First, he argued, citing various authorities and precedents that I will not review here, that it went beyond the scope of the original motion to introduce a new substantive concept that had to be the subject of a separate motion, presented with due notice. Second, he contended that the form of the motion is defective in that its wording offends the principle of the Crown's prerogative in spending since it would force the government to expend funds.

Let me, like the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre, deal with the second argument first. I agree with the hon. member's reading of Motion No. 153, namely that the motion suggests a course of action to the government and in no way obligates it to that action. Therefore, I see no grounds to refuse the amendment because it offends the spending prerogative.

Let me turn to the matter of the scope of Motion No.153. First, let me quote from the House of Commons Procedure and Practice at pages 452 and 453:

A motion in amendment arises out of debate and is proposed either to modify the original motion in order to make it more acceptable to the House—

It continues:

An amendment must be relevant to the main motion. It must not stray from the main motion but aim to further refine its meaning and intent.

The question the Chair must ask itself is: does the proposed amendment refine the original motion while remaining within its scope?

In the present circumstance, I confess that there appears to be compelling grounds for and against the acceptability of the amendment.

If one considers the motion as a whole, one can argue that it deals with recognition of the contribution of firefighters in a symbolic manner, specifically a monument. Looking at Motion No.153 that way, one might well conclude that because the amendment goes beyond the symbolic and introduces the idea of a benefit to survivors, it should be ruled out of order.

Alternatively, though, one can look at Motion No.153, and see a motion with three distinct sections, (a), (b) and (c). Reading the motion this way, it can be argued that the proposed amendment takes the notion of recognition in section (a) and explains it further by specifying that such recognition will be in the form of a benefit. Section (b), respecting the monument, states support for a separate proposal by the Canadian Fallen Firefighters. Section (c) informs the other place of the House's decision.

I have carefully considered the question and I have made my decision against the backdrop of the efforts that the House has been making, notably through recent amendments to the rules on private members' business, to allow every private member to bring an idea before the House and have the House pronounce itself for or against the idea.

Accordingly, I am inclined to conclude that the amendment further defines the idea of recognition of the effort made by fallen firefighters. Consequently, the amendment is receivable.

We will now return to the debate. The hon. member for Gatineau still has five minutes.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Françoise Boivin Liberal Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, given your ruling, which I respect, I might add a small aside.

I was in favour of the idea of having a monument, which is the idea behind the motion presented by the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster. Nonetheless, as far as the amendment presented by the hon. member for Ottawa Centre is concerned, I have some serious questions. I find this a bit unfortunate.

This amendment raises the question of compensation. Such a motion was presented on the foundation that I work with every day and that is not necessarily in favour of the amount mentioned. That is the first point.

I have some difficulty rising in this House to speak to this amendment. I had some discussion with foundation representatives. They had asked for something else. They still were not certain what form this should take.

Furthermore, there is the entire judicial matter. I would suggest that my colleagues in this House give this some serious thought. What type of compensation are we talking about? From what I understand from this amendment, we are talking about compensation for a firefighter who dies on the job. To use the expression in the amendment, we might also be talking about a firefighter who is permanently handicapped.

Given my experience in labour relations, that brings workplace accidents to mind. Those things are already covered in our provincial and territorial jurisdictions.

I think that the amendment is much more important than we may realize. I have serious reservations concerning the proposed amendment, and it saddens me.

I am talking to those Canadians who are watching us and, above all, to all those who showed up on Parliament Hill on September 11, for the commemorative ceremony honouring those who have fallen in combat. We wanted to give even more visibility to those people going through difficult times. I think about people working on this foundation, giving their hearts and souls to it.

Some colleagues in this House might have wanted to support this motion. Unfortunately, they will not be able to do so any more. Indeed, in my opinion, rules were broken in a blatant way. Therefore, we will not have had an opportunity to debate the amendment. I feel the context in which that was done and the way it occurred are sad. One must truly look at the ins and outs of the amendment on compensation which, I feel, does not concern the federal government, bur rather the provincial and territorial levels.

I think we are opening up Pandora's box, and we should not do that. Given the circumstances and the people we are trying to honour, we could have taken a little bit more time to think about it. It is unfortunate that things are happening this way.

I have to admit that I was supporting this project, the construction of this memorial, ostensibly on Le Breton Flats. We had made plans to that effect in conjunction with the NCC. We were ready to go ahead with this. It is an unfortunate amendment. However, this will not prevent us from continuing our work toward the erection of this monument.

As I have said to husband and wives, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters of fallen firefighters who were on the Hill on September 11, next year we will make sure that even more people gather to honour the extremely dangerous work done by all firefighters in Canada.

I support, in principle, having a monument built and trying to find a way to honour these people. However, I am not ready to accept this $300,000 benefit that is not anywhere near what the Foundation itself has asked for. They come here in the House and they say that this is what the Foundation is asking for. I find that the Foundation can bear quite a lot.

I am running out of time. It is unfortunate because I had prepared such a positive speech in favour of the motion. However, in the last five or ten minutes, the whole context has changed and I cannot support this motion anymore.

This is all I had to say. I find this situation quite unfortunate given all the work that has already been done on this.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand and urge all members of Parliament to support Motion No. 153 as amended, which would recognize fallen firefighters across the country.

Since Confederation hundreds of firefighters have died in the line of duty and yet we have not to this date fully recognized those firefighters or their families. For 12 long years firefighters have been coming to Parliament 1 out of 365 days to ask for that recognition. Three hundred and sixty-four days of the year those firefighters put their lives on the line to protect members of the community. Since Confederation we have not as a Parliament recognized firefighters nor their families.

One day a year for 12 years they have come to this place and have asked members of Parliament to recognize their families. For 12 years there have been photo ops but there has not been any recognition.

With Motion No. 153 as amended, all members of Parliament, presumably next Wednesday, will have the ability to stand in the House and show the country that they recognize Canadian firefighters. Every member of the House will have a choice to make. They will either be voting for the recognition of firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty or they will be voting against the recognition of firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty. The choice is very clear and I hope all members of the House will vote to recognize firefighters.

When I stood to speak in the House on June 10 in the first hour of debate on Motion No. 153, I recognized at that time the family of James Peter Ratcliffe, a firefighter in Hudson, Quebec, who died in the line of duty four days before that first hour of debate.

Since then, over the course of the summer I and other members of Parliament have urged the government to act in this regard and recognize firefighters. I participated, as did the member for Gatineau, on September 11 here on Parliament Hill in the annual memorial service for fallen firefighters. At that time we recognized a number of firefighters who died in the previous year.

I would now like to read the names of the fallen firefighters into Hansard : Captain Ernest Paul Wyndham, Edmonton Fire Department; Firefighter Chad Jerry Schapansky, Clearwater Fire Department; Platoon Chief Gerald McNally, Sault Ste. Marie Fire Department; District Chief Dale F. Long, London Fire Department; Firefighter Dustin Douglas William Engel, Sahtlam Fire Department; Captain/Pilot Kerry J. Walchuk, Clearwater, British Columbia; Captain Robert Campbell, Toronto Fire Services; Firefighter Brent Hugh Dempsey, Youngstown Fire Department; Captain John L. MacFarlane, Scarborough Fire Department; and Firefighter Walter Drake, Toronto Fire Services.

The list of names that I have just read is the names of firefighters who have fallen in the past year. Hundreds have fallen since Confederation.

Tonight we have had an historic debate. Next week we will have an historic vote to recognize Canadian firefighters and to recognize their families.

I urge all members of the House to vote to support our firefighters, to support their recognition and to support the recognition of their families.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is the House ready for the question?

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those opposed will please say nay.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 26, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

FirefightersAdjournment Proceedings

7:50 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, myself and the people of Quebec and Canada, I rise in this House to ask questions concerning what has been called the David Dingwall case.

Since the publication in the media of Mr. Dingwall's famous expense account that prompted his resignation, we are trying to get at the truth.

Yesterday, Mr. Dingwall was in front of a Commons committee. In his opening statement, he was quick to point out that he managed the crown corporation like a business enterprise. He said that the profits of his business enterprise justified all the money he spent.

Through the questions we asked here in the House, we tried to find out what the crown corporation's internal rules are. Because it is a crown corporation, even though Mr. Dingwall considers it to be a business enterprise. We tried to find out who could authorize the spending of so much money over such a short period. We also asked questions to find out what were Mr. Dingwall's powers under the delegation of financial signing authorities chart.

We are still waiting for answers. Legal opinions and an accounting firm report due next week are being used as excuses to keep us in the dark.

In the meantime, people are filled with dismay. The public is outraged. Mr. Dingwall was blamed during the Gomery inquiry and when he appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. He was considered the one who allegedly authorized the program that became the sponsorship scandal. This same individual, publicly and before committees, continues to say that he was justified in spending the $300,000 for his personal expenses.

Moreover, in the summary that he provided us yesterday, Mr. Dingwall tells us that, contrary to the statements that were made in the House of Commons, all expenses were covered by the economic returns of the corporation, and not paid by taxpayers.

I do not know where Mr. Dingwall gets his money. To my knowledge, all government corporations are governed by Treasury Board. Consequently, public funds have to be invested. I understand that, afterwards, depending on the corporations' success, this money generates what we call economic returns. At that time, we can say that a president gets money from these economic returns. However, he cannot say that this money does not come from taxpayers.

Parliamentarians' credibility is at stake when people such as Mr. Dingwall or other presidents of government corporations appear before the Gomery commission and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. It seems that these people, after having rendered services to the Liberal Party and held major positions, believe that they can do anything when they find themselves at the helm of government corporations or foundations.

I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary, who is here tonight, if she can give us more clarification on the measures that we are taking to know exactly where this money came from and the powers that were given to Mr. Dingwall.

FirefightersAdjournment Proceedings

7:55 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have this opportunity to remind the House of Commons that our crown corporations serve an important role and act with the interests of Canadians in mind.

As public institutions, crown corporations strengthen the economic, social and cultural fabric of Canada. I would also like to remind the member opposite that it was this government that just this year launched the most comprehensive review of crown corporation governance in the last 20 years. The review went far beyond addressing the issues raised by the Auditor General. Since then the government has made significant progress toward implementing the 31 measures announced in the governance review.

In fact, seven of the measures are now completed and the rest are well advanced. For example, the Auditor General is now the external auditor for all crown corporations. An additional 10 crown corporations now fall under the Access to Information Act. This has strengthened the governance accountability and transparency of crown corporations and it will continue to do so until the review is fully implemented, which is anticipated by mid-2006.

As for the Royal Canadian Mint, it has already implemented at least 16 of the 31 measures identified in the crown corporation governance review. This past June the Office of the Auditor General conducted a mandatory five year review of the Mint's financial and management control and information systems, as well as management practices. The Auditor General concluded that based on the criteria established for the examination, there was reasonable assurance that there was no significant deficiencies in the systems and practices that she examined.

Furthermore, the Mint already has made progress on a number of other fronts, including the development of a charter to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the board. Work has begun on a framework so that partners distribute circulation coins and expanding the application of the lean enterprise methodology is ongoing.

All this has led to a quick turnaround in the Mint's fortunes. In 2004 the Mint turned a profit of $16 million before taxes and for the first time in a decade, the Mint issued a dividend of $1 million to its shareholder, the Government of Canada.

I also would like to mention to my hon. colleague that at the end of September the corporation posted its 23rd consecutive month of profit. In 2004 the Mint hired 198 new employees to support a substantial growth. Most of these jobs are based in Winnipeg.

I am also pleased to speak here today as it will give me an opportunity to address some erroneous information that has been put forward by the opposition.

Some of the recent allegations on the spending of the former president of the Royal Canadian Mint were falsely taken out of context. The majority of the reported expenses were not personal expenses but expenditures allocated to the cost centre of the office of the president. This needs to be recognized. The overall cost centre of the office of president for the year 2004 was $747,597, with 72% of that total being for salaries and benefits of four staff, including the president.

We anxiously await the independent review of the expenses of the office of the president of the Mint. PricewaterhouseCoopers has been engaged by the board to review all expenditures incurred by the Hon. David Dingwall during his tenure as president. We also are awaiting a review of the approval process of expenses by the former president and CEO. However, the facts cannot be denied that the Mint is a thriving crown corporation that has made a remarkable recovery in the past two and a half years, giving it a stellar reputation, both at home and abroad.

FirefightersAdjournment Proceedings

8 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I always stand in awe when I hear my friends opposite defending Mr. David Dingwall. If he was such a good president and if he was so effective, why then has he quit his job? On this issue, we are not really able to know the truth.

At certain times, he says he contacted the national revenue minister. At other times, he says the handed his resignation to the board or, yet another version, he tells us that the personally talked to the Prime Minister. One thing is sure: he resigned.

They would have us believe that this man, who has spent enormously, was justified in doing so because his crown corporation was making money. I do not know a president of a single public or private corporation who tenders their resignation when their corporation is doing very well.

I would like the parliamentary secretary to tell us what her understanding is of the fact that Mr. Dingwall has tendered his resignation when the public corporation he was running was doing so well.

FirefightersAdjournment Proceedings

8 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised at my hon. colleague. Having listened to Mr. Dingwall's testimony yesterday and to the Minister of National Revenue who responded today, it was quite clear that Mr. Dingwall resigned for the sake of the Mint.

We have to remember that crown corporations are integral to the government's delivery of programs and services to Canadians, day in and day out. Because of this, it is of the utmost importance that they be managed as effectively and efficiently as possible with the needs of Canadians in mind. That is why the President of the Treasury Board has taken such tremendous steps to ensure that crown corporations operate effectively, transparently and are accountable to the government and Canadian taxpayers.

I believe we are succeeding. We have made the appointment process for crown corporate presidents and CEOs more transparent. We have strengthened the audit regimes of our crowns. We have made 10 more crowns subject to the access to information.

We have seen the government take action on this file and our crown corporations today are stronger and more accountable than ever.

FirefightersAdjournment Proceedings

8 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 8:03 p.m.)