House of Commons Hansard #150 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was afghanistan.


SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Dave Chatters Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, that was an interesting exchange. I was a little surprised by it, because the motion we are debating today is a reflection of the recommendations of the Information Commissioner in a draft Access to Information Act that he presented at the request of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, which I am also a member of and happen to chair.

The committee was very supportive of these recommendations when the Information Commissioner brought them to the committee. I am a little surprised by the exchange and the discussion that now comes to the House, but I guess that is the nature of this place. Certainly in terms of stakeholder groups and discussions, there will be ample opportunity for that discussion to take place.

The discussion of course is taking place here in the House today, but the discussion will also be broad-ranging and stakeholders from many different sectors will have their chance to discuss this very subject, this supply day motion being part of the broader discussion about a revised Access to Information Act. The Conservative Party intends to make this part of our accountability act, which we as the government will be introducing after the next federal election. This new Access to Information Act will be a part of that accountability act.

It is very obvious that the Information Commissioner speaks with great authority on this subject. I do not think that the draft legislation he brought forward was something that just came out of his head with ideas of how it should work. I think it was the result of years and years of doing his job as access to information commissioner and his experience in the courts in trying to pry out of this government information that rightfully belonged to the public. We know that the Liberal government did everything it could to withhold that information. The government tried in every way that it could to avoid releasing the information the public wanted, although under the current act the public is allowed to have that information.

I think it was an excellent piece of work that the Information Commissioner did and then brought to the committee. I certainly support it. I was absolutely delighted when my leader and my party adopted that draft Access to Information Act, made it part of their accountability package and promised to include it in one of the first pieces of legislation that our party would bring to Parliament to pass.

Of course, when we look back at the whole sponsorship scandal and the Gomery inquiry, I must say that I do not think there is anything any party or any government can do to prevent someone who is determined to steal taxpayers' money from doing it. As for someone who goes to great lengths to create a way to do it, all the rules in the world cannot stop someone like that. If people have that ethical standard and are willing to do that, they do not pay any attention to the rules. Their only focus is on how they hide what they are doing from the public and the authorities. We certainly saw a lot of that during the sponsorship scandal and the Gomery inquiry.

Certainly everyone in this House, everyone on our committee and I think most Canadians realize that the Access to Information Act is long overdue for an overhaul. We have been talking about it in this place for a number of years.

I heard one of the members talk about the John Bryden bill which passed through the House. It did not pass unanimously but I think only one person voted against it at the time. However the government did nothing with it and has not moved on it. Worse than that, the justice minister brought a discussion paper to the access to information committee and, in spite of the rhetoric we heard about the commitment to include Crown corporations in a new bill and a number of reforms that were badly needed for Liberal cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister, the Liberals have done nothing to move that forward.

In the draft discussion paper that the justice minister brought to committee it in fact made government more secretive. It certainly did not meet the criteria of the Bryden bill and it fell far short of the recommended act that the Access to Information Commissioner created and brought to the committee. It is pretty clear, in spite of what we have been through in the last couple of years with the sponsorship scandal, that the government has no desire to make government more transparent and more accountable, which has been proven by the actions of the Prime Minister and the government.

While we hear promises of how the Liberals will solve this and never let another sponsorship scandal happen again, just a couple of weeks ago we heard that the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs issued a contract with specific instructions that there be no paper trail on the contract. Therefore, any kind of a reformed Access to Information Act could not follow the paper trail or follow the money under that contract. This comes from a government that says it is dedicated to making government more accountable and transparent. It is simply a game. As we have seen so many times, it is just not believable and no Canadian would believe it.

These deathbed conversions on any number of issues, including tax reduction and reform of the institution of government itself, are simply empty election rhetorics designed to fool Canadians as to what the government's agenda really is. I would warn all Canadians to discount that kind of talk. I think if they look at what the government is actually doing they can only come to one conclusion.

I want to talk about our plans to reform government, to make government more accountable, to deal with the issues that came up in the Gomery report and the promises the government has been making for 12 years and has done nothing to fulfill them.

A couple of weeks ago, my leader, the leader of the official opposition, announced his accountability act and it includes much more than just a reform of the Access to Information Act, which is certainly a key part of it, but it also addresses in great detail political donations to candidates and political parties. That was part of the sponsorship scandal because much of the hundreds of millions of dollars that were taken ended up funding the Liberal Party in an election campaign, if not two election campaigns.

Election financing is an important part of this. We would ban corporate and union donations while limiting personal donations to $1,000. We would ban ministers and their staff and senior public workers from lobbying government for five years. We would give more power to the Lobbyist Registrar, the Ethics Commissioner, the Information Commissioner and the Auditor General, all officers of Parliament.

It is pretty clear that the Liberal Party used the sponsorship program for not only unethical purposes, but criminal purposes as well, if I might say so. Judge Gomery made that pretty clear in his report.

Our objective would be to end the influence of big money going to political parties for elections and we would crack down on the lobbying culture that the current Prime Minister was very much a part of. His relationship with some lobbying firms is well-known and, quite frankly, needs more investigation. However Judge Gomery did not have a mandate to do that.

I have always believed that government, no matter which level of government we are talking about, is there to serve Canadians and, with a few exceptions, Canadians should be able to find out how their government is serving them and where their money is being spent, which has not been the history of the present government. Judging by the justice minister's proposal, that will not happen in the future. If the Liberals are re-elected, they intend to tighten up that information, thereby making it less accessible to Canadian taxpayers and the people who elect us to this place.

As I said in my opening remarks, simply changing the rules is not the only thing that needs to be done. If people do not have ethical standards, simply changing the rules will not solve the problem. The only way to solve the problem is to change the people who govern and elect people of a higher ethical standard, people who do not have the culture of entitlement that we have seen for so long across the floor.

The way lobbyists work, in my view, is pretty distasteful. I think of the latest episode involving David Dingwall, the head of the Canadian Mint. At the same time as he was in this very lucrative job of running the Mint and receiving a salary of more than $200,000 a year, he was collecting huge lobbyist fees to lobby the government, a government to which he belonged not too long ago, for a contract for a friend. The whole thing has a real smell to it and I think most Canadians do not find that acceptable. I think most Canadians would support our proposal to reform the way lobbyists work and how long they have to be out of government or out of the bureaucracy before they can engage in that kind of activity. That is an important part of the Conservative accountability act as well.

Part of the reform on the lobbyist side would give the Lobbyist Registrar more power and more ability to enforce the rules and to act on findings. In the latest cases we have heard about, the Lobbyist Registrar should have known what was going on and should have had the power to stop it, instead of helplessly sitting by and letting it happen. That is also an important provision.

We would also make substantial changes to the financing of political parties. I do not think it is appropriate for people seeking to be members of Parliament to accept huge donations from anonymous people. It makes people very suspicious, and with good reason. It leads to the creation of some of these huge trust funds that are held by members of Parliament and they are not required to disclose where the funds came from. Those members who currently have those trust funds should account for them, make it public where they came from and show how much they have. I think that as well is a good move.

Another controversial issue under this transparency act, which the Prime Minister promised to resolve when he was campaigning to be prime minister but one he has done nothing about, is the appointment of people to various positions that serve government and the country. It should be easy to understand that these officers of Parliament, the Ethics Commissioner, the Auditor General, the Chief Electoral Officer, the Information Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner and the Registrar of Lobbyists, serve Parliament not the government and, therefore, should not be appointed by the Prime Minister.

Parliament should have a process to select these individuals and Parliament should be able to vote on the appointment of these people. I cannot understand any argument that would have it otherwise because these particular individuals are serving us as parliamentarians and are working for Parliament. Even if we do not get into a discussion about some of the other appointments, for example judges, perhaps there is an argument to be made on either side, but certainly the officers of Parliament should be hired by Parliament to serve Parliament.

Another issue with which I think Canadians are having a problem, these days in particular but for a very long time, is the whole issue of the hundreds of millions of dollars the government spends on polling and advertising. The advertising side was an integral part of the Gomery report on the sponsorship scandal. However the way governments poll and the millions of dollars they spend on polling is a huge issue because most prime ministers and most leaders discount opinion polls when they do not get the results they were looking for and then swear by them when they do get the results they were looking for. In my opinion and I think in the opinion of most Canadians these polls are very manipulative and can sway voters substantially one way or the other. I think that is what we are seeing right now in the lead up to the election that is coming very soon. We need to reform that part of it.

The last issue is that there is a need to change the way in which governments issue contracts for government services. The way in which the government chooses the same companies time and time again for single source or even bid contracts has long been an issue in my part of the country, in western Canada. I am thinking of the recent controversy over the contract to move Canada's armed forces personnel and the RCMP.

We would certainly need some changes there. I think that all of us agree that the whistleblower legislation before the House is inadequate. We need to make some real changes and provide some real protection for whistleblowers and certainly that would help prevent this Gomery thing as well.

Finally, our proposal to give more stronger powers to the Auditor General to investigate and to audit departments is absolutely crucial to where we want to go. While our access to information reform package is what we are debating today and is extremely important, I think it fits into a package of broader reforms that will make this place transparent and accountable.

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1:35 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Westlock—St. Paul for his remarks. I also want to congratulate him, since he is the chair of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. I gather that his health has improved, and I am glad to see him here.

My question is simple. In the motion that his party introduced, clause ( c ) states:

(c) establish a duty on public officials to create the records necessary to document their actions and decisions;

My colleague heard the Liberal members criticize the motion by saying that there were exemptions and things that should be discussed. In any case, all these exemptions are usually discussed once the bill has been introduced. That is what we want and that is the aim of the Conservative Party's motion.

I will reiterate what the Information Commission said in his October 25 presentation to the committee. He said:

None of these improvements, however, can ensure accountability through transparency unless there is a foundation of professional record keeping by public officials. The most fundamental, pivotal proposal I am making is that a legal duty to create appropriate records be imposed and that an offence be created for failure to fulfill that duty...The failure by public officials to be professional in creating records is also undermining the work of Parliament, the Auditor General, the National Archivist, the police and judicial inquiries. Conducting governance by winks and nods simply leads to poor decision-making, inept administration and corruption.

He also said that, “—there is universal acknowledgement of the reality that the right of access is being rendered meaningless by a growing oral culture in government”.

Ultimately, he is saying that the oral culture and the fact that nothing is being written down anymore results in corruption. This is what the Liberal members of the House are now defending. They want the current legislation to continue to be enforced and to maintain a culture of secrecy and corruption. I want to know what my colleague thinks about this.

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1:40 p.m.


Dave Chatters Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good point. I cannot think of any single reason why a government would choose to operate on the basis of oral exchanges of information and planning other than to hide from the public what it is doing and hide what it is doing from the Auditor General.

The Prime Minister made all kinds of promises to end that and even as I mentioned in my speech, just a couple of weeks ago the government continued to behave in exactly the same way by issuing contracts from its departments with specific instructions to have no paper trail that an auditor or investigation could follow.

Clearly, the government has learned nothing from the Gomery inquiry into the sponsorship scandal. It continues to operate the same way. It is very clear in listening as we did to the Information Commissioner that time and again departments abuse their exemptions under the Access to Information Act claiming excuses not to release the information. The Information Commissioner time and again has to go to court to access the information on behalf of Canadians.

I have great admiration for the job that the Information Commissioner did in creating this draft legislation for us and I support it completely. I absolutely reject, as I think 99% of Canadians would, the right of a government to operate orally and hide that information from Canadians. It is just wrong.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by mentioning that the suggestion made by the member that there were lobbyist fees being received at the same time by the president of the Mint may not be the case and he may want to check his facts before he repeats that.

Knowing that he is the chair of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, and that the committee has dealt substantively with this motion before the House today, I believe there is one area where the member may assist the House in understanding a little more carefully the concept of public interest and what constitutes public interest to the extent that it would override certain exemptions.

There are certainly some examples I could give. One example would be the Ethics Commissioner, who reports to Parliament and is an officer and agent of Parliament. He is involved in certain matters which, although they may be of interest to the public, I am not exactly sure would constitute public interest.

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1:45 p.m.


Dave Chatters Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think there is a bit of a play on words there. There is a difference between being of interest to the public and being in the public interest.

Certainly, it is in the public interest that the government operates ethically and transparently, that it makes sound decisions, and that it issues contracts fairly and those kinds of things. Those are in the public interest and it would be up to the Information Commissioner to put that request for information of whether it is in the public interest.

There are all kinds of things going on in government that might be of interest to someone in the public and there are exemptions that would prevent a person from finding things out. I am thinking of the personal business information of an individual or a company that is very important to the success of a business. Revealing that is not in the public interest although it might be in the interest of someone in the public.

We can play with the words but when the Information Commissioner came before the committee, he made it very plain what he was talking about and where he would not allow those exemptions to apply because it was in the public interest that they not apply. We can play the word game, but I think most people understand that.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's clear sincerity and energy with respect to this issue.

The member for Ottawa Centre from the New Democratic Party recently released a seven point ethics package that addresses much of what we have talked about here today. I am wondering if the member's party is supportive of the third point of that ethics package, which pertains to this issue, regarding setting spending limits and transparency conditions on leadership contests within political parties.

I know there has been some contention within parties to allow public access and transparency as to who is behind the leadership bids of various parties. I missed his leader's package, the transparency bill on good governance, but did I miss that in the bill? If it is not in there, would he be particularly supportive of such open and transparent accounting to the Canadian public?

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1:45 p.m.


Dave Chatters Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am aware of the issue that he raised and that the member from the New Democratic Party brought forward. That particular member was a very valuable member of our committee from the beginning of this Parliament. I would like to believe that he got a lot of the ideas that he presented on reforming government and ethics of government from the time he spent on that committee with us, listening to the witnesses who came forward.

While he presented a very interesting paper which had a lot of merit, the government accountability act that my leader presented encompassed all of the areas he included in his paper. I would very much expect that the New Democratic Party will be supporting the government accountability act for those very reasons when we bring it before Parliament after the next election because I believe it does address the issues that the member raised.

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1:45 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I am rising in turn to speak about the important issue of access to information. For two decades, I have dedicated myself to the task of providing information. When I first came to the House of Commons, I thought it would be easy for me to get information, but I realized that government and political information was much harder to get in a parliamentary setting.

My remarks today will pertain to transparency. If all information were available, if everything were transparent in this Parliament, we would not even need the Office of the Access to Information Commissioner. Everything would function normally. Back in February 2001, after 10 years as Auditor General, Denis Desautels issued a warning, stating that the many special foundations, organizations and agencies created by the federal government made Parliament less and less accountable for overall Government of Canada spending. That was Denis Desautels’ finding.

In April 2002, the person who took over from him, Sheila Fraser, singled out foundations. She again criticized the fact that the federal government continues to use foundations to deliver public programs and that the transfer of funds to those foundations was not subject to ministerial oversight and effective parliamentary scrutiny. She also noted that there were significant gaps and weaknesses, including a lack of information, in the design of delegated management mechanisms to monitor foundations. She said that her mandate was limited in terms of the mechanisms she was able to examine. That prevented her from providing the Parliament of Canada with information on whether federal funds and powers were being properly used. She went on to say that billions of dollars of public money remain in the hands of foundations for years before they are transferred to the intended beneficiaries. She said that the government had little recourse when things went bad and that Parliament had few opportunities to examine those delegated management mechanisms. The Auditor General was already questioning her work in light of a lack of information.

I had the privilege of sitting on the Standing Committee on Public Accounts in the spring of 2004. I saw that there were weaknesses regarding access to information in the Parliament of Canada. Information was made public in small doses, when it was made public at all. This is the age of communications. Information is distributed through the Internet and by satellite. However, when it comes from a minister’s office, the Treasury Board or the Privy Council Office, it does not even reach the members of the committees set up to monitor federal government spending. I was in a position to see how little information was released by the many crown corporations involved in the sponsorship scandal. The Auditor General complained that she did not have full authority to investigate.

The current Access to Information Act exempts major Crown corporations like VIA Rail, the National Arts Centre, the CBC, EDC, Canada Post Corporation, Atomic Energy Canada and the Public Sector Pension Investment Board.

In addition to everything that has been said about the sponsorship scandal, there are a number of pages which meet the expectations of our friends on the other side of the house. However, if one looks at the Gomery report as a whole, these people, needless to say, cannot convince the public that they were not informed and did not know what was happening.

Indeed, this whole affair would never have happened if access to information mechanisms had existed. It is in this spirit that today the Bloc Québécois is supporting the motion introduced by the Conservative Party. We hope that, once we have the tools we need, we will be able to find out what use was made of the $4.8 million that was transferred to Option Canada during the 1995 referendum; that we will understand the decision by the Department of Justice not to lay criminal charges for copyright infringement against the Cinar company and its founders, when a report by the RCMP recommended otherwise; that we will know the name of the minister who, following the Auditor General's report, continued to defend the communications agencies and their exorbitant commissions in the cabinet communications committee.

We are working for the future. The past brought us the worst ever scandal in Canadian history. We realize that, given the refusal of the Liberals to expand the powers of the Access to Information Act, these experiences could well be repeated. Once again, I find it enormously difficult to understand the logical processes of the federal Liberals when it comes to transparency. We discussed it in committee and on that occasion, the committee agreed unanimously that it was essential to commit to a reform of the current Access to Information Act. What a surprise it is today to hear the federal Liberals say that they are not in agreement with what they themselves agreed on with the Opposition parties.

I also had one further occasion to note the weakness of the Access to Information Act when I was sitting on the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs. Everyone will remember the tragedy of the submarine Chicoutimi . You should have seen the report provided to the members of the committee. It contained a large number of blacked out sections. We did not know what had happened. An attempt was made to have us believe that it was all to protect the public interest and the families. What we realized, in reading the actual report, was that the Department of National Defence systematically refused to acknowledge its responsibilities in this tragic affair.

I can tell you that the Bloc Québécois has long been working on a reform of access to information. In fact, I had the privilege of discussing the matter with former Liberal MP John Bryden, who is a former journalist as well. He considered this issue important.

There are lots of examples to show we need this essential tool to enable elected representatives, the media and the public to get the information they need. The government's desire to maintain the status quo would indicate once again that it has things to hide and that it cannot operate transparently.

The Liberals have the opportunity today to show they will change—pardon my skepticism—and support a real Access to Information Act, legislation that will provide the authority, the personnel and the mandate so the job can get done reasonably, legislation that will make it possible to obtain the information required.

My colleagues have told me they often requested access to information. On this, the commissioner was very clear in his justification for the delays in the case of many requests. We do not know the reason, but they do. It is the meddling by the offices of ministers and deputy ministers because of an unjustified fear with respect to the political sensitivity of the request.

What is needed is a clear desire for change in order to give the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada all the powers it needs. Auditor General Denis Desautels and current Auditor General Sheila Fraser have issued many warnings.

I will continue my speech after members' statements.

ForestryStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, the pine beetle plague has now crossed the Rockies. Our Prime Minister and the federal Liberals were warned over and over again that this would happen, and over and over they ignored the warning. Now we have a pine beetle disaster on our hands that threatens to work its way across the entire country, and the federal Liberals must take responsibility for that.

Time after time, I implored the Liberals to provide the funding needed to battle the pine beetle and time after time they demonstrated that they simply did not care. Now the infestation has worked its way across the Rockies. It is in both Jasper and Banff national parks and in the forests of northern Alberta.

Under a Conservative government, $1 billion is targeted toward the pine beetle disaster. This is exactly what a responsible government should do.

South Asia EarthquakeStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have just returned from Pakistan and Indonesia, where I witnessed Canadians offering aid to people whose lives have been shattered by nature.

In Pakistan I visited with the men and women of DART. I saw them producing clean, safe drinking water and providing much needed medical aid. They are the face of Canada to the people of Pakistan. These men and women are doing us proud, living and working in conditions that would try the best of us.

In Indonesia, I visited with Canadian Red Cross workers who are helping rebuild lives in Banda Aceh. These men and women are designing new communities that include pipes for water and sewers, roads, homes and places for small shops. They are rebuilding communities, not just structures.

In Banda Aceh, I stayed at Canada House, where Canadians offered an oasis of peace amidst all the destruction. I want to thank Karen Foss and Joyce Loosli for their assistance.

These men and women reflect to the world the best of Canadian values. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

Canada-Philippine FriendshipStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Lui Temelkovski Liberal Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I attended the Canada-Philippine Friendship reception held on Parliament Hill. The reception welcomed over 250 Filipinos across the country, as well as numerous community leaders, MPs and senators. It was the first ever Filipino-organized reception on the Hill and included a luncheon, speeches, presentations and cultural performances.

The friendship reception was conceptualized by community leaders who wanted to strengthen the Filipino collective and national interest in Canada. An important part of this effort is to support Filipino heritage and the community's relationships and ties to the Philippines. It is estimated that a half million Filipinos live in Canada.

May this reception today be the beginning of an effort to organize the Filipino community in its loyalty to Canada and pride in its Filipino heritage.

Congratulations to the organizers on a very successful event.

La MosaïqueStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Maka Kotto Bloc Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House today to mark the 20th anniversary of La Mosaïque, a community agency in my riding that anchors a great chain of solidarity reaching out to the less fortunate from LeMoyne, Greenfield Park, Saint Lambert and Brossard.

This chain is made up of some 800 volunteers who, day in and day out, doggedly focus their efforts on overcoming poverty and suffering.

Over the years, more than 30 different services have been set up to help parents and children, seniors, and others who are forgotten or marginalized by society.

What is more, so strong is this fantastic team that it has inspired the entire community, thereby generating several other humanitarian agencies.

The Bloc Québécois thanks this agency for creating a brilliant mosaic of caring and sharing over the past 20 years.

Cambridge Memorial HospitalStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to pay tribute to the Cambridge Memorial Hospital and its inspiring group of hard-working, dedicated staff and volunteers. The hospital is a credit and an asset to the entire Waterloo region. It is a prime example of how a publicly funded health care facility should operate.

This Saturday there will be in excess of 40,000 people lining the streets of Cambridge. A group of citizens will collect signatures protesting the backroom “who you know” deals of the provincial Liberals, deals that have taken away $70 million funding for our hospital.

For me, it is not about “who you know” but “who you serve”.

Today, I implore the provincial health minister to listen to these citizens and for once keep a promise. I implore him to stand up for Cambridge and North Dumfries. I implore him to stand up for Ayr and Branchton. I implore him to stand up for the whole Waterloo region, and serve.

Dr. Peter ZwackStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that we learned on November 8 of the passing of Dr. Peter Zwack, president of Autism Society Canada.

Dr. Zwack was a staunch defender of the social integration of disabled persons, especially those with autism.

Dr. Zwack was actively involved in numerous organizations that provided services for individuals with an autism spectrum disorder and/or an intellectual disability.

He served as president of Autism Society Canada, president of the board of directors of Miriam Home and Services, member of the executive committee of the Fédération québécoise des Centres de réadaptation en déficience intellectuelle, president of the Quebec Federation for Autism and other Pervasive Development Disorders, and vice-president of Autisme et autres Troubles envahissants de développement Montréal.

He was a great Canadian who was dedicated to issues related to autism spectrum disorders and will be sadly missed by the autism community. Our condolences go out to his family in this time of deep sorrow.

Wildlife Protection OfficersStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Marc Boulianne Bloc Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago, a tragedy occurred in the Chaudière-Appalaches region: a plane carrying a pilot and two wildlife protection officers went missing.

The public, ever hopeful, bravely took part in the long days of searching. It is with great sadness that we have learned that the two wildlife protection officers and the pilot of the plane died.

Officer Fernand Vachon of East Broughton and Officer Nicolas Rochette lost their lives during an anti-poaching surveillance mission. This expedition also cost the pilot, Yves Giguère, his life.

All of Quebec is in mourning over this tragic expedition. There will be a public funeral this afternoon so that people can pay their last respects. The Bloc Québécois joins with the public in offering its sincere condolences to the victims' families and friends.

The FamilyStatements By Members

November 15th, 2005 / 2:05 p.m.


Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House to pay credit to the family. As members of Parliament we are all too aware of the time this job takes away from our families, particularly those of us who travel a long distance to be in the House.

I am proud today to say that two very important members of my family, my son, Darren Bell, and his son, my very special grandson, Dylan Hunter Bell, are in Ottawa and are visiting Parliament Hill just to see government in action.

It is very nice to have their support here today.

Volunteer FirefightersStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Rob Moore Conservative Fundy, NB

Mr. Speaker, I recently had the opportunity to attend the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance hearings in Moncton, New Brunswick. We heard testimony from fire chiefs who supported an income tax deduction for volunteer firefighters.

I want to go on the record in support of the proposed income tax deduction of up to $1,000 for volunteer emergency workers. I want to encourage all members of the House to do the same. Especially in light of the billions in the federal surplus, we must ensure that this small measure of recognition is made to the thousands of volunteer firefighters from fire departments all across Canada. All regions of Canada rely on these volunteers. We certainly do in my riding of Fundy Royal and in the province of New Brunswick.

Volunteer firefighters give security to our communities by risking their lives responding to emergencies at a moment's notice and for no pay. They work under hazardous circumstances and physically and emotionally demanding conditions. They help us with the worst tragedies.

These volunteers risk their lives for their fellow citizens. Let us never forget that fact and show our gratitude.

Ski BromontStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Denis Paradis Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, many ski buffs go wild at the first sight of snow. Ski Bromont, in my riding of Brome-Missisquoi, has made a name for itself over the past few years both in the province and nation-wide. Ski Bromont has just invested another $6 million for the new season, for a total of $26 million in six years.

This is a real achievement in this very competitive and seasonal industry. Ski Bromont, headed by Charles Désourdy, just won the national gold award given by the Grands Prix du Tourisme Québécois for the second year in a row.

Investments, job creation, development and innovation are making Brome-Missisquoi one of the most dynamic regions in rural Quebec.

Welcome to our little piece of heaven.

Status of WomenStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, today in recognition of Persons Day 2005, six women were recognized for their outstanding contribution to the quality of life for women.

Bonnie Diamond is one of those recipients. A true champion for advancing gender equality, Bonnie has been a mentor and a leader in the Canadian women's movement for over 30 years. She has been at the forefront of many struggles including violence against women and equality for women.

She was an organizer of the World March of Women in 2000 and volunteers with many organizations including FAFIA, Media Watch and the Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa, all this while working as the executive director of the National Association of Women and the Law.

Bonnie is an important member of the Pay Equity Network, a group of more than 200 equality-seeking organizations and trade unions calling for proactive pay equity legislation.

Equal pay for work of equal value is a fundamental human right, yet more than 25 years after the adoption of the Canadian Human Rights Act, we have no federal legislation and women continue to earn less.

On behalf of the NDP caucus, I would like to say good work sister, the struggle continues.

Banting HomesteadStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Helena Guergis Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday over 350 million people around the world celebrated World Diabetes Day. Nowhere was this celebrated more vibrantly than in my riding of Simcoe--Grey.

Sir Frederick Banting, the man who discovered insulin, was born on November 14, 1891 on a farm in Alliston, Ontario. The Banting committee, my provincial colleague, Jim Wilson, and I have been working hard to preserve the homestead since it has been neglected by the Ontario Historical Society. In fact, Jim now has a private members' bill at second reading that would return the homestead to the Banting family. Once this legislation is passed, I look forward to having it designated as a national historic site, which would include a diabetes camp.

I commend everyone on the Banting committee for their tremendous hard work and efforts. People from all over the world come to see the Banting homestead, the birthplace of a man who gave them hope and a future.

I call on all members of Parliament to support Sir Frederick Banting's homestead as a national historic site.

HealthStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, many members are wearing a button that reads “Mission Possible—A Made-in-Canada Cure for Juvenile Diabetes”. We are doing so to draw attention to the need for our government to support innovative research that could very well allow Canada to give the world the cure for juvenile diabetes.

Today we are honoured to receive delegates from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. They include Dr. Jonathan Lakey, one of the Canadians at the leading edge of juvenile diabetes research. Let us join in urging the government to provide funding for more life-saving research and a made in Canada cure for diabetes.

Also, November 16 is International COPD Day. Chronic obstructive lung disease is the fourth leading killer of Canadians, and is the only leading cause of death that is on the rise. Tomorrow the Canadian Lung Association and the Canadian Thoracic Society will release Canada's first ever report card on the disease. With an aging Canadian population, managing chronic diseases like COPD becomes increasingly important.

Marc-André FortinStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, all eyes in Quebec were riveted Sunday on the grand finale of Star Académie, which featured two finalists from the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region: Audrey Gagnon and Marc-André Fortin.

The winner was Marc-André Fortin. Sensitive, a nature lover, a man with a heart, Marc-André is an artist through and through. His is a family in which music and song go hand in hand with freedom and love of life. And it was his family that recognized his talent very early on and encouraged him.

The performances by Audrey and Marc-André were moving. But it was all the potential of our young people that their simplicity, authenticity and style expressed first and foremost.

In this region, Quebec's blueberry capital, Marc-André gave a special meaning to the link between the Saguenay and Lac-Saint-Jean by sharing his $50,000 prize with finalist Audrey.

Audrey and Marc-André the entire region is proud of you and hopes the best is yet to come for you both.

Christmas MiraclesStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the finance minister put on a pair of pants he had not worn in a while and he found $97 billion in the pocket. What a stroke of luck, because at that very moment the finance minister had been thinking that the government had been so generous to Liberal lobbyists and advertising agencies, the Liberal Party and David Dingwall and he was wondering what he could do to help out the little people at Christmas. I mean, as the Prime Minister says, Christmas is all about families.

What the minister did not know is at the very time that he was proposing to give people their money back, the country was about to go to an election. What a coincidence. I mean, what are the odds?

Here is the other coincidence. The Conservative Party and the other opposition parties actually amended the throne speech a year and a half ago so that it would include tax relief for low and middle income Canadians. The Liberals opposed it at the time, but they had a good reason. They just did not know at the time that tax relief would help families and the economy. They cannot know everything, but through an amazing series of coincidences, they are now on board. Thank goodness for Christmas miracles.

Route of HonourStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Battlefields Foundation was formed 13 years ago to ensure that the sacrifices of Canada's 1.5 million service men and women from both world wars would not be forgotten.

In this Year of the Veteran, the Canadian Battlefields Foundation has created a website depicting the Route of Honour. It is literally a road map that identifies the places where the great battles were fought by Canadian troops across Europe and the Far East.

The website is being promoted this month on tray liners in every Tim Hortons outlet in Canada. Today I rise to pay tribute to the principals of the Canadian Battlefields Foundation for the work they do, and to pay tribute to the executive of Tim Hortons for this demonstration of good corporate citizenship.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Questions

2:15 p.m.


Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, Justice Gomery's report tells us that $8,000 was paid to a volunteer in the riding of Louis-Hébert for the election campaign. The former director of the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party himself has testified to this.

The candidate, Hélène Scherrer, is now the Prime Minister's principal secretary. The dirty money from the sponsorship scandal went toward campaign expenses.

How can Canadians have any expectation that the Prime Minister will clean up the sponsorship issue when he has not even cleaned house in his own office?