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House of Commons Hansard #152 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

Topics

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12:25 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Liberal

Claude Drouin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Rural Communities)

Mr. Speaker, I am very surprised by the comments of my colleague the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord. He is very angry and is attacking people. I am all the more surprised given the events surrounding the separatist head office in Quebec. I would like very much to hear what he has to say on that.

When the Oxygène 9 problem arose, it was so serious that Mr. Landry, the premier at the time, took no chances. He called for the resignation of minister Baril and appointed him vice-president of Hydro-Quebec in Chile, to ensure there was no inquiry and no guilty party. We on the other hand have acknowledged our responsibilities. Criminal charges have been laid on four people. Thirty-two civil suits have been brought representing a figure of $57 million. We have taken many steps to prevent such things from recurring. But we hear nothing of that.

Today, we are debating a motion stating that the government no longer has the moral authority to govern. However, it can still govern until the holidays. It is a good thing that ridiculousness is not deadly, because the member opposite would drop dead on the spot. We do not have the moral authority to govern, but we can govern until January.

This is not the first time we have heard this. The member speaks of fiscal imbalance. I would point out that the government worked with the Parti Québécois. It took out loans over 10 years with the municipalities instead of taking the proper course of action, as we did, to reduce the $62 billion debt. Had the PQ government done its work, Quebec would not be facing its present difficulties.

This is not the first contradiction by the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord. We hear them here regularly. We increased transfers to the provinces by $75 billion. We established day care and childhood education programs, among other things, and a lot of other assistance measures in keeping with jurisdictional areas. The credit reductions people are looking for are an extension of the $100 billion we injected over five years. Our solvency is such that we want to continue in this regard.

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12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Charlevoix—Montmorency, QC

Mr. Speaker, you have no idea how happy I am that the hon. member for Beauce asked me a question. I saw him taking notes. I was thinking about him and there was something I wanted to say to him. Since he asked me a question, I will be able to address him and I will ask him a question. We would be prepared, if there is unanimous consent, to give him a chance to respond to that question.

My first comment is on what he said about the Quebec National Assembly. I do not know if the hon. member for Beauce is currently preparing for a career after federal politics; perhaps he will be a candidate in future provincial elections in Quebec.

Nonetheless, I must say that I cannot answer his question because I am not in the chamber of that assembly. If we were face to face at the National Assembly, I would be able to respond, but I cannot do so here. We have a great expression at home: right church, wrong pew. We are not in the right place to talk about this.

The hon. member for Beauce has certainly read the Gomery report. He certainly heard Marc-Yvan Côté's testimony when he said he handed out $120,000 of dirty sponsorship money. Marc-Yvan Côté was in charge of 21 ridings in eastern Quebec, including Beauce. Eighteen ridings received money and 10 or so candidates received money personally.

I would like the hon. member for Beauce to tell me whether he was one of the ones who received dirty sponsorship money from Marc-Yvan Côté.

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12:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I found the speech of the hon. member very enlightening. We seem to be seeing some strange spectacles with the Liberal Party in its dying days of government.

Last month we saw the first results of the Gomery report, which was one of the low days in parliamentary history. The Prime Minister came out, with obvious relief on his face, and said that it was a great vindication for the government. Yes, people were caught stealing money, yes, they had taxpayer money, but he said that they would give it back. They had been caught. What an absolutely appallingly low standard of ethics.

Now the Prime Minister is challenging the other parties that are trying to work on compromise and trying to work together. He is double daring us to have a Christmas election. Our party has made it clear that we do not want a Christmas election. We believe we should be moving to January, yet one party is insisting on defying the will of Parliament. It is hanging the thread of a Christmas election over the people of Canada.

Does the hon. member feel that the Liberal tactic is based on a contempt for the people of Canada or a fear of facing the people of Canada?

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12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Charlevoix—Montmorency, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. In fact, all the time the government is trying to save by putting off the inevitable, ultimate deadline, only proves that the Liberal Party, under the current Prime Minister, has no respect for the public or taxpayers. Every day, we see examples of arrogance. This week's election budget was yet another egregious example.

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12:30 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Liberal

Claude Drouin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Rural Communities)

Mr. Speaker, it appears that the Bloc members are prepared to attack individuals and try to tarnish reputations, although the Gomery report is clear. All those who are members of the current government are not involved.

Before I ask my question, I want to tell the member that I did not receive any money and that everything was done in compliance with election legislation. In the future, if his party has any comments to make, I invite it to make them outside the House. It will be my pleasure to respond. As for me, I respect the members opposite on a personal level. We all have families and people around us. Individuals should never be the subject of attack, but rather ideas. However, when members run out of ideas, they attack individuals.

Nevertheless, I understand the Bloc member not wanting to respond with regard to the situation at the National Assembly. He says that it is a case of the right church, wrong pew. Above all, we cannot mention the Laval metro scandal, Gaspésia and the interests of Quebeckers because their mother house was involved. However, this should have convinced them to be more careful. A great deal of money was wasted.

Today, they are trying to teach us a lesson. However, we have admitted that there is a problem. Someone has already pleaded guilty and others are awaiting trial, before either the criminal or civil courts. All this proves that we want to take action to remedy the situation and that we have the moral authority to govern, not just until January, but for 30 days after Justice Gomery tables his final report, as we proposed and as they agreed.

As a matter of fact, the motions they introduced last spring were defeated. They cannot say that they have not had any opposition days. The motions were defeated. What does that mean? We had the confidence of the House. This is their problem, not ours.

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12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Charlevoix—Montmorency, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must point out to my colleague from Beauce that I was not attacking him personally, but merely asking a question. This is a mathematical exercise. At the Gomery inquiry, Marc-Yvan Côté said he had distributed dirty money in 18 of the 21 ridings he was responsible for. That means there were 3 that did not get any. The hon. member for Beauce has just said his riding is one of the three. Ms. Gosselin, the candidate in Levis in 1997, has also said she did not receive any money. So that makes two ridings, with one still to discover.

It is indecent that the Liberal Party has used this sponsorship kickback system to fund campaigns with the taxpayers' money against the Bloc Québécois in eastern Quebec.

We in the Bloc Québécois finance our campaigns with the $2, $5 or $10 donations of ordinary citizens. They are the ones who contribute to our campaigns. When the election is over, we are not beholden to big business or to the banks.

It is all the more indecent that the sponsorship money went to finance the Liberal party. The Gomery report is clear on this. It describes a kickback system in which people in advertising firms were paid by their agencies to work full time for the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party is corrupt. It should be kicked out in the next election, and that election should be as soon as possible.

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12:35 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, at the outset, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

The NDP leader, the member for Toronto—Danforth, referred to this as an historic day, thanks to this motion, to get things done for Canadians over the next few weeks and to advance a reasonable compromise that three parties, the majority of the House, support. We can get important legislation passed, such as Bill C-55 to protect the pensions of workers. We can get the fuel rebates in Bill C-66 to the people who need them the most.

We know nothing prevents the Prime Minister from setting a date at the advice of this Parliament. The motion provides a real opportunity to address the democratic deficit that the Prime Minister promised to fix. An election delayed until the spring would only make that democratic deficit worse. The Liberals would like taxpayers to fund an extra two months of pre-election spending announcements and travel around the country. This is wrong and it will not happen.

I would like to speak about the first nations conference because it has been raised here as a difficulty that we may in fact be creating. This is important to me, my caucus and my riding where there are two great first nations communities, Garden River and Batchewana. I want to address the aboriginal concerns regarding an early election.

First nations leaders have been in touch with me with regard to concerns about an early election disrupting the first ministers meeting in Kelowna next week. The NDP has a long, proud and clear record of support for first nations, Métis and Inuit objectives, unparalleled by any other party.

The member for Winnipeg Centre campaigned against the first nations governance bill. My entire caucus stood behind his aboriginal affairs committee filibuster to bring attention to Indian residential school abuse. New Democrats believe we must finally achieve fair compensation for survivors and lasting reconciliation for all of us.

The whole compromise will have the effect of protecting that first ministers meeting. All the opposition parties now agree that meeting should be protected. It also honours the principles of first nations of consensus and compromise.

I came to Ottawa wanting to do politics differently, to work positively with elected officials locally at all levels and from different parties. We came to the House of Commons in a minority Parliament to make it work and to be productive. To the best of our ability, we have done this. Our better balanced budget produced results for working Canadians in housing, protecting pensions, post-secondary tuition, the environment and aboriginal communities.

The government did not want to recognize what Canadians told it on June 28 of last year. Canadians said no to the Liberals ruling again as a majority government. Canadians elected the House with the majority of MPs from different parties other than the Liberal Party. We have had confirmed by the Gomery report the width and breadth of the culture of entitlement that has Liberals putting themselves and their party before the Canadian people or our country.

I have come to work but have not seen much of the government's recognition of a minority Parliament or working collaboratively.

First, there is a paucity of legislation, except for housekeeping bills. Even the housekeeping bills, like the ones to give legal standing for the Departments of Social Development and Human Resources and Skills Development, came a year after those departments were up and running and budgets were being spent. Even when we tried to bring amendments to that bill, every last one of them was turned down.

In committee we see the lack of recognition of a minority Parliament, refusing to work productively to get things done for Canadians.

We raised the deplorable treatment of the voluntary sector by the government's new call for proposals process. For the longest time, rather than getting to the bottom of this, the Liberals were more interested in censuring me than in doing the investigation. God help the whistleblowers under any legislation if this is the way people who bring out grave injustices that need righting will be treated.

My motion to conduct hearings across Canada on the Canadian social transfer was passed in June in the human resources committee. Roy Romanow said that these hearings would be the most important dialogue Canadians would have, even more important than health care. However, since we came back in the fall we have seen nothing but foot dragging in the committee not to have these hearings actually take place. These hearings have not happened and it looks like they will not happen before the government falls.

The Liberals' culture of entitlement has them believing in some divine right to rule and to ignore the will of Canadians and the will of Parliament. This Liberal culture is alive in my own riding, as well, with riding executives sending statements to the media that voters should elect a Liberal MP if they want to get anything in the riding.

Has the Liberal Party learned nothing from the sponsorship scandal, of government ministers ignoring the will of those who were elected by voters and not inviting those members of Parliament to announcements of the federal moneys being spent, Canadian money, I might add, not Liberal money, as they believe? In my riding this has lead to the unprecedented resolution of city council to ensure that politicians at all levels of government, regardless of their party, are invited to these announcements.

This motion introducing this compromise is a hallmark of what can happen in a minority Parliament. Usually, with a compromise, it takes people a little while to get around to accepting it. I hope the government will listen to Canadians and to the majority of the members of Parliament and agree to this sensible approach.

The Prime Minister himself said that he wanted to get some work done this fall, including the first ministers' meeting with aboriginal and first nations. The second thing he said was that he did not want an election over Christmas. The third thing he said was that he wanted to ensure that Gomery's second report was in front of the voters before an election. Those were the things he wanted.

We said yes to all those things and our proposal to have the election called in January for a vote in mid-February would accomplish all those goals.

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November 17th, 2005 / 12:40 p.m.

Liberal

David Anderson Liberal Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, what struck me about the comments by the hon. member was the fact that he clearly indicated throughout his speech that he had confidence in the government and in the many things the government was bringing forward. He said that he wants these things to come along, to be voted on and that many of them he wants to see brought into law or into policy. Now, from what I heard him say, he clearly has confidence in the government.

He went on to complain about the fact that the Prime Minister would not accept something which is not within the normal rules of the House and not within normal parliamentary practice. He went on to say that because the opposition parties agree that this contorted, convoluted way of proceeding should be adopted, the Prime Minister somehow should ignore the normal procedure in the House and follow that.

It seems to me that the member simply does not have the courage of his convictions. Does he want the government defeated or does he not, as of now? If that is the case, I will have a much better idea of what I heard him say. However right now I am puzzled by his clear indication that he does not want the government defeated.

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12:45 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, members have heard me and members of our caucus over the last number of weeks say that we have a common sense, reasonable compromise that we are hoping the Liberal Party will accept.

I have confidence in Parliament, and Parliament, as we will see at the end of this debate either tonight or Monday, is telling the government that it should get some business done between now and Christmas and then move to calling an election in early January that would be held in mid-February. We believe we have every right to do that.

As a matter of fact, the Deputy Prime Minister of the government said the other day that there was nothing to stop the government from reacting positively to this common sense, very practical compromise that we have put before the House today.

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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member refers to a common sense principle but my understanding is that the motion today calls for an election to be called during the first week of January for an election day on February 13. The member knows that the three opposition parties entered into an agreement already and it has been stated clearly by the Conservatives, the Bloc and his own leader that next Thursday there will be a non-confidence motion put that will put us into an election immediately and the election date would be on January 9 or January 16.

If we are going to have a non-confidence motion put next Thursday for a vote, what is the purpose of the motion today? The motion today would be pre-empted totally, calling for a February 13 election, because their planned non-confidence motion next week will have an election that would take place on January 19. So that means prima facie that today's motion is not only non-confidence, it is just nonsensical.

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12:45 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know how many times we need to say this to the Liberal caucus, but we are calling today for a very reasonable, common sense compromise that would accomplish all of the things that the Prime Minister said that he wants to get done. He does not want to have a Christmas election and neither do we. He wants to get some work done and he wants the election to happen at a time when the final report of Gomery is out before the people, and that will happen as well. I just do not know where the hang up is with the member and his caucus on this reasonable proposal.

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12:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question relating to this culture of entitlement. In my riding, the widow of a man who fought in the second world war was just given a pension for $3.26 a month and was told by the federal government that she would not receive any support for shovelling snow. Let us talk about a culture of entitlement when a former Liberal cabinet minister charges more for his Tim Hortons coffee in the morning than this widow of a second world war veteran will get.

Why does the hon. member think the government holds the common people of Canada in such contempt with our money?

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12:50 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member and I, and others in the NDP caucus, have come here to get things done on behalf of our constituents. We want to ensure that people, such as the person he referred to and so many other people who we represent, receive the help and assistance they need.

However the government has shown itself unable to get down from its high horse and get those kinds of things done. We brought this very reasonable, common sense proposal before the House this morning in the hope that over the next day or a few days the Liberals will reconsider and actually support it.

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12:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the good people of the riding of Winnipeg Centre are justifiably furious over the revelations of the Gomery Commission's inquiry into the sponsorship scandal. Many of them have come to me and asked my party to do all we can to bring the government down and stop its ability to continue in the way it has. I am one of those furious individuals.

Just because our motion today is reasonable and is a compromise of position, I do not want anyone to think for one minute that there is not justifiable choleric and outrage on this side of the House over the degree of corruption and theft that took place in the sponsorship scandal and who knows where else.

When I read my remarks today in support of this reasonable compromise position, I do not want the fact to be lost that the organized theft in the sponsorship program in which the Liberals took part will go down in infamy as one of the most horrendous abuses of power in Canadian history.

Coming from the riding of Winnipeg Centre in the province of Manitoba, the sponsorship scandal, this organized theft, was not limited to Quebec. I have good reason to believe that the people of Winnipeg were ripped off in the sponsorship scandal in the 1999 Winnipeg Pan-Am Games. I feel good enough to say that both in the House and outside the House if necessary. Let me tell the House how that happened.

We were given a $2.3 million sponsorship contract through the sponsorship program but only $650,000 was delivered to the executive and organizers of the 1999 Winnipeg Pan-Am Games. The rest of the money was siphoned off as production costs by a Liberal advertising firm, the fourth largest beneficiary of all the sponsorship scandals in the Gomery inquiry. I am here to say that Winnipeg was ripped off in the sponsorship scandal as well, not just the good people of Quebec. It offended all of us right across the country.

I have said it before and I will say it again. I believe in my heart that the Liberal Party of Canada is institutionally psychopathic. It literally does not know the difference between right and wrong. It is so obsessed with keeping power at all costs that it is willing to disregard any social norms or mores or laws. In fact, it cut a swath through all things decent in order to maintain its grip on power.

I predict that when Mr. Gomery presents his second report his number one recommendation will be that the Liberal Party of Canada be disbanded out of disgrace. Just as the airborne regiment was disbanded after Somalia, the same thing will happen to the Liberal Party of Canada. We will kick them out of power first, I believe.

Some people are too thick-headed to be embarrassed. There is saying that some people cannot be embarrassed. We see the arrogance perpetuated even in the midst of this maelstrom where any person who is not psychopathic would have crumbled under the weight of the sheer disgrace. They would be on their knees in contrition. The Prime Minister of Canada should prostrate himself before Canadians like Jimmy Swaggart and beg their forgiveness. “Forgive me Lord for I have sinned”, is the kind of reaction we would expect from the Liberals, but all we see is arrogance, smugness and cockiness.

What the Liberals have said is that they know the Liberal Party stole from Canadians so they will make it right by giving some of the money back. That was their first tenuous position. Their second position was their admission that the Liberal government and the Liberal Party stole from Canadians and said that the reason they needed to be re-elected was to ensure no future Liberal government would ever be able to steal from Canadians in that way again.

That is the kind of pretzel, convoluted logic we on this side of the House have been asked to accept. It is galling to any reasonable person. It offends the sensibility of any thinking Canadian to try and buy into that logic. I am one of those who has said that we should blow their heads off at the first opportunity. I am one of the hawks in our party, I suppose.

Thankfully, reason prevailed. There are more statesmanlike people in my party who held a dominant position there. They said we do not bring down a government and trigger an election out of pure anger and polarity because that is the wrong motivation. I was told we have to consider the ramifications and the implications of what we are about to do because there are worthy, worthwhile things in the pipeline.

Most of those measures were in fact generated because of pressure from the opposition parties in this minority Parliament. There were things of merit that were half-way done. The Liberal government said that it did not want to have an election now because of all these worthwhile things.

We have accommodated every consideration that the Liberals raised, every reason not to blow their heads off. We have taken that into account, and considered and proposed a reasonable compromise solution which the Liberals dismiss.

First, the government said it was unconstitutional and it could not be done. We dealt with that argument in a matter of 15 minutes or so. Then the government said it was unparliamentary and there was no precedent to call upon the Governor General at some future time. We disregarded that. There is no such argument. We have the authorities that indicate what we are proposing is completely within the purview of Parliament and completely constitutionally correct.

Now the Liberals are objecting for the sake of objecting, so that they can hang on to power for another two or three months to bribe Canadians with their own tax dollars. The government is trying to blackmail Canadians when the threat of bringing down the government becomes a reality.

This is what is really offensive and perhaps what offends me most about the whole last couple of weeks. The government went to first nations and said, “You know how you've been waiting for social justice for the last 150 years or so? You know how the Indian Act has been 130 years of social tragedy? Guess what, we're going to fix all that”. However, the government said that the NDP and the opposition parties are going to bring down the government before it can get a chance. It was finally going to address the despair and the misery that first nations deal with. It was just about to get around to that and now the big, bad NDP, the Conservatives and the Bloc are going to stop the government from solving all the social ills of first nations.

The government dispatched the PMO right across the country to contact every aboriginal leader, every first nation, Métis and Inuit leader to phone us and say, “The Liberals say if you guys bring down the government we are never going to get any social spending to solve this human tragedy that we are experiencing”.

Imagine exploiting the most underprivileged people in our society. How low does a government get to exploit human misery? My colleague says it is similar to stealing the nickels from a blind man's cup. It is disgraceful.

I want to make it clear right here and now that we did everything necessary to ensure that the first ministers meeting does in fact take place. This is what our proposal says. Those same aboriginal leaders should be calling the Liberal government and the Prime Minister, and saying, “Accept the opposition parties' reasonable proposal because that's the way we will ensure that the first ministers meeting does in fact take place”. The government is being completely disingenuous with how it spins this.

Frankly, these are the tactics that make my blood boil. I have tried to be reasonable in the eight years that I have been a member of Parliament. I have tried not to get angry about these issues. It has been an exercise in frustration to get this government to accommodate any of the reasonable positions that we bring forward.

Let us put it on the record today that it is the Liberal government that is threatening the success of the first ministers meeting, not the opposition parties. We have found a way to accommodate that and give the Canadian people a way to vent their spleen on the Liberal Party.

My final point is that there is no way on God's earth that this Liberal government should have the exclusive right to dictate the terms and conditions of its own day of reckoning. That is for the Canadian people to decide, not for a corrupt Liberal government.

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1 p.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn Conservative St. John's South, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the hon. member two questions. My first question relates to the comments made this morning by the government House leader. I am not sure whether the member heard them or not.

Basically, the government House leader was telling us about all the opportunities we have had to bring down the government if the opposition had wanted to. I wondered, while thinking back, how many times this government, especially through the government House leader, has stymied the democratic right of this House. I would appreciate the member's views on that.

My second question is, if the hon. member were a member of the governing party, would he not want to prevent an election? If there is an election, there is always the opportunity that he might lose and somebody else might win, and somebody else might see the books. I would appreciate the member's perspective on that as well.

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1 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member knows and we are well aware that in the next few days, we are going to hear the rumbling of those big 10 tonne trucks that have portable shredding machines in the back. They are going to be backing up to the PMO and the PCO, and a tonne of shredding is going to go on. It does not take a rocket scientist to read the signs that there is going to be a regime change.

On the member's first question about why the House leader said we had ample opportunities to bring down the government, in actual fact we came here committed to making this minority Parliament work. There were opportunities, but every time we came close to exercising our right as the majority of the House of Commons in opposition, the House leader for the Liberal Party would do things like make our opposition days miraculously disappear. The Liberals undermined and thwarted the democratic process at every step of the way when it became obvious that they were in trouble.

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1 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat disturbed at the level of rhetoric that is going on in this House, particularly rhetoric that goes to undermine Canadians' belief in their democratic institutions.

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1 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

If they would stop stealing money, the reputation would be a lot better.

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1 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

I really wish that my colleague from the NDP would give the courtesy to other people to speak without being interrupted. Let me get to his point when he talks about stealing money.

He used the example of stealing a nickel from a blind man. We had bingogate in British Columbia. Not one member of the New Democratic Party in this House rose at the time to say there was a problem. I did not rise at the time and brand the New Democratic Party as being criminals because I know the members of this House, and I dare say that most of them are honourable members.

The option before us is either to be bullied into supporting this motion or the opposition is going to bring the government down. That is bullying and surely the member would not condone any government using those kinds of tactics on any other group.

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1 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member from Kitchener is trying to defend the indefensible. He is trying to represent a government that has been shamed beyond any other measurement in Canadian history. If he objects to the strong language that I have used, I am only trying to represent the righteous indignation that is evident throughout the riding of Winnipeg Centre. We have been wronged. It is not the Liberal Party of Canada that is the victim here. The people of Canada are the victims here and no hollow words from the member are going to change that reality.

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1:05 p.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss the opposition motion presented by the leader of the New Democratic Party which proposes that the Prime Minister should ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament during the week of January 2, 2006, and set the date for the election for February 13, 2006.

I must admit that it is a bit disappointing that the NDP has not put forward a substantive motion for debate today. Last time around, the NDP took a constructive approach to its opposition days by putting forward issues that matter to Canadians. For example, Canadians had the benefit of a full discussion on such matters as environmental aspects of automobile emission standards, access to employment insurance, which is obviously a big concern in my riding and in other rural communities across the country, and the health risks of trans fatty acids.

Today, the NDP wants to talk about scheduling, about how to ignore constitutional convention and speed up the next general election by a mere eight weeks.

Clearly, the priorities of opposition members have changed. Today, they are more interested in procedural tactics rather than substantive issues that Canadians want this Parliament to address. Opposition parties are not interested in the process of governing. The opposition day motion today is really about manipulating the parliamentary and electoral calendar to serve what are clearly partisan interests.

The motion calls for an election to be held on February 13, 2006, despite the fact that the Prime Minister has already promised to call an election in early 2006.

The Prime Minister made that promise to Canadians last spring. We all know by now that an election will be called within 30 days of the final report and recommendations of the Gomery inquiry, which are scheduled to be tabled on February 1, 2006.

According to the Prime Minister's promise, the next election will be held in March, or early April at the latest. By then Canadians will be familiar with Justice Gomery's recommendations and will be able to benefit from a much improved legislative environment.

Nonetheless, that is not enough for the opposition. They want to hold an election in mid-February, which is 8 weeks, at the very most, before the date the Prime Minister proposed to all Canadians on national television.

An election any sooner would be held before Justice Gomery has completed his work, and therefore, before Canadians have all the answers regarding the problems with the sponsorship program and—equally important—regarding the measures that will need to be taken to prevent such a situation from happening again.

It will be incumbent upon the opposition parties to explain to Canadians why they are disrupting the work, not only of the government, but also of Parliament, in order to force a premature election in the middle of winter, thereby going against what most Canadians want. In fact, Canadians are still waiting for a good reason for all this.

The opposition parties are saying they do not have confidence in this government. Yet, they want to use opposition days to confirm their confidence for a just few more months. This flagrant contradiction highlights the purely political motivation behind today's motion.

As the government House leader indicated, some opposition members seem to believe that the notion that a government must have the confidence of the House was somehow divisible, that we could have confidence today, but tomorrow? Maybe in a few weeks they would see if they had lost confidence. The government would continue to govern, until they decided to put that loss of confidence into effect.

I said a couple of days ago that the opposition members seemed to think that confidence in government, in parliamentary terms, was like Christmas lights. We turn them on in the evening, we turn them off in the morning and then we put them away in January. Canadians will not be fooled by that simplistic analysis.

When the first minority government in 25 years was elected in 2004, the government committed to doing things differently in Parliament. Canadians expected us, as members of Parliament, to work constructively together. The record shows in many cases we have been very successful. In just 19 months we have delivered on a broad range of initiatives that will advance the interests of Canadians and continue to ensure Canada's place in the world.

For example, we passed legislation to implement the 10 year plan to strengthen health care. A federal adviser on wait times was appointed. Steps continue to be taken so we can work with the provinces to protect Canada's public health system.

We passed legislation to implement fundamental reforms to the equalization program. This balanced approach ensured that all Canadians could benefit from social services and enjoy the same quality of life, regardless of the province in which they live. These improvements mean additional resources, additional moneys being transferred to my province, the province of New Brunswick. We already have seen an improvement not only in social services, education and health care, but improvements in infrastructure as well. The government and people of New Brunswick benefit by this cooperative approach.

We passed legislation respecting civil marriage to respect the fundamental values of equality and religious freedoms as well.

We passed legislation to implement a new deal for cities and communities. This unprecedented initiative brings together the federal government, provincial governments and municipalities to ensure that the infrastructure of our communities is responsive to local needs, culturally vibrant and environmentally sustainable. Again, small rural communities in my constituency benefit from this type of initiative.

We transferred, for example, the full refund of GST paid by municipalities as simply a down payment on the new deal for cities and communities. If the government of New Brunswick would organize itself to negotiate a deal with the federal government, municipalities in my constituency and throughout New Brunswick, as well as small rural communities, would benefit from this important initiative.

We passed legislation to implement our climate change plan and meet our Kyoto commitments. In two weeks, Canada will begin hosting the conference of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Montreal to make further progress on our important climate change commitments.

To ensure Canadians have the best opportunities to flourish, we passed legislation to implement early childhood learning and child care agreements, which we have reached with many provinces.

To keep Canadians safe, we passed legislation to protect them from pornography and Internet luring.

I am proud of the record of this Parliament so far. We were able to pass a budget bill that further accelerated our priorities in public transit, in housing, in post-secondary education, in national defence and in foreign aid.

We made major changes to improve the employment insurance system, something that is very important to seasonal industries in my constituency. We removed many of the disincentives to work, which created a bizarre situation where a worker in a seasonal industry would go to work for what might be a shortened work period for reasons beyond the control of the worker. If the lobster season was not as productive that week, if the weather did not allow a certain harvest to take place, the workers were disadvantaged by a system which calculated employment insurance based on recent weeks as opposed to best weeks. We changed that in this Parliament and the government has served the needs of seasonal industries and seasonal workers very well, certainly in my constituency.

Contrary to the opposition parties, I believe there is still much work to be done. A premature election could jeopardize over 40 bills currently in the House, bills that would provide important benefits to the well-being of Canadians and to the competitiveness of Canada.

For example, Bill C-67, the unanticipated surpluses act, reflects the government's balanced approach to fiscal management by providing a proportional allocation of unanticipated surpluses to permanent tax reductions, targeted investments and debt relief. Our ability to allocate surpluses is a direct result of the sound financial stewardship of the Minister of Finance and of his predecessors.

Bill C-68, Canada's Pacific gateway act, provides the foundations for expanding our trade with the growing economies of countries like China and India and other Asian countries. This has been a priority for our government. The government of British Columbia has urged us to take action on the Pacific gateway. This is what the government is doing to ensure that the Canadian economy as a whole can prosper by the great opportunities that these markets present.

Bill C-11, the whistleblower's bill, is currently before the Senate and provides vital protection for employees who courageously come forward to blow the whistle on wrongdoing in their workplace. The bill reflects the hard work of many members of Parliament, members from Vegreville—Wainwright, Winnipeg Centre and Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. I do not think those members want Bill C-11 to die prematurely.

Bill C-37, the do not call list, is also before the Senate. It reached the Senate through the support of all parties. Jeopardizing this work for the sake of electioneering at Christmas time does not benefit Canadians.

Earlier this month the government supplementary estimates requesting from Parliament the funds needed to implement the programs that allow federal initiatives to operate. These supplementary estimates include additional investments for defence, immigration, climate change, infrastructure, public security, the health of first nations and federal-provincial partnerships.

For example, the estimates include $15 million to implement the veterans' charter; $36.4 million to alleviate and prevent homelessness; over $230 million for investments in first nations communities and first nations peoples; $102.9 million to mitigate the impact of BSE; $34 million to aid the softwood lumber industry; $74 million for the agricultural policy framework; and, $1.1 billion to enhance Canada's national defence.

This is only a sampling of the productive agenda the government has for the next few months and the government continues to move forward this fall to deliver on our commitments.

Next week we will have, for example, a first ministers meeting with aboriginal leaders in British Columbia to address the challenges faced by our first nations. First nations leaders have stressed how important this meeting is for their communities. It would be the responsibility of opposition parties to justify jeopardizing the results of that meeting with a premature election.

Later this month the Minister of Justice will unveil a package targeted at gun crime, which we all know is an important challenge for our cities and for the safety of our communities. This Monday the Minister of Finance presented his fall economic and fiscal update, which proposes significant tax reductions for Canadians and a prosperity plan for Canada's future.

Over the next five years more than $30 billion in tax relief is proposed and over 95% of that would be delivered through personal tax reductions. In addition, significant investments are proposed to create access to post-secondary education and encourage lifelong learning so Canadians can continue to be competitive workers in the global marketplace. Combined with investments and research, innovation and social capital, the economic update sets the stage for accelerated growth and prosperity for the nation.

It is important to highlight that student associations across the country were particularly pleased with the investments in access to post-secondary education. In my constituency I am fortunate enough to have Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. The student groups there had spoken to me many times about the heavy financial burden of a post-secondary education. The measures announced by the Minister of Finance will help the students at Mount Allison University.

These measures will help students in my riding who are registered at the University of Moncton, for example. In fact, students across the country will benefit from these very important measures.

This is where the government's focus has been on governing. Canadians are tired of politicians playing partisan games. It is little wonder that cynicism about politicians is on the rise when people spend more time worrying about the timing of the next election than advancing the interest of their constituents in this Parliament.

Government members are here to represent their constituents and to work on making this Parliament successful. I have outlined the number of important initiatives that we have before us. We know there is an impending election that will follow the finance report of Justice Gomery. In the meantime Canadians expect us to roll up our sleeves and to get to work on delivering the commitments that we have all made to our electors.

The election will be at some point in early 2006. That was the Prime Minister's commitment. However, Canadians also want answers from the Gomery commission's final report before going back to the polls. That also was the Prime Minister's commitment. In the meantime, all parliamentarians should spend time working on the legislation that is before the House, that is in committee and that is in the Senate. They should be looking at many interesting private members' initiatives that are coming before Parliament.

In closing, I believe that Canadians want us to work together on what concerns them and on improving their lives and the lives of their families and fellow citizens. They hope the work we do here in Parliament will improve their quality of life. They do not want the debates to end in the partisan bickering that does little to honour this Parliament.

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, my question specifically relates to government business.

The Prime Minister referred to was Bill C-66, the energy rebate bill. He said that it would give rebates for some low income Canadians. It is a bill that we and the NDP would like to see passed, even though there are imperfections with the bill. However, the Prime Minister specifically blamed the opposition parties for the bill being unable to pass if the election were to occur eight weeks earlier.

Here are the facts. The government pulled this bill on October 19, 24 and 27 from debate in the chamber. Further, it has not put the bill at the top of the order of precedence. Yesterday, it did not put the bill forward first. We debated animal cruelty on Monday. The government knows that a majority of MPs in the House support that bill and would gladly see it pass even though it is an imperfect legislation.

How can the government continue to state to Canadians that we on the opposite side of the House are not being constructive and are not willing to pass legislation? How can it pass on the argument that seniors will not get rebates because of the opposition early election, an accusation that is clearly false?

I would like the parliamentary secretary to stand up and address that bill specifically. Why did the government pull it at least three times and two more times not subjected it to the top of the list but to second on the list? It is the government members who are not passing the bill, not the opposition parties.

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Edmonton--Leduc who highlighted one of the government bills, Bill C-66, the energy cost assistance measures act. We believe it will bring great benefit to some of the lowest income seniors and low income families across the country. It is urgently needed. That is why in a number of discussions in a meeting with the House leaders this week, we have been looking at ways to ensure that the bill is accelerated for exactly the reasons outlined by the member for Edmonton--Leduc. If parliamentarians can work together on such an important measure as providing energy relief to low income seniors and low income families, then we should do so.

However, we should not stop there. We should use the example of the willingness of parties to work together to pass that important bill and send it to the Senate. The member for Edmonton--Leduc knows if the House comes together to pass that bill, it also must pass the Senate and receive royal assent. Therefore, in his rush to the election next week, I hope the opposition members are conscious of that fact as well.

However, on this side we think that it should only be the beginning of a cooperation to pass many important legislative measures that currently sit on the order paper.

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1:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is often difficult to watch the final dying days of a heavyweight champ. The last fight is usually the saddest. We have seen pretty much every antic this morning, except that nobody has tried to bite my ear yet.

I listened to the hon. member's speech and was flabbergasted. He talked about whistleblower protection, yet that government persecuted Health Canada officials out of their jobs. He talked about EI reforms, yet two-thirds of Canadians can no longer access it, thanks to his government. Then he talked about protecting children from sexual predators, but the government does not have the moral backbone to stand up with other members of Parliament and raise the age of consent to 16. The Liberals refuse to do that.

I will speak, however, about his continual talk about the Liberals' support for rural Canada. In a year when we have seen the largest decline in farm income in recorded history, when we have seen despair from one end of the country to other, we see government members stand and talk about rural Canada, and they could not even spell agriculture in their little election bag of goodies that the finance minister brought out.

Let us for one second put aside the CAIS program which the Liberals use as a fig leaf of credibility with rural Canadians, a program that has been absolutely discredited from one end of rural Canada to the other. I would like the member to explain to us why his government chose to ignore farming, agriculture and rural Canada in its little election bag of goodies that the Liberals just announced.

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Timmins—James Bay perhaps did not understand. When I described what is pending in the government's supplementary estimates, a supply vote that would take place perhaps on December 8, I mentioned that there was $102.9 million to mitigate the impacts of BSE, $34 million to aid softwood lumber, and $74.7 million for the agricultural policy framework.

That is why I was very surprised when the Liberal House leader asked the opposition House leaders, and the NDP House leader was there, if in the spirit of cooperation, as we discussed passing the energy cost relief bill, we would want to pass the supplementary estimates quickly, which provide exactly this kind of needed relief for Canada's farmers and producers and we were faced with silence.

In fact, there is no willingness on the part of the opposition House leaders to pass the supplementary estimates, which will increase help to Canada's farmers. I hope he can convince the NDP House leader to change her mind.