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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

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Tony Valeri Liberal Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said to the hon. member when he in fact wrote me a letter--and I did not write him back but I merely responded to his letter with my own handwriting--the opposition days were as I indicated back in October. On October 4, in fact, I laid out an entire agenda right through to December 15, which had all of the opposition days laid out.

We are certainly going to commit to that and stick with that commitment. We require seven opposition days to be allotted in order to achieve supply. Our intention is to achieve supply.

With respect to prorogation, the only people talking about it are the Conservatives and the NDP and now the Bloc, I guess. Prorogation is not something that we have under consideration, nor are we discussing it.

Ways and MeansOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1) I wish to table a notice of a ways and means motion to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, and I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

Pursuant to Standing Order 83(1) I wish to table a notice of a ways and means motion to amend the Income Tax Act, as well as explanatory notes. I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

Also pursuant to Standing Order 83(1) I wish to table a notice of a ways and means motion to amend the Excise Tax Act. I am also tabling legislative proposals, draft regulations and explanatory notes on the same subject. Again I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

PrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on November 3, 2005, by the hon. member for Edmonton--Strathcona concerning comments made by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration during a meeting of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration and in a newspaper article.

I would like to thank the hon. member for raising this matter as well as the hon. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration for responding. I also appreciate the contributions made to the discussion by the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, the hon. member for Niagara Falls and the hon. member for Vegreville—Wainwright.

Let me summarize briefly the events leading up to this question of privilege. The minister had been invited to appear before the standing committee on November 1 to discuss the Department of Citizenship and Immigration's supplementary estimates. The hon. member for Edmonton--Strathcona claimed that at the meeting the minister treated the opposition committee members with contempt by refusing to give clear and concise answers to the questions asked. The department's supplementary estimates were subsequently defeated by the committee.

The following day, the minister met with members of the media to discuss the defeat of the supplementary estimates and made comments which appeared in the November 3 edition of the Toronto Star .

The hon. member for Edmonton--Strathcona asserted that these statements attacked the reputation of the Conservative members on the standing committee. In addition, the hon. member learned that the minister's director of communications had sent out an e-mail to a public interest group regarding the Conservative members' role in defeating the department's supplementary estimates. The hon. member argued that the e-mail further smeared the reputation of Conservative members and was an attempt by the minister to intimidate and threaten Conservative members of Parliament.

In response, the hon. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration asserted that he had answered every question posed during the committee meeting fully and with courtesy. In addition, he acknowledged that the statements published in the newspaper article accurately reflected his views on the events surrounding the defeat of the supplementary estimates in the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

First, I wish to address quickly the issue of the minister’s statements in the committee meeting. As I have ruled on many occasions, committees are masters of their own proceedings. Any concerns that the hon. member may have about the minister’s responses to the questions posed by committee members must be raised by the hon. member in the standing committee. If the standing committee so wishes, it may report these concerns to the House.

As for statements made outside the House, I stated at the time of the question of privilege that I do not have any control over these. This is clearly stated on page 522 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice , where it is stated that it is the role of the Speaker to act as the guardian of the rights and privileges of members and to ensure that members can speak freely in the House and in committees. The Speaker's authority does not extend beyond the House, so the Speaker cannot rule on the propriety of remarks made in press releases, in television or radio interviews or in e-mails or material published on the Internet.

That said, let me assure the hon. member for Edmonton--Strathcona that the Chair takes these matters very seriously. I have looked at the remarks by the hon. minister and the e-mail sent out by the minister's director of communications and I can find no clear evidence of obstruction or interference in the exercise of the member's duties. I therefore cannot find a prima facie case of privilege.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I begin with repetition of the motion which is before the House that was put forward by the New Democratic Party leader. It states:

That, in the opinion of this House, during the week of January 2, 2006, the Prime Minister should ask her Excellency the Governor General of Canada to dissolve the 38th Parliament and to set the date for the 39th general election for Monday, February 13, 2006; and

That the Speaker transmit this resolution to Her Excellency the Governor General.

I wish to make it clear at the outset, that the preference of our party since mid-April has been that the government does not have the confidence of the House, on account of the corruption we have seen from the Liberal Party and the Liberal government of the day. I refer in particular to one passage from Justice Gomery's report in the summary wherein he said:

The LPCQ as an institution cannot escape responsibility for the misconduct of its officers and representatives. Two successive Executive Directors were directly involved in illegal campaign financing, and many of its workers accepted cash payments for their services when they should have known that such payments were in violation of the Canada Elections Act.

I will return to that report.

The corruption and illegality we have seen from the government caused the Conservative Party to lose confidence in the government some time ago. We have demanded an election since that time and we continue to do so.

The compromise motion put forward by the New Democratic Party is being supported by the majority of the members of the House, and certainly by the Conservative Party. It is a compromise motion because the government has been unable to even face up to the prospects of non-confidence motions until this time. The Liberals have carefully gerrymandered the democratic schedule of the House to avoid dealing with the reality that they do not have confidence of the House of Commons.

This takes us to the culture of entitlement, the arrogance shown by the Liberal government, a government which feels it is so entitled to its entitlements. In the face of democratic tradition and the clear fact that the Liberals do not have the confidence of any of the opposition parties in the House, they cling to power tenaciously, showing complete disrespect for the House of Commons and for the people who elected us to this chamber.

I will reflect upon where this leaves us as Canadians. I will return to the whole concept of where the government is in terms of its culture of entitlement. It has been clear, since the inception of parliamentary government going back to the Magna Carta of King John, the original Charter of the Forest in 1215, that the government of the country and of our English forefathers must have the confidence of the House of Commons. Absent the confidence of the House of Commons, there is no right to govern and the government is illegitimate.

That has been the case in the English-Canadian tradition of Parliament since 1264. It has certainly been the case in Canada since 1841, when in the riding that the Speaker himself represents, Kingston, the first united Parliament of Upper and Lower Canada met. Since then, there has never been a government that has shown the degree of contempt for Parliament that the current government has.

From time to time people mention that Canada is a young country, and perhaps it is. However, we are an ancient parliamentary democracy. The first legislative assembly was established in our country in 1758, some 227 years ago. Since that time, we have had a balance in the country where there has been respect for Parliament and for the legislative assemblies of Canada. Only that Liberal government has abrogated that respect with the degree of contempt that we have seen by the Liberals.

Frankly, this matter did not have to reach the House of Commons and get to this extent. The compromise motion could have been resolved outside of any confidence motion. It could have been resolved simply through an agreement on the part of the Prime Minister, acting in concert with the leaders of the opposition parties. The leaders of the opposition parties have offered a compromise and have made it clear that the government does not have the confidence of the House of Commons and accordingly an election should be called, and they have put forward a suitable date.

Quite apart from the confidence convention to which I will speak, it would have been very easy for the Prime Minister to have agreed to that resolution. It would have been very easy for the Prime Minister to have avoided a Christmas election. The only reason this is before the House is because the Liberal government is disrespectful of everyone else in this chamber and disrespectful of the Canadians who have sent us here. The Liberals are trying to force an election over Christmas upon the people of Canada.

Liberals have taunted and cajoled the opposition parties today saying that confidence is indivisible and if we do not have confidence in the government, vote it down and they will have an election at Christmas. On those taunts, there will come a day when they will have to face the reality of that. There will come a day very shortly when they will have to face a clear confidence motion. The Liberals will have no choice but to get out from behind their barricades, acknowledge and face up to their filth and corruption and deal with the Canadian electorate.

More than anything else I am struck by the hypocrisy of the Prime Minister and the government. This is the democratic deficit Prime Minister. This is the Prime Minister who promised to respect the House of Commons.

Let me take this House back to the throne speech of 2004. These are the words of this government:

The path to achievement begins with making sure that Canadians believe their government, so that they can believe in government....

We must re-engage citizens in Canada’s political life. And this has to begin in the place where it should mean the most--in Parliament--by making Parliament work better. That means reconnecting citizens with their Members of Parliament....

The Government of Canada is determined to return Parliament to the centre of national debate and decision making and to restore the public’s faith and trust in the integrity and good management of government. To that end, it will, as a first step, immediately table in Parliament an action plan for democratic reform.

Those are the words of the government about Parliament. It has not done any of it. The Liberals do not respect Parliament. How can one believe a government in its throne speech could offer to restore Parliament to the centre of the national democracy, yet when confronted with a clear motion from three opposition parties in the House of Commons that they do not have confidence in this government and they want to see an election, the government turns its face on that and its own throne speech? The hypocrisy, the cunning, the self-treachery of all this is unbelievable.

The throne speech further states:

Significantly enhancing the role of all MPs will make Parliament what it was intended to be--a place where Canadians can see and hear their views debated and their interests heard. In short, a place where they can have an influence on the policies that affect their lives.

This is hypocrisy. Imagine the government promising to restore this chamber to the centre of our democracy, yet refusing to accept this motion and refusing to move to an election on a schedule that has been put forward by the opposition parties, in fact by a majority of the House of Commons.

The hypocrisy that I speak of, the false piety, does not stop there. There was a message from the Prime Minister himself. There was an ethics responsibility-accountability document filed by the government with a message from the Prime Minister dated February 4, 2004. At that time this Prime Minister said:

Parliament should be the centre of national debate on policy. For this to happen, we must reconnect Parliament to Canadians...

He believed in that, until it came time for his government to invoke closure on Bill C-48. Suddenly, Parliament would no longer be connected to Canadians. There would no longer be a national debate. There would be closure and contempt for Parliament. He did not believe that when the Liberals rammed through Bill C-48, the budget bill.

The Prime Minister and the government believe in nothing more than truncating the democratic process in the House when it suits their convenience and when they can hang on to office at all costs. At the end of the day, this is all that matters to the Liberal government.

In the face of the filth and corruption of the Gomery report, which ties the Liberals directly to criminal conduct and the misuse and abuse of taxpayers dollars, they still refuse to acknowledge the democratic choice of Canadians in the House of Commons and they refuse to be accountable to Canadians at the polls.

I will carry on with the Prime Minister's letter of February 4, 2004. He states:

Democratic reform affects all parties and all Canadians. I ask the leaders of the other parties for their support in implementing this action plan so that Parliamentarians and Canadians can be reconnected to the democratic process.

The Prime Minister of Canada asked the opposition parties for their support to restore democracy in the House of Commons. Yet we have before the House today a very simple motion that reflects the wishes and the clear desires of all opposition parties in the House. We have the opposition leaders asking in return that the Prime Minister might respect the House of Commons and the silence is deafening in the House.

The low cunning of the government, the deceitfulness, the guile and the falseness of the Liberals is remarkable. They will not face Canadians because they know what they are in for when the time comes.

It was not just the Prime Minister. There was a message from the leader of the government in the House. He had this to say on February 4, 2004, “we must restore Parliamentarians' role in generating authentic, thoughtful, and constructive debate”. Except the Liberals do not want debate when it comes time to determine whether we should have an election and when that election should take place.

That letter of February 4, 2004 concluded as follows:

That is why I invite all my fellow Parliamentarians, as well as citizens from across the country, to share their ideas and inspire me with their experiences. We need to work together to ensure that democratic reform succeeds.

I, for one, am not inspired. I am not being allowed to represent the views of my constituents. Their view is that we should move forward with an election on the timetable that has been put forward by the leader of the New Democratic Party as a compromise to get this issue before Canadians.

It is very clear why we need an election. I would turn to the Gomery report and the stunning indictment that report contains of the government, the major findings of the Gomery report. Why is it that the Liberal government does not enjoy the confidence of the House of Commons? It is very clear, and it can be found by all Canadians at pages 5, 6 and 7 of the summary volume of the Gomery report.

The commission of inquiry found, first, clear evidence of political involvement in the administration of the sponsorship program.

Second, it found insufficient oversight at very senior levels of the public service, which allowed program managers to circumvent proper contracting procedures and reporting lines.

Third, it found a veil of secrecy that surrounded the administration of the sponsorship program and an absence of transparency in a contracting process.

Fourth, it found a reluctance for fear of reprisal by virtually all public servants to go against the will of a manager who was circumventing established policies and who had access to senior political officials.

Fifth, it found gross overcharging by communications agencies for hours worked and goods and services provided, inflated commissions, production costs and other expenses charged by communications agencies and their subcontractors, many of which were related businesses; the use of the sponsorship program for purposes other than national unity or federal visibility because of a lack of objectives, a lack of criteria and guidelines for the program; and, very seriously, deliberate action to avoid compliance with federal legislation and policies, including the Canada Elections Act, the Lobbyist Registration Act, the Access to Information Act, the Financial Administration Act as well as federal contracting policy and the Treasury Board transfer payments policy.

Sure to figure prominently in the coming election as well is the complex web of financial transactions within Public Works and Government Services Canada involving kickbacks and illegal contributions to a political party in the context of the sponsorship program. Sadly, that political party is the Liberal Party of Canada, the government of the day, a government that professes its faith for democratic renewal in the House of Commons and yet, in the face of findings of criminal conduct, cannot understand how it does not enjoy the confidence of the House of Commons and is prepared, through guile and treachery, to hang on as long as it possibly can before surrendering to democracy.

Justice Gomery spoke of the existence of a culture of entitlement among political officials and bureaucrats involved with the sponsorship program, including the receipt of both monetary and non-monetary benefits, and the refusal at the end of the day of senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office and public servants to acknowledge their responsibility for the problems of mismanagement that occurred. That is a stunning indictment.

The reason the corrupt, arrogant, deceitful Liberal government does not have the confidence of the House of Commons, the reason the leader of the New Democratic Party put this motion forward and the reason it enjoys the support of the majority of the House of Commons is that we do not have confidence in people who steal public money. We do not have confidence in people who are engaged in kickbacks of public money to their political party. The Liberals should not be running this country. They are not worthy of this country.The sooner we have an election so they will face the wrath of the Canadian voters the better our nation will be.

I must say, as a reasonably new parliamentarian, that what I find most disturbing about the refusal of the government to accept the democratic will of the House of Commons is that it flies in the face of our entire democratic history. It flies in the face of the rule of law. It flies in the face of the understanding that we have in this democracy. Our Constitution is not entirely confined to paper. It exists in tradition and in the respect that we have to show one another.

I will take everyone back to something that was written hundreds of years ago by Blackstone when he said:

It is highly necessary for preserving the balance of the constitution, that the executive power should be a branch, though not the whole, of the legislature.

He further stated at page 150:

--this very executive power is again checked, and kept within due bounds by the two houses, through the privilege...

What I am getting at is that what we see from the Liberal government is a focus upon narrow legalism and upon a strict interpretation of what is or is not a confidence motion. We see none of the respect that we need to have a system of democracy that is functioning and flourishing.

The executive branch cannot treat the House of Commons with the degree of contempt, guile and treachery that we have seen from the Liberal government since the day that I took office in this chamber as a member of Parliament. It has to stop and it will stop when we get the government to recognize that it does not have the confidence of the House of Commons and we need to go to the polls where Canadian citizens, one by one, will have a chance to throw the filth and corruption of Liberal treachery out of office.

SupplyGovernment Orders

November 17th, 2005 / 3:35 p.m.

Liberal

David Anderson Liberal Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with considerable interest to the hon. member speak about the importance of democratic processes. He quoted Blackstone, the Constitution and the balance between legislative and executive branches, all of which are excellent. I also heard him refer frequently to other democratic principles but there is a fundamental democratic principle that he seems to have forgotten, and that is that we in the House follow rules. We have procedures and ways of going about it.

He talked time after time about the need to defeat the government. I disagree with him but, nevertheless, it is absolutely his right to bring such views forward. He then said that it was this government that was having trouble maintaining consistency. The fact is that his own party, month after month after month, since the tied vote in the House broken by the chair, has been saying that the government should immediately be defeated. That is fair enough, an official opposition is expected to do that, but what he cannot square in logic or in democratic principle is accepting a motion from the NDP that flies in the face of both, a motion that says it has lost confidence in the government but not yet. It is sort of like saying, oh yes, yes, yes, that it wishes to be in a certain state but, oh no, we cannot go there yet.

The member knows full well that the House of Commons and every other similar legislative body depends upon some fairly clear rules. The clear rule is that if there is to be a confidence vote, as there was last May, as the Tories can put forward or could have put forward at other times, then the House votes on it. If the government were to lose the vote there would then be an election because the government would resign. However this type of situation creates a forward looking system that is totally novel. They have not been able to give a single example anywhere in the British constitutional system of any other country which has had such a motion. They come forward with this concocted rubbish and say that if we do not follow it, it is undemocratic because three parties in the House believe we should follow it. I say that democracy is democracy and it means following rules. It is not simply the will of a majority.

Why has he reversed himself? Why has he turned himself into a pretzel as he tries to accept this motion instead of accepting the clear and constitutional position which the Conservative Party, up until recently, actually held?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, a pretzel I am not. The motion calls for and confirms the opinion of the House. My friend says that it should be defeated by reason of its novelty. I would disagree with that. It is clearly a compromise motion that brings forward the majority opinion of the House that the government does not have confidence and it specifies an election date that is in the best interest of our community. Nothing could more rational than that.

My friend acknowledged the importance of Blackstone who is one of the great parliamentary legal scholars. The part to which I am about to refer was written some 231 years ago, shortly before the establishment of the very first democracy in British North America in 1758 in Nova Scotia. I think the logic of what was said at that time applies to this very day because what we are talking about here is not legality. We are not talking about detailed rules and procedures. We are talking about the concept of respect among the different orders of government, the executive branch and the legislative branch. We are talking about the constitutional traditions that keep our government system strong which are being abrogated as we speak by a government that does not have the confidence of the House.

Blackstone stated:

Thus every branch of our civil policy supports and is supported, regulates and is regulated, by the rest; for the two houses naturally drawing in two directions of opposite interest, and the prerogative in another still different from them both, they mutually keep each other from exceeding their proper limits--

--which is what the government is doing, exceeding its proper limits.

--while the whole is prevented from separation, and artificially connected together by the mixed nature of the crown, which is a part of the legislative, and the sole executive magistrate. Like three distinct powers in mechanics, they jointly impel the machine of government in a direction different from what either, acting by themselves, would have done; but at the same time in a direction partaking of each, and formed out of all; a direction which constitutes the true line of the liberty and happiness of the community.

Some of that language is difficult to understand but at the end of the day the language speaks to the fact that the liberty and happiness of our system of government only works if there is respect by the executive branch for this Parliament, and that is what we do not see from the Liberals.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, a number of negotiations and discussions have been going on around this place but there seems to be a certain amount of hostage taking going on by the Liberal Party over a number of important issues. Our party certainly knows that the abhorrent conditions many first nations have had to live through has been a disgrace and a blight on this country's reputation for far too long.

Our member from Timmins fought extremely hard to draw attention to the plight of the people of Kashechewan that was long overdue. The government finally brought some measure to bear on the quality of life and I despair to even call it quality of life that these people had to endure.

The government is now saying that the compromise that the NDP has put forward would delay the important summit taking place in Kelowna, British Columbia with first nations' leaders until after the election. The government is holding this meeting out and the potential for finally changing something as being suddenly important after 12 years. The Liberals have had yet another deathbed conversion that this is an important meeting. The government was meant to have this meeting six months ago and instead placed it in a very precarious political time. This was the government's choice and no one else's choice.

The government has now said that this meeting is so important that all of the procedures and options being put forward in the House are putting it in jeopardy. The government has ignored the fact that the compromise the NDP has put forward, supported by all opposition parties, would step across this meeting and place the interests and the attention of a federal election into January and February. It would allow the government and all interested parties to work together to finally, after more than a decade of neglect, improve the quality of life for first nations in our country. Would the member please comment on that?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge the commitment the hon. member has shown to aboriginal issues, along with several other members of his party. It perhaps is an area where there is some commonality of interest in this House among everyone other than the government.

The hon. member is right. A very important first ministers meeting has been scheduled for the end of this month to address what I consider to be the most difficult social justice issue facing our nation and that is the question of aboriginal poverty. However there is unanimity among all the opposition parties for that meeting to proceed. Nothing in this resolution that has been put forward would, in any way, imperil the first ministers meeting. I intend to be at that meeting and I know the leader of the NDP intends to be there. Members on both sides of the House will be there. There is no reason for that meeting not to proceed nor is there a reason for it not to be productive. Aboriginal Canadians have waited a generation for this meeting.

As my hon. friend says, for the government to hold aboriginal Canadians, who have lived in poverty for the entire duration of the Liberal government, which is almost 13 years at this point, hostage and suggest that it will not be able to proceed with this meeting because of this resolution is absolute nonsense.

It is beneath contempt for the government to be suggesting that is the reason this motion should not be proceeded with and that Canadians should not have a chance to elect a new government.

The election of a new Conservative government will spell for aboriginal Canadians, for the first time in a generation, the first time in the lives of many young aboriginal people, a government that will deal with them honestly. It will be a Conservative government based on its history of conservatism, a Conservative Party that granted the vote to aboriginal Canadians and a Conservative Party that has defined modern aboriginal policy. Aboriginal people will be treated with respect, with dignity and with honesty. For aboriginal Canadians that will be a new experience.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

I am very pleased to speak to this motion. I have to say that a couple of years ago I did not think I would be speaking to a motion like this one. I acknowledge that the NDP has put forward a rather unusual motion today, but also let it be said that these are very unusual times in which we find ourselves. We are in a minority Parliament and a very strange and rather unique situation in terms of what is going on. I would like to focus my comments on why I think this motion is so important at this particular time.

The motion is very straightforward. It calls on the House to give an opinion that the Prime Minister should ask the Governor General to dissolve the 38th Parliament and set a general election date for February 16, 2006. That is pretty straightforward.

However, while listening to the debate today I heard the government House leader hide behind rules and claim that there were constitutional problems with this motion. He said that it was an attempt to change long-standing practices, that it was about playing political games, that it did not fit the constitutional requirements of Parliament, and so on. I then heard the member for Victoria a little while ago say that it was a delayed confidence motion.

In actual fact, this motion is none of those things. It is not a confidence motion. It is a motion which seeks to break an impasse in an environment that has been created in the House where the priorities of Canadians are not being met. In listening to the debate today and the member for Toronto—Danforth, the leader of the NDP, speak to this motion, I felt very proud that the NDP put forward this compromise suggestion.

Let us face it. What is the reality? The Conservatives have been very clear that their preference for a number of months, since the spring, has been to force an election. The NDP was not in that position. We were of a different perspective. Members of the NDP felt very strongly that we wanted to do everything we could to make this minority Parliament work. That is why we set about our work very diligently. We kept in focus the priorities and needs of Canadians and made that our purpose for being here.

We accomplished a hell of a lot of things in the House, such as Bill C-48, the NDP budget. We got the Liberals to do things in that budget that they otherwise would never have done. We got them to put money into housing, infrastructure and the retrofit of low income Canadians' homes. We got them to move on their commitments to foreign aid. It was a significant accomplishment. We went about our work with purpose and diligence because we knew why we were here.

We were also very clear that this Parliament had to function. It is clear that the Liberal Party itself created the crisis of corruption. Nobody else created it but the Liberals through the way they have conducted themselves, as Justice Gomery has pointed out, in a culture of entitlement for so many years. When that crisis happened, it became very clear that either there was going to be due diligence in making this Parliament work and we would move forward, or things were going to come to an end.

As is well known, the NDP made a second attempt to put forward some very significant proposals to stop the privatization of health care. This is something that deeply concerns people in this country. It has been brewing for years, again a problem that has been manufactured by the very same Liberal government that is now the subject of so much corruption. It too created the problem of privatization by not enforcing the Canada Health Act. The Liberals allowed the provinces to allow privatization to go ahead.

It was the NDP that took up that issue and gave some proposals to the Minister of Health to stop the privatization of our health care system. We want to maintain medicare and accessibility for all Canadians and to ensure that there is not a two tier system wherein people who have money somehow jump to the front of the line and get through the door first.

Regrettably, the Liberal government chose not to deal with those proposals. It basically said that maybe in 10 years it would be willing to look at ways to ensure that public funds only stayed with a public system after it dealt with the $41 billion. That is like saying there is a crisis now, but maybe we will think about it in 10 years' time. That was completely unsatisfactory in terms of any resolution to the crisis in our public health care system. We had many discussions in our caucus. We felt that the response from the Liberal government on that score was completely unacceptable to us.

We are now faced with a situation where the government has come to the end of its credibility. That has been there for a long time, but it has come to the end of its ability to be productive on anything. This Parliament has become a very fractious place. Even so, the leader of the NDP offered a compromise, a common sense approach that would ensure that the criteria the government has laid out in terms of continuing business to the end of the session before Christmas could happen.

We have devised a proposal as embodied in this motion that would allow an election to be held without conflicting with the very special time people need with their families and their local communities over the Christmas period. We have devised a proposal that would allow this House to keep working and to pass legislation. In fact, not only would that happen, it would happen because the three opposition parties agreed to compromise and brought that forward.

That is why we are here today with this motion. I would say categorically it is not a confidence motion. It is a proposal to meet the needs of Canadians to ensure that we have an election at a time that is better for Canadians and in a way that would allow this House to continue doing its business. It would also ensure that the first ministers conference, the aboriginal conference, went ahead and was not interrupted or somehow impeded.

That has been very carefully and thoughtfully laid out. I have to say it may not be surprising but it is very disappointing to see the response from the Liberal members in this House today. Basically, without care or without thought, they are rejecting this and are covering themselves in very technical terms.

I heard the government House leader say earlier today that this motion was about tearing down the House. I thought that was so absurd. This motion is actually the direct opposite of that. This motion is about trying to do things in an orderly way to preserve Parliament in order to deal with its business in the coming weeks. This would include dealing with the estimates that would come up on December 8, ensuring that an election was not held over the Christmas period and ensuring that people did indeed have the second Gomery report, which is a very critical factor for people in terms of determining what they would do in that election.

All those tests have been met. Every issue the Liberals brought forward as an excuse as to why they could not have an election has been answered as a result of this motion and the proposals from the three opposition parties.

Having said that, and having now heard Liberal members one after the other tell us why they just cannot accept this, we can come to no other conclusion but that they are desperate to play this out and to move through the Christmas period and get into a period where they can go around in a freeloading, free expense pre-election campaign with no accountability present in this House. That is really what this choice is about.

I would defend this motion by saying it is a principled motion with integrity to do the right thing.

The government is choosing a course of action that only benefits its own political agenda. It is about the Liberals manipulating the political agenda to get themselves into the spring when they think they can be in a better situation to go into an election.

It is not a surprise to us that they would take that kind of route. That is what we have come to expect in terms of how the Liberals have done business over the past dozen years. In fact, it is the very reason we are in this incredible environment of dealing with corruption in Canadian politics and in the Liberal Party. It is because of the way they operate.

We have this motion before us today. The Prime Minister has a choice to make. He can accept this compromise and work with the other parties in the House to do something that is reasonable for Canadians, or the Liberals can be hell bent on their own partisan agenda to engineer it as they want to engineer it, but everybody can see that and everybody can see exactly what is taking place.

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3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Exploits, NL

Mr. Speaker, I must admit I wholeheartedly agree with the beginning of the member's speech when she stated that this is a very unusual motion. Indeed, it is very unusual. Unfortunately, the whole thing went downhill from there.

A case in point, the member illustrated her point by saying that the government likes to make commitments toward health care, but later on finally takes some action. What exactly is the motion? It says that the NDP does not have any confidence in government so it should be dissolved, but not now, later. Once again, the logic is absolutely absent. I have always thought of the New Democratic Party as being completely divorced from logic and now that has been proven quite clearly.

My question pertains to another comment the hon. member made. She referred to the second Gomery report, for which she is waiting. The Prime Minister committed to calling the election within 30 days of the Gomery report. Why does she not just wait? She should follow her own advice and do that for the spring election.

This particular motion is absolutely devoid of any logic and is not clear at all.

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3:55 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the member would read the motion, it is very straightforward and very logical.

The motion does not include the word “confidence”. It is not a confidence motion. It simply sets out a date for an election to be called that is based on the situation we are in, to ensure that legislation can be approved and that we do not have a Christmas election.

I would say to the hon. member, no one in their right mind would agree that somehow the Liberals can just keep spinning it out and go out on a pre-election campaign at public expense when the House is not even sitting. There would be no accountability, no question period and no legislation in that period. Why on earth should one party be entitled to do that given this situation?

I would say to the hon. member that yes, the second Gomery report is very important. Based on the timing laid out in this motion, Canadians will have that report. They will be able to make up their own minds. Maybe that is what the Liberals are afraid of. They want to have all of the spinoffs and to manage what they want to say before they get into a campaign. We say let Canadians have that report and let us have an election, then people can make up their own minds.

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4 p.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Gagnon Bloc Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, I come from a sparsely populated and beautiful region of which I am extremely proud. One day, I decided to settle there, to try to improve its economy and contribute to that region. However, this beautiful region is grappling with serious economic problems, due to the softwood lumber dispute, in particular, but also agricultural problems and cull cows, not to mention plant closures.

This government has a number of means at its disposal, but over the past three years, no measures proved effective or at least were taken, particularly to resolve the softwood lumber crisis.

When people pay 50% of their income taxes to Ottawa, they have the right to expect that the government will assume its responsibilities. However, over the past year, they have witnessed one of the worst scandals in Canadian history.

When I take part in activities or meetings, and when I talk to people on the street, I realize that they are disgusted with what is happening here. They believe that this government should no longer be in power, because it no longer has the moral authority to govern.

I want my colleague to tell me what people in her part of the country are feeling with regard to this scandal. How is this party, whose motion we are supporting today, justified in asking the government to call an election? In my opinion, the NDP's offer is a way out for this government. Why not seize this opportunity?

I want to know what the people in her riding think about the sponsorship scandal.

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4 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with the hon. member that there are many issues. He mentioned softwood lumber which has had a devastating impact on local communities. I am from British Columbia and many of my local communities have been impacted by this issue. People are unemployed as a result of the crisis and as a result of inaction by the government, and the inability of the Prime Minister to stand up to George W. Bush on the softwood lumber tariffs.

I would agree that these issues have absolutely not been resolved by this Liberal government and Liberals will be held to account for this.

In terms of the timing of the election, I would reiterate that the motion put forward by the leader of the NDP was agreed to by that member's leader and the Conservative Party leader. It was an effort to show cooperation and compromise. The timing of the election would allow people to make a choice in terms of looking at the Gomery report. It was also an effort to ensure that an election would not be held over the Christmas period which most of our constituents have told us they do not want to see.

From that point of view, the motion provides the kind of compromise that meets the Bloc member's concerns and also the concerns of other members of the House. It ensures that the timing of the election would not disrupt the Christmas period.

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4 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, the member for Vancouver East, who brings to bear a sensibility and sense of compromise to this debate and in her work as our House leader.

I would like to bring us back in time for a moment and recall the context from which the current Prime Minister spoke from the hustings in the last federal election, in a moment of what I would suggest was sheer desperation as he watched his numbers slide and the potential for losing his majority government which he craved for so long.

In these desperate days of June, the Prime Minister said the Liberal Party shared the same values as the New Democratic Party of Canada. He said that we drew from the same well. How far from the truth has the government proven itself? How far from that statement has the government proven itself?

If we recall the very first days of Parliament, games were being played with even the throne speech as to whether the House would fall. The New Democrats stepped forward and said that we would not play these games. We wanted this place to function. We wanted Parliament to work for Canadians.

I will remind the Liberal members present and those watching, and those who may have made the misfortune of voting Liberal in the last election, of the values that New Democrats hold which are not shared by the government. This has been proven through the last year and a half or so. We value public health care in this country. It was through the hard work of Tommy Douglas when people believed it to be an impossibility. It was the origins of the New Democratic Party that said this is something we must build for a sense of justice in this country.

We built the public health care system through a minority Parliament. We sustained, to the best of our ability, the public health care system. When we brought forward very clear and succinct proposals to the Liberal government to curb the privatization of health care and shorten wait times, that is increasing in this country, we received an answer that said this was very interesting. We were told that we will see about it maybe 10 years from now, once the current spending has gone through. That is unbelievable. That is not sharing the values of what New Democrats hold dear.

When it comes to the environment, I have the fortune to be the environment critic for my party. I have watched over this period in the House of Commons the rhetoric of wanting to protect the environment and to encourage sound environmental policies. The government brought forward a grand and incredible total of two environment bills: one of them a housekeeping bill and the other one of some moderate substance taken from various compositions of opposition bills from previous years.

That is the ambition that the government holds toward the environment. When it comes to climate change and Kyoto, the money set aside was almost $4 billion and just barely $1 billion of it has been spent.

We should all take a moment and thank all of our lucky stars for the Auditor General whose persistence and diligence brought forward by an inquiring press and the sheer ability to finally have a little freedom of information and access to information exposed the entire sponsorship scandal. It brought to the light of day what many of us suspected and what some I would suggest on the Liberal benches knew in their hearts was a sense of entitlement and corruption that had been going on within the party for so long that it precipitated the last federal election and indeed is with us still today.

When the Prime Minister rose in the House to answer the question from our member for Ottawa Centre about cases of entitlement that have gone on since that time in this new Parliament at the behest and will of the Prime Minister, many of us quietly hoped that the Prime Minister would show some resolve and humility after such an indictment by Judge Gomery, the Auditor General and many within the party, to come forward and say that the cases of David Dingwall and the cases of blatant patronage will stop. We would end this. We released the seven point ethics package. The government has ignored it. It has continued on in this light of entitlement.

When we brought forward our health care proposals, when we brought forward a sound Kyoto plan with timelines and targets to address the growing concern of climate change with real numbers and real targets, the government dismissed it. Instead, it brought forward what can at best be called a discussion paper about the environment, a discussion paper about climate change, giving no sense of urgency to the file and that business as usual will continue. This is the legacy that the government will leave behind as it leaves office.

Another value that we, New Democrats, hold very dear to our hearts is standing up for Canadians, standing up for our sovereignty and sense of unity, and standing up when we deal with our international trading partners when it comes to issues like water diversion and softwood lumber.

It was with great chagrin and sadness, when our international trade minister was in Vancouver some weeks ago, that I learned there would be at least two more years in the softwood lumber dispute and potentially more. What plan for action is there? We have lost over $5 billion over a number of years and this has being going on for more than a decade.

This is a dispute that is hurting communities across this country. It is shutting down mills. It is emptying the life, blood and soul of our communities. The government comes forward and says they are just going to have to hold on a couple more years because it does not have an answer. It does not have a willingness to do what it takes to end the dispute. It claims victory after victory and continually the lawyers that we hire become wealthier and wealthier.

One last value that we hold, although there are many more and the list is exhaustive, is the value of democracy, the sense that the representatives of this place, who are elected in a free and democratic society, can come forward to this place and cast a decision that is both legal and makes common sense.

The motion before us, put forward by the leader of the New Democrats, does exactly that. It proposes to avoid the holiday season. It would allow families to be together. It would allow the Canadian public to focus on things that are important, a time of reflection, and for rejoicing and being together. Thereafter, at the ballot boxes, they can deal with the sense of entitlement and corruption of this government.

I know that secretly many members, even in the government's own backbenches, think this is a reasonable compromise. Yet, the government will ignore the will of this House, not for the first time but for the fifth time in the brief history of this minority Parliament.

There is virtually nothing consistent with the values that the Liberal government has shown and the values that we, New Democrats, hold dear to our hearts. The Prime Minister claims to have drawn upon the mutual well between the Liberals and New Democrats. The well of the Liberals is contaminated. It is not a well that I would draw sustenance from. There must be a boil water advisory which Canadians should listen to when they head to the ballot boxes, whenever that happens, because this is not a well of values and morality that anyone would want to hold dear. Canadians do not hold dear the sense of entitlement or culture of corruption. That is not the Canadian value system. It is certainly not a value of the New Democratic Party system. Those are not our values.

I come from northwestern British Columbia. We have a common sense approach to issues. We have many issues presented to us that have very strong and divergent opinions. I will point to a number of them. Yet, even in a place of great diversity where the opinions can stray from one end of the spectrum to the other, we have found in a number of cases the will and desire to form a consensus, that common sense must prevail and we are willing to compromise.

A fascinating example, which the Liberal government has promoted for quite a while and which for the life of me is beyond explanation, is opening up salmon farming in our communities. Time and time again the communities have said they are not interested and that they do not want these things. The Liberal government, through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, is both the supposed protector of wild salmon and also the promoter of farm salmon, which has brought up a number of contentious issues.

On this issue, in our riding of Skeena--Bulkley Valley in the northwest of British Columbia, commercial and sport fishermen and women, first nations and the public have unified around this issue. People who would very rarely sit together at a table and be willing to compromise have shown a compromise to say they will stand against the will of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the government in its misled promotion of such a dangerous activity.

This culture of entitlement must end. We must have a moment to decide upon this. We have brought forward and negotiated a compromise with the other opposition parties, an option that would allow important things to take place, important legislation and bills to be carried forward through the holiday season. Then, it would allow Canadians to pass judgment on that culture of entitlement and to no longer believe in the blurred morality that the government shows time and time again when it comes to its friends and supporters. It would allow Canadians to pass judgment in a time of the House's choosing, all in the full sense of what it is to be a democratic nation.

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4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the arguments of the members opposite as to why we should go to an election. I want to be very clear that we on this side wish to carry on the business of government. We have no intention of calling a Christmas election. Canadians do not want a Christmas election.

In fact, prominent Canadians such as Elizabeth May, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada, spoke about the proposed timing of the opposition parties' timetable to bring down the government. She says that it poses a serious threat to the success of global climate negotiations.

Buzz Hargrove, President of the Canadian Auto Workers union states that we should try to make the government work, that there is just too much to be done to force an election. Even other prominent Canadians such as Phil Fontaine of the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations has grave concerns about the opposition motion.

Let us be clear. What is at issue here, more than anything else, is either we have respect for the parliamentary procedures of the House or we do not. It is very clear how we can have an election in the country. The Prime Minister can go to the Governor General and dissolve Parliament or the House can lose confidence in the government, thereby forcing an election. Those are the only provisions available to us by the Standing Orders. We have to fundamentally respect that process.

In a joint declaration, all three party leaders, including the leader of the NDP, stated that only the final vote on the Speech from the Throne, the final vote on the budget, the global votes on the main estimates and those explicitly identified as questions of confidence could be considered as such. That was the argument then and it was a valid argument. It still should be a value argument today.

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4:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, that already has been tried today when the motion was first introduced in the House. The Liberals tried to move away from the democratic right of Parliament to do exactly what we are doing today, which is debating this very legal and lawful motion. There was a point of order brought forward, various were arguments made and since defeated. Respect for parliamentary procedures is exactly what we are doing.

When it comes to the environment, it is laudable that my hon. colleague has quoted various people who have made comments in the press. It is incredible that Canadians have watched their smog days double. We have watched the pollution rise dramatically over the last 12 years. It is incredible that there is any suggestion that the government, in its deathbed conversions, has any serious intent when it comes to issues such as the environment and first nations. It has had such an incredibly long period of time. Laments are being heard across the land for such false and empty arguments. They simply cannot be tolerated any more by the people of Canada.

In terms of a Christmas election, this is exactly to what the motion speaks. It says let us avoid the holiday season, let us use common sense and a compromise and arrive at that. It is only blustering and arrogance that will not allow the Prime Minister and the government to realize that fact.

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4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have enjoyed listening to the debate today and to some of the specious arguments at best that I have heard from the government as to why we should not go forward with this common sense compromise idea.

Many of them centre around the seniors will not get their raise in January and the infrastructure money will not flow to cities. If my memory serves me, those were all passed in Bill C-43, the budget bill last spring, and there is a problem with delivery. Those guys are great at promising all these programs. We voted them through, being good governance. We worked together. We compromised. We worked on those programs and put them out there for people. However, the Liberals have not delivered them yet. Now they are saying that they are going to withhold them if there is an election. That is ridiculous.

We hear things such as the estimates process will be in jeopardy. That is the supplementary (A) estimates. There are generally supplementary (B) estimates that come in March as well for as much money as the (A) estimates. Those would be in jeopardy under the Prime Minister's game plan for an election.

There are many different arguments that are specious and not founded in any kind of reality. We saw a budget introduced under a ways and means motion. That is a novel way to do things. This is a novel motion and deserves some serious consideration.

We are hearing rumblings that there may be even a tremendous amount of cash for farmers who will go wanting if this election is called. Farmers are not fooled by that. They already realize they have had announcement after announcement for the last 12 years under the Liberals which have never been delivered.

The argument I would put forward is that the motion deserves some serious consideration. The opposition parties have come together to put this motion forward, and I would like--

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4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Skeena--Bulkley Valley.

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4:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, those were excellent comments and an excellent question. People must remember when the Prime Minister went on television and asked for forgiveness and time. He promised to call an election. The first part of his promise would have placed us directly in the time zone we are declaring right now. Justice Gomery said that he would release his second report on December 1. It is undeniable. The Prime Minister has chosen the second part of his promise.

Two months ago the Auditor General's Office said that the government had an incredible addiction to announcements. It loves to make announcements. If it were possible, it would announce the same things six or seven times. She said that before the confetti hit the floor, the Liberals would move on to the next topic. They were not delivering on their announcements.

After 12 years Canadians know better than this blackmail and hostage-taking. It is disrespectful to every constituency.

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4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak to the motion put forward by the NDP.

Last year, I sought election as the Liberal. I have attempted, since elected last year, to conduct myself in a way that, first and foremost, honours my constituents and helps them with their issues as much as possible, to the best of my ability. I have also tried to do what I think is in the best interests of the country.

I was elected in June last year and came to Ottawa with great expectations of accomplishing things, working with colleagues from all sides of the House.

I often get asked questions like, “What's it like as to be an MP in Ottawa?” I tell people that when I first came here I was struck by the level of collegiality that existed. Members of all sides seem to get along. Sometimes we get things done in committee and even in the House, until the lights and the cameras are turned on in the House of Commons or the spectre of an election appeared. Then all of a sudden, we conduct ourselves in a way that most in Canada find juvenile. Far too often, the business of the nation is replaced with the business of division and partisanship, where real debate is replaced with parliamentary gamesmanship and political posturing. Clearly, that is where we are today.

I am not a constitutional scholar, and I would not claim to be, nor am I a parliamentary expert. I am, however, somebody who believes that Canadians expect us to do work on their behalf and for the betterment of the country. They expect us to work while we are here.

The motion that we are discussing, even the opposition parties agree, is not a matter of confidence. The motion contains three elements meant to confuse Canadians: first, that the Prime Minister should ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament during the week of January 2, 2006; second, that the Prime Minister should ask the Governor General to set February 13, 2006, as the date of the next election; and last, that the Speaker transmit this resolution to the Governor General.

The opposition parties have characterized today's motion as a common sense compromise. In my view, the motion is senseless and is certainly not a compromise.

We already have an unprecedented compromise, unprecedented in Canadian history, when the Prime Minister of Canada has given up one of the great advantages of power: the opportunity to call an election when he sees fit. He indicated some six or seven months ago when we would have this election, and he has stuck to that ever since that point in time. Today, we have this motion.

Who is attempting to benefit from the motion put forward by the NDP? It will not be the NDP, a party that seems to be confusing its own interests with that of Canadians. Clearly, it would be the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois members who feel they have the most to gain and who have been able to use the NDP for their objectives. They always have wanted an election. Sadly, the NDP has fallen for this tactic. The NDP has become logistical cover for the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois.

In addition to the bizarre nature of today's motion, I have difficulty understanding the approach the opposition are taking in general. On the one hand, they have said that the government has lost the moral authority to govern. If that is the case, why have they not put forward a motion of straight non-confidence today? Instead, they propose a motion that any first year political science student would understand is not the way the parliamentary system works.

Marleau and Montpetit states:

What constitutes a question of confidence in the government varies with the circumstances....It is generally acknowledged, however, that confidence motions may be:

explicitly worded motions which state, in express terms, that the House has, or has not, confidence in the government;

motions expressly declared by the government to be questions of confidence;

implicit motions of confidence, that is, motions traditionally deemed to be questions of confidence, such as motions for the granting of Supply...motions concerning the budgetary policy of the government and motions respecting the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

On the one hand, the opposition parties believe the government has lost the authority to govern. Yet the motion suggests that they want the government to continue to govern for another month and a half, a kind of a time-release capsule of non-confidence.

How can ordinary Canadians not conclude that the motion by the NDP, supported by the other parties, is an attempt to sacrifice hundreds of years of parliamentary tradition at the altar of political opportunism?

They cannot have it both ways. They cannot say they want to pass the government's legislation to implement tax reductions and make energy relief payments to vulnerable Canadians and to pass the supplementary estimates, all matters that indicate confidence, and then tell Canadians the government lacks the confidence of the House of Commons.

The confidence convention lies at the heart of our system of responsible government. In fact, it is the basis for the legitimacy of any government in our system of government.

The leader of the official opposition said on May 10 that the confidence of this chamber is the only democratic mandate the government has. If opposition members truly believe that the government has lost the moral authority to govern, they should take responsibility and act on their principles by defeating the government. They should not be playing games and subverting constitutional principles.

This government will continue to have the confidence of the House until such time as it is lost in a real vote on a clear question. Until such time, the government continues to have the right to govern and to implement its agenda.

There is far too much bravado, posturing and testosterone in this House. I do not intend to add to it, but I want to say this. The Prime Minister has made a direct commitment to Canadians to call an election within 30 days of the final report of the Gomery commission. All of us here have known this for months. I think it is a position that most Canadians support and frankly, that most Canadians expect.

Through today's motion the opposition is asking the Prime Minister to break his promise to Canadians. The Prime Minister has recently confirmed that he will stand by his commitment. Canadians have a right to have all the details from Justice Gomery before we go back to the polls. Given that Justice Gomery will submit his final report on February 1, the Prime Minister's commitment means that we will have an election in March or April anyway. It could mean as little as a month's difference from the timing of this motion.

We also know that Canadians do not want a premature election. By contrast, today's motion proposes that the election take place in the dead of winter. In their rush to have an election, are opposition members not concerned that a winter election might lead to significantly lower voter turnout rates, especially among the elderly, those with physical disabilities and those who go elsewhere in the winter?

The last time we had an election in February was in 1980 and voter participation declined considerably. In May 1979 the participation rate in voting was 75.7%. That declined to 69% in February 1980, then rose back up to 75% in the September 1984 election.

What does not help either is what Canadians see every day in the House, the games, the name calling and the public assassination of people's characters. It does not exactly lead Canadians to go out to vote. Each of us needs to accept some of that responsibility as well.

The Prime Minister promised Canadians that an election will be called within approximately three months. We also know a majority of Canadians support that commitment and do not want an early election. This is all about having an election four to eight weeks earlier than what the Prime Minister has promised and what he has stuck to.

The real question is, whose interests are being served? The answer of course is that the opposition members want a premature election to serve their narrow, partisan self-interests. This motion is therefore no compromise at all.

The government has already stated it cannot support the motion. To do so, the Prime Minister would break his promise to Canadians. In the meantime, our government will continue to move forward to implement its agenda on tax cuts, on energy relief, on unanticipated surplus legislation, on wage earners protection, health care, and so on. It is an agenda I have been proud of and will continue to be proud of.

I realize the opposition could and likely will defeat the government in the coming weeks on a vote of non-confidence. That is entirely legitimate in the parliamentary democracy in which we serve, particularly in a minority situation, but if the opposition members decide to defeat the government, that will be their decision. The opposition parties will therefore have the responsibility to justify to Canadians why we are having an election that nobody particularly wants, particularly when we already have a commitment from the Prime Minister that we will have one in the spring.

There will be a responsibility on the opposition as well to justify to Canadians why important measures could not be passed.

On September 9, 2004 before Parliament resumed following the 2004 election, the Leader of the Opposition, the leader of the Bloc Québécois and the leader of the NDP proposed a series of changes to the rules of the House, changes they argued at the time had to be adopted as soon as the House resumed. One of the proposals included ensuring strict adherence to what constitutes confidence, explaining, and I quote from the statement agreed to by the three opposition leaders:

Only the final vote on the Speech from the Throne, the final vote on the Budget, global votes on the Main Estimates and votes explicitly identified as questions of confidence be considered as such.

On September 10, 2004, the Leader of the Opposition further stated:

I would not want the Prime Minister to think he can simply fail in the House of Commons as a route to another general election. That's not the way our system works.

I think most Canadians will see this motion and all of the feigned outrage for what it really is: political opportunism wrapped in sanctimonious language. It is not just government members who feel this way. I want to quote a couple of sources from my hometown paper, The Chronicle Herald in Halifax. An editorial it put out recently referred to this:

For [the leader of the NDP's] sugar-plum motion has all the constitutional force of a letter to Santa Claus.... [The leader of the NDP] doesn't want to wear the downside of a real non-confidence vote in November. But he does want the political upside—the appearance of decisively seizing the moral high ground and bringing down the...government in the wake of the Gomery report.

He wants to have his plum pudding and eat it, too. So he says he has no confidence in the Liberals, while his motion merely wishes them away.

On November 9, speaking about this proposed motion when it was first aired during the break week, The Chronicle Herald , which is a great newspaper but it is not a Liberal newspaper, stated:

In the meantime, [the leader of the NDP] has some explaining to do. His official reasons for triggering a winter election, as opposed to the spring one the Liberals have already promised, are spurious at best. The Liberals are no more corrupt than they were in May, when [the leader of the NDP] stayed their execution in exchange for $4.6 billion more in social spending. In fact, since Justice John Gomery released his findings on the sponsorship scandal, there is less justification to bring down the government over corruption charges...[because] the...Liberals have been [completely] cleared of any wrongdoing.

The Globe and Mail recently referred to this and stated:

Judge Gomery reasonably exonerates [the Prime Minister], who was finance minister during the sponsorship years, of “any blame or carelessness or misconduct”.... Once [he] became Prime Minister two years ago, he behaved honourably and quickly. He shut down the sponsorship program immediately. When the Auditor-General's report became public, he set up the Gomery inquiry and said that those who had broken the rules, the law and the public's trust would pay.

It goes on to say:

[The Prime Minister] deserves great credit for letting Judge Gomery loose on this...affair.

There is way too much political bravado in the House. I do not stand here today daring the opposition to bring us down. I would rather spend Christmas with my family and I think most members feel the same way. I believe most Canadians think that the Prime Minister's timing, which he stated in May and has stuck to ever since, makes sense. The decision of the Prime Minister to forgo his constitutional right and power to call an election and instead committing to one within 30 days of the release of the final Gomery report I think is the biggest compromise in the history of Canadian politics.

This motion is a facade. It is a hoax. It is about one thing: control. The opposition parties are now entrenched. I know some members of the NDP know that as well and do not particularly like where they are headed, but it is where we are all headed right now. Once again, politics trumps policy and the useful work that could be done here will be sacrificed. That is the shame of it.

Let me close by quoting a wonderful Canadian whose wisdom is beyond repute, the great Newfoundlander Rex Murphy who said, “The leader of the NDP calls this a common sense compromise and he is right. It compromises common sense”.

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4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Gaudet Bloc Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague opposite.

During oral question period this afternoon the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food lost his cool and said it was the Bloc Québécois that would prevent a delegation of MPs from attending the WTO meeting from November 28 to December 5, in Hong Kong. It seems that we are the ones who want to have an election. I think it is Quebeckers and Canadians who want to have an election. That is my first point.

Second, I have been here for three years now and for three years I have been listening to the government say it is going to resolve the softwood lumber issue. For three years the Bloc Québécois and the opposition have been giving the government advice in order to make progress on this issue and resolve it. However, again today, the minister said it would be done soon. Third, on November 27 and 28, the first nations meeting would not be compromised and, four, the funding would be approved.

I believe the government has a good alternative for resolving all these issues before an election. If we refer to the motion by the New Democratic Party on this opposition day, it reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, during the week of January 2, 2006, the Prime Minister should ask her Excellency the Governor General of Canada to dissolve the 38th Parliament and to set the date for the 39th general election for Monday, February 13, 2006; and

That the Speaker transmit this resolution to Her Excellency the Governor General.

My colleague could still spend Christmas and New Year with his family. I would like his opinion on this. I believe it is a good alternative for everyone.

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4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, this kind of alternative is no alternative at all.

The motion we are debating today so that we can avoid the spectre of a Christmas election would just as effectively be reached if we had a motion that in the opinion of the House, Christmas for this year happened on May 13 instead of on December 25. That is as realistic. That does not change the fact that Christmas is coming. If the election started the first week in January, people would still be campaigning at Christmas anyway.

I am very impressed by one comment that my colleague made. He said he thought it was Canadians who wanted an election right now. He is wrong about that. If an election comes, that is fine. We will all do our campaigning. At the end of the day, it probably does not matter to Canadians as much as those members think it does, but Canadians would rather have an election in the spring. I know that the people in Dartmouth--Cole Harbour think the Prime Minister's proposal for an election in the spring makes a lot more sense.

We are talking about somewhere between four and eight weeks' difference to give Canadians what they want. They want a chance to see the final report of Justice John Gomery and the work that he did. Then they can make their decision and we can go to the polls. That makes a lot of sense to me.

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4:35 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I did not agree with much of the address given by the member for Dartmouth--Cole Harbour, but I did enjoy the delivery.

The member for Dartmouth--Cole Harbour and other Liberals have said that it is in Canadians' interests to get the second Gomery report because the Prime Minister promised all the details of the Gomery inquiry would come out. That was very disingenuous, given that there will be no new details, no new facts, no new pronouncements in Gomery part 2.

Gomery part 2 is about recommendations to ensure what the Liberal Party did to this country will not happen again. Part 1 was about what the Liberals did, how they did it, and what they did with the money. Believe me, people will have that right in front of them whenever the election is held. To argue that Canadians need Gomery part 2 in order to have the whole picture is not accurate at all. It is not the point.

My question for the member is regarding the opposition days. The member and others have gone out of their way to say that the opposition has a constitutional means to put the question of confidence through non-confidence motions on opposition days. Fair enough, but it has to be underscored and people have to remember that the government has control of when those opposition days happen. The government chose to delay them and moved them later into the session. Why? Because it would bring us right up against Christmas if we tried to hold a non-confidence vote.

How can the hon. member suggest that the opposition has all the rights it needs to bring down the government through non-confidence motions when the government moves our opposition days into a time period when it would obviously run into Christmas? How can the member--

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4:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Dartmouth--Cole Harbour.