Debates of Nov. 17th, 2005
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.
- Question Period
- Certificates of Nomination
- Citizenship Act
- Emergency Management Act
- Committees of the House
- Excise Tax Act
- Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
- Questions on the Order Paper
- CKTB Radio
- Reporters Without Borders
- Arts and Culture
- Aboriginal Affairs
- A. M. Sormany High School
- International Solidarity
- Workplace Charitable Campaign
- Public Servants
- St. Catharines Museum
- Canadian Wheat Board
- Canadian Forces
- Louise Laurin
- United Nations
- All India Pingalwara Charitable Society
- Montée Saint-François Institution
- Forest Industry
- Sponsorship Program
- Gasoline Prices
- Softwood Lumber
- The Environment
- Government Contracts
- Income Trusts
- Dairy Industry
- Aboriginal Affairs
- Child Care
- Aboriginal Affairs
- Keeseekoose First Nation
- Official Languages
- Terasen Inc.
- Mining Industry
- World Aquatic Championships
- Softwood Lumber
- Sponsorship Program
- Royal Canadian Mounted Police
- The Environment
- Points of Order
- Business of the House
- Ways and Means
- Official Languages Act
Joe Volpe Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for giving me an opportunity to talk about an announcement that we will make in very short order. It is a repetition of an announcement made by the Minister of Finance. We are about to sign an agreement for settlement and integration with the province of Ontario, which will allow the province to spend much more on settlement and integration dollars and will take care of all of those people who come into this country and immediately get them into the marketplace so that they can utilize the skills and the talents that we so desperately need in this country.
Points of Order
Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK
Mr. Speaker, I want to apologize unreservedly to all members of the House for the remarks I made during question period. I obviously lost my composure, something I do not normally do in the House. I offer my unequivocal apologies to the House.
Business of the House
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, I have three questions for the government House leader, all of which concern future business.
My first question is the usual question. Could the government House leader enlighten us and, by extension, Canadians as to what business he has planned for the remainder of this week and on into the following week?
Second, at the annual meeting of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce on September 25 of this year, the Prime Minister said, “Under no circumstances will my government attempt this autumn in any way, shape or form to precipitate our own defeat to force an early election”. I would ask the government House leader this question. Does this mean the Prime Minister does not consider Bill C-66, the energy rebate bill, and the ways and means motion currently before the House to be confidence measures?
Last, in a recent signed letter, the government House leader committed to the opposition parties that they would have opposition supply days on November 15, 17, 22, 24 and 29 and December 1 and 8. As everyone knows, these are the opposition days that he withheld from us all fall. Does his commitment mean that the government will not prorogue this Parliament as it is currently rumoured to be considering? I would suggest that a simple no would suffice.
Business of the House
Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, we will continue this afternoon with the opposition motion.
On Tuesday, November 22 and Thursday, November 24, we will have allotted days. The opposition House leaders are in fact considering a special House order to expedite Bill C-53, Bill C-54, Bill C-55 and Bill C-66 through all stages with a recorded vote at third reading. I hope we can come to an agreement on that special House order and proceed in that fashion.
If we cannot agree on that special order, then tomorrow we will begin with reference before second reading of Bill C-71, the first nations commercial bill; report stage of Bill S-37, respecting the Hague convention; second reading of Bill S-36, the rough diamonds bill; and reference before second reading of Bill C-72, the bill amending the DNA legislation. We will continue with this business next week, adding the report stage of Bill C-57, the financial governance bill, and other unfinished items.
With respect to the comment about the Chamber of Commerce, it is very clear, and I said this earlier, that Bill C-66 and the ways and means motion are in fact confidence motions. Although I am not sure I should do this, I am taking at the hon. member's word the public statements that in fact those members do support Bill C-66 and the ways and means motion with respect to taxes. Given his comment, I guess I should reconsider and speak to him once again since his party has flip-flopped on a number of occasions.
With respect to prorogation, I have to say that this rumour created by the Conservative Party was merely to keep the NDP in line with its confidence motion that it will put forward in the coming weeks.
Business of the House
Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It concerns the Thursday question just asked by the leader of the official opposition.
The question that was asked of the leader of the government was whether the promised dates for opposition days will be maintained and whether as a result the government will not prorogue this Parliament before the last supply day has taken place, as agreed over the leader's signature?
I would like a clear response. I did not get the meaning of his reply.
Business of the House
Tony Valeri 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 Means
Ralph Goodale Minister 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.
November 17th, 2005 / 3:10 p.m.
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.
Jim Prentice 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.
David Anderson 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?
Jim Prentice 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.
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.
Nathan Cullen 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?
Jim Prentice 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.
Libby Davies 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.