Debates of Nov. 24th, 2005
House of Commons Hansard #157 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.
- Question Period
- Canada Account Report 2003-04
- Canada Health Infoway
- Government Response to Petitions
- Security Committee of Parliamentarians Act
- Interparliamentary Delegations
- Committees of the House
- Youth Criminal Justice Act
- Canadian Autism Day Act
- Criminal Code
- Questions on the Order Paper
- Question No. 240
- Questions Passed As Orders for Returns
- Question No. 184
- Question No. 195
- Question No. 198
- Question No. 212
- Question No. 226
- Business of the House
- Anne Pennell
- Member for Westlock—St. Paul
- Fort Garry Historical Society
- Foreign Policy
- Citizens' Advisory Committee Awareness Week
- Member for British Columbia Southern Interior
- University of Waterloo
- Diabetes Month
- Orléans Francophone Involvement Movement
- Member for Okanagan—Shuswap
- Liberal Women's Caucus
- Member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain
- Gomery Report
- Tourism Award
- Income Trusts
- Guaranteed Income Supplement
- Child Poverty
- Sponsorship Program
- Liberal Party of Canada
- Sponsorship Program
- Canada Labour Code
- Softwood Lumber
- Canada Revenue Agency
- Canada Elections Act
- International Cooperation
- Citizenship and Immigration
- Political Party Fundraising
- Public Safety
- Firearms Registry
- The Environment
- Business of the House
- Points of Order
- Canadian Forces
- Points of Order
- Committees of the House
- Points of Order
- Trade Compensation Act
The Deputy Speaker
The Deputy Prime Minister.
Anne McLellan Edmonton Centre, AB
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Justice Gomery was very clear. He said that the Prime Minister, then minister of finance, discharged his obligations ethically and appropriately.
Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC
Mr. Speaker, in response to the minister's remarks, I would say that we must not confuse the issue. This non-confidence motion has nothing to do with Quebec's sovereignty, but rather the fact that Quebeckers and Canadians can no longer tolerate a corrupt government.
In my riding and my region, we learned—confirmed by the Gomery report—that a chief organizer of the Liberal Party of Canada distributed unreported cash in 18 ridings. He gave secret envelopes to 10 candidates in the region.
In our democratic system, can we tolerate a government that does things like that? Is this not reason enough to hold an election as soon as possible and give the House of Commons the cleaning it needs?
Anne McLellan Edmonton Centre, AB
Mr. Speaker, let me make it plain to the hon. member that it was the Prime Minister who moved immediately to deal with the situation surrounding the sponsorship situation. It was the Prime Minister who instructed that the Liberal Party of Canada would write a cheque immediately upon receipt of the Gomery report for the amount identified by Mr. Gomery as being wrongfully used and received by the Liberal Party of Canada in Quebec. It was the Prime Minister who banned members from our party. It is the Prime Minister who has put in place a new code of ethics for all of us who are members of the Liberal Party of Canada. It was the Prime Minister who put the Gomery inquiry in place. It was the Prime Minister who introduced whistleblower legislation. It is the Prime Minister who is truly committed to accountability and transparency in government.
Rick Casson Lethbridge, AB
Mr. Speaker, I do not really know where to start on some of the outrageous statements the Deputy Prime Minister of the country has made.
I would like to bring a couple of things to her attention. She has said that there has been no positive contribution by the official opposition to policy in our country. What about out our apprenticeship and training program that was brought out a couple of weeks ago? What about the environmental tax credit for people who use transit passes? What about the whole accountability act that our leader has indicated will be the first piece of legislation to be tabled in the House to clean up the mess that the government has created?
However, I want to address the minister about the issue of separatism in the country. The separatists were at record lows of support before the Gomery inquiry started. Now they are at record highs. Who is to blame for that? It is the Liberal Party of Canada. Western alienation is as high as it has ever been and that sits squarely on the government's shoulders. I would like to hear her response.
Anne McLellan Edmonton Centre, AB
Mr. Speaker, I heard a lot of words but, this government has taken action. I thank him for the promises, but we have actually acted. We have put dollars into skills training and apprenticeship. We have put dollars into cities, communities and public transit. We have put dollars into ensuring our young people have access to post-secondary institutions. Please, spare me the empty rhetoric. This government has taken action.
Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to discuss this motion calling for an election. The motion strikes me as a bit ridiculous and somewhat premature. It says that confidence in the government has been lost.
Members will recall that the Prime Minister assured the people of Canada that an election would be called within 30 days following Judge Gomery’s final report. I think that is perfectly reasonable and so do the people in my constituency. Polls show that this is very reasonable and that it was a responsible thing for the Prime Minister to say. Canadians want that second report and want this comprehensive review of a dark period in Canadian history to be wrapped up. I have trouble with the fact that this happened. It is very unfortunate that people have taken advantage of a situation in this country for their own gain.
I am delighted with the reaction from the Prime Minister and his predecessor. The government turned to agencies that specialize in these matters. It created the Gomery commission, which conducted an extraordinary review. First of all, the commission fully exonerated the Prime Minister and the ministers from Quebec and said that there were no connections. That is very important to me and to all Canadians.
We are left with this question of non-confidence. No one can say any more that that is the reason the government lost moral authority, as was said previously. Now, the New Democrats are saying that it is because of what we did not do. The Conservatives—we know they are opportunists—are going to join forces with the separatists. The separatists see every possible condition that would advance their cause, such as decentralization of the federal government. That plays right into the hands of the separatists.
This is a big risk for us. In the Atlantic region, it is certainly not the way people would like to move our country forward. In a way, I can understand these people losing confidence in the government because they do not see the full picture. They cannot grasp a government that loves this country, that understands this country’s potential, how it can move it forward, help it, work with communities and regions. The government can see the positive side and the potential for investment. People say when it comes to the money invested in communities that it is not a good thing and that we should not be doing that. We should just transfer the money to the provinces. We should cut all taxes. Meanwhile, every time they stand up to propose something, it involves huge outlays of cash. All of these bills that they say we would not support called for money to be spent. I do not recall many times that that was not the case.
So this is more or less the situation we have. During the week’s recess for Remembrance Day, I followed with interest, as did many Canadians no doubt, the schoolyard games that were going on between the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the New Democratic Party. They were saying; “ I’ll do it if you will; I won't if you don't.” It was an edifying spectacle.
Finally the Leader of the Opposition got the upper hand and the leader of the New Democratic Party gave in. We saw the Leader of the Bloc Québécois licking his lips because he could see the potential for creating an impossible situation for federalism in Canada, a perfect situation for encouraging separatism. We know that the Leader of the Bloc Québécois sees himself to some extent like the next governor general of Quebec. He would work with the support of Emperor Boisclair. Everything would be just fine in that country, everything would be different. I remember the debates we had in the House of Commons when they said independence was an absolute necessity for them because there was an incredible federal deficit. It was not working, the country was going broke and there was no chance of moving forward. Now, they say that the surplus is too big, that things are going too well and that there is a fiscal imbalance.
As a Nova Scotian, I benefit greatly from federalism. We take the wealth from all over the country and invest it where there are opportunities to ensure that all the citizens of this country can have access to the same quality of government services. It seems to me that this is eminently reasonable. There are occasional ups and downs. For Alberta, things are very good right now. However, times were considerably less rosy fifty years ago. At that time, they benefited from the investments that Canada made to work with the oil industry and to develop those areas. That was important for Alberta and it is important for Canada. I think there is always a way to work together in this country. The opposition, however, maintains that it has no confidence.
In my view, this is opportunism pure and simple. This is a leader who finds himself in danger and whose one and only chance of hanging on to his position is to go to the polls now. This is how people react. He will go ahead.
I was reminded, while watching the Conservative Party leader and the leader of the NDP, of two jugglers on a high wire, each with three balls. They would see who would juggle first, knowing full well that if one did, they would both fall off the wire. I believe that is the situation we probably have now. The voters will decide. I do not fear voters. We will go to the polls on our record.
We will do more than that, though. We will go on our promises. We will tell the electors, as we do in every campaign, how we see our federation, what we see as the potential for this country, and how we intend to achieve this potential. We will differentiate ourselves from those who say there should not be a strong federal government and that the provinces are the answer to everything.
We in Nova Scotia really appreciate the cooperation we have with our province, but we also realize that there is a role for the federal government. We saw it in the child tax benefit, the day care program, and in the transfer of money for offshore oil. We see it now in such things as the gas tax that has been transferred to the municipalities.
I had the pleasure of going on a brand new Kings Transit wheelchair accessible bus in Annapolis. It is a piece of equipment that was purchased for over $200,000 for a rural transit network. People in wheelchairs and the elderly can access this service. The federal government contributes to this program with the imagination and initiatives of local government. I believe that is a great role for the federal government and we should continue that type of partnership.
This week I too am guilty, if that is how I am charged by the opposition, of making a lot of announcements. However, I am proud to do make announcements about investments by ACOA in my community. I want to do it quickly. One never knows what could happen. We could lose power or we could see the disappearance of an agency like ACOA. We know it would be one of the first things the opposition would do.
I was watching the debate at the opposition convention that took place and when that was put on the floor, it was drawn back when the member from New Brunswick said that this was very touchy in the Atlantic provinces and that they should not discuss it at this time. I know that this time does not last forever. There is always a danger for those types of activities that are very good for the regions.
I believe there is potential in all regions and I would expand that network, as we did. There was a $780 million reinvestment in the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency because the government knows the regions show promise. The best way to work with the regions is to give them the resources, so they can reap the benefits of their own strengths.
We come again to the question of confidence in the government and, I am sure, the Prime Minister. I had the opportunity to serve with the Prime Minister in the past cabinet in the last term of the Chrétien government. When I look back at what we achieved, I am very proud. There was the elimination of the deficit, $42 billion. Remember the number I will use later if time permits of a $42 billion investment in health care, a complete reversal. We eliminated the deficit and started reducing the debt. We currently enjoy a record balance of trade.
We have problems in trade. BSE and softwood lumber are two glaring examples, but how did we deal with them? It was always hand in hand with the stakeholders in the provinces. On BSE, which was very difficult, we said we would use the scientific approach. We worked with the Americans and always with our stakeholders in the provinces. We came up with the resources to help sustain them through that very difficult time. Times are getting better.
On the question of softwood lumber, we did exactly the same thing. As one who has spoken to business people in the lumber industry from the east, the west and central Canada, I can say that it is very difficult to find unanimity because the situation is different everywhere, but never did the government abandon the rights of Canadians. It always stuck by Canadians. It always stuck by NAFTA and requested that the Americans follow the rules of the NAFTA.
I have full confidence. Sometimes the words “moral authority” are used. I would go further. I would say that it is the moral responsibility of our Prime Minister to continue his good work and represent all regions of the country to have one strong Canada.
Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources
Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member could comment on how we have been governing since we were elected. I gave a 10 minute speech on our accomplishments over the past year. It has been the most successful first year of a government in history. We have done a number of things for seniors, research and development, training, scholarships, the forest industry, fisheries, new strategies for the north, and one of the world's leading environmental plans. I wonder if the member could comment on those successes.
Robert Thibault West Nova, NS
Mr. Speaker, it is true that we have been very successful. It is not always easy to govern in a minority government, but it can work if parties want it to work.
The government took its responsibilities seriously. It is the responsibility of a minority government to advance all bills that it thinks are to the betterment of the nation and seek support where it can find it among the opposition parties. Unfortunately, right now we have a situation that is a little bit abnormal where the opposition parties have created an alliance to propose non-confidence in the government, not based on any initiatives of government.
Traditionally, an initiative of government is put forward. If it has financial implications, then it is a confidence vote and the government can be voted down on it.
Advances were being made in the budgetary go forward plan of the Minister of Finance. At the beginning of my first mandate I met with people in the agricultural industry who were having a lot of trouble getting people to work in peak periods of the season. I encouraged the Minister of Human Resources at the time to find ways within the tax structure to bring people who were unemployed, people who were on family benefits or community service, and people who were on the Canada pension plan, who might be able to work part of the year, even though they could not work year round. We found ways within our tax structure to encourage them and give them a real opportunity, a hand up, so that they could integrate into the workforce to the maximum, improve the quality of life for themselves and their families, and contribute to their communities. I was very pleased to hear that the Minister of Finance is investing billions of dollars in that initiative.
It is possible to work within a minority government, but it needs the will of all parties and, unfortunately, the other parties do not wish to make it work.
Louise Thibault Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC
Mr. Speaker, it is like listening to the members of a mutual admiration society.
I would like to ask the member who just spoke a question about the democratic deficit. He obviously sung its praises and described it in the most glowing terms. But I would like to hear him speak about the democratic deficit in light of the following.
It is this government that undemocratically deprived the House of opposition days and postponed them so that they would become less and less relevant. It is also this government that utterly refuses to recognize a motion passed by a majority of the House this week, that is to say, a decision made democratically by all the legally elected representatives of the people of Canada, and insofar as I am concerned, the people of Quebec.
Robert Thibault West Nova, NS
Mr. Speaker, if the member saw a mutual admiration society, it is because we have done a tremendous job together. That must be recognized and kept in mind.
In regard to the famous democratic deficit, the Liberal Party won more free votes, when the members can vote as they wish, than all the other parties combined.
We suggested that all private members' bills could be voted on, and we also had an initiative on the election of committee chairs.
We are still working on the plans of our caucus, which is a real forum for debate. We have also created new structures in our caucus to encourage greater participation.
In regard to the famous vote on the New Democratic motion, it strikes me as absolutely ridiculous to create a precedent that we can vote on non-confidence motions that apply later. Under a minority government, we would pass a non-confidence motion to take effect upon receipt of a notice from a party leader. That is absolutely ridiculous.
There is one way to do it. We could vote on confidence motions, that is, motions expressing confidence in the government. It has won all the confidence motions based on various bills. I think that this is how the House should operate in accordance with its traditions and rules.
Rob Moore Fundy, NB
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Souris—Moose Mountain.
It is a privilege today to rise on behalf of my constituents of Fundy Royal to speak to only a few of the many reasons why the tired and corrupt Liberal government has lost the confidence of this House.
This House is condemning the Liberal government for its arrogance in refusing to reasonably compromise with the opposition parties over the timing of the next general election and for its culture of entitlement, corruption, scandal, and gross abuse of public funds for its own political purposes.
It could be said that the loss of confidence in the minority Liberal government has been a long time coming. The loss of confidence at this time is the accumulation of more than a decade of mismanagement, waste, and even the stubborn denial of problems that Canadians knew beyond any doubt existed.
Sector by sector, throughout our economy, the Liberals have lost confidence. Group by group, concerned about strong social policies, have lost confidence in the Liberal brand. Canadian by Canadian, concerned about the waste, mismanagement and even theft of their hard earned tax dollars, have lost confidence in the government's ability to clean up the mess exposed by the Auditor General and confirmed by Justice Gomery.
I want to discuss a few other areas where everyday Canadians from my constituency have contacted me to express a lack of confidence in the government's ability to look out for their interests.
First, I will speak a bit about agriculture which is very important in my riding of Fundy Royal. Earlier this week we debated an opposition motion calling on the Government of Canada to give our negotiators at the World Trade Organization talks a mandate to ensure that Canada's supply management sectors are protected and that any agreement reached strengthens the international marketing position of Canada's agricultural sectors.
That motion had to be tabled and debated because farmers and all agricultural stakeholders across Canada are not confident that the government is ensuring that our supply management system will survive the current round of negotiations at the WTO. We should not have had to twist the Liberal government's arms to force it to support our farmers so late in these trade negotiations. The Liberal government in Ottawa should be fighting to protect our producers of eggs, milk and chicken. Rather than taking the lead, the Liberals have been shamed into supporting our farmers.
The agriculture sector in Canada's economy has no confidence in the government's ability to command our negotiators to stand against the agricultural subsidies, tariffs, and other supports that rich economies, namely the United States and Europe, have been giving their agricultural producers.
In my home province of New Brunswick alone, there are 260 dairy farm operations that generate $90 million in farm cash receipts. These are stable businesses, providing steady employment. I have confidence that only a Conservative government will defend the interests of all Canadian farmers on the international stage.
Another area where my constituents have certainly lost confidence in the government is in the area of child care. The Liberal child care plan claims to be universal, but it does not give a single penny to stay-at-home parents, family caregivers, and shift workers. It is particularly biased against those living in rural communities. We have been asking for, and what our Conservative Party stands for, child care dollars to be given directly to parents and letting them decide what is best for their own children.
I want to talk a bit about keeping promises. That is something that this Prime Minister did when he first came to office. He made a lot of promises that Canadians expected him to keep. Canadians certainly cannot have confidence in a government that does not keep its promises.
It started, famously enough, in 1993 when the Liberal government stated it would “kill, scrap and axe the GST”. Of course that did not happen. Ever since then, we have had virtually no confidence in anything that the government says.
Even today we read of another broken promise. We hear that the party opposite intends to run a nasty and dirty campaign, a campaign that is negative. This is what the Prime Minister has stated in the past:
As we go into that election campaign let us understand that we are a party of principle,--
I think Canadians will have a chance in the next election to judge those very principles. He stated also, “I would hope that this would be a campaign of ideas. I do not want to sink to that level”. Yet today, another broken promise, word that we are going to have a negative campaign coming from that side.
The Prime Minister also famously came to power promising to eliminate the democratic deficit. He even, in a way, coined the phrase. What a total farce.
I sit on a subcommittee that is studying the appointment of judges. In spite of evidence from witness after witness that political connections play an important role and some would say the most important role in being selected to the judiciary, the Minister of Justice refused to even acknowledge in any way that any such a link existed. This was in spite of one study in the province of Quebec that showed that over 60% of appointees since 2000 contributed to the Liberal Party of Canada. The fact is that less than 1% of Canadians contribute to any political party, yet when it comes to the appointment of judges, over 60% had contributed to just one party, the party in power.
That is the kind of thing that causes Canadians and members of this House to lose confidence in the government, especially when all it will do is deny a problem even exists. We all know that in order to solve a problem, we first have to admit that there is a problem. I have heard time and time again the Minister of Justice and other ministers say that there is no problem. How can the government fix the democratic deficit when it refuses to admit it exists? The answer very simply is that it cannot.
I believe that a Conservative government is the only one that Canadians can trust that will restore democratic faith in our system.
We have been hearing quite a bit about the Liberal ad scam program, and a lot of this debate centres around it. The government of the day almost lost the Quebec sovereignty referendum. Afterward it told us to be confident, that everything would be okay. Yet we find that the scheme that it set up, instead of bringing Canada together, instead of building a stronger country, has brought us to the point where we are today, where we are torn, we are split. It has created such a backlash among Canadians, such a loss of faith, because the Liberal Party could not see that there is a difference between the country that we all love, the country of Canada, and the Liberal Party of Canada.
That is what Justice Gomery found. He found that there was an intricate web of kickbacks and illegal contributions and deception involving millions of taxpayer dollars spent on Liberal election campaigns. I want to read some quotes from Justice Gomery:
They disregarded the relevant laws governing donations to political parties.
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.
The Commission of Inquiry Found:[...] the refusal of Ministers, senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office and public servants to acknowledge their responsibility for the problems of mismanagement that occurred.
The negligent administration of the Sponsorship Program by PWGSC [Public Works and Government Services Canada] opened the door wide to profiteering by those five [communications and advertising] agencies and their owners, and they took full advantage of the opportunity.
Canadians know that as long as the Liberal Party of Canada is in power, no one will be held accountable, no one will be punished, and no meaningful reforms will be made.
I firmly believe that only by electing a Conservative government led by the member for Calgary Southwest will we clean up the mess left behind by the Liberal government.
Finally, the current Liberal government has absolutely no credibility when it comes to tax cuts. We all know that. I have been hearing so much from my constituents. Nobody is fooled. I do not believe there is one Canadian in the country that is fooled by a last ditch deathbed conversion when it comes to tax cuts.
I am encouraged that the Liberals have chosen to run on our platform. All of a sudden we hear the Minister of Justice talking about getting tough on crime. The Minister of Finance, who year after year has said that there is no money for tax cuts, that Canadians cannot have a tax cut, that the government cannot afford a tax cut, is now proposing a tax cut.
Canadians will not be fooled. There is a loss of faith in the government. I believe that the time has come for Canadians to have their say and to pass judgment on the government.
Business of the House
November 24th, 2005 / 1:35 p.m.
Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all parties and I believe you will find consent for the following motion. I move:
That at the conclusion of today's debate on the Conservative Opposition Motion, all questions necessary to dispose of this motion be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until the end of government orders on Monday, November 28, 2005,
And that, during this debate, no dilatory motions shall be received by the Chair.
Business of the House
The Deputy Speaker
Does the chief government whip have the consent of the House to move the motion?
Business of the House
Some hon. members