House of Commons Hansard #76 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was murray.


Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-359, an act to amend the Criminal Code (personal identity theft).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce this bill entitled an act to amend the Criminal Code (personal identity theft).

Personal identity theft is a serious problem throughout Canada, with thousands of victims each year. This bill seeks to clearly define identity theft in the Canadian Criminal Code. It would make it illegal for one to possess or transfer another person's identifying information without lawful excuse. The bill would also make it an offence to possess or transfer documentation of another person, such as a driver's licence or credit card, without lawful excuse.

In the high tech era in which we live, identity theft is quickly becoming a major problem. This law is designed to close the loophole being used by identity thieves. I hope the bill will earn support from all sides of the House.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Bob Mills Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I move that the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, presented on Thursday, March 24, be concurred in.

I think that what has just happened in committee is worth bringing to the House. In fact, by a vote of seven to four, the committee recommended to the Prime Minister that his appointment for the environment round table not be agreed to. Most of us went in there with a very open mind. We said we would cross-examine this person and find out if he in fact would be the best person to be the chair of the environment round table.

We did that largely because of things that the Prime Minister said. The Prime Minister said again and again and kept promising that he would end cronyism and he would end patronage. As he campaigned throughout the election, he said that he would in fact reduce the democratic deficit to empower standing committees to be able to exercise their will and review appointments and decide whether those persons were really qualified to do the job.

We did that in good faith. We believed what the Prime Minister said when he said he was concerned about that democratic deficit. He said:

No longer will the key to Ottawa be who do you know. We are going to condemn to history the practice and the politics of cronyism.

That is what the Prime Minister said during the election campaign. Of course, after the election we saw a number of examples of that same cronyism occurring. We saw Jim Walsh, the former Newfoundland Liberal MHA and co-chair of the Prime Minister's leadership campaign, appointed as a corrections investigator of Canada. We saw the revenue minister personally appointing a Royal Bank colleague, Gordon Feeney, to the Canada Post position.

Then there is Mr. Glen Murray, who was the mayor of Winnipeg. We saw Mr. Harvard put into the lieutenant governor's position and then saw this star candidate run as a Liberal candidate in Winnipeg. He was defeated, so then he was owed a job. That job then was as chair of the environment round table.

Obviously when we went into that meeting we wanted to find out what the qualifications of this gentleman were regarding the environment. Let me summarize what we found. We found that he had no academic or professional experience in global environmental or economic issues. We found that his only environmental concern was as consultant and owner of a firm called Envirofit Inc., which ultimately went into bankruptcy.

We found that Dr. Harvey Mead, Mr. Murray's predecessor in this position, brought 35 years of environmental experience to his appointment. Indeed, not only did he have previous experience as a member of the round table, but he had a number of very credible involvements in environmental issues. Anyone who seriously wanted to argue that Mr. Murray was even close to those kinds of qualifications would have had great difficulty.

I want to go to a quote from the group that should know him best: the newspapers in his home city of Winnipeg. Let me quote what they said about this appointment. The headline is pretty telling. It states: “Let's Just Be Happy Glen Won't Be Back”. The newspapers went on to state:

--he wasn't qualified for the job...But on the other [hand], as a selfish Winnipegger, I took some comfort in knowing that the appointment all but ensures Murray won't be returning to Manitoba....

Murray has no experience whatsoever in global environmental and economic issues and knows nothing about the complexities of carbon credits and emission trading markets.

Unlike many of the talented and very experienced people available for a job like this -- educated folks with decades of experience in global economics and specialized environmental issues -- all Murray's ever been is a Canada Post clerk, a community health clinic employee and a city councillor and mayor of a medium-sized Canadian city.

There's not much depth there.

He's never run a business, never been the head of a large private-sector corporation and has no experience in bilateral trade.

Murray's experience in environmental issues is limited to a debate on whether or not we should have a $2-a-bag garbage fee in Winnipeg.

It's hardly the type of experience one needs to engage the United States on climate change issues (one of the mandates of the roundtable) and to integrate climate change objectives into Canadian foreign policy.

Obviously, if that is what the person's home town thinks of the him, we had a number of questions we needed to ask Mr. Murray when he appeared before the committee. I can honestly say that we all had a pretty open mind. By the end of the interview, which was a job interview, all parties, including some Liberals, were so shocked by what we heard we wondered why the appointment occurred.

Will we ever forget the picture of Mr. Murray standing with two pictures of the Prime Minister behind him? I could table that if anyone wants to see it. However we have Mr. Murray standing with pictures of the Prime Minister at the Liberal convention after just receiving the appointment as the chair of the environment round table.

This is a non-partisan appointment, an appointment to look at the environment problems. It is not a Liberal Party job to have. It is not a Liberal thing to hand out to its defeated candidates, its fundraisers or its patronage hacks. This is a job that is important to Canadians. Canadians care about the environment and they certainly do not expect this position to be used in a patronage way such as this one was.

Mr. Murray ultimately found out from Howard Wilson that this was not the place to be and therefore left the convention. If someone has that poor judgment in terms of where he should or should not be, his ability to do the job comes into question. This was just this last month.

We also wondered about what kind of a mayor Mr. Murray was. We found out that on his watch Lake Manitoba had the second largest release of sewage and he went on for five days without reporting to council and without taking action on it. He was not able to stickhandle the concept of a new deal with the provincial government. In fact, he had a failed rapid transit proposal.

In his campaign literature, not a single mention was made about the environment. We would think that if this person were qualified as the chairman of the round table on environment that would at least be one of his key issues when running for election. A lot of people care about the environment and one would think that Mr. Murray would have at least mentioned it.

When the decision was made to bring this to the House in a concurrence motion, it was rather interesting that the former CEO of the environment round table voted to send it to this House, as did the parliamentary secretary for the environment. The vote was nine to two to send it to the House for debate and for a vote, hopefully this evening or tomorrow.

Things do not line up very well for Mr. Murray but this certainly is not a personal attack on him. We are just saying that this guy is not qualified.

The Prime Minister said that he would allow the parliamentary committees to examine the appointments, decide whether they were qualified and, if they were qualified, to recommend them to the Prime Minister. Something is obviously wrong here. Between the time the committee voted on this, in a seven to four vote, the Prime Minister announced the appointment. What is the Prime Minister trying to sidetrack? Why does he want this person there?

Let us look at what kind of a job we are talking about. We are talking about today's issues on the environment. Will this gentleman know what they are? By his own admission he said in committee, “I realize that I have huge inadequacies”. He went so far as to say, “I'm just a manager. I don't understand the environment. I don't know much about the environment but I can do this job I am sure”.

Yes, there are 24 other board members, but my understanding of a chairman is that a chairman shows leadership and takes the issue and says that we will examine the issue in-depth.

Let us look at what some of those issues might be. Let us look at the most current one, which is CEPA Toxic. If Mr. Murray had understood this issue I am sure he would have advised the government immediately that this was not the way to go. The government should not take an environment bill and sneak it in the back door under a budget and ultimately plan it to be a carbon tax. That is just not advisable. If the government had someone who understood the issue it would certainly have given that advice.

I asked Mr. Murray a few questions. I asked him what he thought about mapping our aquifers and how important he thought that was. I do not think he knew what aquifers were and I certainly do not think he had any answers as to what we would map. I also do not think he understood the 300 boil water warnings. I do not think he understood about the toxins that are seeping into our ground water. I do not think he understood any of that.

I thought I would give him an easier question. I asked him what he thought about CO


sequestering and whether he thought it had a future. If I were going to be the chair of the environment round table I sure as heck would know about the most important new technology coming around, the sequestering of CO


, which is how we achieve our targets under Kyoto. That is how we deal with the problem of CO


and he did not know what I was talking about. He said that he did not understand that principle. I was shocked when I heard him say that.

Since the environment round table is supposed to be advising the government on things like that, I would have thought that would have been one of the first things he would have said. The round table would say that we have to develop that technology and use it in Canada. It is being used in the U.S. and all through Europe and this guy did not even know what it was.

By the end of the set of questions, for which he knew no answers, he was literally close to tears because he had to have realized his inadequacies.

What did the Prime Minister not understand about those inadequacies to appoint him chair of the environment round table? This is one of the most abusive things I have ever seen in the House. So much for the democratic deficit.

Let us go on to look at some of the other problems, one being the whole Sumas issue and the air quality across our international boundary. Some of our members living on that border certainly know about that and understand that.

We now have a guy who I am sure does not understand even what pollution or smog is let alone understand the problems of a plant like Sumas and what that will do to the Fraser Valley, your home area, Mr. Speaker.

I want to come back to CEPA and to what we are doing with that, what we are doing with the Kyoto legislation and with the heavy emitter legislation. We have been promised this day after day, week after week. We have been told that it will be tomorrow, that it will be next week and on and on it goes. What we have done is we have given the industry four choices. We have said that we will have heavy emitter legislation to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that companies produce and the four choices we are giving them are they can modernize their plant or reduce production. Obviously the reduced production is not a choice and the modernization in many cases is not a choice.

Yesterday I met with a heavy emitter who said that his company was using 2005 technology. China is using 1940 technology but we cannot modernize that technology any more. The chairman of the environment round table should be pointing that out to the government but this guy does not understand anything about the environment, so how could he do that?

The second choice we give heavy emitters is that they can donate into a technology fund. We can call it whatever we want but all of us believe the answers to environmental problems will come through technology. What we are saying to them is that they pay into this fund but if they are already using modern technology, as most of our companies are, that is just a tax. Who pays for that tax? Obviously it is the consumer, the taxpayer, who pays for it.

The third choice we give them is to buy international credits. They can buy 102 million megatonnes of credits and that will solve their problem. Again, that is a tax on those people who buy electricity, who heat their homes and who drive cars. It is a tax on that head of lettuce because of the extra transportation costs. An environment chairman would tell the government not to go that way. It is a huge tax on the consumer for all of those goods.

The best of all is the fourth choice, which is that we will fine them $200 a tonne of excess carbon. What that will accomplish is it will make all of our companies totally non-competitive and literally put us into a major recession.

We have quotes from various scientists who have told us that if we try to hit our targets it will mean a 100% increase in electricity and an increase in natural gas of 60% to 90%. What will that do to the senior citizen and to the young families? What will that do if in fact we try to achieve those targets? This is where the chairman of the environment round table would call in economists, academics and experts and tell them that we need a full, open inquiry to tell Canadians exactly what living up to a 270-300 megatonne target would mean to them.

Many people do not understand all of the details of Kyoto but what they would understand is paying 12¢ a kilowatt hour instead of 6¢ or paying $3 for a litre of gas instead of 90-whatever cents. They would understand when the cost for heating their homes went up 60% to 90%. The job of the environment chairman of the round table is to tell Canadians those things but this chairman does not even understand what CO


is all about or what can be done with it. He does not understand that Kyoto is about greenhouse gases and global warming. He thinks it is about pollution. This man is not qualified to be chair of the environment round table and we just cannot feel stronger about that.

If you had just been there, Mr. Speaker, and heard the inadequacies of this individual, you would have been shocked that he would even allow his name to stand. It had to be that if he would give up his job as mayor of Winnipeg, he would get elected, receive all the perks of a member of Parliament and he would live happily ever after. When that did not happen, wow, the Liberals had to find him a job. They asked him what he thought he could do? I do not know what he can do, but he sure cannot be chair of the environment round table.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Richmond Hill Ontario


Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I would like to clarify a couple of points. First, the committee originally voted seven to four to send its comments to the Prime Minister and to the Clerk of the Privy Council, and apparently that was the decision. The majority of members decided that they did not support Mr. Murray, and I believe the result was sent to the assistant clerk of the Privy Council.

After the break, members of the opposition came back and decided that they had made an error. They wanted to send it to the House and, as the hon. member said, the vote on that was nine to two. However, the key point is the item was disposed of because it was sent to the Prime Minister and the recommendations and comments of the committee were made.

Therefore, it is redundant to suggest now that we should deal with this in the House, given the fact that the committee already disposed of it by sending it after the first vote. Then two weeks later it decided it had better send it to the House.

The hon. member suggested it was a job interview. We are talking about a chair of a national round table. We are not talking about the executive director who has to know every aspect of the environment. The member from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia showed up. He was the successful individual to run against Mr. Murray. However, he came to committee as not a part of the committee and in my view did a political hatchet job on Mr. Murray.

If it is was a job interview, then only those members of the committee should have been qualified to ask the questions. Unfortunately, an individual was brought in who had nothing to do with the committee but who obviously had a certain political history with the individual in question. He made a political diatribe against the individual in question. I would pose that to the member across the way.

I would also point out that the role of the chair of the national round table is that of chair. Obviously, Mr. Murray not only is a former mayor who dealt with a city council but he also chaired the big city mayor's caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, about which I have a lot of knowledge. The job is to be a conciliator.

I would ask the hon. member respond to the issue of the two votes, the issue of bringing in a member who was not a part of the committee and the issue of the role of a chair.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.


Bob Mills Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is amazing how Liberals are able to spin things. They can spin themselves into becoming the victims all of a sudden. They are always the victims. Poor Liberals, I feel so sorry for them.

Let us now get the truth out. The vote in committee was seven to four, as the parliamentary secretary agreed. Then there was a break of a week. In the middle of that break the Prime Minister named the guy who the parliamentary committee had said was not qualified. Now what are we to do?

The first day the committee came back we put forward the motion to bring it to the House. What else could we do? We thought the Prime Minister would listen. He said that he would be accountable. He said that he would not make political appointments and that he would not go along with patronage. He broke his word, and when he did that we had to do what we had to do.

That is the answer to the issue so the member can stop using that feel sorry for me argument.

What about the chair? The chair has to show leadership. The chair has to have the ideas and put them forward. We are not run by a CEO. Maybe that is how government cabinet ministers work, where the bureaucrats tell them everything. I do not think so. We have to show some leadership. I hope that when we are government we will show leadership and that members of Parliament, the cabinet in fact, will stand up and be accountable for what they do. That is the second point.

The third point is about who knows someone best. It is the people from one's own community. I quoted from a newspaper from that community. I will repeat the title which said, “LET'S JUST BE HAPPY GLEN WON' T BE BACK”. He will not be back because he got a patronage appointment from the Liberal government. Who knows him better than the member who lives in the riding and who ran in that campaign? He is from his community, he understands him and there was an opportunity to point that out.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Red Deer for his impassioned defence of the environment and the concern that he has showed over this appointment. It is bad enough that Mr. Murray is a failed Liberal candidate and that he was unable to succeed at becoming an MP. Because of that, he is looking for something else.

However, the blame really needs to fall on the Liberal government. Once again, Mr. Murray is a pawn. It is true he is a Liberal and he has tried to run for the Liberal Party, but he has not been successful. However, the blame has to fall in the Prime Minister's Office.

I want to make a couple of comments and then ask the member for his reflections.

We see a history of manipulation from the government frontbench. We saw it last week with the Senate appointments, particularly Alberta Senate appointments. Elections have been held in Alberta to elect senators to come to Ottawa. The Prime Minister has blatantly spit in their faces by saying that he will not abide by that. He will not pay any attention to them.

We see a history of manipulation with the ongoing inquiry. We are going to see more shenanigans this afternoon with the federal government's attempt to derail the Gomery inquiry as the Liberals panic over the revelations that are taking place with their involvement in Quebec and the sponsorship scandal.

We have also seen a history of manipulation with the environment file, particularly with Kyoto. It has been very frustrating. We are how far into Kyoto now and we have no plan. We still have nothing announced. It just does not take place. The member talked about the cost of electricity and fuel going up if we were to implement the plan.

Earlier on the former environment minister left the impression that fuel would have to be in the range of $1.40 to $1.45 in order to change consumer activity enough so the government could implement a plan. That was bad enough at the time. Now it looks like it will be quite a bit higher than that.

We see manipulation on the issue of carbon sequestration where the government has stepped forward and said that it wants to take those carbon credits for itself.

I am from a rural area. Carbon sequestration is important to farmers and to agriculture. They were hoping they would have some opportunity to claim those carbon credits for their farms. It looks like the government has stepped in with its manipulation to try to take that away from the farmers as well.

We have seen the manipulation on this issue, particularly with the budget that has arisen in the last week. The government is trying to change the definition of toxicity in a sneaky way by sliding it into a budget bill so it can manipulate the Canadian people once again.

Does the member think that the reason the Prime Minister has appointed such a weak candidate is so the government can continue this history of manipulation in the environmental file and so it can manipulate Mr. Murray in the ways it needs to go in order to achieve some of the dishonourable goals it has set for itself?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.


Bob Mills Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, it really comes down to respect. I do not believe the Prime Minister has any respect for committees, for members of Parliament or for democracy. Basically, he will name patronage appointments. He will put in the people he wants probably so he can manipulate them, as the member suggests.

It has been eight years and there is no Kyoto plan. Day after day, we get promised we will have a plan. As long as we have patronage appointments running the show, I guess we will never have a plan, certainly not one that will be clear for Canadians.

Here is another area with which the chair of the environment round table could deal. In January the bureaucrats said that the price of carbon would never get above $5.00. When it opened as a commodity in Europe on January 1, it was $3.00. By the end of January, it was $6.00. That is for a tonne of carbon. By the end of February, it was $11. By the end of March, it was $23. When I checked the figures yesterday, it was $26. We have given a guarantee to the large final heavy emitters of a $15 cap. Where do they think carbon is going? A few days ago it was $50. Now they are talking about $75. An economist reported that it could go to $150.

Think about the government's liability. The chair of the environment round table should deal with that and with the costs to taxpayers. This person is not qualified to do that.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Richmond Hill Ontario


Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I will not prolong this too long because it is very clear what the motives are.

The hon. member has suggested that the original vote was sent to the Prime Minister and it was disposed of then. The Prime Minister made it very clear that members of the committee were to review the appointment, and members did. I would suggest that the review process and the questions raised, particularly by members who were not part of the committee, were more political than they were substantive.

The hon. member has the audacity to stand in the House and suggest to us that the individual who knows the member best is the individual who defeated him in his run to become a member of Parliament. That to me is questionable at best. What is also questionable is the fact that the party across the way also tried to have Mr. Murray run for it as did other parties in the House.

The member is suggesting that a former candidate for any political party should not be qualified to serve as chair. Audrey McLaughlin, the former leader of the New Democratic Party, was also appointed by the Prime Minister to the national round table, and I did not hear any objections to that. I did not hear any objections to the former premier of the Northwest Territories being appointed. Mr. Murray was selected by the Prime Minister and his appointment went to committee.

The hon. member across the way would suggest that the chair be an expert on the environment. The role of the chair is to be a consensus builder. Mr. Murray indicated very clearly that he did not have all the answers, but I do not know anyone who does. However, he clearly was prepared to work with the committee, to work with others, and to work with the other members of the national round table.

If we are to suggest that people cannot serve in public life because they ran for a particular party, even though the party across the way also solicited the individual in question, then that is a very sad statement.

The purpose of the national round table is to provide advice. Twenty-four or twenty-five individuals will sit at the round table and they will provide advice to the Government of Canada.

Mr. Murray was a former mayor of the city of Winnipeg. In that role he chaired meetings. Anyone who has chaired meetings of a municipal council know that it is often not an easy job. He was chair of the big city mayors' caucus of the FCM.

Mr. Murray will join a distinguished group of individuals on the national round table. He has a great deal of experience to bring to the table, particularly in terms of the green plan which he authored. He has worked with groups like the Sierra Club in the city of Winnipeg to develop an integrated municipal green plan for the city. I suggest that would be helpful for members of the round table.

To suggest that the committee was doing a job interview is in itself questionable when members from the outside were brought to the committee whose only job was to do a political hatchet job on the witness, not ask the probing important questions for the role, but simply to go through political comments about the last election. That did not serve anyone very well.

Mr. Murray developed the green plan dealing with economic integration and revitalization of the downtown core of the city of Winnipeg. These are important elements with which not only the national round table but the standing committee and others deal.

Mr. Murray has a wealth of experience, particularly as a councillor for eight years and as mayor. In both my role as former president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and as a member of Parliament, I have worked with Mr. Murray from time to time. The attributes which he will bring as chair will be important for the round table.

He was recognized by his colleagues in terms of the big city mayors' caucus and also as a leader in the creative cities movement. Jane Jacobs, urban theorist, also was very much involved in developing and working with the international conference of mayors.

These are very important aspects, which of course will help him in his role as chair of the national round table. The national round table is there to provide advice to the government. The member across the way would suggest somehow that Mr. Murray is going to be the sole arbiter and the sole repository of all knowledge. Clearly not: that is what the round table is for. He works with the round table members. I think that is important.

He is a visiting scholar and urban policy coordinator at the University of Toronto. Clearly the University of Toronto must have felt that he had some value and some expertise to have him at the university as a research associate for the Centre for Urban and Community Studies. I do not think that is a small feat. Again, I think it is important that he is bringing this to the table as well.

The national round table is going to make recommendations. It is going to work with departments. It is going to work with ministers. It is going to work with members of Parliament. I think that is extremely important. Again, that is the role.

The members across the way may not like the choice of Mr. Murray. That fact is, what was the role of the committee? The committee was to hear from Mr. Murray and to get comments from Mr. Murray. In the end the committee made its views known in a very partisan way, obviously, in a seven to four vote, which went to the Prime Minister's Office. The fact is that it has been disposed of. The letter that was sent by the chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development said to him that in fact it was dealt with.

The fact that two weeks later the opposition members have decided that they want to now bring it to the House is immaterial, because it had already been dealt with. It had been disposed of. If they had sent it to the House originally, they might have an argument. They have no argument, in my view, because we sent it as a recommendation, which of course was not binding but obviously there were comments made.

Again, one of the things that members should really look at is what the role of the round table is. Obviously it does strategic work in terms of providing advice.

The member goes through a litany of issues with regard to the environment. There is no question that the round table will be dealing with those issues, but again, we are not talking about the executive director. We are not talking about one person making all the decisions.

I am quite confident that Mr. Murray's appointment will in fact be helpful for the round table. I think it will be helpful for members of Parliament. Had he been given a fair chance to make his comments known, in fact, I think all members would agree on what he is bringing to the role of the chair. Let us not forget what that role is. It is to be the chairman and to work with colleagues in developing a consensus to bring forward. That is certainly what he did as chair of the Big City Mayors' Caucus. That is very important.

The fact is that the government's commitment to appointing qualified people has been kept. The fact is that we are going to again see that kind of advice. Some members are laughing over there. Of course they do not know Mr. Murray. In fact, they do not know anything about the round table and I doubt that they really care, to be very frank. It is unfortunate.

I want to say very sincerely that the committee itself has worked in a very non-partisan way. One of the things I have been very pleased with is that we have not had this kind of nonsense. We have had it only on this particular appointment. We have had it on this particular appointment because Mr. Murray was courted by the party across the way. He was courted by another party in the House. To me, the fact that he did not run for that party is now being held against him. I would suggest that whether he was successful or not, he has the qualifications to do the job as chair. Rather than prolong this, I will leave it at that.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.


Gary Lunn Conservative Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think for the record we should point out that the vote in committee on the recommendation to the Prime Minister about Mr. Murray was seven to four. There were members from the three opposition parties; it was not only one opposition party. It was all committee members, those from the NDP, the Bloc Québécois and the Conservative Party, who recommended that Mr. Murray not be appointed to this position and said that he was not qualified to do the job.

If the vote had been close, if it had been only one party, it would be different, but the vote was seven to four, unanimous from the opposition parties, and the fact is that the Prime Minister stated repeatedly during the election that he would end patronage and cronyism and deal with the democratic deficit.

The simple fact is that this was just a waste of time for the committee in regard to the Prime Minister actually sending this appointment for review by or recommendation of the committee. The Prime Minister received the recommendation not to appoint Mr. Murray and completely disregarded it. I think that fact has to be made clear.

The vote was seven to four that Mr. Murray not be appointed to this position. What is the Prime Minister's word worth? It is a fair question. When the Prime Minister makes these commitments throughout the election, does his word have any value or does he only say what he needs to say to get votes at the time and then once he is in power it does not matter?

We are seeing this pattern from one file to another. I have the same situation in my riding with respect to a tax matter. The Prime Minister made commitments throughout the election, but once he got here it did not matter.

I want to defend the committee. I am not a member of the committee. The committee members took the extraordinary step of bringing their recommendation to Parliament after reviewing this file in good faith. After making a recommendation that was completely disregarded, I think the committee was left with the only possible thing to do and that was to bring this matter before the House.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, the role of the committee was to provide comments. The committee members did that, they sent them to the Prime Minister's Office, and this was disposed of.

The fact is that the Prime Minister reviewed the comments, but again, as the hon. member points out, the three opposition parties did not support Mr. Murray. The fact is that the Prime Minister also appointed non-Liberals to the national round table, as he has done with other appointments.

In fact, to suggest that there is cronyism or patronage means that these words are bandied around with very little evidence or understanding of what they mean. The fact is that when Audrey McLaughlin was appointed there were no complaints. The fact is that we see appointments of people from all political parties and all political stripes.

The member is right when he says that he is not a member of the committee. He did not see the nonsense that went on, in my view. He did not see what I would say is another member being brought in who clearly has a political vendetta given the fact that he defeated the individual in question and the fact that the comments were extremely partisan.

What I was interested in was this. Can Mr. Murray chair? Does he have past experience in chairing? Is he a consensus builder? Is he prepared to reach out? In my view, all of those questions were answered. Therefore, the arguments made across the way have no relevance.

The relevance that is important is the fact that the recommendation was sent to the Prime Minister and was reviewed. In fact, now we have another motion. Maybe those members were asleep at the switch. Now they say, “We have to send it to the House and we want to debate it in the House”.

That is not our consideration or our concern. Our concern was that it was duly dealt with and it was disposed of. The fact is that this is what the chair said in his letter and I think that is what the members of the House need to be aware of.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a related question for the parliamentary secretary. What we are discussing here is whether this is cronyism and whether this is going against the Prime Minister's promise of fixing the democratic deficit.

We in B.C. have seen a number of failed Liberal candidates taking very highly placed positions within the government. To clear the air and to dispose of this, as the parliamentary secretary suggests, is it possible to derive a list, thinking only of British Columbia for the moment, of failed Liberal candidates and what positions, as appointed by the Prime Minister, they now hold within the government?

We hear rumours, which create an air of ill feeling and a perspective on the part of the voters of British Columbia about so many failed Liberal candidates. This is what we have here with Mr. Murray, a failed Liberal candidate. It is an important distinction from other people sitting on the committee. I wonder if the parliamentary secretary would derive this list from the party and find out what failed Liberal candidates now hold positions within the government.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Obviously not, Mr. Speaker. I am not aware of any list. I am not aware of failed candidates, either federal Liberal candidates or failed NDP candidates, or whether they worked for the previous provincial NDP government of British Columbia.

I think the point is that the Prime Minister and previous prime ministers have appointed people of all political stripes to various boards and commissions over the years. The hon. member does not say that Audrey McLaughlin should not be on the national round table. The Prime Minister appointed the individual in question. The fact is that it is a good appointment.

I do not have a list. I do not know why the member is suggesting this or maybe casting aspersions in suggesting that we have only appointed Liberals. The member is well aware that many non-Liberals, including New Democrats, have been appointed, both now and in the past.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.


Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on this issue. I am on the environment committee and have seen some of the nonsense. For example, I saw the hon. parliamentary secretary change his vote on a particular motion when it was decided that it was going to be a recorded vote. I have seen enough shenanigans from that side of the House.

My question is simple. We pursued this as a bit of a job interview. It is interesting to note that when I became a member of Parliament, I also became an employer. I had to hire to staff. When we interview for a job we cast the net far and wide. We look at a number of possibilities and then conduct interviews and determine who the best one is.

Our committee was never afforded that. Interestingly enough, the process, as Mr. Murray testified before our committee, was that he just sort of got a phone call one day, asking, “Hey, are you available?” The next thing we knew, it was a phone call telling him to show up at the committee.

I would like to know from the hon. member opposite what other candidates were considered for this job and rejected. Was there any kind of process before it ever even came to us? I think it is fair to ask to understand that, because it is not much of a job interview when we get one candidate and all we get is a public relations exercise. We get to stand up in committee and ask a few questions, knowing that in the end the Prime Minister does not really even care about our comments. The recommendation was against, but the Prime Minister appointed him anyway against our advice. I would like to know what the process was before it ever got to us.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

First of all, Mr. Speaker, there was a recorded vote. I had no problem with a recorded vote. Obviously I supported the fact that it came here because it had already been disposed of, so I am not really sure why we are going through this other than for political theatre.

The hon. member knows the reality of the process, and if he does not, I do not know why the hon. member is even asking the question. The reality is that other people were appointed and the members did not ask for those people to be there.

The fact is that the Prime Minister has the authority to put forth a candidate. The Prime Minister put forth that candidate, with a CV. In fact, the hon. member reviewed the CV. If he had taken the time to actually look at it he would have known that there are two issues here.

First, what is the role of the chair? If members would take the time to read what the role of a chair is, which is not to be an expert on everything, they would know that Mr. Murray is clearly qualified.

Second, they can take a look at the CV and see what is in that CV which would support or not support the role of the chair. The fact is that this information was given, even though many on the other side were not listening at the time that it was presented to committee.

The hon. member knows the answer. The hon. member should not suggest that somehow there was something trumped up. Clearly the information was provided. The chair was there. The committee members could have interviewed umpteen individuals for the national round table. They chose Mr. Murray, which was fine. Mr. Murray came to committee and he presented his credentials.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to take part in the debate on the motion introduced by our official opposition colleagues during routine proceedings.

I must say that the motion is somewhat important since, ultimately, it invites us to reflect on the role parliamentarians must play within civil society and, above all, on a particular way of proceeding.

I am speaking on behalf of my Bloc Québécois colleagues when I say that we are not calling into question the personal merits of Glen Murray, the former mayor of Winnipeg who doubtless served his constituents well. What we are questioning is the fact he has become the chair of a round table on the environment, when there is no indication that his professional experience or individual expertise has prepared him for such a position of leadership, consultation and consensus building.

This is in no way a personal attack; this is an attempt to call attention to the government's practice—unfortunately all too common—of giving positions of responsibility to individuals who ran for the government party during a federal election. We have two comments about this.

First, when he became leader of the Liberal Party, the Prime Minister called for a democratic renewal. He promised to enhance the role of Parliament. Clearly, such a commitment affects the work of the House as well as that of its committees. MPs spend a great deal of time in committee.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, our colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has become very knowledgeable about environmental issues. However, that committee did not support the appointment of Glen Murray. It informed the Prime Minister that, despite a personal appreciation of Glen Murray, certain individuals in civil society were more qualified in environmental issues than the former mayor of Winnipeg. Once again, this debate must not focus on personal issues, but rather on the level of expertise.

The Prime Minister cannot talk about enhancing the role of parliamentarians and then completely ignore the recommendation by the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. That is, incidentally, one of the most dynamic committees of the House and has produced some very good reports in the past. All of its members, regardless of political background, are greatly concerned about the environment. Their concerns are shared by numerous Canadians. We know that the environment is one of the areas of concern that has grown considerably in importance in recent years.

My second comment relates to the government's propensity, its regrettable bad habit, of appointing former Liberal candidates. How many times have we had examples of that in our ridings, for instance in relation to returning officer appointments. When I was a returning officer myself, I had two experiences of dealing with candidates who had of course not been elected in the general election because that was the wish of my fellow citizens.

We do not feel it is desirable to give preferential treatment to people who are closely associated with a political party. Everyone has a right to acquire some experience within a political party or even to openly identify with a particular party, but this must not be used as a springboard to accede to certain positions of responsibility.

If, for instance, Glen Murray had been a former head of Greenpeace, if all his career had been devoted to working on behalf of the environment, then there would not have been any problem.

I will give the example of the former leader of the NDP. When he was appointed director of the Canadian Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, there was a consensus in this House on his appointment. The former leader of the NDP, and now the member for Ottawa Centre, had in fact been involved in those issues all his life. It is understandable that people, even those with partisan affiliations, have made a name for themselves campaigning for something in the past.

With all due respect for Glen Murray, whose skills, merit and integrity I do not question, I am sorry to say that there is nothing in his career path to suggest that he should be in charge of coordinating environmental matters.

It is important to enhance the role of committees. When I was elected in 1993, I was a fiery thirtysomething. Lucien Bouchard, who was our leader at the time—one of the greatest premiers of Quebec, as everyone in this House knows—told us at our first caucus meeting that we would discover that it is in committees that MPs truly make their mark. There is no hiding in committees. Either you know your stuff or not. That is where we see how good parliamentarians are.

Parliamentarians spend a lot of time in committees. If I am not mistaken, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development meets at least twice a week, if not three times. I have known my colleague to have five committee meetings in one week, when Charles Caccia was chair.

If the role of parliamentarians, who spend a lot of time in committee, is to be given its due, their recommendations have to be taken into account. It would be basic courtesy for a Prime Minister to accept the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in which the three opposition parties were not prepared to support the appointment of Glen Murray as the co-ordinator, the chair of the round table on the environment, considered to be of some importance in an advisory capacity.

I was an MP when Sheila Copps, who was Minister of the Environment, wrote all parliamentarians on the subject of this round table. It is regrettable, once again, that the role of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has been given short shrift. We can only hope for an end to the overly incestuous relationship among Liberal allegiances, involvements in civil society and the link between the two.

Individuals' ability is not an issue. If people are competent, we are happy to support their involvement and responsibilities at various levels. However, if their career path does not include performing certain duties, their candidacy for the Liberal Party is no reason for their appointment to positions of responsibility.

Again, it is nothing personal, but we cannot but hope that, in the future, a stop is put to this all too ready reflex, democratically unhealthy and offensive to Parliament, to appoint unsuccessful candidates to positions of responsibility, considering their responsibilities.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.


Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the Bloc. I have listened to the NDP ask questions and I hear our side asking questions. I want to ask the member, would it not be a lot easier if the Liberal government came on side?

Why is the government being so persistent when almost all in the House agree that this should not be an appointment by the Prime Minister? So much time and energy has gone into discussing this appointment. We have already spent an hour of valuable House time. How much time has been spent at committee just on this issue? Would it not be a lot easier if the government would agree with us? It cannot be all about partisanship. There must be something else to this.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question and I can understand her feeling a bit discouraged by what is happening today. Obviously it is ultimately the institution that is threatened.

We work in good faith in committee. We want to give it our best and help ensure that things go well.

It is distressing to see the government be so pathologically stubborn. I think that she is right to feel disappointed. We share her disappointment because the House's time could have been used for other purposes. At the same time, it is the opposition's role to act as a watchdog.

Once again, the government should have relied on the very able judgment of the committee, which had everything it needed to take an objective, informed look at this appointment.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.


Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, one of the problems we have with the appointment is it appears again that the Prime Minister has gone back on his word. He has talked on many occasions and at great length about ending cronyism in government, ending the feeling of western alienation, ending political patronage appointments across the board. Yet with this appointment, regardless of how qualified Mr. Murray is, it appears that the Prime Minister has broken his word.

One of the things that most Canadians are concerned about is that politicians do not keep their word, that politicians, if we look at recent surveys, are among the lowest ranks of all occupations when it comes to things like integrity, honesty and reliability. This only reinforces the misconception that most Canadians have about politicians.

Does my colleague from the Bloc not think that the perception of impartiality and the perception of fairness are as important as qualifications in making appointments such as this one?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with what our colleague just said. It is true that the Prime Minister has unfortunately broken the promises he made during the election campaign. It is true that it is the institution of Parliament that is tarnished as a result of partisan appointments. We must get back to basics, that is, to the role played by individual members. They show what they can do in parliamentary committees and here in the House.

Two more things could be done to enhance the role of members. The first would be to increase the amount of time spent on private members' business. As we know, the Standing Orders have been revised to put an end to the lottery system and make it possible for each member to introduce a private member's bill at least once every Parliament.

I wonder whether the time has not come to think of abolishing the Friday question period and spend the entire day studying private member's bills. That would be a way of increasing the amount of time spent on them.

There is an imbalance between the amount of time allotted to the government for House business and the amount allotted to ordinary members. If we could get the support of the Conservatives and government members, and if my good friends the neo-Bolsheviks agreed to consider the idea of increasing the amount of time for private members, we could deal on Fridays with three, four, five or six private member's bills.

The official opposition motion that we are discussing leads to questions about the role played by members of Parliament, respect for the institution, and respect for parliamentary committees, in this case the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like the member's comments on the position taken by the parliamentary secretary a little earlier. Consistently throughout his presentation and when he was trying to rebut the member for Red Deer, he said that the motion that was passed originally was passed with a vote of seven to four, that it went to the Prime Minister and in his words, it was then disposed of; it was dealt with; it was finished; it was done with, and he could not understand why it would come forward again.

A second motion came forward and actually resulted in the debate we are having today. That motion passed on a vote of nine to two. I understand that he and the member opposite, who happens to be related to the premier of Ontario, were the only ones on the committee who voted against that.

I would like the member's comments about whether he felt that the first motion dealt adequately with this subject. Why would the parliamentary secretary say that it was disposed of when the Prime Minister completely ignored the recommendations of the committee and basically made a patronage appointment for a failed Liberal candidate? Does the member think that was an adequate way of dealing with it, or does he feel that bringing it here was the proper solution to the issue?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, sometimes in the House, the parliamentary secretaries can be a little vague. This would not be the first time.

In my opinion, it is the role the official opposition, like that of all the opposition parties in the House, to be vigilant about the appointments made. I do not believe a definitive solution has been found just because it was dealt with in committee. It is the prerogative of the opposition parties to initiate a debate such as this. Not only is it the prerogative of the opposition parties, it is their duty.

I repeat that we must return to the crux of the debate. This is not a personal attack. I myself met with Glen Murray in Winnipeg. I know that he did a good job as mayor and that he is a responsible man. However, nothing in his professional background makes him an expert on environmental issues. As a result, we see a connection between his membership in the Liberal Party and the position he has been offered.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:15 a.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Red Deer for the opportunity to speak on this issue again. It seems that the government did not hear clearly enough from the committee, when we had this in front of us in committee, that we needed to bring the debate into the House for greater clarification on what essentially the problem was with this appointment.

A great deal of time has been spent on the qualifications of Mr. Murray and his ability to take this position. The story is getting somewhat lost, and the importance of the Prime Minister's role throughout this discussion and the credibility of the Prime Minister, the Privy Council and the Prime Minister's Office, and their ability to conduct their affairs in such a way that is in the best interests of Canadians, not in the best interests of failed Liberal candidates.

I would suggest that the difficulty they are having is that there are a large number of defeated Liberal candidates in the country who need to be taken care of. There are many candidates that we saw in British Columbia, for example, who are high profile people and wish to enter politics, enter an electoral race. They are taking a great risk.

For Mr. Murray, we saw a pattern, a consequence of his choosing to break his word, as it turned out to be, to the people of Winnipeg that he would fulfill his term as mayor. He made that commitment during the mayoral race. There was then an appointment made in his province to remove a sitting Liberal member to make space, essentially, for Mr. Murray. He then left the mayor's office, which then caused a mayoral race to occur and the consequence to the voters and the people of Winnipeg was detrimental.

Because of this pattern of appointments, of securing places for Liberals to ensure that if they take a chance, and it is becoming an increasingly risky chance to run for their party, they will be taken care of if it goes awry, which happened in the case of Mr. Murray's appointment.

However, I think the credibility question, the larger question, is around this Prime Minister's sincerity of fulfilling the promise made during the last election. We know that in the heat of the moment of a debate promises can be made and blown out of proportion. This promise was made over and over again in this House and across the country, as many times as this Prime Minister could make it. He would talk about fixing the democratic deficit and that the age of cronyism and who one knew in the PMO would be over. He said that would be fixed.

So Mr. Murray came in front of us. Now if this appointment had been about cities, if it had been about municipalities and infrastructure and grants, something that Mr. Murray is obviously very familiar with, I do not think we would be having this debate today because his credibility and his experience are well known throughout the country on that issue.

The second question is how serious is this Prime Minister about the environment outside of the rhetoric, but in the actual application of how this country is going to go ahead with some serious environment questions that have been ignored over the last 12 years by this Liberal government? Promises were made about the ability to reduce and the commitment to reduce pollution and make Canada an efficient and thriving part of the global economy and the global environmental picture.

We have seen year after year that this promise has been broken and that Canada continues to pollute more than is necessary and breaking the commitment that the Liberals have consistently made toward the environment.

If the environment were so important to this Prime Minister and to this Liberal Party, then clearly making a patronage appointment out of such an important position within the environmental framework would not have occurred to them.

There is a question about Mr. Murray's ability. I have some sympathy for Mr. Murray at this point. It is not a common experience for Canadians applying for a job to have three hours of dedicated time devoted to them in the House of Commons and have their record scrutinized. Unfortunately, he chose to accept this position which incurred a certain amount of risk and the risk of having parliamentarians view the appointment, and view the credibility of that appointment in the House as we are doing today.

He made a commitment to us. He said that he would not leave this appointment to jump down and run in some future federal election, and who knows when that will be. I asked him about his commitment to the people of Winnipeg when he was in front of committee because he had made a similar commitment that he would not leave that position, which was by coincidence also a mandate of similar length. He responded by saying:

Would I have preferred that the election was at the end of the second term? Absolutely, but you know sometimes you change your mind. That's not breaking trust, and there is a difference.

I would suggest that credibility does not fill me with a great sense of trust of his commitment toward filling this position where simply breaking one's promise is not breaking one's promise. It is not something about trust. It is just simply changing one's mind.

I suspect that if given another opportunity to run, although perhaps not after this particular round of discussions about his abilities, Mr. Murray would then perhaps have another change of mind, thereby setting the environmental agenda back again another number of months, if not years.

It has been suggested by the parliamentary secretary a number of times that this is simply a matter of sour grapes, that two of the opposition parties had sought Mr. Murray as a candidate and clearly, because we did not get him, we are frustrated and want to take out our vengeance. That is absolutely far from the truth.

The parliamentary secretary particularly points to the New Democratic Party saying that Alexa McDonough has been put on this committee. The important distinction for Canadians to understand is that Ms. McDonough, having retired from politics and now is choosing a life to be on the committee--

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I hate to interrupt the member in the middle of his speech, but I think he has been referring to Ms. McLaughlin I believe and not to a sitting member of Parliament.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was just having a conversation with someone from Halifax.

Ms. McLaughlin is the woman to whom I am referring. The important distinction for Canadians to understand is the difference between a failed candidate and someone who has chosen to leave the life of politics. Earlier it was pointed out that the New Democratic member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre has great knowledge of a certain topic, that being democratic reform. If he retired from politics again, would anybody in the House have a problem with his being appointed to a position to look at democratic reform in this country? Clearly not, because the member has great experience. It is not precipitated by his failed candidacy. That is what we have here, someone who attempted to get into political life at the federal level, failed, and was then appointed.

I asked the parliamentary secretary if he was aware of just Liberal candidates in B.C. who had been appointed and given so-called soft landings. There is an immediate lack of knowledge and awareness of such a thing ever occurring, yet we know that candidate after candidate across the country, not just from British Columbia, not just from Manitoba, are given a gentle handshake on the way out the door of a failed candidacy for the Liberal Party. This ensures that high profile and powerful candidates can consistently be attracted, thereby continuing the machine of the Liberal Party, which leads to bad decisions and the wrong people being in the wrong positions.

I would direct the member's attention toward the Gomery inquiry to see what happens when people are appointed to the wrong positions for reasons other than their qualifications, their one qualification being their connection to the Liberal Party, or their ability to raise funds, or to run as a candidate.

The role of the chair has been raised a number of times as to whether it is important or not. It was striking to me as a former professional facilitator who chaired a great diversity of meetings, how dismissive Mr. Murray was about the importance of this position and the importance of the role of the chair in any committee. The parliamentary secretary said that this candidate could not have all the answers. The role of the chair is not to have all the answers, of course not. The role of the chair is to have the right questions to pose to the committee, to bring forward the right witnesses, to bring forward the right people to address and comment on the direction and advice needed to be given to the government.

The role of the chair is pivotal in the direction of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. With Mr. Murray's dismissiveness of the importance of that role and the dismissiveness I have seen in the House of the importance of that role, it is clear to me that there is a lack of understanding of the position, a lack of understanding of its importance. This speaks to the Prime Minister's lack of commitment to the environment as an issue by appointing people who have no clear perspective of what the job actually is.

A number of times during the committee discussion I asked Mr. Murray if he would be willing to criticize the government. I have had some frustrations with previous national round table reports and their lack of effectiveness in changing the bad course of the government when it came to greenhouse gases, the use of the taxation system to improve our environmental standing. He avoided the question numerous times. He found his way around it and would not answer me directly. Another member of the committee, a Liberal, entered into the debate and clarified the fact that the role of the chair of the national round table is not to criticize the government, that it is not part of the job description and not something that it does. Mr. Murray did not even have knowledge of that fact.

A number of times the candidate also pointed out that he was willing to work. He said that he was willing to let his hair down, which was the expression he used over and over again, to roll up his sleeves was referred to a few times, and work with the members of the environment committee. This is also not the role of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. It is meant to be an advisory body to the Prime Minister. It is also meant to present to the Prime Minister the harsh realities of how we are doing on the environment. Over the last 12 years, that harsh reality has been very discouraging.

To see somebody who was hand picked, who did not go through a nomination race, someone with clear connections to the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister's office and the Privy Council being simply appointed thereby incurs a certain amount of loyalty to those people. That person would be unwilling to present that harsh reality to the Prime Minister and to his cabinet about the tough decisions that must be made when it comes to the environment. The progressive action that has been lacking is needed if Canada is going to meet any of its international commitments, if it is going to start to reverse the trend that we have and the pollution that we see in our country, to clean our air and clean our water.

The candidate obviously lacked the fortitude and knowledge to fulfill that position properly. Again it speaks to the lack of importance that the Prime Minister has given to the environment.

There will be a recorded vote in the House to which I am very much looking forward. Therein lies an opportunity for the Liberal Party, the Prime Minister and the government to dispel the myths that the democratic deficit dialogue was simply optics, that the Liberals were simply looking for an opportunity to gain a few more votes and some key seats. When the House votes on this, it will be an opportunity for the Prime Minister to say he values the opinion of parliamentarians who represent the opinions of Canadians and who looked at the issue with all thoroughness. It has been impugned and suggested that the motivations are purely partisan.

I said in committee and I will say it again here in the House, my intention in looking at Mr. Murray's candidacy, as was the intention of many of the committee members around the table, was to look at his appointment with objectivity and to arrive at a sound decision in the best interests not of Mr. Murray's CV or in the Liberal Party's ability to attract high profile candidates, but in the interests of the environment and the country. We came away with a recommendation to say no, this was not an appropriate appointment, that the Prime Minister had to back down.

The tragedy in Alberta of the RCMP officers being killed occurred during the week that the committee was to look at the motion that is now before the House. I have a deep cynicism and suspicion that in that week when our committee meeting was cancelled, and appropriately so in order that members could attend the funerals of the fallen RCMP officers, the opportunity was taken cynically by the government to rush ahead with the appointment and make sure that the committee could not look at the motion that would come before the House. I do not make that allegation lightly.

When this comes for a vote in the House, the government will have the opportunity to seriously look at the democratic deficit, to take a serious stand and say that the voices of parliamentarians who represent the voices of Canadians matter, that the environment truly matters. The government will have the opportunity to say that it will commit to make an appointment that makes sense, that will be good for the environment, an appointment that will have the trust of parliamentarians and thereby the credibility and trust of Canadians. The government will have the opportunity to vote in support of the motion, which the New Democratic Party will be doing with some pride.

My last point is to dispel the myth of partisanship. The chair of the environment committee who is doing a very able job of chairing another committee, invited committee members to dinner to talk with the new ambassador for the environment who was appointed by the Prime Minister. There was a striking difference in the tone. Unfortunately the Liberal members, except for the chair, were unable to attend the dinner and to meet the ambassador, but the other parties were well represented at the table. The tone and nature of the conversation on the appointment of the ambassador was respectful, engaging and important.

Ms. Sloan has an extraordinary amount of credibility within the House and the country for her perspective on the environment. I and the New Democratic Party are looking forward to working with the ambassador on the important issues on the environment. Is she a New Democratic member or Conservative member? No, she is not. She is a former Liberal member of the House but her credibility is in good standing. She is not a failed candidate who has been dropped in on a soft landing. She has the ability to look at the issues. She has the knowledge to represent the country well when it comes to the environment. She knows the issues.

The New Democratic Party looks forward to engaging with her, even though she is not a New Democrat, even though she is not a Conservative or a Bloc. She is a Liberal. Do we have a problem with the appointment? Of course not. There was no media outcry. There was no need to bring the motion forward in the House to reject her appointment. Why? It was a sound appointment. It made sense. If brought before the committee we would have a fruitful and fulsome debate, as the Liberals like to call it. In the case of Mr. Murray it is the opposite. We have a failed candidate who is unqualified for the job and is unwilling to even know what the job specifically entails.

A Prime Minister whose arrogance in ignoring the will of the committee will be seen when there is a standing vote on this motion in the House. It will be seen when he rejects the opportunity to fulfill the promise of fixing the democratic deficit. This is an opportunity to fulfill the promise to reject the culture of cronyism that has existed for far too long within the Liberal Party, much to the detriment of a number of issues and in this particular case the environment.

The government should take the high road. It should take the opportunity to address the issues that parliamentarians have brought forward. Serious concerns have been brought forward in committee and again during this debate. The government should fulfill the promise of truly looking at the democratic deficit.

Unfortunately, I have a lack of faith with this perspective. I do not think the courage is there. The pattern of cronyism will continue because the Prime Minister has not yet seen the way. The Liberal Party of Canada has not yet seen its way, despite all the evidence of the need to undermine this pattern of soft landings for high profile candidates. The Liberals have to stand with courage in the House with the opposition parties when we vote on this issue and say that the appointment was a bad decision.

I feel a certain amount of sympathy for Mr. Murray in his having to go through this procedure. He accepted an appointment on which he was ill equipped for any sort of scrutiny and which has now happened. Now his career is such as it is. I encourage the government to reconsider its position. This is important to Canadians. We look forward to the support of the government on this motion.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.


Brian Jean Conservative Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, in the member's expertise and background as a professional facilitator, if this appointment goes ahead and the Prime Minister ignores the House and the members of the committee, how effective would the round table be based upon the level of knowledge and expertise that Mr. Murray exhibited during his questioning? How would other members on the round table react to his lack of expertise and knowledge? Would Mr. Murray be effective if his appointment were to go ahead?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the role of the facilitator in establishing the agenda of any committee or group is pivotal. The setting of the agenda determines the type of conclusions that a committee or any decision making body will make.

With respect to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, a huge amount of expertise is brought to bear on any given issue. This is at a great cost to the taxpayers of $6 million or so a year in order to provide sound information to the Prime Minister in making decisions regarding the environment.

In the past when recommendations have been made by the national round table they have not been forceful enough to change the course of the government. Do I have any hope that this committee under the leadership of Mr. Murray will be presenting the tough decisions and tough advice on the environment to which the government needs to pay attention? Absolutely not.

The inability and the dismissal of the importance of the chair give me great cause for concern about how seriously he will take the setting of the agenda and the way in which certain items will be looked at.

It has been said that the quality of one's life is determined by the quality of the questions one asks oneself. Nothing truer could be said of this committee. The round table must be given a sound agenda and good questions to look at in order to arrive at conclusions that benefit the country.

Mr. Murray obviously dismissed the importance of the role of the chair, as did the parliamentary secretary. That lack of ability and lack of concern cause me and many other members of the House great concern about the efficacy and intelligence of the work that will be done over the next number of years.