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.