House of Commons Hansard #92 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quarantine.


Holocaust Memorial Day

May 5th, 2005 / 10 a.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among all the parties and I believe that you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That this House solemnly commemorates the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camps and, following Canada's official participation this year in memorial events at the United Nations and at Auschwitz, the site that epitomized the evil of the Holocaust, remembers the lives of the millions of men, women and children who perished at the hands of tyranny, and honours the many Canadians who fought for freedom and justice at a time of darkness.

Holocaust Memorial Day

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Holocaust Memorial Day

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

Points of Order

10:05 a.m.


Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, you have helpfully reminded me that two weeks ago tomorrow I used the word “hypocrite” in question period. I did not clearly retract it. I would like to do so now.

Points of Order

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member for his usual cooperation in that regard.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick


Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to five petitions.

Holocaust Memorial DayRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Mount Royal Québec


Irwin Cotler LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as I begin to speak I am reminded of the words of the cantor during the Yom Kippur service, hineni heani mimaas , “I am inadequate in word and in deed”, for I have neither the wisdom of the scholar nor the experience of the Holocaust survivor. I only know what my parents taught me as a young boy, the profundity and pain of which I only realized years later: that there are things in Jewish history, in human history, that are too terrible to be believed but not too terrible to have happened.

Indeed, Auschwitz, Treblinka, Dachau, the horror of the Holocaust, these are beyond vocabulary. Words may ease the pain, but they can also dwarf the tragedy. The Holocaust was uniquely unique in the singularity of its genocidal intent, where biology was inexplicably and inextricably destiny, a war against the Jews where, as Elie Wiesel reminds us, not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were victims. And so we must ask ourselves on this Holocaust Memorial Day, what have we learned? What must we do?

The first lesson is the importance of zachor, remembrance itself, for as we remember the six million, degraded, demonized, dehumanized, murdered in the Holocaust, we have to understand that this is not a matter of abstract statistics. Unto each person there is a name. Unto each person there is an identity. Each person is a universe. As our sages tell us, whoever saves a single life, it is as if he or she saved an entire universe, but whoever kills a single person, it is as if he or she has killed an entire universe.

Lesson number two is the enduring lesson of the Holocaust, that these genocidal murderers succeeded not only because of the industry of death and the technology of terror, but because of the ideology of hate. It was this state sanctioned teaching of contempt, this demonizing of the other; this is where it all began. As our Supreme Court has affirmed, the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers; it began with words. These are the chilling facts of history. These are the catastrophic effects of racism.

Lesson number three is the danger of silence, the consequences of indifference. For the genocide of European Jewry succeeded not only because of the culture of hate and the industry of death, but because of crimes of indifference, because of conspiracies of silence, and we have witnessed an appalling indifference in our own day, which took us down the road to the unthinkable, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, and to the unspeakable, the genocide in Rwanda, made even more unspeakable because this genocide was preventable. No one can say that we did not know, but we did not act, and we have an international responsibility to act to protect the victims in the genocide by attrition in Darfur.

And so, it is our responsibility to break down these walls of indifference, to shatter these conspiracies of silence, to stand up and be counted, and not look around to see whoever else is standing before we make a judgment to do so because, in the world in which we live, there are few people prepared to stand, let alone be counted. Let there be no mistake about it: indifference in the face of evil is acquiescence with evil itself; it is complicity with evil.

Lesson number four is combating mass atrocity and the culture of impunity.

If the 20th century, symbolized by the Holocaust, was the age of atrocity, it was also the age of impunity. Few of the perpetrators were brought to justice; and so, just as there must be no sanctuary for hate, no refuge for bigotry, so must there be no base or sanctuary for these enemies of humankind.

May I close with a word to the survivors of the Holocaust, for they are the true heroes of humanity. They witnessed and endured the worst of inhumanity but somehow they found in the depths of their humanity the courage to go on and to rebuild their lives as they have built their communities. It is with them and because of them and because of the righteousness of people like Raoul Wallenberg we remember that each person has a name and an identity, and that each person is a universe.

We remember and we pray that this is not just a matter of rhetoric but must be a commitment to action, that never again will we be indifferent to racism and hate, that never again will we be silent in the face of evil, that never again will we indulge anti-Semitism old and new, that never again will we be indifferent in the face of mass atrocity and impunity. We will speak and we will act against racism, against hate, against anti-Semitism, against atrocity and against injustice. This is part of the larger struggle for human rights and human dignity in our time.

May this day be not only an act of remembrance, which it is, but let it be a remembrance to act, which it must be, because in these times qui s'excuse s'accuse. Whoever remains indifferent indicts himself or herself.

Holocaust Memorial DayRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.


Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin with thanks to the Minister of Justice for his profound words and comments on the horror of the Holocaust and the lessons that mankind must learn from such atrocities.

I want to join with him and all members of the House in embracing his passion and commitment to end hatred, racism and all forms of intolerance.

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, Yom Hashoah, a day which remembers that six million Jews were murdered simply because they were Jewish. Yom Hashoah occurs on the 27th of Nissan, the Jewish calendar, and this year it occurs as we remember the liberation of Europe. The end of this horrible chapter in world history coincided.

Today, however, we remember the horror of the Holocaust, the concentration camps where Jewish families were decimated, parents lost to children, children lost to parents. Today we remember the pain the survivors of the Holocaust live with every day and we salute their courage to go on and their determination to ensure that we never forget the atrocities that happened to them.

This triumph over tragedy is simply the very best of human spirit and a shining example to all.

We must not forget that these atrocities were the fruits of the hate and racism condoned by nations.

As a society, we must put aside indifference to racism. We must put aside any hint or hesitation of confrontation, of prejudice and hatred. We must continue to disavow anti-Semitism and we must speak out loudly and clearly that these attitudes are simply unacceptable. As a country, we must be ready to stand up in the global community and condemn actions that are unacceptable.

Today, Canadians and the world remember the horror of the Holocaust. We must recommit to never forgetting these atrocities so that these atrocities can never again be committed.

We must offer our prayers to those who have perished and we must offer our compassion and support to those who survived yet live with these memories.

It is only by teaching our children to abhor the attitudes that enabled the Holocaust to occur that we can ensure that this is never repeated. “Never again” must be as real to us and those who follow as it is to those brave survivors of this darkest period of world history.

Holocaust Memorial DayRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.


Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise in this place today. I would, however, rather have been at Auschwitz with the Minister of Justice and our wives along with the 20,000 other people who are participating today in the March of the Living in that death camp in Auschwitz, Poland.

Yom Hashoah is being officially and solemnly commemorated for the second time this year. The chosen date, the 26th day of Nissan in the Jewish calendar, is in remembrance of the Warsaw ghetto uprising that saw weak, famished and poorly armed Jews stand up to the powerful Wehrmacht, the German army.

On November 7, 2003, with a unanimous vote of this House, Parliament passed Bill C-459, establishing Holocaust Memorial Day.

I had made that suggestion after my friend lost his father, Albert Rudolph, who was a survivor of this tragedy. Because there are fewer and fewer of these survivors and heroes still alive, it is incumbent upon public authorities and parliamentarians to take over, so that the horror of what happened is not forgotten. Despite all the studies, books, documentaries and seminars, it is not always easy to properly understand, explain and talk about the Shoah because it is unspeakable.

It is unspeakable in part because, paradoxically, it has both unique and universal aspects.

I use the term universal, because, before the Shoah, and unfortunately also afterward, people all over the world have been the victims of degradation, humiliation, torture and murder because of their ethnic background. The list of these is unfortunately too long. We think immediately of Rwanda, for course, where 800,000 people were murdered with machetes within the space of six weeks. Then there is the former Yugoslavia. The situation in Sudan at the present time, where the Janjaweed are massacring the black Sudanese at will, is another example. How shameful that, after the example of the Shoah, the international community has not put an end to these massacres. Unfortunately, it is obvious that the lessons of the Holocaust have not all been learned.

The other unique aspect of the Shoah is that ant-Semitism is still far too evident today. Some consider this to be the most long-lasting hatred of all. There has been a resurgence of anti-Semitism in the world, according to a recently released study by the University of Tel Aviv. Over the past 15 years anti-Semitic acts have been on the rise in the world.

Its effects are felt in Canada and in Quebec as well. Here are some examples: May 19, 2001, a bomb in a Quebec City synagogue; summer 2004, synagogues and houses vandalized in Toronto; April 5, 2004, United Talmud Torah School set fire to; Chief David Ahenakew's extremely anti-Semitic remarks. Only a week ago, students of Royal St. George's College in Toronto lauched an openly anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi website.

If our youth are still doing such things, it is because we have been remiss as a society. As parliamentarians, we have not done our part to counteract racism, intolerance and anti-Semitism.

This Holocaust Memorial Day imposes two duties on us: first of all, to remember, so that history does not repeat itself; second, to react every time there is a racist remark or a racist act, to stand up and speak out against such things, and to put an end to this behaviour. These duties are imposed upon us by the six million innocent victims. They are a sacred trust.

Holocaust Memorial DayRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am deeply honoured to join with colleagues in the House from all parties to speak of the horrors of the Holocaust and to remember this most tragic chapter in the history of the world.

I am honoured to rise today to speak on behalf of all of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party of Canada and our leader to remember the victims and survivors of the Holocaust.

Today is a day to remember and to take time away from our busy lives to commemorate the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, sons and daughters of those who lost their life during the darkest hours in the entire history of humanity.

Just 60 years ago, within living memory, our world was ravaged by an evil and hatred never before imagined by humanity. Entire families were destroyed. Six million were murdered. Those who survived have spent a lifetime carrying the enormous burden of humankind's most despicable deeds.

Today is vital for all of us who were spared the cruelty of war and the atrocities of the Holocaust. We must remember and honour the victims and the survivors who have to live with this tragedy.

This is a day for reflection and, as my colleague, the Minister of Justice said, to remember, and the act of remembrance is vital to ensuring that history does not repeat itself. It is a time to consider the journey we have taken since the Holocaust and the road that is before us.

Today we live in a world where intolerance still exists, where human rights are not guaranteed and where genocide goes unopposed. We live in a society right now where racially motivated hate crimes are on the increase and where there has been a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents.

We must not forget the lessons of history. We cannot grow complacent, comforted by the passing of time or the security of distance. Inaction in the face of tyranny is an injustice itself, not bound to history books alone. As has been said so often, the omission of good is just as reprehensible as the commission of evil.

It is our obligation to Holocaust victims, survivors and indeed to all of humanity that we never again permit the destructive forces of prejudice and hatred to cast their dark shadow. It is within all of us to stand firm, to strive harder, to aspire to create a world where the best of the human spirit prevails and the evil veil of intolerance is forever eradicated.

As one survivor, Baruch Cohen, has written:

As we commemorate those who were murdered, we also tell their story. We, the few survivors, with our painful, unhealed scars, must continue to reveal our private memories, not for the sake of history only, but for the sake of present and future generations.

Let me end on a personal note to acknowledge the work done by the House a little over a year ago, for which I am very proud, to create the national Holocaust Memorial Day, something that has been very important for the entire country and all our citizens to acknowledge that systemic violence, racism and hatred continue to occur. It has become for us a moment to reflect, remember and rededicate our lives.

I am proud today that we are able to celebrate the second annual Holocaust Memorial Day.

Finally, let me say that I had the privilege of being part of the 55th liberation of Holland ceremonies and had an opportunity to visit Camp Westerbork, which was the transition camp for many on their way to Auschwitz and other death camps.

I will end with the words of Rabbi Levison, who said at that ceremony:

It has been said before, one hundred and two thousand people from this camp were sent to their death. Now, one hundred and two thousand people doesn't mean a thing. It has once been said that one accidental death is a tragedy, twenty accidental deaths is a disaster, one hundred and two thousand is a statistical point. Therefore, I pray you never say one hundred and two thousand people have died. Always think one hundred and two thousand times, one person died. That is the message of peace.

Zakhor, we remember. Shalom .

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.


Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

The committee draws to the attention of the House that the committee agreed to undertake a study of child pornography, the role of the Internet, the responsibility of Internet service providers, and the impact of any new technology in this phenomenon.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.


John Williams Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I move that the second report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts presented on Thursday, October 28, 2004, be concurred in.

I will be dividing my time with the member for Prince George--Peace River.

Last February 10, 2004 a political storm burst over Canada and the dark clouds continue to spread out even today. Last year we heard from the Auditor General how $100 million had been spent with little or no value. Jean Chrétien, as the Prime Minister of the day, presided over a corrupt program that became the largest political scandal in our history.

Yes, we have had scandals before. We think back to the railway debates under our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, and the pipeline debates in the 1950s, but both of these occurred as we were building our great country of Canada. The railways were to unite our land from sea to sea and the pipeline was to bring wealth and prosperity to the west. However, this corruption scandal has the capacity to bring an end to our great country, the Canadian dream, and the nation that is admired by people all around the world.

This scandal has fueled the separatists in the province of Quebec. The scandal has infuriated the people of Quebec and they have soured on the federal government that has manipulated and ignored its own rules on referenda, funneled taxpayers' money illegally into its own pockets to fight elections, and the litany goes on and on.

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said this program was all about saving Canada, yet the minister of intergovernmental affairs at the time has said that a few advertising sponsorships around the country would not change anybody's opinion. The Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Chrétien, said, “So there are a few million dollars wasted, lost or stolen. What was the big deal? This was going to save the country”. Now we know it may be the catalyst that breaks the country.

This is a scandal, not that we have lost $100 million, which in itself is horrendous, but the fact that it may be the catalyst that brings this great country to an end. That is the corruption scandal of this country; the greatest scandal that we have ever had.

Last year the public accounts committee was charged by the current Prime Minister to investigate this issue. We think of the litany of witnesses who appeared before the committee and how they tried to save their own skins by blaming other people. We had Chuck Guité, a middle level bureaucrat, telling us how he could run into the minister's office at a whim. He could run to the chief of staff of the Prime Minister whenever he wanted to see the chief of staff. He was the conduit for what appears to be a conspiracy at the top that has potentially brought this country to its knees.

We know that the chief of staff to the former Prime Minister has been involved because he admitted that to the public accounts committee and to the Gomery commission. When he has been involved, we know that the former Prime Minister is involved because they were the best of friends going back many years. They shared all their information and the chief of staff would never have worked without the concurrence of the former Prime Minister.

We know that Alfonso Gagliano was involved. He admitted that at the public accounts committee and at the Gomery inquiry, where he should never have been talking to middle level bureaucrats, but he was, in giving them direction as to where the money would go

We had André Ouellet, the former minister of foreign affairs and long time member of this House who ended up running Canada Post, involved in illegal contracts being funnelled through advertising agencies. The money went to Canada Post under his direction and then who knows where it all went from there. We know that André Ouellet was filling his pockets with expense accounts without a single receipt and collected $2 million to $3 million without a single receipt, claiming reimbursement. This is the calibre and the character of the people who were running the sponsorship scandal.

We cannot forget Jean Carle, the Business Development Bank vice-president, also a very good friend of Jean Chrétien, who admitted at the Gomery inquiry that what he was doing was money laundering with taxpayers' money.

The Prime Minister appears to be involved. He has denied his involvement, but nonetheless, he appears to be involved because all his friends were involved, so why would he not be involved? Jean Pelletier, chief of staff, Andre Ouellet, Jean Carle, Alfonso Gagliano, these people were friends. They also had the levers of this country in their hands.

They had a guy by the name of Chuck Guité, who was at the Gomery inquiry yesterday, spilling all the information that he was handing out. Chuck Guité could move among these people at will because he was getting their direction: spend the money here; give the money there; illegal contract over there; bags of cash somewhere else; spread it around. But, while it was spreading around, it was all going in one direction. It was going to the advertising agencies who were all friends and all getting rich with taxpayers' money. However, they had their directions too because they were giving the bags of cash back to the Liberal Party.

Can we tolerate that today? This is the worst scandal that we have had in this country. I cannot believe that we are sitting here tolerating a scandal and the government is saying not to worry, that it will look after it. Something must be done. Therefore, the House and the public accounts committee will do whatever it can to ensure that this never ever happens again.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to what the member had to say. I just came from my constituency a few moments ago, as a matter of fact, where I had a meeting with the chamber of commerce of one of the communities, namely the town of Alfred, or more properly put, Alfred et Plantagenet.

They are two towns in my riding. I spoke with the people there and everyone asked me why the members of Parliament wanted to have an election. I answered that this was not at all what was wanted, although there was a certain party in this House that was keen on it because a few weeks ago it saw what seemed to be a favourable poll, although that has disappeared in the meantime.

Is it not true that the Conservatives have painted themselves into a corner—that they are stuck now because of the position they took a little while ago? Now we have this rather sad situation. We know that Canadians do not want an election. Some Conservative members are not even around; they have gone away to hide so that they will not have to vote like the rest of them. The members in question could hardly deny it. I could even name them.

The hon. member is still insisting on saying what he just told us, with all these exaggerations. Does the hon. member not know that Canadians want to see us get down to work, pass the budget, ask questions in the House about agriculture, and talk about economic development?

Three lobbies were active around Parliament this week, including one group of firefighters from all across the country. Not one opposition member questioned the ministers about what was going to be done to improve the lives of these people, in response to their complaints. The steelworkers were also here, a few days ago, to ask some important questions. It is the opposition members' duty to question the government on these matters. Well, they are not doing it at all any more. They have stopped doing their work as parliamentarians.

Why do the hon. members across the aisle refuse to do what they promised the people in their ridings? They keep on desperately because they are caught in the corner into which they painted themselves a few days ago, claiming to want an election, while they themselves know that some of their colleagues, in their party, do not want one any more. Is it not time to put an end to this charade and get back to work?

Yesterday, I was not even able to ask a question about agriculture in my riding because the Conservative members across the aisle were doing nothing but causing an uproar. The Conservatives did not want to hear people in this House talking about milk quotas. That is the reality.

I'm tired of it, as Canadians are. Why does the member not stop it so that we can get back to work, because that is what people want?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.


John Williams Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, trust a Liberal member to focus on anything but the corruption scandal and involvement of the Liberal Party. He is talking about elections. He is talking about budgets. He is talking about agriculture. He is talking about anything other than the sponsorship scandal and the fact that the House has a responsibility to hold the government accountable. When the government is not accountable, it gets away with a hundred million dollars of taxpayer money and perhaps even more.

This is why we exist here. We are here to hold the government up by the neck and give it a shake and say, “You can't do that, there is a penalty for doing that and you'll be held accountable for doing that”. For the member to suggest otherwise is an affront to the House.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.


Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, before I begin my remarks today, I would like to take a moment to recognize and pay special tribute to three of my colleagues: two from the official opposition and a former Ottawa roommate of mine who now sits as an independent member. Despite all three of these fine gentleman courageously battling cancer, all three continue to honour their families, friends and constituents by placing service to their country ahead of themselves.

To my friends, the members for Okanagan—Shuswap, Westlock—St. Paul and Surrey North, is say through you, Madam Speaker, have not only earned my deepest respect and admiration but that of all Canadians.

I am pleased to address this motion today and I have an amendment to offer the House. While I will be moving it at the end of my speech, I will give the House a little heads up.

The amendment will recommit the report. It will ask the committee to reference chapters 3, 4 and 5 of the November 2003 report of the Auditor General which has brought to the attention of the Canadian public that there appears to be widespread and systemic corruption at the highest levels of the Liberal government, spanning many years and revealed at the Gomery commission. It will instruct the committee to recommend that the government immediately resign because the House has already concluded that it does not have the confidence in the government over the matter of Liberal corruption.

The reasons stated in the amendment are valid. I am of the opinion that the majority of members of the House believe they are true, and I would like to put that to the test.

Clearly there is doubt whether or not the government enjoys the support of the House. It has been talked about many times over the last few weeks. It is unconscionable for it to continue to spend billions of taxpayer dollars and commit billions more without the support of the House.

As the House is well aware, the government has taken supply days away from the opposition parties. It has begun debating committee reports in a procedural bid to scuttle any attempt to have a vote on a particular report that would reinstate an opposition day for May 19.

This attempt by the government to delay a confidence vote is bordering on being unconstitutional, I submit. The House can no longer continue to support the business of the government. The reason is that I do not think the government has the confidence of the House.

Canadians are owed an opportunity to pass judgment on whether the Liberal Party remains fit for public office. If the Liberal Party is corrupt, as the sworn evidence shows, it should be removed. It is not good enough for Liberals to tell Canadians that since none of them have actually been convicted of any crimes they are still fit to govern. Canadians have higher standards than that.

Since the Prime Minister's televised plea for more time, the Liberal government has announced almost $7.5 billion in additional spending, including the $4.6 billion it used to secure 19 NDP votes in the House.

The Prime Minister and the NDP are emptying the public treasury. If we allow the Prime Minister to have his way, this would just be the beginning of 10 month orgy of spending. Canadians cannot afford a 10 month election campaign on their dime. I submit they cannot afford another 10 days of this government, let alone 10 more months.

Before I move the amendment, I would like to address a point of order that the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons made to the last amendment that was moved by the Leader of the Opposition to a concurrence motion. The minister had trouble with some of the wording. He did not like that the amendment instructed the committee. He suggested that the wording should have said, “that the committee has the power to amend”.

Then the member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell referenced the McGrath reforms and tried to associate those changes with the reasons why the amendment should be ruled out of order. It was the McGrath reforms themselves that supported the receivability of the motion, not the other way around as the former House leader tried to make us believe.

Committees prior to the McGrath reforms received their terms of reference from the House, so it was necessary to use the words “have the power”. After the McGrath reforms, committees had the power to make independent recommendations, so it is no longer necessary to use those words. Committees are so independent, thanks to McGrath, that they can even recommend that the government resign.

I have reviewed a number of amendments that were moved in previous parliaments and their wording supports the amendment my leader moved on April 22 and they support the wording of the amendment that I will now move.

I move:

That the motion before us be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

The second report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, presented on October 28, 2004, be not now concurred in, but that it be recommitted to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts with instruction that it amend the same so as to recommend, in reference to Chapters 3, 4 and 5 of the November 2003 Report of the Auditor General, which has brought to the attention of the Canadian public that there appears to be wide spread and systemic corruption at the highest levels of the Liberal government, spanning many years, and revealed at the Gomery Commission, that the government immediately resign because the Canadian public has already concluded that it does not have confidence in the government over this matter.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. On behalf of the government I would like to question whether or not this amendment is in order. This is instructions to a committee of the House based essentially on political commentary and on conclusions that have not been reached, even though the House leader of the official opposition maintains that those conclusions have been reached.

To the contrary, Canadians have indicated, quite overwhelmingly, that they do not share these conclusions. They have indicated that they wish to see the work of the Gomery commission concluded and reported on before being asked to pass judgment on that. Canadians have indicated that they want to see the fact finding of Judge Gomery concluded.

To draw conclusions and instruct a committee based on these non-existent conclusions is not in order. We would challenge the validity of the amendment of the hon. member in instructing a committee based essentially on political commentary and on conclusions that have certainly not been reached by the House.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, we would invite you to rule that the amendment is not in order.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe the amendment in itself affirms what the previous speaker just said. The word “appears” was used in the amendment and that “the Canadian public has decided” was another reference.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees our rights under natural law and justice to due process, to the rule of law and innocent until proven guilty. The amendment in itself actually would constitute a violation of the charter itself in terms of the spirit of the charter to protect our right to due process.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.


Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I did have some references to Journals that I was going to read in my remarks and decided not to, but they might be appropriate for your decision at this point in time.

The House leader of the government referred to the McGraw report during his earlier submission to you, Mr. Speaker, to rule a similar amendment out of order. I reviewed a number of amendments that were moved in previous Parliaments and I believe their wording supports the amendment my leader moved on April 22 and the one that I have just moved, which is being called into question.

I refer you, Mr. Speaker, to the Journals of December 5, 1997. The member for North Vancouver moved:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the “That” and substituting the following:

“the 13th Report be not now concurred in, but that it be recommitted to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs with instruction that they amend the same so as to recommend that all Private Members' Business be votable and appropriate measures be taken to ensure that an increased amount of time is available in the House for such Business”.

Also from Journals of December 15, 1999, two years later, the member for Medicine Hat moved:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

“the First Report of the Standing Committee on Finance, presented on Friday, December 10, 1999, be not now concurred in, but that it be recommitted to the Standing Committee on Finance with instruction that they amend the same, so as to recommend that the government re-index the income tax system to inflation by immediately eliminating bracket creep”.

On June 20, 1996 the member for Lethbridge moved:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That”' and substituting the following:

“the 22nd Report be not now concurred in but that it be recommitted to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs with instruction that they amend the same so as to recommend that...”

The amendment went on at some point from there.

It is our contention, and we certainly seek the advice of the Chair, that the wording of not only the amendment that I just moved but the one that my leader moved a couple of Fridays ago, which has been called into question, are very much in order. The Speaker who ruled at that time that the amendment was in order was making the proper ruling.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

The Speaker

The Chair appreciates the submissions of the hon. members who have participated in this matter: the deputy government House leader, the member for Mississauga South and the opposition House leader.

I will take the comments under advisement and come back to the House in due course. In the meantime, debate may proceed on this matter.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.


Bill Casey Conservative North Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River a question. Previous to the member speaking, the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell stood up to say that he had been back in his riding and the only people who are really pushing for an election now or who want an election are those in the Conservative Party.

However, I noticed something in the two national newspapers today. The National Post has an editorial entitled “Time to put this House out of its misery”. The article goes on to some extent about how it is time that this Parliament came to an end. Of course the Globe and Mail also has one, entitled “Why prolong this paralyzing agony?”, which states:

--an election that cleared the air, one way or another, would at least unfreeze the locked cogs of the public service, and get the legislative process flowing again.

I have also noticed lately that the polls of Canadian citizens are becoming more balanced. Most people now realize that we are in a mess. Parliament is at a standstill. Committees are at a standstill. Ministers' offices are at a standstill. We here in Ottawa really are no longer effective. There is more and more support for an election soon.

Would the hon. House leader comment on this? Does he think there is more support now for an election as people understand the incredible revelations that come out day after day in the Gomery commission about their tax dollars and how those dollars have been wasted? The cost of an election is often quoted at $230 million. The Liberals recently paid $240 million for each NDP vote in order to survive for 10 months. I ask the hon. opposition House leader to comment on that.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.


Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comment, since it was raised already in debate. I suspect that if this debate does proceed, which I hope it does, I am sure that it will not be the last time we will hear the same type of comment that we just heard from the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell.

It is this sense that somehow, because Canadians are asked whether they want an election and some of them say they do not, that is reason not to have one. I would submit that there is probably quite a long list of very good reasons to have an election now, but I can think of at least three right off the top of my head.

The first one deals with the scandal my colleague referred to. When a government is mired in scandal to this extent, I submit that not only does it not have any more credibility with the Canadian people, it does not have any credibility internationally. Important international issues, the trade issues that are the bread and butter of many of our constituents, whether it is the softwood lumber dispute or the beef ban at the border, are sitting on ministers' desks gathering dust because the ministers are so embroiled in trying to protect their own political hides. They are totally focused on--

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

An hon. member

Damage control.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.


Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Damage control, that is right. That is what I was looking for. They are so focused on damage control that they cannot do their jobs as ministers.

Likewise, the second point I would make is the one that I made during my remarks about the treasury. This government is emptying the public treasury. Its members are flying across the country in Challenger jets, making announcements every day. What do we see? Billions and billions of dollars are being just blown out the window as they fly over at 30,000 feet. Are we going to allow this to continue? I do not think Canadians want that to continue, that wanton spending that is just blowing their tax dollars, not only for this year but for years to come.

My colleague referred to the last reason I would reference and it is that this place has become dysfunctional. Even the Prime Minister himself, on national television when he held his address to the nation, said this place was dysfunctional. It was not an opposition member who said that. It was not the leader of the Bloc Québécois or the leader of the official opposition who said that. The Prime Minister said it is dysfunctional, yet the Liberals want to keep it going. They want to keep this dysfunctional place going not for another day or a week or a month, but for 10 more months.

We believe that Canadians deserve better. We know they deserve to have a government with integrity, a government they can trust, a government that is not mired in scandal. They deserve a government that will spend their dollars wisely and account for each and every tax dollar, not shrug its shoulders and say, “If a few million dollars went missing, it is no big deal, it is all for the greater good”. The greater good, that is what the Liberals argue somehow, because it was spent on this so-called national unity program that has resulted in more disunity in this country than we have ever seen before, and it all happened under a Liberal watch with Liberal misspending.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11 a.m.

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario


Mauril Bélanger LiberalDeputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, the opposition leader's contention is wrong. Hon. members must not forget just who established the Gomery commission, which is sitting at the moment.

I am a member of cabinet, and the first decision cabinet made on the morning of Saturday, December 13, the day after the swearing in, was to cancel the sponsorship program. Then, within minutes of the tabling of the Auditor General's report—on February 10, if I am not mistaken—the Prime Minister announced the government's intention to act on the report and establish a commission of inquiry. That was done, and it is now sitting.

From the discussions many of us in this House have had with voters and according to many polls and editorials, it is clear that the public wants to await the commission's findings before an election is called. The Prime Minister has in fact promised to call a general election within 30 days of the tabling of the Gomery commission's final report.

We have a situation here where the opposition is trying to bring the government down at any cost on the basis of unproven allegations not yet verified by Justice Gomery. I think the common sense of Canadians should prevail here. They want to know what happened, as we all do. However, in addition to launching this inquiry, the government has initiated an astounding number of reforms to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.

For example, anything to do with the governance of crown corporations is in the process of being revised. Some revisions are already complete including the way we appoint members to boards of directors. Other changes are currently underway and will soon be concluded.

We have reinstated the comptroller general position, now part of the Treasury Board, as essentially a deputy minister who will be responsible for assigning in each Government of Canada agency and department a representative who will ensure that every expense is authorized by this comptroller general. This position existed in the past, but the previous government eliminated it.

If we made any mistake, it was in not reinstating this position sooner. However, we have done so now and we will certainly see the benefits.

Other measures have been mentioned in the House on various occasions. For example, we have initiated legal proceedings to recover the money. A series of police investigations have resulted in charges being laid. Another series of police investigations is underway. All that to say that initiatives have been taken to get to the bottom of things, to find out what happened and to make sure it never happens again.

Nonetheless, Canadians have an incredible sense of fair-play. They know there is a process to be followed and that we cannot simply declare people guilty. If, at the end of a legitimate process, the allegations lead to charges, then people will be charged. However, we cannot charge people on allegations alone. That is not how justice works in this country.

What the opposition is proposing, in other words, to draw conclusions and declare people guilty without due process, should raise some concern in every Canadian.

The other point is that the government is being accused of spending as if there were no tomorrow. That is not the case. In 1997, after a collective effort on the part of Canadians, we succeeded in eliminating our budget deficit. We had been accumulating deficits for at least 30 years. That was happening at such a pace that we had accumulated a debt in excess of $600 billion, which was putting us in an almost impossible situation.

Through our efforts, we managed to curb and eliminate the deficit. If I am not mistaken, that was in 1997. Since then, we have succeeded in accumulating some surpluses and in reducing our debt by $60 billion. This means that, each year, we save between $3 billion and $4 billion in interests on the debt. Still, our debt continues to be around $500 billion, which is a lot of amount of money.

It must be realized that this government has absolutely no intention of going back to a deficit situation. Even after the agreement that we reached with the New Democratic Party, which will soon be presented to the House in the form of a bill accompanying the budget, we want to stick to this basic position. It is absolutely clear that we should not go back to a deficit situation.

All this to say that the debate that the opposition just started with this amendment to the motion to adopt a report does not reflect the reality. If the amendment proposed by the leader of the official opposition in the House is deemed in order, I will have to propose a subamendment, because that would be essential. Therefore, Madam Speaker, if, based on your good judgment, the amendment is deemed in order, I will propose the following subamendment:

That the amendment be amended by deleting all of the words commencing with the phrase “with instruction”.

Still on this issue, the scenario presented by the official opposition—

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.


Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My hon. colleague moved his subamendment. Normally that takes place at the end of his remarks. That is the first thing.

Second, I would ask for a ruling on whether it is in order for him to move a subamendment when he is disputing the validity of the amendment itself that he wants to further amend. I would seek advice on that from the Chair. I know he is perfectly within his rights to move a subamendment but if he is going to do so, he should acknowledge that the amendment is in order if he wants to further amend it.