This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

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.

Topics

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

Fisheries and OceansOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Exploits, NL

Mr. Speaker, like all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, I am deeply concerned about the impact of foreign fleets off our shores, and they are doing it illegally. I also share the belief that the time for simply talking about it is over and the time for action is now.

My question is for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Could he please tell the House what Newfoundlanders can expect coming out of the International Fisheries Governance Conference going on right now in St. John's?

Fisheries and OceansOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I had the pleasure to attend the early part of that conference. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and this government are committed to ending the pillage of fish stocks on the Grand Banks and around the world. This conference is just one event in an overall strategy.

In the closing ministerial declaration, the minister agreed to strengthen the monitoring supervision regimes, to improve the dispute settlement mechanisms and to deal with countries that opt out of these agreements. The minister has also committed to making it easier to apprehend offenders and to punish them appropriately.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of Mrs. Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister, Punjab and Minister of Higher Education, Medical Education and Technical Education.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would be very interested in hearing, not only from the government House leader as to the agenda that he has planned for the remainder of this week and on into the next week, but specifically when he intends to give any of the opposition members an opposition supply day; when he intends to bring in his budget, not just to bring it in and debate it ad nauseam, but to actually have the courage to put it to a vote to check on the confidence of the House; and, if he intends to call an election, if he could enlighten us as to when he intends to do that.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, for the rest of today, tomorrow and early next week the order of business will be the consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-12, the quarantine legislation; followed by third readings of Bill C-9 respecting economic development in Quebec; Bill C-23, the human resources bill; Bill C-22, the social development bill; and Bill C-26, the border services bill.

We would then consider second reading of Bill C-45, the veterans bill; and then Bill S-18, the census bill.

Tomorrow the government will introduce a companion bill to the budget implementation bill. We hope to debate second reading of this bill by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

We will then also resume consideration of Bill C-43 which is the budget implementation bill.

To assist members in their planning as well, I wish to inform the House that on the evening of May 18 the House will go into a committee of the whole on the citizenship and immigration estimates, and on the evening of May 31 on the social development estimates.

My hon. colleague across the way asked about opposition days. As the rules provide and call for, six opposition days are required before the end of June. Certainly our focus will be on moving the budget implementation bill forward. I would expect that we would do that.

As far as courage, I am not sure I see very much along the way certainly across the floor when in fact we have people on this side of the House who are prepared on behalf of Canadians to ensure that this Parliament works, but I see no evidence of that from my hon. colleagues across the way.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, you indicated to me during question period that some words I used were unparliamentary and therefore using your counsel I would like to withdraw those words.

Member for Ottawa CentreOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Lucille Broadbent. Her husband's decency, intellect and humanity are well-known, but it is Lucille to whom we should pay tribute: for her generosity of spirit, and common conviction; for sharing the member for Oshawa and now the member for Ottawa Centre with us. Canada would be a worse place without her generosity.

Ordinary Canadians would have been without a tireless voice to make their life better. Children in poverty would have been without a tireless champion. Far fewer people would have been exposed to another speech about the glory of Scandinavian social democracy. All this, were it not for Lucille's choice to share her husband's life with every Canadian and millions more around the world.

And so, as our friend and dear colleague makes his choice to share more of himself with her rather than with us, our party, this House, and all Canadians should say thanks to Lucille for her part in our tireless work to build a better society.

Throughout his illustrious and worthy career, the member for Ottawa Centre spent time with foreign leaders, human rights advocates and leaders in this House and across the country. It is appropriate for party leaders to rise today to show respect for his ideals and his unwavering commitment to defend them.

However to understand and appreciate the magic New Democrats have always seen in him, people should see him in a union hall in Oshawa, with parents of children facing poverty and, most of all, dancing around the floor with a grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye for the extraordinary person who fuelled his passion for ordinary people: Lucille.

In a society that he always wanted to share and care more, the sharing we should salute today is that which Lucille has done, because without it, this country never could have come to love Ed, and without it, our political discourse would be the worse for it.

On behalf of a caucus his presence made wiser, a party eternally in his debt, and personally from a leader humbled by his support, I want to say that his choice is the right one. And so it is Lucille Broadbent, sister, friend, unsung heroine, to whom I pay tribute.

To her I say thanks with our fondest wishes for many more dances and music with the love of her life.

Member for Ottawa CentreOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, first elected in 1968 as the member for Oshawa, chosen leader of his party in 1975, the hon. member retired midway through the 1988 mandate.

He returned to this House in the year 2004, not as leader of his party, but those in this chamber and Canadians right across the land nevertheless recognize him for what he is and that is a leader in every sense of the word. He is a man of devotion and dedication, a champion of social justice and a distinguished parliamentarian.

Members of Parliament should be role models. The member for Ottawa Centre is a role model.

To work well, our system of government requires participation by people with integrity and the courage of their convictions. Parliament would be nothing without men and women of character and principle, with a common outlook, members like the hon. member for Ottawa Centre.

The hon. member may have left Parliament for a time, but he never abandoned the causes he defended with such eloquence and zeal throughout his most remarkable public career.

During his many years in Parliament as a member, as the leader of the New Democrats, and now, during what has been a critically acclaimed sequel, he has demonstrated time and time again his commitment to the NDP as an institution and as an advocate of social reform.

The New Democratic Party has been blessed to have him. The same is true of Canada.

On behalf of the government and the Liberal members, I offer my best wishes to the hon. member and wishes for better health to his wife, Lucille.

Let me join the leader of the NDP in paying tribute to Lucille. The member for Ottawa Centre is leaving because of her ill health. We wish her the very best because we know that she too, throughout his lengthy career, has given Canada an enormous amount.

There are few ways to contribute to the country as important as that of a parliamentarian, not as party leader, not as a minister and not as prime minister, but as a parliamentarian, a man or a woman of this House, for it is here that conviction and conscience come through.

There is no way to dissemble in this House. We are what we are. It is in this chamber that the great debates of the nation should take place, as he has reminded me, sometimes indelicately. It is here that the best of democracy should be seen.

This has not always been the case in this House, but it has been over the last decades, and I have spent a lot of time in that gallery or in this House. When the great debates of the nation took place, when his first election took place, when the debates the historians will write about and the students will read about, the debates that make all of us in this room feel very proud for the vocation we have chosen took place, inevitably the member for Oshawa and now Ottawa Centre was there.

On behalf of the people of Canada I would like to extend our greatest appreciation for a principled and passionate career, devoted to serving Canadians and making this a better and more just country.

At the beginning of my political career I had an opportunity for a very brief period of time to share this Parliament with the member for Ottawa Centre. I must say that I feel very privileged to have had this opportunity once again.

Member for Ottawa CentreOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Reynolds Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great day. When we pay tribute to a member, with all the rancour that takes place around here, on days like today we all say nice things about each other. Either on the first day one is elected a leader or on the last day one leaves it seems that is when that happens.

It is with some sadness but immense respect that we join today in paying tribute to one of our most respected colleagues.

The member for Ottawa Centre has graced this House with his presence during two eras, He has earned the respect and affection of all members on all sides of the House.

I will not say he is old, but I will say he was elected several years before I first came to this House in 1972. I have enjoyed the years getting to know him as a great Canadian and a representative of his party.

He made history and he did it while he was leader of the NDP. It was under his leadership that the NDP had 43 members in this chamber following the 1988 election, the largest number ever elected. I think I can say, in a bit of a partisan way, that he can retire secure in the knowledge that his record will never be broken, at least not in the next election.

A former colleague, Doug Fisher, once said that we could learn who the people of Ottawa and members of Parliament liked and respected by watching the public galleries and checking attendance in this chamber. Back when people followed debates closely, before television was here, the galleries would fill, as would the seats of this chamber, when word went out that certain parliamentarians were scheduled to speak. I remember it was like that in 1972 when I arrived here. When someone like the member for Ottawa Centre would get up to speak, one always wanted to be in the House to listen, just like John Diefenbaker and other great Canadians, former prime ministers on the Liberal side too, to whom I would even come to listen.

The member for Ottawa Centre is that sort of an individual. He commands the respect of all members from all parties and enjoys attention when he rises to speak.

The hon. member has another quality we respect in members of Parliament. He can participate in fierce and partisan debates, but the rancour that one might find on this side of the curtain vanishes when we meet on the other side. That is a mark of a true and honourable parliamentarian.

Just two Sundays ago, we were at the CTV studios doing Question Period . It was an enjoyable encounter. Quite frankly, we exchanged opinions on the big issues facing Canadians today and we were surprised to learn that we were in full and total agreement. One would think that a Conservative and a socialist could not agree on anything, but that simply is not true. We were absolutely in total agreement that the Liberals had to be replaced. And since we both have residences in Ottawa Centre, we agreed his seat, when he leaves it, must never return to that side of the House. I said that before the hon. member graced this House with his presence.

We should also mention, and it has been mentioned very gracefully by his leader and the Prime Minister, his beloved wife, Lucille, who has graced his life and made it a better one.

On behalf of the Conservative Party of Canada, and indeed all Canadians, I want to wish the hon. member and his charming wife, Lucille, all the best in the years to come. We are indeed speaking from the heart when we call him an hon. friend.

Member for Ottawa CentreOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to pay tribute to the member for Ottawa Centre, a man who maintained absolute integrity throughout his entire career. Integrity is a fundamental quality in public life.

My hon. colleague is also remarkable for his concern for the average citizen, the people we represent here in the House of Commons. We know, for instance, that he is against the type of globalization that has negative impacts on social standards and the environment.

My colleague came back to politics to fight against social inequalities and has fought relentlessly to get governments to correct this situation.

This man is exemplary in many ways, in his integrity, his grassroots approach and his staunch defence of social justice.

Although he is leaving us, the progressive member for Ottawa Centre will, in a way, remain with us. His great progressive spirit and the universal values he defended throughout his career are appreciated in Quebec, in Canada and in the world. We must continue to be guided by that spirit.

I will conclude by saying that the hon. member for Ottawa Centre should be an inspiration to all Canadians. To all those who believe, wrongly, that the world of politics is reflected by what we have been watching and hearing at the Gomery commission over the past few months, I say look at this politician who has served ordinary people since 1968. He exemplifies the best that politics has to offer.

On behalf of Bloc Québécois members, of Quebeckers, and of the human family at large, I say to him thank you. I wish good luck to his wife, Lucille. To the member for Ottawa Centre, thanks for everything.

Member for Ottawa CentreOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Ed Broadbent NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by recognizing my leader of the New Democratic Party, the Prime Minister, the former House leader and spokesperson for the Conservative Party and the chef du Bloc Québécois, and say thank you very much for the kind and generous words.

I must be candid here today and say the words were generous, they were kind and some of them were even accurate. If it could have been the case, my father would love to have been here to listen to those words. If my mother could have been here, she would have actually believed them.

As has already been said, normally the only occasion when we hear such words is when someone is starting here or leaving. I left once before, and I have not quite decided what will happen after hearing all these kind comments. I should threaten, I suppose that is the appropriate word, the leaders and spokespersons for the other parties. I was making careful notes about what they had to say about me. I have written them down and one of my caucus colleagues, who knows how to use these electronic gadgets, has sent them off to a printer. I am assured they could be on a leaflet in no time. I am the only member of the House of Commons who can canvass on the way home from this place. I understand it is even technically possible for me to have these leaflets available at 5 o'clock. So be warned.

I do not expect to come back. I do appreciate what has been said. To pick up on what the Prime Minister said, it has been an immense pleasure for me to have shared the life experience that goes on in this institution. As he pointed out, not as Prime Minister or as party leader but as an ordinary member of this institution, the lifeblood of a democracy is the elected body.

I have been here for the great debates of my time; on the Constitution; on the national energy program; on the War Measures Act; on the recognition of Japanese Canadians, their place in history and our unpleasant, to put it euphemistically, treatment of them historically. Many debates went to the root of what this country is all about.

I have had the great honour of being in this place first, because of the men and women in the city of Oshawa, my hometown, who elected me to be here to take part in those debates. More recent, the men and women of Ottawa Centre have honoured me with the same kind of decision.

It is a great pleasure to take part in such debates. At their best, they are vigorous because it is not just theory. For those who know me, theory is very important to me. Debates are theory translated into action. They are our values and some of them differ but they are always in the context of democracy. They get laid out on the table about the kind of society we want. The debates have been vigorous and enjoyable, and I have been honoured to be a participant in them.

If members will excuse me, I want to say in this context that I was asked not long ago if during my absence Parliament had changed somewhat, with all the lapses that come with increasing age about accurate memory and the inevitable propensity to romanticize the past.

When I was elected here Pierre Elliott Trudeau was Prime Minister of Canada and Bob Stanfield was the leader of the Conservative Party. I am not going to try to sort out the reasons for today, but it is my impression, having been here since the last election, that the tone and substance of debates have in fact changed, as has question period.

I will not attempt any kind of causal analysis of this, but the structure of our Parliament, depending upon our seating, tempts us into thinking all virtue, wisdom and truth lies on the side one happens to be on and all its opposite qualities happen to be on the other. This does contribute in some way to this kind of institutionalized conflict and causes us to forget many times.

I said in the past that, historically, Quebec is the heart of Canada. I am convinced that Bloc Québécois members, my dear colleagues from la belle province, agree with me that, for 75% of the issues, we are on the same side.

We share as members of the House; for 75% of the issues, we are on the same side or we would not be living in a liberal democracy. So often, because of the structure of this institution and particularly question period, we forget that. We tend to think that the 25% of issues that divide us, and seriously and appropriately divide us, are only what matters. What is more important in many ways as a civilized, democratic, decent country is the 75% of things we have in common.

It is a terrible thing to be both a politician and an academic, two terrible professions for wanting to give advice to others. I conclude with this thought. Those who will remain after the next election, whenever it may be, should give some serious thought to the decline in civility in the debate that has occurred in the House of Commons and which occurs daily in question period. If I were a teacher, I would not want to bring high school students into question period any longer.

There is a difference between personal remarks based on animosity and vigorous debate reflecting big differences of judgment. They should see what can be done in the future to restore to our politics in this nation a civilized tone of debate. A tone of debate, in the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, acknowledges the human decency and dignity of all other members of the House who recognize this. However we may differ, we are all human and we all have the right to have our inner dignity respected, especially in debate in the House.

Member for Ottawa CentreOral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on May 2 by the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons regarding the admissibility of the amendment to the motion to concur in the third report of the Standing Committee on Finance.

I would like to thank the hon. minister for raising this matter and the hon. House leader of the official opposition, the hon. House leader for the Bloc Québécois, the hon. members for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell and Calgary Southeast for their contributions to the discussion.

Let me begin by giving the background to this question. On April 22, the hon. House leader of the official opposition moved a motion to concur in the third report of the Standing Committee on Finance. This report deals with the prebudget consultations of the finance committee under the provisions of Standing Order 83.1.

During debate on the concurrence motion, the hon. leader of the official opposition moved the following amendment:

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

The 3rd report of the Standing Committee on Finance, presented on December 20, 2004, be not now concurred in,

But that it be recommitted to the Standing Committee on Finance with instruction that it amend the same so as to recommend that the government resign over refusing to accept some of the committee's key recommendations and to implement the budgetary changes that Canadians need.

The Deputy Speaker found the amendment to be in order and proposed the question, so debate continued on the amendment. The hon. government House leader in presenting his point of order laid out very well the process for dealing with amendments to motions to concur in committee reports. As the minister correctly noted, our practice has been to allow the House to give a permissive or mandatory instruction to a committee to amend the text of a report.

The hon. government House leader went on to raise three main objections.

First, he expressed concern that the amendment went beyond the mandate of the finance committee as set down in Standing Order 83.1. He argued that the finance committee's authority to report on the budgetary policy of the government pursuant to Standing Order 83.1 is tied directly to the government's budgetary cycle and that its mandate lapses once the government presents its budget.

This point was also stressed by the hon. member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell. The minister stated that the amendment is beyond the timetable established in the Standing Order, in effect extending the committee's order of reference for this report. He concluded that, at a minimum, the amendment should have stated, “Notwithstanding Standing Order 83.1”.

Second, the minister argued that the amendment is out of order in that it is putting a question to the House that has already been decided. He noted that there had been two days of debate on the content of the third report of the finance committee presented December 20, 2004, and that no motion to concur in the report had been proposed prior to the budget presentation on February 23.

Stressing that the budget had been adopted on March 9, he asserted that the amendment to the concurrence motion instructs the finance committee to condemn the government for not accepting its recommendations respecting its budgetary policy, when in fact the House has already approved the government's budgetary policy. He argued that the amendment in effect asks the House to decide the same question twice.

As his third objection, the minister raised concerns that the changes to the Standing Orders relating to concurrence in committee reports were not designed “to allow ancillary issues to be voted on through amendments”.

In speaking to the matter, the hon. opposition House leader noted that the amendment had been ruled admissible by the Deputy Speaker on April 22 and that the motion and the amendment had been debated for one hour and 19 minutes. The hon. opposition House leader rejected the notion that the finance committee's mandate had lapsed and claimed that the motion of instruction was indeed admissible as it relates to the committee's order of reference.

The hon. House leader for the Bloc Québécois supported the arguments put by the hon. opposition House leader. He also asserted that this report was no different than any other committee report, contrary to what the hon. government House leader had argued. He further reminded the House that, notwithstanding the March 9 vote approving the budgetary policy of the government in general and given recent events, the budget appeared to be a work in progress. He concluded that asking the committee to reconsider the report was therefore admissible.

The member for Calgary Southeast further elaborated on the procedures for concurrence in committee reports.

As members are well aware, the procedures surrounding motions to concur in committee reports have generated a great deal of attention in these past few weeks. I have considered carefully all the arguments presented and I am now prepared to deal with the various points that were raised.

The hon. government House leader questioned whether the Standing Committee on Finance's order of reference pursuant to Standing Order 83.1 extended beyond the presentation of any report or reports concerning the budgetary policy of the government.

Standing Order 83.1 reads as follows:

Commencing on the first sitting day in September of each year, the Standing Committee on Finance shall be authorized to consider and make reports upon proposals regarding the budgetary policy of the government. Any report or reports thereon may be made no later than the tenth sitting day before the last normal sitting day in December, as set forth in Standing Order 28(2).

While the standing order sets down the timeframe for presenting a report on the budgetary policy of the government, it is silent as to whether or when a motion to concur in such a report can be moved.

Standing Order 66(2) provides the mechanism for concurring in committee reports. This standing order does not prohibit the moving of concurrence in reports presented pursuant to Standing Order 83.1 nor does it stipulate a timeframe during which such concurrence can be moved.

While a review of our precedents reveals that our usual practice has been to consider the content of prebudget consultation results via take note debates, in 2001 the House did debate concurrence in such a report.

On November 1 and 7 of that year, the House debated the government motion “That this House take note of ongoing pre-budget consultations”. On November 26, the Standing Committee on Finance presented its 10th report (Pre-Budget Consultations). On December 10, the budget speech was delivered; it was debated on December 11 and 12.

On December 13, concurrence was moved in the 10th report of the finance committee and debated that day. Then, under our old procedure, the motion was transferred to government orders. The budget was debated again on January 28 and on January 29, 2002, when it was adopted.

This example differs from the current situation in that the motion was debated before the budget was actually adopted. However, I cite the example only to point out that, at the time, no objections were raised as to the acceptability of moving a motion to concur in the committee's report made under Standing Order 83.1, as some are arguing in the current situation.

As to the minister's concern that the report could not be referred back to the finance committee because its mandate specifically pursuant to Standing Order 83.1 had expired, I would suggest that, unlike a special committee, which would have to be reconstituted in order to reconsider its final report, the Standing Committee on Finance continues in existence and can receive an instruction from the House to reconsider any of its reports. Therefore, I do not agree with the argument that the amendment had to include the words “Notwithstanding Standing Order 83.1”.

The second issue that the hon. government House leader raised was the matter of deciding a question twice. He was concerned that since the budgetary policy had already been debated and adopted, there was no need to concur in a committee report which essentially deals also with the budgetary policy.

The hon. House leader for the Bloc Québécois has reminded the House of recent developments which point to continuing discussion on the substance of the budget. My own interpretation of the proceedings that have taken place to date in this regard must remain purely procedural. Seen from that perspective, it seems to me that the House has been asked to consider three separate questions.

First, there was a take note debate on January 31 and February 1 of this year. The motion before the House at that time was, “That this House take note of the third report of the Standing Committee on Finance”. As members will recall, no decision was taken on the motion.

Second, there was the budget debate, which occurred on February 24, and March 7, 8 and 9. The motion before the House on those days was, “That this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government”.

Third, debate on the motion, “That the third report of the Standing Committee on Finance, presented on Monday, December 20, 2004, be concurred in”, began on April 22.

As I see it, the House has been asked to take a decision on three different questions: a motion to take note of a report; a motion to approve the budgetary policy of the government; and a motion to concur in a report. These are three different motions with three different outcomes. Therefore, I cannot agree with the hon. government House leader that the House is deciding the same question twice.

The final issue raised by the minister has to do with the nature or intent of the amendment. He argued that the provisional Standing Order relating to concurrence in committee reports was not designed “to allow ancillary issues to be voted on through amendments”.

Standing Order 66 merely provides a mechanism by which the House can take a decision on motions to concur in committee reports and by extension any amendment moved thereto. In his presentation, the minister acknowledged that an amendment to refer a report back to a committee with an instruction is in order. The Chair can find no procedural grounds on which the amendment can be found defective.

Indeed, in reviewing the precedent from June 22, 1926, which was referred to by the official opposition House leader and the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, and which can be found in the Journals at pages 461 and 462 for 1926, an amendment containing assertions clearly damaging to the government of the day was successfully moved to a motion for concurrence in the report of a special committee. I find this example to be not markedly different from the one the House is faced with now.

It is not up to the Speaker to judge the substance of any motion; rather, the Chair must determine whether our procedures have been respected in the presentation of a motion to the House. If the Chair rules an amendment to be in order, then the fate of the amendment and the motion to concur in the report is in the hands of the House.

After considering the arguments presented in this case, I must agree with the Deputy Speaker and rule that the amendment is in order.

Again, I wish to thank the hon. government House leader for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.

The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-12, an act to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP will be supporting Bill C-12, but I need to emphasize the fact that there are some issues which continue to need to be addressed. Whether they are addressed through the mechanism of this bill or through other mechanisms, I think it is important that we are on record.

A great deal of information has been left up to the minister to develop through regulations. As recent experience has shown with the Chrétien bill for Africa, which was Bill C-9 in the last Parliament, developing regulations can be an incredibly slow and tedious process. We cannot wait indefinitely for these kinds of regulations to be developed.

There is one area of concern in the report that came back to the House. It specifically indicates that the proposed regulations or any version of the amended regulations should come to both the House and the Senate. We are concerned that it will delay the process if regulations must be approved by both the House and the Senate. We would urge expediency in looking at this, because we are often dealing with issues that are in the nature of a crisis when we are talking about quarantine.

I have addressed this issue before, but I feel compelled to raise it again: the use of screening officers is a major concern. It appears that we will be forcing customs officers to take on another role, that of medical professional. This is on top of their already substantial duties, which include enforcing the Customs Act, looking for potential terrorists and stopping materials that could harm our flora and fauna. This is far too much to expect one group to enforce. We must take that into consideration when we are asking our customs officers to take on these duties.

Other organizations, including the Canadian Nurses Association, have pointed out some concerns. They have pointed out that emerging diseases often have unique symptoms. Screening officers will have to be continually trained and supported to ensure that they know what they have to watch out for. A bad cough is not only the sign of a potential epidemic; it can be the sign of some other things. They must be able to determine what the differences are.

Bill C-12 does not explain how this system will be supported over time. We must address this in order to protect the health and welfare of Canadians.

One of the lessons learned from the SARS epidemic was about the lack of coordination and official communication responsibilities during the crisis. Again, the Canadian Nurses Association recommends that the Chief Public Health Officer and the Public Health Agency of Canada have a critical role in any epidemic or suspected epidemic. They were not included in this bill because enabling legislation to create that position and organization is still being written. This is a serious oversight. We urge the government to act quickly on that legislation. Everyone who spoke to the committee emphasized how important it is to have one clear authority during a health emergency.

It is our hope, however, that we never need this bill, but if we do, we must make sure that the sweeping powers given to the minister to detain people, to use privately owned facilities and to force people to accept medical assessment or treatment, are not unchecked. There are not enough assurances in this legislation that the minister will act in a reasonable manner and that people's rights to privacy will be respected or that workers affected by the quarantine will actually be protected. My colleague from the Bloc spoke quite a bit about this.

Some of these areas of concern are going to be dealt with by regulation. We have already indicated how important it is that the government act quickly in this area.

There is one other area for which we know this government will soon bring forward legislation, especially around protecting workers, and that is a quick response during a health emergency to such issues as employment insurance claims, medical leave and health and safety standards for front line workers. It is absolutely critical, if we are asking front line workers to put their lives on the line for things like this, that we ensure there is a social safety net to protect them.

Another omission that was identified during the committee stage was that the bill covers travellers and materials in and out of Canada but has no provisions for interprovincial travel. Considering that it takes longer to fly to Vancouver from Halifax than it does to fly from Europe to Halifax, the possibilities for communicable diseases being transmitted from one end of the country to the other are quite available.

I also want to briefly mention the Canadian Medical Association “SARS in Canada” report. A couple of key issues the association brought forward are not specifically dealt with adequately in this bill. They include communications.

As we saw during the SARS crisis, and I will quote from the report:

Without a coordinated system to notify acute care facilities and health care providers of global health alerts, front line clinicians often have no prior warning of new emerging diseases.

One of the things that became apparent during the SARS crisis was the lack of a list of current fax numbers or phone numbers of family doctors. There was an inability to communicate with physicians in real time. We must ensure that a communication system is developed to allow us to deal with emerging crises. Many crises emerge very quickly and an early response time is absolutely essential.

One of the other issues that was raised by the Canadian Medical Association was the fact that there was no system. Again I will quote from the report:

There was a lack of a system to distribute protective gear to health care professionals in the province. Once this became apparent the OMA [Ontario Medical Association] identified suppliers and manufacturers and offered to undertake distribution of masks to physicians in order to protect them and their patients.

It is absolutely essential when a crisis emerges that we have lists of suppliers and that we have communication systems in place so that we can adequately protect not only our front line workers, but also the Canadian population as a whole.

Although we will be supporting Bill C-12, I would urge that we quickly address some of these glaring omissions and gaps in the legislation.

(Bill C-282. On the Order: Private Members' Bills)

Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Health of Bill C-282, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (export permits)

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

May 5th, 2005 / 3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Wajid Khan Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been consultations among all parties, and if you seek it I believe you will find unanimous consent that the order for the second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Health of Bill C-282, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (export permits), standing in my name on the order of precedence on the order paper, be discharged and the bill be withdrawn.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

3:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Is there unanimous consent?

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Order discharged and bill withdrawn)

The House resumed consideration of the motion relating to amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-12, an act to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Madam Speaker, even though I do not have the witty eloquence of the hon. member for Hochelaga, who discussed this issue earlier, or the clarity of the hon. member for Verchères—Les Patriotes, or the poetic skills of the hon. member for Saint-Lambert, I am very pleased to rise in this House to address Bill C-12 once again.

It was a few months ago that we conducted the clause by clause review of Bill C-12. The Standing Committee on Health worked very diligently on this legislation. Indeed, it is important for Canadians and Quebeckers to have an act that is very effective in containing the dangers of communicable diseases, particularly in this age of supersonic jets, as the member for Hochelaga so aptly pointed out. People travel from country to country much more rapidly than in the past.

A few days ago, white powder spilled from a suspicious parcel found at Montreal's airport. Those who had been in contact with that parcel became sick and had to be taken to hospital. About 20 people were affected. We are not exempt from biological terrorism. Therefore, we have to be very careful and ensure that we have good legislation to deal with these problems.

Not long ago, I had the pleasure of going to South Africa with you, Madam Speaker, in order to attend the third session of the Pan-African Parliament, which is made up of 46 of the 53 countries on the African continent. Before that trip, I had no idea of what danger some people face. When we are safe at home, we do not realize the grinding poverty of certain countries and the huge shortage of drugs to combat certain diseases.

Recently, the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association discussed HIV-AIDS. Efforts are being made to halt the spread of this disease, but it is still far from being eradicated.

Sometimes we have an opportunity to see such situations first hand. You know that, Madam Speaker, because we both visited an orphanage in Bedoni, where one extraordinary woman cares for 105 children aged 2 to 16, whose parents had AIDS, and who are HIV positive themselves or have other problems. We saw the living conditions there, which were very rudimentary and difficult. Up to 18 children shared a small room chockablock with beds, measuring 7 by 10 feet. This woman and her few helpers look after all those children. We could feel the love and joy that surrounded them despite the circumstances.

When we are dealing with a bill that relates to the problem of transmitting disease, we also need to think of the human beings who will be protected by it. That is what I learned from my experience, to always think of the human beings.

My colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan has dealt very well with several of the points of concern to us in connection with this bill. I hope that the regulations will also address them.

When people travel, they have to have a number of vaccines. Before we went to South Africa, we had to have a whole series of immunizations. When we leave here, we can be pretty well sure that we will come back healthy. But if someone's journey starts out in a country where vaccines are virtually non-existent or harder to obtain, or perhaps have to be paid for, the situation becomes a bit more complicated. This is the case in the poor countries where medicine is not well developed. Even if it is, there is not always the money to deal with all the diseases that afflict the inhabitants, such as Ebola fever.

Recently, in one of the African countries, there has been a reemergence of a fever caused by a virus that is even stronger and more difficult to fight. In addition, with all the antibiotics we are taking even for small infections, there is no doubt that our immune systems are weakened.

It is clear that a bill like this one can pretty much ensure the continued safety of those we want to protect.

I think we have been very diligent, during the clause by clause study, in protecting ourselves against actions taken too hastily by the Minister of Health or anyone wanting to work with those capable or suspected of introducing any such disease or virus in this country.

We do not need, however, yet another procedure or the approval of another house to protect ourselves and take appropriate action, where new regulations would have to be considered and studied. There are enough adults in this place to decide whether the regulations we take are the right ones. We do not need another house for that.

Our friends the senators are also very diligent. They have no doubt done their homework. But once the bill is passed, I think that we can rely on ourselves to implement it properly. It is very important to us that, with respect to this legislation, theinterested political body be this House, and not the Senate.

I hope that the hon. members of this House will think twice before approving these amendments to the bill and that they will object to having to seek the approval of the Senate again.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Carr Liberal Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I hope the member will forgive me if I did not understand the concern properly. In listening to some of the concerns that were put forward, I may have misunderstood what the member was saying, but it seemed that a lot of the concern related to the fact that it was the Senate that was leading this particular issue.

Did I read the member wrong? Is her major concern that it is coming from the Senate?

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Madam Speaker, we are still confident that, while it did not fully meet our expectations, Bill C-12, as considered clause by clause by the Standing Committee on Health, can be amended through its regulations so that our needs are met.

But, as my hon. colleague indicated, the message from the Senate, asking that the bill be amended by specifying that the governor in council may only make a regulation under section 62 if the minister has caused the draft regulation to be tabled before both houses of Parliament, is simply unnecessary.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I had not really intended to rise to address Bill C-12, but I have been moved to do exactly that given the events of today.

I certainly support the earlier comments of our public health critic, the hon. member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, and the comments she made in support of this legislation.

Having said that, given the present situation not only in the House of Commons but indeed in our country where we have a corrupt government in office that should not be in office for one day longer, I find that I simply must move the following amendment. I am pleased to have this seconded by my seatmate, the whip of the official opposition, the member for Niagara Falls. The amendment is self-explanatory.

I move that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “that” and substituting that a message be sent to the Senate to acquaint their honours that this House disagrees with amendment no. 2, made by the Senate, to Bill C-12, an act to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases, because the passage of the amendment may be construed that this House has confidence in the Government, which is in dispute, and the adoption of this motion should confirm that it does not.