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 #115 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parents.

Topics

Order in Council AppointmentsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, a number of orders in council recently made by the government.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 14th, 2005 / 10:05 a.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I am also pleased to table, in both official languages, the government's response to four petitions.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 15th report of the Standing Committee on Health. The committee recommends that the federal government appoint the Auditor General to provide external performance audits on certain health related government foundations.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

The committee is calling on the Department of Justice and the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development to table legislation based on the comprehensive recommendations of the pay equity task force no later than October and that the legislation be referred to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109 the committee has requested a comprehensive government response.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 14th report of the Standing Committee on Finance on Bill C-48, an act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments. The committee agreed on Monday, June 13, 2005 to report it with amendments.

I want to thank all the members who worked diligently and expeditiously on the clause by clause last night so the House could get the bill passed and we can get out of here for the summer.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, entitled “Accessibility for All”.

Accessibility must be a right and not a privilege. This is the report that I have presented here today and this is what it signifies in the lives of persons with disabilities, regardless of the severity. It is important to remember that we are all temporarily able-bodied so this report will have a far-reaching impact on all Canadians.

I would like to congratulate and thank the member for Thunder Bay--Rainy River, chair of the Subcommittee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities, and other members who worked so diligently. The views of witnesses who came before the committee are reflected in the many recommendations, some of which call for more thorough monitoring, review, coordination and improvement of systems in federal buildings, including the parliamentary precinct.

I also want to thank my colleagues from the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I move that the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, presented on Wednesday, May 11, be concurred in.

The fifth report deals with the appointment of John Reid, who is the current Information Commissioner of Canada, and asks that his appointment be extended by an additional year, effective July 1, 2005. The recommendation would not preclude Parliament from further extending the appointment after the one year extension.

This is a very important motion and that is why I want to speak to it. Right now, as everyone in the House and probably every Canadian knows, we are experiencing a time of great political turbulence and instability and we need someone who is as experienced as Mr. Reid to continue on in his role as Information Commissioner.

Mr. Reid has served with great distinction over the past seven years in this capacity. Furthermore, it is not without precedent that we can, if we wish, extend his term of office. We have already seen that the Governor General had an extension of one year to her term. Basically, the reason for that extension was again due to the political instability in which we currently find ourselves. It is certainly appropriate that the House and Parliament at least consider the extension of Commissioner Reid in his current capacity.

I want to speak for a moment or two to the capabilities of Mr. Reid because, quite frankly, as I mentioned a few moments ago, he has served with great distinction. Mr. Reid, as most people in the House would know and I hope most Canadians recognize, has served in many capacities throughout his career. He has been a parliamentarian. He was a member of the former Trudeau cabinet. He was first elected to Parliament in 1965, stayed as an elected member of Parliament through six consecutive elections and finally left this House in 1984.

However it was during his term of office that I think it really speaks to his capabilities and qualifications as Information Commissioner.

During his time in office in the mid-seventies when he was parliamentary secretary to Privy Council, he initiated a review of information practices, such as what was acceptable and what should be extended in terms of information and access to information, that all Canadians could receive.

In fact, because of Mr. Reid's fine work, eventually in 1983 the House introduced the first Access to Information Act by Minister Francis Fox. John Reid was instrumental in bringing that legislation to the floor of the House and eventually it became the law of the land.

That was the genesis, I suppose, of Mr. Reid's involvement with access to information. Subsequent to that, he was eventually appointed Information Commissioner seven years ago. Since that time he has again served the House and Parliament extremely well. His experience and his knowledge are such that I feel it would be remiss of the House to let a man of that quality go when we know we will be bringing down changes to the Access to Information Act itself.

The Access to Information Act is now 22 years old. The justice minister has promised to table new legislation before the House. It needs to be updated and amendments to that 22 year old act are needed.

The justice minister stated that by now he would already have tabled new legislation. Unfortunately, that did not happen. He forwarded and tabled a discussion paper instead. However the justice minister continues to assure the House that he will be tabling new legislation.

If we are to take the justice minister at his word and he does introduce new legislation to amend the Access to Information Act, we will need Mr. Reid to assist in the transition. This is a 22-year-old act that is in dire need of changes. It is paramount that we update the act.

We on the access to information committee recognize that. When I say “we”, I mean all opposition members on the committee voted in favour of extending the appointment of Mr. Reid for another year. The only members of the committee who opposed the motion to extend Mr. Reid's appointment were the members of the Liberal Party of Canada.

It is fascinating to me, when a former Liberal cabinet minister, someone who served for six consecutive elections and for close to 20 years in this place with great distinction, that members of his own party would be the only ones on the access to information committee to oppose his extension for one year.

We all have to ask ourselves why the Liberal members of the committee oppose such an extension. It cannot be because of his qualifications. He has served this Parliament well for seven years. It cannot be because of lack of experience. He probably has more experience as a parliamentary officer than anyone else. In addition, he has extensive experience in the field of access to information. His lack of experience just does not hold true. It has to be something else.

The only thing I can think of is that Mr. Reid has categorically stated that what he would like to see in new access to information legislation would be the increased level of information that would be available to all Canadians upon request.

Mr. Reid has stated that if his vision of a new act comes into being, we could probably safely say that incidents, such as the sponsorship scandal, would not have happened in the first place. Individuals, whether they be members of this place, members of the media or individual Canadians, would have the ability to receive information from government departments that would have triggered the fact that the sponsorship scandal was in full bloom.

However the Liberal members of the committee have stated that they do not want to see Mr. Reid's term extended. The only conclusion I can draw from that is that the Liberals do not want more accountability and transparency. They do not want Canadians, members of the media or parliamentarians to have the ability to find out what they have been doing behind closed doors. I have to say that if that is the reason it is absolutely shameful.

We have a situation in the country right now where Canadians have been outraged, with good reason, at what they have found out during the Gomery commission about the sponsorship scandal. We should all be working on behalf of Canadians to put into place processes and procedures that prevent that type of action from ever occurring again.

With the sponsorship scandal we have seen the literal theft of taxpayer money that was ultimately put back into a political party for clearly political purposes. No Canadian and no parliamentarian should stand for that. We should, as a body of parliamentarians, come together and state what can we do to ensure this never takes place.

In fact, as we all know and every Canadian knows, Justice Gomery has been charged with the responsibility of trying to get to the bottom of the sponsorship scandal and then recommending processes that will prevent that type of action from ever happening again.

Every member of this House from time to time have stated that they believe in what Justice Gomery is doing and agree with his mandate. Therefore one has to wonder why, when we have an individual like John Reid, the current Information Commissioner, who wishes to put in processes to strengthen the recommendations that we will be hearing from Justice Gomery to prevent things like the sponsorship scandal from ever happening again, members of the Liberal Party of Canada on the committee are opposed to extending his appointment.

Perhaps the Liberals do not want Canadians to have access to relative information. Perhaps the Liberals do not want parliamentarians to have access to information that could perhaps stop actions, like the sponsorship program, from occurring again. Perhaps, and I think this is probably closer to the mark, the Liberals did not want ordinary Canadians to have access to information at the cabinet level. Perhaps the Liberal Party is doing things in cabinet, having discussions in cabinet and perhaps there are cabinet documents that it does not want ordinary Canadians to see.

Why is there this need for secrecy? I think Canadians can draw their own conclusions but I would have to say that any parliamentarian who is fearful of Canadians, members of the media or some of his or her colleagues examining what he or she has done in the House or behind closed doors, he or she must have something to hide.

If the government is absolutely committed to what it says about openness and transparency in government, then it should be welcoming the extension of Mr. Reid's appointment. The Liberals should be encouraging all parliamentarians on their side of the House to extend Mr. Reid's contract for at least one more year but that is not the case. All we see from the Liberal side of the committee room is the rejection of Mr. Reid with no apparent reason.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

An hon. member

Because he does his job.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Perhaps that is the reason, that he does his job and he does it well.

Again, we find certain members on the Liberal side of the House who oppose his extension. They oppose an individual who has served in his position with distinction and who will, if he has his way, bring procedures into the Access to Information Act that will strengthen the act.

This is a situation where once again we see members on the opposite side of the House saying one thing and doing another. All they are doing, in my opinion, is giving lip service to the fact that they want more openness and transparency in government while their actions are doing everything but that.

In my estimation we cannot allow this to happen. I would love to hear one good reason why Mr. Reid's contract should not be extended but the Liberals have not given one. All they are saying is that they oppose it, which is absolutely shameful.

Mr. Reid is not a Conservative by background nor is he a Bloc member or an NDP member. He is not only a Liberal but he was a former cabinet minister in the Trudeau era. He served the House and Canadians for close to 20 years as a Liberal and yet the Liberal members do not want him to remain as Information Commissioner. They have no good reason. All they want is him removed or his contract not to be extended.

To the point of belabouring this topic, let us go back to what Mr. Reid has done and why the Liberals do not want him to remain in this position. Mr. Reid has stated for the record, without equivocation, that he wants to strengthen the Access to Information Act to make it more transparent and easier for all members of the Canadian public, parliamentarians and members of the media to gain information and access to information from the government side of the House.

If there are situations that occurred that precipitated in a sponsorship scandal, Mr. Reid wants to ensure that all Canadians would be able to access the information on those transgressions as they were occurring. Right now we do not have that. Mr. Reid would like all Canadians to have access to every funding arm of government in terms of getting information. Currently they cannot do that.

How can the government members stand in the House day after day and say they believe in accountability, transparency and openness? They agree, or at least they say they agree, with the mandate of Justice Gomery when in practice they do exactly the opposite. I think that is absolutely shameful. When we say one thing, we have to act as if we mean what we say. In other words, we can talk the talk but we have to walk the walk. This government does nothing like that. I think it is absolutely shameful.

Again, I urge any member on the Liberal side to stand in the House or even at committee and make one argument for why Mr. Reid's extension should not take place. The Liberals have failed to do that. I encourage all members today to put forward that argument. I encourage them to tell me whether it was his lack of experience that prevented them from endorsing Mr. Reid's extension. Was it the fact that he did not have knowledge of the department? Of course not.

Once again, this is a man whose actions in the mid-1970s resulted in the first Access to Information Act being presented in the House in 1983 and who, upon his appointment as Information Commissioner seven years ago, has done nothing but perform his duties admirably, with distinction and, to his credit, in a non-partisan, impartial manner. That is why those Liberal members do not want to see him reappointed.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

An hon. member

They want a partisan hack.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

They want a Liberal lapdog in that position.

When the new Access to Information Act is introduced in the House, the members opposite want someone appointed to that position who has no prior knowledge or experience so they can lead the new information commissioner by the nose, with a ring in the nose, and tell that person what to do and what not to do. They do not want somebody who is impartial. They do not want somebody who knows what cabinet confidentiality is all about.

How can we allow this to happen? How can any Canadian allow this to happen?

In the last year we have seen information come out of the Gomery commission that pertains to the largest political scandal in Canadian history. All I have heard from members opposite are these comments: this was a rogue group of politicians; it did not reflect on the Liberals; we want to get to the bottom of this; we are mad as hell and we will not stop until we get all of the answers. How can they say that?

How can Liberals stand in the House with any credibility and state to the Canadian public that they actually want to get to the bottom of this incident when exactly the type of legislation Mr. Reid is proposing that we introduce would prevent this from happening? They should be endorsing Mr. Reid's appointment or reappointment and yet they are not.

I see members opposite chuckling, because they know that once again they are pulling a fast one on the Canadian public. They think this is humorous. They think this is funny. This is serious business. I am absolutely offended by members who think they can get away with another one.

Eventually the Canadian public will understand what those members opposite are all about. They are about trying to suppress information rather than letting Canadians access information. This is something that all Canadians and parliamentarians in the House should absolutely reject with every fibre and ounce of strength they have.

Eventually this motion will come to the floor of the House; at least I am hoping that it will. I am convinced that all members on this side of the House and members of the New Democratic Party will endorse Mr. Reid's reappointment for one year. I can say right now without fear of retribution that we will see members opposite rejecting or attempting to reject the appointment of Mr. Reid. This is a government that has lost all credibility and should have lost all confidence of the Canadian public when it comes time to talk about things like transparency and accountability.

Let me conclude by saying that while the members have talked the talk, again they have not walked the walk. If members opposite are serious about transparency, accountability and openness in government, I invite them to stand in their places today and join with me in asking for the immediate extension for John Reid as Information Commissioner of this Parliament.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do very much agree with one thing the member said, which is that Mr. Reid has served admirably and with distinction.

It was a seven year appointment. The appointment is coming due. Members may not have realized that the rules in this place changed. As past chair and now vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, I will note that in all committees we have had new powers to review all appointments. Indeed, every standing committee now has a majority of opposition members on it, so that when the review comes up they will have an opportunity to make sure there is an appointee once Mr. Reid's seven year term expires.

Mr. Reid was appointed by the government. He has excellent credentials and he has done an extremely good job on behalf of Canadians, but to extend for a year is tokenism, somewhat, and in fact this is not even Mr. Reid's wish.

I would also remind the member that we had an all party committee on the Access to Information Act and that indeed it will be a matter to be addressed by the House. I think the members participating in that all party ad hoc committee on the Access to Information Act did a total review of it, led by our former colleague, John Bryden. There are important improvements that can be made and there was consensus, and there will be consensus as we move forward.

I had hoped to be able to speak to this motion. I would simply like to ask the member if he is confident about the process that has been established, since this Parliament began, for the full review by committees of appointees such as the new chairman and CEO of Canada Post, which our committee has done. Also, there was the appointment last Parliament of the new Privacy Commissioner, which our committee also did.

Is he confident that in the process parliamentarians will be able to review the appointees, whether it be for the Access to Information Office or any other officer of Parliament? Indeed, the rules cover any director of any agency or board that has funding directly or indirectly from the government. Is he confident that appointees will be subject to parliamentary review, a review for which in each committee the opposition has the majority?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am on the access to information committee. Let me remind the hon. member that all opposition members of that committee unanimously endorsed the extension for Mr. Reid for one more year with a proviso that the extension could go beyond one year.

The member also states that Mr. Reid does not want this. That is absolutely not true. Mr. Reid has been consulted and has said that if asked he would gladly serve in that capacity for another year. To suggest that Mr. Reid does not want to continue in that capacity is absolutely false.

Again, I would point out to the hon. member that we have discussed this at committee extensively. Once again, for the record, all members of the committee except the Liberals agreed unanimously to extend Mr. Reid's contract by one year.

As I mentioned in my opening address, a precedent has been set, because this government, without consultation or with very little consultation, determined to extend the contract of the Governor General by one year, because, as the Liberals put it, of the political instability of the current government. They felt that having some continuity in that position would actually strengthen the confidence that all Canadians have in what might be a short term government.

Mr. Reid's purview is such that he would be the one responsible for overseeing the transition of this new act that may be coming forth. I must say, because I see the member for Winnipeg Centre entering the House, that--

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I remind the hon. member that he is not to refer to members being here or not. All members are in the House.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I withdraw the last comment.

Let me rephrase this. At committee, at one point in the not too distant past, the Minister of Justice had committed to the member for Winnipeg Centre that there would be a new access to information act presented at committee. In fact, there was no such act. There was only a discussion paper. This is one more example of how this government does not want Canadians to have access to information. We must reappoint Mr. Reid.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for bringing forward this motion, and I thank all opposition colleagues on the committee for such a critical motion. I find it ironic that with a government that has brought forward a whistleblower protection act as one of the earliest pieces of legislation in this minority Parliament, it is the Conservative Party that is standing here today protecting and advancing a tough defender of access to information, a true whistleblower on the misdeeds and the shroud of secrecy that surround this Liberal government.

Access to information is such a vital part of opposition parliamentarians being able to do their job. Perhaps that government over there does not want a strong opposition. It just wants us to roll over and play dead, but no, we need to be able to do our job well. Canadians expect us to hold this government to account. That is why they elected us as opposition members of Parliament.

As a kid, I was always warned whatever one does secret is ultimately going to come to light. That is why it is important to have a motion like this coming forward. What this government has done in secret for 12 years needs to come to light. It is not just the sponsorship scandal that I am talking about. I am sure there are all kinds of scandals waiting to be uncovered. That is why the Liberals do not support the extension for this Information Commissioner.

Ultimately what really sticks with me is that this current Prime Minister was supposed to be a champion of transparency and openness. That is what he kept telling people on his nine year climb to power as he stepped over Liberal body after Liberal body to become the Prime Minister.

My question is simple. I look to my colleague. Why is this Liberal government so afraid of extending the term of this tough Information Commissioner for even one year? Does it not want a tough whistleblower constructively criticizing its lust for secrecy and its tendency for cover-up?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, in answer to my hon. colleague's question, I referred in my opening comments to the fact that the only conclusion I can draw as to why the Liberals do not want to see the extension of Mr. Reid is that there is more corruption and they are trying to cover it up.

They do not want someone who knows the political process, who knows the system and who knows cabinet. They do not want someone like that in this role, because, let us face it, if these new tough rules get implemented then he would be able to uncover the corruption that undoubtedly lies just below the surface with that government.

The Liberals have had 12 years of corruption and have the audacity to stand in this House and say that while they agree that Mr. Reid has served his position well and with distinction, they just do not think it is really within the rules to extend his contract for one more year.

I do not know how they believe that Canadians will swallow this line. All the Liberals are trying to do is bring someone in who does not have the knowledge, the experience and the political background to uncover the dirt and the corruption. They want someone that they can use as a lapdog. They do not want to get to the truth. They do not want to uncover their own corruption. That is why they are opposing the extension for Mr. Reid.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Forseth Conservative New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals do not want to reappoint Mr. Reid because they do not like what he advocates, but we know that indicative of any totalitarian regime is the control of information. It is central to the functioning of any dictatorship.

Previously, I talked to the Auditor General about this. She said that there are limits to laws and rules and policy directives, but they just get ignored. What is needed in addition is a culture of transparency.

I want the member to talk about what this current move by the government reveals about its character. We see its love of secrecy and its record of undermining the access to information law. We have seen its failure to expand resources to actually implement the law. The central element, which is basic to all of democracy, is openness and transparency, public access and the public's right to know.

Can he explain in plain terms what the Liberal move means to the average voter? Why should the average voter care about us arguing about access to information?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, in plain terms, why Canadians should be concerned is that the shroud of secrecy the government has perpetrated on the Canadian public for the last 12 years is reprehensible.

The sponsorship scandal never would have been uncovered had it not been for the Auditor General. Liberals do not want more transparency and more openness in government. If there were, then all the facts of every Liberal theft and corruption would come to the public's eye. They do not want more openness in government because they are afraid of what the political ramifications would be to that party if the public were able to find out how they have served themselves rather than than Canadians for the last 12 years.

Liberals do not want someone who will be tough. They do not want somebody who will ensure that Canadians have access to all information on what they consider to be their own government purview.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must admit that I was a bit surprised this morning to learn the subject of today's debate.

A few weeks ago in the committee which I have the honour to chair, a number of Conservative MPs created a spectacle by complaining that they were not getting what they judged to be a sufficient number of opposition days. At that time, the committee decided it would report the issue to the House in its 35th report. The Conservatives then argued that not only did they need more opposition days, but they wanted them right away because they wanted to debate opposition issues.

Today is one of those days. Instead of debating their own opposition day, in which they should indicate their perceived failings in the way the government administers the business of the nation, opposition members have decided to filibuster by discussing a concurrence motion in a committee report. I guess they have been unable to find anything wrong with the government.

They claim that is not the case, but I challenge them to this. The next time they have an opposition day, what would happen if a Liberal moved concurrence in a committee report thereby displacing their opposition day? Presumably this would be perfectly okay because after all that is what they are doing to themselves. If they are doing this to themselves, presumably somebody else doing it to them would be similarly correct. Otherwise why would they be doing it now?

You are truly objective in the Chair, Mr. Speaker, and non-partisan so you have probably fairly evaluated at this point the fact that the Conservative opposition does not know what it is doing, at least this morning. I will let others decide about other occasions. Clearly this morning those members do not want to debate their own opposition day.

What is the purpose of an opposition day? It is historically and constitutionally a process by which the Sovereign is not granted supply until the grievances of the people have been heard. That is very clear in our rules. The grievances of the people are manifested, in parliamentary terms, by way of opposition days and listening to the debates. Once all opposition days are exhausted, we vote on supply, which we will be doing tonight. Once we start with the supply bill, there is no more debate on the bill because debate was held prior to the bill's introduction on the floor of the House. That is the way the process works.

Today we were supposed to listen to the grievances of the people as manifested by the opposition days. This morning opposition members are saying that they have no grievance. They do not want to debate the grievance they said they had when they tabled their opposition motions. That itself is very indecisive on the part of the opposition. They cannot make up their minds what they want to grieve because they have tabled half a dozen opposition motions. They then have to decide whether one of them has any legitimacy for debate in the House of Commons.

I guess this morning they looked at the list of their so-called grievances and concluded that none of them had any merit. Having done that, the only thing left for them to do was to move concurrence in a committee report. Concurrence in the committee report in question has to do with reappointing an officer of the House, not a government official.

We are talking, here about the hon. John Reid, who is the Information Commissioner of Canada. I am somewhat familiar with Mr. Reid's file because I was the one who moved the motion a few years ago that he be appointed to this position. At that time, another candidate had expressed interest but he failed to receive the unanimous support of the House. Mr. Reid had not officially submitted his name. Some members of the House, even some members of the opposition, suggested that the government consider appointing or officially submitting his name as a candidate, if he was interested. He was. The hon. John Reid, a former minister, expressed interest in this appointment. Prior to this, he had co-sponsored the Access to Information Act. He was well known in the field and continues to be today, since his appointment. In my opinion, he has done an excellent job.

John Reid's name was put forward for this position. He appeared before a parliamentary committee, and his appointment was approved by a unanimous vote in the House, as we all recall. This happened during the previous Parliament, some five years ago, I believe.

Today, some members feel Mr. Reid ought to be reappointed. I do not know if this is possible under the rules. He is certainly highly competent. The government will decide whether it wants to propose him again as a candidate.

A parliamentary committee is of course absolutely free to congratulate an officer of Parliament on his work. This is evidently what the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics concluded in tabling its fifth report. That is all very well and I have no objection to the process or to the fact that the committee made that statement, and that it is submitted to this House.

What I do have trouble with is that the opposition made such a fuss a few weeks ago about not having its quota of opposition days. In fact, the committee I have the honour to chair was asked to table a report in this House setting out this shortcoming. Today those same members who were demanding their opposition days are in the process of holding a filibuster on the opposition day they themselves asked for. I just do not get it.

I have been in this House for some time, and I find this parliamentary strategy a bit hard to understand. Normally, MPs, particularly those in opposition, consider these opposition days something sacred in a way. They are, to some extent, because they are part of our constitutional conventions to which I have already referred, which require that the grievances of the people must be heard before we vote on supply.

That is what we are doing, or at least what we should be doing today. The members opposite have the opportunity to debate this or that government policy, be it agriculture, foreign affairs or what have you. They have a chance to say that it is not to their liking and that the policy should contain more of this or less of that. They can fault the government for not having done as much as it ought to in connection with this or that issue, or for having done too much in connection with some other. These subjects of debate are totally legitimate. That is why we are here. That is the reason the opposition itself raised in demanding that the 35th report be tabled.

I will summarize that report, on the off chance that some members may have forgotten some points in the text.

The 35th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which I have the honour of chairing, need I point out, said:

Pursuant to its mandate under Standing Order 108(3)(a)(iii), the Committee has considered a change to the Standing Orders.

The Committee recommends that Standing Order 81(10) be amended by adding the following:

(d) For the Supply period ending no later than June 23, 2005—

That is the supply period ending this evening, the deadline being June 23. So we will decide tonight, and this is the last opposition day.

—if the government has not designated any of the remaining six allotted days so that an opposition motion can be considered—

This is oddly like what could have happened today, had the opposition chosen to exercise its mandate. According to the Constitution, the opposition must want, by definition, to make the grievances known. The leader of the opposition calls himself the leader of the government in waiting. So, the leader of the opposition wants, rightly or wrongly—this time, I think, wrongly—to replace the Prime Minister. To do so, he must explain to the Canadian public as forcefully as he can, why his ideas are better than those of the government, using the opposition days.

That is not at all what is happening. That is not at all what the opposition is trying to do this morning.

I will continue to read this motion because I know the hon. members find it interesting:

—that May 19, 2005 shall be so designated—

What they wanted the other day was to get as many opposition days possible as quickly as possible. They did not want to miss out on any before the end. However, we are now coming to the end and the opposition finds, believe it or not, they have one opposition day too many. They no longer want it.

I have a question for the New Democrats. If they were offered an additional opposition day, would they take it? I think they would. There are, no doubt, issues the New Democrats would want to raise in this House if they had an extra opposition day. I am sure of it. How is it that the New Democrats would have an issue to raise and the Conservatives seem not to? Do they not have any more matters to address, nothing more to do or to ask? They feel the government is doing a good enough job that there is no need to question it during the last day reserved for that purpose. As a parliamentary strategy, it is nothing to write home about.

I will continue to read the motion from the report I tabled on behalf of the committee that I chair:

—the vote shall not be deferred beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment on that day.

According to the opposition members, it was so urgent to have opposition days that the vote could not even be deferred until the next day. They had to have as many opposition days as possible as soon as possible and the votes had to be held the very same evening, such was their need to denounce the government.

Now what do we have? The opposition has a day left over. It ran out of things to ask the government. It put a number of motions on the order paper for supply. It should only be putting one in any event. That was the intent of the first modernization report which I chaired, but that is another matter. Then it looked at all of them and guessed that none were legitimate. None of these so-called grievances were worthwhile raising, so the opposition moved concurrence in a committee report instead of debating an opposition day motion on the last opposition day and the last opportunity that we have to do so before the summer adjournment.

Therefore, I ask all my colleagues sitting on this side of the House, is this what an opposition party should be doing? I know my colleague from Scarborough--Rouge River sat with me in opposition. When we were in opposition, and I was there for a long time, we never ran out of things to ask Brian Mulroney. We never ran out of subjects to raise on opposition days. We know of course that when the Conservatives were in government, they had a number of shortcomings.

Given all the shortcomings that the Conservatives had at the time, we had lots of things to ask of them on the floor of the House. We never ran out of subjects to ask. We never filibustered our own opposition day in order not to get to orders of the day because we wanted to debate our opposition day motion. We wanted to keep the Prime Minister of the day accountable. First, because that particular government had many shortcomings; and second, we saw it as our duty as a government in waiting because that is what we were. We waited very patiently, particularly from 1988 to 1993, as my colleague from Scarborough-- Rouge River will recognize, and then in 1993 having duly waited as the government in waiting, we became the government.

Why did we become the government? It was because the previous government was not very good. As a matter of fact, it was bad. We held it accountable which was our duty and then the Liberals were elected. That is what happened in 1993.

The spectacle we have before us is an opposition day with the opposition having run out of subjects to ask the government. It is filibustering its own opposition day to avoid holding the government accountable. If that makes sense, I guess I will have to eat my hat.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Gouk Conservative Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, the truly frightening part about the diatribe of the hon. member is that he actually believes some of what he said. That is really frightening. Basically, he has stood up and said that it is the opposition's job to oppose the things being done by the government. Heaven knows the government makes that very easy for us by doing so much wrong.

However, that is exactly what we are doing. He says that we should be on our opposition day motion. We would very much like to get to that. If the Liberals were honourable people, they would rise right now and support--

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order, please. The hon. member of course knows that all members are honourable.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Gouk Conservative Southern Interior, BC

I apologize for that, Mr. Speaker. I was referring to the party as a whole and not any of the individuals. I was talking collectively.

We have a situation now where we have a Privacy Commissioner who helps make Parliament work, who helps the opposition and the people of Canada by giving us access to the kind of wrongdoings the government is involved in.

I can understand why the hon. member would not want to give us the opportunity to extend the job of one of the few appointees who is actually doing the job. It must have been a great shock to the Liberals when they appointed someone, given their usual track record of appointing hacks who just do whatever they are told, their typical lap dogs, and are now finding they have someone who actually does the job.

Why does the hon. member think that the opposition is not doing its job by opposing the very thing the government is doing by trying to replace someone who is doing their job? The government is ignoring the recommendations of the committee by turning around and saying that it does not want to do what the committee recommended.

If the hon. member can answer that and if his party was honourable, did the right thing and agreed to follow what the committee has recommended, we would be happy to get on to our opposition motion of the day.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is mistaken insofar as how the rules work for these appointments. Let me go back a little bit to the history prior to the modernization of committees.

Prior to modernization, some order in council appointments for officers of Parliament were debatable, some were simply by order in council, others were debatable and votable by one House, and others were debatable and votable by both houses. It was a mishmash. No two were the same, so we unanimously agreed to a rule change at the time.

I invite the hon. member to confer with some of his own colleagues who worked very hard on this. We made them all uniform and we said that we would appoint all officers of Parliament. There would be a possible review by committee, if that is what the members wanted. Then when the candidate's name appears before the House, it would carry by a majority vote. For all the appointments, it involves a vote in both houses, the ones that are in legislation anyway. There is one exception, which is the Chief Electoral Officer. That is voted on only in the House of Commons, but in the case of removal, both houses have to vote.

Getting back to the case at hand, the appointments are non-debatable and votable right away. That is the way the process works. Because it involves an officer of Parliament, the threshold of approval is very high. It is not in the rules, but if I were appointed privacy commissioner or something like that, and I am not running for this or any other position for that matter because I am retiring, the threshold would be very high. We would not want to be an officer of the House unless we knew that all parties, or at least a critical mass of them in the House, thought that we were able to do the job. Otherwise, it would be very complicated to do. It is the same for the new Ethics Commissioner and all the others.

That is how the process works. It is not just a matter of the government choosing someone to its liking and imposing that person on the House. In modern times, that would be very difficult to do.

In the case that we have here, the person was a Liberal MP, a Liberal cabinet minister, and the enthusiasm was generated largely by opposition members. The person has now served his term. I have no idea whether the government will propose him again, but I consider Mr. Reid as having been an excellent commissioner. That is how the process works.

I have explained it now to the hon. member. Perhaps we can do the opposition day motion, if the opposition has any grievances at all, which it probably does not.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, this is an incredible spectacle. We have just witnessed the hon. member standing up pretending he is the defender of opposition days.

The government prevented our parliamentary privilege and right to have opposition days. Why? Because it did not want us to bring forward a motion of non-confidence on a supply day until it had time to buy off enough votes to sustain itself.

That is the most shameful thing I have heard. How can the Liberals say that we are standing here doing something that offends the hon. member when the Liberals were the ones who prevented us, and all opposition members, from bringing forward our opposition day motions? The hon. member should be ashamed of himself. That is my comment.