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House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-48.

Topics

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will attempt to do that. I thought I was very clear that by talking about the urgency of debating Bill C-48 and Bill C-38 the member would understand why I will be supporting the motion to stay next week to debate them. I thought that my process here was extremely clear.

I would like to speak to a third project in my riding, a senior's village. This again speaks to volunteers and just normal citizens who would like to provide seniors with a continuum of care. Bill C-48 is essential because it would provide affordable housing dollars for these people. The tie for me is very obvious, and I do not know why the hon. member does not understand that.

There is some urgency to staying here and debating Bill C-48 and Bill C-38. I am making the point that Bill C-48 is urgent. These dollars are needed in our communities. I am using my community as an example, but I am sure it applies right across Canada. I support additional funding for affordable housing. There are several reasons why we have to act quickly on approving this additional funding.

Bill C-48 covers environment issues, which is the second item I would like to discuss. The bill would allocate $900 million for the environment. Environmental issues are important to all of us.

Contrary to what my hon. colleagues on the other side of the House think, climate change is not a myth. It does exist and it is extremely important that we continue to invest in it. Canadians know that we have made some substantial investments in the Kyoto protocol and we will continue to do that.

The Kyoto protocol is also supported by many developing countries around the world. We understand the impact of global warming and of greenhouse gas emissions. We cannot underestimate their impact on Canadians and on people around the world. The impact of global warming on the north, for instance, is critical. My colleagues from Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon will tell us about the impact it is having on tundra for instance and on icebergs.

These are real problems for Canadians. Bill C-48 proposes to some extent investments in remedying some of these issues. Once again, the tie we are making to the importance of staying here is quite relevant.

We are also seeing some radical changes in weather patterns in Canada as a result of global warming. In my province of Manitoba, two or three weeks ago, we had floods like we had not seen in 100 years. Our colleagues in Alberta are now experiencing the same thing.

These are radical changes to weather patterns. I believe they are connected to global warming. Bill C-48 would invest a considerable amount of money, $900 million to be exact, for climate change issues.

I would like to talk about some of the projects that the government has been funding. The tar ponds in Nova Scotia is a good example. This is one project where hundreds of millions of dollars are needed to resolve one problem. I would like to congratulate my colleagues from Nova Scotia who worked extremely hard to ensure that funding went toward cleaning up these polluted sites.

Mine sites in northern Canada are also totally polluted and need millions of dollars to be cleaned up. The government has been very aggressive in investing in the environment, but we could always do more, and we all believe that.

Bill C-48 would allow us to invest in public transit systems. The city of Winnipeg is discussing exactly that. Members from the province of Manitoba, particularly the city of Winnipeg, would know that almost every Winnipegger uses a car. Not many of them use buses because it is a city that is fairly easy to get around in. We would like to encourage those citizens to use buses and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That is certainly one of our objectives, and it is one of the objectives of Bill C-48. There is an urgency in getting these bills passed.

Bill C-48 will speak to reducing energy costs for consumers who renovate their homes because there is less heat loss and that kind of thing. I really feel that the investment that we will be making is worthwhile and urgent.

The third item in Bill C-48 that we will be investing in with an amount of $1.5 billion is post-secondary education. In the past our government has invested substantially, up to $5 billion a year, in post-secondary education but mostly in the field of research and development.

We realize that it is important to target lower income families to ensure that everyone in Canada has access to post-secondary education. That is certainly one of our objectives. This $1.5 billion investment will certainly assist in attaining that objective.

In my riding I have a university, Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface. I get to speak to students on a regular basis. My nephews and nieces go to Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface. One of the challenges they have is that after a four year post-secondary degree the average debt is $26,000 per student.

We can imagine when they go into a different level of education, to a master's degree or a Ph.D., they may end up with debts ranging from $50,000 to $80,000. I believe that we have a responsibility to alleviate some of that debt and invest in our post-secondary education facilities, institutions and in our students.

The fourth item is international aid. This is an area that I am particularly interested in. I used to be a member of the foreign affairs committee. I had a chance to travel to many Asian countries where people talked to us about Canada's role in the world, not only in terms of our prowess in industry and commerce but in terms of the leadership role that we should be taking when it comes to investing in international aid and the respect that we have worldwide.

For me this was an eye opener. It was my first year as a member of Parliament. I would like to say that I believe that Canada has a responsibility. I believe that we should invest this $500 million in international aid. I am one who believes that we have to play a more aggressive role when it comes to international aid. Therefore, this $500 million investment shows clearly that we are in fact taking our responsibilities seriously and following through on our commitments to playing a lead role on the world stage.

I feel that Bill C-48 is urgent and essential to the well-being of Canadians and I am prepared to extend the sitting hours to ensure we deliver on these commitments.

I would like to speak briefly as well to Bill C-38 because we are here I believe to discuss both bills. This is obviously a difficult issue. It has been a difficult issue over the past months that it has been debated in the House. In my three years as a member of Parliament it has been the most difficult decision that I have had to make. I have made my vote count on this issue. I have decided not to support Bill C-38 and in fact I was free to do just that.

However, I also participated in many debates in the House. I sat and listened to members from all parties discuss their opinions on these issues. It was done in a very respectful way on such a delicate and serious issue. I applaud all members of the House for having discussed it in this way because it is an issue that is very sensitive and very close to many people's hearts.

I feel that it was an issue that was debated very strongly in the House of Commons. Opinions were put forth on both sides of the issue. People had an opportunity to express their views on this issue. I feel members have in fact stated their positions.

After having voted several times on amendments and second reading of Bill C-38, I do not see a lot of movement by members. The justice committee has had an opportunity to travel across Canada. In fact, in Manitoba it came not only to Winnipeg but it ensured that it heard people from rural Manitoba. It visited two towns in Manitoba and it was important for rural people to get their points of view across as well because they may not have necessarily the same point of view as the urban community. I thought the justice committee did an excellent job, came back and reported to the House.

Lately a legislative committee had an opportunity to hear witnesses. I am not sure if it was 56 or 64 witnesses who came forward to testify before the committee and express their concerns. If I am not mistaken, an amendment was put forward that would ensure religious organizations had even stronger protection in Bill C-38, if there was ever an issue with that.

We have been debating Bill C-38 for months on end. The government House leader was talking about 200 hours or so of debate. I believe people know where they stand on this item. I am prepared to vote on it. Canadians want us to deal with it. I think we should sit next week and the week following that if we have to in order to continue debating these issues, but we should rectify these issues and deal with them before we leave for the summer break.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Williams Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I reiterate my earlier points of order. That was a wonderful speech on Bill C-38 and Bill C-48, but it had absolutely no relevance to Motion No. 17 that we are currently debating.

That being said, the member talked about how people have stated their positions, their minds are pretty well made up and will not change. Yet the Liberals did a complete and absolute U-turn a month or so ago, kind of a conversion on the road to embracing socialism I think, when the NDP went to them and said it had a deal which could keep them in government if they would keep the NDP in money. All of a sudden the U-turn occurred and the Liberals were embracing Bill C-48 that had nothing whatsoever to do with the budget of the Minister of Finance.

The member for Saint Boniface talked about Bill C-48 being essential, that it was urgent, and the dollars were needed. I go back to the budget of the Minister of Finance which did not have a word about all this money for the environment, education or housing. There was not a word.

All of a sudden this conversion on the road to embracing socialism seems to be the new thing for the Liberal Party because it wants to stay in power. This is not about public policy. This is about the personal desire to stay in power. The NDP thinks it is now the tail that can wag the dog and, therefore, it is basking in the new found power. All members on that side of the House are having a wonderful time at the taxpayers' expense.

Bill C-48 will spend up to $4.5 billion of taxpayers' money and is all of two pages in length. There is absolutely no substance to it. It talks about $1.5 billion for education.

I have a question for the member for Saint Boniface, who I know is a new guy and is just coming up to his first anniversary. If the $1.5 billion gets added to the millennium scholarship fund and will be spent over the next 20 odd years, is that going to be sufficient? Does he believe that will be an adequate way to spend this $1.5 billion in the scholarship fund when no one has any idea on what basis it is going to be spent at this point in time? Perhaps he could enlighten us.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, when Canadians elected a minority government, they expected it to consult with the parties and to make Parliament work. In fact, that is precisely what it is doing.

When there are minority governments in Europe, they build coalitions and alliances. That is what Canadians have asked us to do and that is exactly what we are trying to do. We built coalitions as the parties have tried to do with the Bloc Québécois on certain issues. That is just the way minority governments work. They are healthy for a period of time to a certain extent.

In terms of investing in post-secondary education, I believe we will establish a process to invest the funds in the best possible way, as we always do. The government has been the most successful government in 100 years in terms of managing dollars. I would expect the member to rely on the government's fiscal record to ensure that the dollars being invested in the post-secondary education field will be invested in a proper way.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, what the member is voting to do is to overturn the Standing Orders. He is basically invoking a notwithstanding clause on the Standing Orders of the House.

I have only been here a short time and I know my colleague has only been here a short time, but there is a tremendous amount of precedence about the Standing Orders and the rules of the House. Both members' statements and question period fall under the Standing Orders.

What the member is proposing would be exactly the same as if the government said that it was too embarrassed by all the scandals. Every day there is another scandal of Liberal waste, corruption and mismanagement. If the Liberals said that since this was too damaging for their own party they would introduce a motion to cancel question period, they could have a very similarly worded motion saying that notwithstanding any Standing Order there will not be any question period until next fall, or something like that, to get rid of their own embarrassment.

What the member is proposing would establish a tremendous precedent and one that his party spoke vehemently against. Earlier today, my colleague from Sarnia—Lambton reminded the member of the right hon. Herb Gray speaking vociferously against such an attempt when a previous administration tried to extend the sitting of the House.

It is a bit like a hockey game. We play against the other team but we also play against the clock. Part of the legislative process is that we have a certain amount of time. Proposing to ignore the clock, in this case the parliamentary calendar, would be very similar to a hockey game where one side realizes that it is not winning so it makes a proposal to play an extra period because it wants a chance to win. I think that is very damaging.

Why does the hon. member think it is okay to bring in this type of notwithstanding clause that would roll over the tradition of democracy and the precedents of the House when his government spent months filibustering its own legislation? If this was such a priority, why did the Liberals not bring it up for debate back in May when they were bringing in all their own motions and then adjourning debate on their own motions? Why were they filibustering this very piece of legislation if now there is such a panic that we have to extend the sitting of the House?

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the second question first. The second question is with regard to the amount of work that has been done in the House over the last little while. The member should look at the bills that have been introduced and passed in this House. There has not been a minority government in the past that has reached this same level of work.

We are very proud of that accomplishment as a minority government and I believe all sides should be congratulated for that. Although some times were difficult and some committee work was extremely difficult, a great deal of work has been done in this minority government.

In terms of imposing closure, members from all sides have to be careful not to abuse their privileges and not to abuse the Standing Orders. We cannot--

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think the member is confused. My question was not about invoking closure because that has already been dealt with. I was talking about extending the sitting of the calendar.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I thank the hon. member for that clarification but that is not a point of order. However I am sure the hon. parliamentary secretary will get around to answering that too.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member is right. It is about extending the sitting hours. As I have said before, I am one of those who approves of us sitting here. We have a responsibility to Canadians. They elect us to do our work. If we have to stay here for two or three weeks longer, we should do that.

I believe it is important for members of Parliament not to abuse their parliamentary privileges in the House, such as filibustering bills when everything has been said on them basically. At one point Canadians expect us to deal with these issues and not just let them drag on forever.

I know these issue are very delicate and sensitive and that many members of Parliament on all sides have had to deal with Bill C-38 on a personal basis. I know I have and it has been extremely difficult. However I believe at some point, in order to deal with the issues, we need to impose certain conditions to do that.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I address the question of the time extension, I want Canadians and the residents of my riding of Calgary Centre-North to be clear on what is happening here.

We have had a motion of closure, which has been addressed, and a decision is now before us to extend the sitting hours of the House. The effect of the closure, coupled with this extension of the sitting time of the House, is to permit the Liberal government to ram through several pieces of legislation. I predict that this is the first in a series of closure motions that will happen beneath the umbrella of this time extension that Canadians will see over the course of the next seven days.

The underlying purpose of what the Liberal government is attempting to do is to override Standing Order 28(2), the Standing Orders that provide for the operation of this House, and to do so in circumstances where there is no emergency. There is no emergency in this country and there is no necessity for this time extension.

What is being proposed is that the government sacrifice the parliamentary calendar, which is constructed into Standing Order 28(2,) and to do so for its own political expediency and its own political purposes, rather than for any national purpose or national emergency, which is required.

At this time there are two controversial pieces of legislation before this House: Bill C-48, which I have referred to as the NDP budget bill; and Bill C-38, the marriage bill. Both of these are important pieces of legislation. I will turn to them in more detail as I proceed, but I think it would be fair to say on behalf of all members of the House that both of these pieces of legislation have attracted considerable attention and considerable controversy. They are bills in respect of which there are many differing opinions in this House and many parliamentarians who wish to speak on behalf of their constituents with respect to both of those issues.

The question that is before us this afternoon is why the government has found it necessary to invoke closure to force the extension of the sitting hours of the House of Commons to deal so quickly with these two pieces of legislation that have been before the House for some time.

As I begin, I note, parenthetically, that this is not the government's calendar which it seeks to change, it is the calendar of the House of Commons. It is the calendar that was arrived at and negotiated with considerable care on behalf of all Canadians. In fact there was a Standing Orders committee that grappled with the whole question of the parliamentary calendar. This parliamentary calendar that we have today was adopted after considerable thought. Two different committees at two different points in time studied this Standing Order, and the purpose of the Standing Order, frankly, was to bring some order to the calendar of the House of Commons and to ensure that we were able to balance the difficult schedules of members of Parliament with the business of the House of Commons.

The Standing Orders were arrived at, as I understand it, with an all party consensus, and they should not be changed lightly.

Earlier today the Liberal member for Sarnia--Lambton objected to what the government was attempting to do here, which is to railroad through these two pieces of legislation. He referred to is as “legislation by exhaustion”. I might add to that terminology, legislation by closure because the use of the closure motion is an essential part of the strategy that the government is pursuing.

I would like to discuss the hypocrisy of the government in proceeding in such an undemocratic way to deal with two pieces of legislation that are very controversial and in respect of which there are a wide range of opinions in this House. I think we can all agree that, by definition, the invocation of closure, coupled with the extension of the sitting hours, involves steps that are undemocratic because the House will not have adequate time to deal with the legislation that is before it.

One only has to examine a handful of documents to fully appreciate the duplicity and the hypocrisy of the Prime Minister and his government House leader.

I would like to take members, first, to the Prime Minister's swearing in. The Prime Minister was sworn in on December 12, 2003, and any analysis of failed expectations and hypocrisy must, by definition, begin on that date.

At that time the Prime Minister said, “We are going to change the way things work in Ottawa...to re-engage Canadians in the political process”. He stated that this would be his number one priority or at least one of his many number one priorities.

Nothing was said at that time about invoking closure. Nothing was said at that time about ramming through legislation at the close of session under the cover of night. Nothing was said at that time about limiting the debate of the elected representatives of the Canadian people.

The only thing we heard was the hypocritical statement, which we now know was hypocritical because there was no intent to honour it, “We are going to change the way that things work in Ottawa”.

We are certainly doing that but to no avail and not to the benefit of Canadians.

The throne speech followed shortly after that. If people want to understand what the government is doing with Bill C-48 and Bill C-38, they need only go back and look at the throne speech of February 2, 2004 where the government said:

We must re-engage citizens in Canada’s political life. And this has to begin in the place where it should mean the most -- in Parliament -- by making Parliament work better.

Further on in the speech it states:

The Government of Canada is determined to return Parliament to the centre of national debate and decision making....

The speech contained references to more free votes and to enhanced roles for members of Parliament to shape laws. It then states:

Significantly enhancing the role of all MPs will make Parliament what it was intended to be -- a place where Canadians can see and hear their views debated and their interests heard. In short, a place where they can have an influence on the policies that affect their lives.

Later in the same throne speech it states:

Canadians expect government to respect their tax dollars. They want to have the confidence that public money -- their money -- is wisely spent.

Is that not curious? There is nothing in the throne speech about invoking closure. There is nothing in the throne speech about closure coupled with extension of sitting times to ram through two pieces of legislation that Canadians consider to be important. There is nothing about closure, nothing about shortening debate and nothing about truncating public discussion.

Perhaps someone from that side of the House, someone with a shred of integrity, would be able to explain how to reconcile what the government promised in the throne speech in February 2004, with the conduct that we have seed from the government over the last several days.

However it gets better from there. On February 4, 2004, two days after the throne speech, the government put forward a document entitled “An Action Plan for Democratic Reform”. The document talks about the three pillars of democracy that the Prime Minister values. The second pillar is about restoring the representative and deliberative role of members of Parliament.

The report goes on to state that “Democratic reform will reconnect parliamentarians with Canadians by giving MPs greater freedom to voice the views and concerns of their constituents.

The document continues on to say:

What this means for individual Canadians is that the people they elect will be able to better reflect their views in the process of government. It also means increased responsibilities for individual Members of Parliament to ensure that these reforms result in real change.

The action plan for democratic reform says nothing about closure, nothing about the extension of time coupled with closure, nothing about eliminating the rights that the members of Parliament in this House have to participate in debate, and nothing about limiting the parliamentary freedom of our constituents by pushing forth two pieces of legislation without having a full and adequate opportunity in this House to carry on with the debate during the regular sitting of the House.

If one looks at the action plan for democratic reform itself, entitled “Ethics, Responsibility and Accountability”, we see that in this document there is of course a letter from the Prime Minister himself, in which he states:

Parliament should be the centre of national debate on policy...Members [of Parliament] should have greater freedom to voice their views and those of their constituents, reinforcing the role of House Committees...

I do not see anything in the letter from the Prime Minister about what the government is attempting to do in this case with Bill C-48, which I will come to in a few moments. I see nothing about that in the letter from the Prime Minister or in the letter from the House leader that accompanies this same document, in which he says:

Secondly, we must restore Parliamentarians' role in generating authentic, thoughtful, and constructive debate.

If the government believes in this, if it has any sincerity in believing in this, why is it not prepared to take Bill C-48 in particular, bring it forward and continue with debate according to the parliamentary calendar? If this means that third reading of this bill is secured when the fall session resumes, then so be it. What is the urgency of proceeding with closure, coupled with an extension of time, to ram this piece of legislation through the House of Commons at this point in time?

If we carry on and read this document it is breathtaking to appreciate what this government has said and how it just does not measure up with its conduct in terms of democratic reform in this country.

On page 1 of the February 2004 document, “An Action Plan for Democratic Reform”, we have the following statement:

Democratic institutions must constantly adapt and change in order to ensure that the process continues to work the way it was intended. Individuals, through their elected representatives, must have a strong voice in the great debates facing the nation. There needs to be real exchanges of opinion and constructive dialogue between Members of Parliament, reflecting the views of the people they represent.

In a statement of general principles that follows, we have item 3:

Parliament should be a national forum for debating and shaping national policies and legislation and for considering regional concerns and issues.

Principle 4 states:

Members of the House should have more opportunity to express their own views and those of their constituents.

Principle 5 states:

House Committees should have the resources and mechanisms necessary to become a central focus of debate, and to shape and modify legislation.

What is astounding is that none of these principles are being followed by this government in its conduct in dealing with Bill C-48, the NDP budget legislation.

Carrying forward from there, just this week we have had this government table in the House of Commons a document dated June 22, 2005, the first annual “Report on Democratic Reform”. It has such a noble title, but it is a litany of hypocrisy to read because this is a government that is not committed to the implementation of the ideas and the concepts that are set out in this report on democratic reform.

Once again there is a letter from the Prime Minister. He says that “Parliament must have greater ability to hold the government to account. Responsibility for democratic renewal rests with all parliamentarians. Democratic renewal must be an ongoing process”.

If the Prime Minister sincerely believes in that, why have they brought forward a closure motion coupled with an extension of time in an effort to ram through Bill C-48, the NDP-Liberal budget, which has flaws that we will talk about in a few moments and which should be carefully scrutinized by Parliament?

The government House leader, who has had the temerity to stand in this House and strong-arm the House with the closure motion, coupled with the motion which is currently before the House, has had the audacity, in the June 22, 2005 annual report, to author several invitations, saying that he looks forward to working with parliamentarians because, in his view, “enhancing the ability of Parliamentarians to represent their constituents and to shape public policy is essential in building public confidence in Canada's political institutions”.

If he believes that, why is he not prepared to have a full, complete and fulsome debate on Bill C-48 in the fullness of time, according to the parliamentary calendar?

He said later in the letter that he looks forward to working with all of his colleagues. The government carries on. The importance of restoring the representative and deliberate role of members of Parliament is discussed, as are the key principles of democratic reform. It is all here, but there is nothing in this document that talks about closure. There is nothing in this document about democratic reform, which talks about abrogating the parliamentary calendar and forcing Parliament to deal with legislation on a shortened process, on what the member for Sarnia--Lambton has referred to as “legislation by exhaustion”.

Paradoxically, there is nothing about that in any of the documents I have referred to, all of which come from the Prime Minister and the government, nothing which talks about that sort of a truncated parliamentary process that we are seeing from the government.

That brings me to Bill C-48, the so-called second budget bill, the NDP budget, which is one of the pieces of legislation which the government seeks to ram through under its current strategy.

I continue to believe that the bill is an abomination which violates the parliamentary expenditure process and which subjects Canadians to overtaxation and to expenditure without representation. I abhor it and I oppose this legislation.

It carries the rather hopeful title of “An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments”. The certain payments total $4.5 billion, and the net effect of this legislation is to create a fund of surplus taxes from which the Liberals have purchased 19 NDP votes in the House of Commons. This is a bill that is two pages in length, has no details whatsoever and authorizes the expenditure of $4.5 billion of public money.

How can that possibly be reconciled with the first annual report on democratic reform from the Prime Minister, where he says that he wants to see a deliberative role for the House of Commons and he wishes to see the House of Commons more carefully scrutinize the public expenditure process?

This, in fact, is not a budget at all. It is nothing more than a vague set of promises made to the NDP with the hard-earned tax dollars of Canadians.

It is only within the context of this Liberal government that we could even have something like Bill C-48, because this is a government which confuses the money of Canadians with its own money. This is a government which is spending future surpluses.

Let us stop for a moment and consider that. The government would need to accumulate $8.5 billion in surplus taxes--effectively overtaxation of $8.5 billion--to drive the expenditures which are promised in Bill C-48. In effect, the bill creates a political slush fund which will be financed from surpluses in 2005-06 and 2006-07 and will be spent by the government.

On behalf of the citizens of my riding, I note that this is one of a number of very curious things which have been happening in the House. The bill contains no details as to how these moneys will be spent and what they will be spent on, other than in the vaguest of details.

Let us examine the bill. It is less than two pages in length. It is about 900 words in total, and it is $4.5 billion, and the strategy that the government has embarked on is to limit the debate on this legislation.

Who then will be reviewing these expenditures on behalf of the citizens of Canada? Clearly the way the government is proceeding, it will not be this Parliament. The bill compromises the public finances of Canada. And since when did the citizens of Canada agree to be governed in this fashion? The legislation is entirely inconsistent with our traditional of fiscal responsibility. It is entirely inconsistent with the commitments that were made to Canadians in the last election.

No one, certainly no one in my riding, has ever consented to pay taxes at a level which would cover the cost of administering the Government of Canada and in addition to that the cost of creating a $4.5 billion fund of surplus taxes which the Liberal government can spend on matters sought by the NDP.

This is fiscal irresponsibility. It is good governance stood on its head. It is tantamount to a legislative commitment to $4.5 billion in overtaxation. It requires thorough debate and it requires debate according to the Parliamentary calendar. There is no reason to abrogate that calendar and rush this legislation through.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the speech of the member opposite. I have a great deal of respect for him. He actually got into some facts and figures on this topic and made it a very good debate.

However, of course I have to disagree with him on his conclusions related to the democratic deficit. It is timely, as he mentioned, that a report came out yesterday extolling all the accomplishments in that area, which is, as he said, one of the pillars of this Prime Minister's government. We have fleshed out the goals we are aiming for and we can see the results of that in the report, including the first ever independent Ethics Commissioner and the House of Commons' own conflict of interest code.

As well, more bills are referred to committee before second reading than ever before, so that members of Parliament can influence and shape legislation. Resources are being increased to committees, where so much is done. Also, the budget for the Library of Parliament's independent research on legislation to help MPs has increased.

Nominations for key positions like heads of crown corporations have gone for review. There is a new process for Supreme Court judges, whereby the justice minister appears before the justice committee to give their professional qualifications.

By far the biggest and most important reform is that government MPs are free to vote on a vast majority of items, as has occurred since the day the Prime Minister was elected, on virtually all things that are not confidence motions, of which there are very few. There has been a tremendous change in the chamber since the last Parliament because of this.

Indeed, as the member opposite will see, if there is a democratic deficit related to that aspect it is within his own party as opposed to the Liberal Party. If people watch the very important vote tonight on extending the sitting in order to pass legislation, I am sure they will see that the Liberals will be split on it whereas I imagine every member of his party will be voting in the same manner.

He said he was surprised that there was nothing in the bill about some of the rules in the House which allow for calling closure and limiting debate. The Prime Minister at the time was probably giving the benefit of the doubt to the opposition that we would not see such antics as we have seen on Bill C-48. I am amazed the member would bring this up when his party is so vulnerable due to the way it has constructed this particular debate, with the exception of his own intervention.

As he will remember, on Bill C-48 we heard speech after speech of the exact same words, which were put on record in the House. Yesterday during debate on Government Business No. 17, the whip for the official opposition would not let anyone speak and talked about all sorts of things not related to the bill. Is it any surprise that the other three parties would intervene to protect the taxpayers of this country when members were filibustering? It is a good job that this provision is there to stop the wasting of time by filibustering.

I will ask the member if he could justify his own party's actions if he wants it to be credible and for the democratic operation of the House.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his kind words. I have respect for him as well. He did however say that the Liberal government would be protecting the taxpayers of the country. I am sure he believes that, but that is not a thought which should let anyone in the country sleep well at night. I just cannot see that happening.

However, let me come back to the question of how the House has functioned and conducted the business of Canadians. There is no doubt that the House has the capacity to move very quickly when there is an agreement. The difficulty we have is we have two pieces of legislation, in respect of which reasonable people disagree, which require full and complete debate in the House of Commons.

If there were a consensus in the House, as there was with respect to the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement of last week, the House could move very quickly. In that case, very significant legislation passed through the House, essentially in one hour. I was proud to support it and to work on it with my colleagues. However, behind that legislation was 23 years of work and a great deal of confidence in the quality of the legislation that had been brought forward. We have not reached that point in respect of other legislation which is necessarily in front of the House.

What is more important is we face no emergency. The point has been made very clear that Standing Order 28(2) has not been arrived at lightly. This was put in place after two separate, non-partisan parliamentary committees reviewed it and decided we needed a House calendar that would adequately balance all the duties members of Parliament have to their constituents.

As far as I am aware, that Standing Order has been abrogated only once in the context of the emergency free trade debate in 1988. What do we find in Bill C-48 that presents emergency circumstances? For heaven's sake, the surplus process that drives the legislation cannot even be determined until the end of the 2005-06 expenditure year, before the legislation even applies. What in heaven's name is the reason for declaring an emergency to rush it through the House?

There are many things we that do need to be reformed in the House. As a first time member of Parliament, I would say it is a 17th century anachronistic place. The real problem is the government has not had a legislative agenda. The government has had ample opportunity since last September to secure approval for its legislative agenda. It dithered, dodged, ducked and woven its way through the House, sometimes filibustering its own agenda.

That is the problem. That is why the government is short of time. It has nothing to do with any of the opposition parties in the House of Commons.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, as members have pointed out so well, there is no national agenda. That is not why we are talking about extending the hours.

I had a couple of thoughts, as I listened to the House leader this morning. It seemed to me there was hardly a discussion, out of the normal discussion we have in June about staying or going or whatever, until about a week ago. The House leader had newspapers interviews and committed himself to a couple of positions, which I do not think even the Prime Minister knew he was being committed to it. That included passing Bill C-48 and Bill C-38.

This was the first time any of us had heard that had to happen or else we would not be leaving this place. He probably was so far out on a limb that he did not saw the branch off behind him. I would think this is one of the reasons we find ourselves in the situation we are in today.

The second reason we find ourselves debating Motion No. 17, which will allow the government to force Bill C-38 through, is the government does not want to take this home for the summer. The Liberals do not want to debate the issue over the summer. They feel if they go home with this issue, they will be hammered on it. I think they think, rather than allow us to come back in the fall and fully debate the issue, if they can ram it through as quickly as possible, then Canadians will forget about it. I would suggest Canadians will not forget about it.

To demonstrate that the government does not have a national agenda and that there is not an urgency in this, as it proclaims there is, in the other place the government has been delaying the implementation of Bill C-43. When the bill was in the House, at different times, particularly with the Atlantic accord, we tried get it accelerated so the government could begin disbursing money to Atlantic Canada.

On every occasion we tried to do that, the Liberal government stopped it from happening. Now that it is in the Senate, the government is once again trying to stop the passage of the bill. The Conservative senators have asked for this to be fast-tracked and they have offered to do that, but the Liberal government, which is in the business of blaming everyone else, has to take responsibility for this. It has refused to allow the bill to be fast-tracked.

I would like the member's comments on a couple of those observations?

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have no urgency or emergency here that would justify the government invoking closure and an extension of the sitting hours, violating Standing Order 28(2). The reason this is being done is political expediency. The reason this is being done, as my hon. friend said, is so the government House leader can save face on a difficult position which he caught himself in last week.

The reason we have Standing Order 28(2) is to balance the interests of the government with that of the elected members of the Canadian people so they can get about the business of government and also see their constituents over the course of the summer. That rule has never been abrogated other than in emergency circumstances in the country. What the government is doing is highly irregular and unnecessary. It shows complete disrespect for both Parliament and Canadians.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am not sure if we have enough members in the House right now to listen to the fine speech the hon. member is about to give. I would like to know if you see quorum.

And the count having been taken:

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There are 20 members in the House. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Davenport.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about Government Motion No. 17 to extend the sitting period. I want to thank the members who voted in favour of the closure motion to put an end to the debate on this motion.

The aim of the motion is simple. The official opposition is obstructing the adoption of important bills before the House.

The official opposition continues to refuse to support the motion. In fact, the opposition House leader moved an amendment to the motion to have the House adjourn today and resume in September without completing further government business. As a result, the government gave notice of closure yesterday to which the House has now agreed.

This week, the Premier of Quebec asked Parliament to support Bill C-48. Mayors across Canada are also insisting on the need to immediately adopt this bill so that they can begin planning effectively for the future, in the knowledge that these federal measures will be adopted and that they can go forward.

Bill C-48, which supplements the budget, sets aside $4.5 billion in emergency funding for the environment, training and post-secondary education, affordable housing and international aid. This bill must be adopted without delay.

The opposition is also obstructing the adoption of Bill C-38 on civil marriage. The government recognizes that one of the purposes of the debate in the House is to help people make up their minds on the topic. However, all the members have done so. Debate should not be used to delay Parliament's decision. All hon. members know that the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness held Canada-wide hearings on civil marriage in 2002-03.

Furthermore, we had a long debate on Bill C-38 at second reading. In committee, we heard from witnesses on all aspects of the bill. A Globe and Mail editorial yesterday stated, “There is nothing materially useful to add. It's time for Parliament to vote on the bill, and for all parties to let the Commons have its say”.

Canadians elected us to work together for their interests. The government has lived up to its commitment to try to make this minority Parliament work in the service of the interests of the people who elected us.

We do not agree with the official opposition that procedural tactics should be used simply to delay the House from voting on urgent matters. The consequence of these delays is that the House will have to return next week to complete urgent business.

I call on all members to support the motion to extend the sitting of the House so we can complete the work Canadians have elected us to do.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member spoke about using tactics to stop the work of Parliament. He talked about using procedural steps that would prevent Parliament from doing its work.

I would like to remind him and all other members present that the Liberals day after day in the latter part of May came in with motions to concur in committee reports, debating them endlessly to avoid carrying on with the business of Parliament. For him to somehow imply that others are doing that is really quite inaccurate. It was they who wasted so much time earlier this year that we are now in this position.

Furthermore, I resent him implying that by I, my colleagues, others in opposition and members on the government side taking the time to debate motions is a waste of time. After all, what is this place supposed to be. It is Parliament. If I am not mistaken I believe the French word “parler” means to speak. I think the word “parliament” comes from the same root word. This is the speaking place.

I sometimes tell my grandchildren that I work in the word factory. We are using words here hopefully to put ideas back and forth. In our debates we should hopefully be able to adjust and amend our rules, laws and motions so they are best for the country. I firmly and strongly contend that the agenda the government is now proposing, to extend the time of sitting, reduces the time when we should be keeping the commitments we have made to our constituents and others around of the country. Instead, the government has said that we need to be here to debate Bill C-48 and Bill C-38.

As our daily prayers state, our work here in Parliament is to pass good laws and make wise decisions. In this instance, being able to stop that or at least slow it down is beneficial for Canadian voters, our taxpayers and our citizens. We will make better laws if we can engage in a debate. This motion needs to be stopped.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe all members come to the House with intentions to serve the public. I am still baffled. How will we serve the public by adjourning the House with such important matters at stake?

Bill C-48 has the support of many premiers. Mayors across the country are asking us to adopt this law before the recess for the summer. It is a bill that will provide $4.5 billion in urgent funding for the environment, training, post-secondary education, affordable housing and foreign aid. We are talking about that, and we are dealing with that in the motion.

The other important critical matter, Bill C-38, which I feel is fundamental as well for the country, is in keeping with our charter rights. It is a fundamental human rights issue to me and to many members of the government and we need to deal with it.

It is evident, unfortunately, that both Bill C-48 and Bill C-38 are not supported by the opposition. That is regrettable because I think they are very much supported by most Canadians.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out a couple of errors in the member's statement and then I would like to ask him a question or get a commitment from him if I can.

First, he said Bill C-48 needs to be passed because it delivers urgent funding. I do not think he has read the bill because it cannot deliver the funding until next year when the government determines whether or not it has a surplus, a surplus of a particular amount. Not only that, there is no commitment within those four areas to spend anything. I hope he reads through the bill, so he will find the accurate information.

Second, Bill C-38 is not about human rights, as he said. It is about the redefinition of a traditional institution which the majority of Canadians still defend. He said we cannot possibly adjourn with such important legislation before us. I want to point out that this morning the House leader said that we are here for debate. That is actually true except he is cutting off debate. The government is trying to have it both ways and, as usual, it will blame other people for this.

I expect the government members, once they have been here for a couple of extra days, will get tired of being here. I would not be the least bit surprised if they played around with closure on these two bills.

Since the member said that we cannot adjourn with such important legislation before us, will he commit right now to refuse to go along with closure if it is brought in on both Bill C-48 and Bill C-38?

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would have to disagree with the hon. member. I see both bills as being critical and important for this country. I presume that the member has an issue with the mayors across this country and the premiers who are asking to adopt this bill as soon as possible. It is very important and critical that it does take place.

On the matter of Bill C-38, I also disagree with the member. It is an issue of human rights. It is an issue of the charter. Unfortunately, the hon. member does not support the particular view I share.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member about the importance of the funds for municipalities in Bill C-48. The opposition member seemed to think it is only in Bill C-43. It is in Bill C-43. We would like to get the budget through. The new deal for cities has all sorts of things for municipalities. As the hon. member has correctly stated, the mayors would like us to adopt these bills as fast as possible if the opposition would not keep filibustering.

I would like the hon. member to talk about the importance of urban transit and the other items in our bills for municipalities, so that we can get these bills passed.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the most important milestones on which the government has delivered has been our cooperation with the cities. This has been very well received by all municipalities. Certainly the mayor of my city of Toronto has gone out of his way to congratulate our Prime Minister in his handling not only of putting more moneys into the cities but seeing the cities as partners in the negotiations that take place.

The Prime Minister went on to say that it is about political parties of all stripes working together, not just to simply build a Canada for today but a Canada for 10, 20 and 30 years from now. The future generation will look back and say “My God, they built well”.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, we need to straighten something out. The members for Yukon and Davenport should apologize to Canadians for misleading them about the contents of Bill C-48.

I have the bill right here. It is a page and a half long. We have $2.5 billion per page. It is probably the most expensive bill that has ever been brought into the House of Commons and there is absolutely nothing in here about mayors, urban transit or cities.

If members opposite want to talk about a bill, let us talk about Bill C-43, which does talk about mayors, urban transit, cities and the Atlantic accord. It is the government that is holding up the passing of Bill C-43. The government has held it up in the Senate. It refuses to let it go ahead. The Conservative Senators have offered to fast track that bill. The government refuses to do that.

These two members should stand up and apologize to Canadians for misleading them. I will let the member do that at this moment.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe there was a ruling by the Chair that we should not cast aspersions on the other place.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I just cannot resist. I know that all hon. members have seen those ads on television from the Brick, “Don't pay until 2007”. Well, that is exactly what is in this bill. Members should read it. The bill says that nothing will be paid until there is a declared surplus in 2006 at the end of the fiscal year. There will be no money there. I do not know why members cannot understand that. The bill is quite explicit.