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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

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the questions my colleague has raised are interesting ones.

As far as the rights of homosexuals and of those whose religious convictions oppose gay marriage are concerned, I will say that one person's religion must not become another person's law. Everyone agrees on that. We have the deepest respect for those whose religious convictions cause them to oppose same sex marriage. Nevertheless, it has never been our intention in any way to oblige any religion or religious belief to perform religious marriages. This is about civil marriage. No religious denomination must be pressured into having to perform same sex marriages. This decision is up to them, it is their right, and I agree with that.

Moreover, a motion on this has already been presented and supported by us. We would be open at any time to the addition to the bill of provisions stating that no religious denomination shall be pressured or in any way obliged to celebrate or authorize marriages between two persons of the same sex.

This is a civil matter. We respect all religious denominations and their members and we want their rights to be respected. We just do not want their religion to become the law for others. It is as simple at that.

As far as our support for the closure motion is concerned, it is simple. It is our firm conviction that those who are watching us now, or have followed our actions throughout the year, are a bit impatient to see us pass the pieces of legislation we will be called upon to vote on. No one wants to see Parliament drag on needlessly until August at the cost of $35,000 an hour. I think people want to see us settle these matters once and for all.

That is why we believe that, as an exception, it is acceptable for us to be able to vote on the bills after a regular debate. This is unusual, I know, but the intention is not to take away anyone's right to speak, only to limit the time of the debates that we are going to be engaged in here. Extension until the end of June seems to us reasonable and sufficient. That is all.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among all parties and believe you would find consent for the following. I move that the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Health, presented in the House on Wednesday, June 1, requesting an extension of 30 sitting days to consider Bill C-420, be concurred in.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise in the House today to speak to the motion by the government House leader about extending the sitting of the House into next week.

I have been listening to the debate since it began yesterday. It strikes me that most Canadians are very used to the idea that when there is a piece of work to be done and it is urgent they are willing to put the time in to do it.

Certainly the issue before us today in terms of the process unfolding is unusual in that this motion clearly says that rather than adjourn the House tonight at midnight we will come back here and do more work. I think we have to examine that as to whether or not this is a legitimate question and whether or not it is a reasonable thing for us to do.

Clearly now we have three parties that are in agreement with this, because the NDP will be supporting this motion, and we have one party that is adamant it will not support coming back here next week to continue working on the two bills that are before us. Yesterday I heard the Conservative House leader talk about ramming it through. I really had to think about that. What does it mean that somehow we are ramming through this legislation?

The fact is that we now have been debating this legislation, both Bill C-48 and Bill C-38, for a period of time. What we are doing here today and what we will do tonight when we vote on this motion is agree that we will continue, in our usual process, to work on these two issues.

What is this question of ramming it through? It seems to me that Canadians understand that we are elected to do a job here and that our primary responsibility is to be in this Parliament, to make it work and to get things done. I think Canadians understand that this is where we should be, in this place.

I also heard the Conservative House leader say there is a misconception that when we leave this place we all go home and go on holiday. He was sort of bemoaning the fact that this is what is being said out there. I would agree with that. I would agree with the comment he made that members of Parliament work very hard in session and when we go back to our ridings we work very hard as well.

The reality is that the Conservative Party members have had a choice. They have had a choice all along. If they are so eager to get back to their ridings, then they have had the choice to deal with this legislation before the ending of the session tonight notwithstanding this motion before us. Clearly that was their choice. They decided not to do that. They decided for their own political agenda to keep dragging this out simply because they are opposed.

I would suggest that the constituents in our local ridings understand why we are here and what we are here to do in terms of passing critical legislation. What they do not understand are the tactics, the manoeuvring and the tactical war games by the Conservative Party members, who are doing anything to stop legislation from going through.

I would agree with others in this place who have said that at some point it becomes an absurd exercise. We know where each party stands on this issue. We know that within a party there are some members who are opposed to same sex marriage, to Bill C-38. We certainly know what the position of the Conservative Party is. The public knows the position of the Conservative Party.

Surely at the end of the day we have a responsibility to be here, to do our work and to make a decision. It is not just about debating something. It is about actually making a decision based on the public interest and based on the feedback we get.

I will respect the decision of Conservative members who want to vote against Bill C-48 and of the same members who want to vote against Bill C-38. I have total respect for the fact that they have a different point of view and they want to vote against those bills. So be it. That of course is their prerogative and it is what they have decided to do. Where I take issue with that fact is that they are apparently wanting to deny the ability of Parliament to keep working to ensure that we can make a decision on these two bills.

What are these two bills about? I believe that both of these bills have to do with the quality of life. I am very proud that we are debating Bill C-48 and that we will have a decision made on Bill C-48, because Bill C-48 produces a more progressive balanced budget. It is a better budget than we saw in the beginning from the Liberal government.

I am very proud of the fact that our leader, the member for Toronto—Danforth, and members of our caucus are supporting this bill. I am proud that we have an agreement with the Liberals to enhance and strengthen that budget and to deliver concrete things to Canadians that have to do with the quality of life.

What are we talking about? We are talking about the fundamentals of affordable housing. In my riding of Vancouver East, an inner city community, and in many other ridings across this country there are more than 1.7 million households struggling to be in affordable housing. They are struggling to pay the rent. They are struggling against eviction notices. Bill C-48 will actually deliver money into affordable housing so that those units can be built. I cannot think of anything more basic and fundamental than that in terms of the ability of all Canadians to have equality and access to quality of life. It is about affordable housing. I am very proud of the fact that Bill C-48 has that element.

Then we get on to the environment and $900 million. As we have heard many times in this House, every mayor across this country is waiting for funds that will help to deal with the needs of public transit and with other infrastructure needs. This bill will deliver those funds for that priority to municipalities.

On access to education, there is $1.5 billion. This is not something that we talk a lot about in this House. We can talk to any student across this country who is struggling under a debt load of $25,000 on average, but sometimes of up to $50,000 or $60,000 in debts and loans. We can talk to any student or to a family trying to support that student and they will say this money is not enough, I will be the first one to say that, but this money is essential to ensuring that we provide accessibility to post-secondary education, that we deliver that money, work with the provinces and make sure it is there to reduce the debt load or reduce tuition for students.

Another element of Bill C-48 is our commitment as a wealthy nation to people who are living in poverty in poor nations. Even though we have poverty in this country and even though we have people who are homeless, overall we are a wealthy nation in the international community. Another element of this bill is to ensure that we deliver on our commitment as a wealthy nation to people who are living in poverty in poor nations.

Getting us closer to that goal of 0.7% for international aid and development is a very important step. We have heard criticism from the likes of Bob Geldof and others of the fact that the government has been dragging its feet on that commitment.

Here is a way to ensure that we move forward and that we actually increase Canada's capacity to provide a commitment to the goal of 0.7%. Those are all fundamental things dealing with the quality of life.

As for Bill C-38, there has been a lot of debate in this House about Bill C-38. Our caucus and I do consider it a matter of urgency, along with Bill C-48, to continue to work on that bill.

The justice committee in 2002 and 2003 held extensive hearings across this country on same sex marriage. We have had a legislative committee here in Parliament studying the bill. I understand that there are concerns about Bill C-38, but I think at a certain point there has to be a recognition and a validation that those concerns have been responded to. Bill C-38 for equal marriage does not in any way impinge upon religious freedom. We have had many characterizations of that, yet nowhere has there been real evidence that this bill will somehow destroy that freedom of expression or religious freedom.

In fact, I think the committee has gone to great lengths to ensure that there is protection for religious freedom. I know that there is an amendment likely to come back at report stage which will ensure that organizations having a charitable tax status will be guaranteed that it will continue and they will not somehow be vulnerable to it being taken away. I think the legislative committee and this House have gone to great lengths to respond to the concerns that have been put forward by the Conservative Party in its opposition to Bill C-38.

But at the end of the day I think we have to recognize that no matter what is said and no matter what is done they are unilaterally opposed to the bill. They are unilaterally opposed to extending equal marriage to gays and lesbians. I find that shameful and a completely contradictory policy or platform to hold, one that is contrary to our charter of rights in this country.

In fact, I would argue that one can be opposed to same sex marriage as an individual member of Parliament and still support the bill, because it is about providing equality. It is about providing people with choices. As I have said before, no one is forcing the leader of the Conservative Party to marry a man if he does not want to. The bill is about choice. It is about a choice that two individuals make, whether it is two men, two women or a man or a woman. If they choose to celebrate their love in a civil marriage, or in a religious marriage if they can find a religious institution to do that, that is their choice.

I do not believe that I have the right as an elected member of Parliament to deny the rights of other Canadians to make that choice. I happen to agree with the bill and with same sex marriage, but even if I did not, whether or not I agree with it personally, I do not believe that I have the right to withhold that choice from two consenting adults who want to celebrate their commitment to each other through a marriage or maybe through common law. Who am I and who is any other member here to make that decision?

I think that when we get to that fundamental premise of the bill, this is where we really part company. I can understand the concerns that have been laid out. I can understand how we have to go through that debate, how we actually have to examine what those concerns are about in terms of religious freedom and how we have to respond to those concerns, and I believe that has been done. We are now ready in this House to move on with that debate, to take it into report stage and hopefully into third reading and finally make a decision.

I find it reprehensible that the Conservative Party, for a very narrow partisan agenda, would do everything it can with all of the procedural manoeuvres and all of the concurrence motions to hold up that bill, because I think we are denying people equality.

Let me say that at the end of the day I was elected, like other members of our caucus and other members of the House, to make some tough decisions. We were elected to make some tough decisions. We were elected to work hard. We get paid well for what we do. I do respect the fact that members of Parliament work hard at what they do, but I think it is incumbent upon us and we have a responsibility to deal with the legislation, to not let it drag on and to recognize that the passage of Bill C-48 as a companion bill to Bill C-43 is a critical component of the budget.

The Conservatives can criticize it all they want. They can say that somehow the bill is on a different footing from other bills and that it talks about how the government “may” spend the money instead of “shall”. We have gone through all of that. If we want to check the record of the finance committee or what the comptroller of Canada has said about the bill, we will see that he is saying that Bill C-48 is put forward on the same basis as any other appropriations bill. It contains the same kind of language. It is basically a permissive piece of legislation that allows the various departments and ministers to go ahead and make those expenditures in the areas that are detailed.

All of that bluster, argumentation and propaganda about how the bill somehow does not mean anything, or how it is not real, is completely hollow. These are completely politicized arguments to give people the illusion that somehow this is not real. It is real. The bill exists. It is based on a financial basis within the budget bill. It is based on a balanced budget.

I am very confident that the bill will pass and that those expenditures will be made by the various departments. Thank goodness that more Canadians will be better off and have an improved quality of life because they will have better access to education and better access to affordable housing units, and we will have a sense that we are meeting our obligations in the international community.

I have no qualms whatsoever, nor does anyone in the NDP, about voting for this motion tonight for us to be here next week. Yes, I would like to go home. I have a lot of work piled up in my riding, as does, I am sure, everyone else, but our party has a commitment to Bill C-48. We have a commitment for equality for Canadians to see passage of the bill. We are prepared to be here and to work. I also think a majority of the members of the House are willing to do that, even though we know the Bloc Québécois oppose Bill C-48.

We will be supporting the motion and we will be here next week. We will do our work. I hope it does not take too long but we are prepared to be here to do that work and to move forward on both of those bills.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's comments. I have not mentioned the bills that are before us right now, particularly Bill C-38. It might be interesting to address some of the misinformation that is out there.

I spoke the other day with a couple of individuals who are strong opponents of Bill C-38. I asked them a simple question. I asked them what would happen the day after if everyone in the House of Commons were to vote against Bill C-38. They said that same sex marriage would then be illegal in Canada. I told them that same sex marriage would be legal in seven provinces and one territory.

The point is that the bill would not change the country. The bill would merely bring into line the small part of the country that has not adopted what has become the status quo in most of Canada geographically. Some people may like it and some people may not, but for those who oppose the bill, the only rational debate, quite frankly, would be whether or not to use the notwithstanding clause. If those who oppose same sex marriage want to do something about it they would need to consider invoking the notwithstanding clause to override the courts.

The reality is that not a single party in the House has offered that solution. What that means is that a lot of what is going on now in the House is political posturing.

I think it is time for the people who oppose same sex marriage to acknowledge that Canadian society has moved on. The reality is that the horse left the barn a long time ago. Unless those who oppose it are willing to invoke the notwithstanding clause, I would submit that they should simply pass Bill C-38.

My question to the member is actually on international aid. Her party is a strong opponent of point seven. Canada puts a lot more money into aid that is not considered, including humanitarian and peacekeeping operations through our military, which amounted to $950 million last year alone.

Would the member not agree that the military's humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, on which Canada spends money, should be considered as part of our official development assistance?

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, on the member's first point I would just say that there is no going back. Same sex couples are getting married every day. This is about passing legislation that would make it absolutely clear that same sex marriage is legal and it can be done right across the country. We have had eight court decisions in provinces and territories, as well as the Supreme Court ruling. This is about people's equality and saying to people that we understand the importance of this and we understand that legislation needs to brought forward to ensure that same sex couples have the same rights to civil marriage as any other couple. It is that straightforward and that simple.

In terms of the member's other question, he should ask his colleagues and the ministers in his government that question. My understanding has been that the money that is spent in a peacekeeping capacity is not considered part of point seven. We are talking about international aid and assistance. It is a well known fact that Canada has been criticized in the international community.

Bob Geldof has told the Prime Minister not to bother showing up in Toronto at the Live 8 concert because Canada is dragging its feet on its commitment. I believe that should be taken very seriously because Canada is very vulnerable and is at risk in terms of its credibility on this issue. Surely we should be leading the way.

I was very proud that our leader, the member for Toronto—Danforth, insisted that $500 million for international assistance and aid be included as part of the agreement for Bill C-48, because it means we are moving forward on that file.

The hon. member should go talk to his own ministers, but the Canadian government has not met that commitment. The $500 million will at least get us part of the way.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is certainly no shortage of posturing on these issues and, as the member said, it is on their side in abundance.

The member says that Bill C-48 is important legislation. I call it the cobbled together NDP sell out bill as it came on board to prop up Liberal corruption. When the public had an opportunity to hold the Liberals to account, the NDP decided it had an opportunity to advance some of its political ideology that would give it a chance to survive but it basically made the NDP members accomplices.

The members of the NDP keep saying that the money in Bill C-48 will flow, as soon as it passes, to students, to the environment and to other areas of concern, but they seem to forget that the money is contingent on a surplus of some $2 billion. What confidence do the NDP members have that the Liberals will deliver any of that money considering that they are holding up the main budget bill, Bill C-43, in an agreement to pass the main budget? Again, it is political posturing.

The second question comes from the member saying that we have had a lot of debate on Bill C-38. She talked about the justice committee and about the consultations it had with Canadians. Where is the report from that justice committee? The member knows that the committee was shut down before a report on what it had actually heard from Canadians could be tabled in this House.

The members opposite know that Canadians are not in agreement with the change in the definition of traditional marriage. By and large, a majority of Canadians support the traditional definition of marriage, with other accommodations for same sex couples, whether we call it a civil union or some other arrangement that is recognized.

She says that there is no evidence of a religious infringement. She says that it is not just about celebrating a marriage. I want to challenge the member. She is from British Columbia. Surely she has heard of the case of Chris Kempling, a school counsellor in Quesnel, B.C., who was suspended from his job without pay simply because he wrote a letter to the editor expressing his view based on a Christian world view. What about his section 2 charter rights of freedom of conscience and religion?

If members opposite want to wrap themselves in the charter and defend the charter then maybe they should be defending the rights of people like Chris Kempling to express their views on this issue. If they did that maybe we could have some confidence in expanding and understanding the charter. However when they do not respect clearly written charter rights, how can Canadians have confidence that this agenda will stop with this motion?

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, since when did affordable housing and access to post-secondary education and help for students become a suspect political ideology? We are talking about very basic issues here.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

An hon. member

It will be 18 months before you deliver a penny of that.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

I am just picking up on what the member said. He said that it was political ideology.

If we strip that away, what are we talking about? We are talking about housing. We are talking about education. We are talking about foreign aid. We are talking about public transit. All of a sudden those things are suspect?

I would say that the member has to answer to his own local community as to why he would be opposed to additional funds going into those elements that people are really crying out for.

We should never mind the political ideology. What we are doing in this little corner is being very pragmatic. We want to make sure some things are accomplished in this minority Parliament. It is not about propping anybody up. It is not about condoning corruption. On the contrary, it is about getting something concrete done.

With regard to the gentleman in British Columbia, I totally support his right to freedom of expression and religious expression. How could one do otherwise? If that becomes the subject of some sort of challenge, that is what happens in a democratic society. When things get challenged they go through the courts, which is why we have the charter.

This is not about saying that one right is more important than another right but I think the hon. member is going down that road. We are saying that equality is a fundamental right for gays and lesbians and that freedom of religion is a fundamental right, and they are not mutually exclusive. I think it is a shame that the debate is so often presented in that way by the Conservative members.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Motion No. 17 under government business.

What we seem to be losing in all of this is that if this motion is passed it will suspend Standing Order 28(2) which lays out the parliamentary calendar. We have to remember that this was a process adopted in 1982 to give adequate time to allow for Commons business and to balance it off with members' ability to structure their constituency time and their personal lives. This Standing Order provides for certainty in the parliamentary calendar and was adopted by the House after two committees studied it and recommended such a rule.

Members will know that Standing Orders can be changed or suspended by a simple majority vote but before doing so we should ensure that the change is not imposed in a capricious or arbitrary fashion.

This proposed change to the Standing Orders, as put forward in this government motion, was last undertaken on June 13, 1988. At that time the then president of the Treasury Board, speaking for the then Conservative government, stated, at page 16379 of the House of Commons Debates dated June 13, 1988:

I think it fair to say that we especially appreciate that in following this course of action the Government must pay heed to the parliamentary calendar and not change same without having a very reasoned argument for doing so.

That was said in the course of the free trade debate and legislation in 1988 and it was very time sensitive that the House deal with it.

In this motion the government House leader recognizes that the motion before us is in no way a routine or simple motion. In fact, the first line of the motion itself states, “That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice...”. This is clear evidence that this is not some limited, ordinary or trivial procedural device. This motion calls into question the general principles of the transaction of public business in an orderly and controlled fashion.

What is being proposed in this motion, in the words of the then member for Windsor West, now the right hon. Herb Gray, is an attempt “to legislate by exhaustion”. Mr. Gray spoke out as a Liberal on June 9, 1988, at great length, in opposition to an identical motion to what we have before us. He noted, quoting again from page 16294 of the House of Commons Debates dated June 9, 1988:

This is certainly the wrong way to have proper debate and consideration in the House and the wrong way to have public input. I think the government hopes its legislation, to use the words of Bourinot, will slip through “on sudden impulse”, and surely that is wrong.

In that same debate on June 9, 1988, the comments of the then member for Winnipeg--Birds Hill, who, ironically, is still in the House as the member for Elmwood—Transcona, were reported on page 16502 of the House of Commons Debates as follows:

I feel obliged to get on my feet on behalf of the members of those two reform committees that I belonged to, on behalf of Members now, and on behalf of future Members of Parliament, to say that if we sacrifice this parliamentary calendar to the Government's political agenda-and that is all it is, it is not as if there is any great emergency....

Two lines later he stated:

--I want to make the larger claim that what is at stake is the health of the parliamentary institution itself.

This is no emergency. There is no compelling reason to override Standing Order 28(2). What is contemplated, if this motion were to pass, using the same logic applied by Mr. Gray in 1988, is a dictatorship by the majority.

Let me quote the member for Winnipeg--Birds Hill, now the member for Elmwood--Transcona, from page 16302 of the Commons Debates of June 9, 1988:

All of us here, and future Parliaments, will come to rue the day we throw out the parliamentary calendar. We had it there with a little window where we had some sanity in this place. Some members are trying to chuck that out of the window and everyone will pay as long as Parliament continues to exist for the fact that the government put its own political agenda before the health of this institution.

The ultimate irony and tragedy of this motion is that it has as one of its objectives to force non-stop, sometimes 14 hours, daily debate on inter alia Bill C-38, a bill which purports to protect and uphold minority rights.

Is it not a tragedy that to protect minority rights, it calls upon the majority of this House to disrespect, to waive, and to do away with the rules which govern the orderly conduct of the business of this House and this country?

That which the government says it deplores, being the alleged suppression of minority rights, by this device, this motion, urges the majority to waive the rules of business and parliamentary law in order that it might likewise suppress what it hopes and trusts will be a minority opposed to its capricious and craven disregard for parliamentary order.

It is the duty of every member of this House to uphold and protect the traditions, the conventions and the rules of this place, as embodied in the Standing Orders. That code has evolved and has been adopted to ensure that the fundamental law of Parliament is upheld.

One can imagine the outcry from the righteous in this chamber if, for example, a majority changed the Standing Orders on quorum to decrease it to three members in the House, or simply change the Standing Orders and do away with question period. All of these things are possible. We could do it by a vote of a majority on a motion in this House, a vote to change the Standing Orders to reflect these types of objectives.

Finally, I want to comment on the wording of the motion itself, which was described to me by a journalist recently as incomprehensible. It contains the word “deemed” twice. It says “--the said motion immediately shall be deemed to have been adopted--”. Later on it says “--the House shall be deemed to stand adjourned--”.

In legislative drafting, the word deemed is to be avoided. Black's Law Dictionary , seventh edition, 1999, defines deem on page 425:

  1. to treat (something) as if (1) it were really something else, or (2) it has qualities that it does not have, “although the document was not in fact signed until April 21, it explicitly states that it must be deemed to have been signed on April 14”. Black's Law Dictionary continues its definition, saying:

“Deem” has been traditionally considered to be a useful word when it is necessary to establish a legal fiction either positively by “deeming” something to be what it is not or negatively by “deeming” something not to be what it is...All other uses of the word should be avoided.

Surely, having regard to the lack of urgency around all of these matters, and having regard to the abundance of legal drafters in this place, members should avoid setting such a dangerous precedent which, I would point out, was opposed and decried by the NDP and the Liberal Party in 1988.

It is a precedent which attacks the foundations of the Standing Orders which were laid out and have evolved to give order to the business of this place and which were founded on the basic premises of the law of Parliament. We are doing all of this under the guise of a legal fiction. This I would submit would be adequate reason to vote against the motion.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's stand on this motion as well as his stand on some of the other issues. Liberal backbenchers do occasionally oppose motions like this. Some of them actually oppose Bill C-38 and we applaud that. However, one of the things that concerns me about them is the fact that it really just amounts to rhetoric. When we really need them to stand up and help us out, they disappear on us.

Whenever there has been a confidence vote, those members have supported the government. We have tried to take this issue back to the people because we think that is a good place for it. That would allow those members to say they oppose the legislation, which would help them out at home apparently, but would also allow them to support the government so they do not have to do anything about that.

Is the member not just posturing unless he actually supports us on a confidence motion to bring the government down in order to bring a stop to Bill C-38? When will he step forward and do that, so that he can represent the majority of his constituents who want him to oppose Bill C-38?

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the question is interesting, but I would point out to my friend opposite that I have been elected four times.

There seems to be some confusion as to what Bill C-38 actually is. Bill C-38 is not a confidence vote, and that is very clear. In opposing a motion which attacks the fundamentals of the Standing Orders, I fail to draw a line to the fiscal policy of the government. My colleague is putting forward an interesting connect the dots idea, but I am afraid I cannot connect the dots.

Conversely, one could ask him about those in his caucus who support the government on Bill C-38. What is happening within that caucus to do anything about that?

Again, I would point out that Bill C-38 is a contentious matter in the country, of that there can be no doubt. Bill C-38 is a matter on which there is no consensus in the House, of that there can be no doubt. In the end, the question I believe the member has asked is a total non sequitur because what has Bill C-38 got to do with Bill C-43, or indeed Bill C-48?

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think I heard the member opposite say that, on the basis of his argument, it would be sufficient grounds for voting against this motion which will come before us tonight. I am curious whether for him it will actually be sufficient grounds to vote against it?

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

June 23rd, 2005 / 1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to respond to what the member said about not being able to connect the dots between Bill C-38, Bill C-43, and Bill C-48. There is a connection. The only way to stop Bill C-38 is to bring down the government.

Why does the member insist on speaking against some of these motions? He may vote against the one before us today. He knows it is going to pass. If he were to vote against Bill C-38, it would help him out at home. He knows, with the way the present situation sits, it is likely going to pass. Yet, when we actually need him to step forward and say it is important to stop the government with respect to Bill C-38 and Bill C-48, he does not appear.

He has that opportunity on Bill C-48. Tonight is not a confidence motion, but we certainly expect to see him. Hopefully, with him and enough of his other colleagues we could defeat that legislation and then we would not be faced with this foolishness that the government is trying to play on Canadians.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, once again, my friend opposite is somehow tying Bill C-38, Bill C-43 and Bill C-48 together. This is a very simplistic view of the way this works. It is a very simplistic way and the notion of representation is more than just a notion, it is a constitutional obligation upon members of the House.

If one were to take the simplistic view of the member opposite that because someone is opposed to one thing, he or she is opposed to everything, I must ask him if that is indeed the case? How does he reconcile that there are a number of people in his caucus who are supporting the government on Bill C-38, but are opposing Bill C-43 and Bill C-48? How does he reconcile what he says is my inconsistency with the inconsistency which already exists in his caucus?

I find this a fascinating concept. He is saying that the position of his party is to oppose Bill C-38 and apparently that is true. But within their very own ranks, there are people who are supporting Bill C-38. Perhaps when the Conservatives resolve that issue within their own caucus, he could bring that question back again.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I have a great deal of respect for the Liberal member. He has many times, as he has today, spoken for his constituents and sometimes against the government.

I congratulate him for the great role he played as parliamentary secretary related to the democratic deficit. I refer all members to the first report on the action plan that was tabled yesterday in the House of Commons, and the tremendous progress the Prime Minister and that member and others have made on the democratic deficit.

The member opposite and the Conservatives now have far more democratic deficit problems than the Liberals. Quite often they have voted in a block against bills that would be good for Canadians, the member included.

The member will see in tonight's vote that the Conservatives will probably all vote against it, whereas the Liberals once again, with the new democracy that the Prime Minister has put in, will vote in different ways on the motion tonight.

The member was talking about saving the rights of the minority, which is great, but doing that in the wrong way by changing parliamentary procedures. Does the member not agree that it is totally within the rights and obligations of members of Parliament to set the rules of Parliament? We are continually amending and changing them. There are provisions, as there are for the vote tonight, to have special consideration. There is consideration for the Speaker to extend the hours. These are all rules of Parliament. They are set by Parliament and they are changed by Parliament, so I do not see that as undemocratic and I would like the member to comment.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I never in any way suggested it was undemocratic. In fact, it was Speaker Fraser who ruled on June 13, 1988, that this could be done. I would point out that when one starts waiving or changing the law, in what I regard as a capricious fashion, one has to be careful because the law of Parliament is embodied in the Standing Orders. This is not all of the law of Parliament but much of the law of Parliament.

Of course, this chamber has enormous powers. We could waive a day for impaired driving, so if someone is convicted on that, it is a free day. No one is going to suggest that is going to happen. When there are laws as embodied as the laws of Parliament called the Standing Orders and when we start playing with those or carving exceptions into those laws, where is it all ending?

I refer to the Debates of June 9, 1998, when it was the Conservatives who were doing that, but were in fact doing it in a way that in my view had a greater sense of urgency than what we are having now. There will always be a time, when we wrap up for the summer, that legislation will be left sitting until the fall that many or a few would regard as urgent. The case could then be made that we should just keep sitting.

The motion that is before the House which is to be voted on is an open-ended question for members here. Do members want to sit for 95 days or do they think it is right and proper to give to a House leader the right and authority to stretch proceedings out from Monday through Thursday midnight. That is why I referred to that quotation. That is legislating by exhaustion. That is not the right and proper way to debate, to deliberate, and for members to exercise their representative and deliberative powers. I must object to this way of doing business.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rahim Jaffer Conservative Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise and speak in this House, although the motion that we are debating today is not one that I am crazy about.

I have the pleasure to follow my colleague, the House leader for the opposition. We were all very thrilled with his performance yesterday in this House. He gave a very bountiful speech, if I may use that word. He was able to address a number of key topics pertaining to this motion that has been put forward by the government, but also a number of other strong issues that we have contention with, the bills that are leading to the extension of the sitting of the House. I speak of BIll C-48 and obviously Bill C-38.

I do not know that I can do as good a job as he did. He spent two hours talking about such pertinent issues and enlightening this place. I know we were all in awe with his ability. I will do my best to speak against Motion No. 17 that we are speaking to today.

My colleague from Sarnia—Lambton spoke in great detail of the precedent that this is setting and the precedents that have been set in the past.

I would not mind taking a moment just to read the motion into the record so that everyone who is following this debate is clear as to exactly what we are debating. The motion reads:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice, when the House adjourns on June 23, 2005, it shall stand adjourned until June 27, 2005; at any time on or after June 27, 2005, a Minister of the Crown may propose, without notice, a motion that, upon adjournment on the day on which the said motion is proposed, the House shall stand adjourned to a specified date not more than 95 days later; the said motion immediately shall be deemed to have been adopted, provided that, during the adjournment, for the purposes of any Standing Order, the House shall be deemed to stand adjourned pursuant to Standing Order 28; commencing June 27, 2005 and concluding on the day on which a motion that the House stand adjourned pursuant to this Order is adopted, the ordinary hour of daily adjournment on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays shall be 12:00 midnight;--

That sounds a little awkward. Obviously for those watching at home it is tough to follow that kind of a motion and really make sense of it. As we heard yesterday, my colleague the opposition House leader put forward an amendment to the motion. It says that according to normal practice, after tonight, the Standing Orders indicate that this House is to rise and be adjourned, and that we strike the rest of the motion that was a little bit confusing and just add that we will return to this place on September 12, which is closer to the current Standing Orders than obviously what the government is proposing.

As my colleague the member for Sarnia—Lambton said, this motion seems to be completely unnecessary, especially as it is changing the Standing Orders for political purposes.

The member for Sarnia--Lambton did indicate that we have seen this before. He rightfully pointed out it was the Conservatives who in fact did that in 1988. Unlike him, I was not in this place at that time, so I do not have the personal account that he was able to relay, but I do recall studying it. I was a student at that time here in Ottawa. I watched what was happening. I remember watching members such as the member for Sarnia--Lambton taking part in debate and being in awe as to what was happening.

I do recall that at that time there was a sense of urgency as to why the Standing Orders were being changed. The issue was free trade. There was some great concern about the timing of that particular bill going through the House and the effect it would have on our economy, and the effect it would have on millions of Canadians, and rightfully so. Clearly, there was a concern as to why the Standing Orders were changed.

We have to address the point that the member for Sarnia--Lambton made, that this attacks the fundamentals of our Standing Orders and the democracy of this particular chamber. The opposition House leader tried to address that point yesterday. Very clearly this is an attack in essence on the way this place functions.

It is frustrating to no end to see those sorts of changes being made by the government. My colleague from Sarnia--Lambton said how vehemently the Liberals opposed the changing of the Standing Orders in 1988 when the government of the day was trying to do it, even though the urgency was definitely there over the time that we have now.

The other thing he was clear to point out which I think we have to be concerned about is that the government is trying to legislate by exhaustion. If one looks around the chamber there have been high emotions, especially with the issues we have been dealing with in the last few weeks. There have been a lot of different opinions. Many of our constituents are looking forward to the return of their MPs back home to do the business that they would be doing in their constituencies.

If we take a step back we see that we have passed Bill C-43. It is currently in the Senate but as we know, the Senate is holding that up and it is out of our control. There has been a sense of urgency with the budget. We supported it to get it through. There were some measures in it with which we could agree.

Now that it has passed this place, the urgency of passing the budget has been deflated. The fact is that with Bill C-48 and Bill C-38, there is no sense of urgency. We could follow the normal Standing Orders, return back home, hear from our constituents and deal with those two pieces of legislation when we returned as normal under the Standing Orders. Again, to use the language of the member for Sarnia—Lambton, changing the Standing Orders for political purposes is really unfortunate. The Liberals are undermining democracy in this place in doing that. The government says it is necessary.

This is to follow up on the reason we are dealing with this motion to extend the sitting. The government says it is necessary to pass the legislation to allow the budget to pass. As I just said, that in fact is false. It seems to me that the Liberal Party continues to play an absurd game with the very budget bill that the Liberals accused the Conservatives of blocking, Bill C-43.

The original budget implementation legislation which includes the Atlantic accord is now being held hostage by a Liberal dominated Senate, which is really beyond my belief. I do not understand what is going on. The government is obviously dominating the Senate. Why now after all that urgency is the Senate holding up Bill C-43? The Liberals I guess have never been really serious about passing the bill. If we could in fact get that bill through the Senate faster, and let us face it, the Conservative senators have said they would be willing to deal with it in one sitting, we could actually get the money for Atlantic Canada, and for the Canadian cities and municipalities that are waiting for it. It would be able to go through a lot faster and we could in fact have that money flowing before we returned in the fall.

It seems to me there is something going on. It seems the government is informing its senators to hold this legislation up. At the FCM convention which I attended recently with the Leader of the Opposition, I challenged the government. We could have dealt with the new deal for cities and municipalities and with the Atlantic accord if the Liberals were willing to remove that part out of the budget. I think they would have had consent from this House to move those pieces of the budget forward so quickly that the money could have been flowing today to those people who need it. But we are dealing with political games and we did not even hear why the Liberals would not remove that portion of the budget. They have added on this new NDP budget that they are saying is so urgent. Why could they not make that particular change to get the money to the people who need it the most?

It is not just my words or the words of my colleagues. We know how much the government House leader likes to quote from editorials. Let me quote from today's editorial in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald which deals with this very subject. It is very informative about the games that I think the Liberals are playing. It goes like this:

The Liberals delayed passing the Atlantic accord through the Senate on Wednesday, and the Tories say they're doing it in a cynical attempt to put pressure on Tory MPs. The Liberal House Leader in the Senate, Jack Austin, turned down an offer from Conservative Senate Leader Noel Kinsella to go to clause-by-clause consideration of the bill last night. If he had accepted the offer - a fairly common procedure - Bill C-43 would have passed today, the bill could have received royal assent this afternoon, and Nova Scotia and Newfoundland would have immediately received big cheques from offshore revenue deals reached with the Liberal government. The deals, reached after months of tough negotiations, are worth $830 million to Nova Scotia and more than $2 billion to Newfoundland, but the federal Finance Department can't cut the cheques until the budget bill is passed. The Liberals don't want the Senate to pass C-43 until the House passes C-48, the $4.5-billion NDP budget amendment, Mr. Kinsella said.

“It's pretty bad that the Liberals would not accept putting through to royal assent their own budget bill”.The Liberals added Bill C-48 to their budget to win NDP support, and the Tories are strongly opposed to the new social spending it contains. When it went to the House for second reading, the Speaker had to break the tie to get it passed and prevent the Liberal government from falling.

This is an editorial that was written today in the Halifax newspaper. It basically says what games the government is playing when in fact we could have this money flowing. It is still holding up the bill in the Senate. It does not make a lot of sense to us who are ready to get that money flowing, and we could actually get out of this place without changing the Standing Orders, the motion that we are debating today. It begs the question, what are the Liberals doing? They have a majority in the Senate. It is their budget. What are they afraid of?

It continues to be demonstrated to us and I think to Canadians that the only reason they keep playing these games is not because they are legitimately concerned about a lot of these issues that they say they are, but because they have a serious issue about hanging on to power. They want to cling to power. They are playing games to do that. They are cutting deals with people in order to save their own political skin.

We are dealing with this motion today, because they have actually neglected their responsibility over the last few weeks in getting this legislation through the House a lot faster.

Our party is strongly opposed to the two major bills, as mentioned by a number of our colleagues, what we call the dangerous and reckless spending in Bill C-48, but also the same sex marriage legislation.

As the official opposition we are not in the business of helping the government pass legislation that we do not think is in the best interests of the country. That is what our House leader said yesterday. We will vote against any extension of the agreed upon calendar so that the government can make up for its own mismanagement of the legislative schedule. We will have as many members as possible in the House to vote on these bills, including the confidence vote on Bill C-48.

I would like to talk for a few minutes on the spirit of Motion No. 17 and why this motion as it relates to Bill C-48 needs to be defeated.

Bill C-48 outlines a host of new spending. I mentioned that in the earlier part of my speech. Canada could have more and better paying jobs, a much higher standard of living, but Ottawa taxes too much and spends too much. We have seen that from the amount of the surpluses over the past number of years. Since 1999-2000, program spending has gone from $109.6 billion to $158.1 billion, an increase of over 44%, a compound annual growth of 7.6%, when the economy itself managed to grow by only 31.6%, a compound annual rate of growth of 5.6%.

We cannot support this motion because it is the curse of the Liberal government that once the Liberals have our money, they cannot resist spending it even faster than the economy is growing. It is not surprising that there is so much waste within the government.

I would like to identify a couple of examples of waste which point out even stronger to a party like ours, the opposition, why we should not give a blank cheque to the government in Bill C-48. I do not have to remind the House and Canadians that the firearms registry is a perfect example of that. The government said it was going after the criminal use of firearms. In the end, we had a piece of legislation that was supposed to cost Canadians $2 million. In fact there are estimates that it is reaching, if not exceeding, $2 billion.

How can there be that kind of exaggerated cost unless there is not a plan in place to deal with it, not to mention the annual cost of that particular program. What sort of value has come back to Canadians on that? Can we actually say we have prevented crimes with guns, that we have actually gone after the criminals and not the duck hunters? I do not think we would find even very many members on the government side who can claim that it has been a successful program. That again came from wasteful spending and without having a clear plan as to how the government should spend the money. The government is asking us to give it that trust again in Bill C-48.

We also saw an unfortunate situation. We know what the problem was in Davis Inlet where we saw children high on gasoline and a lot of other social problems. What was the answer? It was to throw money again at that problem without a real plan.

Now the community has been moved not too far away from where it was originally located, at a cost of about $400,000 per person and the problems have continued to follow. Unfortunately, we have not seen the improvements that we would have liked to see from this kind of social spending. Again, it is the lack of a plan and a knee-jerk reaction to spending.

All of us know how close we came in 1995 to losing the country because of a lack of vision from the current government. What was the solution? Let us throw money at Quebec and try to buy votes through the sponsorship program. What did we get as a result? A complete waste of taxpayer dollars.

We have what we all know as the sponsorship scandal and the continuous fiasco surrounding that with inquiries. We have seen the continuous corruption on the other side. It just proves the point further that it is difficult for the opposition to give free rein to a government which has demonstrated time and time again its inability to manage taxpayer dollars.

I have given the House a few examples here today. I think we could even point to more because more seem to be coming up on a daily basis. We have seen what has happened in Technology Partnerships Canada. My colleague from Edmonton—Leduc has been pressing for an audit to be done on that department. We have seen other examples of that sort of waste. Therefore, it becomes very difficult for us to say we can endorse Bill C-48.

In the years 2003-04 and 2004-05, the Liberals could not help themselves. Program spending rocketed by almost 12%. Per capita program spending by the federal government has reached its highest point in over a decade and it is scheduled to go even higher in the future.

Before we pass the motion and allow more time for Bill C-48 to be debated, perhaps we should look at the record when it comes to budgeting practices of the Liberals. I have talked about the spending, but their budgeting is not that much better.

In 1996-97 real federal program spending per capita was just over $3,000. It will have risen to just over $4,000 in 2005-06. That is an increase of about $800 per capita in volume terms, or just over $3,000 for a family of four. Current Liberal-NDP spending plans will take that spending to almost $4,600 by 2009-10. That is a projected increase of almost $1,200 per person.

Increases in government spending do not necessarily point to solving problems or even getting better results for Canadians through their services. I think most Canadians today would agree. If we look at our health care system and other areas of our social fabric, they have all been damaged by the way the government has managed its budgets as have the services that Canadians continue to get back. Yet they are taxed higher than ever.

It is incredible that the finance minister continuously gets up in this place and says that the government has delivered tax relief to Canadians. If we ask Canadians if they have seen any real tax relief over the time the Liberals have been in power, they will answer quite overwhelmingly that they have not seen anything realistic or substantial handed back to them. Clearly this is something that needs to be addressed. It continues to prove the point why it makes it so difficult for us to support Bill C-48.

We have always believed on this side of the House, especially when it comes to the surpluses, which my House leader spoke to yesterday, that a surplus is the result of the government taxing too heavily. Some of that money should be returned to Canadians, especially when the value for the services is not coming back to them the way it should.

We feel that $1,000 more in the pocket of an average Canadian will go a lot further than in the hands of the government, which seems to misspend their tax dollars. A great example of that would be a $1,000 of savings put into an RRSP, which would initially be worth $1,160. After 30 years, at a rate of 5% return, $1,000 a year invested in an RRSP would be worth nearly $81,000. A $1,000 invested outside of an RRSP at a 5% rate of return would be worth even more in 30 years.

Clearly, we know the government has lost sight of this in its wild attempt to tax, spend and often give very little value back to Canadians, as we have seen. We maintain that we should look at an option of taking the surpluses and looking at effective and meaningful ways to give that money back to Canadians. They are struggling on a daily basis. Many of them cannot make ends meet. Why not give that money back to Canadians so we can have a more productive economy, better paying jobs and Canadians can take care of themselves. We believe hard work should be rewarded. Unfortunately, we are not seeing that.

For the reasons I have identified, it is clear to us in the opposition that we cannot support the motion to extend the sitting of this session on the basis of the wild spending proposed in Bill C-48. It also is an attack of democracy in the House and on the Standing Orders, which we should all be respect and follow, as agreed to by all members in the House.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member covered a lot of ground. He mentioned game playing. I suspect we all have to admit that games have been played on all sides for some time now. It is probably reflective of what will go on as we move forward.

I would prefer to argue the matter of the calendar of the House. Back in 1984 Parliament decided to have a fixed calendar so real people, including MPs, could manage their lives and make plans because of the unique circumstances in which we found ourselves. In the cases where there were extended days, they were with regard to one item, not many items. Would the member care to comment on that?

Even though the motion says that we could have up to 95 extended days, we have many bills on which we could work. I guess the real question comes down to how we interpret public interest. I suggest to the member that public interest is applicable in everything that we do. That is public interest.

It has to be interpreted even further, to the extent that it makes a meaningful difference. It is not always to the benefit of all, but it may be the right thing to do. The law must be in place to take care of a situation.

Maybe it is time for a little penance. When we do our jobs here, the rules we apply should look to the history and intent of the changes made in the Standing Orders. I suggest that anything going on right now that is picked up after the resumption on September 19 would have no material impact on the ultimate effect or benefit of any of the legislation still pending.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rahim Jaffer Conservative Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, we heard the intervention from the member for Sarnia—Lambton. He identified clearly in his speech, and I tend to agree with him, that there was a normal schedule under the Standing Orders for this place to sit. If there were an actual urgency with these bills, which is why the government has proposed the extend sitting, then maybe there would be a different reaction from a number of members in the House.

If we look back at the precedent that was set in 1998, and I talked briefly about it in my speech, we would have been able to say that if it were an issue that was threatening our nation and something needed to be determined at a particular point in time, then we should extend the hours. We have a responsibility in the interests of Canadians to deal with urgent legislation.

That is not to say that what we are dealing with is not important. What the government is proposing still needs to be discussed, but do not attack democracy in this place. That is the point. We have Standing Orders in place and we all follow those Standing Orders. We all work together in order to achieve the schedule has been presented. In trying to change those Standing Orders, without any real sense of urgency, is an attack on democracy in this place and on the ability for members of Parliament to do their jobs.

We do not quite understand why the government at this point in time is rushing to get legislation through. We can easily deal with as soon as we come back in the fall. We can get to the business in our constituencies, we can listen to Canadians and do the things we have to do in our ridings and not take on an added expense of extending the hours of this place just for political purposes for the government. That is something that astounds me, especially when we could come back and deal with a lot of these things in the fall.

Extension of Sitting PeriodGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to clarify something for my colleague from the Conservatives, who is very upset with Bill C-48 that somehow will cost the Government of Canada so many additional dollars.

The Conservatives supported Bill C-43 when it had the corporate tax cuts of $4.6 billion. They had no problem with that. Now he used outright the term that the Conservatives do not support social spending. Those were his words. It was okay to give $4.6 billion in corporate tax cuts, but no dollars back to Canadians.

There is no question that all Canadians will benefit from the changes in Bill C-48. By improving dollars for affordable housing, there will be construction throughout the country. Small and medium size businesses throughout the country will benefit from the building of homes and improvements to homes. It is not as if it will just be the people who finally get to have some decent housing around them. It will be those small and medium size business in rural Saskatchewan, remote Manitoba, all over. Everybody will benefit. The dollars for education benefit everybody throughout Canada.

I know the budget is not supporting the people about whom the Conservatives seem to care. It is not supporting corporations. How can they possibly stand here and say to Canadians that they do not value them as much as they value corporations?