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House of Commons Hansard #68 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was opposition.

Topics

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

It should be the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I had the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London on my list.

Was it the Bloc Québécois’s turn?

During speeches it does not automatically go by rotation by party. However, I see the government members indicating that they are willing to allow the Bloc to speak.

We shall resume the debate. The hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

): Mr. Speaker, I would like to raise a point of order in connection with your last comment. I am not in fact intervening at the special request of the government. According to the principle of rotation, a Liberal member rose first, then you recognized a second Liberal member. Since no one from the government rose, it is automatically my turn to rise.

I was standing and you recognized two Liberal members. My point of order having been raised, I inform you that I will split my time with my colleague from Hochelaga.

I am pleased to speak to this motion, in my capacity as vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. From the outset I have been involved in discussions within our parliamentary committee. I do not wish to repeat here everything that was said in committee. In order to maintain a certain credibility, we parliamentarians in this House have a certain obligation to be consistent and behave logically.

Nevertheless, regardless of their allegiance or political opinion, we note that some politicians have credibility problems. They claim one thing when they are in the opposition and, when their party is in power, they claim the opposite.

Implementation of these Standing Orders—implementation that we wish to be permanent but that has been provisional for more than 20 months—requires some consistency on the part of the Conservative Party and the Conservative government.

Let me explain. When the Speech from the Throne was adopted in 2004, following the election on June 28, 2004, discussions were held among the three opposition party leaders: the leader of the Conservative Party, the leader of the Bloc Québécois and the leader of the NDP. During these discussions about the arrival of a minority government, it was agreed that we should adopt some new rules to reflect the reality of a minority government. I will recall that the current Prime Minister, then leader of the opposition, was in full agreement with this approach.

The Conservative Party, now in power, no longer likes the rules it thought were fine when it was in opposition. The government, with its attitude and its parliamentary tactics, is preventing the provisional Standing Orders from becoming permanent. We have seen it in this file, as we have seen in many other files, such as those concerning the environment and the government’s foreign policy. I am thinking of Afghanistan and the bombing in southern Lebanon.

Fortunately this Conservative government is a minority government. Fortunately this Conservative government cannot do what it wants. Fortunately the members of the opposition parties, whose numbers are greater, can prevent the Conservative Party from doing what it wants.

I am asking the government and the Conservative Party to be consistent. They agreed to change these rules. At the time, the Liberal Party was in government and opposed the changes. Now that it is in opposition, it supports them. The Liberal Party and the Bloc Québécois agree that these provisional standing orders should become permanent.

I would like to discuss one rule in particular that is really important. I am referring to subsection 106(4) of our Standing Orders, according to which any four members of a committee may, with five days' notice, convene a meeting of a standing committee.

The previous rule required ten days' notice. The Conservatives agreed with us to reduce that to five days, for the very good reason that this standing order comes into effect mainly when Parliament is not sitting and an emergency arises. As you know, most committees meet twice a week, so there is no need to convene the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. We met this morning and we will meet Thursday morning, unless some event occurs to change that. This standing order comes into effect and is used most often during the summer and winter holiday recesses.

Previously, ten days' notice was required. We agreed to reduce this to five days because of the exceptional nature of the measure. Convening a standing committee requires some unusual event, some emergency to have taken place to bring parliamentarians together as quickly as possible, hear witnesses and report to the House once the session resumes.

Given how quickly certain events progress, whatever made headlines this morning will still be an issue in five days, but it might not be in ten days.

It is a clear-cut case of the Conservatives having agreed to reduce the number of days to five but now that is one of the points of contention. Let us reread the transcripts of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The government whip was explicit: it is one of the Standing Orders with which the government does not agree, and one that the government would like to change back to ten days.

I reminded the government whip that, as far as I could recall, we had used this Standing Order three times when we were the official opposition. We had asked, during the summer, that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade be convened to answer questions pertaining to the discovery of prisoners of war and to the JTF2 unit. We had asked for light to be shed on these matters by convening the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. The Conservatives agreed.

We asked that the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology be convened due to the rising cost of petroleum products caused by the greed of oil companies eager to pocket greater profits. The Conservatives agreed.

Furthermore, in the summer of 2004, I clearly remember being at the centre of a strategy to convene the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, chaired by the member for Edmonton—St. Albert, to examine the sponsorship scandal. The Conservatives agreed with us regarding the five day rule.

They should behave as they did when in opposition and consider the logic behind these changes to the Standing Orders.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite gave a strong intervention, but I have a couple of points to make. As he recognizes, it was this party, in cooperation with others, that put together the provisional Standing Orders in the 38th Parliament.

The spirit of cooperation in the House is the lubricant that gets things done while partisanship is the friction that causes it to come grinding to a halt. If we remove the lubricant of cooperation, how can we get the job done? We agree with him that the provisional Standing Orders need to pass.

I guess the point being made was that there were some slight and small changes to them. He brought up the one about the amendment. He agrees that it probably should not change, but does he agree that, in their entirety, the provisional Standing Orders are exactly how he would like them or is there a small amount of work that still needs to be done to fix a couple of them?

Apparently, that was the spirit of cooperation at the House leaders' meeting, when it was agreed they would be put off and looked at by staff in order to fix some of the small pieces that needed to be fixed. Could the member tell us whether they are perfect or is there a small amount in the provisional Standing Orders that even he would still like to see fixed?

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will employ the boomerang effect.

My colleague, with whom I sit on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, mentioned a spirit of cooperation and minor changes. I would like to send the boomerang back to him by saying that we should adopt these Standing Orders immediately and make these provisional measures permanent.

If problems remain concerning the Standing Orders, if other changes must be made that will not result in major changes to procedure and operations, representatives from all parties could sit down together. The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, and the House leaders committee could have a look at it.

Don Boudria previously set up a House leaders committee that analyzed the Standing Orders. If three or four minor changes are needed, they could be reviewed after the provisional Standing Orders are adopted.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, a lot of government members have suggested that some agreement has been breached and that there is no good faith in this place. The fact remains that it appears that at a House leaders meeting there were discussions about extending the deadline with regard to the provisional Standing Orders to November 21 and also that the staff would be doing work to prepare for potential amendments as well as having meetings. The hon. member for the Bloc will also know that no meetings were called and no instructions were given. There is no evidence of any work having been done. Telephone calls by the opposition whip to have discussions with the government whip were not returned during the whole break week.

It appears that despite the best efforts of the opposition parties to move on this, the government was not willing. Accordingly, a proper motion was moved at the procedure and House affairs committee to make the provisional Standing Orders permanent.

Are those the facts as the Bloc member understands them?

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to impugn the government's motives. But the fact is that the government does not want these provisional measures to become permanent, at least for the time being.

Clearly, we on this side of the House want something different, as do our NDP colleagues, I am certain. They will realize that, with these amendments to the Standing Orders, the NDP is gaining a votable opposition day. I am therefore convinced that our NDP colleagues will vote with the Bloc and the Liberals.

At the risk of repeating myself, I do not want to impugn the government's motives, but the fact is that it does not want these measures to become permanent. I think that, thanks to opposition solidarity, they will become permanent.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his extremely pertinent remarks, considering what is happening this morning in this House.

I know that the word “hypocrite” is not parliamentary, and I am certainly not going to use it, but I believe that the word “Pharisee” is.

Still, it is rather unbelievable to witness such a situation this morning. When the Conservatives were in opposition — remember that this took place in the post-Gomery period — they wanted Parliament to be more transparent, for parliamentarians to be more efficient, more accountable, and they wanted to enhance the role of every member. They wanted to put parliamentary business at the centre of this reform.

We know that members spend a great deal of time in committee. I remember when I was elected in 1993, the leader of the Bloc Québécois at the time, Lucien Bouchard, told us that question period was important and made it possible to exercise some control on the actions of the government, but that it was in committee work that a member reached his true worth. It was there that a member’s knowledge of an issue could be seen, it was there that in-depth examination was carried out and it was there that bills could be improved.

We were looking for a revision of the Standing Orders and the adoption of these new rules, which were one of the demands of the Conservatives. I recall even some aspects that were not contained in the new Standing Orders. For example, when they were in opposition, the Conservatives wanted all private members bills brought to a vote. They said that whenever there is a debate, reports or bills, there should be an exchange between parliamentarians.

What a government of Pharisees we have there! What hypocrisy; what a shame after the promise given for the government to back track! The current prime minister, who was then the leader of the opposition, had made demands for an amendment to the Speech from the Throne. All political parties, all the party leaders were agreed on a reform of the Standing Orders. Today, a government that receives 17% of the projected vote in Quebec, and almost 30% nationally, is acting like those traditional parties who lose the confidence and respect of our fellow Canadians. Why? Because they say one thing when they are in opposition and do the opposite when they are in government.

Thankfully, this is not a majority government and, God and the voters willing, it will never be. This is a government that is unable to follow through on promises. Members in this House may have differing convictions. We can lean toward the left or the right. We can believe in government intervention or have greater faith in private enterprise. We may have a different vision of the social contract by which we exist and interact. But, in a Parliament, you cannot behave in such a way as to do the opposite of what you said when in opposition. That is unacceptable and, once again, it goes to show that the Conservatives are an immature party, unable to govern the state respectfully.

Let us get into a bit more detail. What did the reformed Standing Orders provide? First was the matter of opposition days. Members know that, for each parliamentary calendar, opposition parties may submit to the table officer a list of topics of current interest for the consideration of the House, which will be votable. Understandably, the number of opposition days is proportionate to the respective number of seats of the various political parties.

This means that the official opposition has more opposition days than the Bloc, and the Bloc has more than the NDP. Opposition days are an important mechanism whereby political parties can draw attention to problems. For example, the Bloc Québécois had opposition days on the POWA, the lack of control over gasoline prices, the missile defence shield and lumber. When they were in opposition, the Conservatives maintained that all opposition day motions ought to be votable. Now, they want to backtrack on that. They do not want all opposition day motions to be votable.

Again, how can we expect Canadians and Quebeckers to respect this party when it is unable to follow a guideline, and its principles, sense of honour and commitment keep changing depending on which side of the House it is sitting? That is unacceptable.

Another aspect of the Standing Orders that was a major improvement, an operating procedure that was to the benefit of all parties, is this ability to convene parliamentary committees on shorter notice. Before the amended Standing Orders were adopted, we could not convene a parliamentary committee without giving 10 days’ notice, whether it was the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities or the Standing Committee on Finance. Parliamentary committees could be convened on 10 days’ notice. Now, if the request is signed by a certain number of permanent members, a parliamentary committee can be convened on five days’ notice. This is important, because even when the House is not sitting, parliamentary committees may have to make decisions.

When our colleague, the member for Joliette, was the Bloc Québécois international trade critic, he asked that the committee be convened in the middle of the summer because of the softwood lumber agreement. At the time when my colleague from Joliette asked that the committee be convened, the softwood lumber agreement was causing the forest industry some concern. As a result of the questions asked by the Bloc Québécois, the government was of course persuaded to improve the agreement. There are therefore times when parliamentary committees have to be convened.

I would note the excellent work done by my colleague the foreign affairs critic in the last few years, and wish her a prompt recovery; she should be back with us in the near future, or at least that is what we hope for her. Our colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île had to ask that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade be convened because of the crisis taking place in the Middle East, the Lebanon crisis.

I do not understand this double talk, this holier than thou attitude, this hypocritical attitude, which makes people incapable of keeping their word and makes them say one thing when they are in opposition and another when they are in power. What point is there in having a minister responsible for democratic reform? What point is there in talking about recognizing the role of members of Parliament? How can we think that the public will respect their elected representatives if the government zigs and zags and is incapable of keeping its word?

What a disappointment! God and our fellow citizens willing this government will never get a majority. I am convinced that our fellow citizens will sit up and realize how unworthy this government is of being given another term.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, perhaps he just did not hear the first three responses, but I want to point out to my hon. colleague from the Bloc for the fourth time this afternoon that the Conservatives are in favour of the provisional Standing Orders. If they pass as is without amendment, we are in favour of that. We had suggested that we examine them to see if there were any amendments that all parties could agree upon, but if not, we would gladly support them. We have said that four times now. We are not reneging on our commitment. All we wanted was for staff to get together to examine whether amendments could make the provisions stronger.

In response to a comment made by the member for Mississauga South, there had been no discussion but there were discussions planned for the break week in October. Unfortunately, those discussions never took place because the Liberal Party decided to bring a motion forward to circumvent it.

The Conservatives support these provisions.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Hochelaga has one minute to respond.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe my colleague, but there have been indications that the government was dithering on this issue. I am glad the government is in favour of making the provisional Standing Orders permanent because it is in the best interest of all parties. I will trust my colleague.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time and put forthwith the question on the motion now before the House.

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that the vote be deferred until 5:30 p.m. tomorrow.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Accordingly, the vote stands deferred until 5:30 p.m. tomorrow.

The House will now resume with the remaining business under routine proceedings.

Heritage Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Protection ActPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Inky Mark Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to present a group of petitions from the good people of Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette.

The first petition calls upon the House of Commons to enact Bill C-222, An Act to recognize and protect Canada’s hunting, trapping and fishing heritage, to ensure the rights of present and future Canadians to enjoy these activities are protected in law.

Age of ConsentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Inky Mark Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls on the Government of Canada and Parliament to enact legislation to protect our children by raising the age of sexual consent to 16 years.

Gasoline TaxesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 24th, 2006 / 1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Inky Mark Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, in this petition the petitioners call upon the House of Commons to enact legislation to eliminate the federal excise tax on diesel fuel and gasoline used in farming operations and commercial fisheries, to cap the amount of taxes it collects on gasoline and to eliminate the practice of applying GST to provincial fuel tax and the federal excise tax, a practice that charges tax on top of tax.

Beef IndustryPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Inky Mark Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, the last petition calls on Parliament to take immediate action to develop internationally recognized protocols designed to restore confidence in Canadian beef products and to open international beef markets to Canadian producers.