House of Commons Hansard #9 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was process.


Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the parliamentary secretary and concerns an excerpt from the accountability action plan. On pages 8 and 9, under the heading “Strengthening the role of the Ethics Commissioner”, we can read the following about the process. This federal legislation will:

give the public the ability to bring forward, through a Member of Parliament, information to the Commissioner for the Commissioner’s consideration and action, as appropriate. Members of Parliament will be required to attest by oath or affirmation that, in their opinion, public complaints are well founded. The Commissioner will have the authority to reject complaints deemed to be frivolous, vexatious, or made in bad faith.

I would like my hon. colleague from the Conservative Party to tell me how he thinks this plan can be put into practice. It might sound appealing in theory, but as far as I am concerned it is almost totally impracticable.

Allow me to explain; it will take but a minute. A citizen in his riding goes to him about some potential wrongdoing. Let us say it happened in an employment centre without any of the staff noticing. That is what is called the conspiracy theory. But the citizen does notice and goes to his member, who then has to determine whether the complaint is well founded or not. Should he find it admissible, he refers the matter to the Ethics Commissioner, who in turn finds it inadmissible.

We have to get elected in our ridings and we have to deal on a daily basis with constituents. I would like the parliamentary secretary to tell me how he intends to make this impracticable theory practicable?

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


James Moore Conservative Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I cannot see exactly the problem my hon. colleague appears to have with that particular part of the bill. If he could elaborate further and submit plausible situations that could take place in the future, we can look at them.

Nevertheless, I appreciate his concerns with this bill. We could discuss them in committee, after it has been established by this Parliament.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have always appreciated the parliamentary secretary's thoughts on such issues.

I need to follow up on the glass houses and stone throwing that I watched a little earlier in this place. No member of the New Democratic Party, as a principle, sits in caucus and in the Senate. This measure of accountability, and it is a stretch to call it that, in terms of placing an unelected person first into that other place and then into cabinet, while there might have been some process that the Liberals and former Conservatives have used in the past, I do not understand why he is able to associate himself to that in clear conscience knowing that is not an accountable house.

I have had many discussions with him and his colleagues about the lack of accountability and success that place has had in directing this country and having any bearing on the public policy or debate that goes on in this country, such as the effectiveness every once in a while of gophers popping their heads up and complaining about the GST or some other thing.

The idea that such a vital department as his is to be represented by somebody to whom I am unable to ask an accountable question on the floor of the House of Commons, the place where the Canadian people are represented, I still cannot square the circle and understand how that represents anything other than a moment of hypocrisy in this accountability push.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


James Moore Conservative Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I honestly believe that this is an issue of being “damned if you do, and damned if you don't”.

As I said, the Prime Minister made the determination that Canada's second largest city should have representation at the cabinet table. The member opposite apparently is upset about that and does not believe in that. Had we not appointed Michael Fortier to represent Canada's second largest city, I suspect that members of the House, maybe not that member, would be rising in their place to ask how the government could pretend to speak on behalf of all Canadians when nobody was representing the city of Montreal? There would be no voice for the city of Montreal either in the House or in the Senate.

We have consistently said that we believe in reforming the Senate so that it would be elected. Michael Fortier will be a member of the Senate for the duration of this Parliament and has said that he will be a contestant in the next election campaign. The Prime Minister has signalled that he has every intention of passing legislation to allow Senate elections in the next federal election campaign and Senator Fortier will be a contestant in that campaign. He will contest a seat in this Parliament for the region of Montreal. We have been consistent on that.

The member opposite can be upset about that, but the fact is that this practice has happened frequently in Canadian history. We are doing it with a measure of accountability greater than what the Liberal Party did. We are doing it in a way that will ensure that the city of Montreal has a strong voice at the cabinet table. We are more than prepared to go into the next election campaign with Michael Fortier on our team.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today on Bill C-2, which is very lengthy. It contains more than 317 sections, amends 43 existing acts and creates, if memory serves, two new ones.

First of all, I would like to say again that the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of this bill. Ethics were at the very heart of the last election campaign, which chased a corrupt government from power. Liberal Party government was replaced by Conservative Party government. Now it is up to the Conservatives to prove themselves.

We think, as well, that this bill picks up to some extent on certain aspects of the work of the Gomery commission. The Bloc Québécois was an active participant, of course, in the work of this commission. The Bloc made some recommendations, which should now be implemented.

I should also add a commentary. My colleague from Repentigny just did so. We want the government to review the title of this bill. We have to get beyond semantics. “Projet de loi sur l'imputabilité“ seems to us to be virtually a literal translation of Federal Accountability Act. If the Conservative government has any respect for the French name of this bill, it should take a serious look at the title and replace it with a much more accurate translation: loi sur la responsabilité. Pushing things to the extreme, one could maybe say “loi sur la responsabilisation“, because that is what this bill is really about. Insofar as we are concerned, I would like to announce right away that the Bloc Québécois will probably introduce an amendment so that we can speak henceforth of the “loi sur la responsabilité“.

In addition, the Bloc Québécois is pleased, of course, about certain things that have been part of its platform since 1993. I could pay tribute to the Bloc pioneers who sat here before the massive arrival of a strong contingent of Bloc members between 1990 and 1993. One of the Bloc’s traditional demands had to do with the process for appointing returning officers. There are some references to this in the bill.

I should repeat in the course of my comments that the Bloc Québécois feels that this bill needs improvement.

Certain things need to be corrected and improved. Even though particular sections pay lip service to some of the Bloc’s traditional demands, we think that much clearer commitments are needed from the government. I would like to speak now, in this regard, about the appointment of returning officers.

In the last Parliament, I tabled Bill C-312 on behalf of my party, which required that a competition be held, as provided for in section 2.1 of the Public Service Employment Act. This competition for the appointment of returning officers would replace the traditional process, which has been in place since about the beginning of this institution, whereby such appointment is a prerogative of the Governor in Council. Let us not mince words. Governor in Council means the prime minister’s office and the minister responsible. They are the ones who make the political appointments.

The Bloc Québécois is asking that returning officers be appointed following an open and transparent process. And the Bloc will see that this is reflected in this bill. So the positions will be advertised in the newspapers and anyone who thinks he or she has the necessary skills will be able to apply. Furthermore, a selection board would be formed to choose the ideal persons to occupy the positions of returning officer in the 308 electoral districts of Canada.

I sit on the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The Elections Act provides that the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada shall be accountable for management of the last election. As for the returning officers—this has been a traditional demand of Mr. Kingsley, who is also critical of the current process for appointing them—at present, the returning officers are friends of the government and persons who have worked in electoral organizations and are appointed through patronage.

Far be it from me to allege that the 308 returning officers are incompetent. However, one returning officer who is not competent to manage the democratic electoral process is one officer too many. We have seen some horror stories—and if there were consensus, I could recount them until midnight. So it is important to have competent people who are free of all political affiliation.

Bill C-2 does not provide for open competitions to select returning officers. I was just saying that the Bloc feels that this bill can be refined and that we will have to improve on it. The Bloc also believes it imperative to add provisions whereby returning officers can be chosen through an open and transparent process.

I would like to draw attention to something else. The bill speaks of the financing of political parties. Let us talk specifically about leadership races. There is at present a political party on this side of the House, namely the Liberal Party of Canada, which is in the midst of a leadership race and which will have to choose its leader by the end of the year. Unfortunately, this bill mentions no restriction as regards a cap to financing during a leadership race. The Bloc Québécois is of the opinion that, in not preventing candidates for the leadership of political parties from contracting large personal loans, the bill will make it possible to circumvent the restrictions on individual contributions. If this is not given a framework and guidelines, it will encourage ill-advised persons to do indirectly what the bill does not permit them to do directly. I therefore announce to the government that the Bloc Québécois will want to ensure that this point is clarified.

We are prepared to study the problem. We do not wish to prevent candidates from taking personal loans, but we say that this should be overseen and should be part of a process, once again, that complies with the rules for financing political parties.

Another element is the whole question of following up on the Gomery Commission. The Bloc Québécois took an active part in the proceedings of the Gomery Commission, through our lawyer. Actually, we took an even more active part; we submitted recommendations at the request of Justice Gomery. So we, the Bloc Québécois, did not just have a passive role; we proposed recommendations.

I remind you that the Bloc Québécois was the only party to propose a report to Commissioner Gomery with recommendations for improving responsibility. You will understand, when I talk about improving responsibility, that I am referring to the faulty French title of the federal accountability act. But that was the goal of these recommendations. We, the Bloc, submitted 72 recommendations to Justice Gomery. Without repeating them all, I am going to give more or less the chapter headings or highlights.

One of the suggestions was about recovering the sponsorship money, which the member from Outremont qualified as “dirty”.

I put the question to the government: where do we stand in the process of recovering the dirty money? Has there been anything new since the Conservative government came to power on January 23?

Also, in our recommendations, we suggested giving more powers and resources to the officers of Parliament. For instance, we insisted a lot on intensifying the powers of the Auditor General. We also suggested some amendments to the Access to Information Act, the Lobbyists Registration Act and the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act .

By the way, the point of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act is not solely, not all in fact, to provide $1,000 rewards for whistleblowers. Indeed the act does provide $1,000 rewards for whistleblowers. I believe my colleague from Repentigny made these comments in his speech; the Bloc Québécois is opposed to compensating whistleblowers.

It is one thing to protect whistleblowers; it is quite another to develop a whistleblower culture with monetary incentives. Whistleblowers, if they wish to do their job properly, will not find any motivation in the $1,000 cheque associated with it. They expect protection from the government and from the management of their department or agency, so that they are not silenced, dismissed or harassed.

Let us assume that the very large majority of public servants in Quebec and Canada, who work in the federal public service, are primarily competent and honest individuals who want to do their job honestly, but who do not accept abuses of the system.

Unfortunately they are often muzzled, implicitly or explicitly, because they do not have this protection.

We must avoid generalizations. There has been some wrongdoing by some public servants, but it is not the case that all public service employees are dishonest. We must avoid generalizations, and that applies to public servants as it does in any other area.

It will be recalled that Justice Gomery made a lengthy case for the accountability of every individual to be recognized throughout the hierarchy. The idea is if each person’s role is recognized, there will be no abuses of authority, no dirty tricks, no shenanigans, and that this, rather than whistleblowing, is how fraud will be controlled.

When a superior supervises the work done by a subordinate—excuse the expression—or a co-worker, and the superior’s superior supervises, and the superior’s superior’s superior supervises, we call this line of authority control. This will be much more effective than handing out $1,000 cheques to encourage whistleblowing.

There is another thing: the Bloc Québécois made formal recommendations, out of its 72 recommendations, dealing with making individuals appointed by the government more accountable. In addition, the Bloc Québécois platform made various recommendations to the same effect, which it identified as priorities.

Certainly I am running out of time and we could address various things, but I will simply remind you that we are pleased to see that some of the proposals made by the Bloc Québécois have been incorporated in Bill C-2. I spoke earlier about the merit-based appointment of returning officers by Elections Canada. I could talk about the independence of the lobbyists registry.

Lobbyists are a powerful force here in Ottawa. We need only look at how they lie in wait for a change in government to see how true this is: some lobbyists painted themselves one colour while members of the same lobbying firm painted themselves another colour. They want to be certain that they make everyone happy, they buy drinks all round, and they know that the key to success as a lobbyist is to be connected. We even have a Minister of Defence who is a former lobbyist, whose clients were very well known. That is an illustration of the important role lobbyists play.

The Bloc Québécois has been making another recommendation for several years: we see that the new Political Parties Financing Act is going to be very similar to Quebec’s legislation, by introducing corporate donations. And there is one more thing that the Bloc has traditionally called for: strengthening the powers of the Auditor General.

In conclusion, because I have less than a minute left, the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of the bill, which should be called, in French, Loi sur la responsabilité. As well, the Bloc Québécois will study the bill in depth and refuses to go along with any bulldozing.

It refuses to pass this bill, which has 317 clauses, with any undue haste. The Bloc Québécois will be making constructive proposals to improve this bill.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a short question for my hon. colleague. But first, I want to say that it is difficult for me to speak French, but I will do my best.

The people of Montreal have elected no one on the government side. However, because a need existed, the Prime Minister had to provide someone an opportunity to be a cabinet member.

I would like to hear the hon. member on that. There was a movement in Montreal, saying that it was necessary for the Prime Minister to have someone as a voice in government. The system has allowed someone to be appointed to the Senate, but that person does not sit here, in the House. That person cannot take part in debates or discussions or interact with other members.

Is that acceptable to the people of Quebec?

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. Indeed, under the democratic choice made in the January 23 election no member of the Conservative Party was elected in the greater Montreal area. Accordingly, the people of greater Montreal, including the areas to the north and south of the city, chose other candidates. It so happened that most of the candidates chosen were from the Bloc Québécois, and I am proud to work as a team with them, especially our ten new colleagues.

The appointment of Senator Fortier as the Minister of Public Works and Government Services confirms what the Bloc often said during the election campaign, which is that the Liberals and the Conservatives were essentially the same. Do as I say, not as I do.

When they are in opposition, they criticize the government. When they are in government, they forget what they said in the past. Hundreds and thousands of pages of speeches would have to be produced to see what the Conservative members and the current Prime Minister, while he was the Leader of the Opposition, said at the time. They criticized the practice of appointing people to the Senate as a way of compensating friends. At the first opportunity, on February 6, as the members of his cabinet were being sworn in, the Conservative Prime Minister appointed an unelected person to the position of Minister of Public Works and Government Services. This department has a budget of several billion dollars.

How can we in opposition put questions to him? I heard the parliamentary secretary say that questions could be put to Senator Fortier in the Senate. Does that mean that the Bloc Québécois will seek the unanimous consent of the House to go and put questions to Senator Fortier in the Senate? That is crazy. The Conservatives behaved exactly like the Liberal government they criticized.

The Prime Minister appointed a Senator, someone who had not been elected, as the minister responsible for the Montreal area. The department is a very important one, which generates billions of dollars in contracts, which have been put out of reach of questions in the House of Commons.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has talked about the importance of lobbyists to this place, and there is no question that lobbyists are important. They bring to our attention information and the position of groups wishing to have legislation passed. The problem is that this place has become too lenient as far as releasing very important and confidential information. The Dingwall affair shows how low this place has really become. It is an absolute disgrace what happened in that situation.

We have ministers and senior government officials who have very confidential and important information. What is wrong with tightening up the rules to stop this disgrace from happening in this place?

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, when we are in our constituency offices on Fridays, Mondays or during recesses, like the one we just had, do groups that want to meet with us have to have lobbyists to make an appointment?

Unemployed people who find the current employment insurance system inadequate do not need lobbyists to meet with us in our constituency offices. Organized groups and associations, such as the Canadian Real Estate Association or the Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires do not need lobbyists to gain access to members. Therein lies the problem.

I will respond to my colleague by way of a question. The current Minister of National Defence was a lobbyist for Hill and Knowlton for close to ten years. From 1996 to February 2004, he represented the interests of the following companies: BAE Systems, General Dynamics, United Defense, Raytheon, ADGA Group, Irwin Aerospace, Airbus, Orion Bus Industries, Galaxy Aerospace Co., and Bennett Environmental. This is our current Minister of National Defence. Are some of the companies I just listed involved in the defence sector? Will the minister be able to remove his lobbyist hat and meet with various groups without being influenced by his history as a lobbyist from 1996 to 2004?

As I was saying, this is another example of the important role that lobbyists play in this House. The Prime Minister made a mistake when he appointed a former lobbyist involved in the defence sector as Minister of National Defence.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to share my time with the hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert.

Since January 23, we have had a new Conservative government, a government that has been turning a new leaf, a leaf that we wish to turn together with the Canadian people, in trust and respect. This is why I wish to say today that I support the federal accountability act, a bill designed precisely to restore the trust of Canadians in their government and their federal institutions.

During the election campaign, I put the question to the people of Lévis, Bellechasse and Les Etchemins to find out what they expected of the government. It is very simple. They told me they expected the government to manage public funds appropriately. This is not asking too much. This is not, however, what the previous Liberal government accustomed us to, with a long list of scandals and gross wastes of public funds. We need only think of the gun registry, the sponsorship scandal and so on.

I am proud to support this bill since it is in keeping with the Quebec tradition of cleaning up political behaviour, a legacy from a former Quebec premier, René Lévesque, a great democrat. It is tangible evidence of the contribution by Quebec society to the advancement of the Canadian community as a whole in a context of lasting partnership.

The federal accountability act presented in the House by my colleague in the Privy Council follows up on the Conservative commitment to clean up government practices, something which neither the Liberals nor the Bloquistes could move forward.

This act aims to go from a culture of entitlement to a culture of accountability. It intends to make everyone accountable, from the Prime Minister to public servants, including ministers and members, to the Canadian people, those whom we represent here.

This accountability act takes up the commitments made by our party during the election campaign. This is why our government is proposing leadership to "Stand up for Canada" when it comes to honesty and integrity in the government. This is therefore a first legislative measure aimed at doing a thorough cleaning. These are actions following on promises.

We need actions to regain the confidence of the people of Canada and Quebec in their government.

Confidence between Canadians and their federal government is crucial. Our government intends to stand and deliver on that critical matter by reforming the financing of political parties; banning secret donations to political candidates; strengthening the role of the Ethics Commissioner and toughening the lobbyists registration law; ensuring truth in budgeting; making qualified government appointments; cleaning up the procurement of government contracts, polling and advertising; providing real protection for whistleblowers; strengthening access to information legislation, the power of the Auditor General, auditing and accountability within departments and agencies; and creating a director of public prosecutions.

We have a great piece of legislation and the ground upon which to turn a new leaf.

The principle underlying this act is very simple: the taxpayers are entitled to know how their money is being managed.

No more donations from big corporations and pressure groups, no more donations to secret trusts for candidates.

The Auditor General is the one who ensures that taxpayers’ money is carefully managed. Our Conservative government will provide her with the tools and means to fulfill her role: ongoing review of departmental grant programs, more power for auditing not only the government, but also the organizations and individuals who receive grants.

Where the Liberals hid money from public scrutiny, the Conservative government will broaden access to the Information Act so that crown corporations and foundations can also report to taxpayers. Is knowing how their money is being managed not the least taxpayers should expect?

We must not wait for scandals before acting. This is why the new accountability act will strengthen internal audit functions within departments and governance structures.

I have been a public servant myself; I have worked alongside these competent and dedicated people, who deserve our confidence and our respect. We are going to give them the tools to ensure that they are protected if they provide information about wrongdoing, to clarify roles and responsibilities, notably those of deputy ministers, and to establish a “uniform and transparent” process for the appointment of senior officials.

As an engineer, I also understand the importance of promoting principles which commit the government to making tendering processes fair, open and transparent, free of all undue political interference. We depend on this to maintain the competitiveness of our businesses and the integrity of our institutions.

We will also be developing a code of conduct for procurement, which will apply to suppliers and public servants. And we will be appointing a procurement auditor, who will examine the practices of the entire government and help it to resolve disputes.

Over the past year, many Quebeckers were shocked and outraged by the crooked dealings that the Gomery commission brought to light. Today, the Conservative government can say to all Canadians that it is at their service, not at the service of friends of the party in power.

The echoes of the sponsorship scandal are still fresh in our memory, and they are compelling us to action. If the Liberals have sullied the integrity of the government, the Conservatives will restore its integrity. It is spring, and time to do some major housecleaning: let us do a big spring clean-up in Ottawa!

Our hands are free and we want to change things.

It is a matter of trust. We put our trust in our elected officials, our public servants, and the employees who act in the best interests of Canadians. It is a bold vision that we want to give shape to, in collaboration with the other parties in the House. So our government intends to work with parliamentarians to bring about these changes.

As the Right Hon. Governor General said in the Speech from the Throne, “Effective checks and balances are important, but they are not enough. The trust of citizens must be earned every day”.

Therefore we must remember that nothing is forever; integrity is earned, and earned every day. The federal accountability act is a step in that direction. That is why I am proud to support it as a Conservative member.

Alternative FuelsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is my first time speaking in the House, so let me begin by thanking the voters who elected me as their representative and who gave me this opportunity to represent them to the best of my intentions, including the firefighters from Surrey and North Delta who are in the gallery today.

Recently I met with members of the Canadian Urban Transit Association. They spoke to me of the B.C. transit initiative to buy 20 hydrogen fuel cell hybrid buses. The manufacture of these buses, 60% of which happens here in Canada, was made possible by the Liberal government's launch of the Canadian Transportation Fuel Cell Alliance as part of action plan 2000 on climate change.

I urge the Minister of the Environment to maintain this commitment as part of her plans to increase development in alternative fuels.

Jean GaudetStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to pay tribute to Jean Gaudet, a long-standing and outstanding employee of the House of Commons, who officially retired on April 19 during the recent Easter recess.

Jean Gaudet came to Ottawa from near Weyburn in Saskatchewan. She worked briefly for Alvin Hamilton and George Nowlan in the early 1960s, but began her parliamentary service in earnest on March 17, St. Patrick's Day, 1969 when she started working for Tommy Douglas. Subsequently she worked for David Lewis, for Doug Rowland, for Father Andy Hogan, and for the last almost 27 years she worked in my office.

Adjusting to life without Jean has been like adjusting to life without one's right hand. She phoned me the morning after the election of May 22, 1979 and has been an important part of my political life ever since.

On behalf of all the constituents she helped over the years, on behalf of all those who worked with her and learned from her as she shared her experience with new Hill staff, on behalf of my family and on behalf of all of us who had the privilege and good fortune to work with her, may I extend to Jean and her husband Cam all the best in their post-parliamentary life.

The HolocaustStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, today Canada pauses to remember the Holocaust.

In part we pause that the six million who died will not be forgotten. In part we pause to honour the righteous gentiles who risked their own lives that others might be saved. But mostly we remember so that the words “never again” will have real meaning.

It has been 60 years since the Shoah, but in those six decades “never again” has become “again and again”. The Holocaust, which should have been the genocide to end all genocides, the atrocity which would teach humanity at last to be civilized, has been forgotten by governments in other corners of the world, or else it has taught them another, much more sinister lesson.

The murder by governments of people due to their national, ethnic, racial, or religious group membership continues. Sometimes the world finds it convenient to look away, as Canada looked away when the Jewish refugees aboard the ship St. Louis arrived off our shores in 1939 and were turned back to Europe.

There have been times in our past when this nation has not done its duty. Therefore, let us say, never again.

Mercedes PalominoStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, on April 18, Mercedes Palomino, a leading figure in Quebec theatre, passed away at age 93.

Mercedes Palomino was born in Barcelona and emigrated with her family to South America. She pursued her career in dramatic arts in Chile, Peru, New York and Paris.

She arrived in Montreal in 1948 and a year later, together with Yvette Brind'Amour, founded the first professional theatre in Canada, the Théâtre du Rideau Vert.

She showcased the talents of our home-grown playwrights by featuring the works of Michel Tremblay, Félix Leclerc, Marcel Dubé, Marie-Claire Blais, Françoise Loranger and Gratien Gélinas.

The Bloc Québécois commends the generous contributions made by Mecha, as she was affectionately known by her friends and family, to whom we offer our sincerest condolences.

Canadian ForcesStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, our country mourns the loss of four Canadian soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan on Saturday, including Corporal Randy Payne of Wainwright in my constituency. These men were serving in such an extraordinary and unselfish way to protect our security and to bring hope, freedom and prosperity to the people of Afghanistan.

I am proud of the work being done in that country and of our men and women who put their lives on the line to do it every day. As our Prime Minister said when he visited CFB Wainwright two weeks ago:

--military service is the highest calling of citizenship, not because you are ready to die for your country, though every soldier is prepared to do that. No, it is the highest calling of citizenship because you are ready to live for your country.

We will remember that these soldiers did both for us.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of these four brave men in this time of sorrow and loss.

Holocaust Remembrance DayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is Holocaust Remembrance Day and at a ceremony this afternoon I will lay a wreath in tribute to the millions of Jews and others who were systematically killed during the Holocaust by the Nazi death machine.

As citizens of Canada and the world, we must do all we can to ensure that never again really means never again. Nowhere is this goal more pressing than in Darfur. Many organizations have worked to keep this tragic issue in the public eye. I am participating in the all party Save Darfur Coalition to call for immediate action in this region. I am also wearing a green ribbon provided by the Canadian Jewish Congress National Darfur Committee to bring greater awareness to the plight suffered by the people of Sudan's Darfur region.

On the day that we remember the horrific suffering and losses associated with the Holocaust, we must never forget those who are suffering in Darfur. The lessons and the legacy of the Holocaust require no less from all of us.

Volunteer WeekStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, the theme of Volunteer Week 2006, held in Quebec until April 29, is “Volunteering for all tastes”.

Let us acknowledge the importance of the work carried out by the thousands of men and women who spend time and energy helping and supporting others in society.

In Quebec alone, there are 526,000 volunteers working in social services and health agencies, 359,000 volunteers working in culture and entertainment, 133,000 in education and almost half a million who lend their passion, generosity and knowledge to other sectors of society.

Every second of the day there are people around us who do something to bring a moment of happiness to someone else. Every day, hundreds of our citizens volunteer to defend the rights of the most vulnerable.

On the occasion of volunteer week, the Bloc Québécois wants to say thank you to each and every one of them.

Gasoline PricesStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, Liberal hypocrisy knows no limits. Once again Liberal members have flip-flopped on their positions by having the nerve to stand in the House and demand action on gas prices.

The Liberals were in government for 13 years and continually failed to offer any relief to Canadian drivers and families. In fact, many Liberal members supported higher gas prices. It was not long ago that the former environment minister said that high gas prices were not necessarily a bad thing and that Canadians must become used to changing our way of life.

The Conservative government will not accept this position and has committed to reducing the GST, allowing Canadian motorists to save $220 million off fuel prices per year. It will also save Canadians on every other purchase they make, saving them $5.2 billion per year.

Unlike the previous Liberal government, this government will keep its promises and we will deliver tax relief to all Canadians.

International Association of Fire FightersStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Joe Fontana Liberal London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I am proud to welcome the International Association of Fire Fighters to our capital. I am honoured to support them as they raise public awareness of fire safety and security and the great risks that men and women take to protect the safety of the Canadian public every day.

In the fall of 2005 the Liberal government was pleased to announce that it would be supporting the creation of a memorial commemorating firefighters who had fallen in the line of duty. As minister of labour and housing, I was also honoured and committed to the creation of a heroes fund to honour all public safety officers who had fallen in the line of duty.

I can only hope that the Conservative government, which has set such low expectations for success with a mere five commitments, can find time in its busy schedule to follow through on this plan to create a heroes fund to honour the memories and sacrifices of those brave men and women who give so much every day of their lives.

Let us show our appreciation for these brave men and women, do the right thing and support them.

Holocaust Remembrance DayStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am deeply honoured to rise today on Yom Hashoah, on behalf of the New Democratic Party of Canada and the entire NDP caucus, to remember the victims and survivors of the Holocaust.

Within living memory, our world was torn apart by an unimaginable evil. Millions of victims, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, were lost in a tragic torrent of hatred and violence.

Millions of people saw their lives destroyed and for more than 60 years have borne the scars of the worst human atrocities. Today, we remember those who lost their lives and those who had to put their lives back together again.

And yet the hatred persists. Genocide continues in Darfur. The green ribbon we wear today testifies to our obligation to work to expose and act to end the killing. We are each obliged to strive harder and to lend our courage to others so that we may build a better world for generations to come.

It is our duty to remember so that our world will never again know the worst that humanity is capable of, but rather will rejoice in the peace and light of a hopeful tomorrow.

Canadian ForcesStatements By Members

April 25th, 2006 / 2:10 p.m.


Paul Steckle Liberal Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I recently received a letter from the father of the late Corporal Dinning. The letter was sent to the Prime Minister on April 7. As per Mr. Dinning's request, I will now read it to the House. He said:

As a proud Dad of a Canadian soldier currently serving in Afghanistan, I was glad to see that you made your first foreign trip to that country. You have said publicly many times that you support our troops and respect the job they're doing in Afghanistan. You even invited some of them to your Throne Speech this week. For all that I applaud you.

My question is simple. For all the support and respect that you say publicly why do you choose not to fly the flag on Parliament Hill at half mast when one of our soldiers is killed?

When I called your Heritage Minister's office this week to inquire as to why it hadn't been lowered for the death of Private Robert Costall, I was told it's usually only done for politicians and VIPs. I would suggest to you that there is no more important VIP than a Canadian soldier who gave his life in the service of his country.

Please correct this wrong and show that actions speak louder than words and fly the flags at half mast the next time a Canadian soldier is killed...

P.S—I hope and pray that you won't have to lower the flag but since Afghanistan is a war zone the likelihood exists that more soldiers could die.

This letter is even more poignant as the next Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan was Mr. Dinning's own son.

Holocaust Remembrance DayStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah. On November 7, 2003, thanks to the remarkable efforts of my friend Richard Marceau, a former Bloc Québécois colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, Bill C-459 received royal assent.

The Shoah represents the degrading height of a policy that sought to annihilate clearly identified groups.

The Shoah is also an episode in history that could have been prevented if people at the time had not been silent and complicit and democratic regimes had not remained indifferent but had put a stop to Hitler and his officers earlier.

Unfortunately, the world has not taken the lessons of the Shoah completely to heart. Over a 12-week period in 1994, 800,000 people were massacred in the Rwandan genocide while the international community stood by.

Let us hope that Holocaust Remembrance Day will be an opportunity to reflect and remember and a reason to act now to avoid another tragedy.

Holocaust Remembrance DayStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to the survivors of the Holocaust who are here on Parliament Hill today, who alone understand the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, of things that are too terrible to be believed, but not too terrible to have happened and where genocidal echoes resonate again today as in the killing fields of Darfur.

I say to the survivors and those whom they represent here today that they are the true heroes of humanity. They have not only witnessed and endured the worst of inhumanity to man, but they have somehow found in the wellsprings of their own humanity the courage to go on, to rebuild their lives as they help to build their communities here in Canada. They taught us the evils of racism and bigotry, of the dangers of silence and indifference in the face of evil, of the reminder that every human being is a universe, and whoever saves a single person, it is as if they have saved an entire universe.

I ask all members to join me in tribute to these heroes of humanity, to remember at times such as these, “qui s'excuse, s'accuse” and to act upon the injunction of never again.

Non-violenceStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the member for Beauport—Limoilou and in partnership with my colleague, the hon. member for Jonquière—Alma, Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, I would like to ask all House members to support us in making the Jonquière non-violence week, which ends on April 28, a province-wide event in Quebec.

The first annual non-violence week in Jonquière, held in April 2001, was organized by advocates from youth round table discussions.

Several groups in the region are joining us to mark this non-violence week. The Minister of Labour understands the importance of having the opportunity to grow in an environment that is free of all forms of violence.

I therefore ask all members of the House of Commons to support us in declaring the week of April 18 to 24 non-violence week across Quebec.

Child CareStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.


Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be part of a government that keeps its promises, especially that so directly impact Canadian families.

Our government supports freedom of choice for parents as they make their child care choices, rather than imposing financial penalties on parents who want to choose non-institutional care for their children.

Australian feminist social commentator and writer Anne Manne has recently written that love and care are different and that while caring is reproducible, parental love is not. She draws on the latest research into attachment therapy, neurobiology and social development.

Two Quebec authors, pediatrician Jean-Francois Chicoine and La Presse editorial writer Nathalie Collard, in a brand new book, The Baby with the Bathwater: How Day-Care Changes the Life of your Children, argue that in normal circumstances what children need in the first few years of their lives is their mother's love and meticulous care.

Our Conservative government will end the long Liberal policy of discrimination against parental choice and our Conservative government will financially recognize choice in child care. Parents know what is in the best interests of their children.