This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #10 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was forward.

Topics

SomaliaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the honour of presenting a petition signed by over 340 constituents from my riding of Etobicoke Centre. The petitioners express ongoing concerns about the immense challenges the people of Somalia face in rebuilding a civil society and they are urging the Canadian government to appoint a special envoy to Somalia. With Somalia in the grips of a terrible drought, my constituents are calling on the Canadian government to do everything it can to help relieve the suffering in that country. A famine's death march does not wait.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 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, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 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, I ask that the notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Aboriginal AffairsRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

April 26th, 2006 / 3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Chair has notices of requests for emergency debates. I will hear first from the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre.

Aboriginal AffairsRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, as you know, earlier today I sent you a note, pursuant to Standing Order 52, in order to request leave to make a motion for the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and I believe urgent matter requiring urgent consideration. If permitted, I hope to move that under the provisions of Standing Order 52, the House adjourn in order to discuss the matter of the implementation of the Kelowna accord signed on November 25, 2005 between the federal government, the provincial and territorial governments, and the leadership of the Métis First Nation and Inuit communities.

Very briefly, this matter is of urgent concern to communities from coast to coast to coast in this nation. I am not going to proceed to tell you the economic gaps that exist between aboriginal communities and other Canadians. All of us here in the House know the details of it, but there is some urgency to this matter.

Given that the budget will be tabled next week and that funds for the agreement have indeed been booked and committed by the previous government, it is important that this debate be held immediately. Time is of the essence.

Furthermore, the situations in the communities across the country, as evidenced by Caledonia, by Kashechewan and by other communities call for an immediate response by the government as to its position on this historic agreement.

Accountability is more than just financial audits. Accountability is the responsibility of governments to serve its citizens, to notify its citizens, to give leadership to their citizens and to provide opportunities for Canada's first peoples.

Yesterday in the House we heard the minister pay respect to aboriginal peoples by honouring the agreement in principle made by the previous government on the residential schools matter. It is now time to look forward. The matter is urgent. Aboriginal peoples across this country are looking for an indication from the government that their important and overwhelming needs will be honoured and respected. I ask you to give serious consideration to this issue.

Aboriginal AffairsRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Chair thanks the hon. member for Winnipeg South Center for her able submissions and for her letter on this point, but having considered the matter and having heard her submission, I do not feel that the request for an emergency debate on this issue meets the exigencies of the standing order at this time.

The hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior has a request for an emergency debate. I will hear from him now.

AgricultureRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask for an emergency debate as set out in sections three and four of Standing Order 52.

The current crisis facing Canadian farmers deals with the lack of immediate emergency funding they require to enable spring planting. With no commitment forthcoming from the government, they are unable to get loan guarantees to purchase the necessary seeds to get their crops into the ground and thus remain viable. They simply cannot wait until the budgetary process is complete as this could take months.

We must take this matter before the House to find a way to be successful in receiving a bankable commitment from the government to help the farmers now.

Mr. Speaker, it is time for action. Many farmers are dangerously close to bankruptcy. The disappearance of our farms would have a disastrous effect on rural communities, especially on small regional businesses.

On behalf of all farmers, I ask that an emergency debate be held on the crisis currently facing the Canadian agricultural sector.

AgricultureRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for his letter and his remarks today concerning an emergency debate.

I have considered his comments and what he wrote in his letter.

I have to tell the hon. member that the matter he raises does appear to be a financial one, and while I have no doubt that there is some urgency to the matter he is raising, I note that the government has designated next Tuesday as the day for the budget. The budget will be presented next Tuesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m., and I suspect that if there is going to be an answer to any issue that he has raised in his letter, we might hear about it then.

In the circumstances there will be a four day debate on the budget following its presentation, which in my view will provide ample opportunity to discuss whether or not the budget has done enough or anything to alleviate this crisis. I think the question of an urgent debate on the matter is one that is academic and accordingly, I am not satisfied that this again meets the exigencies of the standing order at this time.

The hon. member for Kitchener--Waterloo is rising on a point of order.

AgricultureRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Earlier today during my S.O. 31, I mentioned that Canadians from coast to coast to coast as well as the international firefighters who have been visiting us have been observing a minute of silence in respect of our fallen soldiers.

On Monday we in this chamber observed a minute of silence on behalf of the Armenian genocide. On Tuesday we observed a minute of silence in memory of the Holocaust. Actually, yesterday evening when I was at the Armenian reception, they observed a minute of silence in respect to our fallen soldiers.

Given the fact that it is the soldiers of our armed forces who are trying to prevent those kinds of events that we commemorated this week, it would be a good opportunity if members of this House would give unanimous consent to a motion that on Thursday, April 27 after question period we observe a moment of silence in this chamber, as Canadians are doing from coast to coast to coast. I ask for unanimous consent.

AgricultureRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House, as I understand the motion, to have an observation of a moment of silence tomorrow following question period? Is that the request?

AgricultureRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

AgricultureRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to propose this motion?

AgricultureRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

AgricultureRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

AgricultureRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

There is no consent. I heard a no.

The House resumed from April 25 consideration of the motion that Bill, C-2, an act providing for conflict of interest rules, restrictions on election financing and measures respecting administrative transparency, oversight and accountability be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When the debate was interrupted yesterday the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup had the floor. He had four minutes remaining to finish his speech.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the House of the Bloc Québécois’ position on the accountability bill. The current title of the bill in French— Loi fédérale sur l'imputabilité—will have to change because it contains an unacceptable anglicism. I hope that the government will agree to the amendment proposed by the Bloc. According to our information, this is the direction in which we are headed.

In any case, it is important to know that this bill is in response to the sponsorship scandal and the corruption of the previous government, especially the Liberal Party of Canada, Quebec wing.

The Bloc Québécois would like to see some of the measures in this bill implemented. It suggested them a long time ago. For example, returning officers should be selected by the chief electoral officer rather than the cabinet; the Public Registry of Lobbyists should be independent; and corporate contributions should be banned—as Quebec has been doing for 30 years now. In addition, this bill needs to be considered more thoroughly in committee. A number of amendments should be made to it because, for example, it encourages an unhealthy snitch culture by offering rewards for whistleblowers. In my view, this goes too far. We will have to listen to the comments and suggestions made in committee. It is important to take our time and study this bill thoroughly. It should not be passed in great haste because it will become one of the cornerstones of this government and future governments.

The bill also contains a suggestion that is made in good faith but in my view would impede democratic debate. When a citizen lodges a complaint under the Federal Accountability Act, it is supposed to be forwarded to the commissioner. If he or she considers it appropriate, there would no longer be any right to discuss it further. I think that this is unacceptable. One of the main aspects of the task carried out by the members of this House would thus be eliminated.

In the four minutes that I was given to finish my speech, I wanted to say that the Bloc Québécois supports the bill in principle. It will propose a number of amendments to the bill, which needs to be fixed so that in the end we achieve our objective of ensuring that the kind of corruption that occurred under the previous government never happens again. It is important, therefore, for the House to take time to study this bill thoroughly.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, in effect it is an omnibus bill that is before us. One of the embedded bills is the whistleblower legislation. The member knows that the whistleblower bill was referred to committee before second reading so the committee could hear the advice of expert witnesses on a broad range of important issues. It also empowered the government operations and estimates committee to make substantive changes. The bill passed unanimously at that stage and unanimously in the House at third reading and received royal assent.

It seems to me that having an important bill like this one referred to committee before second reading would make a great deal of sense. The bill makes consequential amendments to a broad number of acts and the input of those who will be touched by it has not been received by members. I wonder if the member would care to comment on that.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague’s question is an interesting one. Actually it is a fundamental one. The major issue throughout the entire election campaign was government transparency and past cases of corruption. If there is one thing the citizens of Quebec and Canada expect, it is that we do something about this quickly and that we examine the file in depth.

There first has to be a vote on the actual principle of the bill. All the parties and members in this House must vote on the merits of the legislation and decide whether or not they are in favour of the principle of the bill. Then we can take an in-depth look at each of its components.

This bill is really very significant. It touches on many elements, including the method of appointing returning officers that has long been recommended by the Bloc Québécois. As for prohibiting corporate donations, this goes right to the source of problems that arose in the past. We saw businesses and banks that acquired, as if by chance, the attentive ear of the government after having made very large donations. We hope that this measure will be corrected. We can cite the model of Quebec as an example. It is not perfect, but it has been around for 30 years. It succeeded in preventing the sort of situations we have gone through here and that greatly undermined the people’s trust in their elected representatives.

To regain this trust, we must first vote on the actual principle of this bill, then refer it to committee for study, rather than proceeding the other way around.

In this regard, I do not share the opinion of my colleague. I find it important to show the public that one of the first parliamentary actions taken by the newly elected government, which saw the need to act on this matter, was in fact to have done so and let every member in the House vote.

On the other hand, this bill should not get steamrollered in committee. As many witnesses as possible must be heard so that in the end we adopt amendments that are going to have far-reaching effects. They will no doubt be put forward in large numbers. Perhaps the testimonies will continue until the fall. However that may be, when the time comes to pass this bill, a solid foundation will be necessary to ensure that, at least for a few years, the act will function as it should.

We will not stop some individuals from behaving in ways not entirely correct, but the role of Parliament and the opposition is to act as watchdogs. At least this bill will make it possible to clarify a certain number of situations, especially if we make the amendments to it that we and the other members of this House put forward. We must make this a solid bill whose effective duration will correspond to the importance of this issue in the last election.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his remarks. After 13 years in power, the Liberals failed to implement any measures to protect whistleblowers in the public service. This bill, the federal accountability act, will provide real independent protection for whistleblowers.

Parts of this protection would include a tribunal, which an independent commissioner would convene, of existing judges who would oversee cases where a public servant alleges he or she has experienced bullying as a result of his or her speaking out against corruption. It would remove the cover-up clauses that the Liberal government put into its Bill C-11, which never passed. It would remove those cover-up clauses and extend protection to all Canadians, including contractors and crown corporations which could otherwise have been struck from the previous Liberal bill at a moment's notice by Order in Council.

We have made all those changes to strengthen whistleblower protection and to introduce some of the best of its kind in the world.

Does the hon. member intend to support the principles I have just enunciated?

Second, I would like to know whether he and his party are going to support us in our goal, which is to pass this bill before the summer.