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House of Commons Hansard #78 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was appointments.

Topics

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Judges Act, be read the third time and passed.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When the House broke for question period and statements by members, the hon. member for Yukon had the floor on questions and comments. It is his chance to respond to a comment that was made before, and I will recognize the hon. member for Yukon for his response.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I was responding to a question by the Conservatives about not holding up Parliament.

As members know, Elections Canada is looking into the actions of a number of Conservative members regarding illegally transferred funds. The Conservative members have stonewalled the committee that wants to look at this matter, and have tied up hundreds of thousands of Canadian taxpayers' dollars by carrying on and babbling about that.

Another good example is the Cadman affair. There was an indication that there may have been an offer made to a member of Parliament to vote a certain way, which of course is a criminal offence and is totally illegal. Once again the Conservative members of Parliament have made it impossible for Parliament to debate that matter. The committee chair ran out, totally breaking the rules of Parliament, which are that one must call the vote on a challenge to the chair.

Another example is holding up many justice bills for months before bringing them before Parliament for debate.

Part of the problem of getting things done in Parliament is the process used to develop bills. A witness told me when the justice committee was in Toronto that the normal process in developing bills was that experts would work on them for years, would make recommendations to the government, and vast consultations to deal with all the problems would be done, but that was not being done with those justice bills.

As a result, we have all sorts of witnesses to give all sorts of reasons as to why a bill is either totally wrong or requires all sorts of amendments to be fixed. A perfect example of that is related to the aboriginal human rights bill, which is only a dozen words long. It is written so badly and there was such poor consultation, it took the government over a year to get it partly through the process.

The Conservatives have now withdrawn the bill because they cannot get it through at all. Everyone in Parliament wants it and it could be done very simply. The government should have simply consulted and put in the five or six items that aboriginal people across Canada mentioned were needed in those consultations.

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3:10 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, less than two months ago the Liberal critic for democratic reform said, “So far, on the justice end of it, they look like pretty good appointments and I am glad they”—meaning the Conservative government—“are filling the vacancies”.

We saw the odd spectacle of the member for Yukon speaking to Bill C-31 on judges saying that he wanted unanimous consent from all parties to pass the bill, then his own Liberal colleagues denied him that consent.

I put the question to the member for Yukon, what is going on over there?

We have seen the delay that has taken place in the justice committee. Thankfully we have already passed Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, but there are other bills that need to pass to address crime and victims of crime.

Now a bill that we all support is being delayed in this House. What is going on over there?

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the member made the same mistake the previous Conservative member made. I just explained that for months and months the Conservative Party has held up Parliament. It has delayed bills and stymied committees so that Parliament does not work, and he is asking why a few members here do not speak to a bill.

The member is right that this bill is universally accepted. What is not universally accepted is the terrible treatment of judges by the government. Every member of this House has a right to speak about that.

Once the Conservatives came in, they reduced the judges' pay when Parliament had already approved it. They removed their tools and the range of sentences they could give. The committee that appoints judges was changed so that the minister could have a majority of people on that committee, which totally destroyed the sense that there was any division between the judiciary and the executive branch of government. People were so upset that the chief justices of the Supreme Court had to intervene and condemn the government.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the members of the justice committee had an opportunity to hear from the department on Bill C-31. One of the issues that came up during debate was the necessity of having additional salaries for up to 20 judges. The case was made province by province, it was an existing situation, and there was concern that the growth of population and the other key factors indicated there was going to be even further demands for additional judges.

The question for the hon. member is whether or not the Department of Justice officials, the Minister of Justice, or whoever presented to the justice committee were able to explain why it took two years before they tabled this one clause bill in the House for debate. Have they indicated whether or not there is any mechanism established to more carefully monitor the demands of the system and as more judges are needed they are identified and put in place on a timely basis so that we have an effective operation of our court systems?

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the member made an excellent point, that it took two years just to get these 20 judges. As I mentioned, there are 31 vacancies in the system already which the government could have dealt with, more judges than this entire bill would allow. If the government was so worried, as the last two questioners suggested, about getting this bill through this afternoon, over the last two years it could have appointed judges and filled those 31 vacancies. As the member very wisely pointed out, the government could have come up with a system of evaluating things in the future so this problem does not occur again. This is particularly cogent for the present government that has so many justice bills that could have such a big effect on the justice system.

We asked in committee and in the House what analysis was done on the expenses that this would require in the penal system and the prison system and the costs of all these bills. If they are going to be implemented, there are also ramifications. We were always told there was no analysis available for us, that it looked at this and there was very little put in the estimates for the increased cost of doing this. That is when the provinces had to finally push the government.

In the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, especially family law and youth justice cases were getting way behind. It is very important that custody cases involving small children and babies not be held up. One case in New Brunswick was held up for eight months. Another problem related to appointing judges was that some bilingual judges retired and unilingual judges were appointed in New Brunswick and they could not be helpful in all the cases.

There was a big problem in Nunavut. It is very difficult to get to a number of the ridings. Six of the judges are for specific claims, which of course everyone agrees is a problem that needs to be solved. This is a good move by the government. There are a lot of questions about those things. There are so many claims, how are they going to be resolved with only six full time equivalents. I think there are 18 judges involved. What are the qualifications of these judges?Aboriginal people are raising questions in committee about the qualifications of the judges. Do aboriginal people have a say in appointing judges? In disputes between the Canadian government and the first nations government, will there be a neutral person?

What to me is most upsetting about this or what at least needs to be debated in more detail is that there is no level of appeal. There is only one other instance in Canadian jurisprudence and administrative law where there if no appeal that I am aware of, and that is related to refugee allocation. In the entire court system there are mechanisms for appeal.

In this particular case if people think there is no appeal, they have had no say in appointing the judges, they have had no sense of their qualifications, then they are going to be wary about bringing forward their specific claims, leaving a whole list of problems that we all want to get solved as quickly as possible.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this very important bill. Bill C-31 would help correct some of the problems in the judicial system.

We do not have the judges that we need in place, and I find that many of us are certainly interested in seeing this legislation go forward, but in response to the issue about us speaking to what we support, I think that is part of our job. Many of us knew that Bill C-31 was going to be coming up today for debate and we took some time over the weekend to prepare our notes. Frankly, once we had done that work, we wanted to be on record as indicating our support or opposition to it. We are clearly not using delaying tactics. We are not interested in delaying anything.

I am pleased to be able to speak to Bill C-31. I have been listening very carefully to the remarks from my colleagues on all sides of the House and I will continue the debate.

Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Judges Act, would amend the Judges Act to authorize the appointment of 20 new judges to provincial and territorial superior trial courts. It is unfortunate that the bill does not allow for appointments for the remaining 31 vacancies that need to be moved forward. I can understand the delay, but at the same time, this is only a one page bill, and it would have been better to look at all the vacancies that currently exist to avoid further delays.

The Liberal Party of course supports the effort to appoint additional judges to deal with increasing backlogs in the superior court system, something that we cannot allow to continue for much longer, but the bill does nothing to address some of the concerns that we have raised in the past regarding the minority Conservative government's attack on judicial independence, something that I believe is the pride and joy of Canada. It is something that we are very proud of and it is something that all of us in the House must work for to make sure that it is treasured and is not interfered with.

My colleagues will remember that in February 2006 the minority Conservative government announced that for the very first time in Canadian history the next judicial appointee to the Supreme Court of Canada would be questioned at a public parliamentary hearing. The Liberal government established a four stage consultative approach and process for Supreme Court nominees, which the Conservatives have largely adopted, recognizing the strength and the values that were in that process. The critical difference is that the Conservatives have instituted public hearings for the nominee, something that is not always welcomed by some of them.

As Liberals, we are concerned about this public hearing process. It could become politicized and impinge on the dignity of the Supreme Court, an extremely important institution. We must make sure that the very best people serve on the Supreme Court. It should have nothing to do with politics. Appointments should be based completely on their qualifications and their ability to hear cases, rationalize them and make decisions that reflect all of Canada.

The Supreme Court is an independent judicial body. Judges need to be selected based on the overriding principle of merit, not on the political leanings of the government of the day. I will stand by that principle no matter which party is in power. When the Liberals return to power, I expect that we will follow the same process of ensuring that appointments of judges to the Supreme Court are done on merit, on their balanced opinions and on their ability to listen to the issues and make a decision that reflects all of Canada.

Although the Prime Minister claimed that he does not want to over-politicize the appointments process, in the same breath he expressed a specific preference for judges who will take a literalist interpretation of the Constitution. That is typical double-talk, or double-speak, as it is referred to, which does not stand up well when we are talking about appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada. This is the same Conservative government that stacked the judicial advisory councils to ensure that the justice minister's chosen representatives have a majority voice on every provincial judicial advisory board.

This is also the same government that has gone out of its way to make a large number of patronage appointments to Canada's judiciary, including the Prime Minister's former campaign manager in New Brunswick, a former president of the Conservative Party in Quebec, and last, the party's former chief money raiser in Alberta, who I would like to think had all of the qualifications and would bring a very positive approach to the Supreme Court. Clearly, however, when we read about his background this was done much more on a political basis than on the basis of who would best represent Canadians in the Supreme Court.

Even the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Beverley McLachlin, highly respected throughout Canada by all Canadians, has had reason to criticize the government for its attacks on judicial independence, but perhaps this is why the Conservative member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin attacked the integrity of the Canadian justice system and accused the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of saying that judges take on these “god-like powers”. That is quite a comment and is very reflective of the thinking of that individual member.

Those statements of that member were an insult to Canada's judges, our judicial system and the country as a whole. The Conservatives need to be concerned about all of these comments and I would hope that they would keep them under due consideration as the appointment processes come forward for the other 31 judges, which no doubt will have to come forward in the very near future.

However, come to think of it, the Conservatives need to be ashamed of the disgraceful comments made by a variety of their members, but let me go back to working to strengthen our judicial system, which is what we are talking about today, and the need for those judges to be appointed and the need to be assured by the government that those individuals are meeting the test of integrity, knowledge and balance as they go forward.

Despite promises to reform the process for judicial appointments, the Conservative government has only lowered the quality standards that had been put in place previously. Also, the Conservatives have changed the membership of the provincial judicial selection committees in order to facilitate the appointment of their own party supporters to fill vacancies across Canada. There is no doubt that they are recruiting them there rather than advertising and recruiting them through the legal system and so on, which has been done previously and has always worked very well for Canada.

As of January 2008, there are currently 31 judicial vacancies that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada is responsible for filling. That is a lot of vacancies to be sitting there when clearly we know that there have been cases thrown out across the country because of delays in the justice system. It is important to get judges in place who have the knowledge needed to deal with these important issues.

British Columbia currently has the highest number of vacancies, with 10 vacancies between the provincial court of appeal and the provincial supreme court. We all know about the issues in British Columbia, such as the issues of land claims and a variety of other issues that it is very important to deal with. There is just no way that it will be possible if we do not have judges in place who have the language and cultural understanding required, especially when they get into some of the aboriginal issues and the issues in and around the land claims file. They are very important in these communities. People need to feel that they are being heard and getting proper hearings from the various judges. Hence, we go back to the issue of the quality and qualifications of the various individuals who are appointed as judges.

The specific claims tribunal will have the authority to make binding decisions where specific claims brought forward by first nations are rejected for negotiation or where negotiations fail. This is an extremely important tribunal. Those who sit on that tribunal need to be able to understand the issues and the cultural background of various individuals and they need to be able to make proper decisions.

Various speakers in the House today have commented that people will not go forward on their land claims if they are not confident that the people listening, hearing the case and judging have the qualifications and the understanding of their particular issues.

Based on the federal government's analysis of the specific claims workload, which is quite tremendous and has accumulated while we have been waiting for judges to be appointed, it has been estimated that the new tribunal will require the equivalent of six full time judges to manage the claims they have in front of them. Each and every one of these claims is not something that can be decided in several days. It takes a huge amount of work and investigation by these judges. Therefore, six full time judges are needed just in this area to deal with the specific claims tribunal, which will be their own challenge to manage and go forward with.

These claims are also dispersed all across the country, with the greatest number, as I said, in British Columbia and with some of the most complex cases originating in Ontario and Quebec. It is anticipated that six new judges will be appointed to the superior courts of these provinces in proportion to their respective share of the specific claims caseload.

Again, though, I will go back to the fact that the bill is addressing only 20 of the many openings that are still there, waiting, in need of qualified judges to hear these claims and to render a decision on them. There are also the resources that are needed. This is also about the money required in regard to these appointments, required by the federal government as well as its provincial partners, which also have to assist in this issue.

It is intended that this infusion of new judicial resources will allow a number of the superior courts to free up their experienced judges so that they may be appointed to a specific claims tribunal roster. It would be very helpful if these 20 could get brought on very quickly in order to move this forward and see if they can offer some additional help. The roster will consist of up to 18 judges who will be appointed as tribunal members by the governor in council on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice.

As for passing this bill in the next few days and getting it through to the Senate for verification, this is still going to take some time. Then we have to go forward on the recommendations and governor in council appointments, which will take quite a bit more time, so it is not as if this is going to be up and running next week. We are quite probably talking about this being up and running by next year.

Again, it just shows the length of time that is required to get these kinds of bills through. This is why it is unfortunate that this bill is representing only 20 while leaving another 31 vacancies on what is a very important operation of the government in order to have justice move forward. These judges likely would be assigned on a part time basis to specific claims matters by the tribunal chair in consultation with the chief justices of the affected courts.

This is all very important. Our brave police cannot fight crime on their own. When convicting criminals, we need enough judges and enough people there to be able to hear these important cases. It takes the community, the police and judges to have an effective judicial system working in Canada.

The average length of a court case has increased from less than five months to more than seven months, putting an increased burden on the administration of justice. Again, justice delayed is justice denied.

Yet under the Conservative government our courts are staggered by dozens of judicial vacancies that have gone on for far too long. The Conservatives inherited a list of highly qualified individuals for judicial appointment. It was not a partisan list but a list of very qualified Canadians who had put forth their names, had gone through a very extensive screening process and were ready to assume their positions as judges.These individuals also had to pass a test of experience. The only test that they do not pass is the test of ideology imposed by the current government.

The Conservatives set out on a divisive republican-style campaign to stack the bench. The Law Society of Upper Canada is sounding the alarm. This is not coming from the politics of the Liberal Party or any other party. This is clearly coming from the Law Society of Upper Canada, a highly respected body that is on a continuous mission to fight on behalf of all Canadians.

The Law Society said quite clearly, when they sounded the alarm, that ideological or political considerations from anybody in any party in the House of Commons is unacceptable and should play no part in the judicial appointment process. Yet, the government continues to insist on the ideological litmus test. As a result, appointments are going unfilled. The backlog of cases continues to grow and criminals are not being convicted fast enough.

Our charter of rights guarantees us a right to a fair trial in a reasonable period of time. Not appointing judges undermines that right and could lead to even fewer convictions. For the safety of our communities, this must stop.

I think we are all well aware of several cases that have been thrown out. I refer, in particular, to my city of Toronto where the cases of people who were charged with everything from gun fights, to drug crimes and drug pedaling were thrown out of court because we did not have enough judges and those court cases were delayed. Clearly, that is an injustice to the communities that we all represent and to the families that are there.

We all know that the minority Conservative government is more interested in making headlines than taking concrete action to fight crime.

The Liberal Party is committed, has always been, and will continue to be committed to protecting our homes and our rights. We will pursue the right set of policies to fight crime for every person, for every family, and for every community of this great country that we have the privilege of representing.

We need to adopt a comprehensive and effective approach that deals with every aspect of fighting crime: preventing it, catching the criminals, and convicting the criminals through competent and quick administration. That is why we have committed to appoint more judges and are supporting Bill C-31.

In putting more police officers on the street, more prosecutors in the courts, protecting the most vulnerable, including children and seniors, and giving our youth more opportunities to succeed, it is a balance. There always has to be a balanced approach in dealing with this issue. All of the pieces of the puzzle have to be in place in order to ensure that continues.

The Liberals are going to support this legislation so that we can move forward and amend the Judges Act to authorize the appointment of the 20 new judges for provincial and territorial superior courts.

I am calling on the Conservative government to let the courts do their job and start appointing highly qualified judges free from ideological interference. This is an extremely important part of our judicial system. All individuals who go before a judge need to know they have had their effective day in court and that they will get a competent judge who will be rendering a deciding.

I would tell government members that I sincerely hope all the judges who get appointed from the passage of this bill will ensure they are there to represent Canada first and party politics will stay out of it, no matter what party is in power. When we get partisan politics going on in a judicial system I do not think we do justice for Canada or Canadians.

I am happy to support Bill C-31. I thank the House for the opportunity to keep the debate going and that I had a chance to deliver the comments I had worked on over the weekend. I look forward to the passage of Bill C-31.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Kootenay—Columbia B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, in the spirit of the speech that my friend just made where she said she did not want party politics to be part of this debate, I respect the fact that she did some work on her speech over the weekend and wanted to have an opportunity to express herself, but I am asking, could she possibly tell us if there is some reason why we keep having speakers from the Liberal Party?

She has already indicated, and we understand, that the Liberals are going to be voting in favour of this legislation. Combined with the government, it means that the legislation will pass. Hopefully, we will have the cooperation and the vote of the Bloc and NDP as well.

We should be getting on with business. Why do we not just move forward?

We are in agreement with the differences. Although I respectfully have a significant difference of opinion with her on what she was saying, nonetheless we are in favour of this in principle. My question to the member is, can we move forward please?

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3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I spent the weekend writing up my comments that I wanted to deliver today, I would expect there are others in the House who did the same thing. It certainly is not up to me to deny them the opportunity to get their comments on record on these issues.

Just because we agree, there are always points we all want to make about areas where we feel the government can do a better job and areas of concern when it comes to the politicization of the whole judicial process. These are issues that all of us care about, regardless of what riding or what part of the country we come from. It is important and we want to make our points on these issues, as I am sure many of the members of the government would do.

I am not sure how many members from my party still want to speak this afternoon, but I certainly would not want to take away their opportunity to state their points of view.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the member opposite, I believe all the parties in the House, except the Liberal Party, are done. Speaking to this, I understand there was an agreement that one speaker would be put up by the opposition. In fact, one of the members of the Liberal Party attempted to put forward a motion that this bill now pass in the House. However, members of the Liberal Party objected to that motion by their own member.

I wonder if we could have a clear answer on why the Liberals are filibustering this issue. Is it because Bill S-3 is coming up later on in the House and there is an attempt to delay debate on that?

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3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have not been part of a group or committee that has been involved with filibustering, but I understand that the Conservatives know all about it from what is happening on the other side of the House and in the procedure and House affairs committee. I actually sat in on the procedure and House affairs committee, which is the one that is trying to deal with the in and out issues. That is the only experience I have had with filibustering.

I came today with a prepared 20 minute speech and certainly wanted to deliver it. I know there is one other Liberal speaker who will be standing at some point. I cannot say whether that is the last speaker, but I certainly know that he is more than ready to deliver his comments on Bill C-31.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, it is humorous to hear two Conservatives talk about delaying Parliament for a couple of hours, to debate something as important as judges when they have been holding up committees. They have been filibustering and stonewalling the environment committee on making improvements to cutting greenhouse gases and also the investigation into Conservative members' spending in the last election with charges from Elections Canada.

The Conservative chair of the justice committee has walked out four times illegally at a time when he was required to call a vote. Witnesses have come from across Canada at great expense. It was shut down so we could not discuss the problems the Conservative Party was having. For the Conservatives to have the temerity to even get up and ask questions like that is very humorous.

I have a question regarding the bill. The member talked about the appointment of judges. She mentioned that Liberals are in favour of appointing more judges, which is great for two reasons: the backlog related to family law and the six specific claims judges. The Conservative Party has put us in an ambivalent position because of the perverted procedure for appointing judges. Now we are going to have to vote for a bill to appoint more judges but they are going to be appointed in a perverted procedure.

Changes were made. First, there were three categories in recommending judges. Of course there is a committee process, so there is the separation of judges and the executive. As everyone knows, it is very important to have a perception of separation and so there is this committee. The committee would recommend those who are not approved, those who are recommended, and those who are highly recommended. The minister took away the highly recommended category, which means there are only people who are recommended, so the decision is once again back with the minister, who is trying to distance himself from the procedure.

Second, another member was added to that committee so that the government now has a majority of members. He is getting the appointees recommended and then making the decision himself. I would like the member to comment on that.

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3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, whether we are talking about judges for the refugee board or judges for anything else that goes on in Canada, one of the things that I had to do when I was appointed minister of citizenship and immigration was to put in a process that was free of any partisanship completely. There was an extensive screening position that was put together by departmental officials that consisted of three avenues of screening. By the time the actual list got to cabinet for final approval, it had very little to do with “the minister and the political atmosphere”. It was meant to be the most qualified people that Canada has to appoint to these important committees to provide the best guidance and judgment.

I still think that was the very best thing that we could be doing as Canadians and as ministers of the Crown to ensure that as little politics play a part in all these appointments. They are far too critical. These appointments are not for two years. These appointments are for years, in and out of many of the different governments here. Whether the Liberals are in power or the Conservatives are in power, we want the very best people making those decisions on behalf of Canadians.

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3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I guess it is just a comment to clarify some of the misunderstandings in the House by some of the members opposite.

I wonder if the member is aware that at some of the committees she refers to the motion that was ruled out of order was on the advice of the leading legal counsel for the House of Commons. The majority, through their tyranny of games and whatnot, had ruled the chairman out of order on a perfectly legal ruling and that in fact is the cause of all the trouble at committees right now. Members of the opposition continually rule perfectly rightful rulings by chairs out of order to try to take over the committees.

I wonder if the member knows that to be true. I am sure she does because I know the member is honourable. I would ask if she is aware that the motion that was ruled out of order was actually attempted to be expanded to look into all of the advertising habits of all the parties and that motion was ruled in order, but the members opposite refused to do that. I am not sure the member is aware of that truth. I wonder if she could comment on that.

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3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I attended one of those meetings that was being filibustered. It was just an absolute waste of everybody's time.

However, let me tell members, we were there to discuss something that Elections Canada had pointed out. It was not the Bloc, or the NDP, or the Liberal Party that Elections Canada was talking about. Elections Canada clearly indicated that it had some very significant concerns that the Conservative government had broken the rules through its in and out process, and--

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3:45 p.m.

An hon. member

Allegedly.

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3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Allegedly, Mr. Speaker.

This is Elections Canada talking, though. This is not just a politician talking. This is Elections Canada that raised this issue about the in and out scheme and said that it wanted to look into it. It seems to me that it is a pretty legitimate role to look into that, to try to expand it so that it would then begin to look at other people. If the other parties had also been named by Elections Canada, then I would have supported that initiative.

However, in this particular case, Elections Canada said the Conservative government had violated the rules of election spending, and that is what the committee was trying to look at, so why add on other parties when the other parties clearly had not broken the rules?

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3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Judges Act. As others have indicated, the bill would amend the Judges Act to authorize the appointment of 20 new judges for provincial and territorial superior trial courts. As it states in the legislation, it moves the number up to 50 in the case of judges appointed to superior courts in the provinces other than appeal courts.

Our party supports efforts to appoint additional judges and we do that for many reasons. However, the additional appointments are not without some worry on our part, and others have outlined that before me as well. Contrary to what the current Prime Minister promised during the election, he has most often let his ideological bent get the best of him when it comes to making appointments.

I remember the appointments board he was going to have. When Parliament took its rightful position and decided that his favourite appointee did not meet the qualifications for that independent job, the Prime Minister picked up his toys and went home. Therefore, we do not have one of the most important parts of the Federal Accountability Act in place because the Prime Minister's ideological bent got the better of him.

It is the same when the Prime Minister makes appointments, that very often we believe not just are independent, but the appointees are strongly leaning toward the Prime Minister's ideological bent. That is certainly a worry. Now let me—

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3:50 p.m.

An hon. member

That's true.

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3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

As the member says, that is true and there is no question that is right.

However, what we have to understand in this Parliament the Prime Minister does not have a majority—