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House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question to the member for Burnaby—New Westminster will come after a comment and a brief reminder.

When he says that the NDP's position with regard to the Canada Elections Act is forward-looking and when he cites Quebec's legislation as an example, he is absolutely right. Quebec's legislation has been in use for 30 years now and it has produced results in terms of cleaning up political contributions.

I want to know if he can lift the fog that rolled in with his remarks.

The NDP member for Windsor—Tecumseh told us earlier that he was not overly concerned about the fact that the party will be liable for a debt incurred by a candidate who is unable to repay that debt, because if a candidate has little chance of being elected, it is very likely that banks will not give him or her a loan. Therefore, he thinks that asking the party to be liable for those debts is not really a problem.

However, in his remarks, this member shared our position, and our concern deals with the fact that a candidate who is unable to pay off a loan can force his or her party to take on that responsibility.

I would ask the member to clarify for us his party's position on this issue.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear. The third amendment would essentially mean that if a loan contracted by a local candidate or an official agent is not paid, it falls to the party headquarters.

We are opposed to this amendment for the reasons just stated. It puts all of the responsibility on the political party even though it may not have approved loans contracted in the ridings.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-29.

I am shocked by my colleague for Burnaby—New Westminster's response to my colleague for Chambly—Borduas in terms of a party's responsibility for loans contracted by candidates. My colleague just said that he was not in favour of this third amendment. I should point out that the amendments to the bill before us are a direct result of the NDP's change in position.

I do not necessarily want to dump on the NDP. We agree on certain things, but not in terms of this bill. There was a prior agreement. Given that I sit on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, I succeeded in getting this amendment in order to withdraw this provision. It has now returned to the bill, which means that the responsibilities and debts contracted by local candidates will become the responsibility of the party in the case of insolvency.

I am on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, a committee which is incidentally inoperative at the moment. A Conservative colleague was elected to replace the chair and member for Cambridge, whom a majority of the members had to kick out. Apparently he was not doing his job properly and impartially. A new chair was elected. Unfortunately this new chair resigned, and this means that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, because of the Conservatives, is inoperative.

On reading the bill, I noted this problem. I agree that a local candidate has a party banner to defend. Still, in the case of the Bloc Québécois, there are 75 ridings. There are more in the case of the so-called “national” parties. The Bloc Québécois is the national party of Quebeckers. We run candidates in the 75 ridings of Quebec. When we talk about 308 ridings and 308 Conservative, Liberal or New Democratic candidates, there is a coordination problem. How do we find out what is happening at the local level? An ill-advised candidate could make excessive, extravagant, totally crazy and inappropriate expenditures. I would even go so far as to say that he might exceed the limit provided for.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, somebody keeps yapping and that is distracting me. I realize that you yourself are so distracted that you cannot take down any notes about my speech.

So there could be a breach of the spending limit. The party might not know anything about it but would be responsible for the expenditures of this insolvent person. That is the point of this amendment. I have difficulty seeing the logic of my colleagues from the other parties.

That being said, I consider that we are democrats in the Bloc Québécois, and we will acknowledge the democratic decision of the House. Allow me, however, to express some misgivings that I have.

With regard to the general thrust of Bill C-29, the Bloc Québécois remains in favour of it on the third reading. We consider that it contains some interesting, though perfectible elements, given that by definition perfection does not exist in this lowly world.

We are in favour of it for two main reasons. First of all, we think that it is necessary to provide a framework for loans so as to avoid people getting around the spending limits. We realize this on analyzing certain leadership races, among both the Conservatives and the Liberals.

For example, the member for Toronto Centre, the new Liberal Party critic for foreign affairs, apparently received loans totalling $705,000, including a loan from his brother, John Rae, a former vice-president of Power Corporation, for $580,000 at 5% interest. He apparently lent himself $125,000.

The same goes for the current opposition leader, who is supposed to have received loans totalling $655,000 from various people: Mamdouh Stephanos, Marc de la Bruyere, Stephen Bronfman, Roderick Bryden, Christopher Hoffmann. In all, they amount to $655,000.

Since we are including everyone, the current Prime Minister still refuses to reveal who his contributors were during his run for party leadership in 2002. He refers us the web site of the party once called the Canadian Alliance. That party has changed names many times. First it was the Reform Party, then the Canadian Alliance, and now the Conservative Party. It reminds me of the new Coke: it is the same recipe, but in an improved version. It is actually quite confusing.

In any case, a Globe and Mail article on October 2, 2002, revealed that the current Prime Minister spent $1.1 million on his leadership campaign in 2002. According to the article, the Prime Minister said he had posted a partial list of his contributors on the Canadian Alliance web site, but in fact only those who contributed more than $1,075 were listed. Thus, there are many grey areas.

As for election spending limits regarding contributions from individuals, we know that corporate financing is no longer allowed. We support this. Such limits have always been a traditional demand of the Bloc Québécois, that is, since 1993, for one simple, good reason. The Act to govern the financing of political parties has been in force in Quebec since 1977 and has proven effective. It has helped clean up political and electoral funding practices.

I can still vividly recall former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien paying homage to the legacy of René Lévesque, who gave us Quebec's act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities and the referendum act, among others. I am sure it was not easy for Jean Chrétien to pay homage to René Lévesque.

It is not necessarily logical, and certainly not every day, that Mr. Chrétien would pay tribute to René Lévesque.

That is basically what I wanted to say in my allotted time. Question time is approaching, and I am sure that some of my colleagues have some interesting questions for me. I will be pleased to answer them to the best of my knowledge and abilities. I want to stress that we still support this bill, and that we will likely vote in favour of it.

However, we see some serious problems with the fact that parties are responsible for expenses incurred by candidates at the local level. It should be a given that when someone agrees to run for a particular political party, that individual takes responsibility for his or her own expenses.

It is also important to remember that election campaigns are fast-paced. People who work on an election campaign have a hectic life from morning to night, and that includes the researchers who work nights. It is seven days a week. It is not always possible for all expenses to receive approval from senior party officials. That could mean that, although the party has nothing to do with the expense, it could end up being responsible, which does not make sense and is completely unacceptable.

But regardless, the Bloc Québécois supports this bill overall.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to pursue a point that I raised earlier. It has to do with loans by a financial institution to a candidate. The deemed contributions provisions under 405.7 stipulates that the loan must be repaid by three years. However, if the amount has not been paid, there are four conditions under which it would be a deemed contribution. One of those is the loan has been written off by the lender as an uncollectable debt in accordance with the lender's normal accounting practices.

If that is the case, where there is a deemed contribution, a bank could loan $50,000 to a campaign, write it off and it becomes a deemed contribution. I did not think that was really the intent. I am not sure if I missed something in the legislation, but it would appear there would be a way in which banks could effectively contribute to candidates when corporate and union donations would be prohibited under previous changes to the act.

This concerns me, along with the issue that the loans or debts incurred by a candidate would ultimately turn out to be the responsibility of a riding association or a political party if they were unpaid. The member may have—

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has raised some serious issues. However, we remain convinced that the problem lies with the wording. It is all about the interpretation. Given that we are about to pass this bill, we believe that it would have been advantageous to improve the final wording of the bill in order to clear up any misunderstandings or errors of interpretation.

That is precisely why we have courts, to interpret the laws passed by parliaments. While travelling by plane, I had the opportunity to speak with a superior court judge, who told me that if parliamentarians would pass good, clear laws, there would be no need for the courts to interpret them. We recognize the independence of the judiciary and the executive. The judiciary only interprets the laws that are drafted by this Parliament.

It would have been better to have obtained further clarifications. However, I greatly appreciate my colleague's comments.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nordon his speech.

He spoke about transparency in the financing of political parties and touched on the transparency in financing for the leadership races of major parties, giving as an example his observations about a party that opened its books, and we need only think of the leader of the official opposition.

What we have been able to obtain is quite revealing and that is appropriate because this information should be available to citizens.

He also gave the example of the leader of the government, that is the Prime Minister, who did not open his books and, once again, muddied the waters as much as possible so that citizens know nothing.

I would like to ask my colleague this question: in the near future, should we not put measures in place—especially when dealing with a party leader or a leadership race—to ensure that transparency and information be required?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. It is the principle that I have adapted to fit this situation: tell me who your backers are and I will tell you who you are. Human nature being what it is, it can be easy to reward or help those who helped us. It is called returning the favour.

If everything was done in the full light of day for everyone to see—in an open and transparent manner—it would not leave any questions unanswered.

The same thing could be said for the Couillard affair. Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, you will invoke the relevance rule to interrupt me, but you will be interrupting me in the next few seconds anyway. By not allowing the ministers and the Prime Minister to appear before the committee, the government is sowing the seeds of doubt.

Last weekend, I took part in eight events. People are asking us what the Conservatives have to hide and why they do not want to tell the truth.

It could be the same for leadership races.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

There are four minutes left for questions and comments on the member's speech, but we must proceed now to statements by members.

Canada Millennium ScholarshipsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to recognize three exceptional students from my riding of Lambton--Kent--Middlesex. Each has won a millennium scholarship through the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation.

They are: Danika Teeple, from Arkona, who attends North Lambton Secondary School; Celina Flannery, from Komoka, who attends Medway High School; and Lucy Hinton, from Strathroy, who attends Strathroy District Collegiate Institute.

All have displayed excellence in the classroom and beyond. These young women have been chosen in a nationwide competition for three of only 1,052 scholarships that have been awarded to students across Canada.

The competition is based on outstanding achievement in four key areas: academic performance, community service, leadership, and innovation.

I wish to express congratulations to each of the winners. I wish them the best for a safe and enjoyable summer and a successful and very bright future.

ChinaStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, China is important to Vancouver Quadra, to Canada and to the global economy.

World leaders from France, Britain and Australia get it. Our Prime Minister does not.

As the world's second largest economy, China represents enormous economic opportunities for Canada.

Why, then, does our Prime Minister ignore the importance of our relationship with China? Since he has been in office, he has never once travelled to that country. He has travelled to Europe, to South America and to other regions, yet China is not even on his radar.

Like President Bush, Prime Minister Harper continues to indulge in ideological behaviour that further distances China from North Americans.

I call on the Prime Minister to recognize the importance of China. I call on him to engage, not insult, Chinese leaders and to lead a trade delegation to that country at the soonest possible opportunity for the benefit of Canadians.

ChinaStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I remind hon. members that mentioning other hon. members by name is not in order. I would urge them to comply with the rules in that respect.

The hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville.

Seniors Community CentreStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, our seniors community centre is celebrating 25 years of operation. Congratulations.

Our seniors need assistance, support, information and respect. They often become casualties of excessively fast-paced and hurried lives that leave us with very little time and room for immediate family. Thus, they live in insecurity and isolation. They have given a lot and in return are entitled to receive protection, care and affection.

For them, the Amis de Lamater seniors community centre is a sanctuary. For them, it is a resource. I extend my thanks to the centre's director general, directors, staff, volunteers and users, and wish them all a very happy anniversary. Our community needs them. In Terrebonne, they are a must.

Manufacturing IndustryStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, for more than a century Windsor has been the automotive centre of Canada and manufacturing has been the lifeblood of the local economy. Yet since May 2002, the area has lost more than 17,700 manufacturing jobs.

Chrysler, Ford and GM have all announced layoffs and closures. The loss of jobs at these large facilities has meant losses for dozens of smaller manufacturing companies, including Industrialex Manufacturing, Diageo, The Precision Group, Southern Wire Products, Lamb Technicon, Hallmark Tool and Die, Windsor Tool and Die, and Plastex, to name only a few. They have been forced to lay off workers and in many cases to outright close their doors.

These job losses come with very real consequences. In concert with the loss of revenue that employment generates for much needed services comes the very personal cost of layoffs.

There is very little disagreement within the auto sector of what needs to be done, the roles that all the participants in the sector need to play and, in particular, the need for a partnership with the federal government.

The thousands of men, women and children in my community who are facing the negative consequences of the manufacturing crisis deserve more than the government's empty rhetoric that blames the problem on sectoral adjustments or restructuring. They deserve action now.

World Elder Abuse Awareness DayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, since 2006 we have recognized June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day as a means to promote action against elder abuse.

This year, Ottawa was chosen to host an international conference for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2008. This is recognition of the significant action this government has taken on this issue.

Discussion of the Canadian experience at the conference today and tomorrow will set the stage for further action around the world.

This government is helping to combat all forms of elder abuse: physical, financial, psychological and sexual. In budget 2008, our government announced significant investments to help raise awareness of elder abuse and to assist seniors in dealing with this difficult issue.

As part of this funding, a national awareness campaign will be launched this fall.

Seniors from all walks of life are vulnerable to abuse. It is happening in communities across Canada.

I invite all Canadians to help combat elder abuse by keeping their eyes open and refusing to ignore this problem.

Canada PostStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, Canada Post is conducting a review of all rural mailboxes in Canada to address safety concerns.

Home mail delivery is an important quality of life issue for rural Canadians. It must be protected.

Losing home delivery can be devastating, particularly for seniors who rely on mail to stay connected but cannot always drive into town to pick up their mail.

I have met with the minister responsible for Canada Post and also with the president of the Canada Post Corporation, Moya Greene. Both have assured me that they will make every effort to save rural home mail delivery.

I have urged Canada Post to work with provincial departments of transportation to address road safety issues. Canada Post has now confirmed that it will make every effort to do so. I urge provincial governments to cooperate fully with Canada Post to save home mail delivery.

Will the government stand up and defend home mail delivery as an essential service for Canadians?

Bloc QuébécoisStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the Bloc's anniversary.

We all remember the coalition's beginnings. The Bloc leader said that the Bloc's role was to close files. Given the number of files our government has closed, it would appear the Bloc has failed.

The Bloc believed it had power. Eighteen years on, the Bloc has succeeded in changing the names of two ridings.

The Bloc wanted to achieve sovereignty via Ottawa. Now, however, many members of the Bloc fear that they have instead improved federalism.

The Bloc was supposed to build momentum for the sovereignist cause. Now, however, the referendum has been put off indefinitely.

The Bloc was supposed to be very, very temporary. Now, however, Bloc members tell themselves that the longer they stay here, the better their pensions.

Despite its record of failure, the members of the Bloc seem to be quite content to still be in Ottawa. After all, they are contributing to their pension funds, collecting their salaries and taking advantage of their benefits, all without having to make one single decision.

Now that it is 18 years old, I would invite the leader of the Bloc to acknowledge that his party is powerless and utterly empty-handed.

Fernand OuelletteStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, on June 23, in Paris, Mr. Fernand Ouellette, who is one of my constituents, will receive the Grand Prix international de poésie de langue française Léopold-Sédar-Senghor. This award was created in honour of the poet, writer and first president of Senegal.

This is a major recognition for Fernand Ouellette, who is one of Quebec's most prominent poets, and who just published a book of poems written between 1997 and 2002, entitled Présence du large.

This exceptional writer has published some 40 books, and he has received many awards, including the Prix Athanase-David, the Governor General's literary award on three occasions, the prix Ludger-Duvernay, and the prix Gilles-Corbeil of the Fondation Émile-Nelligan.

He also became a Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Québec in 2005.

On behalf of my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I congratulate Mr. Fernand Ouellette.

Bloc QuébécoisStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, in 1990, I remember, the series Les filles de Caleb debuted, and Guy Carbonneau was the captain of the Montreal Canadiens.

At the time, the founder of the Bloc said that his coalition would be temporary, and that it would help improve the winning conditions. Eighteen years later, the times have changed: the PQ is no longer even talking about a referendum, and the Bloc is still trying to justify its presence here in Ottawa.

After playing armchair quarterback for 18 years, what is the Bloc's plan? Asking 4,000 questions without ever getting anything done? Finding 450 different ways to ask about the sponsorship scandal without being able to put an end to it? Making more than 700 empty promises to Quebeckers?

The day the Liberal leader finally takes a stand, Quebeckers will be better able to see the relevance of the Bloc here in Ottawa. The moment of truth is fast approaching.

Gilles PatryStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I want to acknowledge the excellent university presidency of Dr. Gilles Patry, a skilled manager and talented academic.

An outstanding researcher and board member of a number of prestigious agencies, it is as president and vice-chancellor of the University of Ottawa since August 2001 that he made his mark on the university, my alma mater.

Under his stewardship, the University of Ottawa grew from 24,000 to over 35,000 students, added numerous academic programs to its roster, surpassed the $200 million goal for its most recent capital campaign, and is now ranked fifth in the country for research investments.

Gilles Patry has always been an approachable man despite his heavy responsibilities. Under his watch, the ivory tower became a welcoming beacon and Ontario's francophonie is the better for it.

We wish to express our sincere appreciation to Dr. Patry and his wife, Ruby Heaps, and wish them all the very best in the years to come.

Bloc QuébécoisStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the one-mandate party is celebrating its 18th anniversary. I would have this to say:

The time has come, my dear Bloc Québécois, to accept your powerlessness.

The time has come, my dear Bloc Québécois, to turn to the PQ since that is what you want.

The time has come, my dear Bloc Québécois, to justify your relevance.

The time has come, my dear Bloc Québécois, to explain your empty hands.

The time has come, my dear Bloc Québécois, to justify your empty promises.

The time has come, my dear Bloc Québécois, to explain your inconsistency.

The time has come, my dear Bloc Québécois, to be accountable.

The time is long past, my rich Bloc Québécois friends, for sitting on your salaries and your pensions.

The time will soon come, my dear Bloc Québécois, when Quebeckers will judge you for your inaction.

Grandmothers to Grandmothers CampaignStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, June is Seniors' Month and I want to take a moment to recognize the incredible work being done by grandmothers across Canada in the fight against HIV-AIDS in Africa.

Over 13 million children in sub-Saharan Africa alone have been orphaned by AIDS. Grandmothers are at the heart of the response to the AIDS pandemic in Africa, as they often care for and bury their own children while parenting their grandchildren as well.

In March 2006 the Stephen Lewis Foundation launched the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, which was designed to raise awareness in Canada about the plight of Africa's grandmothers and to mobilize support.

Today over 200 groups of its kind have sprung up in Canada. These grandmothers campaign tirelessly to raise awareness, build solidarity with their counterparts in Africa and raise the critical funds needed to fight this devastating disease. We recently hosted such an event in my riding of Parkdale--High Park.

African grandmothers are the silent victims of this pandemic, but I am honoured to report that our grandmothers here in Canada have taken up the fight and continue to do all they can to ease this overwhelming burden.

UN High Commissioner for Human RightsStatements By Members

June 16th, 2008 / 2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Glen Pearson Liberal London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, next month, one of the most accomplished individuals to serve this country overseas is leaving her post as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a job she has performed with distinction since 2004.

Madam Arbour's international career began in 1996 as the chief prosecutor of war crimes before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and for the former Yugoslavia, in The Hague.

A justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and an advocate of justice around the world, Louise Arbour has served her country in the cause of human rights with courage and dedication.

Sadly, too many have remained silent on the accomplishments of this great Canadian.

Canada owes Madam Arbour a great debt of thanks.

We on this side of the House cannot let this occasion pass without comment. On behalf of the Liberal opposition and all Canadians, let me express congratulations and thanks to Madam Louise Arbour for a life of service to Canada and the world.