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House of Commons Hansard #71 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provisions.

Topics

Export Development Canada

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table the Auditor General's report on the design and implementation of Export Development Canada's environmental review directive and other environmental review processes.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(g), this report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Information Commissioner

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table the annual reports on the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act of the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada for the year 2008-09.

These documents are deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-37, An Act to amend the National Capital Act and other Acts.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

An Act Creating One of the World's Largest National Park ReservesRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of the Environment

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-38, An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act to enlarge Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

In accordance with the order of reference of Wednesday, April 22, your committee has considered Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years), and agreed on Monday, June 8, to report it with amendment.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women in relation to the consequences and effects the current employment insurance programs have on women in Canada.

The report came out of a study by the committee, which looked at the impact that the current recession is having on women and specifically at how increased unemployment is affecting them.

Canadian Mission in AfghanistanCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan, following the recent fact-finding trip to Washington, entitled “Visit to Washington, D.C.”.

Income Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-411, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (removal of charge).

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in this House today, with my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan, to introduce a bill that I think all members of Parliament will find a very straightforward and agreeable bill.

It is a bill to amend the Income Tax Act, particularly where a charge, lien or priority on a binding interest on a property has been created, and where the minister has reason to believe it will be in the public interest to remove the lien on these buildings to allow for redevelopment, and that the minister may, in accordance with regulations, discharge the lien, priority or interest.

The bill refers to the problem that we are facing in many of our communities where buildings have been abandoned and liens have been put on them. At a certain point they become unsellable. The buildings are left to deteriorate. Nobody wants to assume the redevelopment of properties or brownfield sites because of the heavy liens on them. We end up with many buildings being left derelict and falling apart.

In 2006, the province of Ontario amended the income tax act to allow the province to discharge liens, to return them to the municipality so that properties could be redeveloped.

Support for this bill comes from a number of organizations. The National Brownfield Redevelopment Strategy for Canada has spoken about this. The Timmins Chamber of Commerce, in terms of the issue of redevelopment of downtowns, and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy have all spoken of the need to have a plan so that the minister, when it is in the public interest, can discharge liens on abandoned brownfields and abandoned derelict buildings.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Iran Accountability ActRoutine Proceedings

June 9th, 2009 / 10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-412, An Act to combat incitement to genocide, domestic repression and nuclear armament in Iran.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce the Iran Accountability Act, seconded by my colleague from York Centre.

This is an important legislative measure to combat incitement to genocide, domestic repression and nuclear armament in Iran.

Simply put, Canada must not indulge the state sanctioned incitement to genocide, the impunities that attends it and the weaponization that underpins it.

Specifically, the Iran Accountability Act divests Canada from investment in Iran; establishes a mechanism to monitor incitement in Iran; renders the most virulent inciters inadmissible to Canada; freezes the assets of those who contribute to Iran's nuclear or military infrastructure as well as its machinery of hate; uses the framework of the international community, including Canada's bilateral relationships and the United Nations, to bring Iran to justice through recognized principles of international law; and targets Iran's dependence on imported petroleum.

I want to say that this bill targets the Iranian regime and not the great Iranian civilization or the Iranian people, who are increasingly victims of the repressive regime in that country.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Iran Accountability ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to ask for unanimous consent of the House to revert to presenting reports from interparliamentary delegations.

Iran Accountability ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is there unanimous consent to revert?

Iran Accountability ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the Canada-NATO Parliamentary Association respecting its participation and visit to Paris and Nancy, France, by the Defence and Security Committee Subcommittee on Transatlantic Defence and Security Co-operation, held in Paris and Nancy, France, April 27 to 29, 2009.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to move the following motion. I move:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 27(1), except for Friday, June 12 and Friday, June 19, 2009, commencing on Wednesday, June 10, 2009 and concluding on Tuesday, June 23, 2009, the House shall continue to sit until 10 p.m.

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by stating what might be obvious to folks who watch the proceedings of Parliament closely. By and large, I would have to say that this session of Parliament has been quite amicable and cooperative. I appreciate the efforts by the opposition to help the government get its agenda through Parliament.

As I recently said at a fundraising event for the Children's Bridge Foundation, I was reflecting on this place and reflected that this truly is the house of the common people. I also reflected on that word “common”. I thought that during the time of a minority Parliament, it is important for all of us to reflect on what we have in common: the things that we share as legislators regardless of our partisan differences. Regardless of what it is we want to see for Canada, I do believe very sincerely that all legislators and parliamentarians have the best interests of the country at heart.

I think that it is important that we try to work on those things that we have in common. I believe that there have been many instances in the last five or six months in this place when we have done that. I want to begin my remarks by commending the opposition for oftentimes trying to look beyond partisan differences, look to what we have in common, and actually accomplish things for the people of Canada.

While I am pleased with the progress that we have made thus far, not only as a government but as a Parliament working collectively, there is much more that we can accomplish for Canadians. As I have been saying about this cooperative atmosphere that is sometimes prevalent here, I think that some people who watch the daily proceedings of the House of Commons would actually dispute that.

If one were to watch the 45-minute question period every day, one might be surprised to hear me say that we actually work cooperatively and quite well together. While question period serves an important purpose and is the main focus for the media, no acts are amended, no new laws are created, and no funds for important programs are approved during that period of time.

Today, for example, there are 285 minutes dedicated for government legislation and 60 minutes for private members' business. Lots of time and effort goes into these minutes each day. More importantly, they can also be productive minutes. Thus far this session, our House has passed some 25 bills, including Bill C-33, which restores war veterans allowances to Allied veterans and their families. This required all-party consent and we all agreed that this was in the best interests of not only our veterans but the country.

Bill C-14, our bill to fight organized crime, is currently before committee in the other place. Bill C-29, the agricultural loans bill, will guarantee an estimated $1 billion in loans over the next five years to Canadian farm families and cooperatives. This is all important legislation that we worked together on to further it along the parliamentary agenda.

Our Standing Orders include a specific provision for the extension of sitting hours during the last two sitting weeks in June. In fact, I reflect on my 16 years in this place. It has often been a point of confusion when members, and especially rookie members, look at the calendar and see the last couple of weeks with asterisks beside the dates. They think that those weeks are disposable somehow, but they are not. They are that way because the government has the right to serve, without notice, the motion that I am moving today to extend hours and work into the evening.

At this point in my remarks, I also want to inject the fact that up until quite recently in parliamentary history, the House of Commons sat into the evening for debate almost every night. It has been a relatively new phenomenon that we do not have evening sittings. The only exceptions to that in the recent Parliaments have been for emergency debates or take note debates. Other than that, we do not usually sit in the evenings. It is quite a new phenomenon.

What I am moving today is not something unusual. These rules provide a mechanism to advance government business before members leave Ottawa to work in their constituencies over the summer.

We have a lot of important work to do before the House rises for the summer. After we subtract the three days for opposition supply days and the time for private members' business, we only have 33 hours and 45 minutes remaining to complete our government business before the House rises on the evening of June 23.

Extending the House sitting hours over the next two weeks would allow us to make progress on government bills, such as: Bill C-26, legislation to tackle property theft, which we expect to receive back from the justice committee this week; Bill C-34, the protecting victims from sexual offenders act, which would strengthen the national sex offender registry to provide the police with more effective tools to protect children from sexual predators; Bill C-35, the justice for victims of terrorism act; Bill C-36, which would repeal the faint hope clause in the Criminal Code so that criminals who commit first or second degree murder will no longer be able to apply for early parole; and Bill C-6, the consumer products safety bill, which was reported from committee yesterday. Adopting this bill would protect the health and safety of Canadians by allowing the recall of unsafe consumer products. I urge members to adopt that bill with the utmost speed when we call it for debate later this week.

Other bills we would like to make progress on include: Bill C-32, which cracks down on tobacco marketing aimed at youth, which received unanimous support at second reading and we hope that health committee can report the bill back shortly so that the House can consider its passage before the summer; and Bill C-23, the Colombia free trade bill.

While not unanimous, I am grateful for the support of most members opposite in enabling the House to pass Bill C-24, the Peru free trade bill. Both Bill C-24 and Bill C-23 would expand market access for Canadian companies at a difficult time. I inject that this is especially important to our farmers who will have new marketing opportunities open up for them because of these two free trade bills.

This is just some of the important work to be done on our government's commitments. It does not take into account additional new legislation that we continue to introduce every week.

I notice the justice minister is sitting here and nodding as I relay a number of justice bills. The Minister of Justice has been extremely active in bringing forward a succession of important justice reforms. This is one of the reasons that I ran for Parliament 16 years ago. I know many legislators on both sides of the House hold near and dear to their hearts the importance of protecting victims and their families and of reforming and changing the justice system in our country to ensure that criminals are held accountable for their actions.

My intent regarding this period of extension would be, and I have discussed this with the opposition House leaders and whips, to set a goal each day as to what we wanted to accomplish. When we accomplished that goal, we would adjourn for the day. Even though the motion says that we would sit until 10 o'clock Monday to Thursday, it may not be necessary to sit until 10. We could work co-operatively and collectively together. If we actually achieved our goals that day at 7 o'clock or 7:20 p.m., we would see the clock at 10 and the House would rise. I think that is reasonable.

I am asking for a simple management tool to maximize our progress with the weeks that are left, a little over two weeks. I am not asking for a shortcut. I am not asking to curtail debate. I am proposing that we work a little harder to get the job done. As I said, I believe I am making a reasonable approach of adjourning each day after we meet modest goals. All parties would agree to these goals. This is not a blank cheque. I cannot adjourn the House without support from the opposition, nor can I prevent an adjournment motion from being adopted without opposition support. The motion has co-operation built right into it.

Sitting late in June is part of the normal process, as I referred to earlier. It is one of the procedures required to make Parliament work and be more efficient. According to the Annotated Standing Orders of the House of Commons:

Although this Standing Order dates back only to 1982, it reflects a long-standing practice which, in its variations, has existed since Confederation. The practice has meant that in virtually every session since 1867, in the days leading up to prorogation or, more recently, to the summer adjournment, the House has arranged for longer hours of sitting in order to complete or advance the business still pending.

A motion pursuant to Standing Order 27 has only been refused once and that was last year. Even under the minority government of Paul Martin, the motion had sufficient opposition support to be adopted. There is bound to be some business that one opposition party wants to avoid, but generally there should be enough interest on the part of the opposition to get legislation passed before the summer recess.

The House leader of the official opposition is often on his feet after question period trying to get speedy passage to some of our justice bills. Here is a chance for him, and collectively Parliament, to actually get that done.

The NDP members complain that we accuse them of delaying legislation when all they want to do, or so they say, is put up a few more speakers to a bill. Here again we are giving them the opportunity to do exactly that.

I am therefore seeking the support of all members to extend our sitting hours so that we can complete work on important bills which will address the concerns of Canadians before we adjourn for the summer.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government House leader has laid out very clearly some of the background and opportunities that the extension of sitting hours brings.

He listed the bills which he recognized to be important legislation that we need to move forward. He emphasized important legislation. One of the bills that is not on the list is Bill C-8 regarding matrimonial real property. A hoist motion was moved on that bill. The hoist motion was not successful. However, that should have indicated to the government that this important matter relating to aboriginal Canadians was something that should be dealt with.

The member will know that the bill did not enjoy the support of any first nations group or aboriginal women's group. I would simply ask the House leader if it is the government's position that Bill C-8 is not an important bill, and if so, will he withdraw that bill and commence proper negotiations and consultations with first nations?

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague indicated, there are a number of bills before the House. Obviously I did not have the chance or I would have taken a couple of hours to go through all of them and the various stages they are at. I expressed my appreciation to the opposition for the co-operation we have had thus far.

To encapsulate what has unfolded since early February, we are currently at the point where we have introduced 41 bills in this Parliament, some of them in the Senate but the majority in the House. Nine of them have received royal assent, in other words passed into law thus far. Two bills are awaiting royal assent. Sixteen of the bills are in the Senate. Four of those 16 actually originated there. That comprises 27 of the 41 bills. That means 14 bills are in various stages on the House side. As I said in my remarks, we are still introducing additional bills.

On the specific question of Bill C-8, we understand there is opposition to this piece of legislation. That is why we worked very hard with the opposition to try to get agreement to send it to committee where it could receive a thorough review and witnesses could be called. However, for whatever reason, a minority of the opposition wanted to combine to try to defeat the bill by moving a hoist motion. Fortunately, that did not happen.

It would still be my intent to call that bill, have more debate and hopefully get it to committee where it could be studied thoroughly. We on the government side believe it is only right that we extend the same rights and protection to aboriginal women on reserve that other Canadian women have.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons said that the government had introduced a number of bills. I have to say that the legislative agenda is not full enough to warrant extended sitting hours. I will explain what I mean later in my speech, but I want to express my opinion and ask the House leader a question. He had set a number of goals about a number of bills that he felt should receive royal assent by June, and he shared those goals with us at the meetings of the leaders and whips. All these bills, except one, are currently in the Senate. So from that standpoint, he has achieved nearly all his goals.

We had been told that certain bills had to be sent to the Senate by June before they could receive royal assent. Four bills had been identified. Two are currently in the Senate, while the House is still discussing the other two, but we could certainly come to an agreement on them. One bill was to be reported on by the appropriate committee, and that will be done. Three problematic bills remain. One has been mentioned, and that is Bill C-8, An Act respecting family homes situated on First Nation reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures and lands situated on those reserves. The other two are Bills C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions) and C-23, the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. We disagree on these three bills, and we want to have in-depth debates on them.

Does the member think it would be reasonable for the opposition to agree to extend the sitting hours when the only bills likely to be debated during those extended hours are the bills that are the most problematic for the opposition? I think that that is not reasonable and that he will agree with me that we cannot agree to this blank cheque.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I say with the utmost respect to my hon. colleague, the House leader for the Bloc Québécois, that in his remarks he made my exact point of the need for the extension of hours.

He named the three bills that have been somewhat problematic to get agreement on from both sides of the chamber: Bill C-8, the matrimonial real property bill, to which my Liberal colleague referred as well; Bill C-19, investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions bill; and Bill C-23, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement bill.

He went on to say that he would like to see some debate in depth. That is exactly what can be accomplished by extending the hours. I say that with all sincerity and reasonableness. If those bills are problematic, then why not work a little bit harder for Canadians?

We all know that Canadians are hurting. Canadians are struggling right now. They want to see this Parliament work. As I stated throughout my remarks, by and large Parliament has been working. We have been getting legislation through the House.

As I say, he made the actual point that I have been trying to make in that we need to have the additional time with only some 33 hours remaining of debate time for government legislation before the House rises. I do not think it is unreasonable to extend the hours and have a few more hours to debate bills like those.

I also referred to the House leaders and the whips. Quite some time ago, weeks ago in fact, I said that we would be introducing additional legislation. In particular, the Minister of Justice has been doing that. We will also have other legislation that was not on the list, as I said, which we would like to see debated before the House rises.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened very carefully to what the government House leader has had to say today.

We were aware that he was planning to move the motion pursuant to Standing Order 27(1). I will go into it in more detail when I have the opportunity to speak to the motion.

I was interested to hear him say that he wants to set a goal each day of what we, meaning the government, want to accomplish. I know he is carefully trying to build the case as to why we should have these extended hours, but if we look at the record of what has taken place in the House, the fact is that the government has already seen the passage of about 65% of its legislation. We do have 10 sitting days left. There are probably seven bills, two of which are a problem for sure, and of those bills a number of them are relatively minor.

I know the government House leader is trying to build this big case that this is the public business that has to go through. The moving of this motion and saying that the government will unilaterally set the goal each day of what comes up and how long we sit, up to 10:00 p.m., to get through whatever it is the government wants to accomplish, strikes me as something that is very dictatorial and unilateral in its approach.

The government is one party of four parties in this House. Does the government House leader not recognize that there has been very speedy passage of a whole number of bills? What remains is not that much in terms of the government's overall agenda, so his rationale for a motion is very shaky. It is very superficial and does not have much to go on.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Again, Mr. Speaker, my colleague the Bloc Québécois House leader made the very point that I was trying to make, as did the NDP House leader. As I said in my remarks, one of the complaints of the NDP members is that we criticize them when they begin a filibuster or when they continue a filibuster on legislation. Filibustering is a time-honoured process, whether it is at committee or in the chamber. I recognize that. It makes life difficult for any government, be it a majority government or, even more so, a minority government.

Having said that, the member is talking against her own position. She has taken the position, not only in the chamber, but on panels and in interviews with the media, that they would like to debate more. Well, here I am. I am giving the House the opportunity.

Mr. Speaker, I see you are indicating that I am running out of time. That is a sad day, because I would like to have replied in greater depth. If we accept this motion and extend these hours, I would have the opportunity to reply to my hon. colleague in greater depth than I have in this debate today.

To conclude my remarks, I urge all opposition members to consider very carefully that we should be working a bit harder. It is not unusual, as I laid out in my remarks, for the House to sit late at night.

They are heckling now, but there is nothing dictatorial about trying to work collectively to get more legislation done.

I would dispute the NDP House leader saying that this is not substantive legislation. If I had more time, I would show the House, step by step, that this is very substantive legislation, which could have a profound impact on Canadians' lives and on their well-being.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Before we resume debate, I would like to remind members that we have a 10 minute question and answer period following each presentation. I ask members to work with the Chair. When I give an indication that your time is up, please quickly conclude. That way we will all have an opportunity to participate in the debate and ask questions of our colleagues.

With that, resuming debate, the hon. chief opposition whip.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in this debate on the extension of hours. I take the government House leader at his word. I believe he is sincere when he says he is disappointed that he is not able to speak at greater length. However, I did not see that same degree of disappointment on the face of his colleagues.

I think we can frame the debate this way. As a hockey nation, Canada is seized by the playoffs. We are in the midst of the finals right now, and we are seeing a great series between the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

I know the people in Cape Breton—Canso are watching this with great interest, as Marc-Andre Fleury, formerly from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, who had a rough night the other night, and Sidney Crosby, from the Cole Harbour area, are still in the thick of things. They are looking forward to seeing the outcome of tonight's game.

I am going to use the hockey analogy. If we look at the last game--and I know the member for West Vancouver is a big hockey nut--with a five to nothing outcome, what the government House leader is asking to do would be similar to Sidney Crosby going to the referee after a five to nothing score at the end of the third period and saying, “Can we play overtime?”.

The die has been cast on government legislation through this Parliament. Pittsburgh did nothing in the first two periods that would warrant any consideration for overtime. Maybe if they had done the work in the earlier periods, they could have pushed for a tie and overtime, but there was nothing done. Certainly there was every opportunity for the government to bring forward legislation, and it missed at every opportunity.

Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said, “You know, they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”.

If there is such importance now in passing this legislation, we can look back, even to last summer, when every Canadian knew, every economist knew and every opinion rendered then was that we were heading for a tough economic downturn and the Prime Minister took it upon himself, with total disregard for his own law that he advocated and passed, that elections are to be held every four years, to drop the writ and go to the polls in the fall.

During that period, the economy continued to sputter, Canadians lost jobs and hardship was brought upon the people of Canada. It was an unnecessary election. Nonetheless, we went to the polls and a decision was rendered by the people of Canada.

We came back to the House. We thought at that time that the government would accept and embrace its responsibility and come forward with some type of measure that would stop the bleeding in the Canadian economy. We understood that there were global impacts. We felt it was the responsibility of the government to come forward with some incentive or stimulus, a program that would at least soften the blow to Canadians who had lost their jobs.

However, it came out with an ideological update, and it threw this House into turmoil and chaos. I have never seen anything like it in my nine years in the House.

It is not too often that we get parties to unite on a single issue. However, the opposition parties came together because they knew that Canadians would not stand for the total disregard for the Canadian economy exhibited by the government through its economic update. Canadians had to make a strong point.

In an unprecedented move, the NDP and the Liberal Party, supported by the Bloc, came together and sent the message to the government that this was not acceptable, that it was going to hurt our country and hurt Canadians. We saw the coalition come together.

There were all kinds of opportunities for the Prime Minister. The decision he made was to see the Governor General and to prorogue Parliament, to shut down the operation of this chamber, to shut down the business of Canada for a seven-week period. For seven weeks there was no legislation brought forward. If we are looking at opportunities to bring forward legislation, I am looking back at the missed opportunities. That was truly unfortunate.

The House leader mentioned that there has been co-operation. I do not argue that point at all. When the budget finally was put together and presented in the House we, as a party, and our leader, thought the responsible thing was to do whatever we could to help as the economy continued to implode and sputter.

Jobs were still bleeding from many industries in this country. We saw the devastation in forestry. We saw the impacts in the auto industry. People's entire careers and communities were cast aside. Time was of the essence, so we thought the responsible thing was to look at the good aspects of the budget and support them. There was ample opportunity to find fault in any aspect of the budget, and it could have had holes poked in it, but we thought the single best thing we could do was to make sure that some of these projects were able to go forward, that some of the stimulus would be able to get into the economy so that Canadians' jobs could be saved and the pain could be cushioned somewhat.We stood and supported the budget, but we put the government on probation at that time.

We continue to see the government's inability to get that stimulus into the economy. The evidence is significant. The FCM, the mayors of the major cities, premiers of provinces, groups advocating for particular projects for a great number of months are looking for the dollars to roll out and they are wondering when that will be. It is just not happening. There is great concern.

We do know that part of the problem is the Prime Minister's and the government's inability to recognize the severity of the problem. When we look at some of the comments over that period of time that we were thrust in the midst of an election, a TD report, on September 8, 2008, said, “...we believe the global economy is on the brink of a mild recession”. Scotiabank forecasted recessions in both U.S. and Canada.

The Prime Minister was denying it back then and saying there was going to be a small surplus. In November he said we were going to have a balanced budget. Then with the budget, he said maybe there will be a small deficit. With the ability of the Conservatives to calculate and their ability with numbers, we can see how far the government has fallen short, because the week before last we saw that a $50 billion deficit is now anticipated this year.

For the people at home, people who pay attention to these issues, that $50 billion is significant.

Just to get our heads around it, I remember three weeks back there was a very fortunate group from Edmonton who threw their toonies on the table and bought some quick picks and the next day they won $49 million. They won the lottery and that was great. If they were feeling charitable and brought that $49 million to the Minister of Finance to apply to the deficit, and then the next day they bought another bunch of tickets and won another $49 million and gave it to the finance minister, if they were to do that day after day, week after week, month after month, and if we factor in that we do not charge interest on this deficit, it would take 20 years to pay off that $50 billion deficit.

That deficit was supposed to be a small one. Two months before that, it was supposed to be a balanced budget; and two months before that, there was supposed to be a small surplus.

We have done our best. We have worked with the government as best we can to try to get that stimulus into the economy, to try to help generate some kind of economic activity within this country so that jobs can be saved and Canadians can continue to work. We know that we have had some successes here. Some 65% of the legislation put forward by the government has been passed.

We have worked with the government. We supported the war veterans allowance and the farm loans bill. Bill C-25, one of the justice bills, came through here the other day and was passed unanimously on a voice vote. We had Bill C-15 last night and we had the budget.

Regarding extending the hours, disregarding whether it was incompetence or whatever the political reasons and the rationale were to call the election and to shut down government through the prorogation, there were plenty of opportunities to avoid that and bring forward legislation.

I thought the government House leader was generous in his comments last week when he himself recognized in his comments on the Thursday question:

...I would like to recognize that, to date at least, there has been good co-operation from the opposition in moving our legislative agenda forward, not only in this chamber but in the other place as well.

That shocked a lot of people on this side of the chamber.

He continued:

I want to thank the opposition for that co-operation.

We have certainly done our part over here, but we have great concern about the extension of the hours and the additional costs with that. We think the legislation that is coming forward now in various stages can be addressed during the normal times here. Certainly on this side of the House we want to make this chamber work. We want to make this Parliament work and will do all in our power to do so.

As of last night, seven of eight bills originating in the House, for which the government wants royal assent by June 23, have been sent to the other place.

Bill C-7, on the Marine Liability Act, passed third reading in this House on May 14. The transportation and communications committee in the other place is holding hearings on that now, so that is fairly far down the road.

Bill C-14, concerning organized crime and the protection of the justice system, passed third reading in the House on April 24, and it is in committee right now in the other place.

Bill C-15 just passed third reading. That is on the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Bill C-16, An Act to amend certain Acts that relate to the environment and to enact provisions respecting the enforcement of certain Acts that relate to the environment, passed third reading on May 13, and committees are already being held in the Senate.

We want to try to continue to work in these last days of the session. Certainly we want to continue to nurture and support the relationship on legislation that we can believe in, that is not totally offensive. In a minority Parliament, sometimes all parties have to put a little bit of water in their wine. We are certainly willing to do that. In our past record we have demonstrated that we are willing to do that and we will continue to do so.

However, we have a great deal of difficulty with regard to the extension of hours. We are not sure about the other two opposition parties, but just judging by the questions that were being posed today, I would think they are probably like-minded in this area and they are concerned about this proposal being put forward by the government.

We will be opposing the extension of the hours, and that is how we will vote on this particular issue.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the remarks by the whip of the official opposition about the motion I brought forward today.

I am very disappointed not only that he indicated that the official opposition will be voting against the motion, but more importantly, I am very disappointed that he offered no compelling reason other than to revisit what he sees as slights from the past.

I was also more than a little surprised that he would stand up and actually brag about this so-called coalition of the three opposition parties, which went on just before Christmas when they tried to overthrow the democratically chosen government that Canadians chose last October, and why he wanted to revisit that particular period of our political history.

In all sincerity and honesty, I want to move forward, and I said this throughout my remarks. He quoted my remarks from last Thursday's question. I have no problem repeating them often, either in this place or to a television camera outside, that we have had great co-operation between all of the parties in getting a lot of the legislation through. However, as I laid out, there is much more to be done.

I want to look forward and move forward. He used the hockey analogy. I think if he and his colleagues vote against this motion to work just a little bit harder for Canadians, to try to get more legislation dealt with before the House rises, he will find himself in the penalty box.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, there has been a fairly good working relationship in the House, not just between the government House leader and the leader of the official opposition, but all House leaders. As well, the four party whips have worked hard to try to make this House function. I think we have had fairly good success.

In my remarks I tried to identify opportunities lost. By identifying them and going back, it seemed that through the coalition and then through the tabling of the budget in the new session the government seemed to wake up a bit and seemed to start taking the concerns of Canadians somewhat more seriously. So it has been productive, but by highlighting the opportunities lost, maybe this will not happen again. Maybe the government will continue to try to work with the opposition parties to make sure that legislation is processed, that input by the opposition is respected, and that we can do the best we can.

Canadians want to see this place function. Canadians want to see us do our job, and certainly that is what we will continue to do through the following days.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the Liberal Party whip's speech, which I feel makes a lot of sense. Like us, I think he has a hard time seeing how extended hours would be useful at this point, because there is so little on the legislative agenda.

That said, we could make a proposal to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. I would like to know whether he thinks this might be reasonable. Instead of being asked to give the government a blank cheque, it seems to me that the opposition parties and the Bloc Québécois would be open to this idea and might well allow the sitting hours to be extended until 10 p.m. one evening on a specific bill.

What this would mean is reversing the government's proposal. Instead of making a generalized extension and stopping debate on a bill by 10 p.m., it seems to me that the opposition parties might easily agree to extend the sitting hours occasionally and on a case-by-case basis in order to consider a bill when the debate is moving along well and might be completed during the evening. But a generalized extension seems completely unreasonable to me.