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House of Commons Hansard #63 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was elected.

Topics

Senate Reform ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, the second house has been abolished at the provincial level, and it has worked. I believe it is time to have a referendum so that Canadians can decide whether we want to keep that house or not. That would be a true democracy.

1:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

December 8th, 2011

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Marie Deschamps, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in her capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bill listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 8th day of December, 2011 at 8:30 a.m.

Yours sincerely,

For Stephen Wallace.

The schedule indicates the bill assented to was Bill S-1002, An Act to authorize the Industrial Alliance Pacific General Insurance Corporation to apply to be continued as a body corporate under the laws of Quebec

The house resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-7, An Act respecting the selection of senators and amending the Constitution Act, 1867 in respect of Senate term limits, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Senate Reform ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, what a passionate debate on Senate reform. When I was elected on May 2, if someone had told me that I would be starting a speech in this House by saying that I agree with the Right Hon. Prime Minister on something, I never would have believed them.

But I must admit that I agree with what the Prime Minister said when he described the Senate as, and I quote, “a relic of the 19th century”. I think that “relic” is an appropriate word choice, since we all dream of having a sacred relic for all the virtues it is supposed to represent. But it rarely has any benefits.

In light of this statement, I see two choices, since the status quo is no longer acceptable. The first choice is to simply abolish the institution of the Senate. I assure the Prime Minister that he would have my support and my party's support if that was what he wanted to do.

In addition, as all provincial senates have been abolished since 1968, we can draw the logical conclusions: the provinces manage very well without senates and there is no reason to believe that it would be otherwise for the Government of Canada.

More and more Canadians believe that we should be able to express our opinions on the matter in a national referendum. According to an Angus Reid poll conducted in July 2011, 71% of Canadians expect a referendum of that kind. That is what you call a strong mandate.

In more than a century, the 13 attempts at Senate reform have failed. Perhaps it is time to draw the logical conclusions. But, once again, the government is proposing a convoluted bill whose purpose is to make us think that the Senate is being reformed, whereas what we will see is something even more questionable.

The government is moving forward with fake Senate reform since holding a constitutional debate and dealing with the provinces and territories on the form, the function, the representative nature and even the legitimacy of that chamber are out of the question. So, welcome, everyone, to the world of mystery and illusion. Let me give you some examples of how comical, or how ridiculous, the situation really is.

First of all, the Senate would be made up of elected representatives. Those who want to keep the institution may find that principle appealing. But it becomes at the very least questionable when we realize that the provinces could choose to hold Senate elections—of course, at their own expense. I draw your attention to those words: once again, financial responsibility is being transferred to the provinces. The federal government is going to download that responsibility onto the provinces without consulting them beforehand.

But the best of it is that the provinces could choose to hold elections using whichever method seems best to them. Perhaps the method would be the cheapest, the most politically expedient; who knows what considerations could go into choosing a method of holding an election. They could also choose not to hold one. On that point alone, it is difficult to imagine anything more nonsensical.

The incoherence of the proposal seems clear to me already. But if that were not enough, after all is said and done, the Prime Minister of Canada would have no obligation to appoint a person who had been previously elected by a province or territory. Heaven knows that, since this session opened, we have lost count of the times when we have realized that the government is not listening to Canadians. So why should the provinces and territories invest time and money in a process that may ultimately serve no purpose?

I also smiled rather broadly when I read in Bill C-7 that candidates for election to the Senate must be nominated by a political party that is registered in the province.

It was amusing to imagine for a few moments the list of potential candidates elected by a Parti Québécois government or the list that would be drawn up by Québec solidaire. It seems to me that here as well, we have obvious proof of the impossibility of reconciling eventual senatorial election results in Quebec with appointments by a Canadian Prime Minister, whoever that might be.

Now, I need to underscore the unilateral process in this bill. Consultations with the provinces and territories are also glaringly absent from this bill. This government is making it a habit to act entirely on its own. The strong mandate pretext cannot possibly justify making such major changes without consulting the main partners, and—why not—the whole population, as I was saying earlier.

I feel as though I am watching an old episode of Father Knows Best. The cartoonists back home chose that image for their caricatures of the government and the Prime Minister, and I think they are on to something.

The Canadian public was deeply affected by the NDP message that they were going to do politics differently and wanted all of the elected members of this House to work together in a manner marked by attentiveness, openness to others and respect. It is not enough to say “Vote as we do so that we can work together”.

If the government goes forward with this bill, it already knows that there are going to be challenges, since Quebec has already said that it considers Bill C-7 unconstitutional and intends to prove that if necessary.

There is another incongruity in this bill, and it concerns accountability. After an election, elected members are generally held accountable to the electorate. Well, think again. Once again, we are dealing with smoke and mirrors. With a single nine-year, non-renewable term—by the way, nine years is equivalent to two terms in the House of Commons, and even a bit more—the pseudo-elected members of the Senate would go directly from election promises to retirement, in recognition of their good and faithful services to Her Majesty. The only way of trying to lengthen your political career would be to temporarily leave the comfort of the Senate to try to get elected to the House of Commons, knowing that if you lost, you could return and finish your term in the comfort of the red chamber. And I could also say a few words about that retirement. One term, followed by a pension. Now there is an approach that is rather difficult to support in an economy where Canadians are having trouble making ends meet.

Now, what of the potential conflicts between the two chambers? It also makes sense that a Senate that has practically the same powers as the House, filled with the false sense of legitimacy that sham elections would bring, could end up bringing us one step closer to the same kind of impasse that is seen in the United States, where the two chambers paralyze one another.

In this House, we have already seen bills passed at third reading be blocked in the Senate by a partisan onslaught. Imagine the power that a Senate could wield if it deemed itself elected and representative.

In closing, the problems with this Senate reform are so great in number that we are automatically brought back to option A—the NDP proposal that the Prime Minister has already toyed with, I might add—namely the out-and-out abolition of the Senate.

I should say in passing that all my attacks are directed against the institution and not its sitting senators. In many cases, I have tremendous respect for their service to the nation.

While some premiers openly favour abolishing the Senate and others find it pointless, why not have the political gumption to ask Canadians, who foot the bill, to decide? It could end up being an extremely positive decision. In one fell swoop, there could potentially be a rapid return to a balanced budget without the need for cuts to services for Canadians.

Madam Speaker, thank you for having given me the floor. I would like to thank my colleagues in this House for their attention.

Senate Reform ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Trois-Rivières will have five minutes for questions and comments after oral question period.

Streetsville Rotary ClubStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Madam Speaker, the Streetsville Rotary Club is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2011 and has been the Rotary home for many of Streetsville's leading citizens since its inception. Its motto is “Service above Self” and its nickname is “The Good Fellowship Club”.

Streetsville Rotary has about 30 dedicated members with one charter member who has a perfect attendance record, Mr. Maurice Foster. They are business, professional and community leaders who are organized for humanitarian service, encouraging high ethical standards and helping build goodwill and peace.

This club supports programs in my community such as Easter Seals kids, Dreams Take Flight, Adventure in Citizenship, the Rotary Youth Exchange and Rotary Camp Enterprise. The members are active supporters of the Streetsville Bread and Honey Festival where they hold the annual pancake breakfast. As a Rotary member myself and a recipient of the Paul Harris Fellowship, I know the important work service clubs do in our community.

I wish the Streetsville Rotary Club a happy 50th anniversary, and all the best for the future.

Community Centre 55Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, as Christmas fast approaches, Community Centre 55 in my riding of Beaches—East York is gearing up for its 30th Share a Christmas program. Last year, over 700 volunteers came out on winter nights to sort, pack and deliver presents and food to over 4,000 people. This year the need is expected to be greater.

These numbers point to the desperate circumstances of so many families in these economic times, and to the continuing deterioration of social and economic supports for Canadian families in need. These numbers also speak to the generosity of so many constituents and businesses in the riding, as well as to the tremendous organizational capacity of Community Centre 55 and its staff, all of whom have hearts of gold and are moved by the spirit of Christmas.

In Beaches—East York we are blessed to have Community Centre 55, its management, staff and volunteers not just at Christmas time but year round.

Employee of the Year AwardStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to extend my warmest congratulations to Wilma Anderson from my riding of Peterborough for winning employee of the year at the Canadian Tourism Awards. This award is presented to a front-line employee who best exemplifies excellence in the tourism industry. The Tourism Industry Association of Canada recognized Wilma on November 24 for her stellar work at Elmhirst's Resort near Peterborough.

Wilma joined Elmhirst's Resort in 1985 as a dishwasher, later moving to housekeeping and eventually managing the department. In 1990, Wilma was promoted to guest services manager. As a single parent struggling to balance home and work, she was able to take over the department and without any formal training excel at supervision, staff motivation, budgeting and time management. Her caring attitude and willingness to provide a hug when needed has helped Elmhirst's Resort become the successful small business it is today.

I congratulate Wilma for her hard work and her perseverance. I congratulate everyone at Elmhirst's Resort for winning this prestigious award.

Experience Genie AwardStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Madam Speaker, I rise today to recognize William Breon, a young man from Grand Bank in my riding of Random—Burin—St. George's.

At 12 years of age, he has proven to be a prolific fundraiser in the fight against multiple sclerosis, a disease his father Frank has been battling for more than a decade. Over the past five years, William has raised approximately $15,000 to help combat this dreaded disease. His commitment is exemplary. At the MS walk in St. John's last year, William was the top fundraiser, collecting over $5,000. He has received the Grand Bank outstanding youth volunteer award and the MS Society non-merit award and has been nominated for an Experience Genie award.

To win the Experience Genie award, William needs our support. I encourage everyone to visit experiencegenie.com and vote for William so he can have a wish granted by the experience genie.

I ask all members of the House to join me in saluting 12-year-old William Breon who has proven that people are never too young to make a difference.

InfrastructureStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Conservative Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Madam Speaker, our government continues to stay focused on what is important to my constituents in Newmarket—Aurora and to all Canadians, jobs and economic growth.

Our government's actions through Canada's economic action plan have led to the creation of nearly 600,000 net new jobs since July 2009.

This Saturday in Newmarket I will be celebrating the completion of a major investment in our town, the Newmarket Riverwalk Commons. I am proud to be part of a government that committed more than $2 million to help revitalize Newmarket's downtown urban space, while creating local jobs in our community. Thanks to this economic action plan investment, Newmarket will enjoy accessible, modern, indoor and outdoor recreational facilities, having a tremendous positive impact on the health of our community for years to come.

I congratulate everyone involved in the planning and development of this long-anticipated community asset and look forward to a wonderful opening this Saturday.

Christmas Charity OrganizationStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean-François Larose NDP Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I have always said that volunteers are the heart and soul of our communities. I am pleased to rise in the House today to recognize an organization in my community, Un Noël pour les enfants oubliés, which, for the 18th consecutive year, will distribute gifts to underprivileged children. For most of those children, this will be the only gift they receive all year. The organization was founded in 1993 by Monique Lemay and, in its first year, it distributed about 35 gifts. Times have changed and this year, about 1,000 children will have a present to unwrap. An organization like Un Noël pour les enfants oubliés could never survive without the remarkable work done by its volunteers.

For all their hard work this year and in years to come, I would like to thank the volunteers of that organization, as well as all volunteers across Canada and around the world, for allowing more children to enjoy the magic of Christmas and not be forgotten.

Leeds—Grenville United WayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, on November 20, in my hometown of Gananoque, I and the United Way of Leeds—Grenville hosted the fifth annual Hockey Night in Leeds—Grenville. This game has been an annual charity event for the United Way.

The game featured former NHL stars, local dignitaries and Conservative members of Parliament, facing off for the enjoyment of hockey fans throughout my riding of Leeds—Grenville.

This year's game featured local NHL star Alyn McCauley of Gananoque as the honorary chair and other players included Olympic women's gold medallist and crowd favourite Jayna Hefford, who scored the most goals in the game.

However, the big winner was the United Way of Leeds—Grenville that received $105,000 as a result of the game.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Alyn McCauley, the town of Gananoque and Mayor Erika Demchuk for donating the ice, as well as all the sponsors and all the players and officials who came out to make this such a huge success for the United Way of Leeds—Grenville.

King of ThailandStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to recognize the 84th birthday of the current monarch of Thailand, His Majesty King Adulyadej. The king's birthday was this past Monday, December 5. He spoke at the ceremonial Grand Palace in Bangkok for about five minutes after being driven from a nearby hospital, where he has been staying for more than two years.

As he spoke to a cheering crowd of well-wishers, the king called for his country to unite in response to the areas worst floods in half a century. He said:

The most important thing is you should not be split or fighting each other. We need to inspire and give each other confidence so that the work we do will be fruitful for the well-being of the people and the stability and security of the country.

Year 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations between Canada and Thailand. Canada is home to approximately 10,000 people from Thailand.

The king has reigned since June 9, 1946, making him the world's longest reigning current monarch and the world's longest serving head of state.

Graham DennisStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the outpouring of praise and admiration upon the recent passing of Graham Dennis should come as no surprise, as he was a man held in the highest esteem in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Dennis was the publisher of the Chronicle Herald based in Halifax and serving our province. The Chronicle Herald remains Canada's largest independently owned newspaper, a fact that serves as a testament to Mr. Dennis' personal style of business leadership.

Every morning we see the physical proof of Mr. Dennis' passion for his home province and his commitment to family owned business, as on our doorsteps we find a newspaper that is entirely based in the community it serves.

Mr. Dennis ran the Chronicle Herald from the age of 26 until he died at 84. His six decades at the helm of this paper helped cement it as a central part of the cultural fabric of our community.

Graham Dennis' legacy is truly impressive, and it is clear that Haligonians and Nova Scotians have lost a true ambassador and a much beloved friend.

On behalf of the riding of Halifax, I offer my sincerest condolences to his family and loved ones.

Violence Against WomenStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada and the world are now marking 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.

Violence against women or girls can happen to anyone, anywhere, regardless of age or income. It could happen in family settings, intimate relationships, with friends or acquaintances, at work or at home. It happens in large cities as well as rural, remote and northern communities. It can happen to a senior, a young woman, a spouse, a mother or a daughter.

A large number of women and girls are affected, taking an enormous toll on families, communities and our economy. Because this toll is so great, let us take these 16 days of activism and be reminded that we need to take action now and throughout the year to end violence against women and girls in all its forms.

Canadian Wheat BoardStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Federal Court has ruled that the federal government's actions and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food 's conduct on Bill C-18, the Canadian Wheat Board Act were an affront to the rule of law.

The court accepted arguments from the applicants that the rule of law embodied the principle that law was supreme over officials of the government as well as over private individuals. It is worth recording some of the reasoning behind this ruling.

Under the rule of law, citizens have the right to come to the courts to enforce the law against the executive branch. And the courts have the right to review actions by the executive branch to determine whether they are in compliance with the law and, where warranted, to declare a government action unlawful. This right in the hands of the people is not a threat to democratic governance but its very assertion. Accordingly, the executive branch of government is not its own exclusive arbiter on whether it or its delegate is acting within the limits of the law. The detrimental consequences of the executive branch of government defining for itself...the scope of its lawful power have been revealed, often bloodily, in the tumult of history.

Ballast WaterStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, our strict and effective ballast water regulations recognize the environmental and economic importance of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Since these regulations came into force in 2006, no new exotic species entering from ballast water has been detected in the Great Lakes.

What is more, Canada recently ratified an international agreement on ballast water. However, New York State's unrealistic requirements would have severe economic consequences. A recent study found that closing the St. Lawrence Seaway at the locks within New York's waters could put over 72,000 jobs in jeopardy.

Our Minister of Transport will work hard to protect jobs and the environment in the St. Lawrence.

Heron Emergency Food CentreStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Christmas season is upon us. It is a time of great joy, a celebration of family and of concern for one another.

The Heron Emergency Food Centre has been fighting hunger in my riding of Ottawa South for over 23 years. Working with the Ottawa Food Bank, supported by the city of Ottawa and assisted by the generosity of churches and local residents, the Heron Emergency Food Centre is crucial to our community, distributing over $325,000 worth of food to over 13,000 neighbours each and every year.

I want to recognize and sincerely thank its dedicated team of volunteers, who generously donate their time to meet the needs of so many individuals and families in our area.

I would like to encourage residents of Ottawa South to join me in making a donation of either non-perishable food or money to the Heron Emergency Food Centre this holiday season. I encourage all of my colleagues in the House to do the same to the food centres and distribution centres in their ridings.

Canada-U.S. BorderStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister announced our action plan on perimeter security and economic competitiveness. Billions of dollars worth of goods and hundreds of thousands of people cross our shared border with the U.S. every day. The action plan is good news for workers and good news for business, especially in border communities like Windsor-Essex. It is good news because it would protect jobs and grow our economy and auto industry.

However, the NDP trade critic, the member for Windsor West, sadly out of step with residents of our region, continues to fearmonger and oppose this deal.

Listen to what Windsor's mayor, Eddie Francis, had to say, “We are all very very pleased with the results that have been announced...because it means now we can get down to business. Now we can allow the economy to grow”.

I could not agree more. It is too bad the NDP does not get it. Its rigid, ideological opposition to trade is yet another example that the NDP is unfit to govern.

Canadian Wheat BoardStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, as Chief Justice of Alberta Catherine Fraser said in a ruling earlier this year, “When government does not comply with the law, this is not merely non-compliance with a particular law, it is an affront to the rule of law itself”.

We saw this yesterday when Justice Campbell said in the Wheat Board ruling that the Minister of Agriculture “be held accountable for his disregard for the rule of law”.

This is just the latest in a long list of similar incidents.

In 2006, the Conservatives exceeded their election budget in violation of the Canada Elections Act. They destroyed government files in violation of the Access to Information Act. They gave out private information about veterans in violation of the Privacy Act.

Now the Conservatives have refused to consult with western grain and barley farmers on the future of their livelihood in direct violation of the Canadian Wheat Board Act.

With this arrogant and defensive Conservative government, it is one set of rules for it and one set of rules for everybody else.

John George DiefenbakerStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to one of my predecessors from Prince Albert, a man who was strongly pro-Canadian, a Canadian who was criticized with being concerned too much with the average Canadian, but said “I can't help that, I'm one of them”. He said of this land, “I have one love — Canada; one purpose — Canada's greatness; one aim — Canadian unity from the Atlantic to the Pacific”.

He built upon the legacy of Sir John A. He saw a new Canada, a Canada of the north. In word and deed, he did make us true north, strong and free. At a convention where he became party leader, he said the words that would serve any great Canadian leader, “It is my intention to unite all Canadians from the Atlantic to the Pacific, under the banner of patriotism”.

I am proud that Prince Albert can claim Canada's tenth and longest serving prime minister, the Right Honourable John George Diefenbaker, as our own.

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

December 8th, 2011 / 2:15 p.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec

NDP

Nycole Turmel NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we asked the government simple questions about the new border deal with the United States. We got no answers. Since Parliament will not get to review or debate this agreement, can we at least get some answers about the border deal? For starters, will the government tell Canadians how much it will cost and where the money will come from?

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of detail given out on this very material. For example, it is estimated the costs at the border today cost the Canadian economy somewhere around $50 billion a year. I think we have been clear that the costs of implementation of this deal would be less than 1% of that on an ongoing basis.

I understand the NDP has, from day one, always been opposed to free trade with the United States, but this is vital to the Canadian economy, improves our access to the American market and will be good for Canadian jobs, Canadian workers and Canadian families.

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec

NDP

Nycole Turmel NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, it is always interesting to get incomplete answers to certain questions on issues that were not even debated in the House.

I will give another example. A lot of personal information will be collected by authorities when people enter and leave the country at the border crossings.

Do Canadians have the right to know how long their personal information will be stored in American databases? Will it be a week? A month? Six months? A year? Five years? Ten years?

Can we have an answer?

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the American authorities already have the jurisdiction to collect information when Canadians enter and leave the United States. We are trying to do things that will increase our own accountability, as the Auditor General called for.

Once again, I know full well that the NDP is opposed to international trade with the United States and that it has been opposed to NAFTA from the outset. However, on this side of the House, we are in favour of creating jobs for Canadian families and Canadian workers.