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House of Commons Hansard #162 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was omnibus.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House to thank my colleague for the excellent speech she just made. It was lovely. I really liked the imagery she used. It is very refreshing to hear in the House, especially when we hear all kinds of demagogic comments from the other side of the House.

Where to start? I know that my colleague works hard on democratic reform and on everything to do with our parliamentary system. It is very important to her, and I know that she wants to do the right thing here. What would happen if we did not have omnibus bills? Would it attract and encourage the next generation of MPs to come work in the House? Would they find that more democratic?

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Alfred-Pellan for her question. She understands what the issues are here.

Omnibus bills are simply wrong. Parliament should never have to deal with this kind of thing. As I said, our role is to examine every bill, in light of what experts tell us about the bill and what it changes.

When we see that a bill dealing with employment insurance, the environment and the fishery is examined only by the Standing Committee on Finance, how can we prevent young people from becoming cynical about politics and this kind of thing?

It is so contemptuous, so cynical, that many people certainly become disheartened about politics.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure that this motion is truly against the Conservatives.

Imagine being a Conservative backbencher. Is it such a bad thing to reform the House's practices so that Conservative backbenchers can actually go home and say what they voted for or voted against and why it is in people's interests that they did what they did? It actually makes a lot of sense for Conservative backbenchers to want to reform the House's rules so that the government does not stuff everything into one omnibus bill.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Kingston and the Islands for the question. He is also a very hard-working member and I really appreciate his efforts. He is quite right. I am sure that many Conservative members would fully support this motion if they could vote according to their conscience. Of course they see what is happening and they tell themselves that they too were elected to represent their constituents and to pass legislation.

Will we ever see a day when the government could prorogue Parliament after introducing a bill that is 5,000 pages long and contains everything it wants to do over the next four years? Such a government might think “no problem; we do not need anything else; this has passed; it is a done deal and we have done our job as parliamentarians”.

Of course that is completely ridiculous and this could take us there. So, I rather agree with my colleague that many Conservative members probably agree with the motion.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague. In her speech she spoke about trusting Canadians.

Could she talk about whether Canadians can trust a government and a Prime Minister who, a few years ago, said that an omnibus bill was an abuse of Parliament and is now saying the opposite?

How can we trust a Prime Minister who tells Canadians one thing and then does the opposite in this House?

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very obvious. We cannot trust these types of comments when they are contradicted afterwards, especially since the Liberal omnibus bill that the Prime Minister complained about was only 21 pages long. It was an omnibus bill, but we all agree that it was not really comparable to a 400- or 800-page omnibus bill. Therefore it is a particularly hypocritical remark.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join in the debate. I will begin by adding my voice to those who have complimented our colleague, the deputy critic for democratic reform, for doing an awesome job on a very complex file.

I will make reference to an article in The Globe and Mail that reads:

A dramatic confrontation in the Ontario Legislature ended yesterday in a major victory for the opposition parties and forced the Progressive Conservatives to agree to extensive public hearings on the government's sweeping omnibus legislation.

The victory occurred after an unusual standoff in which veteran Liberal MPP Alvin Curling delayed debate on the bill for 18 hours by refusing to leave the chamber when ordered to do so for violating parliamentary rules. Attempts to use force to remove Mr. Curling were thwarted by opposition politicians who blocked approaches to his desk and stayed all night to prevent authorities from reaching him.

The protest, an almost unprecedented act of civil disobedience for a politician, was undertaken by Liberals and New Democrats to force province-wide hearings next month on the omnibus legislation, known officially by its numerical title as Bill 26, the Savings and Restructuring Act.

For those Canadians who live in our most populous province, they will probably remember that bill number because it was a major issue. I want to point out that the date on that article in The Globe and Mail by Mr. Martin Mittelstaedt was December 8, 1995.

I raise that for a number of reasons. Obviously, it ties into the motion before us, but when it states, “Attempts to use force to remove Mr. Curling were thwarted by opposition politicians who blocked approaches to his desk”, I was one of those politicians who was thwarting. I consider it a highlight and certainly one of the most memorable times.

The other reason I mention that and the reason that it is relevant is not just that it was the Conservatives' provincial cousins, other than a minor name change, but what is really interesting, and we never know how history will unfold, is that today I find myself sitting right across from three former colleagues of the Ontario legislature who now sit as senior members of the Prime Minister's cabinet. They were applauded back in that day too because they were also on the front bench of then premier Mike Harris's government that brought in bill 26.

Do I hear that caucus now saying that bill 26, as it was brought in originally without hearings, was the right thing to do? It just went kind of quiet because they only want to heckle the parts that they like. They should stay because we can have lots of fun on this. They should be a part of this.

The members talked about history. We have seen history repeat itself. Lo and behold, here we are today and those three senior cabinet ministers who were part of bill 26, the omnibus bill that they tried to ram through the Ontario legislature back in 1995, are here today in 2012, having rammed through one bill and getting ready to ram through another omnibus bill. It was unacceptable then and it is damn well unacceptable today.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Order, please. I understand the passion of the speaker but the use of that term is unparliamentary and not allowed in this chamber.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

I was wrong, Mr. Speaker, and you have probably done me a favour because I would have heard from my mom anyway. I apologize to both you and the only higher authority I would acknowledge on the planet, which would be my mom. I have to stop doing that. There is another word I use that I think is okay and it not okay. I stand corrected.

What is interesting and more troubling is that the government managed to get re-elected. This time Conservatives learned not to cheer quite so loud because there may be a part B, which there is. Because that kind of agenda of omnibus bills trampling on democratic rights, trampling on democratic traditions, those things matter to Canadians. Remember who we are. We are a people who pride ourselves on fairness, inclusiveness, justice and democracy in the fullness of the word.

That agenda over time gave them a second majority government, but it also led to their red tape commission where they would roll back protective regulations, which is by the way exactly what the Conservatives brought here federally. The reason they are not hooting and hollering right now is because that blind attitude to an ideological bottom line led to Walkerton. Does anybody want to start laughing about that?

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, somebody else seems to want to have the floor—

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Again, I would admonish the member that his comments have to be made to the Chair, not to the people on the other side of the aisle.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, maybe I will just start referencing who is heckling.

We are talking about Walkerton and Ontarians died. There is nothing funny about that and I am not spinning it. I believe seven people died and the inquest showed that one of the reasons it happened was because of the regulations the government cut and because of money it cut in those departments. It was not the whole reason, I am not saying that, but the findings were that it played a role.

I am on my feet today to point out that some of us have seen this movie before. We watched what happened under Mike Harris, and his chief of staff until recently was also the chief of staff of the Prime Minister of Canada. Three of the senior ministers in that government are senior ministers in the current government.

The point is that all these things lead to the wrong conclusion for Canadians because it is only about blindly cutting. Whether it is cutting funding, cutting regulations, cutting entitlements, Conservatives are always cutting. The government is always cracking down. There is room for those things and they are part of governing too, but it seems to be the only note the government is able to play. Some of us have been around long enough—

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga is rising on a point of order.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, would you rule on whether or not the current conversation we are having is relevant at all to the motion before us. I would like him to stay on topic.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

It is on topic. It is directly related to the motion that is before us.

Continuing, the member for Hamilton Centre.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we stand up and call the Conservatives on it and they do everything they can to extinguish the discussion. They say we should not have that debate because it is upsetting them and their supporters. That is what they are trying to do. They are trying to muzzle as much democracy as they can. They do it through legislation, through their decisions in the House, through cutting and by standing up whenever they can and finding a guise under which they can shut down democracy. That is my whole point in raising this. We have been here before. There was wide criticism at the time for the government doing that. There is wide criticism now. Yes, it may work politically. They haven't paid the price yet—

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

A point of order.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have been listening intently to this debate all day and earlier today you made a ruling that speaking about the budget, which is of great importance to Canadians, was not relevant to this debate. I have listened to that member go on at length about something that was done in another legislature in the province of Ontario many years ago. He was making some kind of spurious allegation about how there is some connection between what was done in some bill in the Ontario legislature some years ago to something else that happened in the province of Ontario, which he knows is not true, and somehow that is relevant to the debate about process that the opposition wants to have today rather than talking about the things that Canadians really care about, which is jobs and economic opportunity.

Mr. Speaker, I wish you could perhaps provide some further clarification on your ruling in connection with what we are listening to right now.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

I will do so to this extent. The ruling this morning was with regard to the length of time that was being spent indirectly relating to the issue that was before the House. What we are hearing at this point is specifically related because the member is talking about omnibus bills, whether those are here in this legislature or in another legislature. It is clearly directly relevant.

The member for Hamilton Centre has about 45 seconds to complete his speech.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate members helping to underscore my point, because that is exactly what they did by responding that way.

My point is that democracy in our country is being undermined. Scrutinizing budget bills is one of the most important things that opposition members do. It has been shown time and time again when that is not allowed to happen properly, democracy and Canadians lose.

My point here is that we need to bell this cat and acknowledge that the same things are happening again and they have to be stopped. The Conservatives talk a good democratic argument but they need to start walking the walk in terms of democracy. They need to provide the time required to study omnibus bills. They should not be so hypocritical about when they apply their thinking as to when there are omnibus bills and when there are not.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, whenever the hon. member gets up and speaks he makes it quite clear why Canadians have never given the NDP a mandate to govern this country and why in the province of Ontario the NDP was only thankfully given one mandate and thrown out of office, never to come close to the halls of government ever again.

From 1990 through 1995 that member was a member of a government in the province of Ontario that prorogued the legislature after sitting for only 90 days. That government introduced a budget at a table. The finance minister at the time, Floyd Laughren, dropped the budget on a table at a press conference and that was the end of it. An election was called after that. That government sat for 90 days. I do not remember that hon. member's outrage at the fact that democracy, when he was in office, was thwarted and that Ontarians were only given 90 days.

Specifically on omnibus legislation, I recall that on the particular bill that the member has been referencing, the NDP brought forward 1,200 amendments. Who brought those amendments forward? Is the member saying that none of the members of the NDP actually read the bill and brought those 1,200 amendments forward? Who brought those amendments forward if it wasn't—?

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The hon. member for Hamilton Centre.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I realize the member loves to attack and I am fine with receiving the attack, but I am not really sure what the attack was or what the question is at the end of the day.

It was an imperfect government, like all governments. Its problems were pointed out. I want to remind the member that for me that was six Parliaments ago. If he wants to talk to me about his record in six more Parliaments, I will be here waiting for him.