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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

Library and Archives CanadaOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, since the Conservatives came to power, they have done their best to undermine Library and Archives Canada. Their cuts and neglect are jeopardizing the preservation of thousands of historic documents.

If the Conservatives really love Canadian history, they must protect our archives. This is about our history and our heritage, which must absolutely be preserved.

The Conservatives would rather rob Peter to pay Paul. Instead of rewriting and politicizing Canadian history, and leaving taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars, can the minister confirm that Library and Archives Canada will maintain complete control over Canadian archives?

Library and Archives CanadaOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, Library and Archives Canada will actually be an important part of the new Canadian Museum of History as we move forward, because it is the guardian of a lot of our past. It will be a very large part of this project as we move forward.

I hope that the NDP will actually decide to support this initiative, because this is in fact an effort to bring all Canadians together to talk about all of Canada's stories. Therefore, I would hope that my hon. colleague would put away the rhetoric he has used yesterday and today in the House and would work with me and other members of Parliament to make this institution what it should be, which is an institution for all Canadians.

Canadian Museum of HistoryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives definitely love history, especially when it can be altered to suit their interpretation. Why bother with reality when symbols will do?

The Conservatives are spending tens of millions of dollars to celebrate a war that took place 200 years ago—they are exaggerating its importance, especially to francophones—and now they are changing the mandate and the name of one of the top museums, located in Quebec, in order to glorify the Conservative version of the Canadian identity.

Why do the Conservatives want to politicize history?

Canadian Museum of HistoryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, that is absolutely not the case. We are working with the museum. It makes decisions about its programming independent of the government.

Marie Lalonde, a leader in Canada's museums community, said that, “in partnership with this new museum, local museums will be able to offer their visitors distinctive exhibits and initiatives that would otherwise not be available.”

Our support today for this new project will help all museums across Canada, including Quebec museums. It is unfortunate that the Bloc Québécois continues to be against Quebec.

Presence in the GalleryOral Questions

October 16th, 2012 / 3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the 2012 Indspire Awards recipients: Gabrielle Scrimshaw, Elizabeth Zarpa, Graham Kotowich, Jacqueline Guest, Charlie Evalik, Winston Wuttunee, National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, Lloyd (Sonny) Flett, Ruby Jacobs, Viola Robinson, Duane Smith, Gail Cyr, Theo Fleury and Alex Van Bibber.

Presence in the GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, today in question period the deputy leader of the NDP suggested that in our referencing the NDP proposal for a carbon tax, something was being made up. I just ask for the consent of the House to table page three of the NDP costing, which sets out its $21.5 billion carbon tax proposal, so that the members of the NDP, by seeing their own platform, can know that we did not just make it up.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I assume that the hon. member is asking for unanimous consent, because the page is not in both official languages.

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent?

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yes.

No.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There is no consent.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Before question period, the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor had concluded his speech and is now looking for questions and comments.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Alfred-Pellan.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to—

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I would ask the hon. members to continue their conversations outside the House of Commons.

The hon. member for Alfred-Pellan.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very important that this motion be presented here today in the House. Although this government has opposed the introduction of omnibus bills in the past, it now introduces omnibus bills that are even longer than the ones it once opposed.

Does my colleague believe it is fair and relevant to move such a motion here today and to debate it in greater detail in the House?

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I did not hear the whole question, due to the noise in the House. Can I call upon you to ask the member to do that once again? I apologize but it is too loud in here.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

You have a great deal of sympathy from the Chair in that regard.

The hon. member for Alfred-Pellan, please repeat the question.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise again in the House to repeat the question for my colleague.

I will take a simpler approach. Only a few short years ago, when the government was on the opposition benches, it opposed omnibus bills. Yet it now introduces omnibus bills that are longer than ever, without taking into account the fact that some of the items included in these omnibus bills should be examined and discussed in committees other than the Standing Committee on Finance.

Does he not find it a little unusual to have an opposition day on such a topic today, when we should not have to do so?

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, indeed that is the pattern we have seen over the past little while. Interestingly, the member brings up the part about the committees and that it should not just be the finance committee that should look at this.

When the Conservatives first got into power, they had a clean air act, as they called it. To do that, they created a special legislative committee to deal with that particular piece of legislation. It is not a bad idea. That is one of the options as well. If they felt the need to do it then, why do we not do it now?

In this particular situation, it is being jammed through a bottleneck in many respects. It is not serving any constituents in any regard because of the lack of information. It does not matter if someone lives in Toronto or Vancouver, Halifax, Plate Cove West or anywhere really. When we consider it, none of this stuff has really seen the light of day. I cannot think of one piece in this that has received ample amount of attention in this House so that we can vote on it responsibly.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the concerns I have heard about the omnibus bill program of the Conservative government is that it contributes to apathy about our political process. We know that is symptomatic of a democratic decline in Canada, especially among young people who choose not to vote.

I would like my colleague to comment on youth, how to engage them and how this motion might help with that.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, one of the things we have trouble doing in the House is engaging in a much larger conversation that includes seniors, ethnic communities within cities and rural communities outside of urban centres and, certainly, the other community to speak of here would be the youth.

The problem is that if we put all of this into one bill and vote on it very quickly, none of the issues that are important to Canadians becomes a tangible issue because the bill is handled so quickly. To make an issue tangible we have to put it into a forum where we can actually discuss ways of doing this.

There are big changes coming to employment insurance for youth. If youth have a job that is filling the gap and they are laid off and are on employment insurance, they would like to get experience that would give them a better job in the future. However, if there is a financial disincentive to their doing that, they are not going to do it. The government is not giving us that tangible discussion in what we would consider to be a respectable debate.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address this speech especially to the students at Frontenac Secondary School in Kingston and the Islands whom I met last week. I want to thank them for being interested in government and I am sorry for the future taxes they may have to pay to fix the problems that we create or ignore today because we did not think carefully enough about legislation.

To the people of Kingston and the Islands, I ask whether they would like their tax dollars to be well spent and whether they would like their government to make good laws. In Canada, citizens elect people to go to Ottawa and check on what the Prime Minister and the government are doing. They elect people to go to Ottawa to study what the government proposes to do with their money and what laws the government proposes they should obey. They elect a person to go to Ottawa to voice approval or disapproval, to vote for or against what the government wants to do, and they should get to know how their member of Parliament voted.

There is a majority in the House of Commons. The government has a majority in the House and a majority in every committee, and so it can and does win every vote that it wants to. If the government can win every vote, why bother voting on anything? Is it is not like a force out in baseball? Why do we not just take all of the government spending proposals and all the new laws, put them into one big omnibus bill, have one vote and be done with it? This is what is happening with the bills to implement the budget and all the extra stuff that the government is adding to these budget bills.

Let me give some numbers. Between 1995 and 2000, according to Ned Franks, the budget implementation acts averaged about 12 pages in length. From 2001 to 2008, they averaged 139 pages. In 2009, however, the budget implementation legislation added up to 580 pages, and in 2010, it was 880 pages. Most recently this year, it was 450 pages, so it has really grown a lot. More importantly, the bills contain not just minor amendments to implement the budget, as was the case 10 years ago, but more importantly all sorts of unrelated subject matter. That is what we are complaining about today.

The budget is complicated enough. It has changes to taxes that are very complicated and financial regulations that require a lot of expertise. We need to look at it carefully. We need to ask experts. We need to check for problems and unintended consequences, instead of paying up later with expensive court costs, hoping that the courts will fix the legislation, or having to go back and pass entirely new legislation.

Normally we are supposed to research bills carefully to see if there is anything special to say from the point of view of our constituents. We are supposed to listen to any reaction from our constituents, listen to expert witnesses in relevant committees and make amendments to any bill to improve it. When bills like the omnibus bill contain so many things, we do not have the time to review all of them. Omnibus bills for the budget have been like that for the last four years. Special items are not sent to their respective committee for examination by experts. We do not give bills the scrutiny that they deserve and that our constituents deserve.

Conservative members of Parliament who dutifully obey their whip, show up, read the words on their cards, vote as they are told and vote for the budget bill are voting to spend the tax dollars of Canadians and make laws blindly. As Rick Mercer said, it is simply like reading online when it says “by clicking the 'I accept' button....”, and we agree and proceed to click without thinking. That is what we do online, but we should not do that on such important matters as spending billions of dollars in taxes and making laws that Canadians have to obey. We are elected and paid to do more than just click the “I accept” button.

In a majority government, the government may win every vote, but it is Parliament's duty to listen, to study, to criticize, to suggest improvements and to communicate the problems back to Canadians. Sometimes when Canadians realize that there is an important problem, they do speak up and a majority government does change what it does. However, that cannot happen with an omnibus bill. It is very difficult with all these matters and different subjects crowded into one bill and pushed through in such a short time.

It is our duty to talk about how each step the government takes will affect Canadians and our constituents. We should be able to vote on unrelated items separately. The people we represent should be able to know how we vote on each item. For example, our constituents will want to know where we stand on eliminating environmental reviews, pension changes, food safety inspections, federal fair wages, cross-border law enforcement, the Seeds Act, foreign ownership of small telecom companies and changes to the Parole Board.

All of these very different initiatives were in the omnibus bill this past summer. By burying all of them in one bill and having a single vote, members of Parliament have no option but to vote either for some things that are bad for constituents or against some things that are good for their constituents. The funny thing is that later on in the future the Conservatives will stand up and say that we cannot criticize them on a particular issue because we voted against legislation where they tried to do something about it, when the truth is that the legislation contained all sorts of other bad changes that we had to vote against.

Let us then agree with a younger version of the member for Calgary Southwest, who is now our Prime Minister, from a time when there was, I believe, still a bit of principled conservatism in him, back in 1994. He criticized omnibus bills by saying that dividing the bill into several components would allow members to represent the views of their constituents on each of the different components of the bill.

Let us today change the way we do business in the House for the benefit of Canadians so that we may, as we pray every morning, make good laws and wise decisions. Let us do that for the benefit of the young students at Frontenac Secondary School in Kingston and the Islands to whom this speech is dedicated, so that they will not have to pay higher taxes to fix the problems that we create or ignore because we did not think carefully enough about new laws or how to spend tax dollars.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeMinister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, the member pointed out a 1994 issue with respect to a budget bill. If he is correct, that means that the Liberal Party brought forward a similar bill to what we have here at this time.

The other major difference between that time and now is that we have been debating many of these issues from election to election yet were unable to pass the legislation due to a minority Parliament. However, the debate on these issues in the House of Commons has been extensive. Looking at it since 2006, one could argue that many of the issues have been debated for six years.

Therefore, now that the government has a mandate from the electorate and the fact that these measures need to be taken in order to deal with a fragile economic recovery, perhaps the member's position is ill-placed at this time.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rebut what the hon. Minister of State has said.

He referred to a bill back in 1994, which was criticized by the member for Calgary West, who is now the Prime Minister. That budget implementation bill, Bill C-17, was only 21 pages.

In 2010, the current Conservative government brought forward a budget implementation bill of 880 pages. The budget implementation bill this past summer affected 70 different acts. Therefore, there is really a qualitative gap between what a previous government was doing and what the current government is doing.

In addition, the member mentioned that we have been debating a lot of issues since 2006. Have we been debating federal fair wages in the House? Have we been debating the Seeds Act? Have we been debating cross-border law enforcement changes? Have we been debating those changes to the Parole Board or foreign ownership of small telecoms? I do not think we have been debating those issues.

There are a lot of initiatives that were not even mentioned in the budget that were put into the budget implementation bill. That is how little we have been debating some of the miscellaneous changes contained within the omnibus bill.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, the NDP will be pleased to support the Liberal motion today. We agree with the Liberals' point that when the Prime Minister was in the official opposition a few years ago, he said that the Liberals were wrong in introducing omnibus bills, when that is exactly what the Conservatives are doing now.

Does my colleague not find that the omnibus bills being introduced in the House—which we do not have the time to debate and which are not sent to the appropriate committees—undermine the confidence of Canadians, especially the future generation looking to get involved in politics? I would like to know what he thinks about that.