This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

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

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very passionately expressed concerns about what is happening with parliamentary democracy. I am so glad that he gave us that historical perspective about the kind of damage that can be done when we have omnibus bills that, instead of dealing with the budget, try to sneak in other pieces of legislation.

I want to draw this to the attention of the House and specifically ask my colleague a question. Buried in the bill was the deletion of close to 300,000 prospective Canadians who were playing by the rules set by our government. These were skilled workers, professionals, who we said we wanted in our country and they were waiting in line. Buried in that bill was the deletion of all those applications. That is the reason that omnibus bills make no sense. They bury so much stuff in them.

What other kinds of things were buried in that bill that make it difficult for there to be such pieces of legislation?

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, if we look at the issues that were contained in Bill C-26, there are lessons there too. That bill covered things like health care; pay equity; municipal affairs, which is arguably the biggest part of provincial business; public employee contracts; environmental laws; and freedom of information laws.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In the member's response to me he said my question was irrelevant because it was six parliaments ago. He is now referencing a bill in another legislature that was five parliaments ago. Clearly that is not relevant either. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to have him talk about something that is actually—

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

That is not a point of order.

The member for Hamilton Centre has about 30 seconds left.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, what matters here are the subjects. What are the subjects? My colleague asked the question about burying things that look small but have big implications. The subject matters the government chooses are interesting. They are often in areas that have the greatest controversy and do the biggest harm to the majority of, in this case Ontarians, and here of course, Canadians.

The Globe and Mail editorial, on that same bill, said this:

To get out of this fix, the government may well need special tools. But democracy would be better served if we had a closer look inside the tool box.

That is all we are asking.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, people watching at home may want to turn up the volume. I do not think I can match the projection of the hon. member, though I hold as passionately to my views as he does. I respect the experience that he brings to this debate, having been a member of the Ontario legislature and having witnessed many legislative moments.

Speaking of legislative moments, I recall how the session of Parliament ended in June, with all night voting. I have been in the House for almost eight years. I had never experienced an all-night voting session. It was really something. We were part of history that day and night. In fact, I was not sure if people at home were paying attention to what was going on in the House or if they understood we had been voting for 24 hours. However, when I got home the next day, I ran into people who said that they could not believe I was there, that I was up and awake as I had been voting for 24 hours. Everyone knew about that episode.

That 24 hours of voting did more for our democracy than many of the speeches that have been given in the House, even the excellent speeches, like the one given by the hon. member before me. In some way it alerted Canadians to the fact that we were dealing with a government that was uncompromising.

Canadians did elect a majority government, but they did not expect that the Canadian parliamentary tradition of compromise would just evaporate and go out the window. They expect the government to work with the opposition. In this regard, I remember seeing a video not too long ago. It was a video of the very first televised question period in the House of Commons. It was in 1977, October I believe. The prime minister at the time was Prime Minister Trudeau. We had a Progressive Conservative opposition, and Joe Clark was the leader of the opposition.

The very first question in the very first televised question period was quite riveting. I would invite my hon. colleagues to Google that question. The economy was top of mind back then, as it is today. I believe the Trudeau government was in the process of preparing a budget.

Mr. Clark got up, and he was quite eloquent, quite reasoned and quite forceful. He basically called on the government to do more, to present some kind of plan to would help combat unemployment. In fact, the problem at the time was stagflation. It was a stagnating economy combined with price inflation.

It was a tough and well-reasoned question. The prime minister got up very calmly, thanked Mr. Clark for his question and basically invited the opposition to make suggestions that could be incorporated in a financial plan or in a budget.

I found the tenor of that exchange much different from what we witness here every day. It was an invitation to compromise on the part of Mr. Trudeau even though he had a majority at the time. I think this is what Canadians want to see. They want to see compromise. They want to see parties working together.

When my constituents asked me about the all night voting, I told them it was because the government had stuffed everything imaginable into one piece of legislation, variously called a Trojan horse bill and a kitchen sink bill. They were not pleased. Nor were they amused. They started thinking about just what kind of government they had elected a year before.

Canadians want us to work together. How do we know that this was not just any kind of omnibus bill, that it was an especially flagrant kind of omnibus bill that was introduced and voted on in the spring session?

When Canadians hear the word “budget”, they think of a financial plan for the next year or maybe the next two or three years. However, what we voted on in the spring was not just a financial plan.

As I said before, 625 scientists wrote a letter to the Prime Minister to say that that he should not weaken the Fisheries Act using a budget bill to do so. The fact that 625 scientists, environmental scientists and biologists, wrote to the Prime Minister to ask him not to amend the Fisheries Act gives us an idea that maybe the budget bill was not just a financial plan, maybe it was much more.

Former fisheries ministers, Liberal and Progressive Conservative, also wrote the Prime Minister arguing against weakening the Fisheries Act and adding that they were very concerned about the process.

I will quote a letter from Thomas Siddon, a Progressive Conservative; David Anderson, a former Liberal fisheries minister; John Fraser, a former Progressive Conservative fisheries minister; and Herb Dhaliwal, a former Liberal fisheries minister. We have two from each party. They wrote, “We are especially alarmed about any possible diminution of the statutory protection of fish habitat”. They were saying basically the same thing as the 625 environmental scientists. They went on to say, “With respect to process, we find it troubling that the government is proposing to amend the Fisheries Act via omnibus budget legislation”.

Here we have former ministers, two Progressive Conservatives and two Liberals, coming together united in their opposition to the government's approach to democracy to say that this is not the way to revamp environmental legislation in this country.

We know we have a problem when the budget bill does much more than cut programs that should not be cut. Of course, we are upset that the government cut the world renowned Experimental Lakes Area program. Quite frankly, it is the greatest laboratory in the world for freshwater research. We are upset about that, but it was a budget decision. Any budget bill by a government intent on destroying water science would include that kind of measure.

One can understand a budget measure within a budget bill, but when a government starts amending the Fisheries Act and changing environmental assessments, it is way outside the realm of creating a narrow financial plan for Canada.

I know the Prime Minister is an economist. I studied economics as well. There is a term in economics called “money illusion”. If one has taken a macro economics course, one would know what that means. It is a situation where people are not aware of the impact that inflation is having on their real standard of living. When I think of the government's omnibus bill, I think of the fact that it is really creating smoke and mirrors. It is trying to hide certain facts from Canadians, certain changes to immigration policies and environmental policies. It is creating an illusion like the Wizard of Oz with lots of smoke and mirrors. We have a couple of people, maybe in the Prime Minister's Office, changing the face of the country. It reminds me of the concept of money illusion.

The government's approach also reminds of telecommunication companies that sell cellphone plans. The other day my wife and I were talking about what kind of plan we should get. She said that she called and that we could save so much a month, but I really did not believe it. It is all smoke and mirrors. We will save here but end up paying more there. These plans are so complex one just cannot understand them.

That is essentially what the government is doing with democracy. It is making legislation so broad, so complex, that is very hard even for hard-working parliamentarians to wrap their minds around the many aspects of omnibus legislation.

Does it make any sense that changes to the Fisheries Act would be studied by the finance committee of the House of Commons? Does it make any sense that the experts, the financial experts, the great members of Parliament with all kinds of financial expertise on the finance committee are going to discuss, for a limited period of time, changes to one of the most complex pieces of environmental legislation in the country? No, it does not.

I sincerely hope the government understands that Canadians do not appreciate the smoke and mirrors, that they want a bit more democracy in this place, that they want a bit more compromise and that they are very serious about they want.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed very much serving on the environment and sustainable development committee with the hon. member. He is always very thoughtful in his analysis.

The hon. member mentioned a lot of the concern raised, not just by ordinary Canadians but also by former ministers of the Crown, about changes made in the omnibus bill and the deep concern about the lack of opportunity for discourse and to look at the pros and cons of those measures.

There has been some joviality in the House across the way about concerns that were raised about the lack of opportunity for the opposition to participate properly in the review of a major omnibus bill. I would like to suggest to the member, through you, Mr. Speaker, that the real harm is to Canadians.

As I mention before, one of the members across the way seemed to suggest that once a government was elected, then that was it for democracy, that it was elected and it could make whatever decisions it wanted. We have seen this reflected in its omnibus bills.

Does the member think that the feedback that was given to the last omnibus bill is representative of the fact Canadians are fed up and they want to go back to participatory democracy?

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I neglected to mention in my speech that I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague from Sydney—Victoria.

Indeed, in an election campaign, many issues are discussed, parties have their platforms, but obviously not every conceivable issue that will come to the floor of the House of Commons after the election is brought up in a campaign.

In the last election campaign, I do not remember anyone talking about weakening the Fisheries Act. Maybe I missed it or maybe I was not following the news that day, but I never heard it.

It is incumbent upon a government, even if has a majority, when it introduces something that has not been debated in the context of an election campaign to show a bit more openness to debate and compromise.

I would agree with my hon. colleague that democracy is not a simple thing of going to the polls every four years, voting and then tabulating the results. Yes, that is extremely important. It is at the centre of our democracy.

However, people elect representatives to come to the capital, to this legislature, to further debate, to come up with new ideas, to challenge old ideas and to create good legislation, which is very complex and obviously is not always discussed during a campaign.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, think about what will come through the new omnibus bill and how much went through the last one. Think about how much legislation has gone through the House in the last 100 and some years and the work that has been done. All of a sudden, with one stroke of the pen, the Conservatives threw it all away with what happened in the last omnibus bill. We have seen what happened with the seniors and the seasonal workers.

When we go through omnibus bills like this, the impact it has on individuals across the country is immense. Would he comment on how wrong it is to put a bill like this through that would have such an impact on all the constituents we all represent without it really having seen the light of day?

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right. The bill affected refugees and impacted those who want to become Canadian citizens, and, as I said, the environment. Indeed, it impacted on many different segments of society. It impacted on tomorrow's seniors. By ramming the bill through in one piece in a short period of time, by definition, the government did not give an opportunity to the large number of people impacted by the bill to have their say.

What also worries me, and the member alluded to it, is that the government is changing our traditions and standards. It was shocking to have an omnibus bill of that size. Now that a precedent has been created, it might become a practice by the government and then people will start to think it is a normal part of the way democracy functions. However, it is not and we need to stand up to that kind of misuse of democracy.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

It being 5:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Opposition Motion--Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #473

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion lost.

The House resumed from October 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-43, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the second reading stage of Bill C-43.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #474

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from October 5 consideration of the motion that bill C-37, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims ActGovernment Orders

October 16th, 2012 / 6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the previous question at the second reading stage of Bill C-37.