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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was debate.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2004, with 48% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Extension of Sitting Period June 23rd, 2005

The opposition thought that it could just delay and there would be no consequences. It does not work that way. I would ask the hon. member who is heckling across the way to listen to this. He might learn something, but then again maybe not.

Let us listen to what the opposition House leader said yesterday afternoon at roughly 15:45. He said:

--I think that I am not just speaking for the Conservative Party of Canada and our 98 members of Parliament. I think I could speak for all 308 members. I am sure they have events planned to which they have committed. Some might have been committed to some months ahead of time, expecting, before this extremely abnormal request on the part of the government, that the House would rise on schedule tomorrow night at midnight. That is not going to happen.

There are a whole bunch of things wrong with that, of course. First of all, if the opposition House leader knew for months, as he said, that there were a number of things for him to do after June 23, then why did he delay the legislation which would cause a delay in the adjournment of the House? Obviously he did not think those things through. He got to thinking about them seriously only when he figured out that he would not be going home on the day that he originally thought he would.

Here, we can see, there is a bit of mea culpa necessary on the part of the Conservatives for not having acted properly, for having misbehaved. That is what the Conservatives did. They misbehaved and now they do not want to pay the price. When you and I were children, Madam Speaker, and I know that in your case that was not long ago because you are so young, but when we were children and we misbehaved, we had to pay the price for it.

Members across the way have behaved for the last number of weeks in a totally irresponsible and childish manner and now they have to pay the price. They cannot go outside and play at recess. They cannot go home and play with their marbles. They will have to continue to work until the work is done, until the homework is complete, because those are the rules. The Conservatives have refused to play by the rules.

Let me continue. I am quoting the speech of the hon. opposition House leader. He said:

It might come as a bit of a surprise not only to yourself, Mr. Speaker, but to the viewing public, that in the almost 12 years I have been here the parties that I have represented have supported more government legislation than they have opposed, even though they have been opposition parties and that continues today.

If the hon. member is telling us that he used to be cooperative and he has ceased to be, that is not a redeeming value. That is a further admission of the guilt on the part of the official opposition. That is all it is. The Conservatives do not want us to pass Bill C-48. I just heard an hon. member--

Extension of Sitting Period June 23rd, 2005

I am glad the hon. member across said that the House had lots of time. I sat on the legislative committee dealing with Bill C-38. It is a legislative committee and that committee of course was supposed to deal with technical witnesses. The hon. member for Provencher and others across the way insisted that we hear some 62 witnesses on a bill that has about four clauses.

Why did they do that? It is obvious. They wanted to delay the passage of the bill. They did not want to vote against the bill. They wanted to delay its passage. They did not want to vote at all.

That is not the way it works. The government has a duty, a constitutional responsibility to this nation, and that is exactly what it is going to do. It is going to proceed and get its legislative programs through because that is why governments are there: to get things done. That is quite normal.

If the opposition delays, and I am not saying this of everybody, but if the Conservative opposition delays the government in completing its work, then obviously the government has only one or two choices. It can either curtail debate, that is, move time allocation on individual bills, or it can extend the sitting in order to get the legislation through, or possibly both, which the government may well have to do now.

That is not because the government House leader and the government were not totally efficient in their way of doing their business. That is because the opposition does not know what it is doing.

Extension of Sitting Period June 23rd, 2005

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be, I suppose, the final speaker to speak to this motion that our government House leader was forced to put to the House because of the lack of cooperation of the hon. members across.

It is always unfortunate of course when a minister has to move either closure under Standing Order 57 or time allocation under Standing Order 78 but the responsibility of the government is to provide good governance for the nation, which our Liberal government wants to do.

Today the House has continued debating a motion to extend the sitting period beyond the planned adjournment date of June 23, that is beyond today. This motion is, of course, within precedent, and we know that.

The opposition's intent is simple. The official opposition is hindering the passage of urgent bills that are before the House at this time. If there happens to be anyone who does not believe that statement, he or she just needs to look at what the opposition, the Conservatives in particular, have been doing these last few days.

Day after day we have witnessed Conservative MPs rising in their places and moving concurrence in committee reports instead of proceeding with the orders of the day in order to deal with the business at hand. Why did they do this? They did this to delay everything that the government needed to pass before adjourning.

Yesterday we had the sad spectacle of the opposition House leader saying to the House that the government was wrong to extend the session because the opposition tried to delay the House from doing its work. Obviously if the opposition--

Treaties Act June 23rd, 2005

It is very true. The parliamentary secretary just supported what I said, making it all the more true, if I may say so.

Consequently the role we played, for instance at the Ottawa conference on landmines—I made a personal commitment to get that through the House at the time I was House leader—is a major initiative for the whole world. Then there is Canada's longstanding role in all the peacekeeping missions and the important role it played by choosing to take a different position on the war in Iraq than our immediate, and extremely powerful, neighbour, the United States. I could go on and on with examples of how Canada has distinguished itself internationally.

There is, of course, an executive role in all these treaties. They sometimes include legislative measures required for implementation. But this is not the same, in fact it is quite different. When it comes to implementation measures, this involves a bill in this House, generally a government bill, since treaties are signed by the government. Moreover, often these are measures requiring royal recommendation. Consequently, the role of the government is not just desirable, but necessary, when royal recommendations are involved.

I have some serious concerns of a constitutional nature. The bill's provisions would limit the government's power to conclude treaties in areas of federal jurisdiction without consultation with the provinces. Canadian constitutional law has provided for over 60 years that the power to negotiate and conclude treaties lies exclusively with the federal executive, to the governor in council. This power is essential to Canada's speaking with a single voice internationally, as it must.

Moreover, among the things the hon. member proposes in this bill is one relating to the royal prerogative of the provincial governments when it comes to negotiating and concluding treaties in areas under provincial authority.

For all those reasons, and a few more I could add, I do not intend to support the bill introduced by the hon. member opposite.

Treaties Act June 23rd, 2005

It is true, they say it all the time. Mr. Speaker, you who are totally objective, neutral and non partisan, you have heard these stories from the Bloc members in this House just as often as I have. They say the government is not respecting jurisdictions and refuse to give up anything they consider to be a provincial matter. They say so, from time to time, rarely correctly, but they say so just the same.

In this case, however, the matter is entirely within the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada, as determined by the Supreme Court in 1937. It can be redefined, if necessary. What do the Bloc members have to say? They say it changes nothing. Even if it is a federal matter, they want it to be provincial, even if it contravenes the Constitution.

“Do as I say, not as I do”. That is what the Bloc members are saying today.

As many have already noted as well, Bill C-260 ignores the role currently played by Parliament, a fundamental role in treaty practices. Not only is Parliament actively involved in treaty implementation, but consultations are currently taking place in committee on a number of our major treaties, before the government acts. Of course, the government, not Parliament, takes binding action. Nevertheless, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade plays a very active and important role.

We saw proof of that this week when various bills gave rise to controversy.

The bill was put on the back burner, we might say, and the committee will discuss the subject or issue. This proves that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade is fulfilling the role I just described in this instance, since this falls under the legislative branch.

However, this does not mean we can go beyond the constitutional authority, which belongs to the governor in council—the government—and allow the provinces to act in its stead.

The provisions of Bill C-260 suggest that the roles of each of the federal and provincial governments in treaty ratification need to be clarified and that negotiated agreements providing for federal-provincial consultation on treaty negotiation and ratification are required in order to improve Canadian practice. This suggestion is clearly erroneous on both levels. It fails to consider the reality of our success in international affairs.

We need to take a moment to point out the important international role that Canada plays and the great respect that other countries have for us.

Treaties Act June 23rd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in today's debate on Bill C-260. After listening to the speech by the hon. member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, I have the following question. Is the Canadian practice with respect to treaties as bad as the hon. member suggests? Of course not. Does it necessitate the radical overhaul he is proposing? Not at all. Does our current practice prevent us from playing our role and defending the interests of Canadians on the international scene? Absolutely not.

I am having a hard time understanding the purpose of this bill. I am not one to advocate sovereignty, like the member opposite who calls himself a separatist. If Quebec were indeed to separate one day, are we to assume that within this sovereign or separate Quebec, international responsibilities would be shared with the municipalities, or with a sub-national state? Get real. We know full well that is not how it works.

What the hon. member is saying is not even something he would want for himself in his goal of separating, something I do not subscribe to in any way. So, I have a hard time understanding why anyone would want a bill like this.

Of course, I hope it would never happen, but the day could come when, through bad luck, someone pointed to his bill and asked him if that was what he still wanted. The answer would probably be no.

Current practice here, because of its flexibility and adaptability, already allows Canada to meet its international policy objectives while still recognizing the vital role of Parliament and the provinces in implementing treaty obligations according to the division of powers set out in the Constitution of Canada.

There too, a second look is needed. Once again, the same members tell us from time to time—they are rarely right—that the Government of Canada tends to take over certain provincial powers. If this is a bad thing, as they claim, how is it that the opposite is good? They say we must honour the Constitution, but it is a one way street.

Extension of Sitting Period June 23rd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I gave notice to both the Deputy Speaker and to the Table yesterday that I intended to rise on a point of order regarding the amendment to the motion that was put yesterday by the hon. House leader of the official opposition.

The amendment that was moved yesterday by the hon. member was to amend the government motion in a way that would have the House come back only in September, albeit on a slightly different date than the one on which we would normally return. On the other hand, Motion No. 17 would have the House continue to sit, arguably after today and continuously until the particular program was adopted.

The point I am making to Your Honour is that the purpose of the amendment is the opposite of what the main motion does. Mr. Speaker, I draw to your attention citation 578(2) of Beauchesne at page 176, which states:

An amendment which would produce the same result as if the original motion were simply negatived is out of order.

That has been the rule since June 23, 1990 and it can be found at page 435 of the Journals for that day.

There is a further reference in citation 575 which says that a six month hoist or a reasoned amendment may only be applied against the reading of a bill, not against a motion. In other words, we cannot, by way of amending a motion, give an effect which is similar or identical to what we would have by producing a reasoned amendment. My argument is that this is exactly what the amendment does.

I now draw to your attention page 453 of Marleau and Montpetit where it says:

An amendment should be framed so that, if agreed to, it will leave the main motion intelligible and consistent with itself. An amendment is out of order if:..it would produce the same result as the defeat of the main motion.

In intent, we have a motion before the House to sit now and presumably have a summer recess later. The amendment would produce a recess now and Parliament would come back in September. That is the exact opposite one of the other.

The argument of the House leader for the official opposition will be that it is marginally different in the sense that in coming back in September, we would come back on the 12th instead of on the 19th. That is still inconsequential to the main proposition.

The fact is that the motion moved by the hon. government House leader is to have us sit now to deal with legislation. The amendment produced is to delay that until the fall, which is the opposite of the main motion.

I would argue that should be examined before the vote is taken tonight to determine whether or not my allegation is correct; in other words, that the motion as amended would be out of order because it does the reverse of the main motion. By voting against the main motion, we would achieve almost 100% of the same result as voting for the amendment, which is another proposition raised in Marleau and Montpetit and in Erskine May in that regard.

Agriculture and Agri-Food June 22nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent, as I indicated a while ago, to present the revised copy of the 43rd report that I referred to a moment ago. I would like to substitute that report for the one already tabled in the House.

Committees of the House June 22nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 44th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs concerning a question of privilege relating to mailings sent to various ridings.

Also, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented its 43rd report last Thursday. Since then, the committee has decided, pursuant to Standing Order 109, to request that the government table a response to this report.

I would therefore seek the unanimous consent of the House to table a revised copy of this report requesting that the government table a response, and for this revised copy to be substituted for the report presented last week. The committee agreed to this unanimously yesterday.

Symbol for the House of Commons June 21st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could congratulate the member opposite on her speech, but if I did, I would be lying.

Just before Canada Day, she is claiming that the image of my country's flag has been tainted. I do not accept this.

Many members of the House have questions about the administration of a program. However, that does not give us the right to claim that our institutions and, even less, our country's flag have been soiled. If some outside the House say that, then it is the duty of everyone in here to debunk that myth and to ensure that our country's symbols remain dear to us all.

Mr. Speaker, I know personally one of the two people who are the authors of that flag beside you. I am thinking here of Colonel Matheson who is the cousin of our Speaker. He lives in Kingston and might be watching these proceedings.

On Canada Day of the millennium year, His Honour Colonel Matheson, who was a judge after he ceased being an MP, was in my constituency at the opening of the Glengarry Highland Games. I had arranged with our Sergeant-at-Arms to give him the flag that had flown on the Peace Tower on Canada Day of the year 2000. The symbol to me was that John Matheson had given Canada its flag and on Canada Day of the millennium year, the least we could do was to give him back a little bit of what he had given us. That is the way I see this symbol of our country.

I do not think it is appropriate at all for us to put this in the debate that we are having today. I want to get back to the debate that we are having, although I am somewhat angry at the tone that was taken on the previous issue. I say that I support the hon. member for Scarborough--Rouge River in what he is attempting to do.

I do not think that Canada has a surplus of symbols. I am one of those who believe strongly in our heritage. I have a degree in history, which I earned by the way when I was sitting here in the House studying as an MP and for the last number of years as a cabinet minister. I believe very much in these symbols that form part of us.

The United Kingdom House of Commons has its very distinctive symbol. It is the gate with which we are familiar and which we find on all the material from the House of Commons.

The debate generated by our colleague from Scarborough--Rouge River is to ensure that the House of Commons of Canada has something similar. How it will manifest itself, we are already wearing a symbol. The hon. member across who gave the speech and I are wearing the mace and the maple leaf. It is part of the dress code around here that members are provided with the security badge which we all wear in the form of a decorative pin. I could see that as the basis of a symbol that we would want.

I have a copy of the McGrath committee report made by James McGrath, a Conservative MP who chaired one of the first committees on the reform of the House 20 years ago. Most of the recommendations were adopted, although the Mulroney government did not adopt all of them at the time, as we will recall.

On the cover of the McGrath committee report is an enlarged reproduction of the badge that we are wearing as MPs. I consult that report frequently. There is one in my desk, which of course I cannot pull out because we cannot use props in the House of Commons. It still remains that those kinds of designs are important symbols for all of us.

I wonder if any of our colleagues have read the book written by John Matheson about the history of our flag and the struggle to put together this very important symbol of our country. He speaks about how all members of Parliament had to take it seriously at the time because it deserved no less. He speaks about how he and others struggled to get the bill and the design of the flag approved, the one that is today recognized across the world. It is the symbol of the great country in which we live.

That was a wonderful thing for us. Prior to our Canadian flag, three or four designs had been previously used to identify Canadians. We all know where the maple on our Canadian flag comes from just as the maple leaf on our lapel pin. It comes from the symbol that was on the tombs of the soldiers in France and elsewhere after World War I. I visited many of these sites. I saw the maple leaf. That is largely where the idea came from for Colonel Matheson to produce the Canadian flag. It is that kind of inspiration and outlook that we should have when we design a symbol for the House of Commons to make this institution even greater rather than to belittle it in the way that I heard in the previous speech.

I had not even intended to speak on this issue. I am obviously not doing so with prepared notes. By the time we adopt this and get it done, I will not be here as an MP. As all my colleagues know, I am retiring. However, I still think it should be done. I still think it is a wise idea to prepare and institute these symbols that form part of our nation, whether it is the American eagle, the Canadian peace tower, the three colours of the flag of France or other symbols like that, countries are identified by symbols. Groups are identified by symbols. Various associations have their own flags.

Two years ago, the Ontario legislature adopted the Franco-Ontarian flag, thanks to an initiative by my provincial colleague. This flag will be raised at the legislature on June 24, a few days from now; it is a symbol.

The member for Scarborough—Rouge River is suggesting we adopt a similar symbol, as others have done, for this beautiful and great institution in which we have the honour and privilege to sit. I support him. I hope that, one day, he will be successful. I know that this is a long-term project. We can laugh all we want about the desire to adopt a new symbol but, ultimately, when it comes down to it, people will love it. It will not be happen overnight. Everyone has very fixed ideas about this. That is why it will take time.

I congratulate the member for Scarborough—Rouge River and everyone else who intends to vote in favour of this motion. I hope that the symbol he wants us to adopt will be adopted and that, one day, people will think it was a really great idea to give the House of Commons this distinctive symbol, which will forever be associated with this great institution in which we are called to serve on behalf of Canadians.