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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was constitutional.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as Liberal MP for Vancouver Quadra (B.C.)

Won his last election, in 1997, with 42% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply June 6th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, this has been a somewhat barren debate to date. It reminds me of the last several months of questions to the minister in the House. I am reminded of an old fashioned phonograph needle stuck in its place on a turning disk; it is the same sound with the same absence of ideas and the absence of scope ideas. This is regrettable.

I will note as I did in the debate on February 8 that the minister was still discussing Indian affairs and making changes in the federal enacting legislation which rendered, in my view, a much sounder constitutional measure, as late as August last year. She had not been in office very long. She faced a litany of complaints which might better have been addressed to previous ministers and previous governments. I will come back to that in a moment.

I note that the minister has made interim changes which I think are constructive and helpful and are a great credit to her staff for bringing them forward. The accountability of managers is an important principle in business. It should certainly be applied to government operations that are affected with the business interests where government competes in many ways and areas where private enterprise also operates. Another change is disciplinary action, meaning personal accountability of managers where there is mismanagement, fraud or gross incompetence. The creation of a special new audit group is another change. The review of all active files is being done intensively with a checklist of contracts and requests for payment.

I commented on the intellectual poverty of the contribution of the opposition to this debate. Let us go back into history. What is the history of HRDC? I listened with interest to the contributions made by the members of the Progressive Conservative Party. Of course they created HRDC. The Lady Jane Grey of Canadian politics, the queen for six days—remember the hiccup between the Mulroney government and this government—Kim Campbell decided to give trendy new titles to new government ministries. There was a haphazard, hasty grouping and regrouping of departmental portfolios. The department of human resources was created without any real thought of a rational structuring process for the new ministry.

It is a matter of record that the new government elected in October 1993 immediately considered restructuring HRDC. However, it concluded correctly with the economy in the use of time, as we were trying to balance the budget after inheriting the $42.8 billion deficit from the Mulroney government, that our priority was to get fiscal integrity back. It was decided that it would not be a good expenditure of government time to attempt the restructuring at that stage. The moment has arrived where we must consider doing that.

Much has been made of the majority report of the HRDC standing committee. I thought they were interesting proposals. I can see no Machiavellian plan here. If my colleagues put forward proposals, I tend to say that they have a good idea or that it needs more thought. It should not be taken as government policy, but as an interesting idea which I hope the government will study.

I will put the recommendations into the record. The functions of the HRDC ministry grouped together somewhat unnaturally three different areas of policy, statutory transfers and entitlement which really is old age security, Canada pensions, labour, employment and employment insurance, and social development programs. It is elementary that special technical skills are required for each of these. It is unusual to find a complement of the skills extending all across the department. This is one of the things we have to examine in this situation.

Anybody approaching new government as we enter the 21st century would agree that we have stood still in terms of administrative law reforms and structuring for the last 40 years. With the consent and engagement of all parties the main pre-emptive concern has been with issues of national integrity, the sovereignty issue, as in Quebec. It has killed off the modernization that should have gone on with the administrative processes. I reproach the opposition parties, including the Bloc which claims to be a reform party inside Quebec, with having no new ideas on governmental structure.

One very obvious issue is the breakup of the overly large departments. It is a reality that this government and the Mulroney government let some key ministers handle what might be called four or five different portfolios. It is too big a task. The McRuer commission in Ontario some years ago attempted to approach a solution to this problem. The Hoover commission in the United States is a great model.

Simply, we should be considering issues such as a uniform administrative procedure act applying to all government departments, but especially the spending departments or those with spending responsibilities and a conseil d'état special administrative law tribunal with jurisdiction over all such ministries. There is also the principle which is well accepted in civil law of the personal liability of civil servants and managers where they engage in misconduct that could either be described as delictual in itself or gross negligence in the administration of their office. I would have thought these would be issues that an opposition party, particularly the Conservative Party, which was the mother of the human resources ministry in its present form, should have put forward to debate.

They are available now. I hope we have some debate in the forthcoming election campaign, whenever it is, on this issue. This generation of Canadians has a rendezvous once more with the constitution, not the constitution narrowly defined in sections 91 and 92 or limited to the Quebec issue, but the fundamental modernization of the administering of processes and the study and perfecting of techniques for control of relationships of governmental authority with the citizen. That is a target for reform. That is a target or challenge which opposition parties could bring to us.

I am happy to raise the issues on the government side. Put in this perspective, the majority report of the HRDC committee offers interesting suggestions but they are no more than that. The matter is open for debate, but we cannot postpone the decision any longer.

The Late Davie Fulton May 31st, 2000

Mr. Speaker, Davie Fulton, who died on May 22, was elected to parliament as a member for Kamloops in 1945, while still an officer in the Italian campaign in World War II. He served in the Diefenbaker government as an imaginative and reform-minded minister of justice. He was joint author, with U.S. Attorney General Rogers, of the Fulton-Rogers Agreement, restricting the extraterritorial application of U.S. anti-trust law against Canadian companies without prior consultation with the Canadian government. He also developed a plan for an all-Canadian amending machinery for the Canadian constitution, which later provided a scientific-legal base for the Trudeau Constitution Act of 1982, chapter V.

Mr. Fulton's post-parliamentary career involved further public service as a justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia and as a respected jurisconsult on major Canadian constitutional issues.

Justice Jules Deschênes May 29th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, Jules Deschênes, who died on May 10, was a distinguished jurist.

He was appointed to the Quebec Court of Appeal in 1972, as chief justice of the Superior Court from 1973 to 1983, and as one of the judges on the special UN tribunal on war crimes in Yugoslavia. But it is primarily for his constitutional rulings that he will be remembered.

In 1976, he upheld the constitutionality of the Bourassa government's Bill 22 establishing French as the official language of Quebec; in 1978, he struck down a section of the Lévesque government's Bill 101, in order to affirm the equality of French and English in the National Assembly and in Quebec's courts; and, in 1982, he struck down another section of Bill 101 limiting access to English language education.

A true federalist, Justice Deschênes understood the importance—

Supply May 18th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, it is a very crucial because one of the facts of life one discovers on talking to medical deans and deans of nursing schools is that a very large number of our graduates of nursing schools go on to the United States.

If one experiences any of our hospitals one will know a good proportion of the staff is immigrants from other countries. Solutions there will require larger solutions to the brain drain problem. Part of that is bound up with the principle of reducing taxes which is, as I have said, part of the policies my constituents have communicated. We have 50% of the budget surplus going into tax reduction and amortization of the external debt.

We have looked at the issue of subsidizing medical and nursing schools by means of scholarships and the like. We still face the problem that the salary is too low. We have to get more money into the hospitals. Then we are getting into provincial jurisdiction. We may have to move on that.

Some of us have said what a pity the constitution was not written in 1967. We would have given advanced research and perhaps advanced education to the federal government. Then somebody reminded me that in 1864 universities belonged to the federal government. It was a vestige of royal power. It was after a whiskey laden voyage around Cape Breton and the like that federal representatives dropped higher education into the provincial area of responsibility in 1867.

There, though, we are dealing with problems on which the provinces must move, but I think proposals for ways in which the federal government can help will be received. I take that as the thrust of the hon. member's question.

Supply May 18th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I advise the hon. member that if one expects an immediate decision from NAFTA one may be very disappointed. These are lengthy labyrinthine processes. The issue was raised with me because the answers require extensive research and my opinion was asked. I simply said that there will be time, but it is a matter that we need to discuss with the provinces and to point out to the premier of Alberta that this is a matter of concern. If the issue would arise as a practical matter, there are intermediate legal steps that we could take to block any action, and we would take them.

I think it is important not to jump into a case-controversy situation before it exists. That is why I stress the necessity for study and caution before acting. As far as approaches in this government are concerned, my constituency has a very large number of medical practitioners, professors of medicine and others. They have been educating me in their discipline, which I admire and respect. It is part of my response to them that I have campaigned for the last three or four years to establish the centres for innovation, those special centres for medical research that are parts of the last two, three, four federal budgets.

Most of my colleagues are getting the message, just as I think every member on the other side of the House is getting the message that the principle of universality of access to medical care is fundamental to Canadians. If it is threatened in any way in the interstices of federal-provincial relations, we will come down on the federal side. If there is no threat or if the actions of the provinces can be reconciled with those principles, we would be in my view ignoring our responsibilities as part of the federal system if we put it in issue.

As things stand we have full powers. We have not at the present time on the legal advice given to the Minister of Justice found a case warranting action of a punitive nature against a province.

Supply May 18th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for that question. This is the sort of issue that I would expect, in the spirit of co-operative federalism, will be part of the ongoing discussion between the federal government and the provinces.

In the specific province that has been discussed, the province of Alberta, our big fear is that it will possibly lead to a two tier system of medicine in which the financially privileged will get extra and prior benefits to others. I think that the debate would become simpler if it could be established that such a danger did not exist, but we have to work on the assumption that the principle of fundamental equality of access and of treatment is the bedrock principle of the Canada Health Act. On specific cases, just as I mentioned with the NAFTA situation, I would myself look for further discussion. But we cannot change that bedrock principle. It is fundamental to us and fundamental to the Minister of Health.

Supply May 18th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to intervene in this debate which has given us the opportunity across party lines to examine the Canada Health Act and the fundamental principles of which our system of social insurance and health is based.

My own constituents have made it very clear to me, and I have communicated their views to the Prime Minister and the government, that as we attain our budgetary surplus, as we have done in the last three years, 50% of the surplus should be used to reduce taxes and amortize the external public debt and 50% should be used in priority areas, such as advanced education, research and health and health insurance. Those principles have been accepted by the present government and they are the hallmark of the present budget and the present administration.

Many on this side of the House would take credit for the health care system and the work of Paul Martin Sr., the distinguished minister of health of some years ago, in the establishment of the Canada Health Act and the establishment of the five fundamental principles on which it is based: universality, comprehensiveness, accessibility, portability and public administration.

The motion before us is very specific and it has been given an even more specific association with the reproaches to the Minister of Health that he has not been combative enough, that he has not gone mounted on a charger against the enemy, sword in hand, and put them to flight. This minister is known for his quiet judgment and the use, as many skilled appellate lawyers like himself have, of the velvet hand in the iron glove, or reversing it if hon. members wish, the iron hand in the velvet glove. In other words, economy in the use of power, but use power when one has to. It is reproaching the minister for being something that he is not.

Our preference is co-operative federalism. We are often reproached for not being co-operative enough. It is interesting, from one of the parties in opposition, to have the reproach that we are not aggressive enough and we should be more so.

We have been trying to have a dialogue with provinces over a period of years; not always a happy situation. Some provinces, given money for education purposes, have used the moneys to build highways into the never never land. We do not like that and in those cases we are forced to take action of a corrective nature.

In relation to health care and health services, it has been suggested to us that we are neglecting certain legal principles. It has been said that we should get a reference to the supreme court. That is a misunderstanding of the nature of the supreme court reference. The supreme court reference is always on a hypothetical question. It is always on an abstract question. It is not and cannot be a substitute for a case controversy, even an anticipatory case controversy, and I think the minister, as an excellent lawyer, rightly rejected that approach and rightly rejected the possibility of a situation where the supreme court would rule against us, saying that it would not exercise jurisdiction.

Equally, however, the suggestions for disallowance of a provincial bill, bill 11, ignore the fact of the evolution of our constitutional system. The power of disallowance has not been used in half a century. In fact, I remember as a private citizen giving advice to a prime minister 30 years ago that the power was dead and that there were other remedies, and that it would be a constitutional voie de fait, a constitutional tort, in effect, to try to revive it at this stage. That is not our way.

We do, however, have ample powers under the Canada Health Act to take corrective legislation if and when that should come to be demonstrated as necessary. But the demonstration, the prior fact that it is demonstrated as necessary, has to be properly proven and properly established for us.

There are problems that I will take the opportunity of referring to, legal problems, and I would hope that these would be discussed by the Minister of Health with his provincial counterparts. One of these is simply that if private health facilities are allowed on a commercial basis, then under the provisions of NAFTA it is potentially open on a legal ground for foreign, financially based private institutions—I guess they are always financially based—from abroad, from the signatories to NAFTA, to enter Canada on a competitive basis. Some would say in the spirit of the market economy, what is wrong with that?

I will communicate to hon. members, nevertheless, reservations communicated to me by the board of one of our great hospitals in Vancouver—and the boards include many people with skilled knowledge of NAFTA—that we could see a situation of selective competition by specialist foreign—that is, U.S.—institutions with existing Canadian all-purpose hospitals.

In the city of Vancouver, one such hospital I have been associated with, St. Paul's, right in the heart of the city, performs the most advanced style of research and corrective medicine in those areas at the frontiers of medical knowledge.

That hospital is also downtown, so it deals, particularly every Friday and Saturday night, with emergency cases: hit and run accidents, incidents in bars, cases of drug overdose. It is pointed out to me that in terms of quantifying and costing the hospital administration, those are cases literally handled at a severe loss in medical terms. They are balanced, however, by the more specialized type of work this hospital does for which higher, offsetting compensation is available.

That concern has been expressed to me and I think it is a serious concern, one which warrants conversations between the Minister of Health and his counterparts in the provinces, and this would include the province of Alberta. I can see solutions here, but it would be premature, I think, to get into these.

The act as it stands has opportunities for the federal government, constructively and pragmatically, to talk with the provinces in the spirit of co-operative federalism to see if differences can be ironed out.

There are some principles that go beyond the five principles of the Canada Health Act that I have already adverted to, and it is perhaps worth referring to them.

We make full cash contributions to the provinces on the principle of good faith, but on a basis of specified conditions, and I will simply recite them for the record: no extra billing by medical practitioners or dentists for insured health services, no user charges, and reporting at the times and in the manner prescribed in the regulations. These are very basic conditions. If they are not complied with, the precedent exists, and it has been used, to cut back, or to indicate that one is prepared to cut back on the transferring of funds to the provinces.

It is enough in many cases to indicate that the power is there. It is certainly premature and not good federalism to apply the remedies before the actual case of conflict exists beyond the point where it can be settled by negotiation.

The attitude indicated by the Minister of Health is simply this. On his legal advice he was satisfied that he had no grounds constitutionally for challenging the specific bill, the Alberta bill 11, at this stage. This is not to say, though, that at a future stage, on particular facts, it could not arise on constitutional grounds.

More importantly, however, if breaches did occur, and one was satisfied that they occurred through an exercise of ill faith or a lack of appreciation and respect for the principles of co-operative federalism, then the machinery could be set in motion of corrective legislation by the federal parliament, or the use of the full discretionary power that remains in the federal government to withhold, to reduce or to block altogether the transfer of funds to the provinces.

I say, in this context, that there are extremely positive initiatives which flow from the emphasis that my constituents and I gave, and no doubt other people in the government caucus, and I am sure other members on the other side of the House, to the emphasis on spending of surplus constructively in subsidizing medical research and services. The present budget provides $2.5 billion additional to the Canada health and social transfer. It is a 25% increase over the last two years alone. There is a further cash component that will reach $15.5 billion in each of the next four years, and it will continue to grow as the economy increases.

I welcome, on the government side, the support given by all parties in opposition for spending our money on medical research. The amount of investment in medical research is simply remarkable, and I would say to members on the other side of the House that the concentration on the frontiers research in medicine in western Canada is truly remarkable.

I take great pride in the concentration in British Columbia, but it does extend to other provinces. That is reflected in the extra funding under other areas of the budget for research, for fundamental research in medicine, for the creation of the millennial professorships which will allow us to arrest the brain drain of our leading medical researchers who have been going to the United States. There are already very welcome signs for people who could quadruple their salaries in the United States by moving there that they are satisfied with the relatively modest increases in their stipendiary under the millennial professorship plan and they intend to remain here.

This joins the increase in cash transfer payments and the commitment that we have made and the minister in particular. This is a man who relies on friendly persuasion, but as an experienced lawyer well recognizes that a certain element of power can be used, if it should be, but it should not be escalated or opted for in too quick a fashion.

That is our position. At the present stage we are monitoring the situation in relation to the province of Alberta, which has been specifically raised with us. We will seek to work with the province of Alberta. If we find that actions taken are incompatible with the Canada Health Act we will move at the appropriate time. But we will continue to discuss. We will bring, in particular to the attention of the province of Alberta and its health minister, the fears that we have under NAFTA.

I would be very sorry to see an institution like St. Paul's have its frontiers research experience and expertise drained away by competition from a sort of single issue specialist institution from another country. I think that any institutions coming in would be expected to play their part in carrying on what might be called the ordinary, tedious, but so vital a part of hospital administration's work.

That is the message from the minister. He will not engage in an unnecessary war with the provinces. He is determined to maintain the five fundamental principles of the Canada Health Act. He is determined to see that there will be full co-operation by the provinces in the spirit of that, but he will look to ways of working with them to effectuate that purpose.

Citizenship Of Canada Act May 17th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, my point was simply that an hon. member intervened when another hon. member was on his feet speaking. I do not remember that he ceded to the intervener and it seems to me that in a case like that you are entitled not to take notice of the objection.

Citizenship Of Canada Act May 17th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to note that the hon. member who raised the point of order of the absence of a quorum promptly disappeared and has not been seen since. This is—

Petitions May 17th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to present a petition signed by 270 residents of British Columbia concerning Canada's foreign and defence policies on the use of armed force and aerial bombardment evidenced in the recent NATO armed action against Yugoslavia.

The petitioners express concerns regarding exercise of a claimed right of humanitarian intervention without prior legal authority conferred by a resolution of the United Nations Security Council or General Assembly.